Category Archives: Poetry

Good Versus Evil, Film at 11

In the battle of Good versus Evil, who wins?

In Herman Melville’s works, Good and Evil often play a large role and they are pitted against each other. However, in many of his works, in the battle of Good and Evil, paradoxically, Evil somehow wins. This was one reason why his books were attacked as “immoral,” and “evil,” in his time. Melville was no Satanist. He was raised Christian, but his belief kept waxing and towards the end of his life, there was little remaining of it.

Nevertheless, he read extensively in the Bible, in particular, Song of Songs, Solomon and Ecclesiastes. All of these were written by or were about King Solomon, the son of King David. He also read extensively in the Book of Mormon. Biblical and other Christian religious allegories are sprinkled liberally throughout his books, in particular, the 600 page poem Clarel, about a journey to the Holy Land.

When Good and Evil go to war and Evil wins, this poses a serious problem for most religious people, in particular the Abrahamic religions which believe in an activist God. For if God exists and is an activist, when Good and Evil go to war, in most if not all cases, Good is supposed to win over Evil, as God is always thought to be stronger than the Devil. After all, no religion suggests that the Devil rules the world. All Abrahamic religions hold that God rules the world. The Devil tries to intrude and do his mischief of course, but when they go mano to mano, God ought to be able to deal with The Evil One quite handily.

Therefore, if there is a fight between Good and Evil and Evil wins, something has gone horribly wrong, and this poses a dilemma for most religious people. Melville interpreted this to mean either that there was no God at all or that if He existed, He was more or less sleeping on the job, and perhaps he ought even to be fired!

The religious have all sorts of explanations for how an activist God allows bad things to happen. They say he is testing us. They say that the Good people are not so good. This is reminiscent of how Puritanical feminists say Nice Guys (TM) are not really so nice after all, this is why women treat them like crap (and this is not the only way that feminists are similar to modern Comstocks). For instance, the Abrahamic Orthodox Jews said that the Jews rebelled against and defied God, and God responded with the Holocaust to punish Jewish rebellion. The solution is for the Jews to act better.

As you can gather, these explanations are quite weak when they are not grasping for truth and morally repugnant. I think we ought to just reject them all for now as lacking evidence and so strange as to seem false on their face.

So we move to Melville’s moral dilemma. We can either go towards atheism or agnosticism, or we go move into Deism. My father was actually a Deist, at least towards the end of his life, but he always hated Christianity and generally refused to go to church much to my mother’s chagrin. Deism was popular around the time of the US Revolutionary War, but it no longer has much popularity. After all, it is rather depressing to feel that you are on your own.

Another possibility is some sort of modified Deism. When I was working as a linguist for an Indian tribe, I asked a prominent anthropologist, Sylvia Broadbent, about the religious beliefs of the local Indians. They are now all fundamentalist Christians, but this is a modern thing. They also insist that they believe in a Great Creator, but this is another modern addition, as I deduced after a while. After the Indians became Christianized, many Indians across the US decided that they believed in a Great Creator, a notion that they took from Plains Indians tribes who apparently did have this notion pre-contact.

Yet pre-contact, there is little evidence that California Indians were much more than animists who believed that the world was alive with magic and spirits which could be manipulated by those who could do so. They did believe in life after death. Souls went to the West, to the Land of the Dead.

However, there was little belief in an almighty God. Broadbent felt that there was some notion of a Creator God, but this was more Deistic than anything else. Broadbent described the theory as Deux Obtusa, or the Lazy God. This was sort of the idea that God created the world, but He has not done a whole heck of a lot ever since. He mostly just sits up there in Heaven taking bong hits. Every now and then, when he is not too stoned, he wakes up and intervenes in our world a bit. Then he goes back to the bong. I like the notion of a lazy God, and even though I am a Christian, this is the sort of a God that I believe in.

How can we reckon that Evil often defeats Good? We can say that we live in a naturalistic world, and bad things happen to good people, by chance more than by design. And in a naturalistic world, a lazy God could indeed exist.

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Filed under Amerindians, Anthropology, Christianity, Cultural, Judaism, Literature, Metaphysics, Novel, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion

Call Me Herman Melville

Melville’s books are much underrated; in fact, I feel he is one of the most underrated authors of all time. Moby-Dick, which is probably one of the top five novels ever written, even today has as many fans as it has enemies. Melville was excoriated in his lifetime, drawn and quartered by critics on both sides of the pond but mostly by his own countrymen. They only liked his first two books, Typee and Omoo, which were more the straightforward adventure stories that the public wanted. He was boring, incomprehensible, didactic and insane. Readers were more baffled than anything else by his books.

But Nathaniel Hawthorne, the other great American (and underrated) author of the 19th Century, saw his promise, granting him a rave review of Typee. And Moby-Dick itself is dedicated to none other than Hawthorne. The two men even formed a friendship when they lived close to each other in Massachusetts. Melville was a depressive and he lived most of his life in poverty. When he wrote what he called hackwork for money, the critics cheered him on. When he tried to write great literature, he was met with a tsunami of condemnation.

The abuse was so powerful that in 1856, he ceased writing novels altogether, writing only poetry. His poetry was also met with indifference and incomprehension, and he was thought to be a poor poet. In the modern era, he is now seen as one of the first poetic modernists. The Melville revival around 1924 coincided with the publication of the long lost novella Billy Budd, found by chance 30 years after his death. This brought about a resuscitation and reevaluation of the great author, and he is now seen as a great prose stylist and a fine poet to boot.

Melville’s novels are often weak in plot development, that is when they have any plot at all. What plots do exist are often quite mundane and even boring. The plots are typically used as vehicles for the prose style and the philosophical pontificating and meandering. Character development is often weak, and the characters are often unlikeable. The tone is often gloomy and depressing when it does not appear to be openly amoral, as in Pierre. The prose can be overblown at times, and Melville can surely be didactic at his worst.

It is in his philosophical sailing though that he shines. He discusses the great truths of human existence, as he sees them. He revels in allegory, literary, historical and political allusion, and especially in symbolism. Comparisons to Thomas Carlyle are apt. It is in this regard that Melville is seen as a difficult, baffling, incomprehensible and even boring writer. The endless discussions about whiteness and what it might mean in Moby-Dick, what exactly are they all about, anyway?

The final selling point of a Melville book is his prose rhetoric. That man could surely write, and how could he write!

See below for a sample from White-jacket or, the World on a Man-of-War, which is not even one of his more famous books. Here is a metaphorical fragment suggestive of what we find in Moby-Dick, published the same year:

As a man-of-war that sails through the sea, so this earth that sails through the air. We mortals are all on board a fast-sailing, never-sinking world-frigate, of which God was the shipwright; and she is but one craft in a Milky-Way fleet, of which God is the Lord High Admiral. The port we sail from is forever astern. And though far out of sight of land, for ages and ages we continue to sail with sealed orders, and our last destination remains a secret to ourselves and our officers; yet our final haven was predestinated ere we slipped from the stocks at Creation.

The book ends with more stunning prose:

Oh, shipmates and world-mates, all round! we the people suffer many abuses. Our gun-deck is full of complaints. In vain from Lieutenants do we appeal to the Captain; in vain—while on board our world-frigate—to the indefinite Navy Commisioners, so far out of sight aloft. Yet the worst of our evils we blindly inflict upon ourselves; our officers cannot remove them, even if they would. From the last ills no being can save another; therein each man must be his own savior.

For the rest, whatever befall us, let us never train our murderous guns inboard; let us not mutiny with bloody pikes in our hands. Our Lord High Admiral will yet interpose; and though long ages should elapse, and leave our wrongs undressed, yet, shipmates and world-mates! let us never forget, that
‘Whoever afflict us, whatever surround,
Life is a voyage that’s homeward bound!’

Herman Melville! Now there was a writer…

An overview of his writings:

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life – His first book was wildly popular. More or less autobiographical account of Melville’s jumping ship in the South Seas and capture and imprisonment for 3 weeks by the cannibal Typees. Nevertheless, he was treated well. A rollicking adventure story that was nevertheless attacked in the US by its noble savage romanticizing of the Polynesians and his attacks on Christian missionaries who he saw as ruining the Polynesians’ lives. One half of this book is a wild and entertaining adventure, the other half reads like an anthropological and sociological investigation of the Polynesians. Some modern readers find the ethnological aspect to the book boring.

Modern readers may find trite the noble savage romantic portrayal of the Polynesians while Melville finds Western civilization inferior to the pagan savages. Plot definitely drags in parts. You can see here germs of the philosophical expositions that would explode in his later work, especially Moby-Dick. Nice book, moves very fast.

Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas – The sequel to Typee. There is a bit of a plot at first which then falls apart. The men jump ship and are imprisoned on Tahiti in a makeshift prison from which they quickly escape. They hop on board another ship and then jump ship again. They roam about the islands working at various jobs, only earning enough to survive. Already Melville is moving beyond the pure adventure style of Typee into more rhetorical flourish and weighty topics. This, like Typee, was also popular with the typical reader than his later works. Modern readers may be offended by its lack of political correctness in its honest portrayal of Polynesian life.

Mardi and a Voyage Thither – The next book was considered a disaster by the public and critics alike, and even today it is considered flawed. There is a plot for 200 pages, then it completely falls apart as the story meanders for another 400 pages of philosophizing, highfalutin prose, endless and baffling symbolism and more literary allusion than an Umberto Eco novel. The style is very good though, and Melville is learning to write plots, create good characters, improving his prose and beginning to deal with the philosophical and heavy subjects he would mine so well in Moby-Dick.

Redburn: His First Voyage, Being the Sailor-Boy, Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son-of-a-Gentleman, in the Merchant Service – Men board a whaling ship on the East Coast of the US and head off for whaling grounds of the Pacific via the Cape Horn of South America. A mysterious crewman on the ship always wears a white jacket, prefiguring the color symbolism in Moby-Dick. And there’s your plot.

Hawthorne and His Mosses – A superb work of literary criticism based on an assessment of one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works, Mosses from an Old Manse. This work is now considered a classic.

White-jacket, or The World on a Man-of-War – This is a story of a boy who hitches aboard a man o’ war, riding it from the US East Coast to Liverpool, where he stays a bit and the rides back to the East Coast. That is it; that is the whole plot. This and Redburn were seen as hack work by Melville, written only for profit.

The public liked them better than the author himself did, and these two books were seen as a return to the TypeeOmoo adventure style. Nevertheless, the astonishing prose and deep subject matter puzzled readers. Yet for a great sea yarn and an encyclopedic rendering of life on board a man o’ war, the novel is superb. Its brutal description of flogging aboard ships led to the US Congress swiftly ending this barbaric practice. A precursor to Moby-Dick.

Moby-Dick, or The Whale – Of course, the legendary whaling story. Nevertheless, this great book was largely attacked by critics when it was written, and it was ignored by baffled readers who could not make sense of it. It would be another 75 years until it was recognized as the great literature that it is. His characterization and prose here approaches, if not meets, a Shakespearean level.

Pierre, or The Ambiguities – A purely philosophical novel, this time with unbelievable characters, an unearthly plot and scenes and persons strewn about seemingly for the purposes of serving as chess pieces and vehicles for the author’s weighty and philosophical discussions.

The plot involves an innocent young man who is forced by circumstances of life and the desire to save his father’s reputation to engage in one immoral act after another. It is a tale of a man motivated by doing the right thing who ends up doing one bad thing after another and along the way hurting a lot of innocent people. As he journeys through this wilderness of transgressions, his ego swells and he becomes more and certain of his essential morality and decency. Seen as an innocent and pure man’s initiation into a cruel and sinful world. Think of early James Joyce.

The first half of the book involves a parody of the Gothic romances so popular in the day. He imitates this style perfectly, and also manages to parody at least a dozen other styles popular during the day. Halfway through the book, the author engages in an outrageous feint – we are told that Pierre is actually, at age 21, a famous novelist. The second half of the book leaves the Gothic style behind and moves into allegory, symbolism, philosophical pondering, etc.

The landscapes and locales of the book do not even exist in the real world, and they are nearly in the realm of fantasy or science fiction. Both the public and the critics regarded this novel with unbridled hostility, and the common refrain was that Melville was “insane.”

It was also attacked for moral nihilism if not the advocacy of evil itself. This is because the novel involves such things as incest, threesomes, hints at homosexuality, bigamy and murder along with all sorts of other vices. It is now recognized as a fine work; however, even many modern readers find it baffling if not horrible and unreadable. Pierre is surely one of the strangest novels ever written. The French have always preferred it to Moby-Dick, so that ought to tell you something right there.

Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile – This is now thought to be one of his lesser works, but it does have some fans. More soaring prose and deep insight. This is nevertheless probably his easiest book to read. It is the story of a real person, a Revolutionary War hero. However, in somewhat alternate history mode, Melville plays fast and loose with history, and much of the book is actually fiction involving Potter interacting in various ways with the great men of his day. Think Woody Allen’s Zelig. This novel is actually very funny! The critics and public were once again baffled by this work, but the general reaction was indifference. Poor sales and critical hostility sent Melville into a deep depression.

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade – Met with bored indifference and baffled outright hostility at the time, this book was ignored and sold poorly. Nevertheless, it is now seen as one of Melville’s finest works. A boy take a ride on a Mississippi steamship from St. Louis to New Orleans and has various adventures as he rides down the Mississippi. All action takes place on April 1, April Fools’ Day. A shape-shifting con artist is the main character, and he assumes the forms of six separate characters.

Many people in the book are allegorical stand-in’s for various political figures of the day. A very satirical work, Melville attacks the Mexican War and the Indian Wars. One of his worst characters is “the Indian-fighter,” a reprehensible man who is clearly Andrew Jackson in disguise.

Piazza Tales – A fine collection of novellas and short works, including the strange but superb novella Bartleby, the Scrivenor: A Story of Wall Street, which prefigured Kafka by nearly 100 years. We see Melville here as a very early modernist, a 19th Century author writing 20th Century prose.

Also includes the fine novella Benito Cereno, an adventure set in the slaving era around the end of the 1700’s. A US whaling vessel anchored off the coast of Santa Maria encounters a Spanish slave ship with a skeleton Spanish crew, a strangely debilitated Spanish captain, Benito Cereno, and a horde of Black slaves drifting aimlessly towards it. The whalers, led by captain Amaso Delano (an unreliable narrator), go to investigate and find a ship, the San Dominick, low on food and water and a crew that seems unable to steer a ship. What’s up?

This is actually a retelling of the true story of the slave revolt on board a ship called the Amistad, but Melville changes the story around quite a bit in his retelling. For instance, the actual revolt occurred in 1839, but Melville sets the story in the 1790’s. The first 2/3 of the novella is as Kafkaesque as Bartleby the Scrivener. The novella has an ingenious plot twist to it that I won’t give away. A fine allegory on slavery and race. The novella gets off to a slow start, is often criticized for excessive wordiness, and modern readers complain about what they see as racism in the story. In fact, the novella could as well be seen as anti-racist than as racist.

The Encantadas is a novella in the form of a fine series of nine vignettes about the Galapagos Islands. It was the most critically successful of the works in the Piazza Tales. He parodies The Bible, travelogues, naturalistic writing, Dante and Spenser. This is actually Melville’s Inferno, with the Galapagos serving as his Hell. There is a tremendous amount of referencing, historical and literary, going on here, as in many of Melville’s works. The careful reader will find themselves looking up the references for a good part of the novella.

The Bell-Tower is a Poe-Hawthorne-like tale set in the Middle Ages about a man, Bannadonna, a Promethean figure who builds a self-ringing bell and is killed by his own creation. The tower itself then crashes in an earthquake. Themes include Faust, Frankenstein and the Tower of Babel. A man strives for greatness and is killed by hubris. The hubris here is an allegory for the scientific and materialistic theories beginning to become popular at the time. It also suggests the ultimate futility of human striving and creation. An excellent work. Very macabre stuff.

The Lightning-Rod Man is about a pushy traveling salesman who is eventually thrown out of the house by his prospective customer in an allegory about the exploitation of fear by capitalists. It also takes on fire and brimstone preachers. Very funny story.

The Piazza is a sketch featuring that Melville rarity, a female lead character. She cannot figure out on which side of the house to build her porch, and this is the whole of the plot. A lead character imagines that life up on the ridge above is much better than life on lower on the mountain where they reside. They take a trip up the ridge to find out that the opposite is true. The grass is always greener, etc. This story gets mixed reviews, with some finding it delightful and others regarding it as slight.

Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land – a 600 page poem is one of the longest poems ever written in English or for that matter in any language. It involves a man’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He is disappointed when he gets there and returns home disenchanted. There are various allegorical and symbolic characters strewn about, and the effect is nearly Miltonian. The length of the poem and its baffling nature meant that it was regarded with apathy if not puzzled hostility when it was published. It is now seen as a masterwork.

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War: Civil War Poems – Issued a bit later, the critics seemed to like these poems a bit better. Melville’s poems are bitter reflections on the vicious and savage Civil War that had just torn the nation asunder. Melville excoriated the blind patriotism and jingoism on both sides and generally thought the war was a gigantic and horrific bloody wreck that had torn the nation nearly to smithereens. This poems nearly have PTSD themselves but are now recognized as fine works.

John Marr and Other Poems – A later book of poetry. This was barely reviewed, and the reviews were mixed. The consensus now was that Melville was violating all of the rules and regulations of poetry – rhyme, meter, rhythm – he tossed them all aside, and in this sense, this is one of the literature’s first ventures into free verse. Nevertheless, critics noted the occasional stunning imagery that Melville was capable of. The reaction was generally that Melville was a prose writer trying his hand at poetry to which he was ill-suited, and that while he succeeded sometimes as prose writer, he failed as a poet. Critics now respect this work.

Timoleon & Other Poems – This collection was so completely ignored at the time it was published near his death that it shows that by that time, Melville was nearly forgotten by readers and critics alike. This work is now considered to be top-notch poetry.

The Apple Tree Table and Other Sketches – Not published until 1922, this is a series of uncollected works he wrote for money, selling them to magazines such as Harper’s and Putnam’s Monthly. Most of the work is forgettable, but it does some good pieces.

The Paradise of Bachelors and The Tartarus of Maids is a fine sociological piece that explores sexual and other civilizational mores, focusing on the exploitation of female labor by males. Swiftian satire and Miltonian allegory are employed here.

The strangely hilarious I and My Chimney, about an old man guarding the huge chimney in the center of his house when his wife demands it be torn down, can be analyzed on many levels. A fine story.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, or The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano is a humorous on the Emersonian Transcendentalism that was popular at the time, which Melville thought little of. Gets mixed reviews; some think it is weak while others say it is a masterpiece.

Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) – This novella was not published until 1924. It had been found a few years before, 30 years after his death, in a trunk containing his papers. It was published first by the British, who always liked Melville better than the Americans did, to widespread acclaim. Repeated editions were published over the next 40 years as authors went over Melville’s very confusing rough drafts of this book combined with cross-outs, rewrites and text substitution amid confusing notation along with the text to try to arrive at an authoritative version of the text that would be most faithful to what Melville was trying to do.

The plot? British and French navies are battling in the Napoleonic Era. A very young British sailor named Billy Budd (a Christ figure representing innocence and purity or Adam in the Garden) is hated by another sailor, Master John Claggart, on the ship HMS Bellipotent because he is jealous of Billy’s youthful good looks. Yet this handsome young sailor is beloved by all of the rest of the crew. This sailor and two others spread a vicious rumor about Budd, saying that he is fomenting a mutiny on the ship.

Enraged, Budd hits his enemy, and the man dies. A trial, etc. follows. Captain Vere (read: truth) is forced against his will to render military unto Budd even though he knows he is innocent. Evil wins in the end, the law is anything but impartial, if anything it is outright blind, and the first casualty in war is the truth. This is also seen as a legal treatise, and a number of articles in law journals have been written about this novella. It is also, as many of Melville’s works are, a treatise about good and evil. Claggart typically represents evil, even pure evil, while Budd represents the persecuted innocent.

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Filed under Literature, Novel, Philosophy, Poetry, Writing

“The Cry of the Wall”

Repost from the old site.

I received this nice poem in my email the other day from a source who shall remain anonymous in response to my post, Racial Holy Wars, Real and Phantom. Although I suppose the poem below could be construed by some as anti-Semitic, I do not really think it reaches that level.

On the surface, it is best read as an account of the religious Zionist enterprise to colonize Palestine in order to reconstitute Israel as a Jewish homeland. I will make an exception for the line where the Jews are promised, “The Earth, its wealth and all to be”, which is a bit problematical. Of course this line plays into the classic anti-Semitic trope of the Jews as desiring to control the world.

On the other hand, if one studies the Jewish religion carefully, a quite proper reading shows that according to the Jewish religion, the Jews are indeed supposed to rule the world at some point in the future. I believe the Messiah comes, the Jews get Israel back, and then they take over the world. The Gentiles are to serve as little more than slaves to the Jews.

A sort-of exception is made for “righteous Gentiles”, who agree to live according to Jewish Law. These laws being the Noahide Laws, or Jewish Law for the Gentiles. Penalty for violation of Noahide Laws is death. A student of Comparative Religions will note similarities with the Dhimmitude Laws for the People of the Book (Jews, Christians, and Sabeans) under Classic Islamic Law.

And a proper reading of Islam leads to the conclusion that Islam also desires to conquer the world, and either convert of enslave (force into dhimmitude) the non-Muslims. The radical Christian Reconstructionist movement (popular with US fundamentalist Christians) also apparently has desires to rule the world, and also envisions laws that non-Christians must live under and obey under penalty of death.

Can you see the similarities running through here? The desire for domination, even total (world) domination, a set of conservative religious laws, and a desire to subjugate and humiliate those of other religions who refuse conversion under a set of religious laws, violation of which is punishable by death.

So, what appears at first to be a sign of the unique evil of the Jews (the anti-Semitic line) becomes, on analysis, an unfortunate universal human tendency. And although the Jewish religion seems to envision world domination for the Jews, how many Jews, like your neighbor or the shopkeeper, are aware of that, and pine for such domination themselves? I would say few.

Now, in my opinion, there are Jews with the power and money to dream of world domination, and some of them dream of just that, to quote Israel Shamir. The neoconservatives, the Jews in the Russian Mafia, the Rothschilds, the media moguls, and a some Israelis like David Ben Gurion, do seem to be out to become the “Jews that control the world”, as an article in a recent issue of Tikkun Magazine noted.

But are they anywhere close to achieving this goal? I say a resounding no. There are many players in the world domination game, not just the Jews. The reactionaries in the Bush Administration clearly lust for world domination. Just read the missives from the Project for the New American Century.

In the World Control Sweepstakes, the Jews are a mosquito on my arm, while US imperialism is a wolf at my front door. For mosquitoes, there are always swats and repellents. For wolves, I will need a shotgun. Double-barreled. Enjoy:

Cry of the Wall

The day is nigh the Rabbi cried
From Moses to the Judah Tribe
A promise of the Holy Lands
And Lord o’er the Gentile Bands

But wasn’t Moses for us all
Plied the Gentiles from the wall
Not so replied the Rabbi lot
We’re the chosen Men in Frocks
To lead and guide the Judah flock

And they will follow thick and thin
To attain what Moses promised them
And what is that the Gentiles cried
What should they get that we’re denied

The earth, its wealth and all to be
Cried the Rabbi’s don’t you see
We’re the chosen, you are not
So get your butts off this block

But this is ours the Gentiles yell
We’re long time here as time will tell
You have no right to boot us out
So we’ll stand against your rout

Ahh!… the Rabbi’s cried, we’re right!
Just listen to the anti-Semite
Who persecutes our Godly flock
And denies our right to this Holy block

If won’t you bend to our Gods will
We use the power of our Till
To take what’s yours without ado
So hump your swag and bid adieu

The cry came back, we’ll never leave
Will join our men and fight your thieves
Once more the Rabbi’s joined in grist
Yelled!… now we have the Terrorists.

This tale goes on, will never end
Until the Judgment Day does rend
The souls of man from evils past
To blend with Natures soul…at last!…

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Filed under Christianity, Imperialism, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Poetry, Political Science, Politics, Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Reposts From The Old Site, Republicans, US Politics, Zionism

Zen Judaism

Repost from the old site.



The first photo above was first published on this blog as part of Stojgniev O’Donnell’s latest piece, My Middle East Solution. Some research on the Internet indicates that the photo of Bush supposedly going to a Talmud Study Class with his Orthodox Jewish former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is apparently a fake.

However, I showed the picture to a graphic artist who works for my company, and he could find no evidence that the photo was a fake. If it was a fake, he said, it was one of the best fakes he had ever seen.

There now seems to be a solution to the puzzle. This blog has received, exclusively, through our connections with Israeli Mossad Intelligence Agency, the original, un-retouched photo of George Bush going to the Talmud Study Meeting with Ari Fleischer. This new photo, straight from the Mossad archives, proves that the original was a fake, since Bush’s long beard and sideburns were removed with a photo-editing program.

I hope this settles the controversy once and for all.

Now, onto Zen Judaism, from The Straight Goods, which bills itself as Canada’s leading online newspaper.

If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life.
With the first sip…joy.
With the second…satisfaction.
With the third, peace.
With the fourth, a danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single “Oy.”

There is no escaping karma.
In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited.
And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Forget this, and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.
And sit up straight.
You’ll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Be patient and achieve all things.
Be impatient and achieve all things faster.

To Find the Buddha, look within.
Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the following:
Get rid of the motorcycle.
What were you thinking?

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The Buddha says there is no “self.”
So, maybe you are off the hook.

The Buddha taught that one should practice loving kindness to all sentient beings.
Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish?

Though only your skin, sinews, and bones remain…
Though your blood and flesh dry up and wither away…
Yet shall you meditate and not stir until you have attained full Enlightenment

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Filed under Humor, Judaism, Poetry, Religion, Reposts From The Old Site

Neighborhoods of LA, Gay and Otherwise

The gayest place by far in California is LA! They might as well change the name to LA Gay.

West Hollywood is insanely gay of course, but it’s also a fantastic place to pick up women. You can practically pick them up right off the street if you know what you are doing. The reason is because there are lots of single women there, and they are pretty desperate. Most of the guys are queers, and most of the rest are married. Any remainder are weird Orthodox Jewish guys from Russia with long beards and funny hats.

The areas surrounding West Hollywood like Hollywood proper and Beverly Hills are also quite gay, though most folks in Beverly Hills are straight. Hollywood proper also has many straights along with every type of human known to mankind.

A Hollywood district called Silverlake is incredibly gay. I knew a couple who lived there, and I used to hang out over there. Silverlake is practically gayer than West Hollywood.

Echo Park next door is full of Mexicans.

Los Feliz right next door is also full of gays, but there are lots of other types there. It’s a very wealthy area.

That whole general area is full of desperate single women, mostly young ones. There are plenty of women there, and most are not lesbians. And most of the single guys are queers. The rest are typically married or whatever. So there are way more available single women than single guys, so those neighborhoods are paradise for a single straight man if you don’t mind queers chasing your ass night and day.

The parts of the Valley bordering LA proper are fairly gay. I always thought Studio City was a fairly gay place.

Santa Monica is also pretty gay, but there are lots of other folks living there too.

Venice has some gays, but just about every other kind of freak lives there too.

East LA is full of Mexicans and Hispanics, not queers.

South LA is full of Black people, and it is rapidly filling up with Hispanics.

Koreatown is full of Koreans.

The MacArthur Park District is full of Salvadorans and other Hispanic types. It’s an extremely run-down, degraded and overcrowded area.

There is a large Filipino neighborhood just northwest of downtown. The name escapes me.

There are many Armenians in a town called Glendale northeast of LA near Pasadena.

LA is full of Jews! An area called the Fairfax District is the center, but Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood, Beverlywood, Beverly Hills, West LA and to a lesser extent Encino and Studio City are insanely Jewish.

Malibu is where the movie and entertainment industry types live, but they also live all throughout the region.

Hollywood writers typically live in West LA, but also live throughout the area. A very large proportion of Hollywood script writers are Jewish.

The movie scene is not particularly gay, nor is the music industry, though looks are deceiving. Many actors are reportedly closeted. I used to go to movie industry parties for the behind the scenes folks (gaffers, storyboard artists, light crew, etc). They throw a great party, and I never saw any gays there. Both the movie and music industry are stacked to the rafters with Jews.

There is a very large theater scene in LA. There are little theatres all throughout Hollywood. I never knew anyone from that scene, but my impression was that the theater crowd was insanely gay. Now why the theater crowd (actors) would be so gay but the movie scene not does not make a lot of sense, except that maybe a lot of movie and TV actors are closeted.

There is also a huge local band scene in Hollywood, mostly heavy metal and punk, etc. This scene is overwhelmingly straight. Some of the big clubs were the Starwood, the Roxy, the Lingerie Club, the Anti-Club and the Whisky.

There is also a pretty big lit/poetry scene in LA. It’s not very gay at all. Just typical neurotic, boozing writer types and nerdy writer chicks.

There is a big art scene in LA. The artists generally live in or hang out in lofts in downtown LA. I was part of that scene for a long time. There were few if any gays in the scene that I was a part of. An artist party is like 300 introverts in a room, everyone scared to talk to each other. It’s pretty easy to get artist girls. Most of them are shy, nerdy types who don’t get laid enough, so they are a bit desperate. Plus once you get one, they’re often horny as Hell to make up for lost time.

Dance Scene

There is also a dance scene in LA. I used to know a woman named Mary Jane Eisenberg who was a big choreographer in town. Smart, cute, skinny, Jewish. She had her hair cut really short, and you know what that means, but I got the impression that she liked men. She was a cool chick; I would love to meet her again. Apparently she is still alive and still working as a choreographer.

I met her at a some wild, rowdy Dennis Cooper poetry reading (Cooper is gay) at some weird club in downtown LA the name of which escapes me.

She was with a couple of her dancers, two guys who were probably some of the best looking young men (about age 30) I have ever seen in my life. They were both apparently gay or bisexual.

They were so good looking and sexy that one almost wanted to turn gay because of them, if only for a while. I thought, “Man, I can see why guys are queer. You get to fuck the best looking people on the planet, just like that. I mean, they’re all guys, but hey! Minor point, no? How many straight guys get to screw the hottest chicks around? If you’re into screwing good looking people and don’t care much about gender, maybe gay is the way to go, eh?”

You could also see how just about any woman on Earth would want these guys. They were that sexy and hot.

Mary Jane asked one of the guys, who looked like Jamie Gillis, “So, what you guys been up to?”

The guy said flamboyantly, waving his hands in the air, “Ohhhhhh you knowwww. Just going to gay baaaars!”

Mary Jane shook her head like, “You’re nuts!”

The other guy heard his friend talking about going to gay bars and kept saying under his breath, “Nooo. Noooo. Nooooo. Noooooo.” Apparently he was denying his queery ways.

Later the same guy leaned over to me and purred, “Soooo, can I buy you a beer?” I told him no thanks and started shaking like a leaf. I was having a nightmare, and I was wide awake. I finished my beer and turned around and threw it into the trashcan, hard, like a punk, and it shattered. Then I sneered. The queer shuddered a bit when the bottle shattered, and then he left me alone.

It was a very weird night!

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One of America’s Finest Poets Is a Black Man

His name is Jay Wright.

Not sure if you are into modern poetry, but Wright is probably among the top 5 or 6 poets in the US right now. He’s an elderly Black man, light-skinned, now poet in residence at Yale University.

Of all of the very many poets writing in America today, Jay Wright is probably among the top 5 or 6. His poems will survive his passing.

There have been quite a few good Black authors. I am a big fan of James Baldwin. Zora Neale Houston is out of this world. And Richard Wright was a very good writer. Samuel Delaney is said to be one of the finest literary sci-fi authors out there, and Octavia Butler is also a superb sci-fi author.

Cornel West is a glorious philosopher, up there with the greats.

If you go to White nationalist forums, as proof of Black intellectual inferiority, they will offer that there are no fine Black authors of the caliber of this or that White author, or there are no Black intellectuals of the caliber of these or those White intellectuals. This is a silly game. These things are so hard to compare. You are comparing the greats with the greats, and where do you begin? IQ tests make an excellent case for intelligence differential between Blacks and Whites.

Comparing the greatest Black and White authors, on the other hand, seems to be a failed exercise. Whatever intellectual and artistic talents it takes to produce a great White writer or thinker, there are sure to be a few Blacks now and then with the cognitive and creative material to match them.

Black people can write and think, at least some of them can. And the best of the Blacks can write and think with the greatest of the greats.

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Andre Breton, “Sunflower”

The traveler who crossed Les Halles at summer’s end
Walked on tiptoe
Despair rolled its great handsome lilies across the sky
And in her handbag was my dream that flask of salts
That only God’s godmother had breathed
Torpors unfurled like mist
At the Chien qui Fume
Where pro and con had just entered
They could hardly see the young woman and then only at an angle
Was I dealing with the ambassadress of saltpeter
Or with the white curve on black background we call thought
The Innocents’ Ball was in full swing
The Chinese lanterns slowly caught fire in chestnut trees
The shadowless lady knelt on the Pont-au-Change
On Rue Gît-le-Coeur the stamps had changed
The night’s promises had been kept at last
The carrier pigeons and emergency kisses
Merged with the beautiful stranger’s breasts
Jutting beneath the crepe of perfect meanings
A farm prospered in the heart of Paris
And its windows looked out on the Milky Way
But no one lived there yet because of the guests
Guests who are known to be more faithful than ghosts
Some like that woman appear to be swimming
And a bit of their substance becomes part of love
She internalizes them
I am the pawn of no sensual power
And yet the cricket singing in the ashen hair
One evening near the statue of Etienne Marcel
Gave me a knowing look
Andre Breton it said go on

From L’Amour Fou (Mad Love) 1937.

The woman in “Sunflower” is Jacqueline Lamba, an artist who was Breton’s second wife.

Andre Breton, "Automatic Writing," 1938.

The Surrelalists’ political platform, which they attempted to ally with the French Communist Party, was threefold:

1. Dreams
2. Mad love
3. Freedom the color of man

The Communists were not buying it.

Breton was barely allowed to speak at the meeting of the Communist Writers for the Defense of Culture meeting in 1935. He was initially banned, but after Rene Crevel’s suicide, they reluctantly allowed him to speak, but only at midnight after most had left.

A year later, Breton broke decisively with Stalin and aligned himself with the Trotskyites. In 1938, he and Jacqueline spent four months with Trotsky, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico. Trotsky and Breton co-wrote Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art. Two years later, Trotsky was dead, an icepick in his skull.

The War was beginning. By 1941, the Bretons were fleeing internal exile in Marseilles on a ship for New York City, a place he hated. He would have hated anywhere that kept him away from Paris. Within a year, Jacqueline left him, and he fell into depression. Two years later, he met another young woman in a New York cafe.

After the war, he was back in Paris with a new wife, but it was not the old Paris. Many of the old Surrealists had joined a French Communist Party which wanted no part of Breton. Others remained in exile. Still others were in asylums or graves.

The war had taken its toll on everything. Even Breton’s poetry was dying. For the next 20 years, he wrote little while Existentialism, Pop Art and the New Novel supplanted Surrealism. By Fall 1966, he was dead.

He died too soon. Had he lived two more years, he would have seen French students shouting his lines in the streets. Even later, Surrealism had infiltrated the entire modern visual realm.

Andre Breton!

Breton is the founder of Surrealism, a man who frequently dresses entirely in green, smokes a green pipe, drinks a green liqueur and has a sound of knowledge of Freudian psychology.

Time Magazine, reporting on the Surrealist Exhibition at MOMA in New York, 1936.

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Of Dogs and Men

With apologies to John Steinbeck.

Boatswain

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below;
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, the foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,
Who labors, lives, fights, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth.
While man, vain insect, hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole, exclusive heaven.
Ye! Who behold, perchance, this simple urn,
Pass on; it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones rise,
I have never known but one – and here he lies.

Lord Byron, “Boatswain”

Who says that we have souls and dogs none, anyway? The Bible? What kind of religion is that, then?

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Harold Bloom, “The Anxiety of Influence”

A book review of his latest book, very nicely written, from the New York Times, by the editor of the book review section.

Bloom is one of our finest literary critics. He’s defended the “dead White men” Western canon at universities in the face of nutty Third Worldists, feminists, queer theorists and other silly postmodernists. These types are the PC brigade of modern lit. They’re mad because there are not enough queers, lesbians, non-Whites and women in the annals of authors of the Great Books. So they champion often marginal works of literature just because it’s written by some queer, lesbian, Black, American Indian or woman.

It’s part of the New Left PC War on the West. They’re mad at us because we are good.

The problem is that a lot of the best lit was written by dead White men! Deal with it.

Bloom has a webpage up on the Western canon, where he lists great books down through the years, starting with the ancients, going on the Greeks and Romans, then to the Shakespeare era, to the 1700’s and 1800’s, and on to the modern era. Here it is online. It’s great! Great just to read through it and at least familiarize yourself with the great authors. And in the modern era, he does deal with India, the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America, the Orient, etc.

Bloom’s always been big on Shakespeare. He considers him to be the greatest author of all time. I agree with Bloom. Shakespeare may be as yet unequaled. He’s also big on T.S. Eliot, and I’m an Eliot fan too. Even if you can’t figure him out, there is something glorious about that deadly and doomed poetry.

One of his curious arguments deals with the trajectory of modern poetry. There’s long been a debate about poetry in the modern era along the lines of a despairing, “There’s nothing ieft to write! All the great poems have been written.” The hidden suggestion is that there is nothing left to do but copy the greats of the past.

Strangely enough, Bloom agrees. He sees all or most poets as copying in one way or another some predecessor. This is like a war in which the new poets, like rebellious sons, fight against the ghosts of the poets of the past, representing their fathers. It is fraught with tension. The best poets are simply better at copying or rewriting the poets of the past. The lesser poets are poor at it, and their plagiarism is obvious, hence they drift down to the forgotten archives.

The critic’s role was to map the geneology of “influence.” That is, to find the ancestor of the poet, hard to do because poets mask their influences so well.

Bloom showed how John Ashberry came from Wallace Stevens, Stevens had come from Walt Whitman, Browning had come from Shelley and Tennyson had come from Keats.

In the chapter, “Milton’s Hamlet” he shows how Milton’s Satan is the offspring of Hamlet.

It does not matter that Satan is an obsessed theist and Hamlet is not.  Two angelic intellects inhabit a common abyss: the post-Enlightenment ever-augmenting inner self, of which Hamlet is a precursor, intervening between Luther and Calvin, and later Descartes and Spinoza.

Nice prose!

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“Drunk and Disorderly: The Joys of Ranterism and Other Topics,” by Jacob Bauthumley

For white English or American readers of this blog, a question.

Who went to church this morning? Go on, own up. Nobody?

Coming home on the bike I passed the Catholic church on the corner of my block (West Earlham). Everyone was of Indian origin, speaking Indian languages! In white Norwich! Not a white Caucasian in sight.

This morning I was up extremely early, and at first light I was worshipping at the church of my allotment, delighting in the alchemy of all life. Yes really! Just enjoying it.

Then, I went scrumping windfall apples, and gathered 150lb of different varieties, which I moved on my bike trailer in an old plastic cistern back to my friend Ruth’s place. I am so knackered now that I have to go back to bed. I’ve been up since 4am, and I’ve had three hours’ sleep. What the hell. Sleep it off, baby. It’s a Sunday!

I rang a friend, a local poet, and he put me in touch with a local cider maker with a press, out in rural Norfolk, in Old Buckenham. My friend John and I plan to turn the apples into ten gallons of cider and sour the cider to make ten gallons of cider vinegar.

Religious views are a very tricky area, aren’t they? The two things you are not supposed to discuss in polite English society are religion and politics. It is clear that I do not have the manners of an Englishman, since I talk about both.

My nom de guerre Abiezer Coppe gives his views on the Christian religion at the end of the piece.

I have been at times an Marxist atheist, an Marxist agnostic, and a Marxist with Christian leanings. In the next phase of my life I shall settle for a Marxist gnosticism, marrying the rational materialist dialectic of Marx, to the otherworldly insights of the Christian Gnostics, starting with Valentinus (3rd Century AD). I am in good company. Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was also a kind of Marxist gnostic. True, he was a Stalinist, too, but Stalinism is not the main thrust of his remarkable magnum opus on Hope, Das Prinzip Hoffnug, or of his biography of the 15th Century revolutionary peasant leader, Thomas Munzer, which I found in French translation.

Spiritual search: should I give it up entirely? I have tried the Cheshire Cat Buddhists at the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (I swear they all had the same smile) but they gave me the creeps, as every religious group does.

Experiential spirituality is the only type I can connect to: I learned Vipassana meditation once. Ten day silent retreats in Herefordshire, no speaking, no eye contact: it takes a lot to discipline a wild mind. I’ve always been poor, and even the poor can afford it: I gave service instead of cash, and went back and worked in the kitchens on another retreat.

Vipassana was good, and it works, but who wants to spend two hours a day sitting on their arse meditating? It certainly chills you out like nothing else does, the ten day retreat. You come out feeling clean, really clean. A good friend of mine called L–a came on a Herefordshire retreat with me (I drove my totally illegal French taxed, French MOT’d and French insured Citroen BX from Norwich to Herefordshire and back, and around on the roads of the UK for 2 years, and the police never stopped me once). She’d smoked dope and tobacco, and drank alcohol all her life. After the 10 day retreat she just stopped, without even a struggle. No alcohol, no drugs, no tobacco. She just didn’t want them anymore.

Buddha was really onto something, then. Buddhism is a practical spirituality centered on the practice of compassion, and the meditative practices of Buddhism actually renders one more compassionate. It can’t be a bad thing.

I’ve met atheists and Marxists who are – or seem – spiritual, and plenty of Christians who are not. It’s about the being, the beingness of the person, the kind of love they put forth into the world. I’ve met Muslims with a spiritual energy to die for.

Spirituality is? – taking the risk in every moment to be honest, to connect with other beings (it might be a frog, my favourite amphibian) and live and love from my deepest sense of whom I am, from my wild and untamed self. And damn the consequences. It’s difficult. We are English. We are fairly shy. We like dissimulation and subterfuge; it is what, as a nation, we are more comfortable with. At least the chattering classes, the bourgeois, the middle classes. I can only speak for my own class, and I am not Jay Griffiths, though I admire her guts. I am more comfortable with Latins, personally, than the emotionally repressed public school Englishman (I did that. I went to a small private boarding school in Suffolk for six years).

WYSWYG: What You See Is What You Get, in my experience with people of Latin  extraction.

If they don’t like you they come straight out with it. I respect that. In fact, seriously, who would WANT to live any other way once the inner wild being in each of us is brought to light? Who then would settle for the psychic equivalent of suburbia?

Read Wild: An Elemental Journey, by Jay Griffiths, to get an idea of what we have lost touch with, our mammalian, our animal nature, our inner wild being. Once we were wild beings, too.

Wild: An Elemental Journey is a magnificent book, and the woman has bags of courage, lots of cojones, as the Spanish say. Maybe we need to “re-wild” ourselves a bit (if a return to barbarism is all that’s in the offing, barring a socialist revolution: Socialism or Barbarism, Rosa Luxemburg), like Jay, sing from the rooftops, dance naked, and masturbate on a rock in the sun, as Jay describes doing in her book: she was doing a bit of Deep Ecology that day, connecting with nature, worshipping the sun and giving her all to the big O. Her account is in the book.

People are rarely so frank. In fact she was intensely lonely, in a wild place, far from human company. The orgasm brought her back to her sense of self, and reconnected her with her surroundings. Orgasm as sacramental act; I like it. Spirituality is not about going to church, it is not about which imaginary friend you have: it’s about love, love and respect for yourself, love and respect for your neighbours too, even the little frogs who come and visit me when I am harvesting vegetables I have grown.

Social revolutions are carnivals of bacchanalia, festivals of the spirit and festivals of the oppressed (Lenin), explosions of creativity and joy (it is not nice being oppressed, is it? It is often fearful, too): or they are boring barracks socialism, and end in Five Year Plans, the Fulfillment of Quotas, the Meeting of Production Targets, and the ruination of nature. And ultimately, a return to capitalism, consumerism, conformity and fear: China now. So revolutionary politics must include this spirit, as it will inspire the people of this land to rise against their oppressors.

Leftist political parties can be hard work emotionally! I didn’t see much joy and revolutionary fun in the 1970’s British Communist Party: it was a bit dour, a bit too serious, and very English. Yet there was also a real warmth among the comrades. We were en route for a better future, or so we thought…And when we stood up at District meetings and sang Jerusalem, by William Blake, it warmed my heart to sing the words of the greatest English gnostic poet, just as singing the Internationale in French to anyone who will listen does now.

Which Communist country kills 600,000 workers a year from overwork, and has a flexible working day of anything between 20 and 35 hours? China, the West’s new slave empire that produces all our electronic goodies. Someone died of exhaustion on a production line somewhere in China making my laptop…that thought does cross my mind (more here on Chinese workers).

I still identify as a Marxist, but as a Marxist Feminist Gnostic, which is totally unacceptable to the comrades! I’ve done the Communist Party (CPGB, PCF), done the Socialist Workers (SWP), but I couldn’t hack it, organised male Marxist politics (yawn…), so these days I work for the Green Party, campaign for them, but I won’t join. I’ve stopped being a joiner.

At least the UK Green Party do not have the one thousand hang-ups about the Soviet Union that the Communists had, and all that bloody coded language… They mean the things they say, too….it’s prefigurative politics, of the type I’ve always believed in. You carry the changes you want to see into your personal life. If you’ve rubbed shoulders with Stalinists for several years, as I have without ever being one of them, you’ll know how refreshing that is.

Where’s the Libertarian Marxist Feminist Gnostic Party?

That’s what I want to know. I haven’t seen one yet. When I do I’ll sign up.

I struggle with the materialist epistemology of Marxism. I have had a go at being a philosophical materialist, read the books (back in the day it was Maurice Cornforth, now completely and deservedly forgotten, and Emile Burns)  but found it kind of miserable…back in the day I read a lot of Marxists. The only ones I could go for were the outliers, the non-conformists like Ernst Bloch, a German Marxist who wrote a thousand page book about dreams, day dreams, hope and the place of utopia in the human imagination (Hope The Principle, 3 vols). Bad Marxists, utopian dreamers. William Morris and his News From Nowhere. Nowhere is where I live – the name of Utopia!

Philosophical materialism, in the forms in which I have encountered it, rules out as nonexistent that which palpably exists!

I have yet to meet a Marxist, for example, who takes homeopathic medicine at all seriously, and I trained as a homeopath, so I know it works!  They parrot the standard line. One would think that a revolutionary would have had a little more insight than that. If I had breast cancer, for example, a homeopath would be my first port of call. See Dr A U Ramakrishnan’s work in that area: consistent success across many types of cancer, with five year follow-ups, and none of the extreme toxicity and immune devastation of chemotherapy.

Mr Abiezer Coppe was, I imagine, a Christian gnostic sans le savoir, and inspired William Blake, who I think knew he wrote in the gnostic tradition (see historian E P Thompson’s last book, Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law, which is a brilliant study).

That is why I identify with Blake, too, and especially with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), a text on the dialectic before Marx and Hegel. It is a lot more fun to read than Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, too!

The English Ranters rejected all forms of spiritual, sexual and religious authority, and insisted that the only church was the human body. They were good chaps, religious anarcho-communists before communism, and more libertarian than Gerard Winstanley’s more puritanical Diggers, the only other Commies on the block at the time.

The Ranters had a endearing habit of preaching naked (if their enemies are to be believed) in the open air, on heaths, and drinking ale and fornicating at religious meetings. Very endearing. The Ranters did not believe in sin. Ranter women are said to have looked for sin in men’s codpieces, and on being unable to find any, declared there was none. That’s a kind of healthy materialism I like. So they didn’t believe in that superstitious shit the Church teaches, either, the Virgin Birth, Original Sin, or the sexual perversions resulting from the Christian, especially Catholic, strictures on the priesthood.

The Ranters were not feminists, but you can’t have everything, and in any case, who was a feminist in 1650? Ranters believed everything should be held in common, including women; they weren’t keen on the legal union of marriage and, I guess, just as in the 1960s, these 17th Century anarcho-hippie Ranter men enjoyed their sexual revolution and their sexual libertarianism while Ranter women got pregnant, had the babies, and were left holding them on the heaths of England, bereft of the men who had sired them. Maybe the Ranter males were indeed “only around for the conception”. Nothing new there, then!

So much for sexual liberation in 1650s England. Did they know about satisfying a woman in bed?

Funnily enough a feminist historian (Alison Smith) of early modern England told me that that there was a generally held view at the time that if a woman did not have an orgasm during sex with a man, then she could not conceive. So, in the beliefs of the time, no female orgasms equaled no babies…Quite progressive really, but did condoms exist then? I doubt it – condoms came in later…18th century, I think. Any condom historians here?

English Ranterism and the Digger movement represented a political dead end. With the Cromwellian Thermidor of the English Revolution after 1649, and the general persecution and ostracism of the Ranters, a lot of them recanted their beliefs, including Abiezer Coppe, stopped railing against the rich (one of their specialties!) and settled down to become Seekers, or Quakers (who are very much in the Gnostic lineage – no priests, no service, no dogmas, no crap, just the Inner Light of Not-God, etc…) or even Muggletonians…see E P Thompson’s book on William Blake (1993) for more. He interviewed the last surviving English Muggletonian. How about that?

More on the Ranters below:

Discussion of the Ranter historical context, and Ranter views.

– Extracts from the writings of Abiezer Coppe

My comments, writing as Abiezer Coppe, on Christianity and gnosticism:

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