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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Belief... Cults... The new dark ages?

The nature of cults. 

I think this Guardian article skirts on as to why people seek meaning in cults and religious belief, and the, Qanon cult. It is definately a good place to start.
Regarding conspiracy beliefs, I'm always drawn back to the labyrinthine thinking of the Branch Davidian 7th Day Adventists, and the Waco seige. During that seige, the FBI brought in experts in this sort of conspiratorial, end times apocalyptic biblical theology, and by actually knowing the language, the world they inherited, they began to make progress in persuading the Davidians that their end times had not come. The FBI, unable to understand this different reality, dismissed the progress , and advanced the torture and eventually the assault that led to so many deaths.

The Davidians and Koresh were castigated by secular society as strange, suicidal idiots. They really weren't. They were victims of society that celebrates mystics and people and systems that constitute all that is not understood by science as a "God." A mystic experience. A divine something that seeks attention, worship, and hides meaning in codes only some, an elite, can decipher. The Branch Davidians, like all religious believers, seek assurance that nothing in the world happens by coincidence. Every nuance of action and text and speech has some place in a world view that seeks meaning. 

Whats more, they create a "they." A group of people who are doing harm to good people and innocents. A "They" that are destroying lives and the world and souls. Only an elite can understand this. Modern conspiracy theory and cult belief has opened up this belonging to an elite who can undersrand the runes, to more people, though there are hierarchies of seeker and leader within these groups. David Koresh "opened the seven seals." Qanon and other cults both political and mystical (and some with both of these traits) have their high priests. 
This isn't  just a phenomena of the industrial capitalist world. Conspiracy theories have been recorded throughout the ancient world, as well as the western medieval and post medieval world. The most obvious being the witch hunts that led to the community lynching and church sanctioned murder of women believed to be casting pagan spells on populations. 
In the ancient world, Christianity - the affirmation of an unquestioning belief in "God" as a passage to ever lasting life, rather than the Greek philosophical schools that sought to question everything in order to properly understand, was seen as a dangerous cult that created groups of dangerously fervent believers who were a threat to civil order. Order was a goal. And the ancient literati and academics who moved from the philosophical schools to Christianity, failed to appreciate two things. One, their belief in writings and signs, would of course create more labyrinthine argument, debate and indeed quandary and two, the philosphical schools were by design, places of dispute and progress. 

Tatian (author of Diatessaron, mid second century) sought order after abandoning his Greek education (in the philosophical schools) and asserted that the order of unquestioning belief (in one unifying God) was superior to 'barbarian philosophy' as Christians 'behave better.' "Wherefore," he warns, "be not led away by the solemn assemblies of philosophers who are no philosophers, who dogmatise one against the other, though each one vents but the crude fancies of the moment." Christians, in contrast, Tatian argued, worship one God and do not dispute amongst themselves. {A New History of Early Christianity, Charles Freeman, p180}. Argument, interrogation of scientific theory and philosophy were "barbaric." (He also held views on how morally terrible the intellectual elite were). 
Drain the swampIntellectuals and political elites are pagans who do us harm, became a familiar theme in the centuries after the interpretive writings were laid down, following the events in the middle east two thousand years ago. "Believers and non believers" became a battleground that in different periods of the past two millenia, was a cauldron of conspiracy against evil and evil doers, usually powerless, people and small communities, (eg jewish pogroms) and women, and at times, against intellectual activity and power structures. 

Second century Christians used to beg to be martyred after they ate the body of Christ and drank his blood. It parted the red sea. It opened up heaven and ever lasting life.  Accounts describe martyrs laughing as nails were driven in or the fire lit beneath them. Christian poet Prudentius reported Lawrence quipping to his excecutioners while being roasted, "This part of my body has been burned long enough. Turn it round and try what your hot god of fire has done." Though these reports, of course were written by Christians urging other christians to do the same, so should be read with caution. Koresh, Aum Shrinrikyo, Heavens Gate, even Jim Jones are more modern versions of this mass hysteria, this devotion. This shit has happened throughout history. Q will lead to more, awful stuff.
Today, the internet rabbit holes "seekers" go down to find meaning... the "research" activity, watching video after video of high priests of conspiracy interpreters and the self congratulating social aspect of "woke-ness" (as opposed to non wokeness and non believers) all come together in a heady cocktail that really can't end well.

  Drain the swamp. Believers and non believers. And attacks on black communities in America, and of course on academia and political philosophy and systems. Qanon has roots in antisemitism, the fake, and launchpad for conspiracy theory that led to the Nazi Holocaust, Protocols of the Elders of Zion is held up as evidence for a world wide jewish elitist plot. This short article gives a background to Qanon theory. 

And the seekers who try to find meaning, just find more rabbitholes, more urgency, and more attacks upon them and imagined victims. 

In todays political landscape, cult behaviour is both left and right wing. Speaking as someone on the left, the "truths", the shibboleths that make up the starting point of  analysis, sometimes recited in the main stream media, can be based on nothing more than the stitching together of unknowns that in the past were weaved to fit in to a world where injustices MUST centre on a person, a party or an event. A kind of thinking that dismisses reality for long held "truths" about the west, the east, capitalism and countries that were in the past seen as anti capitalist. Evidence gathered by professional journalists and academics is dismissed for long held beliefs, and the shibboleth is patched up and forms the basis of further analysis. This can be best seen with some on the left who attack the west regardless of evidence of intent, while almost blindly defending Putin, Assad or Xi. 
Conspiracy and seeking to tie conspiratorial and "belief" threads together is evident across our political world. Huge swathes of populations seek meaning in trying to pull threads of complex data together to form some sort of fabric on which to place their "knowledge." A belief system that explains everything, all existing complex systems, in a oner. 

"Seekers" are not simply defined (class, education, gender etc as well as what floats their boat) and are not "fools." And those they congregate towards; narcissistic, messianic interpreters of runes, texts, and the ether, arent either. All of these people are creating a reality that feels good and is rewarding for those who are active. A community they all crave. 

Qanon is far from finished regarding the damage it will do. In fact, the events on Capitol Hill will be read by them as their first assault on the system that must be destroyed and replaced. 

Philosophy and enlightened thought are only really recovering after the fall of Greek and, Roman philosophy and exploration of science and mathematical theory. Are we entering a new dark ages when enemies will be seen everywhere, lynched or murdered? The next four years of American political development might be the saviour or (temporary?) end of true, free academic and intellectial rigour. It's that serious. 

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