I came across this article thanks to Warren Ellis; I see Ellis’s point clearly enough and it’s one that I have been more than a little concerned about myself, especially in the greater occulture. Kingsnorth, the Dark Mountain, and the broader halo of thinking that surrounds and informs them has significant influence on the scene. It’s a trend that extends well-beyond the greens, too. A lot of folks who are committed to ‘preserving a culture’ are edging along similar terrain, looking to join national autonomy to cultural safety.
Fiscal responsibility is one of those earthly virtues, no doubt, but when it comes to understanding our present moment in history, we have to grasp that money is a fire. While we have inherited a tradition of tarot interpretation that joins money as coins to the suit of earth, money in late- to crumbling capitalism belongs to wands, to passion, to control. While money can, well-used, provide the means for acquiring and cultivating our patch of earth, the fire is always in the roots and capable of flaring up to consume our homes, both in the literal and extended senses of the term.
Think about this when you bring money to the graveyard. You are bringing fire with you, you are heating up the dead, summoning them forth to take form in the crux of your desires. Do this often, do this in a place where you do not have roots, and what are you doing but stoking the flames that will consume you life? Without fire we will surely die, but without caution fire will destroy us and all that for which we care.
“Sometimes the answers just come in the mail.
And one day you get that letter you’ve been waiting for forever.
And everything it says is true.
And then in the last line it says: burn this.”
—Laurie Anderson, “Same Time Tomorrow”
At the end of one of my synchronicity chains this last week is a video, “Let’s Dance,” by the late great David Bowie. I’ve shared it recently, so I won’t link it again here, but I want to talk about it more. In doing so, I want to talk about it in a strange way, as a complex spiritual sign, as if the whole video were being taken up and spoken as a spiritual message. I don’t necessarily want to assert that the video was originally intended to be that message, only that like any message, like any set of words, it can be taken up and given new meaning according to the context in which it is spoken. In other words, I only mean to say that it can be used to mean what I am saying here, not that Bowie or the director intended it to mean what I say here.
I’m old enough to have come of age intellectually when Hardt and Negri were making a splash with their Empire. Sitting close to the heart of that book was a call for new virtue rooted in poverty. I remember more than a few folks I knew at the time feeling like this was some sort of romantic claptrap and, having been poor, I was inclined to agree with them.
When I talked about the world as a marketplace, I was leaning heavily on a Yoruba conception. I want to keep leaning on that and start talking about an important aspect of the spiritual world in the marketplace: witches. The Yoruba imaginary associates witches with the marketplace and moreover with the women who circulate through it. The more esteem and authority a woman possesses within the market, the more likely it is that she will accrue a reputation for witchcraft. Some of this has to do with a simple distrust of excessive accumulation–they who have much are suspected of having supernatural power that makes their success possible (compare this with the Kongo conception of ndoki). I don’t think this exhausts the issue, though.
Aye l’oja, orun n’ile (The world is a marketplace we [all] visit, [and] the otherworld is home)
(Yoruba saying, quoted/translated by Wole Soyinka)
When we start talking about capitalism’s role in the modern spiritual world, it’s useful to start with a little advice from Michel Foucault. When he was pressed as to whether he was anti-psychiatry, he stated that he didn’t think psychiatry was ‘bad.’ Rather, he said, psychiatry was “dangerous…but everything is dangerous.” When we talk about capitalism’s influence in our spiritual lives, I suggest thinking like that–it isn’t bad, but dangerous; there is no way to escape danger in this life so we should appreciate the nature of that danger.