Conspirituality — in which New Age wellness meets conspiracy culture — helped stoke the riot on Capitol Hill

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Jake Angeli (center) stands outside the Senate chamber. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

There’s not much I can add to all that will be written about Wednesday’s day of infamy, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill, but I can perhaps shed light on one aspect of it — the role of “conspirituality” in fomenting the riot and in shaping the man who will go down as its poster boy: Jake Angeli, the “QAnon shaman.”

Conspirituality refers to the overlap between New Age/wellness culture and conspiracy culture. …

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This is a brief essay that Iggy Pop wrote for the journal Classics Ireland in 1995. No, really!

Caesar Lives by Iggy Pop

In 1982, horrified by the meanness, tedium and depravity of my existence as I toured the American South playing rock and roll music and going crazy in public, I purchased an abridged copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Dero Saunders, Penguin).

The grandeur of the subject appealed to me, as did the cameo illustration of Edward Gibbon, the author, on the front cover. He looked like a heavy dude.

Being in a political business, I had long made a habit of reading biographies of wilful characters — Hitler, Churchill, MacArthur, Brando — with large profiles, and I also enjoyed books on war and political intrigue, as I could relate the action to my own situation in the music business, which is not about music at all, but is a kind of religion-rental. …

RESURRECTING HUMAN EXCEPTIONALISM IN THE GUISE OF SCIENCE

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Aldous and Julian Huxley, grandsons of Thomas Henry Huxley

An essay written by Professor Steve Fuller, published exclusively here

That which we were looking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work… The ‘Origin’ provided us with the working hypothesis we sought. Moreover, it did the immense service of freeing us forever from the dilemma — refuse to accept the creation hypothesis, and what have you to propose that can be accepted by any cautious reasoner?

T.H. Huxley, ‘On the Reception of the Origin of…

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This is about quite a dark subject: the Soviet gulags. I don’t recommend reading this essay if you suffer from clinical depression. If you’re just somewhat got down by global politics, I do recommend you read this, to realize that things can be a lot worse, and to appreciate what we have going for us.

A week ago, staying at my grandparents’ house in Wales, I picked up The Gulag Archipelago¸ by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He reached out a cold, bony hand, and wouldn’t let go. His account of the gulags — the slave-labour camps run by the Soviet Union — was so awful, and exerted such a ghoulish fascination on me, that I had to read more, so I read his first book, One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and followed up with Anne Applebaum’s historical account, Gulag: A History.

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The Evolutionary Leaders — Barbara Marx Hubbard is third from right, in the pink top. Deepak Chopra is in the centre of the front row.

A new book came out recently called Our Moment of Choice. Produced by an organisation called ‘Evolutionary Leaders’, it announced that mankind was on the brink of an extraordinary evolutionary leap, from the chrysalis of homo sapiens to a whole new species of unlimited potential.

I looked into who these remarkable ‘Evolutionary Leaders’ were. The group was founded in 2006 by a lady called Diane Marie Williams, president of the ‘Source of Synergy Foundation’, in partnership with Deepak Chopra TM, perhaps the most successful teacher in the New Age.

It says something about the modern spiritual market place, doesn’t it, that TM. …

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Here’s another chapter of the little unpublished book / long essay I wrote in 2008, called Everything Is Full of Gods, about the connection between comics, animation, and magic / animism. The intro chapter is here. In this chapter, I talk about Renaissance magic, and how it influenced contemporary comic culture.

The Magus

Florence 1463 AD. In the library of the Villa Careggi, Marcilio Ficino, the greatest scholar of the age, is hard at work. He has recently been made head of a new Platonic academy, based in the Villa Careggi and sponsored by Cosimo De Medici, the ruler of Florence and one of the richest and most powerful men in Europe. …

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Alec Guinness in Smiley’s People, perhaps the finest TV series ever

RIP the great John Le Carré, one of the finest British novelists of the last 50 years. Here is an essay I wrote on his spies and their misplaced Stoicism.

The nice thing about having lived in Russia is that everyone assumes you must have been a spy. Acquaintances drop knowing hints about MI6. One relative even claims she heard me sleep-talking one night, mumbling in Russian, before shouting out: ‘Not this time, Karla!’ The truth, sadly, is that neither MI6, nor the Foreign Office, nor the KGB showed any interest in me whatsoever. …

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Two years ago, I wrote a piece about how difficult it is for writers to earn a living these days. I noted:

A survey by the UK Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ACLS) found that the average income for a professional author is £10,500. It’s fallen by 42% since 2005. In the US, it’s slightly better: a whopping $16,800 a year, or £12,800. That’s total earnings. It’s well below the poverty line. It’s five grand less than a street-sweeper earns.

I wrote the piece while wondering how the hell I was going to make a living and support a family. My second book hadn’t sold as well as I expected, I was in my 40s, friends of mine were talking about retirement and I still didn’t have much in the way of savings. …

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Last month a huge spirituality event took place online, called the Embodiment Conference. It boasted a stellar line-up — Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Charles Eisenstein, Ken Wilber, Gabor Mate, Richard Strozzi-Hecler, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and loads of famous people from the world of ‘Somatics’. Kind of an amazing moment, in the midst of a pandemic which has deprived us of touch, to have this enormous conference on embodiment…on Zoom!

The Conference apparently got half a million people to sign up for its free talks, harvesting their emails to then try and sell them content afterwards. It sounds like it worked and made the organizers some good money. But it also attracted some controversy. Tada Hozumi, a practitioner in ‘cultural somatics’, wrote an open letter to the conference’s organizer, British embodiment practitioner Mark Walsh, saying not only was the conference racist — because the organizer is white and so were most of the speakers — but the entire field of Somatics is racist, because it involves white men appropriating practices from non-white cultures. …

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Tomorrow, I’m speaking at an online event organized by my friend Mark Vernon, called ‘Beyond Flatland’. The event features various interesting thinkers including Angela Voss , who edited a book called ‘Re-enchanting Academia’; Jeffrey Kripal, a professor of the ‘mystical humanities’; and Geoffrey Cornelius, professor of the faculty of astrology.

Albus Dumbledore is the keynote. Then me, adjunct professor of ecstasy.

I happen to be reading a book of Kripal’s at the moment, his history of Esalen, where he’s the director of the Centre for Research.

There’s a line in that book — ‘Esalen existed in the liminal space between academia and the counterculture’ — which made me think of the conference tomorrow, and my own relationship to academia. …

About

Jules Evans

Fellow @ Centre for the History of the Emotions. Author of Philosophy for Life, Art of Losing Control, and new book Breaking Open www.philosophyforlife.org

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