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Tag: evil

C.S. Lewis’ ‘Perelandra’

It was a slog, but I finally finished reading book two of C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy, Perelandra.

Before I dive into thoughts on the book, I just wanted to capture two passages that I dog-eared the pages of while reading.

“One joy was expected and another was given.”


“But when you gave into the thing, gave yourself up to it, there was no burden to be borne. It became not a load, but a medium, a sort of splendour as of eatable, drinkable, breathable gold, which fed you and carried you and not only poured into you but out from you as well.”

Lewis spends a great deal of time on this idea of the joy that was expected versus the joy that was given, and how clinging to the expected, versus accepting what was given, is part of the root of evil.

In fact, basically the whole book is one long diatribe about morality and the nature of good and evil, as the main character, Ransom, attempts to prevent another Biblical Fall in the Edenic paradise of the planet Venus.

I liked the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, quite a bit more than I liked Perelandra. There are some cool bits, don’t get me wrong. But overall, the ponderousness of the whole thing makes for a slow and boring read. And the last chapter is kind of the epitome of the whole thing. What I liked more in the first book, OotSP, is that there’s more emphasis on exploring the world, and the encounters with all the cool creatures and stuff that live there. There’s some of that in P as well, to be sure, but it’s overshadowed by Lewis’ heavy-handed thoughts on “God and stuff.”

I would say that probably the main reason to read these books, for me (and I think I will skip the final book in the trilogy, That Hideous Strength – though I read it decades ago), is that you can clearly see Lewis’ imagination rehearsing a lot of elements of what will become Narnia. And for that, it is probably worth the price of admission for die-hard fans. Luckily, I think Lewis toned down all the god-stuff quite a bit in the Narnia books, or else focused it in a way that’s rather more palatable amidst all the other adventures. In either case, it’s still interesting at times to see the man’s struggles with and testament to Faith, etc. But I care a lot less about those topics in the forms that he chooses to describe them than I perhaps once did. A lot of the questions he’s grappling with here are, I guess, simply resolved for me, so intricately unwrapping them is a bit blah in the end. Plus it seems very old-fashioned to me to cling to these things only within the narrow frame of Christianity, when we have so much more global cultural legacy to examine and inherit. But that’s just me.

The Problem With Conspiracy Theory

Okay so here’s a quick run-down of what for me is the exact problem and “danger” in conspiracy theories and their use in modern analysis or whatever (I hesitate to call a lot of it “analysis”). Because I essentially agree with the basic idea of, you should test reality, ask questions, go and find out what is your truth, and how you can mesh that with the truth of others together fruitfully. (Whatever that means)

So in a nutshell, here it is. Contemporary conspiracy analysis online hinges on a single point:

1. Things are not what they seem.

And then there seems to be an in-built conclusion most people who get into that funnel find as the next logical step:

2. And it sucks.

Then, a lot of people just get stuck there. They know to ask questions. But they don’t necessarily always know which ones are the right questions that might lead them to fruitful personal & inter-personal experiences.

So they settle on simplistic lowest common denominator thinking, where they choose a convenient enemy & assign the cause of sucking to them. And we end up with the third corollary in the series:

3. Because group x.

If the average contemporary conspiracy person didn’t get stuck on step 2, they almost definitely get stuck on step 3. Because humans seem to have an in-built basic need to identify & maintain enemies. Or if not a “need,” per se (I would argue we can live without it), then at least a desire to blame badness on some “other.” And that’s what rises into varying shades of step 4:

4. So we should vote out/remove/jail/eliminate/prevent group x from y.

This desire to change the conditions which suck flows out of number 2. The recognition that things suck and we should try to change them is NATURAL and HEALTHY. And we can find healthy expressions of this recognition coupled with desire in things like voting people or parties out of office, pursuing them for legal violations, etc. Or we can find the ever-more-popular anti-social variants of wanting to randomly jail people or eliminate them because of “reasons.” Which are obviously hella shitty.

However, I think there is an alternate path one might take through the above steps, but one which branches off after 2) And it sucks, or even branches off earlier at number 1) Everything is not what it seems.

I would argue that the path of the psychonaut & allied practices might be like:

1. Yes, things are not what they seem.

But then go to:

2A. And it’s awesome

Or also recognize that:

2B. And it’s sometimes awesome and sometimes sucky

And then there is I guess we could call it the “Human Potential Movement” conclusion based on this that sets up an alternate to 3 (where we don’t land on “enemies” as a conclusion):

3B. And we have the power to change it.

With an alternative path of action to vanilla conspiracy step 4:

4B. We can change it by applying our imagination and will to effect changes within the field of consensus & personal reality

Which also seems to be the occult or “magick” perspective, though also that of, say, the entrepreneur, and the practitioners of the secular magics of growth-hacking and self-improvement.

There’s a saying in the Gospel of Thomas, I believe number 113, which I’ll paraphrase: The Kingdom of Heaven is laid out upon the earth, but men do not see it.

In terms of phildickian gnosticism (small “G”), people recognize and attempt to fight against but then become even more entangled by the Black Iron Prison. When really, simultaneously, we also live in the paradisaical Palm Tree Garden. But it’s hard to remember it, and to stay there, or to have the openness and imagination to see it again and again. But it’s always there waiting to be re-discovered, if you do forget or lose the tracks in the forest or the trail up the mountain, so to speak.

Granted, things do often and especially lately seem to massively suck. I want to recognize that at the root of today’s experience that drives people into conspiracy stuff in the first place. It’s good and healthy to recognize that, and to try to take steps to overcome it within the field of your own life & experience. I might even say it’s essential…

The bad part for me comes down to the failure of imagination to just say that everything sucks and to stop there, or to chase false “solutions” where you pin the blame on people you don’t like, and then attempt to leverage them out of the picture. That’s not freedom. That’s being chained to reaction and fear, and stopping short of finding real answers that might challenge those reactions and fears down to their very core, and find out they aren’t substantiated, or even that those reactions and fears are themselves not what they seem, but something much more malleable in the face of mind and will and the action of applied imagination.

Also, personally speaking, I recognize my position is somewhat of a fantasy. That clinging to hope is a fantasy. But long term, I find it a much more fulfilling and personally tenable position to hold that the contrary that says it sucks, and is caused only by bad people I don’t like. I can’t live like that day to day. Hatred and anger take too much damn energy to maintain. My position might be equally a fantasy (though at least not a dark one), but it’s an infinitely easier burden to bear day after day as we go through this thing called life.

Conspiracy Theory Is A Loser’s Script

Conspiracy Theory is fascinating, but only to a point.

That terminal point for me is when you realize that it is all based on what Robert Anton Wilson called a “Loser Script.” RAW’s model of winner vs. loser scripts (archived) for each of his “eight circuits” is illuminating to be sure.

By loser script, I mean here that it is a mental program through which one perceives the world – a filter, if you will – but one which locks the perceiver into a position of being a loser in the game of life relative to the rest of the world.

So when I run a loser script on my BrainOS, I project my feelings of being a loser onto exterior events and use this to filter & color my interpretations of things. And it is self-reinforcing. The more I project my loser feelings outward onto others, the more I find opportunities to prove that they are valid and “true.”

It is a problem that is not just epidemic in conspiracy theory thinking, but literally forms the basis of it. While conspiracy theorists like to believe that they are “just asking questions,” what they’re doing usually is quite different. They are trying to validate their emotional state outwardly. They believe (perhaps based at least partly on lived experience) that some other group is more powerful than them. They are jealous of what they perceive as the power and status of others, and as a result end up both vilifying it (“those people have so much power –> and are evil”), while also secretly worshipping it (“I wish I were powerful like them, but I’m not, and never will be”).

Have you ever noticed it’s basically impossible to tell a story in the conspiracy theory genre without a bad guy? Name one conspiracy theory with no overarching enemy or source of evil. You can’t. It’s part of the narrative package and is the underlying source of conflict that drives the drama as an adversarial narrative.

But the drama is always the same:

  • “I am good but I am weak & I am oppressed…”
  • “They are powerful, but they are bad & they are the source of my oppression…”
  • “Because I am weak, I could never be powerful, because the powerful are bad…”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Oppression exists. Imbalances of power exist. Inequality exists. Much of it is so deeply ingrained in our society and our institutions that it is effectively invisible, but you know it’s there on some deep, dark, festering level. It’s why conspiracy theories excite us in the first place; it’s why they feel emotionally real.

The fact is, you *are* being lied to. Society *is* trying to manipulate you into some shape that doesn’t necessarily fit everyone, and is in many respects arbitrary. But so what, are you gonna sit around crying about it on the internet forever? Because that is a surefire recipe for continuing to be oppressed and controlled, and buffeted by the ill winds of fate, rather than taking control of your experience, and of your destiny itself.

Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, called this the “sphere of the moral purpose.” While you cannot control outward events (such as death, imprisonment, etc.), you can control your reactions to them to some degree. This is the world that lies within the sphere of the moral purpose. You get to choose what happens within your head and your heart. And in doing this, you can begin to transform your reactions out of a self-reinforcing loser’s script into a self-reinforcing winner’s script.

Here’s a short video of Robert Anton Wilson talking through these ideas:

The danger of conspiracy theory thinking is not strictly believing wrong things (and thereby having a faulty basis for living), or getting sucked into toxic cesspools of hateful and violent rhetoric (a very real danger), but being lulled into inaction and feeling powerful about taking illusory & inherently weak “actions” that have no impact on the true state of things.

Consider this use case: “Group x is very bad and powerful, and I am exposing them by writing this long rant on Reddit, and then waiting for others to validate my feelings, and attacking anyone who disagrees with my poorly laid out logic…”

This is not a winner script. This is a loser script that is pretending to be a winner script. When losers “expose” what they perceive to be “evil winners,” they are only reinforcing & widening the vast gulf that separates them. They are, in effect, actively supporting the power structures they claim to be attacking.

Does this mean we shouldn’t seek truth, ask questions, or expose injustice? Far from it. We should do all of those things, and vigorously. But we should do it from the perspective of the winner. From the perspective of the person who has seen the sorrow and the chaos, the degradation and the stupidity that rules the world, but who despite being trampled by it and nearly overrun, has instead managed to rise above & overcome it. First in their own heart & mind, and then in the world, where they are empowered to take real non-illusory actions, and effectuate actual meaningful change. That, to me, is the only viable way forward. Everything else is worshiping your oppressor & cherishing your own powerlessness, which is a cycle that will never end until you stand up and choose to end it for yourself and in yourself.

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