Nation of Tire Sale (tdaschel) wrote,
Nation of Tire Sale

(by way of Brian Taylor of Canadia ..)

M. McLuhan writes to Eric Voegelin in 1953 (Part Two):
81 St Mary St
Toronto 5
Dear Voegelin,
Your letter was most gratifying. Over and over again I have written to persons who seem to be in good faith in adopting an attitude of objective analysis towards the sectarian activities of the cults in art and literature. Not once before your letter have I ever received a reply that displayed a frank or dispassionate mind. Very few people, I gather, are innocent of any hook-up with these cults and secret societies. They explain that nobody can get anywhere unless he is initiated. And this is strictly true.
I wish that 15 years ago I had known that it was impossible to get a hearing for one's ideas unless one was an initiate. Such being the state of Catholic culture on this continent, it has never occurred to me to seek a hearing among my fellow Catholics except in the class room. But in the past year or so I have changed my ideas on this matter. However, there is no hurry. And I don't suggest that had I known sooner that I would have become initiated.
It was only last summer, while doing some work on S.T. Coleridge that I discovered the complete rapport between the arts and the secret societies. I was flabbergasted. Coleridge has directed me to Porphyry, apropos of The Ancient Mariner. At the same time T.S. Eliot's essay on Byron had hinted at a hook-up between Byron's The Giaour and Coleridge. Those two bits of evidence served to ignite a great quantity of material which had lain about in my mind for 20 years. There were no more secrets. All was plain as day.
The entire technique of the "secret" societies is to conduct their controversies as if the terms of reference were historical. Historical scholarship and criticism (in the arts) is as much their field of present battle as the news, poem, play, novel, painting or musical composition.
I hardly know where to begin to suggest to you now the arts are involved in the theology of modern paganism. They are split East and West in a technical sense, of course. The West is Platonic-Eleusinian. Pound's entire prose work is an attack on Eleusinian mystery. Dante's Inferno XIV presents Eleusinian cult as "Enemies of God, Nature and art" under figure of The Old Man of Crete. Eleusinian cults permit Sodomy and usury and regard the arts not as a means of knowledge or vision but of strengthening the will. Matthew Arnold is ultimate version of this position in the arts. West is non-cognitive in art theory. But it claims to be rationalistic as opposed to irrational, emotional, primitivism of Romantic, Eastern art form. Everything represented by Romantic-gnostic use of emotions as "stained glass windows of the soul" -- i.e. single poem as single emotion, single emotion as means of connatural union with specific aspect of the Real. West prefers exoteric art form. Art is for common people. A form of deceit like the system of future rewards and punishment taught as basis of society in ancient world.
(You might very well find useful matter in Bishop William Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses. This 18th century work was a full-dress attack on the revived pagan cults of that period, and Warburton is mainly concerned with the Lesser and Greater Mysteries as the ground-plan of the subsequent Doctrine of the Double Truth. He has much incidental light to shed on the relation of Mysteries and the Arts.)
Eastern art (not in geographical sense merely) is relatively esoteric, cryptic, discontinuous. It sees not catharsis (see Matthew Arnold's preface to Poems 1853 and G.R. Levy's Gate of Horn section on catharsis in Aristotle) but illumination. Gnosis. The mind is to be flooded with a particular quality in experience (see Eliot's essay on Hamlet). Johnson The Alien Vision of Victorian Poetry (1951 or 50) gives a good account of the reason-emotion dichotomies in Victorian poetry.
But both East and West regard the arts as the highest level of practical religious experience. Art is the sole means of grace in our fallen state (see pp. 440 ff. of Warburton vol I ed. 1846) e.g. Ovid's Metamorphoses and Milton's Paradise Lost are popular histories of Manichean providence. Existence as fallen state can only be retraced to our previous paradisal condition by means of Ariadne Thread of art experience. The fanatic cult of art, East and West, is religious in inspiration and significance.
(Cassirer's Essay on Man distinguishes these East-West matters in terms of "epic" and "dramatic" modes of experience and art. Drama is discontinuous, dynamic. Epic is narrative and discontinuous [sic?]. Little epic of Alexandria represented direct presentation of East rituals. Same as Wasteland.
Wilhelm Meister is a ritual presentation under guise of educational novel. As such it has had 100s of imitations. See Howe -- W. Meister and His English Kinsmen.
W.B. Yeats says only art form possible for a Catholic since the Renaissance is satire. See Donne's 1st and 2nd Anniversaries as satires of solar cycle. Year daimon etc. See Alexander Pope's Dunciad as direct use of Masonic ritual as satire of the cults. And P.W. Lewis The Apes of God as satire of the cults in modern Bloomsbury. Entire esthetic of symbolists and of Joyce, Eliot, Pound is "East", Theosophical. Jane Harrison's Thomis excellent on daimon culture. But such books I had always read as merely archaeological accounts. Now I know that these matters are accepted as living Theological truths. Modern anthropology is a battle ground of the cults. In psychology Freud is West. Jung is East. In USA Republican theory and jargon is West. Democratic jargon is East. Pardon my haste and starkness of characterization. I'm really very tentative in my mind about these things though I sound dogmatic. In poetry I really know the ground in detail. But a person feels like an awful sucker to have spent 20 years of study on an art which turns out to be somebody else's ritual. To have studied it as an art is to have been taken in by the vulgar or exoteric facade.
For the gnostic there are no autonomies in art, life, politics or anything else. A Christian cultivates these things as particular disciplines having a limited importance. There are it seems, no such limits in the gnostic world. Everything is everything else.
When I said I wish I had penetrated these matters 15 or 25 years ago I meant that there are strategies which need to be adopted in these affairs. And I'm floundering at present.
A recent book on Melville's Quarrel With God by Thompson reveals the ritual diabolism followed quite mechanically in Melville's novels. Yes, it is the banal mechanism of the cult rituals which stares at one from literature and the arts. As for example in last section of the Waste Land compare with the rite of exorcism as managed in crystallomancy according to E.M. Butler's Ritual Magic (Cambridge Univ. Press 1949 p 245).
I would say apropos of Bergon's Deux Sources that (a) it is largely popularized stuff compared with the same doctrines in Rimbaud, Mallarme or Valery. Bergson looks amateurish in their company or that of Joyce. Eliot's prose repeats most of him. But, most of his ideas belong in an esthetic context from which he has not too skillfully extracted them.
Edward Sapir and Benajamin Lee Whorf are the most significant exponents of gnostic linguistic theory in modern anthropology. They have some remarkable insights.
Need I say that a great deal that is involved in gnostic speculation appears to me as quite valid? That it should flourish side by side with diabolism, the secret sectarian organization of intellectual life, and the falsification of the entire linguistic currency -- that is the deplorable thing. Secrecy and power seem to be intertwined. Also the very conditions of gnosis postulate secrecy, an Elite, and a vulgar who are to be swamped with lies. That the cynical contempt for the bulk of mankind should co-exist and even be expressed by fanatical assertions of universal benevolence, does not appear to them as disturbing. Thompson on Melville is best on this point.
Most sincerely yours,
Marshall McLuhan
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Must be something about the air up here.

What's your take?
have been .. approaching McLuhan - off an' on - for 20 years. sometimes it seems like a new beginning, hey ! while in Grad School the big sexy was Deleuze & Guattari's Thousand Plateaus / and tho' that stuff - under some conditions - can be exhilarating, it leaves me thinking that .. maybe McLuhan never got his due? that - in the U.S. at least - he's been relegated to a particular Time/Life era. same thing happened with Richard Brautigan, consigned to some carefree "hippie" ghetto, when in fact his strongest writing can be DARK (that terminal document So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away most of all ..).

but my, um, McLuhan interest was re-awakened when i learned from a Toronto person that Take Today (1972) began as a letter to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. the *occasion* is McLuhan had been invited to one of those Bernhard-organized Bilderbashes and, rather than be bowled over and set speechless, he found it as quaint and out-of-touch as a gathering of Nobles in 1820s France. .. so i'm re.reading Take Today: the Executive as Dropout s.l.o.w.l.y. and feeling all the old feeling .. and some new ones as well.


June 26 2016, 04:08:26 UTC 1 year ago Edited:  June 26 2016, 22:06:01 UTC

Alright. This is stunning.

Mr. Marshall is just genius here. I had not seen this one. Here is Voegelin talking to Heilman about it.

He's spot on. But, it's like everything in the modern world comes from these Theosophical Utopia cults and conspiracies, not just poetry. Industrialization, Bureaucracy, Modern Medicine, Space Travel - anything that technology could touch or that can be managed. Fourism is even in the founding of my trashy city.

My thinking has been that the entire "Western Super Secret Occult" corpus, in its current state, is a large case of Simulacra and Simulation. Which is to suggest that everyone worth doing business with might be Illuminated. But, the Illuminati gives no direct orders themselves. I think they are, mostly, all connected. But, I don't think they are all aware of it. Generally, I have just assumed that none of them are. particularity aware. ( Ie No such think as a Holistic Intergalactic Octapussy Synarchy) This might turn out to be a flabbergasting glorious and basic error.

Sign me right up for that. It's what I have always wanted. Serious. I just play with those Rosicrucians because it allows me a place to store all my hobbies. I'd eat real food, if it were available. I'm no dummy.

Thank you so very much for drawing my attention to this. I'm going to be on this for ages. Here I thought Maslow's conspiracy of 300 was hot stuff. What else you gots?
ah, thanks for the link !

originally posted the letter on LiveJournal for quick & e.z. storage / and, yeah, he's a .. congenial figure. i see in him the spirit of "i don't know / let's find out" attributed to Wm Burroughs. just trying to get some perspective on the Labyrinth. and here's another Odd/End:

Voegelin's reply to the longer second letter: " July 17th, 1953

Dear McLuhan:

Thank you for your long letter with its most interesting, even if tentative, classifications of the main cults int eh arts. You will understand that i cannot say much about the valifity of your types, because I know too little; but from what I know, your characterizations sound sensible. Considering the complexity of such matter, with which I am familiar from the field of politics, I should doubt, though, that one catch the whole crop in the dichotomy of East and West. distinctions will probably become necessary, when you go deeper into the problem.

What interests me most is the fact that you have on the problem at all. And I respond to your excitement and bewilderment of the moemnt with feeligns that are mixed of compassion and grim amusement. I would not complain too much about the time lost. We all lose time, for we have to disnegage ourselves from the creeds of a dying world (I have lost more years than I care to remember with Neo-Kantianism and Phenomenology, before I dropped the nonsense); and I am not so sure that the time is really lost, for if you have found the rigth way yourself you are much of it than you would be if somebody had placed you on it right from the beginning. Nor would I be too much impressed with the problem of "getting" anywhere, and especially of "getting a hearing". You probably will soon find that you have more company in our time than you would have suspected (though not among your colleagues in the profession). Besides, the world in which you would get a "hearing" is a dying world -- and who wants to be dead? Moreover, worlds are always dying -- life begins with the exodus from the civilizational realms of the dead, and the beginning begins with the discovery of the world as the Desert -- if I may use well-known symbols. Your situation at the moment may be somewhat awkward; but I am afraid I cannot pity you; you will come out allright.

Nevertheless, you are right with your remark about "strategies". The over-all strategy in this situation is a rather simple one: to know so much more, in a plain technical snese, than the others that they will be afraid to molest you. In detail, you will probably soon discover what I have discovbered, that it is a lot of fun to bait the ungodly when they get impertinent. Fortunately, they are men just like us; and they have a conscience, though a bad one; and if one knows the touchy points of their conscience, one can make them hopping mad. You will find the touchy points soon.

There is a points that interests me. You speak quite frequently of "secret" cults or societies. I wonder what is secret about them. In politics at least, the various ideological groups are quite well discernible; their memebers can easily be identified but the contents of their publications, once the criteria are known; in brief: everybody knows who they are, except the State Department. Should it be so very different in the arts?

I enclose the reprint of a little controversy I had recently, that will illustrate what I meant by having "fun" with the ideologues. The good lady [Hannah Arendt] who was the subject of my critique was so disturbed by it, that she wrote a whole article clarifying her point after a fashion in a more recent issue of the same periodical.

With all good wishes,

sincerely yours,

Eric Voegelin"
In her defense:

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone is just as catty and gossipy as you are? This is the feeling I am getting here.

What a wonderful thing you have uncovered. I must nap. But, I am going to order the book.