One of the most interesting perspectives I garnered from an academic tome called Evil Incarnate by Dr. David Frankfurter was how one of the universal characteristics of state/civil societies is to redact and rigidly codify the “supernatural” or “magical” beliefs of its subjects. That in and of itself was an obvious phenomena to me long before I read said book — the interpretatio romana, for instance, is one of the most salient examples of such a practice, of the authorities of a conquering state appropriating the local gods of conquered/subjugated peoples and equating them to a Roman god that generally, at best, was a poor approximation, and at worst was complete error and obfuscation of the deity’s original functions. The purpose behind said-practice is primarily propaganderial, a power ploy — the gods of a particular, autonomous tribal people, and the sociopsychological and political identity and freedom of said distinct group that such gods guarantee or embody, are absorbed into or subsumed by the idols of another state. All the juicy bureaucracy built upon tithes and the shows of grovelling/worship that said idols demand in proving your submission which were formerly directed to the people’s own ruler/chieftain/holy men, if not being entirely absent (as in the case of more-egalitarian tribes or bands), are appended onto the cult and treasury of the imperial state, marking the end of a conquered people’s own independence of culture and destiny.
What I found particularly intriguing or useful in this vein was the book expanding on this premise to beyond just gods and state cults, to more “folkloric” aspects, of spirits and folk magic. It goes into some detail, as such, about the various sorts of interactions state cults have had with folklore, and how various sorts of daemonology ultimately develop from such. Similar to the action of the appropriation of one people’s major gods by a conquering state for purposes of propaganda and indoctrination, state religions find themselves needing to reconcile their universal “thou shalts,” their cosmopolitan morality and iron law, with the millions of localised, particular “depends” or “only in these cases” of diverse tribal honour codes and customs. A central moral and cosmological dogma must be bootstrapped onto the tangible reality of the myriad forces of nature that the once-numerous cultures of mankind evolved in. Indulging one of the more sceptical philosophical slants of the materialist standpoint, that is what can reasonably be furnished as a source for all the innumerable, diverse spirits in the realm of folklore — these are the emblems, the personified symbols of the various actions, plants, animals, natural phenomena, that were the most important to, or just generally loomed large in a given human tribe’s relevant ecological and social sphere. A vast array of spirits people the land when a given culture still directly interacts with and relies on it to an extensive degree, when their sphere of chief concern is the immediate, local (and arguably, “truest”) reality — for to those who live off or close to the land and its ecological bounds and bounty, it is readily evident (and not understatedly so in this age where most live almost all of their life in a digital reality and within concrete playgrounds) that the world is as animate and vital as human beings, with a myriad of independent wills, and the motives behind those wills and movements are as numerous as human utility and imagination, immersed in the various, unique ecological niches, could conjure.
In attempting to reconcile — or, more accurately, browbeat — this local, intimate, sensate spiritual world into the universal, impersonal, abstract cosmology of state and, latterly, “world” religions, one invariably (and literally) turns sense into nonsense. The exceedingly complex picture of nature and reality, in all of its particularities and conditionals (which includes human culture in its unfettered state), is reduced to a homogeneous moral field and a fantastically monolithic mythos, where all is, more-often than not, fairly and unrealistically black and white, in its deliberate facilitation of enforcing and executing the state’s governance and law. Heaven (which, for the cosmology of some local/indigenous cultures, at least, was notably lacking and foreign) becomes peopled with gods who look and act conspicuously like the mundane, earthly rulers of the state, and their activities post-genesis rarely amount to more than the endless parties and fetes of the state’s leisured/privileged class. In regards to the various spirits of a local culture and its environment, given the problematically-obstinate belief in them long after a people’s subjugation (due to the persistence, for a time, of said people still living in close, necessary contact with the natural world and its anima): if they were not useful or prominent enough to equate to an imperial god, they are arranged, catalogued, and numbered amongst the plethora of “petty” spirits along the fictitious axioms of the state’s rubber-stamped cosmology. In said-process, echoing the theft of the gods, they are divorced, to a greater or lesser degree, from their relevant local contexts or origins.
“Faeries” become neutral fallen angels or outright, malevolent demons, rather than a variety of spiritual figments associated with a vast range of flora, fauna, landscape features, or the ancestors most pertinent to a variety of culturally-related, yet sovereign tribes. The capricious, but largely beneficent spirit of a palm plant amongst a former indigenous people becomes equated to a peskie by name of a completely different, animalian spirit from another fallen tribe, for which the spiritual experts of the state can then prescribe a standard regimen or tincture to rid oneself of it for a few easy, convenient payments. The god of the hunt, the spirit of the “wilds” in general, or a totemic god of an important prey animal, while still oft-propitiated long after a people’s subjugation if hunting remains an important tradition or provision of their dietary staple, is gradually bedecked in the hooves, horns, and sinister bearing of a “devil,” a dangerous or unsavoury rival to the state’s quest for total dominion and their subjects’ consequent, total dependency upon them. And ceremonial tales that were once good for an intriguing or entertaining recital by the family hearth become deathly serious — those ones accepted and approved as “canon” by the state’s cults of choice, anyways — for which an unapproved interpretation or a lack of stifling reverie towards their “holy words” can be fatal for the trespasser.
The salient point, in short, is that the sociopsychological propensity of mankind for the “spiritual” or “superstitious” is shifted from its proper, local context to the abstract universalism of the cosmopolitan state — from the utilitarian and the evolutionarily/ culturally-adaptive to the impractical, confounding, and, ultimately, maladaptive for all but the social elites who now covet and doctor the cosmogonic realm (a point further embellished in “A Dancing God” and “Alates and Elites”). The heart and mind of a people and the individual is dramatically altered by this shift, even in those cases where a change in regime, from the tribal chieftain to the bureaucratic machinery of an imperator, does not otherwise immediately force a significant change in the material means of the subjugated. Evil Incarnate exemplified the ultimate sociopsychological consequences of this shift by examining and comparing prominent cases of “demonic conspiracy” — historical witch hunts, the burning of heretics, and, more lately, the titular and imaginary “satanic abuse” of children that encouraged a sensational string of trials against daycare workers in 1980s America — with similar, fanatical hysterias that have become common place in modern Sub-Saharan Africa. In many such mass delusions, the state or influential members thereof often stood to gain by the victimisation of the unfortunate scapegoats, be it by the expropriation of property from accused heretics in the Middle Ages, the consolidation of power and the centralisation of administration of society and national identity that followed the plague of European witch hunts, or a new life and lucrative lease for American evangelism as was the result of the sensationalism of the “Satanic” daycare scandals.
But, perhaps more important than an elite’s vested interest in such occurrences, is that the general populace of a state society are sociopsychologically primed prior to such incidents — such patent delusions — that allow them to be carried to such feverish heights, which is what the social transition of Sub-Saharan Africa from tribalism to hellish, state-centred feudalism was used to illustrate. The break of man’s consciousness with the local and the immediate, the concrete and the real, and its capture by the state, in all of said-structure’s antipathy for the natural, and, ultimately for it, the “real,” is this primer. In forcing the human psyche further into the realm of abstraction — a necessity in conditioning one to identify with or feel concern for peoples, events, and things far outside of their tangible center and visible periphery, as required to serve a nation-state and conceive of oneself as one of its “citizens” — the mind is inadvertently, and perhaps inevitably, pushed into a greater degree or propensity for psychosis.
To illustrate the point, it is necessary to address something of the character of psychosis/psychotic pathologies of the mind. Whatever can be delineated of the biochemical actions and genetic dispositions for psychotic and delusional mental disorders, the ultimate, observable result is an individual lost in the elaborate architectures of the mind, carried off and away into a realm of symbols or ideas that are mismatched, to an extreme degree, with the immediate world and an accurate perception of it. It is ironically appropriate, on many levels, that one finds in the field of Darwinian/evolutionary medicine that schizophrenia and similar psychotic mental disorders are glossed under the category of “diseases of affluence” or “diseases of civilisation.” They are “diseases of affluence” insofar as their incidence rate drastically increases in Western, affluent nations and developing countries, whereas they are rare to entirely absent in traditional, tribal, or band societies, with ample evidence suggesting it is much more than mere under-diagnosis in these less-affluent, “primitive” communities that is causing such a discrepancy. It is the sheer misery of living within state societies — civilisations — for the masses that give birth to the glut of psychotic disorders, whether in engendering constant stress, needless or hopeless struggle, and/or an isolation that would have been impossible in the small, tightly-knit units which humanity spent most of its evolutionary history in; and in a world so mismatched from mankind’s evolutionary cradle, its “environment of evolutionary adaptedness,” those with a genetic disposition that would have otherwise remained unexpressed or as a positive, creative tick are eventually knocked into outright insanity.
Mismatch. Disparity. Rupture. Antithesis. Here we find scientific furnishings to affirm the rupture with nature, in its localised simplicity, as brought about by “civil” living — living in societies with states, with masters and the enslaved masses — drives the conditions for a variety of deleterious conditions, with madness being of particular interest here. It is by similar reasoning the likes of Deleuze and Guattari, amongst their more-coherent, useful points in their undoubtedly self-aware rambling, posit in their appropriately titled work, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, that capitalism, as the blood of the latest and greatest stage of civilisation yet, is built upon and propagates a variety of psychoses and delusions at the level of the social conscience. The most tormented are struck down with the completely-debilitating symptoms living in such a perverse system, and are arranged under the diagnostic tags of “schizophrenia,” “bipolar disorder,” “borderline personality disorder,” and so forth. But even the most well-adjusted to said system hardly come away unscathed, and, indeed, a degree of psychic mutilation and dysfunction is required of its constituents to insure such a system is self-perpetuating.
Everything must become small and sickly in a system that is inherently as such — and while in individuals, madness is rare, in groups it is the rule, to paraphrase Nietzsche, with the implication that the larger and necessarily more-diffuse (as a matter of physical space) the collective, the more marked the madness the social psychology of said-group, or the more readily it can succumb to shared delusion, mania, and psychosis. The worst of said-delusions is, against all natural, animalian law, that one’s perpetual exploitation, diminished fitness, and self-abasement before others is “good” for oneself (“How Awful Goodness Is“) —and, more relevant here, one of the most contagious psychoses is the ideation of the evil scapegoat, the evil incarnate, that threatens the entire existence of the deluded social organism. This likewise has its genesis in the schism with natural law, the groundedness in the concrete, the immediate, the “real,” good, common animal sense. Under the domestication and subjugation of the state, man loses some powers of executive functioning, similar to his domesticated beasts — removed from the peerage of nature, in which he must exert his wits to provide for most of his own needs and navigate the complexities of the world, his value, estimation, and judgement of things gradually becomes warped and atrophied, and instead become based on highly-abstract (and for most, childishly-simplistic), proofless mental codes of morality and the schizoid architecture of metaphysics (“The Somatic Coma“).
And so one begets the man who stands for nothing and thence falls for anything — or rather, the man who stands on nothing but air, hearsay, and fantasy, who has no anchors or orientation in the truth imbued by living in accordance to his nature, his environment of evolutionary adaptedness, will invariably fall for anything. His longtime friends and neighbours being witches who can ride the air and reduce you to a toad under the watches of the night — a small group of individuals seeking peaceable self-determination being agents of the Devil seeking to upend all of one’s poor excuse of a “society” — a handful of overworked daycare workers nurturing the offspring of he who shirks his parental duties turning out to be animal-sacrificing, demon-worshipping paedophiles of such depravity that they put even the Catholic clergy to shame: all of it delusion readily capturing the minds of the intellectually-enfeebled, mentally-handicapped man under the boot of the state, the man of civilisation, the man of fearful fantasy and utter nightmare. It does not end with matters invoking religious discourse, either — there are innumerable more examples of fantastical evils being hurled across the illusory divide in two-party political spheres and the sham democracies of the modern state, and there is a whole slew of medical panics and delusions of a similar nature, with Asian “shrinking penis panics” being one of the most colourful illustrations of the complete, disproportionate breaks with reality that these shared delusions can take the denatured man to.
While we are not (for the moment) outright burning witches, as far as the Western sphere goes (it cannot be said the same for post-colonial, Sub-Saharan Africa), the evil incarnate, of childish, bogeyman-like scapegoats of exaggerated or outright fantastical proportions, is alive and well, and the herd-like, panicked stampede that bears such torches and lynch rope in reserve are still running amok in various spheres of social life. We might bear away the implication from Evil Incarnate that they are in fact more prevalent today than at any previous point, despite the belief (more properly, delusion) of modern man’s intellectual “progress” as compared to his forbearers, due to the proportional degree of mankind’s severance from his natural environment and the sociopyschological anchor/education/mental stability it provides, and a resulting, greater dependence upon/learned helplessness before the state and its artificial, contrived, manipulative “morality.” Propaganda has never been more effective than now, thanks to what impressionable cattle it has to work upon.
In order to turn the tide, to disentangle oneself from the web of lies, exaggeration, and outright manipulation that keep man under the yoke of his own stupidity, we might look to that first fatal fall from grace already described as a guide. The state captures and mutilates the gods and spirits first and foremost in the subjugation of the human psyche, as part of its deliberate destruction of landmarks — actual and metaphorical — that orient the natural man and the tribal, localised culture which passes its adaptive wisdom unto him. What was once an earthly play echoing the cosmic blessing of self-preservation is reduced to a gibberish that countless idiot savants — those that qualify as civilisation’s “wise men,” theologians, philosophers — have puzzled futilely and fruitlessly over since the dawn of the state.
Recall, as earlier mentioned, how “faeries” — variously once encompassing a variety of both human and non-human spirits — are reduced in latter days to ridiculous, ephemeral pygmy peoples (or otherwise demons) dwelling in hills or funerary mounds which’s original sacredness is scarcely remembered, or at least not with accuracy. Coincidentally, a similar corruption is found in regards to the Scandinavian tomte. Just as one of the best known Gaelic titles for the faery folk was aes sidhe (“the People of the Mounds”), tomte likewise etymologically denotes a being tied to the land or, more specifically, a hereditary mound on which a homestead is founded. Like the faery folk, the tomte latterly was diminished in importance over time with the evaporation of the last wells of traditional, rural, communalistic cultures, to the same end of today — the tomte now is popularly depicted as a gnome-like, red-capped pygmy with various absurd, magical powers. But like the faery folk of the Gaels, this utter reduction to nonsense came relatively late, after the deathblow of industrialism and the advent of globalised capitalism to the cultures that harboured them — one can find anecdotal attestations, as late as a half century ago, of the tomte’s former status, as a familial or tribal-landlocked spirit that acted as the capricious safeguard of the hearth and home, a liaison between living men and the non-human world, which would move with the family if ever there was a need to migrate and set up elsewhere. It would be strange indeed if we could not reasonably deduce that the tomte, in its original function, was the collective spirit of the ancestors of a given social unit, as such a spirit is found in many other recently extinguished cultures, in which they were more explicitly denoted as the tribal god or an ancestral force, a spirit or totem of the people and its culture as tied to a given ecological niche. One also finds explicit mention of some segment of the faery folk in its latter days constituting some portion of the dead, whether with negative connotations (as with forced abductions) or positive assertions (that those who died young were taken by and enjoyed faerydom over abiding in purgatory), with the name of aes sidhe again explicitly linking them to places of ancient burial and tribal landmarks.
In other words, in these numerous beings of folklore, deliberately forgotten, neglected, or outright ridiculed by the state and its canon of the day, we find the ancestors, the pride, and the tribal wisdom of our by-gone selves, their sense and powers reduced to the absurd and the incoherent by the state’s disorientation and dismemberment of the human conscience. They are the cultural psyche of man in his proper state, in its dynamic balance between one’s own needs and the boundaries of the wills set about him, the meeting point of man and the rest of the confluence of nature. In them, we are merely met with a reflection of ourselves, as such — ridiculous, weak, paltry and pathetic in our decay, our deadly subservience, our intellectual regression, our out-in-out madness and lack of nerve. To break with these anima — the immersion and communion with the land, the moment and its vitality, and the constant test and exploration of one’s own limits and abilities within said-moment and the wisdom accumulated by one’s lineage — exchanges sense for nonsense, to emphatically reiterate. To regain our selves and recover our wit does not demand merely a shift in allegiance to this or that abstract doctrine, as such, of pleading for the aid of one remote deity or another — it calls for “real,” bodily education, of exposure to these “forces of nature” behind the names sounder men once gave them, for by doing so, one truly, viscerally learns one’s boundaries, one’s limits, one’s strengths, and the laws of the world and its nature that once instructed and nourished the diverse cultures of mankind (“Know Thyself“). In this, one finds a panacea for the lunacy of modern life, in its arrogant infantilism — a vaccination against the exaggerated, propaganderial stupidities that stir the herd to running one way or another, trampling down innocents in the process — a solid, concrete ground for one’s footing and a necessary fortification of spirit before the ensnaring, virtual traps laid out by the true “evil incarnate,” the state. It falls on us to be the “ancestors” now, to be the future dwellers of the mounds, fields, and glens, to revive and foment a wisdom and covenant with nature and ultimately, ourselves.