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I think we need a support group for writers with Sam Kriss envy. With regards to your critique, I had many of the same thoughts when I read Kriss' essay yesterday. Have you come across the work of James Madden? His recent book UFO as Hyperobject is an attempt to develop an ontology of the UFO phenomenon that has definite applications here.

It's interesting to me how much the arguments of materialist historians rely on the assertions of Church Fathers. For instance, many historians will assert that Christmas has nothing to do with the winter solstice— it's incidental. Instead, it is linked to the feast of the Annunciation, which comes 9 months earlier—without mentioning that the Annunciation coincides with the vernal equinox.

The tension between tradition or metaphysical conservatism and Promethean innovation is an interesting one. I absolutely agree that that we need to make new meaning and re-enchant these forms, and yet I sense that the preservationist impulse serves some important function in the larger metaphysical ecosystem. I've had too many experiences where I've encountered a very old idea that serves as a missing puzzle piece in a way I'd never considered before. In my own practice, I've found there is sometimes a strong magical current present in these older practices that are seen as piously conservative- like the Rosary— that exists in part because of the masses of people praying it across so many centuries. On the other hand, Those magical currents are often targeted in a specific direction, and it;s not always the direction I want to go in. So I have to find a way to jailbreak it or use something else, even if it's not quite as potent.

It's easy to project all our personal dislikes and fears onto an authority figure we perceive as "controlling" and reject all their ideas out of hand in a kind of reaction formation. Of course this works in the other direction as well. In the end I try to alllow these impulses, the conservative and the liberationist, to be in a kind of dialectical dance with one another.

As for the Vatican announcement, I find it so interesting. On the one hand, it does centralize control over the approval of these events, but I think it could play out in different ways. On the one hand, sometimes it's the local Bishops that are more hostile to approving these phenomena, and in many countries there's a tension between more conservative bishops and the relatively progressive Pope. One could concieve of a situation where the Vatican approves apparitions the bishops would have denied. But of course that dynamic is liable to shift once he dies.

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i've definitely heard of Madden but he hasn't made it onto my reading list yet, thanks for the reminder! i'm very interested in hyperobjects (and hyperstitions, even though Nick Land is a notorious asshole): i think both of those concepts are counter-spells for checking the runaway momentum of materialism and finding our way back into some of these enchanted spaces.

i really appreciate your ecumenical perspective. other people struggle with religious trauma; i struggle with religious jealousy. none of the spiritually nourishing stuff seems to have survived shipping and handling all the way out to the theological backwater i grew up in—the most indifferent suburban Protestantism you can imagine. i recognize that my least charitable criticisms come from a lack of proper instruction. but still, it seems like that disenchantment was made possible by all the reactionary moves by the Church from its earliest beginnings, and it's hard for me to let that go. my spiritual conviction is donut-shaped: i recognize the existence of Ultimate Reality, the value of vernacular folk practices like the Rosary, and a lot of weird stuff in between; it's just the stuff in the middle—the Church-and-Scripture part—that's missing for me.

really looking forward to talking with you more about enchantment and heterodox Christianity, and reading more of your posts!

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In philosophy, like the occult, a lot of useful ideas come from questionable people.

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Great post, R.G. I haven't had time to read through the Kriss piece that sparked it yet, but the tendency that you are pointing to reminds me of something that frustrated me in David Graeber, as well. These brilliant, original, otherwise critically-minded progressive thinkers whose work is limited by a certain set of modern assumptions about what could possibly be real.

Two further thoughts. First, it's not just that the invention of traditions is a distinctively modern phenomenon, the invention of Tradition itself is a byproduct of the self-understanding of Modernity: the whole idea of "timeless tradition" is part of the same bundle as the story which says that Indigenous people are living in a "state of nature". "Timeless tradition" is an invented Other that gets in the way of seeing the fluidity and inventiveness of what is actually going on in cultures that might – in contrast to modernity with its in-built contempt for the past (or, on the flipside, romanticisation of it) – reasonably be called "traditional". I'm thinking of Gustavo Esteva saying to me, "In Mexico, we have a great tradition of changing our traditions traditionally!"

My second thought is that, while you make a good case for the ironic accord between "secular modernity" and "authoritarian religion", I'd want to push back a little, or at least to make space for "religion" and "authoritarian religion" not being one and the same thing. I've been doing a lot of thinking around a book by the theologian Andrew Shanks, Hegel vs "Inter-faith relations": A General Theory of True Xenophilia, which you might enjoy. I can't remember if it's there or in his introduction to his translation of Nelly Sachs' poetry, or possibly both, but he maps out a dialectical model of religion, where the first moment is raw direct experience, the second is its institutionalisation, and the third is the role he sees theology playing, to unsettle the frames of the second so that it doesn't trap and stifle the first. It's true, of course, that institutionalisation tends to declare the age of raw direct experience over: as one example, I spent last week reading around the theme of "charisma" in Weber and St Paul, and you can see how quickly the early church declared the age of "the gifts of the spirit" to be over. But I think Shanks is onto something, that this isn't a simple one-way move from the first state to the second, but rather the history of religion is punctuated by resurgences of direct experience, while the institutional also has its place because it's impossible to inhabit a world like this in a way that has any stability (enough to bring up children, for example) in a state of pure raw experience. (Related to that, you might enjoy the bit in the State of Bliss episode of The Great Humbling where I talk about Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.) Here's where tradition as something more radical than modernity imagines it to be might come back in: there's a subversive side to the role of sacred texts in the religions of the book, which is that they can and do show up as resources for unsettling the certainties of those who hold power within present-day institutions, providing authority for less powerful actors, including validating new raw direct experiences. I developed that thought a bit in the talk I did for Advaya a few weeks ago, so I should probably write that up.

Anyway, thanks for a stimulating post!

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thanks very much Dougald! excellent observation about the artificial Other of Timeless Tradition, and very well-articulated: that's one of those lacunas that still affects my perception, even while i'm doing my best to get out of the modern mindset.

that dialectical model of religion is super useful too. i had an epiphany last night that lines up neatly with what you describe: as i've tried to work through my hang-ups with monotheism generally, and Christianity specifically, i've been reacting to the pretense of *safety* in mainstream religion, rather than anything inherent in the cosmology itself. the impulse toward clean, predictable encounters with a Divine Protector seems endemic to the second stage of that dialectic. my own cynicism leads me to believe that the unique combination of Christian orthodoxy (declaring a premature end to the age of Divine gifts, as you say) and Occidental epistemology has suppressed the theological reignition of raw experience in the third stage, but maybe that's not necessarily the case. still -- as i said to somebody else recently -- "Hallmark Channel God doesn't inspire the same kind of visceral awe as a radiation burn from a mountaintop encounter."

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In terms of the combination of Christian orthodoxy and Occidental epistemology suppressing the possibility of reignition in the third stage, Shanks calls the result of this "church ideology" or "sacred ideology".

This gets me thinking, too, of the distinction Illich made between "the Church as she" and "the Church as it". The former, to which he was deeply committed, was about mystery and surprise; the latter, with which he did battle, about planning and control, which matches up to your point about "safety". There are a lot of people who have no experience of the former and are doubtful that it's even there, and since the latter is real enough and toxic enough, I understand anyone who judges the whole thing on that basis.

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exactly right! i had a feeling Illich would come through on this, but i haven't read him enough to quote chapter and verse. it looks like "The Church, Change, and Development" is a good place to start? and maybe this also connects with his concept of "second watersheds" in "Tools for Conviviality"?

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The "she"/"it" distinction comes from a long magazine interview with Francine du Plessix Gray which ended up as part of her book Divine Disobedience. (You can find it on Archive.org.) His early essays from when he was still serving as a priest are in The Church, Change and Development. But you might also want to go in via The Rivers North of the Future, which is the book David Cayley made out of his late interviews with Illich, where he gives a more general account of "the corruption of the best which is the worst" and the origins of modernity within institutionalised Christianity. Cayley's Ivan Illich: An Intellectual Journey is also helpful.

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Great essay. May be of interest - https://www.secretorum.life/p/the-most-dangerous-idea

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excellent stuff! always good to meet a fellow Weird Studies fan. i've been diving into non-dualism via Hellenic Tantra lately... got a whole new perspective on the unholy matrimony between Christian dualist-monotheism and the Roman Empire.

incidentally, i'm a fan of the notion that the empty tomb was the least supernatural part of the Jesus Phenomenon: the tomb was borrowed; his body was exhumed following Passover and taken elsewhere; end of story, as far as the material realm is concerned.

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re: Jesus tomb...yea that's probably true but it's more fun to imagine everything but his hair and nails fading into rainbow body ;)

re: non-dualism Hellenic Tantra - sounds interesting, any books/sources worth checking out?

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