This might well strike leftists as a strange set of statements. In fact it was indirectly asserted in Last and First Men, in the Preface. It seems like an outlandish distraction, but I think it is a useful construct for the rescue of proto-marxism, and core marxism at a time when historical materialists appear to have been routed by the Bible Belt, New Age buddhists, etc,…
The point is very simple: the sacred/secular distinction has no fundamental status, and the onset of revolutionary thought was confusingly anti-religious for the same reason the ancient Israelites, and Xtians were anti-religious (?! if that religion was archaic polytheism, etc…): it liberated future thought from the categories of the Axial Age. A healthy dose of Feuerbach and ‘materialism’ served that purpose.
But what if there were ‘spiritual’ powers behind the onset of the explosion of the revolutionary left in the early nineteenth century, post-French Revolution, with figures like Marx/Engels entering this field of movements?
We don’t need to proceed in that vein, but I for one have always thought so and in any case picked up the view of J.G.Bennett who suddenly realized his reactionary sufi friends were confused about modernity, and also began to sense, he thought, the realm of super-spiritual (really material) powers he called ‘demiurgic powers’. He sensed a new era arising in world history in this period, even pointing to the year 1848 and noting the birth of communism. He must have shocked his sufi honchos but this idea has come to seem highly relevant to me over the years (Bennett actually thought such powers had intervened in the Cold War to prevent disaster), but I think he may have misunderstood his own idea which shows a compromised definition in terms of the whole nexus of Gurdjieff ‘cannibal occultism’ and other horrors.
The powers indicated require careful redefinition, and we can’t assume they are ‘mental beings’ who are looking over daily history, the same old same old ‘theistic’ interactionism that the Feuerbachian era did well to scotch, even though the last word has not been said here, and given the direct interaction of Xtian early modern religion in the gestation of the modern left, from Munzer and communism, to the Quakers with the English Civil War, and abolitionism.
They operate over long range eras of millions of years, and could only intervene at key starting points.
We can make some sense of Bennett’s useful idea, and his sense, taken up in Last and First Men, that something mysterious happened around 1848 (i.e. the period from 1800 to 1850, as a watershed of the modern explosion, the take off after the early modern period from the sixteenth century. But Bennett’s model of modernity is not adequate, and the model in WHEE is much better. In any case, the transformations of history in WHEE are super-mechanical mysteries, and, well, too mechanical for theistic interpretations, but that does not rule out the action of super-subtle ‘material/spiritual’ beings indirectly connected to human history. Here’s the point that the model in WHEE suddenly uncovers: the macro effect of transitions may be supermechanical but this doesn’t prevent higher agencies from suddenly intervening in their wake to amplify strains. This is what I suspect about the sudden explosion of the left: the strain of democratic revolution so strangely mutated to confront almost instantaneously the way that capitalism appearing so rapidly at the conclusion of the early modern (with many prior intimations to be sure) had kidnapped the whole modern experiment. As if the Enlightenment meant nothing, now Smithian greed became the winner take all of the modern transformation, a short range plus for economy, no doubt, but a long range calamity. We can see all too clearly that the calamity is upon us, and a further mutation of Smithian to Ayn Randian mental derangement threatens a whole planet.
I will say it outright, leaving Feuerbachians everywhere shocked and outraged, a spiritual influence grafted leftist communism onto the modernist outcome as of the French Revolution. The point in any case was obvious to those Revolutionaries who saw the need to bring economic issues and class analysis to the revolution. So our extra view is egregious, but it might help to see that while the materialist cast of modern leftism/marxism is an extreme secular humanism, behind that lied a hidden spiritual helper process.
This might help to see that the sequence from 1848 to the Russian revolution to 1989 was a lot more subtle than we might think and that its genesis represents a ‘long shot’ intervention from a mysterious spiritual domain trying to seed some kind of cultural recovery vehicle for the coming ‘triumph of the capitalist idiots’,the threatened demise of a whole planet.
We don’t have to believe a word of this, save to see that the era of 1848 to the end of bolshevism wasn’t an aberration, but an experiment that proceeded with majestic but deviating precision until it derailed or remorphed, and one that needs to be ‘debugged’ and re-jumpstarted.
This is not the first time this has happened. The majestic Axial Age period (consider the early Greek case) was so chock full of innovations that it was almost incandescent and yet within six centuries we see a Roman dominated era at the level of death spectacles in the Roman arena. The appearance of a rescue vehicle with unknown spiritual sourcing (it’s a small world) using monotheistic cover is one of the best ways to make some sense out of the almost incomprehensible birth of Christianity, which eventually overtook the Roman Empire, success or failure we can ‘leave it to you to decide’.
In the modern version all the switches were flipped from spiritual to material categories. A wise move, but at this point it might help to let the cat out of the bag. Historical materialism in the period of Feuerbach onward made a tremendous impression on the whole of modernist thought, but the categories of thought have shifted slightly. The original canon needs a fix of some kind.
So the ‘conclusion’ here is that we cannot bring preposterous spiritual categories into this mix, and yet it might help to consider the point to make ‘materialists’ realize that ‘spirituality’ and ‘materialism’ are finally the same category.
These ‘demiurgic powers must be completely frustrated to see the outcome of their attempt at assistance. The only thing we can do is try again, and at a point where we are running out of time. These entities have done their work and aren’t the objects of prayers or wish fulfilments…
The question of ‘demiurgic powers’ suffers from Bennett’s confusions. Who isn’t confused here? It might help to start over with the idea at the starting point: Plato, then Kant’s, idea of the ‘demiurge’. This could be confused with god, but the concepts are not the same.
We might well, with Bennett, seek the plural of demiurge with a question: are these beings atman or brahman? This trick shows Bennett was on the right track to think of a plurality.
I am producing some material on this, but to summarize quickly the point is that ‘god’ is metaphysical and unknown, and ‘he’ comes in three or more brands: Lawrence Krauss has one brand: something from nothing, buddhists have another, something from the Void, and monotheists have still another, corrupted by pop theism, the nameless X or IHVH, whose ‘creation’ comes from nothing. A ‘Hey wait a minute’ is heard here: these are the same product in three brands or packages. Why argue over theology, a waste of time. Take your pick.
We have the basis for a unified theology. Great! Next case.
That’s the ‘metaphysical part’, and refers to ‘god, nothing, or void’ beyond existence. God is beyond existence because universes emerge into existence, and the whole spiel is under Kantian suspicion.
The idea of a demiurge, or a manifold demiurge (as veils of atman/brahman many-one), or demiurgic manifold is about some possible entity within existence, not ‘god’, but not organismic or ‘alive’ in the biological realms. Here’s the remarkable issue: the demiurgic manifold can show ‘will’ and ‘consciousness’ beyond life. Every generation of man had a version of this: man has a ‘soul’, a something he couldn’t understand: it was something beyond the lower material that persisted beyond the organism…Sounds familiar in this context.
Demmiurgic powers are starting to make sense.
We associate ‘consciousness’ with life, but it would seem the two are distinct. A close look at Advaita would warn us ‘consciousness’ and ‘brahman’ really refer to the same thing, as it were. So we begin to get a sense of entities within material existence, but at a higher level of being beyond life, that have vehicles of ‘will’ and ‘consciousness’ but no bodies of the ‘animal/evolutionary’ type. The idea that ‘will’ and ‘consciousness’ are beyond yet penetrate life is a bit much, but with study the issue solves a host of confusions. We don’t have to buy any of this to proceed. It might help to consider the classic yet distinct issue of ‘buddhist enlightenment’. Buddhas always claimed to be beyond even the ‘gods’. Makes sense: they beyond consciousness, will, and soul to a ‘something’ that is none of the above, which is? Consciousness, in the larger brahman sense. Buddhas seem to disappear and are a mystery. The demiurgic manifold is somewhat different as we can see.
If this is strange the fact is that garbled versions of this are multiply historical (angelology is one by now brain dead remnant).
Since this is all about entities within the ‘material’ or the ‘existent’ it is not a spiritual challenge to materialism. It is one and the same subject with hat tipped to brands one two three of hyper-humoungous ‘god/nothing/void’. Whatever the case, we need to return to a chastened Feuerbachian perspective to try to rescue our rescue vehicle at a moment of almost terminal crisis. This account can help revolutionaries stop being suckerpunched by religious hoitytoities: their subject is as sacred as anything else. It could use a couple of upgrades as a humanism, but the issue is not to figure outlandish demiurgic materialism, but to see that a rescue vehicle inherited from the nineteenth century is all we’ve go to challenge capitalism at its end game.
mini archive of left/posts