Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIX

5 Elemental Challenges — Void

Once, distinguished SBNRs like W.B. Yeats learned Hermetics with the Golden Dawn.

Now, in Greece, “Golden Dawn” refers to the neo-Nazi thugs who recently terrorised an immigrant theatre group in an action some have termed an “early Greek Kristallnacht”.

Their leader, shouting “Wrap it up you Albanian faggots” at the besieged staff inside the theatre, whom he threatened to post home to their mothers dismembered in boxes, was an elected fascist member of the Greek parliament. Real fascist — not George Bush. The police looked on idly.

That could well be in the future of much of the West, in various guises, not all of them such literal retreadings of the Panzer by any means. Anyone still living in the era of comfortable $1,795 6-day workshops should be thinking carefully.

It’s unfortunate that the “Golden Dawn” name is far from coincidental. The Nazis themselves had their roots in SBNR, and represent a rather grander version of the same kind of monomythic regression we see in the guru-narcissists. The Nazi salute may itself be a copy of a gesture (scroll up a bit in that link) originally learned by Yeats and others in the Hermetic tradition for good SBNR reasons.

SBNR is perhaps specially placed to watch that particular situation. As our lifeblood is pluralism, democracy and free speech, we ought to be motivated too. There is a chance of doing more than watching, too… more in the next post.

Meanwhile I sense that we still await the shape of the Western SBNR of the future. It won’t look like the present. More than one researcher is saying that in the current period the unserious is being winnowed out, and it looks that way to me as well.

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2 responses to “Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIX

  • Matt Rouge

    Interesting, and I agree with the essence of what you say. I would, however, distinguish “occult” from “SBNR.” I’m not sure exactly how the Venn diagram would look; there is overlap, but they are not the same.

    For one thing, you can’t forget that SBNR contains “not religious.” Much of the occult *is* religious, and I think the original Golden Dawn could be classified as a religion. Beyond the academic argument on the surface as to whether one would call it a religion or not, from what I’ve read it certainly seemed to constrain and vex its members as much as any religious orthodoxy. (Similarly, Ayn Rand was running what amounted to a very dogmatic cult, even though in theory it was atheist.)

    Another thing about occultism is that it often existed as rebellion against religion and thus was not free from what makes SBNRs *NR*. Does someone like Alistair Crowley really embody the spirit of SBNR? I think not. The child that stamps his feet throughout the Mass is surely as constrained as his mother trying to pray in the pew.

    For these reasons, I think it’s a *big* misstatement to say that the Nazis had their origin in SBNR. First, I would say that many significant *trappings* of Nazism had their origin in occultism. Some *ideas* did also. But I don’t think fascism is compatible at all with the main lines of SBNR.

    To reiterate, I don’t think the NR in SBNR means “not belonging to a major religion”; I think it means, or ought to mean, *not* religious, which includes not having a dogmatic, controlling mindset equivalent to a religion, even if nominally anti-religious or secular.

    • Jason Wingate

      Oh, well… on the question of the Golden Dawn being religious I think it’s up to the individual to determine. (I don’t think Yeats would have said it was for example). As so often it could be argued either way.

      The genesis of the Nazis of course was not in that lineage. They essentially came out of Ariosophy which was pretty much a racist version of Theosophy. Personally I’d happily tag that as SBNR, but again, without intending to be dogmatic about it. Many spiritual people today hold beliefs that were first made popular by Theosophy, often unknowingly too, and I certainly consider them fundamental to SBNR history — not least for birthing Steiner.

      Steiner and Anthroposophy have themselves been seen as religious by some of course, and arguably the latter has become more religion-like since the former’s death. But Steiner himself insisted he was not trying to found a religion — far from it — just as did the in-many-ways-similar Aurobindo. Personally I take that intent seriously and I see a crossover to SBNR at the period, which could be considered an interim stage if one must. I definitely acknowledge there is a gap in terms of the scientific angle, which needs the 20th c. to bridge, I’ll talk of that anon… still, the process that produced Anthroposophy pretty much produced Ariosophy, and was part of the birth of SBNR.

      Either way, I think you got the point. The straitened economics of the time has propelled Nazism to some degree of political success in Greece, that and the immigrant situation. If that economics and situation spread, so may that political success. A careful watch is needed especially considering what I pointed out in the post after this, that SBNRs may at some point be in a position to help defend the democracy and freedom of belief, experiment and association that have sustained their way.

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