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In the darkened theater, I wasn't the only one cheering in "Lord of the Rings" when the trees attacked Saruman's castle and destroyed his machines, put out the fires of his industry and flooded his underground empire. Somehow, this one hit parts of the audience in the pit of their stomachs, and I don't think it was the storyline. I think it was what it symbolized, what it meant outside of the movie and in our lives.
Metaphor will always be with us because of its practicality. If you need to describe how something works, and it's essentially similar to something else, you will compare the two and, based on the known item, the other will be understood. This shows up in the form discovered by ancient Greeks, the syllogism:
We're in a bar, polished wood under the wet rings of our beer mugs, and someone says, "What's an abacus?" I say it's an early calculator. Thus this person understands that, if they're reading a sentence in which a character uses an abacus after being asked a question, he's doing the math.
Art makes good use of metaphor because precision is often not needed, but description of action is - and action, like any process, isn't something you can hold in your hand or point out visually, but an ongoing "behind the scenes" that translates into the objects that make up our world. Even death metal has metaphor.
For example, Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" is the archetype of a metal song, from structure to lyrical content. In it, people in the world scheme for their own wealth while creating disaster, which is eulogized as the curtain closes on it with "Satan laughing spreads his wings," a mystical symbol of evil associated with the greed and power struggles of a non-mystical, literal, physical humanity.
Looking further down the pipe, when Deicide wrote their epic Legion, the metaphor had changed: it was good that caused us to believe in an orderly mechanical universe which we could exploit for our own gain, and it was evil that was usurping it, smashing the false impressions created by living in the light. "Untie this world from Satan - you know it can't be done!"
The next generation of metal developed this concept further, giving metaphorical importance to having a spirit of strength - outside of the modern world. Immortal's Blashryk, an imaginary creation that could be a place, or a spiritual state attained by a warrior, called us beyond the world to new heights. Emperor spoke of the infinity of thoughts. Burzum was more explicit, proclaiming that "life has new meaning" when one can perceive the beauty of a morning dew after turbulent night.
To morons, of course, these lyrics are decoration on the walls. They mean nothing, they convey nothing, and are to be laughed at while trying to imitate the guitar work for their own simpler-minded bands. But, for a moment, if we take these musicians seriously as artists, and discount most of their incoherence, we can see a basic message forming, one that isn't as straight-cut as propaganda but appeals to the soul in each of us that strives for something greater, more powerful and more meaningful in life.
Metaphor is a common vehicle for religion. In the Vedantic religions, our current time is the Age of Iron, an age in which men forsake inner strength for the easy life that comes from wielding machines against nature. It should give us pause that a religion five thousand years ago could recognize this, and prophesied an apocalyptic end and rebirth into a primitive culture as a result of it. This too is metaphor, and shows us where to begin finding new meaning.
Our civilization is rotted and en route to failure. As Spengler observed, and as Nietzsche observed, and as even the ancient Greek Plato observed, the crowd has rushed into power and, using machines that equalize a weak and pathetic man to a strong one, have taken control. Because they are the undifferentiated crowd, and don't think about anything and in fact are proud of their ignorance, they've taken it too far.
In our quest for comfort, we've polluted the earth and overgrown. There are too many humans. We waste our lives in bureaucracy, when if we focused only on the tasks that actually needed doing, we could work three hours a day and be done with it. That wouldn't be equal, however, because slower and weaker people couldn't do that. For the pretense of our own importance, we build giant cities and vast landfills. But for what?
All of this, like iron, is "objects in the hand," or things we can touch and feel that thus are comfortingly real and solid. You can point to a car and show it to your friends and compare it to other cars, where doing that with spiritual development is impossible (although Jesus tried). Because of our pursuit of this "super-real" we have neglected all other areas of life.
For example, it's not rocket science to realize that if you make life a matter of showing up somewhere from 9 to 5 every weekday, and all other aspects of survival are handled through an electric dial or cash register, people will grow weak; the only person who will like this empty lifestyle is empty and spiritless. It's not quantum math to realize that, while you can get away with dumping some trash in isolated areas, if you dump enough of it the poisons will come back to visit you. Keep your toilet far from your food supply, but how to do this when the earth is dominated entirely by humans breeding out of control?
Nor is it hard to see that if you replace ability with popularity as a means of achieving personality, only the least sincere and most dramatic people will lead, with no concern except for their own ego (Clinton and Bush both qualify, as would John F. Kerry). They make their profit and run, and luckily make millions from their memoirs and business contracts, so they can afford purified air and water and large houses away from the city. Our technology has grown, but we have become puny men who hide behind their machines of iron.
And what is to be done? Think of trees raising boulders, but think metaphorically.
For me, the war is already joined, even if few see it. We are fighting for our future. If we wish to be strong, we will do so joyfully and with the serenity of those who are assured that their cause is right, and need no emotion or personal profit to motivate them. (It's this kind of belief that allows people to fly planes into towers, consuming themselves in fire along with their enemies.)
When our founding fathers here in America initiated a war of separation against Great Britain, they knew their chances were slim. They had fewer resources, a smaller population of warriors and almost no experience. Believing their cause was just, however misguided it may now seem, they were able to at great sacrifice wage war successfully. They had an easier task, however, in that there was a distinctly external enemy they could alienate and attack.
Assaulting the modern mindset, however, requires a different kind of combat. Julius Evola called it occult spiritual warfare, and what he meant was this: by not accepting the dogma of one's enemies, and by working against them in every means possible at the structural and metaphorical level, they too can be defeated from within. Thus the first task is to discover that which is eternally true, and to in serenity accept it and put it to use in your own mind. That is occult warfare.
Translated to the world around you, this means exercising your power of choice whenever possible. Recognize the dogma for what it is, and deny it; wherever possible, assert a better order. Show, don't tell, others, of this path. When your own behavior matches that of a future you desire, you are creating the change in yourself that others can see is superior to the current world. Refuse to accept, refuse to conform, and assert positive values wherever possible.
And finally, to paraphrase Nietzsche: "What is falling, push" - do nothing to aid this world in its suicidal path, nor do anything to stop what's left of Western civilization from collapsing. Reserve your energy for the few among it who will be the foundation of the next civilization, because this one is already rotted and dead. All of this begins with discovering in your own life what is meaningful, and has always been so, and always will be so.
In European history, we refer to this belief as "Romanticism," an almost idefinable collection of ideas that manifests itself cyclically through history when given a chance. It first appeared after the Industrial Revolution really took hold, but it's present in many forms, including some of the popular music listed above. It is the classic Indo-European spirit asserting itself to favor strong individuals and an ongoing process of nature over the convenience- and drama-oriented ego theater of decaying civilization.
It must be joyful war that we wage. To be depressed, and bitter, is to become a snarling animal that lashes out but ultimately doesn't know where to bite decisively, thus while it may inflict damage (Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler) it cannot strike to the heart. That can only occur via occult warfare, which will gather a society of the future from within this rotting carcass of past failures.
What would this future society be like? It would be feudal, so that every person of good character would have a job not threatened by competition unless they were grossly incompetent. It would use technology, but responsibly. It would value fewer people of higher quality than an endless mass of low quality, and would restrict its breeding and execute failures to match. But most important, for the occult warrior, it would rebuild heroic spirit; however, this is the part that must occur first, and will initiate the change to this future existence.
There is no way to describe the elation at seeing animated trees smash a machinery of pointless power, and to not know what it means, but to wish it for ourselves. Saruman, obsessed with an object of gold that exempts him from the process of mortal combat, was looking for an external way to substitute for the heroic character which humanity now lacks. Both prophecy and symbol, he is among us today, and he is in power, but like a rising testament of heroism, we have the power to crush his regime.
December 12, 2004