Facing Comic Book Truths about a Mockingbird Media

I used to want to be a journalist. Some days I still do. I consume news on a daily basis and I'm often excited by big breaks and deep dive investigations. The idea that reporters are a part of exposing the lies and corruptions of our government and corporate rulers resonates with me. This is largely because I don't follow the big media outlets to stay informed.

As an early 20-something I was once on my way. There was a reason I changed course halfway through my college education. I was told journalism was in decline and I was going to have a hard time scrounging up work or decent pay. This was in the early 00's when papers were starting to dry up and news writers were full of uncertainty facing the dawn of the then new digital age of communication.

Working for a time as a staff writer and photographer for the student paper in Detroit was truly an invigorating and rewarding position. Seeing my name in print on the newsstand was a thrill for a young guy. I got to cover hard news and culture stories. I was certainly laying a foundation for a professional career but my love of visual art and design presented me with enough of a conflict to reconsider. Somehow I thought graphic design would lead to better prospects and flipped what was my minor (Fine Art) into a major and took the minor in Communications.

Hall of higher learning...
Taking a Photoshop 101 class was the decisive moment. Making pictures seemed more fun than writing words at that moment and so it went. Funnily enough neither a graphic design nor a journalism degree amounts to much financial security in today's economy but perhaps I am marginally better off all things considered. Truthfully, I wasn't thinking at all about money at the time because anything was going to be an improvement from the hourly drudgery that was paying my bills in those days.

Both writers and graphic artists find their services in highest demand from the advertising of consumer goods. Many a journalism major fell into advertising's alluring clutches with promises of higher salaries and glamorous perks. A lot of us choose the ad game because there are no other places to put our skills to use for a livable wage. In 2007, when I was still newly graduated, the country was in just that sort of economy. We all know what happened in '08.

The other telling correlation between journalism and advertising comes down to our measurement of success. Clicks. It doesn't matter if you created an online ad or news story, the value of either is quantifiable. Even if I had gone the journalism route, advertising would be paying most of the bills either way.

Metrics, metrics, metrics

I have conflicting emotions about reporters and the news which can really be divided along lines of corporate interest. The big mainstream media news is easy to hate with so much private influence shaping its narratives. Historically, we know how tightly interconnected Washington D.C. and Wallstreet is with news media. The narrative of the smaller independent sources reads more honest and seems much less beholden to capitalism or sponsorship dollars. I admire the hard work done by honest reporters who  hold both governments and corporations accountable. They sacrifice much and get paid little.

If I had never changed course and stayed on with journalism, would I have stayed true to my principles or would I have been forced to sell-out in order to eat as I have with design? These are tough questions I often wrestle with, especially the more and more advertising culture dominates our online spaces, sucking up all the private information it can.

Having just reread Jonathan Hickman's landmark graphic novel, The Nightly News, the choice of an honest or corrupt journalism is not a consideration. In that story, there is only one kind of reporter, the kind that runs with whatever bleeds, whether its true or not. The bleak and violent miniseries takes no prisoners and shows no mercy for the wicked. Which by series end feels like all of us.

2007 comes up again here, as that was the year of the series initial run. It was interesting reading it again, 10 years later, and finding so much of the plot and analysis still so relevant. The individual who sells their soul in this desperate dog-eat-dog reality so they might not be eaten up themselves is becoming a timeless theme. In 2007 I didn't see capitalism like I do today. I didn't have a critical analysis and excepted it at face value. It took over 10 years of working in corporate America to witness its robotic heartlessness up close to begin seeing through the Cold War American exceptionalism I grew up on.

I've come to see the mass media for what it is in that time as well, really just a PR arm of our neoliberal capitalist system. Profit and the willingness bury or kill stories to protect those profits is the motor oil driving the news engine as much as it is the advertising engine. Those who step out of bounds usually pay deeply for it.

The Nightly News is a blistering send-up of the handsome lies of the evening news anchorman. It's about the lives ruined by the media's malicious errors or intents. Imagine if those ruined people decided to get revenge? In that question lies the essence of TNN; the orchestrated assassinations of the nation's corporate news mouthpieces. It's a black comedy if you have a dark sense of humor, which I do.
"It is a lie you choose to believe - That bad things just happen. From mouth to ear and back again, they lied. They repeated that lie until there was no distinction between the truth and this lie. Your life - an amusement to them. This is what the media does, they destroy with impunity." - The Nightly News
If people mistrusted the media in 2007, I'm not even sure how we could describe the public sentiment in '17. It seems to either cut one of two ways. You're either a person who loathes the "lame-stream" media or you disdain the independent or otherwise unvetted news sites operating without a recognizable brand name. Distrust and contempt is at the heart of either sentiment. The thing we all agree on is that the public is swimming in disinformation designed to create a favorable outcome for someone's interest. With a Trump presidency we have an officially declared war on the media playing itself out.... in the media. It's just a bizzaro scenario that has a certain logic to it when we look at the history. We get some of the antecedents for our present day media war presented in TNN with bombastic fashion and vitriol.

It has to be noted that Hickman is not only a brilliant idea man but his graphic design approach to comic book layout broke convention and grand as much as his confrontational writing. While some argue he over-designs, I was immediately intoxicated with his dense and thick approach. Pages are packed with supplementary stats and insights that overwhelm the reader with data points and historical relevance. You're not just being entertained in this book, you're being educated, albeit from a rather hostile teacher. From the first page to the last Hickman plunges the audience into a deeply felt and researched critique of our post-modern multimedia monster. We are all hopeless addicts to the 24/7 cycle and it's bewildering and disorienting effects.

The skewering gets spread like a shotgun blast making contact with our education system, Big Pharma, religious cults, terror fear-porn, violent gaming, international banking, corporatism, and even our own binary constructs of good and evil. This is a work of cynicism without much sense of divine justice. We see instead an underworld justice, where bad guys hurting other bad guys is as righteous as it gets. TNN shows us a cruel and greedy world hiding behind the false veils of pomp and decorum. The idea that the media behaves like a cult leader is really the point of all of this. There are battle-tested methods for controlling people's minds and engineering public opinion. It doesn't matter if it happens among a tight-knit religious cult or on national television. Edward Bernays masterminded and made scientific the art of mass persuasion and called it public relations. Hickman doesn't mention Bernays specifically but anytime we talk about propaganda we must go back to him.

The influence of the late Bush-era years comes across strongly even though in 2017 much is still as it was then. The country in the midst of an endless Middle East bloodbath of death and destruction, covert alphabet agency torture, mass spying programs and mind-numbing reality TV mania all color the wallpaper. The series starts with a protest in New York Cities financial district several years prior to the Occupy Wall Street phenomena. With a footnote citing that 500 people have a greater combined wealth than the combined income of the 3.3 billion poorest, Hickman was tapping into the wealth inequality tension in America before it became a household talking point.

An even smaller note spells out the way Hickman assesses exactly how the economies riches got so disproportionately spread. "Privatization > Deregulation > Free Trade > Market Capitalization > Ruin" 

The World Bank and IMF each get graphically called out in a globalization chart. Like I said, Hickman put it all out there in rapid fire succession. We are a society that's being programed by those powerful enough to command the levers to do so; that's the bottom line of this comic. This ritualistic programing and the exploitation of the results of it can be expressed in numerous terms. From an orchestrated consolidation of media outlets from 50 to six, to military recruitment of the desensitized FPS crowd, to the fact that America consumes 90% of the world's Ritalin supply. The signposts of a controlled and quartered populace are all around us, tracing back through the decades. The advent of the mass media has merely expedited the process. At the time of the comics release the wildfire effects of social media were just on the cusp of setting the globe afire. I would love to see a sequel.
"I have contempt for the weak, so I control and use them to kill what displeases me... in this case, it was the media." - The Nightly News (I can hear the voice of Trump here.)
It's easy in retrospect to see how all the major storylines of societal decay we read about today are nothing new but a continuation of long established patterns of abuse and corruption. Even so, TNN still feels prophetic in many ways. News media integrity had come into public focus following high profile scandals of disgraced journalists Jayson Blair, Stephan Glass, Janet Cooke and many others, long before the term Fake News became a full-blown politicized weapon.

While Hickman has bluntly stated that his writing is not entirely indicative of his personal positions and no character is a secret stand-in for himself, it would be fair to say that the themes presented are of great concern to the comic creator. A handy Sources list included in the collected edition provides  further inquiry into the structural foundations of TNN.

The ideological marks of Noam Chomsky are to be found all throughout the series and three of his works are among the listings. Another really interesting reference to follow up on is Margaret Singer and her famous work on mind control techniques, Cults in Our Midst. Singer's name comes up if you start to delve into the history of the Manson Family, the SLA and the Jim Jones cult.

Other familiar names on the shortlist are Russ Kick, Greg Palast and John Taylor Gatto. The recommended texts provide critical examinations of mandatory education for the purpose of indoctrination, the systematic drugging of children, neoliberalism, globalization and Soviet methods of propaganda among other things. Hickman is definitely no stranger to controversial research and conspiratorial thinking, which makes for fascinating and surprisingly mature themes in an under appreciated medium.

The Notes section provided by Hickman in the back elaborates further on just what he did and didn't mean to imply. He's a very astute guy who probably hates analysis of his work and went to pains to clarify his intentions and misconceptions. I totally respect that and at the same time find his work too personally and culturally relevant not to examine and publicly celebrate with others.
"You get up every morning; you drink your coffee; you go to work and live for the stolen moments of the weekend. For most people, that's all there is... Brief moments of happiness – short periods of actually living." - The Nightly News
In relation to my own life's choices and professional involvement with media and corporate interests, I felt at times a dagger driving right into my gut while reading the comic. So much hits close to home, the truths bitter and hard to swallow. I like to daydream that had I become a muckraking reporter I might have more esteem for myself as a professional, maybe I would even be contributing some good to the world. Reading The Nightly News smashes most of those illusions. It says to me that there's little honor to be had in a capitalist economy, so rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. Even honorable skills are directed in service of the monied elites. It seems there are very few ways to earn a living or support a family that don't include tacit support for their neoliberal agenda.

Aside from a (growing) handful of independent publications that live up to their responsibility of holding power accountable, the Fourth Estate appears largely coopted into an Operation Mockingbird front to keep the populace in line or better yet, distracted by the superficial. There's no happy ending in The Nightly News, no hero to be found. We are left with the feeling that the puppet masters will always prevail and will continue unabated. The mood of the country is much bleaker than in '07 on so many fronts. Meanwhile, the media is playing their role more effectively than ever by stoking tensions and playing to people's inherent fears.

The idealism and hopes I had 10 years ago have been significantly damaged. I know much more than I knew then. It was so important to make it and be accepted into the professional class. Six years and thousands of dollars were spent in college, another 10 climbing the corporate ropes just to make it and be legitimized. If you go to those lengths and you're able to play their game, you can make it. The question is, how do you live with it once you do.

After Truth, Let There Be Light

A Secret Transmission is a message that issues out of a dark office in one of the largest media outfits in the world. A desperate cry spilling out of the mind of a man conflicted with his growing discontentment with the work he must do on behalf of dishonest and greedy companies pushing their
vapid messages into an already polluted public sphere. They are secret because if the corporations that pay him knew what he was up to, he'd probably be put out in the street.

Secrets made public so that at least someone might understand.

There's a huge premium these days on being "awake." Especially in the pocket and corners of the world that are meant for alternative lifestyles, spiritualities and historical perspectives. A person will often speak of their experience in a way that delineates the time when they were metaphorically asleep and when they began waking up. Becoming conscious of reality, a truer reality is yet another form this takes.

When I myself first encountered new ways of understanding the complex orientations of the outer worlds of politics and social constructs as well as my own inner world of being, I was all for getting 'woke as quickly and as fully as possible. I had been asleep for too long, I thought. I wanted to get free. There are signposts and warnings all along the way making it clear that the price to pay for knowledge is often steep.

Like the allure for intoxication, a lust after forbidden knowledge or better yet, "Truth," proved too much to resist. If you happen to find yourself at the gates of the Threshold it's usually because a great many steps lead you there. Although the Internet possibly makes this a less true statement then it once may have been. A few clicks here and there online could bring nearly anyone into the deep waters of many an esoteric stream. I would contend that like in all previous generations the path that leads to subversion always starts with asking the right questions. The Google bar lays vacant, waiting for you to lay down your query.

The Internet served as just one tool at my disposal in bringing down my previously understood realities in my case. Encounters with a few key individuals at just the right time provided the initial sparks that got the inner gears turning. The funny thing was that the rapidness with which I was struck by information that was brought to me gave me the impression that I had been primed with the thoughts my whole life. It was as if the ideas lay dormant in me the whole time and just needed a quick dust off.

It took some time for sure, but one gateway drug of radical politics soon led to conspiracies, led to paranormal studies, led to the occult and ceremonial magic. This is not a unique story at all, it mirrors so many others if not in that particular order. I should say I was primed in adolescence for all of the above mentioned high strangeness by the imageries, attitudes and sounds of punk, heavy metal and industrial music, horror, fantasy and science fiction, drugs, as well as the basics of meditation and introductory philosophy.

Of politics, I had no deep interest in during my formative years and certainly none in religion. On the contrary I had the dismissive rebellion against authority and tradition that is so typical in post-modern society. My skepticism of authority and accepted dogmas did however present a warm welcome mat for the subculture subversions soon to come.

As prepared and ready as I felt I was just a few years ago to undergo a drastic alteration of beliefs and attachments, I was largely unprepared for the entirety of the blowback heading my way. For as flexible and open to unconventional thinking as I was, I was blind to how very conventional most of my life actually was and is. I didn't expect the transformative occult techniques and radical political frameworks I was discovering to have brutally sharp edges capable of cutting apart not only the world around me but myself right along with it.

In the process of rejecting the acceptable narratives of history (as told by the victors), the old guardians of spirituality and the packaging of daily news and entertainment, there would be pieces of me getting rejected right along with the rest. Pieces of me that I had spent a life building up and creating. Pillars of practicality and stability had been erected, the raw materials of which were readily prepared by conventionality.

A college degree. Debt. A corporate office job. A car. A suburban home. More debt. Marriage. Children. A 401K. All the mortal enemies of the radicals, the anarchists, the occultists, the conspiracists and the magicians. I had built a life up that my teenage self mocked without mercy.

Whether my maturing into responsible and obedient citizen happened slowly over time or rapidly in the blink of an eye I can not recall. I just know it happened. I accepted my best fate was to channel my creative malcontentedness into business and make the ride as comfortable as possible. I grew up working-class and had a drive to become something else. I believed what I had been taught, that to go without was the worst kind of suffering. To not be in possession of the thing; whatever the thing was, meant you failed.

It's an insult to injury for the 99% to know in explicit detail just how they're getting jacked over seven ways from Sunday. Not knowing is how most people avoid existential angst. Better not to question since doing so comes at such a high cost.

The blessing of most is in the not knowing about it. To walk free of burdens and guilt associated with playing a part in the massacre of the earth – present and future. To feel no shame for centuries of American brutality but instead a heart brimming with pride and patriotism.

We all circulate and share the guilt but few understand it and sleep well. An unfettered conscience is a merciful thing. To not ask why the bombs get dropped or upon who. To not wonder where the surplus money goes or if the labor receives their just return.

I was never warned there were things that could be know that were so psychologically dangerous that there's no return to normalcy from. Courting occult wisdom comes at a cost. Sometimes the knowledge courts you and hiding is not an option. It's the car wreak that has to be seen at closer range.

Looking up in my early 30's to find dark and sordid alleyways of corruption, murder, theft, lies underlying the social niceties of business and government slowly ate away at any security I had falsely placed my faith in. The empty gods of capital, country, empire, middle-management fell before my eyes.

Soon enough I looked hard enough and honestly enough at my own source of income to see how deeply in a swamp of deception I stood. I was a part of it. An accomplice. An actor in the great fraud. the great deception.

How could I presently be worried about crossing over to the dark side of the occult arts when I had already sold my self over so cheaply to the gods of commerce?

You see I work in communication arts. Media. Marketing. Advertising. The heart of the rapacious corporate beast that feeds on the soul of humanity. That devours money and morality in order to live and grow to unwieldy heights.

As Guy Debord wrote about in the 60's, our culture is commodified to the extreme and product marketing is the fervent religion of capitalism. But I never read his stuff as an undergrad when under economic stress I made the decision to use my creativity along practical lines, otherwise known as graphic design.

Commercial art has been with us a very long time, going all the way back to the Renaissance. Today's form however is as crass and empty as it's ever been devoid of subtlety. The highest mark of creativity in the field today is the degree to which an ad can elicit emotional response from an audience with a built-up bullshit detector for all things sales related. To secure five minutes of fame for a client that boosts sales is the highest order of achievement. Insecure creatives are meant to feel validated from such a superficiality.

How does one ethically consume or earn in a modern economy anyway? This I still do not know.

It pains me to know, down to my inner core that what I do is a lie and to participant in this bloody circus. It's naive and childish to expect a better world. I realized it's not just me that was trapped in this orchestra of the damned but just about everyone alive. All to lesser or greater degrees victims of a merciless machinery of warfare and profits. All hands dirtied. All faces blemished.  The machinery of the game is designed that way to unsure the majority play along and pay a stiff penalty if they don't.

The process of alchemical initiation - going from a place of ignorance into another stage of direct knowing and experience - can take on many forms. What I have received in exchange for my banging on ethereal doors for wisdom have been blasts of dark truths, cold and stark. Shadows that have surrounded me coming into painful view. Doing magic rituals can calm and comfort in the moment only to activate thought processes later in the day that fogs my sense of purpose and plunges my mood down into a black abyss.

The quest for knowledge and awareness reveals contradictions and illuminates weaknesses. It has felt at times like a trial by fire that I never asked for. Accept that I did. I yearned to know more. I prayed to grow and change then I added magic and ritual. The mountain is steep for the Neophyte. Glimpses of things before unknown and so much still remaining out of reach.

The discomfort of seeing through veils of illusion yet not having further direction on what to do about them. Like an inescapable gnostic prison. The black bars... so apparent yet so immaterial. The black dross of alchemy is thoroughly destabilizing. A burning sensation between the ears. A hall of mirrors reflecting a thousand flaws.

You get so far in, magic may be the only way through. There's certainly no way back from which I came.

Let there be Light somewhere ahead, gods. Let there be Light.

Stigmatized Subcultures: The Proximity Between Nazis, Black Metal and UFOs

PREFACE: As it happens, I began writing this article a week prior to the explosive events in Charlottesville, North Carolina on August 11-12th. Since that time, White Supremacy and violent racism has plastered the news which makes the timing of this piece seem to be in response to that when in fact it turns out to have been unplanned synchronicity. 

The sensational underground classic, Lords of Chaos, details the bloody rise of the Satanic metal underground that exploded in the late 1980's and reached it's peak point in the early 90's. Centered in the Scandinavian north, Black Metal is still the most shocking and extreme extension of the heavy metal genre ever to scorch the ears and earth of this planet.

First released in 1998 and updated in 2003, Lords lays out the twisted and sordid tales of murder, church burnings and neo-fascism that arguably have more to do with the popularization of the scene than any of the music itself. Black Metal may have only become a footnote in the history of metal music, lumped in as an offshoot of American Death Metal had it not been for the extremes that band members and fans went to to prove their Satanic fronting was not merely a marketing ploy. The book illustrates without a doubt that Norwegian Black Metal was no game, but a matter of life and death, no matter how silly their promotional photos may seem.

Having recently flipped through the book, 10 years after my first reading of it, I stumbled upon a particular section that grabbed my attention. It's a connection I had completely forgotten about, or it's possible I paid no attention to it at all back then. The pages in question are found in a section from chapter 8, titled Unidentified Flying Aryans. I may as well have been reading the book for the first time, because I had no knowledge at all about any crossover between Norwegian Black Metal and the field of UFO research. On the other hand, when it comes to UFOs, no connection that comes up is that suppressing anymore.

My deep interest in heavy metal music and underground subcultures alone was what prompted me to pick up Chaos in the first place. That's probably why the UFO stuff didn't hit me very hard then. Back in the early 00's I had little to no serious interest in the occult mythology or alien folklore. In a book filled to the brim with tantalizing and provocative murder and mayhem, I guess it's no surprise that extraterrestrial life and ancient civilizations was among the lest memorable material. It just so happens that my interests finally caught up with the material that lay waiting for me to rediscover.

Unidentified Flying Aryans primarily lays out the story of Black Metals most notorious figurehead, Burzum frontman and convicted murderer, Varg Vikernes. After his involvement with several church arsons in Norway he went on to brutally murder his friend and bandmate, Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth with 23 stab wounds. He has sought to justify every crime he committed by claiming either self-defense or righteous vengeance. Not looking to keep a low profile since then, Vikernes has racked up more convictions for inciting racial hatred since his 2009 release from prison. 

Filth of the earth, Varg Vikrenes

An early pioneer in the development of the trademark Black Metal sound, Vikernes was also early to ditch the trappings of passé Satanism for the more mature 'blood and soil' Hitlerism. This flip from one extreme to the next carries a certain kind of logic. An indefensible logic, but logical in the sense that disaffected and alienated assholes come to admire philosophies that provide a veneer of intellectual sophistication as cover for their reactionary tendencies.

This is not to say that all Satanists are racists or fascists by any means. But it must be admitted that the Anton LaVeyan brand of Satanism was enriched greatly by many aesthetic cues of fascist garb and militancy. It's been said that the uniform and symbols of National Socialism and Satanism dovetail. It's easy to see from that angle how someone who begins dabbling in Satanism and happens to also carry racial animosities eventually crosses over to revere the swastika. It's an unfortunate association that non-racist Satanists have to deal with.

Danger and provocation have been at the heart of heavy metal music from day one. The danger and pushing boundaries is what makes the music so damn intoxicating. Symbolically speaking, there's nothing more provocative than the swastika and the inverted pentagram. The sight of them induces a kind of unease and fear. Shock-value aside, there's a key difference between breaking fashion taboos for attention and religiously studying Mein Kampf to build a personal philosophy. How far to court danger by associating and energizing these resonate symbols is up for debate. It does seem clear that when these threads are placed before an audience they are bound to be pulled. Is it a game really worth playing anymore? In the case of Vikernes, we have a demonstration of what can come up on the other side – and it ain't pretty.

From Norse to Nazi

In the historical progression of Black Metal subculture it's not just Satanism that got drug down into the veil bog of Nazism. Norse Mythology and neo-Paganism have become deeply meshed into neo-Nazi vocabulary and world building. The Nordic tradition has suffered greatly from its appropriation by the propagandists of Nazi Germany, effectively tarnishing the image of Heathenism and the ancient runes. Varg has used Nordic Heathenism as his spiritual literary defense for the white supremacism he espouses in his personal writings and those he has published with the Heathen Front organization. Attempting to elevate xenophobia from out of the gutter by way of association with philosophy, religion, visual and literary arts is a very old tactic.
"Odin says that the humans are useless, and sends Heimdall down to earth to improve them genetically so that they are worthy of entrance into Valhalla. And which bloodline is it that is worthy to enter Valhalla? Not the bloodline of Karl, who has red hair, and not the bloodline of Thrall, who has dark complexion. No, only Jarl's bloodline (the ones with blonde hair) are taught the runes: the Knowledge. The other races are the failed experiments." Varg Vikernes,  – Lords of Chaos, pg. 182
None of this reasoning comes as a shock; Vikrnes falls into a lineage of broken logic that has become a cliché. The aspect that did surprise me was that Vikernes made a correlation between his racialist interpretation of the Poetic Eddas and modern extraterrestrial hypothesis. It's not God who created the "genetically superior" aryan race according to Vikernes, but aliens from Sirius.
"According to Vikernes, the basis for his claims is clearly apparent in the Eddas (with assorted tidbits to back it up from the Vedas and other Into-European sources.) Vikernes quotes the "Rigsthula," another section of the Elder Edda, to recall the time when the alien-gods walked among men." – Lords of Chaos, pg. 182
According to Vikernes, once the the ancient alien gods discovered earth they used nukes deployed by robot controlled space craft to push our planet into the suns Goldilocks zone, creating a suitable climate for life. After the robots cultivated plant and animal life on earth, they set about creating aryan man who initially lived among a race of giants. Angry at the offense of the appearance of a superior race, the giants waged a war on Atlantis leading to its sinking and the surviving aryan bloodline fleeing into all parts of Europe where they would defile their purity with lesser races; leaving only northern whites as the last pure bloods the world over from that point onward.

Vikernes has taken popular UFO beliefs stemming from popular sources like Zecharia Sitchin, the Biblical Nefilim, Erich Von Däniken and Robert Temple, and placed his Norse ancestors at the top of the human chain allegedly engineered by the aliens. I've even come across the leveraging of Graham Hancock's respectable work by fans of Vikernes to underpin this aryan shift in narrative. Once again, it is exceedingly discomforting to realize fascist extremists are reading the same sources as yourself, to no fault of the source. 

While a racist form of ufology might come as an unwelcome shock to the system, most all researchers in the field are aware of and typically fascinated by the asserted connections between alien space craft and Nazi Germany dating back to WWII. The Nazi Bell craft (Die Glocke) along with doctored photos of Hitler shaking hands with an alien grey, legends of underground fortresses on Antartica and other speculations have long married ufology with Nazi space technology.

A quick search on "Nazi aliens" generates 774,000 hits on the topic. This interest and research is not often done in order to further or endorse Nazism but as a simple matter of historical curiosity and fact finding. For someone like Vikernes on the other hand, all of this writing and speculation serves to add further legs his sick aryan worldview.

Which is really the opening thought that prompted me to explore this topic at all. The uncomfortable ease in which one form of alternative belief system or lifestyle can serve as a bridge to another. To be more specific, how easily it may be for one fairly benign belief to led to a utterly toxic and destructive one. How often does someone starting with an innocent interest in alternative subjects get swept away into dangerous political ideology. There's no way to calculate that sort of thing but makes for an interesting thought experiment. If you're going to spend time looking into the occult or conspiracy literature, actively dismissing xenophobic rabbit holes is something you better be ready to do. Particular authors will lure the curious with "truthy"sounding bait, only to present doors to discrimination along racial or ethnic lines later.

While I have always been fascinated by the sociology and psychology of extremist groups, I have never for a moment been sympathetic to any rhetoric related to or even approximating racial hate. I've become very good at sniffing out that garbage daily quickly. Xenophobia, sexism and homophobia have been anathema to me for as long as I have known of their existence. But I can certainly understand why architects of neo-Nazi or fascist movements would target young people who have an interest in outsider topics like extreme metal, the paranormal or occultism. The underground music scene in particular has been a recruiting ground for radicalizing angry youth going at least as far back as the punk rock scene of the late 1970's and early 80's. While there was widespread resistance to the race cult coming from bands like the Dead Kennedys, they have and still do manage to brainwash the susceptible. Giving a false power and family to losers who feel lost and alone.

Ideas and subcultures pushed out into the margins of culture tend to coalesce under the banner of "fringe thought," be it in the form of scientific, spiritual, historical or political categories. When you start to go down those vortexes of forbidden knowledge, you are soon confronted with all sorts of controversial reality tunnels. Some are just silly fantasies like Flat Earth or Blue Avian aliens; while others like anti-Jewish sentiment veiled within talk of the Illuminati NWO or the Globalist banker conspiracy can actually provoke and insight online and offline harassment and violence.

I believe that the number of Nazi sympathizers within the UFO and New Age community is rather small. This is my hope anyway. However, the historical connections are there and need to be looked at, whatever conclusion you may draw from them. One need look no further than Helena Blavatsky's Theosophical occultism to find the influential theory of "Root Races" that has been taken out of context or misinterpreted to influence later systems of racial hierarchy. Once the germ of an idea enters the lexicon, it spreads throughout subcultures and can be appropriated to serve different needs, regardless of the authors intent.
"A number of central tenets of National Socialism were influenced by earlier ariosophic occult groups, and related organizations such as the Thule Gesellschaft were instrumental in developing the NSDAP." – Lords of Chaos, pg. 184
The occult and the far-right have quite a long history with affiliations not limited to neo-Paganism and the Nazi cults. Most notably, the works of the Italian fascist, Julius Evola, presented a mystical worldview across many publications that touted the glory of warfare, male chauvinism, caste societies and racial hierarchy. Evola took drugs, hiked mountains, painted, wrote about sex magic, Buddhism, Tantra and the Hermetics. These Crowley-esqe characteristics are counterbalanced with his deep involvement with both the Italian Fascists and the National Socialists, a personal friendship with Heinrich Himmler and his belief that violence provided a potent means for spiritual transcendence and transgression.

Evola's biography alone sheds light on the fact the occult and esoteric are often politically neutral, attracting minds from across the spectrum. In that light, the UFO field is unsurprisingly no different. Politics are something usually laid over metaphysical systems by the individual coming to them. It works similarly in the way that Christians see world events through one lens and atheists see them through another.

My belief is that a person is best served coming into speculative studies with a preexisting value system. A basic value system, not necessarily a spiritual or political bias, in fact those sorts of things tend to lead to the precise troubles this essay deals with. What I mean to imply is that without a set of principles that contain at base, a respect for human beings of all walks of race, religion or sexual identification, the more vulnerable a person may be to exploitation by those whose agenda is to do just that. It comes down to how impressionable a person is or what stage of mental development they are in. If a person is quick to accept racially or religiously motivated conspiracy theories, you have to wonder if that person came preconditioned towards discrimination or if they were just a blank and credulous canvas waiting to be filled in.

We all bring our belief systems and prior experiences to the party. I would never argue everyone need to hold liberal values as a rule. When it comes to race, I see this issue as transcending the confines of liberal and conservative sympathies, as it ought to be grounded in a broadly universal instinct in seeing divinity in all beings placed here on this earth, despite those differences. If it were only that simple, many of our worldly troubles would easily vanish.

Among people who are willing to break with convention and socially accepted belief, the distance separating various fringe theories is not as far as we might like to think. Any occult bookstore will demonstrate that books on Wicca may be only a few shelves away from books on the Occult Roots of Nazism. 

Chaos co-authors Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind along with their interview subjects raise some challenging notions about people who are likely to question accepted social narratives and how that open minded tendency can present an opening for extremists to seed their agenda into countercultures.

One such interview subject presented in the book is lecturer of religious anthropology at the University of Stockholm, Mattias Gardell. His assessment of the situation is as clear as it is disturbing when he states that, "I think that part of the reason why Aryan revolutionaries are so receptive to these theories is related to the fact that both UFO theologians and white National Socialist racists hold as valid knowledge what is rejected or ridiculed by mainstream society. A believer in one kind of stigmatized knowledge – the fact that it is not accepted as true by the universities and mainstream media is interpreted to mean that it must be something to it. This might – in part – explain why white racists tend to be open to all kinds of alternative medicine, ideas of lost worlds, parapsychology, alternative religions and alternative science, including UFO theology."

For most reading this, that quote will cut a little too close to home. At some point in looking into alternative topics most of us have been lead astray by someone claiming to be "telling the real truth," only to find out that their perspective of the truth is founded on antisemitic beliefs, religious fundamentalism or reactionary conservatism. The list of alt-media personalities peddling that smut is too long to list and just gives them more credibility in doing so. In my case, as I've said, when I sense the danger signs, I quickly cut off whatever the source of (dis)information and move on. Sadly, that can't be said for everyone.

It is the case that there are more pliable people among us who can be easily manipulated and redirected against their previous ethics by a persuasive engineering of propaganda. It's disturbing to see sources that were once politically unaffiliated one way or the other now overtly siding with a right-wing authoritarian agenda. You have to wonder if that was not a calculated plan to begin with.

I genuinely think most people start looking into UFOs, alternative spirituality and cases of conspiratorial corruption based on correct instincts that there's a lot about this world that doesn't add up and easy answers from our school textbooks don't prove satisfying in addressing potentially deeper truths.

For followers of UFO content, one doesn't need to look back more than a few weeks to see the tainting of racism in the field. MUFON very publicly refused to adequately condemn the racist statements made by Pennsylvania State Director John Ventre made on social media. After Ventre's clear and unequivocally prejudiced statements came out, MUFON's executive director Jan Harzan did little more than call into question the behavior of the hundreds of MUFON members challenging the "scientific" organization and demanding something be done to combat such internal racism. 

In fact, don't Harzan's weak comments about the Ventre debacle sound eerily reminiscent of the kinds of excuses and false equivalencies made by Trump following the Unite the Right rallies? According to those with intimate and long standing contact with MUFON, Ventre was far from the only official representative to have made dubious political or racial comments. MUFON has the right to represent whatever ideas they want but as they're finding out, the principle of free association is demonstrating that there is a social and financial cost and consequence when those ideas are corrosive to the integrity and moral compass of the vast majority of members.  

Varg Vikernes came to UFO's with a poisoned ideology and therefor applied that a tainted perspective of what the phenomena represents. It's not too much of a surprise that the AAT, in dealing with genetic bloodlines is going to attract the attention of personalities who are obsessed with them. While there's no reason to pay too much attention to the outrageous claims of the bad apples among the bunch, it's also important not to turn a blind eye to them either.

No one has to censor another's beliefs or statements in an attempt to combat their effect when they materialize (that just attempts to hide the problem). Firmly renouncing and isolating these individuals and their toxicity on the other hand demonstrates good faith unity for basic fundamental principles of human decency. What is the value of pursuing answers about extraterrestrial life if we can't even come to appropriate answers about our own earthbound family?

Zine Transmission #5

I finally got a 5th edition of the printed zine put together for the summer. For those who don't realize I started Secret Transmissions as a print only project that then expanded into a blog. Being as time consuming as it is to make a zine and produce blog content, the zines have taken a bit of a back seat in the last year. This is something I may need to reconsider because making the zines is a lotos fun and somewhat unique compared to a standard blog. 

Anyway, this issue features two essays previously written for the blog, the first being Choosing the Odd Way: Fantasy Against the Machine followed up by An Omnidirectional Approach to Anti-Authoritarianism. Both pieces really sum up a lot of the thoughts and emotions I have been going through as I internally struggle with the nature of our soulless corporate working conditions and the truly vial and evil political reality that we live under. Trying to find ways to combat these oppressive influences has rarely left my mind this year and only seem to intensify as I do more occult work to develop and discover my own personal truth and purpose. 

I counterweight all that serious stuff with some fun collages inspired by Bigfoot, The mysterious disappearance of Bruno Borges, The Yippies, The Order of the Solar Temple, a new Max & Casey comic strip about college debt and a weird Jim Morrison meets Twin Peaks spread. 

There's a good amount of Robert Anton Wilson sprinkled in this issue in the form of some of his best quotes and a few cool images of the man who provides me with solace even in the darkest and most confusing times. 

Angel Millar's Holistic Rituals and Development Practices for Atomized Times

I was first introduced to Angel Millar through the great Occult of Personality podcast. I was immediately impressed by his personal experiences with philosophies of the East and West as well as his uncommon perspectives and critiques of the shallow aspects of our modern Western culture. 

Angel is a driven man working in several fields of personal development and expression. An active Freemason and martial artist, Millar has also started two websites and written three books with much more in the works. While not a Freemason myself, I continue to find deep meaning and inspiration from Millar's words both written and spoken on a host of topics ranging from the esoteric to the creative. 

I have come away reading his essays on Phalanx with a sense of purpose and inspiration. While there is much that is confusing and misleading happening all the time around us, Millar is always brining attention back to the positive and helping to invigorate others to live fuller and more authentic lives. Millar has much to offer in terms of practical direction for anyone feeling lost or dissatisfied with their relationship with themselves and with contemporary society at large. In this conversation we learn more about his background and his own sources of occult, creative and philosophical inspiration.

Angel Millar

When did you first become interested in esotericism?
I was 15 years old when I first read a book on the esoteric. It was about astral projection and the elements, and may have been by Dion Fortune, but I’m not sure. A year later I bought a book of neo-Pagan rituals, and then a year after that, when I was around 17, I came across an occult and New Age spiritual bookstore a few miles from where I lived. I began visiting it regularly and reading widely on the subject, from Mircea Eliade to Aleister Crowley. Probably, much of what I read was rubbish, but it opened up my imagination and my interest in other cultures.
What thinkers, practitioners and writers have most profoundly shaped your life and offered you better ways of understanding the world and how to maximize your personal practices?
As mentioned, I found Mircea Eliade’s writing interesting when I was young, and still do. Again, I found Crowley interesting. I also read some of Israel Regardie’s work. I don’t consider myself to be devotees of either Regardie or Crowley, but I think that Crowley’s ability to write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and translations, to experiment in fine art painting, to practice boxing, to be a practicing mountain climber, and his traveling the world, makes him an extraordinary example of what a life can be. I don’t think you can imitate Crowley, or adopt his teachings wholesale, but as with, say, Picasso in the art world, I think you can be inspired by his energy and drive.
Fundamentally, I’m interested in those individuals who are able to practice the hard and soft arts, physical and spiritual disciplines, or that can draw on influences that are regarded as outside of their discipline. Besides Crowley, another example that I often cite is Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s most famous Samurai, known not only for his skills as a warrior but also for his painting and calligraphy. He is best-known in the West for his Book of Five Rings, which is a profound work on the martial arts, and practicing a discipline of any sort.

I was very interested in the work of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima when I was in my twenties. And, again, Mishima was one of those multi-dimensional characters -- Japan’s most famous literary writer at the time, he also acted, conducted an orchestra, practiced bodybuilding, and formed his own private army. 

When you observe the current occult landscape through personal interactions, new books being written and the range of media that is being produced; what do you see? Is the scene at a new high point of potentialities or has it grown stagnate or regressing?
It's both at a new high and a new low. Western esotericism can retreat into a kind of musicological mindset of wanting to preserve, rather than to live and give energy to the traditions. On the other end of the scale, in occultism, you find a kind of 'anything goes' attitude, where things are mixed together for the sake of creating something new, to avoid having to study anything too deeply. But what is created is rarely lasting or important. There are exceptions to this. 
Some small publishers, such as Theion Press, are publishing works of high quality, of deep thought, radical yet scholarly.
How did you get involved with the martial arts?
I had been wanting to practice Kung fu for some time, but when I was around 22, I met a student of a Nam Pai Chuan Shaolin Kung fu temple in London, and joined the class. I had never really considered myself to be a “sporty” person, partly because of my artistic nature and partly because I had hated soccer (or at least the egotism that it seemed to bring out of those playing it) when I was at school -- though I quite liked Rugby and I liked Athletics. However, after I started Kung fu, I found, very quickly, that I really liked pushing my limits, physically.
In what ways has martial arts developed you spiritually or philosophically?
After I moved to New York I stopped practicing, except for a couple of very brief periods training in Tai Chi and Kung fu. I took up the latter again, as a regular practice, about six years ago. The school takes fighting and self-defense very seriously. We do not wear protection, and we do sometimes get injured. Although we try to minimize injuries, of course, I think it is important that we push ourselves, and that we face those things and situations that we find difficult and even intimidating. 
Kung fu has helped me develop by making me face my fears, and by pushing me to do things that seemed impossible to me before I joined. I’m quite a calm person, but you find out how calm you really are when you stand in front of someone that is far superior to you in the martial arts and that you know can, and probably will, hurt you. 
But, overall, it is essential to me to have a physical practice, as well as spiritual and mental disciplines. Although people tend to focus on only one or two of these, I do not believe we can truly develop ourselves if we neglect our body and our karma in regard to it. 
What sorts of connections do you see between the martial arts and more explicitly spiritual practices like meditation, occultism and magic?
The school that I practice Kung fu with also emphasizes meditation and internal energy for health and wellbeing. We also practice cultivating internal energy (Chi) -- and I would say that, in my experience, internal energy is stronger when the body is stronger, and perhaps vice versa. The body is a kind of talisman and it is radiating the consciousness through such things as facial expression, body posture, the apparent health of the body, and so on. The mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind. I think that understanding is fundamental to to spiritual development.

Can you describe your own personal alchemical transformation you’ve experienced through your engagement with martial arts and occultism? What are the biggest aspects of yourself that have transmuted in ways that tie directly back to those practices?
“Alchemical transformation” is a good phrase. People sometimes think of it as drinking some kind of elixir of life. Yet, such people often neglect the basics. True alchemical transformation can be affected by a natural (and, I would suggest, plant-based) diet, physical training, and meditation (particularly on the Chakras). I try to follow that closely. 
In regard to which aspects of myself have been in some way transmuted, I would say I have gained physical strength, an ability to push myself, and a greater -- if certainly an imperfect -- ability to remain calm in stressful encounters. More concretely, I remember the first time I broke a slab of concrete with my hand. I was actually shocked that it broke, and that I wasn’t injured. I’ve experienced similar things since then.
How do you understand magic and how does it work within your chosen path of personal rituals or practices?
I probably wouldn’t use the term “magic,” but others might. As mentioned, I practice chakra meditation -- and this has evolved over the decades, and I also practice Chi Gong, and, of course, other types of meditation, such as reflecting on my mortality. One might draw some comparison to Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, or Tantra.

I try to practice these daily… Again, I’d have to say what is important to me is the development of mind, body, and spirit. I think that is the true Way. 
And I would add that we can find magic in the mundane. Take conversations, for example, it has been shown that when two people converse, and are enjoying the conversation, their brain waves sync up. There are things going on within and between us that we are not aware of. In a sense, that is magic. The material world is infused with meaning and spirit, and we are constantly interacting with it and reshaping it.
What place does myth play in your outlook and philosophical perspective?
Hmm… In essence, I would say that I look to myth, ancient culture, and practitioners within ancient cultures as a model for a Way of life, or, at least, as an example of how to overcome obstacles both internal and external. Again, this may, in part, be because I see in mythic figures archetypes of those who are able to practice different arts or to live a more three-dimensional life.
The god of writing and poetry is a god of war. The mythic blacksmith is a shaman, a rebel who rises up against tyranny, and so on.  
When you started to conceive the Phalanx project, what were your guiding principles that served as motivation?
I was interested in writing a book on male spirituality, especially as related to Freemasonry, the martial arts, Zen and the Samurai, and so on, and I wanted to begin exploring the subject publically. Phalanx developed and changed quite quickly, and has grown in different ways since then. I especially try to give readers ways they can develop themselves, mentally, physically, and spiritually, and ways they can improve aspects of their lives -- regardless of the reader’s gender.
What made you decide to focus on issues related to contemporary masculinity and the notions of maleness? What specific attention are you drawing to this aspect of humanity that you consider lacking in our modern culture or in the media?
I’m not really interested in male issues per se. I don’t know anything about the “men’s rights” movement, and it doesn’t actually interest me. I think the major obstacle facing men today,  though, is that we do not have great examples of manhood to look to in contemporary society. For young men, especially, fathers are often absent from the home, either because of divorce or long working hours. And, when they are present, they are emotionally absent, or have little wisdom to offer.  
This has not led to a society of men who are strong but respectful of women, active and dynamic yet peaceful in themselves. Instead, we see a playing out of discredited manhood -- drink, drugs, gangs, boasting -- though these things are a part of contemporary society more broadly, of course.
So, there’s a point at which masculinity turns dark, loses a foundation or balance and expresses itself in very unflattering ways that undermine more classical approaches to self-development and admirable strength? How can men be more mindful not to fall into those ego traps?
I think men have to seek out better examples and cut off those influences that are negative. Good examples can be found in many martial arts schools and some Lodges, for example, where self-development and spirituality are important to its members.
You have written three books on Freemasonry. Will you continue to write books dedicated to that topic or will your next book go along a new line?
I am planning to do both. I am working, slowly, on collecting some writings together for a short book on Freemasonry, but I’m also exploring areas of self-development and, unsurprisingly perhaps, mythology, symbolism, and ritual related to traditionally male cults, societies, brotherhoods, and so on – the Samurai, Mithraism, and so on.

You’ve also studied Islam. What were you most fascinated by?
Probably the connections between Western and Islamic thinkers, adventurers, and radicals, and between certain Freemasons and so-called “fringe Masons” and Islamic spirituality during especially the late 19th century. I believe I am the first person to make an in depth study of this subject.
What do most westerners fail to grasp about Islam and does this shortsightedness create more danger in the world as a whole?
Most educated Westerners are very inward looking. They imagine that every culture is exactly like the most progressive elements of the West. It’s as if they imagine the non-West as being exactly like them, but with spicy food and ethnic holidays that we can enjoy.  
Or to put it another way, the West wants to refuse to believe that Islam has any real content, and prefers to think of it as a kind of ethnic identity. 
However, cultures and religions have their own logic, and they don’t conform to Western views or ideas about what is important in life or in society. In regard to alcohol, gender, family, clothing -- to name a few areas -- Islam’s position is much more traditional, conservative, and generally contrary to progressivism. You might think this is good or you might think it is bad -- and I’m not taking a position -- but there’s no point in pretending that Islam, or any other religion, somehow agrees with whatever it is we believe in the West this month. So, yes, it can create danger because it creates a disconnect.

So, modern westerners have warped Eastern traditions, leaving out the parts that make them uncomfortable in order to turn them into products for western commodification?
Effectively, yes. Although Christianity is often attacked as intolerant or for the Crusades that were conducted 700 years ago (and I’m not a Christian, by the way), other religions are often defended from exactly this sort of criticism on the basis that “no religion teaches violence.” It’s really schizophrenic. Westerners cherry pick the one or two things they like from each religion, ignore ninety-nine percent of each, and claim that they somehow understand the essence of the religion, to the point that they feel free to contradict the religion’s practitioners or even their sacred texts. 

Cherry picking is the way to ignorance. You’re better off studying a religion and sticking with it through the difficult and uncomfortable stuff, and figuring out how apparently violent passages can be interpreted peacefully or mystically, and not literally. But most Westerners won’t allow themselves that struggle so they remain stuck in the superficial. 
You’re sympathetic to non-Western religion and pre-modern culture. What lost aspects of the past are most detrimentally affecting how we think and act in the world?
I think, at its best, the pre-modern world was one characterized by a holistic approach to society and a belief in the sacred. That sacred is not necessarily something that belongs to an institution, but something that was seen in the world, in nature, and even in men and women themselves. Nature (of which we are a part) and society was an embodiment of the Supernatural.  
In regard to society, there was not an atomization, and a search for meaning in politics and materialism. The individual was part of his family, and part of his trade guild or professional brotherhood, his church or temple, and so on.
If human history is a undulating movement between peaks, valleys and low-points; where do you place our present culture in terms of values, art or spiritual depth?
The West seems to be running out of ideas, and seems merely to be going through the motions. The focus on morality in popular culture obscures deeper problems. 
Education that teaches what to think but not how to think -- and definitely not how to question authority -- massive student debt, massive health care costs, computerization of the workforce, a sense of existential boredom -- of not knowing why we exist or what we should do in life. These are only a few of the challenges that we are facing, but largely trying to avoid. 

There is often the complaint that we do not produce any more, and that factories and industries have moved from the US to China. But, perhaps more worrying -- since it indicates the health of the soul of the nation -- is that ordinary people themselves no longer create. A century or so ago, it was normal for a man to make things out of wood -- to carve or to make furniture or something -- and for women to sew, knit, or quilt. Ordinary people were creative. But, since the invention of the television, at least, people have become consumers. Most people would be embarrassed to sleep under a quilt or sit at a table they made. 

I don’t think we have to stick to the strict gender roles or men doing woodwork and women sewing, etc. Far from it. But, I think we have to get back to the idea of creating for ourselves. In a strange way, this very old-fashioned idea carried on in youth culture -- in Punk, Goth, and with Rockabilly, for example, where people made their own clothes, painted on their leather jackets, and so on. But, now we can by anything there is no need to do this, and something significant has been lost as a result.  
Goth DIY fashion
And do you see this is Masonry? Has it lost its way or become watered down from what it was originally designed to accomplish? If so, what do you think has caused that?
If you look at 19th century America, you see extraordinary energy in relation to Freemasonry -- women sewing quilts with Masonic symbols in it; women running textiles businesses, making regalia for Lodges; men engraving walking canes or furniture with Masonic symbols. That aspect is less significant.  
But Freemasonry changes, and the younger generation of Freemasons are much more interested in esotericism and spirituality than the older ones. They are also more dynamic, and are doing things for themselves: holding conferences, and getting speakers, and getting Masonic vendors -- selling art, jewellery, and so on. So, there’s something of a revival, I believe.
So creativity and art are crucial to our lives… How, then, do you incorporate it into your own life as a tool for understanding and growth?
Besides martial arts and esotericism, I’ve studied fine art painting,  fashion, and poetry -- and probably other arts for a short time. I still design, and I write every day, so these are part of my life. I think things are more interesting when you cross over from one medium to another -- from writing to visual art, or vice versa, etc. 
Although I’m primarily known for writing, I have painted some Masonic tracing boards (paintings of Masonic symbols), which have been shown on both the East and West Coast, for example. I used a detail of one of these for the cover of my Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition and some other details were reproduced in the book The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols by Robert Lomas.
First and second degree tracing boards by Angel Millar
In regard to influences on me, I was especially influenced by the early work of Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Kohji Tatsuno, and Rei Kawakubo (who headed Comme des Garcons), especially Miyake, who looked back to traditional Japanese aesthetics, and used traditional Japanese materials in new ways -- using oiled paper and bamboo in clothing, during the 1980s. Although that work might look a bit dated now, I think you can learn from that spirit: Take what has become neglected, but that is meaningful and beautiful, and do something unexpected with it. With Comme des Garcons, as well, they published a journal of artwork and images called Six. It looked like a fanzine, and I think that was deliberate choice. 
As a tool for growth, of course it allows for exploring ideas in different ways, but what is important in practicing an art, is to think about the details. In regard to writing, for example, I’m as interested in the construction of my sentences, and the arrangement of words -- about how I want to say something -- as much as about what I want to say.
How has initiation impacted your life? What is the fallout when a society strips initiatory rites of passage away for men and women?
First of all, if you experience authentic initiation it gives you not only a marker of a change in your own life -- including inner life -- it enables you to feel a connection to those of probably every other culture, especially of the pre-modern era, that have gone through initiation. Most people don’t have that today, so when they hear about Shamanism, for example, they immediately want to think of it in terms of 21st century politics. 
The fallout, then, is that we have millions of people who think they can change the world, but are incapable of, or unwilling to, fix their own problems. And I think we all know what such people are like when they get power. 
How can we go against the grain, rebel in a meaningful ways and challenge the falsehoods of our current generation? 
We have to realize that no matter what society is presenting to us as the unquestionable truth, it is basically a fashion, and that it will change, possibly very dramatically, over the next decade -- and so on, and so on. What we believe today, we did not believe a decade ago, and will not believe ten years from now. What is moral today will be immoral tomorrow. We can see this very clearly in the way that feminists such as Germaine Greer -- once cutting edge and progressive -- are denounced as transphobic and, as such, behind the times and oppressive. Those espousing the most cutting edge views about gender today may well suffer the same fate in a couple of decades. 
To meaningfully rebel we have to be anchored against the rolling tides of politics. As such, we have to acknowledge the impermanence of today’s Western political convictions. And we have to have an understanding of other cultures, past and present, and to look to those for signposts about what is generally admired and respected. 
Then we can begin to embody those positive values and qualities that every healthy culture has respected. We shouldn’t be judging others. If we decide, for example, that becoming physically strong is a quality that we want to develop, we shouldn’t look down on those who are not strong, and who may reject physical strength. That is their choice. 
We merely have to set examples of alternative ways of thinking, living, and being. We have to offer choices, in other words. You can choose weakness, and we won’t judge you. Or you can choose strength, and you can know what it means both in terms of personal development and in terms of being a part of a positive community that helps you achieve, and we will respect you for struggling with us. We should do this for everything. You can choose a professor who’ll reward you for checking the right boxes and mouthing the correct soundbites, or you can take a risk and think outside the box. You can choose to eat junk food, or you can choose to learn about nutrition, learn how to buy food, and learn how to cook, and eat better. 

The main thing is that a meaningful rebellion has to be positive and uplifting. It has to be about improving our minds, bodies, and spirits. A person should be able to see someone on the street, who’s part of this meaningful rebellion, and say, I want to be like that. We want to improve the quality of our being and of our lives in all areas.   
Such a rebellion has to be a choice, and, as such, self-selecting. If you are struggling to improve your mind, body, and spirit, we are happy to struggle with you, and to help you where we can, so that you can help someone else one day.
What do you suggest to people who are looking to improve their lives through physical, spiritual and philosophical means?  
In regard to the philosophical aspect, I think you have to read the classic texts -- from the Poetic Edda to the Hagakure -- but also modern works, such as those of Mitch Horowitz, Camille Paglia, Seth Godin, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Grit by Angela Duckworth, and so on. It’s important to be able to live in this world and to make something of it. We can’t remain in the past.
In regard to the physical, I’d advise taking up a martial art, preferably one that could be used in a self-defense situation, and preferably one that helps you to develop your character as well as your physical body.

And, in regard to the spiritual, I’d recommend having some daily practice. Partly, this should be thinking about how to improve your life -- your health, diet, and so on -- and how to help others improve themselves if they want to. And, partly, this should be setting time aside for some sort of ritual or meditation, such as on developing internal energy or meditating on the Chakras. 

Find out more about Angel at his personal site
and be sure to follow the works released through Phalanx and People of Shambhala
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