[NB] Leviathan Glamours

NB: From my journals, so please read the tone as more on-the-fly ponderings than anything else, but I’ve done some editing here for clarity.

Heathen Chinese posted a fantastic article on TWH that links (conceptually) with my thoughts on glamours & egregores, thought-gods—of “leviathans” (via Hobbes[1] & elsewhere) as aggregate entities, social “golems” assembled in the guise of states, capital, corporations, commonwealths, etc. to live at the expense of others’ bodies, closed off from the world & Other. And as these social worlds, glamours, egregore leviathans seek power-over, they spur other cultures to form counter-leviathans just as bad. And Leviathans thrives through opposition, & they inhere into persons through Reichian character armor[2] as we harden & obscure, cover over our selves (and our light & fire) & join the leviathan—and the leviathan induces us to turn our fires to its, their ends, to feed them as the sprawling intelligences they are. An aggregate of shells projecting its dream—its nightmare of order onto reality, its worlding. And it hedges itself off from actually connecting to and integrating the Other as anything other than opposition while rendering the Other as demonic in aspect.

And that’s honestly how the light I’ve been getting at is obscured.

The leviathan induces us to give up our intimate awareness of our body to pass as what suits the leviathan’s image, & to conceive of relationships—of societies—in statist, tribal ways—“imagined communities,” but those communities grow strange when the embodied liberty shines forth—e.g., queer & dancing, 19th and 20th century nudist movements, etc.—music & movement & art—theater, cosplay!—anything that encourages people to become aware & free with their bodies, without armor, & engaging with the world & others.

Because toxic masculinity & misogyny (and body image policing for both men and women) are very much of this phenomena—or are ways to police bodies.

Heroic warrior masculinity tied into the service to the state—

Fredy Perlman (Against His-story, Against Leviathan, which Heathen Chinese links in the article) analogizes the Leviathan to Yeats’s sphinx in “The Second Coming,” while noting Yeats projects the sphinx’s monstrous body into the Near Eastern Other.

[I should note that Perlman’s text offers a reading of the rise of polities and empires, and while it can read far more as pseudo-historical conspiratorial “history,” it also offers an allusive and evocative take on the uses of toxic masculinity and the social machines and “imagined communities” (to use Benedict Anderson) that have created the last four or so thousand years of political history. Although Perlman does not explicitly advance a “magical” reading of history, his references to inner light and Reichian armor and the ideological apparatuses involved work well with considering one.]

Perlman’s notes, his “historical” argument is that, in essence, greed and toxic masculinity led to the rise of instrumental reason (commodifying, reifying people, nature, ideas, etc.), & character armor spread. The leviathan consumes even the archon/prince/sovereign, who become subject to the leviathan & its parts/segments. And the leviathan is toxically male, violent—

Perlman argues the sovereign installs & cultivates his own “gods” (who are typically very violent), while usurping authority to regulate orthodoxy re: the divine.

Furthermore, Perlman frames the leviathan as a “dead” body that cannot “stay dead.” And they are gears, cogs, parts, social & cognitive things—

Actually, I would say that they’re magical, chimerical, infectious & viral—the “Western Spirit”—Otherworldly imaginative power turned to a dream of iron and empire.

Now, Perlman does have a decidedly anarchic bent that also sees writing as Archonic techné, but—[3]

He traces Moses[4] in the desert, who projects his armor & the remnants of leviathan in his heart, the egoic sovereign, onto the cosmos, & deifies leviathan, & makes the Israelites into his new Leviathan while exterminating the non-compliant. They also declare war on the Wilderness (framing Nature as Wilderness, a social Other-ing of Nature as something humans must tame and colonize). Meanwhile, Perlman associates prophets as essentially the mouth pieces of the leviathan & armor & the imaginative policing of the polis.

Of course, for Perlman, Art is just a substitute for actual freedom & mysticism (what Adorno calls entertainment, really).

“the freedom of commodity circulation, not the freedom of people”—re: Pericles & ancient Greece

Plato founds “the ideal Leviathan” that Chinese Legalism advanced without frills—sustaining leviathan via “perpetual war and preparation for war.”

And Perlman speaks of the Light within obscured, smothered by Leviathan & character armor—toxic masculinity, oppression, violence & instrumental reason & reification—monological disenchantment within & without. And that’s what it is—the hatred, the desire for vengeance, the oppositional “hero” drama (art, magic, meaning) that closes us off & blinds us—that Archonic, Leviathanic armor,—& the light is obscured.

But eruptions, disruptions, rhizomatic as the Otherworlds & people resist, for freedom is not a priori—

—Perlman assumes freedom did exist, but resistance to that within ourselves & to without—that Foucauldian, Prozerovian notion—[5]

& the ancients, at times, sensed or knew the mutability, the po-mo reality of discourse, language & systems—

The first step is in resisting your self, your demons, your armor, your biases—your complicity in the Leviathans. The disenchantment that infects yourself & the social sphere—

Leviathans, thought-gods, want you to imagine, in their terms—conquest, victory, etc.—not sustained resistance, self-possession, vigilance, etc.—the resisting subject who doesn’t necessarily fight the Leviathan directly—but subverts & plays. Who denies it the hold over your spirit it wants. Be cunning & do good for the world’s & your & peoples’ sake.

But I also ponder the Dead in Perlman’s system, & the Otherworlds in general, for he seems convinced the gods “died” (even as Death makes Leviathan immortal…) Perlman has his vision of it all, but it is dated & a product of the ‘80s.

The gnostics, like it seems lots of folks,[6] were interested in getting out of the armor & official religion because the religion represented the interests of the Leviathan (civic religion & the armor).

Movements that go into heroic, oppositional, adversarial woo enter into the armor & a kind of egoic fashioning as the outside world calcifies, worlds in a static manner. Anarcho-revolutionary tribal types wanting to establish a return to the Old Ways kinda just want to make their own leviathans.

The Leviathan emerges, I would argue, out of ambitious, opportunistic politics that embrace instrumental reason, that privilege toxically masculine conceptions of “heroism” & binary logic—Us vs. Them, & power-over thinking. It privileges the composite social body, the “body politic” over body natural & projects the leader’s or even the Leviathan’s idealized body (& ego) onto the people.

It induces people, especially men, to submit & assimilate themselves to the aggregate body, while excluding contrary, Other bodies.

Love & romantic intimacy can unlock the armor, so the Leviathan must have men hate & abuse women & outlaw anything queer, for the queer subverts the body logic of the Leviathan. It is, of course, a glamour that thrives on its appeal & our complicity, as any imaginal does.

Image: The Sphinx, or, The Caresses, by Fernand Khnopff

[1] That is, via Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, which frames the commonwealth as a separate, monstrous social body.

[2] That is William Reich’s theories of character armor which argues, essentially, that we embody our complexes and stress and more within our physical body as “character armor” that we should work at freeing ourselves from.

[3] It seems to me that there’re shades of Pharmakon and the “literacy destroyed matriarchy” pseudo-history here.

[4] There seems to be some potential anti-Semitism here in the argument—admittedly, Perlman traces the rise of Christianity and the modern world back into Judaism, but—readers should be aware.

[5] That is, Michel Foucault but also Sergei Prozorov, who argues that in favor of the resisting subject as those who best discover and enact freedom. Prozorov frames freedom as an empty sign that states define to their advantage (no state really calls itself un-free) and as not a pre-existing state. People are not born free, so they must resist ideologically, politically, etc.

[6] Gnostics, hermetics, and, well, all sorts of “fringe” groups who didn’t play well with state religions and philosophies.

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