Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Blaze in the Parisian Sky

Roger Caillois, Georges Bataille, the Collège de Sociologie and the Socio-Politics of Neo-Folk and Black Metal

By Brian Booty

For this issue of Amarantos I want to devote some considerable space to the ideas of both Roger Caillois and the Collège de Sociologie. I will leave a more generalized overview of the Collège to the other articles in this issue. For this essay, I want to focus on why I feel that it is important to devote two issues to Caillois, Bataille and the Collège. We are approaching the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Collège de Sociologie, for all intents and purposes it was heralded as a failure and is long dead; worse, for some it seemed to come too dangerously close to fascism. The Collège lasted a mere 2 years, if the war did not end the Collège it is likely that it would have folded due to internal politics, so why is it relevant? As you will note in a few of the essays re-printed here, Talcott Parsons thought them notable enough to be worth mention in an over view of French Sociological groups, and others have commented on how Adorno and Horkheimer, attendees of the Collège, were influenced enough to replicate some of their ideas in their Dialectic of Enlightenment. Though it is true that Adorno and Horkheimer were still somewhat critical of the Collège, especially in regards to fascism and their perception of the Collège’s goals. It is also important to mention the influ­ence that the Collège had on the Tel Quel group in the late 60’s which became the wellspring for Post-Structuralist and Post-Modern thought, having influenced such distinguished members as: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Phillipe Sollers, Maurice Blanchot, Umberto Eco, and Pierre Guyotat amongst others. Furthermore, The College also influenced the likes of Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard; All together, no small impact. ¶

Though the Collège had such an influence, it is interesting to note that when Denis Hollier collected the lectures, essays and various bits and pieces together into a book in 1979 it was thought to be a hoax. Through out it all, including harsh criticisms from the Existentialist and Western academics at the time, the appeal of this group and the influence of the Collège still resonate to this very day. Numerous critical works have continued to be writ­ten on the group since Hollier published his collection of their writings in 1979; and since 1988, when Betsy Wing translated Hollier’s book into English as The College of Sociology 1937-39, there has been a continuation of inquiry into this group and their ideas in English. ¶

In her 2002 book Sacred Revolutions, Michelle Richman revisited the Collège and readdressed their importance by delving back into the ideological roots that lead to the formation of classic French Sociology, she gives a reappraisal of the Leftist, revolutionary intent of Emile Durkheim’s work which was then carried on by his nephew Marcel Mauss which then directly influenced Roger Caillois, Bataille and thus the Collège. Caillois and Bataille then sought to explore this revolutionary potential of a Sacred Renewal in the modern West through their own Nietz­schean filter. Richman takes this line of inquiry through these theoretical threads and picks apart the criticisms that were leveled at the Collège by many theorists from the 40’ through the 90’s, which stemmed from a devotion to Liberalism and Humanism. The unabashed and slavish devotion to a rampant individualism and traditional Western academics would be fairly sensitive to the Irrational and Heterogeneous dynamics discussed and championed by the Collège. Especially given the fact that many of these earlier critical theorists had so recently witnessed the horrors that Fascism brought to 30s and 40s. The importance of Richman’s book is to refute the fascist criticism of the Collège as well as Hollier’s equivocal charge against the Collège. (Hollier’s assessment can be seen elsewhere in this zine.) There is another important aspect to Richman’s analysis that is also rather key for our purposes here, it is what Richman calls Durkhiem’s “Ethnographic Detour” which was his shift in research to the religious practices of the Aborigines, “The most bizarre or barbarous rites and the strangest myths translate some human need and some aspect of life, whether social or individual.” (Richman, S.R. p.47) Durkheim’s investigation of the sacred through an ethnographic lens would be the first of its kind to identify specific cultural phenomena and analyze it for its potential to illuminate not only so-called “primitive” cultures but modern societies and Western culture as well. By understanding the motivations and dynamics that propel cultural manifestations of specific ethnographic phenomena, one can trace these dynamics within any society as the needs of individuals within a social body. ¶

The insight that the Collège had and the motivation of their research to combine French Sociology with a reappraisal of the Sacred in Modern Western culture as seen through their particular lenses is shockingly acute. These same forces, dynamics and ideas that had such a profound impact on both Caillois, Bataille and fel­low members of the Collège continually call to us now. The same critique of Western Culture and Modernity that the Collège had lodged in the 1930’s are uncannily similar to the criticisms lodged at it today by many sectors of society. When we look at the tenants of the Collège we can see remarkable similarities to the desires and motives of people working and devoted to both Black Metal and Neo-Folk today. Interestingly enough, one can also see that the very same criticisms that were made of the Collège are also made of people who are involved with both Neo-Folk and Black Metal now. Of course, it is true that some of the criticism of Neo-Folk and Black Metal are entirely valid. Many people involved within these scenes are directly influenced by fascism and fascist ideology and espouse racialist ideas. But for those who were drawn to these musical genres from other ideological camps, the stigma is applied carte blanche. So, for those who do not espouse racialist ideas, nor desire to create some sort of Fourth Reich or modern fascist party/society, I think that a delving into the successes and failures of the Collège will be highly illuminating. It would also provide a particularly acute appraisal of the dynamics behind the motivations and drives of the people and groups today that feel that the modern world has become sterile and that modern Capitalist Democracy fails us in many ways. Furthermore, that this Capitalist Democracy has created a leviathan, a mega monoculture that seems to fail in fully addressing the deep-seated needs that we, as individuals and social creatures desire. ¶

Recent studies in trying to define authenticity and our quest for authentic experiences and profound connec­tion highlight this fundamental schism between our needs and our fulfillments in this Modern world. I have no doubt that the fashionable popularity of Black Metal will wane with time as the vacant hordes desiring for something “authentic” or “new” gets sated or replaced with the next “new thing.” The pendulum swings back and forth from action to reaction from one interest into another, as one idea or fad grows weary from over saturation and commodification, public opinion swings into another direction. In some ways this hints at Hegel’s dialectic. What remains as a constant embodiment of Hegel’s oppositional forces within the dialectic are what I think has been woefully overlooked in Robert Hertz’s study of Left (impure) Sacred and Right (pure) Sacred. What Bataille and Caillois saw as Heterogeneous and Homogenous elements of the sacred. ¶
Allow me pull apart a few threads one piece at a time. Robert Hertz was a disciple of Emile Durkheim, he was killed on the front lines in World War I dying shortly after the start of a promising career as an an­thropologist. Hertz expanded the notion of the dualistic conception of the sacred that Durkheim developed in {The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life}. Hertz’s bifurcation of the Sacred into Left Sacred and Right Sacred are described below. What I think is fascinating about the ideas of Caillois and Bataille, and the Collège de Sociologie in general, is the elaboration and exploration of Hertz’s ideas of both Left and Right Sacred as requisite motivations of the human condition. We desire Effervescence, a sense of belonging and also transcendence beyond ourselves, to be part of something more than what we are. But Effervescence is made of the bifurcated elements of the Sacred. This leads, as Caillois and Bataille would contend, towards Attraction and Repulsion, or Heterogeneous and Homo­geneous manifestations of the Sacred. Caillois and Bataille, maintain that Hegel’s view of history and the confluence of shifting forces of social history intersect with both Emile Durkheim and Robert Hertz’s ideas of the Sacred. It is the quest for Left Sacred that kindled the flames of Black Metal, people have been drawn to it to satiate their need for Left Sacred. To a similar extent, Neo-Folk and the styles that fed it have also been influenced by Left Sacred but the tabloid history of Black Metal have made it a bit more popular or fashionable of late. I believe that the intersection of Caillois and Bataille’s intellectual quest to understand the draw of Left Sacred and the Hegalian Dialectic are of critical importance to not only the lure of Black Metal and NeoFolk, but also manifestations of Left Sacred in societies in general. ¶

The popular understanding of G.W.F. Hegel’s Dialectic is that an idea (thesis) gives rise to a reaction, (antith­esis) which contradicts or negates the idea(thesis), the resolution of which becomes the synthesis. But these terms are not Hegel’s, rather they are more in line with Immanuel Kant and to a greater extent the writings of Johann Fichte. Hegel used the terms Abstract-Negative-Concrete, as opposed to Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis, for this three-valued logical model, where the Abstract/Thesis suggests an inherent flaw and lacks the negative of trial, er­ror and experience. For Hegel the Concrete or Synthesis must always pass through the phase of the Negative, that is mediation. The overcoming of the negative through this mediation Hegel called Aufhebung, which can be translated as “sublation” or “overcoming.” In this way, the Helical (spiral) nature of progress indicates a preservation of the useful portion of an idea, thing, society, etc., while moving beyond its limitations. For our context here, the lure of Left Sacred draws the interest of a group of people to something, until that draw gets co-opted, commodified or over saturated and thus in some ways becomes transformed or corrupted from the Sacred to the Profane, which then leads toward the search for another representation of Left Sacred, the initial draw. The operative word here is hinted at, but a description of Hegel’s Dialectic is important to the writings of the Collège as it is foundational to a whole subset of ideas proffered by Bataille. First we must discuss a general understanding of what the Collège terms the Sacred. ¶

Durkheim proposed that a general understanding of the Sacred is that which points to, or embodies the so­cial ideal; furthermore, to counter the “profane,” mundane tasks that one goes about in everyday tasks of living, one must balance these “profane” activities with transgressive moments in which we experience “collective effervescence.” Those activities that traditional societies called “Sacred” were essentially activities where social cohe­sion and group membership were/are reinforced. Collective effervescence was defined in his book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life in 1912, where counter to the profane acts of everyday life, there are those moments when the whole group gathers together and through a collective event where high levels of energy in the event transform profane people or objects into sacred. There is a wide selection of types of activities that can fulfill this effervescence, and people require satisfaction of these desires in varying degrees. ¶

In “primitive” or traditional cultures, the Sacred embodies both Left Sacred (Heterogeneous/Impure) and Right Sacred (Homogeneous/Pure) not to be confused with Left wing or Right wing political ideologies. Right Sacred consists of elements that we might normally associate with the term Sacred, but Left Sacred is perhaps easier to describe, it is the taboo; or activities, behaviors or elements that are dark, malevolent, criminal, revolting or deathlike components. We desire both Left and Right sacred. Robert Hertz describes his concept of Left/Right Sacred thusly: ¶

Supernatural forces are not all of the same order; some exert their power in consonance with the nature of things, possess a regular and august character which inspire veneration and confidence [Right Sacred]; the others, to the contrary, violate and trouble the universal order, and the respect they impose is especially one of aversion and fear [Left Sacred]. All of these energies offer the common trait of being opposed to the profane; for latter, they are all equally dangerous and forbidden.” (Richman, S.R. p.143) ¶

Furthermore, we also desire the transformation of the two types of Sacred. We are fascinated when Right Sacred is shattered or ruptured into Left Sacred, and likewise we also like to see and feel when Left Sacred transforms into Right Sacred. Looking at any tabloid, or spending any amount of time watching mainstream news and television, it is obvious how people are drawn into “shocking news,” people love to prattle on with gossip “Can you believe that this person did …” and peoples visceral attraction to look at accidents are all manifestations of our need to integrate and desire to resolve Left and Right Sacred. In a very Dialectic way, we desire Left Sacred, Death, Murder, the Taboo or the Occult to help us define and experience Right Sacred; moments were we come together, or do good for other people, or even where we might find a simple kinship in some way. In Audre Lorde’s essay The Erotic as Power, we can sense Right Sacred through her definition of the Erotic as a way of bridging the heterogeneous state of self by a direct physical encounter with another through a homogenous sharing of an intense erotic state together, which is one form of Effervescence. But further, she describes the Erotic as those mo­ments when people share a deep, and in her thought feminine, connection when doing something difficult or intense. Though she does not use the terminology I am suggesting, these moments of shared endeavor are manifestations of effervescence and homogenous desires, as well as embodiments of Right Sacred. ¶

The lure of Black Metal and NeoFolk is an example of the manifestation of Left Sacred and our desires to resolve Left/Right Sacred in Modern society. Bands within Neo-Folk, which has also been known as “Apoca­lyptic Folk” would be: Changes, Current 93, Death in June, Fire + Ice, Sol Invictus, to name a few. Both Black Metal and Neo-Folk are heavily influenced by Left Sacred: Death, apocalyptic themes, Thelemic Magick, the Occult, Satanism, Lucifer, Serial Killers, and Charles Manson. They are also influenced by not only atonal and distorted sounds, but certain themes within Chöd religion, Hinduism and Buddhism which are all Heterogeneous and “Impure Sacred,” all of which are massive influences on these genres. It would be impossible to imagine either genre without reference to some of these interests. These genres of music have risen out or our collective and individual need to wrestle with Left Sacred and our current Modern lives where these elements have largely been banished or have been perverted into neurosis and psychosis; or worse into commodified mass cultural phenomena such as sports events or modern “festivals” like spring break weekends or weekend warrior bar hoping. These later events do to a certain extent fulfill our need for Left Sacred, but obviously are not sufficient or “sacred” enough for all people. ¶

Though we try, we cannot escape death and it shadows our technological development and thusly has been a lure of the underground since the dawn of Modernity, which I would argue would be since the birth of the Avant Garde which some have argued dates back to the German Romantics and the Sturm und Drang group of the 1760-1780’s. Left Sacred has only been “demonized” since religious beliefs systems have perverted it or relegated it outside “normal” life. But a sufficient exploration of either of these last statements falls outside the limits of this article. Rather, I want to set up an understanding of how Left/Right Sacred works within our society before go­ing on further to talk about the relevance of the of the writings related to the Collège and our current interests as members of the Black Metal and Neo-Folk scene. ¶

So what were the interests of the Collège? In Caillois’ introduction to the Collège, he states their purpose: “There are certain, fleeting, and violent moments of his intimate experience on which man places extreme value. From this given the College of Sociology takes its departure, striving to reveal equivalent processes at the very heart of social existence, in the elementary phenomena of attraction and repulsion determining this existence, as in its most marked and meaningful formations such as churches, armies, brotherhoods, secret societies. Three principle problems dominate this study: the problems of power, of the sacred, and of myths.” (Hollier. C.O.S. p.11) ¶

Given these three “problems,” of which Caillois speaks, can one think of any other more important set of three themes than these in Black Metal and Neo-Folk? I think that it is safe to say that these three themes dominate that which is explored by these two genres. It is also worth note the importance of Brotherhoods and Secret Societies, which were key concerns for the Collège, as we find that they are fairly rampant in both Black Metal and Neo-Folk. In Norway you had the Inner Circle based around the Helevete shop, as well as France’s Les Legion Noires, California’s Black Twilight Circle, Russia’s BlazeBirth Hall, Argentina’s Southern Elite Circle, as well as Slovakia’s UMBR group just to name a few. In Neo-Folk, you find these groups more within regards to Ásatrú Kindred. In both genres, there are also those groups that have their basis in magical orders stemming from the Golden Dawn and the O.T.O. The desire to form and be part of these selective and voluntary secret societies and brotherhoods fulfills the desire to transform Left Sacred into Right Sacred, but also in the face of a sterile, Modern society to reinvigorate the sacred. The intent or lure of which would be the performance of secret rituals or for­bidden acts/rites with the goal of social cohesion, either through these acts of transgression or through personal/group spiritual transformation. ¶

That the Collège was also interested in armies as a meaningful formation of the Sacred is also reflected in a wide selection of both Neo-folk and Black Metal bands interests. The powerful shattering of homogeneity through the violence of war and intense Left Sacred manifestations as such, have been cornerstones of many bands output. In particular, Marduk have seriously mined this realm which is perhaps best embodied in their seminal release Panzer Division Marduk, which contains copious amounts military images and features samples between songs with gunfire, soldiers screaming, boms, tank and airplane sounds. In this fashion, the whole subgenre known a War-Metal evokes this fascination with this particular embodiment of Left Sacred. Neo-Folk as well has also delved into militaristic themes and war imagery, though more often through the lens of latent Right Sacred elements that are also paradoxically present in war. Comradeship, the propaganda of solidarity, battle songs, wartime speeches and other elements utilized during wartime to sway public opinion towards war efforts and solidify resolve of the populace. In many ways these elements, especially those that focus on the soldier and his relationship to war evokes Audre Lorde’s “Erotic,” the connection that exists within the bonds that are shaped through comaraderie in war. Perhaps best typified through the work of Death in June who fully delve into the latent Homosexual themes thusly expressed in this context. One can also see similar Right Sacred themes in the music and ideas that motivate Jes Joyaux de la Princesse, Der Blutharsch and Toroidh, but certainly not limited to these groups alone. There are a variety of types of effervescence in all the various elements of war, from the horrors that soldiers face in the midst of intense battle, the loss of fellow soldiers, the morale boosting and propaganda that swells the pride of people to support the war effort or lead soldiers into battle. War has often been a cohesive element to bring together disparate people and communities as they rally together against a common “enemy.” ¶

I can think of no other group besides the Collège that not only wanted to devote serious intellectual study of the importance of Left Sacred within culture but also wanted to specifically engage with Left Sacred for its revolutionary potential. To arise out of the nihilism that comes when one strictly resides within Left Sacred alone, but also not fall into the trap when one focuses exclusively on Right Sacred. These are crucial considerations for the continuing study of this group. What is also important about the Collège is that it was not aligned with a specific path of illumination, being essentially Nietzschean it rejected the notion of being a slave to any particular ideology but the desire to search out of Self Mastery and personal transformation. ¶

Caillois’ delineation of the important distinction between a Luciferian ideology as opposed to a Satanist one is a fascinating precursor to Laveyan Satansim that would develop in the mid-sixties. Caillois’ Luciferian idea also predates similar interests that lead to the development of the Process Church and their own interesting conception of Satan, Lucifer, Jesus and Jehova and four separate entities working in harmony. These writings speak to both the Master/Slave relationship as outlined in Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit and also Nietzsche’s self mastery of the Übermensch. Where Baudelaire was content with a sort of rampant dilettante nihilism, Lucifer represents a directed reappraisal of Left Sacred that is not limited to strict nihilism but is directed, nobly, towards transformation and self mastery not content to wallow in bacchanalia, but to know the importance of Left Sacred and its role in transforming the self and society into something greater, Caillois’s embodiment of Right Sacred. For Caillois, I believe that Lucifer is a symbolic representation of a rebellious spirit that was not limited to a specific religious ideology. Where Bataille wanted to join the Mystical world through a sort of non-tradition specific shamanic immersion, Caillois was content to examine the roles that Left Sacred played within society and acknowledge them through a personal worldview. In this way, you can see the basic differences between the way the two approached their interests in what they were studying. Caillois took Kojève’s criticism of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to heart, where Bataille still felt the lure to delve into a spiritual tradition which balanced both types of Sacred. ¶

This distinction between Bataille and Caillois is also pronounced within the scenes being discussed, Black Metal and Neo-folk; people are still drawn to re-kindle the Sacred within Modern life and people still find themselves confronted by how one goes about this. For some, they are content to merely study the Occult from a distance, the “armchair’ enthusiast. Where others commit themselves to specific Western Occult groups, such as joining the Golden Dawn. Within Black Metal, there are specific people such as Michael Ford from Black Funeral, who are crafting their own occult rituals and in ways, taking nods from Kenneth Grant and his merging of several paths together in his series of books entitled the Typhonian Trilogies. These books owe heavily to Austin Osman Spare’s automatic style of Magick, which is essentially the birth of Chaos Magick. For Grant, Lovecraft “received” the Cthulhu mythology in a way similar to how Crowley did with the Book of Law. For Michael Ford and others furthering this line of Chaos Magick, it is matched to specific dark threads of the Occult, but also the symbolic and atavistic literary threads as a received communal knowledge bubbling up from the unconscious, which can be utilized for personal transformation. ¶

Shamaatae who is the main person behind Arckanum is a practicing Chaos-Gnostic which in a similar way de­velops the under currents of both Western Occult threads with Norse mythology, In particular he is interested in the Giants and how the study of them within Norse mythology provides him with inspiration. He is interesting in that he is fairly critical of German Paganism, Odinists and Heathenists that try and replicate a sort of homogenizing and Right Sacred washing (for lack of a better term) by the elimination of Left Sacred from Norse mythology. For him, the importance of understanding Norse mythology is not in a balancing of Right and Left Sacred in the sense of some sort of overarching tranquility but as dynamic force and interplay of the two and for him a resolute siding with the Left Sacred of the Giants. ¶

In some ways, I feel that this approach of selecting strands of thought from various sources and applying them to some overarching system is somewhat evocative of the path that Bataille wanted to pursue with Acéphale. Where as Bataille’s mission was a bit more anthropological and not following any specific theological path, Ford’s mission is more in line with a symbolic associative mixing of traditional Satanic threads with dark threads from various aspects of the occult and the Left Hand Path; while Shamaatae focuses on a Gnostic illumina­tion through his specific exploration of Norse Mythology and the Left Hand Path. ¶

Orthodox Satanism was developed by a selection of individuals who wanted to focus Black Metal back to a pursuit of purely Satanic themes feeling that Black Metal should be nothing other than a music in praise of HIM (Satan/Lucifer.) Some bands that could be considered Orthodox Black Metal are the following: Antaeus, Funeral Mist, Watain, Ondskapt, Heresi, Ofermod, Aosoth, Malign and Katharsis. In my opinion, the best repre­sentation of Orthodox Black Metal is Deathspell Omega. Through their lyrics, graphics and songwriting, it seems that they are unrivalled in the dedication to a High Art manifestation of Orthodox Black Metal and devotion to HIM. The core of their releases, since the band reformed with Mikko (singer of Clandestine Blaze and owner of Northern Heritage Records) on vocals, has been a Trilogy starting with Si Momumentum Requires, Circumspice (SMRC); Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum; and Paracletus. There have been a couple releases in between which have been outside of this Trilogy. Namely Kénôse, a split with S.V.E.S.T. and a song on the 3lp/cd compiltion Crushing the Holy Trinity. For our purposes here Diabolus Absconditus, the song from that compilation release, is particularly interesting due to the fact that the majority of the lyrics are taken directly from Georges Bataille’s short story Madame Edwarda. Madame Edwarda was written just after Acéphale and the Collège had collapsed and his lover, Laure’s death from Tuberculosis. Bataille, himself was suffering from it and quit the Na­tionale Biblioteque to convalesce in southern France. This was also the time that he had started writing Guilty and his Summa Atheologica. A fertile period still steeped within the ideas we have been discussing here. The song is a Hegelian rumination, delving into despair and an opening up to the vision of God through the manifestation of a public whore, thusly an exploration of transcendence in paradox. But more so, both Madame Edwarda, and the lyrics that were written by Deathspell Omega to go along with Bataille’s selections embody Bataille’s concept of the Practice of Joy Before Death. Deathspell Omega turn Bataille’s quest to look into the face of death and embody that horror as a foundational part of the experience of the Sacred. ¶

The unreservedly open spirit - open to death, to torment, to joy -, the open spirit, open and dying, suffer­ing and dying and happy, stands in a certain veiled light: that light is divine. And the cry that breaks from a twisted mouth may perhaps twist him who utters it, but what he speaks is an immense alleluia, flung into endless silence, and lost there.” (Bataille as quoted in Deathspell Omega interview with Tyler from Ajna Offensive from the Preface to Madame Edwarda) ¶

Deathspell Omega are claiming this “practice” as a Satanic endeavor and means of illumination. In an interview with Tyler from Ajna Offensive conducted at the time of the release of S.M.R.C. they claim Bataille as a large influence and quote him within the interview. The interview also contains references to Adorno and Critical Theory, which as mentioned above also have ties back to the Collége. For Deathspell Omega, the Orthodox path is one that moves beyond “Black Metal” as a genre or musical style, but to reach out through all of human endeavors to find inspiration of HIM. ¶

All of us went through a phase during which we were naïve enough to believe that Black Metal was already something sacred, something holy, and fanatical as we were I do not think there’s a single recording, not even the most obscure rehearsal tape released during the ‘90s, that escaped our never ending need to hear and read everything concerning this Art-form we had placed such hopes in. Eventually we realized that the potential someone like Euronymous had underlined by placing sovereignty as a preamble to liberty and the religious dimension as the key to the Logos had not been materialized. No excuses were valid anymore, we had to admit the experiment was a bitter failure, especially underlined by our parallel exploration of fields such as philosophy, theology, of course literature, cinema, let’s say Art and Culture to cut a long story short, all of which made Black Metal go pale in utter mediocrity. The main problem of Black Metal is precisely that it’s only influences, thus only perspectives, are Black Metal, or Metal in general. Perspectives close to zero, to put it like that. ¶

Our goals are, as already underlined, directed towards metaphysical spheres, and that obviously implies that close to the totality of the material that fuels our reflections is of different origin than such an underdeveloped and under-intellectualized thing as Black Metal. ¶

Let me say though that the main implication of the word “orthodox” in this context is a proud statement of the recognition of Satan being of divine essence, of the location of Devilworship on a religious and metaphysi­cal level. The easy escape of using the word ideology instead of confronting oneself with the real challenges only portrays the terribly low level on which the major current of ‘Satanism’ is crawling. ¶

By fusing Bataille’s Practice of Joy Before Death with a devotion to Satansim, Deathspell Omega are defining something that is fascinatingly close in proximity to Roger Caillois’s Luciferian idea. It is hard to speculate to what extent Caillois would identify with Deathspell Omega’s particular Satanic philosophy, as I feel that songs like Mass Grave Aesthetics might be a bit more focused on Left Sacred than Caillois, but the similarities in the rhetorical call to a Luciferian elitism is fascinatingly similar. ¶

The inheritance of the 20th century is such that to define an elitism that explores Left Sacred will be inevi­tably traced backed to National Socialism. The roots that fed into both the development of the Avant Garde and those groups critical of the West as it came to be in the beginning of the 20th century also fed into National Socialism and what became fascism. Thusly working backwards, to trace these Left Sacred elements from our position in late 20th to early 21st century one cannot escape the issue. With regards to Deathspell Omega, the strict focus on Satanism from a High Art gaze and religiosity seems to have helped them escape from following the path that befell another elitist rebel who came to reject the relatively low incarnation of “placing sovereignty as a preamble to liberty and the religious dimension as the key to the Logos” as proffered by a “potential someone like Euronymous.” Here the well known case of Varg Vikernes found himself bedazzled by the fascist call. The Collège, in exploring Left Sacred, found that no other Political group active during the early 20th century was utilizing or understood the importance of Left Sacred as much as National Socialist Germany, Austria and Italy. The prominence placed on Western Individualism by much of the Capitalist West lacked the collective effervescence of Left Sacred and the critique of this hyper-Individualism could easily be summarized by the comedic statement of everyone in unison monotonously chanting “we are all individuals.” Though there is a deep psychological need and importance in developing a sense of individualism, the critique by the Collège is that there is also a deep psychological need for us to shatter this individualism and reaffirm an effervescence through collective ritual and taboo activities. ¶

The lure of fascism within Black Metal is the lure of these deep psychological needs being unfulfilled by soci­ety, these same needs that were exploited in the early 20th century by fascist political groups. What I think is important for the resurgence in the study of the Collège is that it represents a critical reappraisal of Fascism and Left Sacred; the false lure of the prior versus the importance of understanding of the later in order to have a deeper understanding of why these themes reoccur in Modern society. The lure of fascism, given the Collège’s critique, for someone drawn to the study and exploration of Left Sacred is very similar to Deathspell Omega’s cri­tique of current Satanism. “The easy escape of using the word ideology instead of confronting oneself with the real challenges only portrays the terribly low level on which the major current of ‘Satanism’ is crawling.” Furthermore, the critique of any exploration of Left Sacred by labeling that exploration fascist, or that it is dangerous to study in that it might lead to fascist beliefs is also on such a low level of analysis as it might as well be crawling on the floor of theoretical appraisal. ¶

The lure of Black Metal and the conflict between early members of the Norwegian scene and their ideas of what Black Metal meant to them and where it should lead produced many threads. As mentioned, for some, there was a desire for Orthodoxy, but others felt the need to fully embrace Left Sacred and internalize it, nestling into absolute nihilism and bacchanalian gestalt. Nortt From Denmark is perhaps the best example of the development in this regard. His Black Funeral Doom Metal was highly influential. Nortt’s moniker was, “Unholy Light Through Death” and the aim “to invoke the spirit of the night and tell the alluring tale of solitude in eternal darkness.” With somber, ultra slow music played at a funeral pace, the rage of the earlier manifestations of Black Metal was internalized and focused inward to highlight the ultimate solitary path, the path towards one’s own death. Symbolically, Nortt stand at the crossroads of two separate developments in Black Metal, Suicidal-Depressive Black Metal and also a host of solo projects, also known as Bedroom Black Metal, typified best by Malefic’s band Xasthur from California. The popularity of these specifically Bedroom Black Metal bands and the rise of Black Metal from 2002-3 onward lead to an explosion of this style of Black Metal. The lure of Black Metal itself began to be­come enjoyed as a guilty pleasure for many people new to the genre, a taboo dark treat to enjoy, for some it was perhaps a brief “dark” period in their life, or merely as another way to define oneself as an “outsider” distanced from mainstream society. ¶

In response to this Nihilism and vacant tourism of trendy investigation, yet still lured by the cathartic call of the sounds and some of the original ideas stemming from first and second generation Black Metal, there developed a few bands that, though inspired by the genre, wanted to distance themselves from the politics and reactionary elements in Black Metal, specifically the National Socialism championed by Varg Vikernes, as well as the overt Satanic themes of Orthodox Black Metal. Taking some cues from the Punk community yet harnessing the sonic power of Black Metal and an exploration of a wider selection of influences outside of the genre (as mentioned above by Deathspell Omega) Ludicra is a forerunner in this regard. Ludicra was formed in 1998 in San Francisco, Califor­nia, by 2002, with their debut release Hollow Psalms, they had coined the term Grey Metal to describe their sound; the term “grey” to place their music in association yet distinctly apart from, and in some way, against traditional Black Metal. Ludicra were heavily influenced by Weakling which formed sometime in 1996-97 and released a couple rehearsal demo tapes in 1998 and their sole true release in 2000 Dead as Dreams. Though highly influential for many bands in this section, little was known about them at the time and they did not make any overt statements about their intents as a band. However, Agalloch from Portland, Oregon, (like Ludicra) is another band that in many ways has held an arms length from the main threads of Black Metal taking cue from the seminal Norwegian band Ulver in exploring acoustic instrumentation along with a focus on nature and mythological themes over Satanism. Though not specifically Black Metal, Agalloch have been a huge impact on those bands in the U.S. that are heavily influenced by it but seek to harness the effervescence and focus it into a Sacred Renewal. ¶

Corvus Corax a band that started out in Colorado and then moved to the Pacific Northwest was highly influ­ential in merging Heathen and Pagan themes with the sonic realms of both Neo Folk and Black Metal, their demo in 1998 fuses both Black Metal themes and Neo-Folk instrumentation. Their live performance with Blood Axis in 1998 opened with a torch lit procession and leather banners, their lyrics were specifically oriented to atavism and nature themes, thusly they might be considered the first “Cascadian” band. The later work of the lead musician of the band Johann with his ritual performance group The Red King was highly influential on many later luminaries in Pacific Northwest merging engaging Left Sacred themes and ritual music performance. ¶

Sympathetic to these bands, yet inspired by different motives, a few select groups were formed in Olympia, Washington in 2002-3. Rising out of the Dark Folk ensemble Alethes, Echtra and Sacrificial Totem were solo projects developed by the two main musicians behind Alethes, Exile and J. Joshua Phillips. Where Alethes was devoted to bio-mythical exploration of nature and man, both Sacrificial Totem and Echtra developed these themes further by starting to incorporate elements of Black Metal into their sound. Echtra, based on a focus of ritual per­formance and Black Metal brought two un-thought of concepts together; matching of the Left Sacred elements of Black Metal and an affirmation of the sacred and geographical placement within the local bioregion where Joshua Phillips resided. Cascadian Black Metal was born. Coined in particular for the first Echtra performane June 6th 2003 an event under the moniker Unburied, where Alethes, Sacrificial Totem and Echtra performed. J. Joshua Phillips coined the term Cascadian Black Metal when developing the flyer for this event, but it is noteworthy the influence Alethes and Exile had as a precursor in this development, as well as a community of friends and musicians who contributed sympathetic encouragement towards this end. ¶

A few months after the Unburied event, the band Threnos was created by Parker and Johnny Delacy who later recruited J. Joshua Phillips as second guitar. They released their demo By Blood and By Earth for their sole tour in 2004. After the collapse of Threnos in late 2004-5 Johnny and Joshua formed Fauna, billed as “ritual Black Metal art observing the collapse of civilization.” In many ways Fauna embody a high point in bridging the threads of nihilism and a shift towards a Sacred Renewal through sound, art and performance. of nihilism and a shift towards a Sacred Renewal through sound, art and performance. From a theoretical perspective, outside of Deathspell Omega’s return to Satanism as a High Art endeavor, the only other moment of Left Sacred being trans­formed into Right Sacred and perhaps the only real embodiment of the critique that the Collège made of fascism (and now here, a similar critique of Black Metal) can be seen in these specific individuals following their own path away from the exclusively nihilistic themes of traditional Black Metal toward their own paths. ¶

In the interviews within this current issue of Amarantos, and from the previous issue, you can read my own quest to distinguish the threads of these Left Sacred strands within the music, lyrics and performances and moreover what it means to both the community of musicians loosely defined as Black Metal but also as specifically “Cascadian.” Where internally and externally the consideration as to the meaning of such a term and mode of self-definition speaks not merely towards nestling into these Left Sacred manifestations, but active transformation from Left Sacred into Right Sacred; Further more, the quest to maintain a balance of these two types of Sacred within our personal and social lives. The presence of myth and the symbolic representation of the Sacred that is manifested through music, performance and ritual is best typified through Echtra and Fauna, where myth is not strictly left to the past, but engaged with in a very directed way. Mythology is not new to Black Metal but within Cascadian Black Metal, at its best, it feels as if the threads of the Collège are continued forward through it. ¶

Mythology is well associated with Black Metal, most notable is Black Metal’s association with Nordic Mythol­ogy. Delved into first by Bathory, and then later by Ulver, Burzum, Storm, Enslaved, Unleashed and then numerous other Viking and Folk Metal bands including Arckanum above. The lure of traditional culture as a salve to the Modern condition or as fodder for exploring the Occult and Left Sacred is longstanding. One of the more in­teresting developments in recent years has been the Non-Western cultural and mythological exploration delved into by the Pagan Black Metal band Darkestrah, who have released several records devoted to exploring the Pagan /pre-Christian and historical themes of their native Kyrgystan. Epos is a one track, 30 minute release devoted to the mythology of the lake Issyk-Kulthat in northern Kyrgystan, a layover on the Silk Road and where it is theorized that the Black Plague that struck Europe originated. Another release by them delves into the history of the Silk Road trading route through Central Asia. The logical step of focusing on local traditions in the area where Black Metal musicians live outside of regions directly influenced by Nordic mythology is a fascinating and welcome de­velopment in Black Metal. ¶

The Taiwanese Black Metal band ChthoniC approach their own cultural history in a more Cradle of Filth, grandiose style, but their commitment to exploring forgotten and repressed Taiwanese traditional culture is fascinating. Noting the similarity of traditional corpse paint in Taiwan to that of Black Metal in general is an interesting association of Left Sacred and its manifestations within a variety of cultures. The celebration of these traditional cultures and the search for pre-Christian belief systems where Left Sacred and Right Sacred elements were more balanced is systematic of our need to find answers to our modern condition. Of equal importance is the need for historical context, and the knowledge of peoples historical conflicts and the roots of their subsequent ideas. As we move forward in time through history from the birth of these conflicts and ideas to our current time and place, it is important to be aware of these historical precedents. It is importance because there is an inheri­tance that is passed down with these conflicts that fuels our interpersonal, inter-cultural and inter-societal spheres. Furthermore, these impact our personal interests and the dynamics of our various cultures and countries beyond an analysis of strict Left or Right Sacred manifestations. ¶

The importance of an anthropological and archaeological approach to understanding the historical and societal relationship of Left Sacred and Right Sacred was a driving force behind the Collège. For them, French Anthro­pology and specifically the French Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss, and the study of these cultural manifestations was key to understanding our Modern society. At that time, Cultural Studies and modern Sociology did not exist as it does today. There was no study of Modern society and culture like there was of so-called “primitive” cultures. The original “Industrial Music” of the late 70’s and early 80’s, was fascinated by a sort of anthropological tourism of Left Sacred, many artists explored the dark side of humanity, the Occult and traditional cultural forms that also to embodied these themes. ¶

The Industrial music of this time inspired a whole set of “Modern Primitives.” Groups like the Temple of Psychick Youth, which was founded by Genesis P. Orridge a progenitor of Industrial music with his work in Throbbing Gristle and Psychick TV encouraged further Left Sacred manifestations. P. Orridge purposefully did not lead or head the Temple of Psychick Youth (a very Acephalic concept yes?), instead he championed and encouraged a modern investigation into all occult practices without specific guidance by a central figure. He was to a great extent influenced by Kenneth Grant, and especially Austin Osman Spare, and the pioneering groups that developed Chaos Magick. Throbbing Gristle before that had also delved deep into this Left Sacred, also playing with elitist aesthetic forms, myth and power as radical an Anti-Art revolutionary force. Current 93, founded by David Tibet, took these ideas forward in different ways. Tibet along with several key people in England, and Europe in general, worked together on several projects tracing an amazing array of Left Sacred currents buried and overt in modern culture, recent past and throughout the world, At times bridging Hinduism and Buddhist Left Sacred themes with Occidental manifestations of Left Sacred. His quest to uncover and reveal these currents was highly influential. With song titles like “Hitler as Kalki” and others, they bridged Left Sacred and Right Sacred in fascinating ways. Allerseelen, Crash Worship, Blood Axis and others in the 90’s would push this envelope even further, exploring and free associating these veins even deeper as modern research had helped unveil more and more information towards these ends. ¶

The inheritance of the Nazi past and the shadows it cast over the 20th century has cloaked any real investi­gation into Left – Right sacred as a continuum from pre-Modern times through the rise into the tumultuous Modern, early 20th century and to today. The result is that when confronted with a Postmodern and politically Right wing dominated 80’s, that was then challenged by a 90’s Left wing political multicultural critique based in a Capitalistist driven Democracy most any threads of Left Sacred either speak of a Ultra Nihilism, or worse, a thinly veiled neo Fascism. Books like Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism, on one hand detailed the thematic roots that lead to Nazism, but hidden within were also Left Sacred social forces which lead these antecedents on a path which was later perverted into Nazism proper and more importantly human genocide. Genocide is not ex­clusive to National Socialism, and the people and groups that Goodrick-Clarke studied (and more importantly those that came before them who influenced these roots) did not all envision, nor necessarily desire the outcome that the 40’s brought, but it is important to state that these same people are also not wholly innocent. What is important to note, and which would be a critique that the Collège might make, is that the Left Sacred threads that bubbled up to the surface when repressed by Modern society do historically lead through into Nietzsche and Baudelaire and the beginnings of a Folk revival in Germany, which was later co-opted and utilized in the 30’s and 40’s by the Nazis. It is not that these Left Sacred threads always lead to Nazism, but in this specific case it did, which is not strictly due to the nature of Left Sacred, but because of the socio-political climate that fell into place. ¶

In the 80’s and 90’s there was a resurgence of interest in Left Sacred when the Hippy Aquarian idealism crashed onto the shores of selfish individualism and capitalistic decadence of the 70’s and 80’s. It is not unsur­prising that we see the manifestation of Left Sacred in the form of the rise of Occultism in the late 60-70’s the birth of Metal and Punk and later Harsh Noise as a cathartic reaction to the sterile Right Sacred that was supposed to venerate and liberate us. But within an environment of the post war “victory” of Capitalist Democracy and Liberal Western domination and globalization where any other positionality politically was essentially defined as Totalitarian or Archaic this “Anthropological Tourism” of Left Sacred is far too simplistically denigrated as thinly veiled fascism, or supportive of “Third Position” equivocal politics. It is only in a stranglehold of idealism that is not willing to recognize a broader range of manifestations of the Sacred that one would be faced with a dichotomous decision of how to analyze a particular subject matter. It is within this context that now, more than ever, we need to make clearer distinctions and be more receptive to a wider understanding of the forces that drive our motivations both as individuals and as a cohesive society. In this respect, a study of the Collège is more important that ever, being progenitors into this investigation it is crucial that we re-examine their contributions to this end but also look further into where they were lead astray; to note the political and theoretical climate that they were coming from and the criticisms that they faced and also re-examine the merit of these criticisms for continuing validity. I for one feel that the enduring illumination in their writings and the depth of their insights into the human condition and our modern lives is fascinating and penetrating in its insight. ¶

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