Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Self-Promotional Prophet: Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012

“If a person is open to a new world view, it can often mean that he is not firmly rooted in the reality of the old world view; as a lunatic or alienated artist, his own neurotic traits can become magnified as they tremble with the new energy pouring in from the universal source.” (William Irwin Thompson, quoted by Pinchbeck, in 2012)

While reading Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012: The Year of the Mayan Prophecy (formerly The Return of Quetzalcoatl, change presumably instigated by the publishers), I became so enthusiastic that I began to write a review halfway through it. Then something odd happened. Around page 300 (with part six), the book began to go horribly wrong, and by the time I was finished, I had an entirely different take on it. For the first 200 pages or so, I didn’t want the book to end. For the last hundred pages, I couldn’t wait to be done with it. To say that Pinchbeck overstays his welcome would be a grotesque understatement. By the end of the book, he has more or less destroyed whatever good will we had for him, and I wound up holding my head in my hands, muttering to myself: “Another good mind bites the dust.”

Since my first notes are an accurate description of my response to the book up to that point, however, I’ll include them here before moving onto my final judgment. These initial impressions amount to a review of the first 250 pages of 2012.

Pinchbeck’s book is a tour-de-force; an astonishing achievement that manages to blend worldly (and world-weary) skepticism with a wide-eyed sense of wonder. What the author attempts—and by and large achieves—is to build a bridge between the rational/sensationalist viewpoint of mainstream media (Pinchbeck’s background is as a New York journalist and editor), and the cutting edge of shamanic vision, an area which the mainstream generally relegates to the “lunatic fringe.” Yet at no point does Pinchbeck resort to dumbing down or simplification. 2012 is certainly not a book for everyone, but it has a very wide reach, and potentially it could connect to even the most skeptical of readers—if not to persuade, then at least to challenge. Pinchbeck is a futurologist, attempting to describe concepts that have yet to take hold of the consensus, being basically incompatible with it, by using terms apprehensible to our current worldview. This is no easy task, yet Pinchbeck manages it without coming off as either a raving lunatic or prophet of doom.[1]

For a work as chock-a-block with ideas as this (perhaps only 20% of which are original to Pinchbeck), the author stays remarkably on track, and there’s very little here that struck me as being off-the-mark.[2] Yet apparently the book was not well-received (Rolling Stone described it as being “widely panned”). Taking a hostile, even derisive stance to Pinchbeck’s brand of apocalypticism, the mainstream media latched particularly onto his avocation of the psychedelic experience, and his claim to being the chosen prophet of Quetzalcoatl. (It has to be said that Pinchbeck walked right into that one.[3]) Yet 2012 is in no way spurious or outlandish, nor is it poorly argued, researched, or written. It’s an exemplary work of apocalyptic scholasticism, and the only way to dismiss it is to argue that Pinchbeck is just another drug-damaged lunatic with delusions of grandeur. To this extent, in keeping with tradition, the more virulently the world rejects the message, the more it—inadvertently—confirms the truth of it. Pinchbeck has volunteered for the most thankless role there is, and he ought not to trouble himself too much about such a chilly reception. His reward is not of this world anyway.

That said, there are times when Pinchbeck doesn’t seem quite equal to his task. Brilliant as 2012 is, it lacks a unifying poetic vision. It is more of a compendium, an overview of ideas, than a unique creative work, and although Pinchbeck writes extremely well, he doesn’t appear to have an especially strong sensibility. Most of his insights come from the head and not the heart. In an odd way, he seems a little too worldly, and perhaps this is what has led to his coming up against the world in such a fashion. Apparently, despite all his fevered convictions, part of Pinchbeck still wants to curry the world’s favor. Eager to receive credit for being the messenger, he’s busy building bridges to a world he knows, in his heart of hearts, won’t be around much longer. He might be better off burning them instead.

These were my first impressions. The last quarter of 2012, however, is such a fatal error of judgment on the part of the author that the book winds up as a cautionary tale: a warning about what happens when the messenger gets consumed by self-importance and decides to “improve on” the message, thereby destroying it in the process. Pinchbeck’s ideas on masculine-feminine energies, the Kali Yuga, and the unnatural restrictions of monogamy are not actually bad, nor are they poorly expressed. But they belong in another work, as does (considerably more so) his distinctly uncomfortable private accounts of marital break-up and unrequited sexual desire. For the previous 300 pages (or at least 250, up to the end of part 4; part 5 is a somewhat superfluous but not uninteresting retread of crop circles in Glastonbury), Pinchbeck presented an almost unassailable argument for the end of consensus reality. After such a relentless but inspired barrage of information, it’s extremely difficult to sustain interest in such relatively trivial questions: our attention is all used up. As a result, all the air begins to leak out of 2012, as it slowly sinks into the quagmire of Pinchbeck’s personal obsessions and neuroses.

Pinchbeck not only dissipates our good will towards him, he rapidly erodes his credibility. If he had kept the work to the first four or five parts and left out the final hundred ages, I have no doubt his book would have received a vastly more positive response. As it is, those people desperate to dismiss the book as the work of a self-obsessed crank found, in this last section, all the proof they needed. Pinchbeck’s description of the process by which he comes to realize he is the chosen avatar of Quetzalcoatl and the Great Beast 666 is embarrassing. (No wonder Pinchbeck took a couple of pages out to revile Crowley earlier in the book: he was setting the stage for his own assumption of power and had to be sure to banish all pretenders first.) Then, when Pinchbeck reveals the Quetzalcoatl “transmission,” it is a lackluster piece of prose, offering nothing he hasn’t said already, and better, in the previous pages. Pinchbeck writes:

“The writer of this work is the vehicle for my arrival—my return—to this realm. He certainly did not expect this to be the case. What began as a quest to understand prophecy has become the fulfillment of prophecy. The vehicle of my arrival has been brought to an awareness of his situation in sometimes painful increments and stages of resistance—and this book follows the evolution of his learning process, as an aid to the reader’s understanding. . . . almost apologetically, the vehicle notes that his birthday fell in June 1966—6/66—‘count the number of the Beast. . . .’ The Beast prophesied is the ‘feathered serpent,’ Quetzalcoatl.”

Is Pinchbeck so deluded he fails to see that the proof of his prophet-status is only ever in the pudding? If he had let the work speak for itself, he might have had a shot at becoming a leading spokesperson for the Eschaton; instead he couldn’t wait to be coronated, and manufactured his own tawdry crown, turning his book into a declaration of its own importance, and of its author’s quasi-divine status. As a result, he merely demonstrates the pathological delusions which invariably befall the magician on his path to freedom. What makes this even more depressing is that Pinchbeck is fully aware of the possibility, and yet maintains the delusion anyway.

“[P]erhaps I had succumbed to a trap set by malicious entities from the astral plane, puffing me up with delusions of grandeur, ready to tear me down in future, as they had done to poor Aleister Crowley…?” He even cites his hero Terence McKenna: “The notion of some kind of fantastically complicated visionary revelation that happens to put one at the center of the action is a symptom of mental illness.” Apparently Pinchbeck believes that simply acknowledging these possibilities is enough to banish them. (He makes it clear he is nobody’s fool.) But I’d wager the reverse is the case: by showing himself willing to entertain the idea that he has been duped, he convinces himself that such a thing could never happen to him. But it did.

I have little doubt Pinchbeck’s editors begged him to leave out the last segment of the book, but you can bet Pinchbeck was having none of it. This was the essence of the work, the essence of his message, that the quest for prophecy, etc, etc. But by making the whole work—the whole “return of Quetzalcoatl”—about himself, he reduces 2012 to a personal rant and almost obliges the reader to reject it, baby with bathwater, as a deeply embarrassing demonstration on the pitfalls of psychedelic self-importance. In the words of William Irwin Thompson (Coming Into Being), “One ends up with the mushroom-chewing hippie trying to pretend he is a yogi, but what he really is a [sic] psychically inflated personality whose ego has gone through a process of magnification and explosion rather than purification. . . [a] psychedelic fundamentalist, the Mushroom Mullah on the lecture circuit, with all the dissonance of a charismatic but nevertheless disturbed and unstable personality.”

A Rolling Stone article notes how Pinchbeck’s original publisher dropped the book: “Gerald Howard, a venerable editor of authors like Don DeLillo, offering the comment, ‘Daniel, you’re not Nietzsche.’ Says Pinchbeck, ‘It was hard for him to conceive that someone of my generation was doing something of primordial significance.’”

It’s clear where Pinchbeck stands in regard to his own talent. Does he really believe, in the light of all his visions, that a cosmic shift in consciousness hinges around a book he wrote about it?! Apparently, that’s exactly what he believes. Pinchbeck has mistaken his finger for the Moon, and is busy fobbing off menus for meals. He has succumbed to the common delusion that the messenger is more important than the message, that the intellectual apprehension of an idea is essential to its existence. This ties in with Pinchbeck’s fanciful, New Age notion that we (and especially he, as a “visionary”) are creating the future through our thoughts. There is a huge difference between admitting that our thoughts influence reality and claiming that they create it, but it’s a difference Pinchbeck seems to have willfully ignored. It’s basically the same abyss that lies between the idea of tuning into the archetypal energy of “Quetzalcoatl,” and of being the (sole) chosen vessel of a god: the difference between enlightened responsibility and demented self-importance (i.e., hubris).

The sad fact is that this kind of thinking usually winds up having the very opposite effect to the one intended. Pinchbeck’s insistence on believing he is The One—the world’s savior—doesn’t make it so; it only cripples his ability to be an efficient messenger. By the end of the book, Pinchbeck has accomplished something I would have thought impossible: he made me feel jaded and cynical about the Apocalypse. In the end, 2012 presents probably the best argument there is for steering clear of psychedelics and of consciousness expansion in general. If taking the red pill is going to turn us into Daniel Pinchbeck, for God’s sake take the blue pill! Pinchbeck has gone over to the dark side without even knowing it. Great beast indeed.

Aeolus Kephas © 2008

[1] By choosing to call the book 2012, however, Pinchbeck has gone out on a limb. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the kind of global shift of consciousness he predicts will occur in the next four years, and if it did, that it would mean anything besides madness and catastrophe for the vast majority. Since Pinchbeck is describing a movement of paradigms so total as to entail “the end of reality,” he might have been wise to have allowed a few decades for such a shift to occur.

[2] Two things come to mind. His dismissal of Crowley’s (channeled) Book of the Law as “much like the rhyming reams of mediocrity verse produced by Crowley himself” seems deliberately obtuse: The Book of the Law stands so far above Crowley’s other poetry that this discrepancy is perhaps the best evidence for the book’s otherworldly origins. And Pinchbeck’s insistence on viewing “the grays” as a wholly negative phenomenon seems slightly paranoid, to say the least (though his description of Dolores Cannon as a Cronenberg-style villainess is amusing).

[3] The moment critics realize Pinchbeck has a personal stake in his message, they are bound to move in for the kill. 2012 is advocating a total transformation of values, beliefs, modes of thinking and lifestyle. Its message, between the lines at least, is identical to that of prophets of old: Repent, for the end is at hand. The fact that Pinchbeck may be right does not make the message any easier to swallow (on the contrary), and the easiest way for his audience to escape the responsibility which such a message carries is simply to kill the messenger.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Microbes Safe in God's Hands

As microbes inside the Galactic Organism, we are puppets, yes; but with the option of following the strings and becoming at one with the Master. At which point, we are free.

There will be a new dawn for Man, but it will also be the end of the species (never mind the market!). This will occur in the lifetime of our generation, though few will live to see it. The stars have vouchsafed this knowledge to me. It is a burden but also a blessing. For every moment of life—even this Hell-world around us—becomes sweet, knowing it will soon be gone.

And don’t forget the ALIENS!!!

Soon They will reveal themselves to us, and then you know all HELL breaks loose. Yeeah. This also has been made known to me.
(I can hardly wait.)

But fear not, fear is a hell-thy response to all this!
Terror is better. Love conquers all.

It’s only the little self that fears the light outside the chrysalis. The butterfly self has no interests to protect, hence nothing to fear from “jeopardy” or catastrophe or collapse.

The shell must collapse for the butterfly to be born. The most we can do, the least we can do, is to help it along by not clinging to old ways, old patterns, old fears.

Easy to say, perhaps, but not so easy to practice? Not easy, perhaps, but simplicity itself. Simply live as if tomorrow the world ends. For one of these tomorrows, it shall.

We have to cancel all our holdings before we can see the benefits of Apocalypse. But they are many! Oh yes. This is the greatest secret of all which has been revealed to me.
The benefits go beyond our wildest dreams.

When the world ends, breathe a sigh of relief. There will be so much to look forward to.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Role of Eso-Terrorist Vs. Role of Philanthropist

I just listened to Daniel Pinchbeck arguing with Whitley Strieber, which I may discuss in depth later (since I am currently working on an article about Strieber). Pinchbeck mentioned David Lynch and his transcendental meditation techique for reducing crime in high crime areas by sending out positive waves; by a curious synchronicity, minutes later i recieved an email about the same subject, from a reader who wanted to know what I thought of the idea of "philanthropic sorcery." I am trusting he won't object to my mentioning this, and citing my response here, as it seems also to pertain directly to the argument between Strieber and Pinchbeck, in which Pinchbeck took the side of the "positive" (arguing that humanity could adapt and survive in the coming years and create a new, more enlightened society), while Strieber took the "negative" position, insisting that a "dieback" was inevitable and that we just needed to get ready for it. To my surprise, altho i agreed with Strieber about the facts of the situation, my sympathy was almost entirely with Pinchbeck, who kept his head throughout (and even had the dignity to apologize) while poor Whitley wound up sounding like a petulant teenager (even telling Pinchbeck he wouldn't be his friend anymore!).

My question is, however, why is a dieback necessarily such a “negative” thing anyway? This is basically a humancentric POV, and unworthy of a supposed cosmic culture prophet such as PB. We are all going to die anyway, so why not en masse, especially if it is necessary for the Earth and other species to survive? And surely it is better, wiser, to predict a dieback and get people psyched for it, and then to be wrong, than the reverse, to be optimistic and give people a false sense of hope? Pinchbeck argues for a visionary's job to imagine the best-case scenario. I guess I am more old-fashioned, and stand by the Koran on this one: "a prophet's job is to give warning."

But Whitley certainly lost a whole lot of my respect. You would think he had never heard of the Blakean principle that "friendship is opposition." The best way we can "help" our fellow men is to oppose them, and Pinchbeck certainly acted in that spirit. But his insistence on saving humanity, and even civilization, struck me as narrow-minded, cosmically speaking.

I am not a philanthropist and i doubt i ever will be. My interest is simply in those to whom I am personally connected; beyond that, i do not consider it any more worthwhile, and probably considerably less so, to connect to the "masses" than to insects or other life forms. Frankly, they deserve our attention far more than most people do, and they are better company too. I also think we can benefit far more by "serving" Nature than by aspiring to any kind of social function. I feel absolutely no loyalty to my species. The idea of philanthropy is probably the most fundamental, and also the most dangerous, trap a sorcerer can fall into.

In my estimation of the situation, the best we can do for most people is to help them prepare for their deaths. And since they won't be open to any direct counsel there, really all that means is being considerate and kind to everyone we meet, and trying to see them as they are, as individuals. The mass does not exist at a higher level. It is by definition soulless, a mechanism, an automaton.

Nor am I particularly inclined to want to enhance the atmosphere in any way that will make it more "comfortable." On the contrary. People need to confront their shadows, to be hurled into conditions of terror and duress under which they can overcome their complacency and self-importance, and open to other modes of perception. This is why I chose to call myself an eso-terrorist.

In the words of Jung: “The modern world is desacralized, that is why it is in a crisis. Modern man must rediscover a deeper source of his own spiritual life. To do this, he is obliged to struggle with evil, to confront his shadow, to integrate the devil. There is no other choice.”

This is why I feel as sure as Whitley that dark, dark times are coming, and yet why I feel deeply optimistic: not despite this, but because of it. We have summoned the shadow, and now we must confront the shadow. Only so - under conditions of direst necessity - can we discover the true source of light within us.

What is good for the individual - the Soul of Man - in the long term, is evil for humanity as a collective, in the short. We must make our choice as to which we consider more worthy of our attention. Are you going to try and save the human race, or rescue your own soul?