A Perfect Square – esoteric fiction

A Perfect Square is on some level an exploration of the different ways people approach esotericism. Who are these people? Where can we find them? Meet the eccentric artist Harriet Brassington-Smythe, her daughter, pianist Ginny Smith, and the mysterious hidden figure of Wilhelm Schmid, a scholar of the esoteric order of the Rosicrucians.

9781922200457-Cover

I cannot say that conspiracy theory is a major theme in A Perfect Square, but it does enter into one of the story lines, as mother and artist Judith, alone in an old farmhouse on the Devon moors, explores an internet forum, called ‘The Forum’.

My own thinking on esotericism and on conspiracy thinking goes much deeper. Why do the two go together and how? They are united through two words: elitism and secrecy. Simply put, conspiracy thinking always points to some sort of elite. Esoteric practice creates that elite. Esoteric practice generally occurs in secret. Power elites conduct their business in secret. Conspiracy theorists tend to also have an esoteric bent. Esoteric-minded types will always always look behind the scenes to see if they can see what’s going on. They sense the conspiring. But they get hung up on theories. Why bother? When really, conspiracy theories are themselves just mental traps.

Here’s a piece I wrote for the aptly named Paranoia magazine. Where I have tried to stretch my thinking a little further.

http://www.paranoiamagazine.com/2016/08/mastering-art-occultism/

And as for A Perfect Square, I like to think it packs a punch. Well, that was my intention. At the time of writing I was inspired very much by Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. Like Eco, I’m motivated by the fact that there is too much misinformation out there, misinformation that easily takes root in minds rendered receptive through a lack of access to alternative and perhaps accurate information. I also marvel at the way opposers, especially those on the Left, get so hot under the collar when it comes to conspiracy thinking, as though it were a personal affront. Or threat?

A Perfect Square is now available for pre-order, which is quite exciting and I’m very grateful to Odyssey Books for choosing to publish the work.

http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/a-perfect-square-available-29-august/

I’ve commenced work on another novel, one that explores the ideas of Theosophist Alice A Bailey. If you would like to journey with me as I venture further into this strange realm of the unknown, please contact me and I’ll add you to my mailing list.

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‘Conspiracy?’ – Hijack it back

There is no doubt in my mind that the word ‘conspiracy’ has been hijacked. We can’t even think of it without adding ‘theory’ and pointing derisively at what we believe to be whacky ideas and the whacky folk who ascribe to them. Say ‘conspiracy theory’ and you immediately make an argument illegitimate. The door is sealed. There’s no way we’re going there.

CEO

The word ‘conspire’ means “to collude; to act in unison or agreement and in secret towards a harmful, deceitful or illegal purpose.” WordNet. In essence, conspiring veers in the direction of criminality. It goes hand in glove with corruption. And it is a method or praxis that has been employed by the power elite since the words ‘power’ and ‘elite’ existed. Game of Thrones is premised on it. Monarchies thrive on it. And today, the new corporate elite have established for themselves a raft of institutions premised on it. Conspiring is simply ‘business, as usual.’

There’s nothing fresh in what I’ve just said. But I’ve just finished reading ‘Suiting Themselves: How Corportions Drive the Global Agenda’ by Professor Sharon Beder and I’m reminded yet again of how effectively the power elite are getting away with what they are doing, and how the maligning of ‘conspiracy theory’ has effectively closed off much of the debate that would enable most of us to see and oppose it. Instead, we watch on as the Anonymous crowd with their V masks protest against the ‘new world order’ and we sneer.

Written in 2006, and therefore before the GFC, Beder details meticulously the motives, the aims and the manner whereby a dense web of corporate networks have emerged over the last fifty years. How a small cluster of corporations (including pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, banks) have fashioned for themselves foundations, think tanks, research institutes (within universities), government advisory groups and policy groups, all with the aim of influencing or controlling the national government agenda. America, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, all transformed themselves in the 1980s and laid themselves bare to the wanton corporate possession of the nation state,  otherwise known as ‘free market economics’.

The same sorts of organisational bodies exist at the global level with the aim of setting the global agenda, from the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, along with the Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg Group, and so on.

The corporate and government realms are so intertwined that former politicians move quickly to positions of boards of directors, only to re-enter politics at a later date. Sophie Mirabella’s appointment to Gina Reinhardt’s Hancock Prospecting is just one of numerous examples.

Even this brief synopsis of the state of play reveals collusion, and acting in unison or agreement and in secret. We know that these organisations exist. On some level there is transparency. And we know the consequences of much of their agenda as it plays out in our lives. What is a little harder to prove is whether all these various corporate organisations are behaving in ways that are harmful, deceitful or illegal.

Yet time and again corporations act to suit themselves. They make decisions to increase their profits. In so doing, they place limits on the rights of the rest of us, and the planet. Anyone in any doubt can read Sharon Beder, Sheldon S Wolin, Antony Loewenstein, Arundhati Roy, or any number of writers who depict the actions of such corporations.

The way to hijack back the word ‘conspiracy’ is to use it differently. What I am alluding to does not come under the term ‘theory.’ It is not supposition. What I have described here simply is, and it’s a process. A process with key players and various individual motives. There might be plots and plans and all manner of hidden agendas – who knows? But that is not my point. The power elite conspire. So we need to be brave enough to hijack back the word and say they are ‘conspiring.’ Let the word be a verb and point to the activity. It is a powerful word that points to things going on behind our backs, things that are most definitely not in our best interests.

A Perfect Square cover reveal

9781922200457-Cover Due for release on 29 August 2016

Here it is, the cover of my third novel! It’s a literary thriller/mystery with pizzazz.

Advance review copies of A Perfect Square are now available. If you’re interested in grabbing a copy send me an email by clicking here.

When pianist Ginny Smith moves back to her mother’s house in Sassafras after the breakup with the degenerate Garth, synaesthetic and eccentric Harriet Brassington-Smythe is beside herself. She contrives an artistic collaboration to lift her daughter’s spirits: an exhibition of paintings and songs. Ginny reluctantly agrees.

While mother and daughter struggle with the elements of the collaborative effort, and as Ginny tries to prise the truth of her father’s disappearance from a tight-lipped Harriet, both are launched into their own inner worlds of dreams, speculations and remembering.

Meanwhile, another mother and artist, Judith, alone in a house on the moors, reflects on her own troubled past and that of her wayward daughter, Madeleine.

Set amid the fern glades and towering forests of the Dandenong ranges east of Melbourne, and on England’s Devon moors, A Perfect Square is a literary thriller of remarkable depth and insight. Click to read more 

I love a good conspiracy

I’ve been dipping into the introduction to a slim book entitled Propaganda by Edward Bernays. It’s the story of a long slow con, the main text written by one of its key proponents, who cites the enormous benefits of propaganda to the politician and the corporation.

The book has me wondering about the rise of shifting shape of propaganda over the last century. I’m no expert but here are a few thoughts.

Many would agree that Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was spot on in identifying paradigm shifts in science. His insight is so powerful it has been used as a metaphor with much explanatory power in history and the social sciences ever since.

I’m hardly alone in recognising a fairly recent paradigm shift that is affecting the entire world, one rooted in the economics of neoliberalism.

When I was immersed in Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery I kept thinking that the protagonist, Simone Simonini was a typical unscrupulous self-serving totally amoral toad who was happy to do the bidding of various secret services who, in order to accumulate power, were keen to besmirch the Jews and the Freemasons, both groups used as scapegoats.

The events in The Prague Cemetery took place in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Much has changed. Not least a scientific revolution, or paradigm shift in which the new science of Quantum Theory has challenged the old Newtonian physics and a new age of science and technology born. Everyone recognises that.

In contrast the neoliberal paradigm shift is subtle, covert and involves the manipulation of collective thought and emotion. Propaganda is no longer simply about convincing citizens to go to war, or to buy a particular model of washing machine, and it no longer solely serves to promote the various hegemonic ideologies of the day, for example beefing up nationalistic pride.

From Abbott’s “team Australia,” and “death cult” slogans, the overt use of propaganda is screamingly obvious to anyone who paid attention in Year 10 English. These are simply the techniques used by all politicians since 1915, when governments, “systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent,” (Propaganda p 11) in the build up to World War I. The author of the introduction to Propaganda, Mark Crispin Miller, states that propaganda was used before and with success, particularly by Napoleon, but not systematically and it was this systematic use of propaganda that enabled governments to so successfully manipulate their people.

The hidden use of propaganda functions differently. More covert still, it operates far behind the scenes and is obvious only to those who really look. This is the sort of propaganda deployed by the likes of Eco’s Simonini.

When people dismiss conspiracy theory holus bolus as quackery for the paranoid and teenage boys with runaway imaginations, they overlook, as many conspiracy theorists themselves also overlook, that conspiracy is a methodology not a theory. All conspiracy theories are a product of this methodology. Conspiracy, in other words, is a modus operandi, a conspiracy theory generator on the one hand, and much much more besides.

Existing within the thick complex fabric of the world, at work in this country and that, responding to matters arising while seeking to influence those matters, choosing how best to proceed to achieve short and long term goals, employing any shady Simonini to do their bidding, are what might be called the Conspirators. I suppose we can imagine their existence in the inner sanctums of ASIO and embedded in various think tanks and elite groups such as the  Leo Strausseans.

It could be argued, and with some force, that the vast social, cultural, political and economic web unfolds chaotically, unpredictably, guided by numerous agents who respond to conditions and make decisions, that this vast complex is impossible to control since there are unexpected consequences at every turn.

Yet this very chaotic complexity has opened up new opportunities for a certain kind of navigation, in part involving the manipulation of dissent. It’s as if Simonini’s ilk have stumbled on a smoke screen generator, one so persuasive and deceptive it can be used at will to both burn up the energies of dissenters and deflect the attention of the populace from unpalatable, if or when scrutinised, policies. Toxic policies that are neatly packaged in spin so as to appear entirely virtuous.

Diversion tactics are hardly new. Nothing these Simonini people do is new. What is new is that in Simonini’s day such types operated on behalf of one nation’s secret service or another, to serve various geopolitical ends and to enhance the power of one country over another, or one group, such as the Catholic Church.

Today, in a globalised world where it can be easily argued that 147 corporations run (or rule) the world, geopolitics itself is a smoke screen. All social unrest, including war and terrorism, and the consequences of war – refugees and asylum seekers, are smoke screens. Anything that occurs and is reported on in the media and seems terribly important at the time, is part of the haze.

This haze is cognitively toxic. For those who do not recognise the toxicity, the damage is invisible. For those who enter the haze with values and beliefs that are counter to it, who contest the injustices, the haze might be deadly.

Today, for humanity, there can be only one fundamental reality and everything is in service to it. Profit. The social or common good is long gone. We have passed the tipping point and entered a new age of the corporation and all that remains is the tying up of a few structural loose ends.

The new paradigm is one in which the Conspirators have taken centre stage in a dark theatre thick with haze, haze so dense spotlights create mirrors. We have entered an age in which, as many of us are saying, 1984 and The Castle are being used as instruction guides, and heinous acts are choreographed,  everyone is watched and our leader’s read from double speak scripts.

An age in which in Australia a joker card (Abbott) is played with a straight face that makes the progressives among us rise up alarmed that we are sliding backwards into gross societal unfairness.

Welcome to the age of the Conspirator, the conman and the adept. A new age of narcissism and happy pills. An age of spells and labyrinths and trickery.

An age where mental health equals fantasy. An age ruled by giants who look down, foot poised, on a colony of sugar ants. An age in which defecation is used as syrup to further corrupt our souls.

 

 

The Prague Cemetery – a belated review

The number of authors fascinated by metaphysics and the supernatural never ceases to make me wonder about the relationship between the creative psyche and that vast realm of the imagination.

There are those who immerse themselves in mythical and symbolic riches and create complex fantasy landscapes. I’m not a huge reader of fantasy and can only mention Ursula le Guin’s The Earthsea Trilogy, which I have read and thought amazing.

Others tackle the metaphysical side of reality in more direct ways, taking journeys into the supernatural and occult. Bram Stoker’s Dracula seems a good early example.

There are the magical realists from Jorge Luis Borges on, who include the paranormal in their stories as if it were a given. Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is just one example.

Then there are those who embed their insights to give shape to themes. I think of how Doris Lessing’s interest in Sufism inspired her Canopus in Argos Archives.

And it seems that down the ages many writers, along with artists, composers and scientists have had more than a passing interest in the occult. I found a list on a website of Rosicrucians and was astonished to find Bram Stoker, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Yeats, Satie, Edith Piaf and Walt Disney on the list, along with more obvious suspects, such as Jacob Boehme and Francis Bacon. I have no idea how accurate the list is or how immersed in Rosicrucianism each person listed may have been.

ECO

I do know a fair bit about the occult though, or western esotericism as it is more properly called. Which is why I found Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery such a compelling read.

The Prague Cemetery might seem at first like a cook’s tour of the upheavals and power struggles of Europe at the time, written from the perspective of a fierce anti-semite. The basic plot is very simple, the reader uncertain as to whether the protagonist, the repugnant Simonini, has a split personality.

Following Freud’s thinking on the matter, Simonini, who seems to have no idea himself, decides to write a diary to find out. What ensues is a journey through the latter part of he nineteenth century, as Simonini, a master forger of documents, becomes immersed in a web of lies, misinformation, and elaborate inventions of truth designed to discredit the Freemasons and the Jews. Simonini is an unscrupulous psychopath, who works for the secret service of first Italy, then France. What is remarkable is that every other character in The Prague Cemetery existed in reality and all the historical events and those involved are verifiable.

While much has been made of Eco’s fictional depiction of the notorious The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a complete invention that inspired Hitler decades later, in my view a subtler and more general point is being made.

That behind the scenes of history there are those hard at work creating one conspiracy theory after another, whether in fiction or as apparent fact, in other words conspiring to accuse others of a conspiracy in order to fulfil their own agenda, an agenda as simple as personal greed.

I salute the author for hammering this point. For it is my contention that the ultimate coup of the propagandists today is the discrediting of the very conspiracy theories they themselves have created in order to cement in the zeitgeist the view that all conspiracy thinking is rubbish, thus allowing them a huge freedom to continue to conspire.

Umberto Eco’s interest in western esotericism is well known. Through his fiction he explores this world within the world while keeping himself distant from it. An observer, not a practitioner. A thinker who questions and probes, not an adherent who adopts without question. It is this distance that allows him to write works like The Prague Cemetery.