Conspiracy Theories, the Occult and the Neoliberal Phoenix

Newspeak is a fictional language created to limit free expression and maintain the Party orthodoxy. Orwell explains that Newspeak follows most of the rules of English grammar, yet is a language characterized by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning. Doublethink is a process of indoctrination whereby the subject is expected to accept as true that which is clearly false, or to simultaneously accept two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in contravention to one’s own memories or sense of reality. Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. A symbol of the occult, the phoenix, is a mythical bird with fiery plumage that lives up to 100 years. Near the end of its life, it settles in to its nest of twigs which then burns ferociously, reducing bird and nest to ashes. And from those ashes, a fledgling phoenix rises – renewed and reborn. From the coronavirus crisis many believe a new system will arise.

Occult qualities are properties that have no known rational explanation. In the Middle Ages, for example, magnetism was considered an occult quality. Newton’s contemporaries severely criticized his theory that gravity (published in 1687) was effected through “action at a distance”, as occult.  The term occultism was introduced into the English language in 1875 by the esotericist, Helena Blavatsky. Lucifer was a journal published by Blavatsky. The first edition was issued in September 1887 in London. The journal published articles on philosophical, theosophical, scientific and religious topics. It also contained book reviews, for example of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Her Theosophical doctrines influenced the spread of Hindu and Buddhist ideas in the West as well as the development of the New Age Movement. Occultism is nothing more and nothing less than the manipulation of whatever forms and forces are at the practitioner’s disposal in order to achieve that which the practitioner desires.

Occult can mean: hidden from view. It has been said ‘occult’ or secret knowledge is the basis of all power in human society. Throughout history secure ruling elites arise through secret, or occult knowledge which they carefully guard and withhold from outsiders. Satanism has secrets and symbols associated with the occult. Anton Szandor LaVey wrote in 1975: Man is a selfish creature. Everything in life is a selfish act. Man is not concerned with helping others, yet he wants others to believe he is …[I]t is a truism that every act is a selfish act…Rational self-interest is a virtue, but should be seen for what it is: self-interest. That is the prominent theme of Satanism. “Rational self-interest” is also part of the core terminology of Objectivism, and the language here so clearly mimics Rand’s that it could be taken directly from Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. Both LaVey’s Satanism and Rand draw on ideas of social Darwinism.1

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal organizations and arose during late 16th – early 17th century Britain.  The “Masonic Edition” of the Bible says, “Masonry is descended from the ancient mysteries.” Masonry requires belief in a Supreme Being and treats all religions as though they believe in the same God, whom Masons call by such titles as “Great Architect of the Universe” and “Jah-Bul-On” (supposedly His “secret name”). When the Bible is quoted, references to Jesus are omitted; public prayers must not use Jesus’ name. In several rituals Jesus is made equal to Zoroaster, Buddha, or Muhammad. Salvation to the “Grand Lodge above” is achieved by living an upright life, without explicit faith in Christ. Loyalty binds Masons to one another, and Masons promise by oath of gory death never to reveal their secret rituals to outsiders (curses that are symbolic today). Masonic vows include protection to fellow Masons, even in cases of crime.

Masonry claims to transmit secret teachings from ancient times. Evangelical researchers John Ankerberg and John Weldon state that Masonry serves as an introduction to the occult because, among other reasons, “in symbolism and philosophy it is similar to many occult practices,” and because it is “a system of mysticism which accepts the development of altered states of consciousness.” The 1920s marked the height of popularity of secret societies like the Freemasons. Though most American Masons did not necessarily have any psychic or occult interests, the prevalence of Masonic ideas and rituals provided a fund of commonplaces from which other groups could draw. Moreover, any serious investigation of the Masonic tradition would soon lead the curious to the extensive and often-reprinted works of Albert Pike from the 1870s, with his esoteric and Gnostic interpretations of Freemasonry. Freemasonry opened an enticing door to the wider occult world.

The neo-liberal thought collective was structured very differently from the other ‘invisible colleges’ that sought to change people’s minds in the second half of the twentieth century. Unlike most intellectuals in the 1950s, the early protagonists of the Mont Pelerin Society did not look to the universities or the academic ‘professions’ or to specific interest group mobilisations as the appropriate primary vehicles to achieve their goals. Hence the Mont Pelerin Society was constituted as a private members-only debating society whose participants were hand-picked (originally primarily by Friedrich Hayek, but later through a closed nomination procedure) and which consciously sought to remain out of the public eye. The purpose was to create a special space where people of like-minded political ideals could gather to debate the outlines of a future movement, without having to suffer the indignities of ridicule for their often blue-sky proposals. This supports Orwell’s double think. Its purpose is to help the power elite because they can use both honesty and their own deception.

The neoliberals have been so good at covering their tracks, obscuring what they stand for, and denying the level of coherence which they have achieved in their long march to legitimacy. Back when they were just a gleam in Hayek’s eye, they did explicitly use the term “Neoliberalism” when discussing the project that, back then, did not yet exist – even Milton Friedman used it in print! But once their program looked like it would start to gel, and subsequently start reshaping both the state and the market more to their liking, they abruptly abjured any reference to that label, and sometime in the later 1950s, following the lead of Hayek, they began to call themselves “classical liberals.” Then, they define corporations as legal persons in order to facilitate the buying of elections. This allows them to repurpose the strong state to impose their vision of a society properly open to the dominance of the market as they conceive it. 

Laissez-faire promoted the notion of market and state operating according to different logics – the heart of the liberal version of freedom. On the other hand, the neoliberal thought collective abandons the vision of market and state as independent and ontologically distinct entities. A thought collective is defined by Fleck as a community of persons mutually exchanging ideas or maintaining intellectual interaction. Members of that collective not only adopt certain ways of perceiving and thinking, but they continually transform it – and this transformation does not occur so much “in their heads” as in their interpersonal space. Rose observes: neoliberalism is used as a constant master category that can be used both to understand and to explain all manner of political programs across a wide variety of settings. With respect to China, neoliberalism appears not to have led to contraction of the state vis-à-vis the market, rather just a different kind of state that promotes and works at the behest of markets.

George Orwell’s novel, 1984, written after the Second World War, introduced a concept of reality control that the population could be controlled and manipulated merely through the alteration of everyday language and thought. Orwell’s prophesy in his novel was the appearance of a state in which the truth does not exist; it is merely what ‘big brother’ says it is. Manipulation is a key trait of individuals with controlling personalities. Governments have absorbed neoliberal operational templates and the Orwellian language that naturally accompanies this. More and more people live with the poverty and job insecurity that flows directly from inequities exacerbated by neoliberal welfare and austerity policies. Neoliberalism creates insecurity through the use of indicators and measures to assess the performance of an individual. In turn, alternative media maintain the illusion that merely hides crime, hypocrisy, and moral bankruptcy, that is threatened by truth and honesty.

The world is awash in the occult and conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, they deflect attention from the two main ones: Neoliberal newspeak claims the free market should dominate virtually all aspects of society, that regulations should be dismantled, and that individual liberty should eclipse all other considerations of fairness, equity, or community welfare.  Secondly, fossil fuel executives received reports about of human-induced climate change in 1968, yet they spent subsequent 50 years deliberately concealing their knowledge and obfuscating public discussion on the topic to protect profit.2 Neoliberalism is the political movement that dares not speak its name, and has intellectual contradictions that it dares not air openly. The ideas of the neoliberal thought collective led to a neglect of social goods not captured by economic indicators, an erosion of democracy, an unhealthy promotion of unbridled individualism and social Darwinism, along with economic inefficiency. A crisis on this scale of the coronavirus disaster can reorder society in dramatic ways, for better or worse. Beware of doublespeak. It’s the language of conspiracy theories and those seeking nothing more than control or obfuscation of thought.

1 The Occult Technology of Power (10July 2011)                                   

2 Jeremy Lent  (2 Oct 2020) ) The five real conspiracies you need to know about                   The five real conspiracies you need to know about – Resilience

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