Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whatever Happened to Ultra-Culture, Anyway?

A few years ago, when Disinfo released Generation Hex, it was along with a message from the editor of said book (Jason Louv) that the kids of today were appearing in record numbers, and we were going to, like, take back the world.

Did that happen? Fuck no. We didn't take shit back from... Anyone.

But, uh, Louv did manage to get one volume of the Ultra-Culture journal out. (Is it just me, or were a good deal of the contributors over the age of 30?)

So, five years later, I'd like to know: what happened? Did it just never come together? Was there a total of three gatherings before individuals discovered they loathed one another? I recall hearing something about Louv distrusting people that worked with the Lwa, but I have no idea as to the specifics.

Was this just a bunch've smoke blown up the collective asses of the occult youth of yester-year? If so, have we learned anything from it? Am I allowed to declare that this project was worthless and probably one of those many ego-get-togethers where we all assure one another things are getting better and we'll take over in no time?

As per usual, I have nothing but doubts. I guess that makes me a “hater.”


Rufus Opus said...

I love watching young magicians grow up. In my day it was Carroll and Weiser and Hein and RAW who were convincing us that we were going to change the world. TAZ and shit.

Remember how many of you there were back then? Probably about what, ten out of every hundred poseurs who did the magic? If that? and how many burned themselves out on drugs and bad magic? I lost a lot of friends to that combo, sex magick and crack cocaine, with no training in one and no freakin' sense with the other.

But so what? Give up? Curl up and die? My generation fucking failed too, but so did your parents', and theirs before. Shit that was cutting edge in the motherfucking 1970s is just now getting to be standard. Shit that was normal to me and my peers, acceptable and right to our morals and standards, like same-sex marriage and legalized pot are just now getting accepted at large, and the lame ass shit eaters from Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio are still raging against it going fully mainstream. The Midwest is your true enemy, never forget it. Cornfed motherfucking beef, dude. Steers.

Ah, I rant. Sorry.

Point being, it takes years to make the changes you want to see. Don't quit. Don't give up. You have too few to make a huge change? Then you need more power among the few. Build that tower in the abyss, brother, ascend and take this world by the balls.

Jack Faust said...

@RO: Hey, man. It's cool. Most people try to treat your generation as a golden era in occultism. It's nice to know that not everyone feels that way.

That said, I'm not against social change. Or occult movements to effect them. But I think three points need to be kept in mind:
1. It has been done before.
2. It has failed before (and often for a reason).
3. You actually have to put effort into it.

I fall into the third category, because while I'm willing to toss my weight behind something magically, it's actually very rare that I'll be part of a group for it. So, in this case, I'm a bit of a jackass for criticizing shit I'd never bother with.

A lot of "social change" groups and group-work in the occult community is beyond sloppy, and so I refuse to take part in it. Sloppy magick comes with consequences, and it seems a lot of people think that piss-poor Theurgy in The Open will somehow fucking resolve that. Yeah, well, the Road to Hell and its pavement...

Beyond even that, there's the fact that goals are rarely clearly defined. Likewise, ducking turning into clique also seems like a problem.

The view I've always taken is that the best groups for "occult fueled social work" are small, guerilla-like cells without any hierarchy and for whom the goal of getting shit done is far more important than being Seen or Heard.

I had hoped that the Ultra-Culture would make a counter-view to my own; that with the corporate backing of Disinfo and the mass-press of a book, maybe they'd be able to cohere. So it's a good place for me to reflect on, because it feels like there is a lesson to be learned there. The problem is, I imagine you need a story to get the lesson. And Ultra-Culture died with such a whimper that even the Story seems lost.

Jack Faust said...

Dear Google: Why do you error message me about the length of my post... and then post it... twice?!

Inquiring minds want to know.

Gordon said...

Generation Hex. So unbelievably self-satisfied.

You can definitely declare it a failure. I'm too ladylike to declare it what I really want to declare it.

Seriously, that book was a large part of my decision to say "smell ya" to Chaos Magic as a movement before St Peter weirdly brought me back round in Rome last year.

Hit me up if you want to take this conversation offline. (Which is an odd way to describe emailing someone, isn't it?)

Rufus Opus said...

Golden Age? Feh. I think we're in it now, at least in the renaissance revival sect of grimoire magicians. It's a feast of brilliant successes and awesome results that blow the twaddle of my youth out of the water.

Lady Scylla said...

I joined up with a local in-the-flesh group in the hope of doing something in the community. We had plans, man! Be it running Pagan Pride in a little more "pagan" and a little less "renfaire with half the booths" way, or having discussions about things a little more weighty than what hand is the correct hand to hold your wand in BECAUSESILVERRAVENWOLFSAYSSO! - and it failed. Oh god did it fail. It failed like woah.

It's not an issue of the idea/s being flawed, it's the fact that people themselves are flawed. Ego brushing against ego, ideas mingling, shared spell-work being unintentionally sabotaged by an external influence dead set against the caster - etc.

All the more reason to pick up trash, write lectures, blog like you're angry at the keyboard, and change the world the only way you can - by changing yourself.

Danny said...

Related reading that pretty much speaks for itself:

I have a whole thing to say about what happened to the optimism, what happened with community at large, and whathaveyou, but I've decided to keep my yap shut for a few more years.

Pallas Renatus said...

I think this ties in rather well with Henry's You Are Not Elite post. Starting "revolutions" and "taking back the world" are great for making people feel special about themselves, as if they're a part of something important, but 90% of it is simply mental masturbation, because 90% of people aren't willing to work for the ideals they supposedly "believe in".

I agree with R.O.'s sentiments on the matter.

Alkemical said...

I don't know why it didn't happen (revolution).

I've tried to get people around me more motivated and involved, with some success.

I've mostly been solitary, but I like to be friends with as many "others" as I can.

I may not like them all, or get a long with them - but that's part of human nature.

I think at times, we are all stuck and don't always maybe treat it with a level of professionalism.

If we want to WORK together, then we have to be able to WORK together.

How many of us at our day jobs, have people we don't "like", but are able to at least work with.

I think in some ways, it's the same principle. We have to grow up as well and look to the larger picture.

It's hard when dealing with egos.

I'm not perfect either, and maybe that's why most of us do work alone.

I know that i've been able to make a successful friendship with someone very near and dear to me. Her and I work - but we both sort of have moments where we just hate each other for a hot minute and it passes.

I don't know if i have any answers, just pointing out some observations.

Jack Faust said...

@Danny: Oh, flux me! You're alive! Thanks for the link. Was that pretty much the "final" blow, or just a first in a long string? That would be the only question I have left, I suppose.

@Scylla: You'd have liked The Brotherhood. Or cursed us all. (Repeatedly.) I can't really decide which you're more likely to have done had we still been in contact a while back...

@Alkemical: The Revolution is one of those things that humanity has been waiting on for a long, long time. I mean, you've got 16th century Ranters and Diggers raving about it; one might interpret Hassan-II's oft quoted comment in such a light, and so forth.

I think that for a lot of people, the act of starting to "wake up" makes them desire to wake everyone else up. But it doesn't work. The most you can expect is a few ragged individuals.

The egos? Well, that sucks. But the "ego" factor can be ducked in a variety of ways. The first is just to resist establishing any type of social order what-so-ever, and making it clear that as long as someone isn't harming someone else, it's all fine. I don't see big groups ever being capable of that. The bigger you get, the more structure required to maintain coherence. And "coherence" is actually my biggest problem with large-scale group-work.

So, let's say we get together 2K magicians, right? We decide to get a little bit 70s and do a spiral dance, or something, with them. To build the mojo or what-have-you. (Jesus, this is a huge dance... Anyway.) Then... what? Either you have someone that's a focus, or you have everyone focus on their own. The first is dangerous for a variety of reasons, but we can leave them alone and insist that in our generic example people are all good and would never use a huge group's energies for their own ends. (Heh.) So this person manages the visualizations, maybe the VM or taps a deity. Whatever. And generally, that works.

... It also establishes a priest-hood, in the long run.

Or we have everyone visualize as they want. But that means there's no coherence, and without coherence, there is no desire and thus no path for the energy thus raised to go--except everywhere, which is imprecise.

On the other hand? A group of five doesn't have these problems. So the problem, really, with our "revolution" is scale and the issues of politics.

This doesn't mean I'm right, of course. These are just my observations, and I'm not so attached to them that I wouldn't hear divergent arguments.

All of that said: I think contact, that is to say - working with others - is something that a great many people can and do benefit from. Just having outside opinions enter the equation makes everything a lot more fun, though occasionally stressful.

I've worked with a lot of folks over the years, actually. Though rarely in "big" groups, and felt that the bonds I got from some of them were worthwhile. If your work with your friend is going well: don't stop! And that's awesome!

Lady Scylla said...

@ Faust - I only curse people who have earned it a few offenses back, and kept offending usually against me or mine. Or those that woo-woo-attack me/mine, in which case they get all the shit I bottle up in my day-to-day existence shoved up their ass with cactus hairs, upholstery tacks, tobasco sauce and a lit candle.

Jay said...

I just want to point out there are queers, witches and even magicians doing the "Great Work" in the Midwest. And that Iowa gay marriage before California did. Just say'n.

Jack Faust said...

@Scylla: Well, duh. I mean, to get to that point and make sure I'd properly burned all my bridges, I'd cast a love-spell on your Man, steal him, and then mock you and call you ugly. Maybe while doing a little evil dance. I'm sure you'd respond "positively" to such things!

@Jay: I see your words, bro. But I hear none of the context. What, exactly, are you saying? Beyond the obvious? Witches and magicians are everywhere. This is hardly news to me. California is behind the times on Gay Rights? Yeah, knew that, too. I live here. So, connect the dots for me. How do they come together, bro?

Jay said...

Oh, I was just responding the RO, who said "The Midwest is your true enemy, never forget it."

While I'm assuming he's just exaggerating his point for the sake of a good rant, I do live in the Midwest and I just wanted to throw out a reminder that the Midwest is neither monolithic nor anyone's enemy.

I didn't mean to imply California was behind the times as much as I wanted to point out that Iowa, a Midwestern state, has been fairly cutting edge in regards to marriage equality, a specific cause RO listed.

Our political and religious mix is different than other areas, but it is still a mix.

Rufus Opus said...

Sorry, Jay, I was mid-rant and generalizing like a mofo. I grew up in the midwest, moved to the southwest, and spent most of my formative years in Denver. Ten years ago I moved to the Baltimore/DC area.

The West Coast seems pretty bleeding-edge progressive. The East Coast metro areas aren't too far behind, though the attitudes are totally different. Denver is a weird blend of East and West, but is mostly progressive, except for the cowboys.

When I look at the political demographic of America, we're about 2/3 to 3/4 conservatives as a nation. Yet all the major metro areas on the East and West (plus Denver) are pretty progressive.

The places in between are the bastions of the conservatives, I think. Rural areas, farm and ranch communities, and even the oil and gulf communities are pretty conservative.

I call myself conservative, but I'm really middle-left in social politics these days. I haven't changed my politics since the 1990s, when I was considered further right, but the Republicans have pushed the right so far right that my politics have ended up going left without changing.

My point was just that the majority of America is still conservative, and they're found out in the boonies away from major metropolitan areas. Growing corn and soy beans, and feeding cattle.