Reality, Psychopaths, Gnosticism, And A Poem By G.C. Waldrep
As this epic electoral battle being waged by wealth against itself for the most solid return on its investment drags on and on, I’d like to take a quick trip down memory lane to what a Bush aide said about reality, many moons ago, as reported by Ron Suskind in the NYT.
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
That quote was later attributed to Karl Rove, an entity more successful than herpes when it comes to sticking around the body politic.
What Karl is saying is just a reiteration of what Aleister Crowley said: do what thou wilt is the whole of the law…
Thinking about Rove led me to recall how there is evidence psychopaths have a disproportionate degree of influence in our society. In a Guardian piece by George Monbiot, titled The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen, he looks at a study that compares chief executives to convicts of serious crimes:
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
It would be too simplistic to just say we are ruled by psychopaths and that’s why things are so screwed up, but in this earthly realm of competing realities, the realities created by non-psychopaths don’t seem to be doing very well at all.
When I started writing my long poem “Z” in October of 2010, it quickly became a sort of alternate reality poetry project, combining my responses in verse to conventional reality (reported as “current events”) with a meta-narrative that involves the Gnostic villians of existence, the Archons.
For those who don’t know much about Gnosticism, the link above is a translation of something called the Hypostasis of the Archons, a fascinating account of “The Reality of the Rulers”.
Gnostics had a very different interpretation of the old testament God. For a nutshell summary of Gnostic thought, this site has a decent summary and links to additional resources. Here is the one-sentence description of Gnosticism:
a religion that differentiates the evil god of this world (who is identified with the god of the Old Testament) from a higher more abstract God revealed by Jesus Christ, a religion that regards this world as the creation of a series of evil archons/powers who wish to keep the human soul trapped in an evil physical body, a religion that preaches a hidden wisdom or knowledge only to a select group as necessary for salvation or escape from this world.
These early Gnostic Christians made the blasphemous assertion that the old testament god lied when he said he was The Big Cheese of the universe:
Their chief is blind; because of his power and his ignorance and his arrogance he said, with his power, “It is I who am God; there is none apart from me.” When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And this speech got up to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came forth from incorruptibility, saying, “You are mistaken, Samael” – which is, “god of the blind.”
My exposure to Gnosticism came through the science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick, who incorporated Gnostic thought along with other philosophic questions and conundrums.
I had immediate sympathy for the Gnostic heretics The Church tried to literally erase from history. And no wonder; these Gnostics were like spiritual libertarians, striking at the very heart of this upstart religion called Christianity by calling Yahweh’s claim of divine exclusivity and dominion an outright lie.
How different would the world be now if their form of Christianity had flourished?
The poem, titled “After Midas“, is dedicated to Ilya Kaminsky, a phenomenal young poet born in the Soviet Union in 1977, and granted asylum with his family in 1993.
The animals are important, this much
Outside the silica gate
a barber kneels in the glassine dust
first his shoes, then his spectacles.
All poetry sounds the same
when spoken through the mouth,
where the broken man hides his clothes.
The best stories end. God is
a thin peel
on a golden apple, no a stolen apple
inside of which something
ticks, like a dead bell or a bomb.
This is how we enter the city.
clank against one another,
Fold bell, fold birch, tear here—
dull as ivory chessmen
the retreating soldiers, ravaged at noon,
never bothered to recover
from winter’s luxe & depthless hole.