Reply to an e-mail on spiritualism

I received an anonymous email about a book review I wrote on Amazon. The author did not reply to my reply. Feeling a bit underwhelmed by our conversation, I here post my reply for public consumption.


Cool, thanks for the e-mail! The book [The Trickster and the Paranormal] did leave an impression on me after all, although Randi’s Prize made a much deeper impression simply for the author’s impeccable devotion to leaving all options on the table. Randi’s Prize really changed my entire worldview from left-skeptic to right-occultist, and it was the end of a long process that began with Nietzsche and went through Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola.

Accordingly, I don’t subscribe to the current left-wing academic thesis that holds that some group of people today are responsible for all the problems in the world, and the solutions must be provided by everyone else. Neither do I think that there is no such thing as a universal in human society! So I was not at all inclined against Hansen’s theory from the outset; just because Jung is usually wrong does not mean he can’t be right sometimes. But it is very difficult to prove a universal, so I when I go cross-cultural, as I am planning to do in my parahistory book, I tread carefully and take local, involved opinions (called “emic” accounts in anthropology) seriously. If we want to ask whether a trickster metaphor is relevant to any given society, we must look at the language that people are using and see if they are using language that we can identify as trickster. In the case of Japan, the answer is clear beyond a doubt. Trickster spirits are real in Japan, but they are low-level annoyances who you don’t want interfering with serious spiritual business. The Japanese word for Ouija board literally is literally written with the names of tricksters.

The relationship of charismatic power to traditional power is a tricky one. Charismatic power is, after all, populism. Beginning with Jesus the West has really been on a journey figuring out how to embrace populism without losing material power. This led first to the Catholic Church who very earnestly empowered anyone with spiritual talent and suffered materially for doing so, then to the invention of secular politics, which in its final, democratic form actually gives a voice to the grossest kind of charismatic power as long as it conforms to established rules. The marginalization of non-secular charisma as “religion” is a byproduct of this, but this should not imply to the informed reader that the West hates charisma itself. Loving Obama and hating the Pope is actually an embrace of charismatic power over traditional power.

In Japan the question of “church and state” is meaningless because there was never a church. Since c.1867 when the word for religion was invented in Japan, and increasingly since 1945 with the American occupation, there has been a discourse on religion and religious corporations, and the spiritual leaders I referred to in my review were all involved in this discourse. But I regard this as playing catch-up with the Western ability to harness the populace for materialist world-building activities. It will last as long as the project of modernity remains feasible.

Posted: June 5th, 2012 | Book Reviews