5.28.19: The Upgrade

“I am too far into Gnosticism to back out.”
–Philip K. Dick, “Exegesis”

Welcome to Butterfly Language, a look at the world outside and inside my head!

Every once in a while, I undergo something that I’ve called an “upgrade.” I guess it happens automatically when my mind becomes kind of stale. I just get into this groove where suddenly my capacity and attention-span for reading books massively increases. And I develop a sudden interest in a whole bunch of related books and topics that I didn’t have before. Often, some of these books are ones I tried to read in the past but stopped because I just couldn’t understand the content or drum up enough interest to continue—but now, somehow I’m “ready.”

The last “upgrade” happened in Spring of 2016. I finally finished reading Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, finally finished Peter Levenda’s Sinister Forces trilogy, and cracked open a number of other books with related material. Wrote a TON of notes; and when it was all “over,” my perspective on things changed. The focus of my writing shifted. A key feature of all this was the sheer amount of synchronicity between all the books, articles, podcasts, and other material I devoured. It was like taking a concentrated college course directed by some invisible professor.

Before that, my big upgrade was at the end of 2012 thru the Spring of 2013. A lot of Robert Anton Wilson, Tim Leary, and the very start of my Philip K. Dick reading. Before that, I had a mini-upgrade in 2010, which was the very start of my RAW interests. Before that, it was the 2005-2006 span, when I was introduced to the concept of synchromysticism and took my first dive into online esoteric material in general.

And in the late 1990s, my focus was on “Gothic” fiction and pop-culture. In some of the few original notes I have left from that period, I mapped out a plan of study that would start in prehistoric times and continue step-by-step all the way to post-Columbine (read: “defanged”) horror-themed movies and TV shows.

But it seems that now I’ve come full circle to the late-1980s/early-1990s esoteric culture upon which I first cut my teeth.

When talking of re-cycles and the resonances between different eras, it seems appropriate. The mood of the late Eighties was already apocalyptically-obsessed, as it emerged from the heightened U.S./Russia tension of earlier in the decade (with its shadow of nuclear war), and faced the changing of the millennium in another decade. We of course felt a similar fatalism in the late Nineties; only to have Y2K go off without a hitch and then 2001 smack us in the face.

Perhaps the turning of every decade contains this certain eschatological frisson (as the change of centuries—for example from 1800s to 1900s—certainly did).

And so I’ve been tracking down a number of “classic” texts from the late 80’s/early 90’s span. Many of them I had previously known of or even borrowed/owned—only to truly not be “ready” for them. A few, now that I’m sitting down to seriously read them…are ROUGH. They’re books that I think would be considered way too controversial to make today. I’m talking about Amok Press’s Apocalypse Culture (1987) and The Manson Files (1988) for starters. These are two HIGHLY influential books on the “Conspiracy Culture” that was soon going to bloom and find their mainstream pop-cultural voice in the X-Files TV show. And yet—as “mainstream” as Conspiracy Culture would become, these initial tomes were as “extreme” as one could possibly conceive of.

Amok Press, founded by the late Adam Parfrey, ended up mutating into Parfrey’s more widely-distributed Feral House—producing more emblematic books of the period such as Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas And Hidden History (1993), Cult Rapture: Revelations Of The Apocalyptic Mind (1995), and the definitive Ed Wood bio Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992).

There was also the San Francisco-based RE/SEARCH Publications, with iconic volumes such as Incredibly Strange Films (1985), Pranks! (1987), Modern Primitives (1989), Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist (1993), as well as volumes on William S. Burroughs (1983), and J.G. Ballard (1984).

And two books that pretty much served as a “directory” of all the esoteric topics of the period were the comic book anthologies The Big Book Of Conspiracies (1995), and The Big Book of The Unexplained (1997), both from “Factoid Books” (a.k.a. DC Comics; when I worked there, these books were considered so controversial that some in management said they would never go back in print).

Other books from the general period worth mentioning (please keep in mind with ALL the books I’m discussing here: these aren’t recommendations, they’re a list of the era’s most influential titles) are William Bramley’s The Gods of Eden (1993, Avon) Jim Keith’s Mind Control, World Control: The Encyclopedia Of Mind Control (1997, Adventures Unlimited Press), Terence McKenna’s The Archaic Revival (1991, HarperCollins), Bob Frissell’s Nothing In This Book Is True, But It’s Exactly How Things Are (1994, Frog Ltd), and Whitley Strieber’s Communion: A True Story (1987, Avon). There’s plenty of others if I really sat down and cobbled out a “definitive” list.

And lastly, you have popular more or less “self-pub” books such as those by William Cooper (Behold a Pale Horse, 1991), and David Icke (The Biggest Secret, 1999).

As the decade and century and millennium came to a close you had the inevitable Apocalypse Culture II (2000, Feral House). A new era of fringe/esoteric books would begin, seriously colored by 9/11; the one which is like the “summary” of the last decade’s topics was 2003’s Book Of Lies: The Disinformation Guide To Magick And The Occult.

Now: out of all the books I’ve listed here, I would say that a solid 2/3s would be considered in the current era as “problematic” for any number of reasons. The paradox of the era I’ve focused on—especially in its earliest forms—was this occasional mix of topics that would be considered “alt-right” by today’s standards but also heavy on sexual variety & freedom (sometimes in the same volume); to an extent, this would “split off” as we entered the Aughts and beyond, with alternative sexual practices and identifications increasingly seen as “perverted” by the increasingly conservative conspiracy sub-culture. Free speech and anti-censorship were of course bigger topics. And many of these books, like Apocalypse Culture, absolutely predicted/explained the current ideological war in the U.S. and other countries.

That’s the thing, you know…a lot of this culture was considered “left-wing”…back in the Eighties and early Nineties. What caused this “splitting off” into more conservative territory? I think it was 9/11, plus later the “shock” of electing a president of color—though these were the “superficial” reasons. The bigger, perhaps unsaid & under-analyzed reason was “future shock” in general, creating a sense of mass insecurity and uncertainty in a number of different ways. And one of the biggest under-analyzed factors, in my opinion, is the coming economic crisis when AI/robotics taking human jobs reaches a crucial tipping point. We—the masses—have been a from this looming giant. And outside the left/right dichotomy are the richest moguls and corporations who don’t really care about either side but are instead profiting from our “new civil war.” (Such as, the Media)

So what am I trying to “find” by going back to this earlier era? I think part of it is that I feel a pressure within myself to address more on this blog the world that is swiftly arriving in the post-2020 span. And I believe that at some point, I’m gonna get “real” about any number of things in order to impress upon my readers what I really think is happening and will happen…and there are parts of it that might get “messy.”

For example, for me to address the issues of “incels,” their origins, what afflicts them, and what their projected trajectory is…there is no way I can give a proper evaluation of this and not run into problematic territory. Because I’m going to have to dive into topics like evolutionary biology, for starters. I’m going to have to dive into sexual dynamics between men and women in the 21st century. It’s going to get messy, folks. I’m going to say things on this and other topics that a number of people on the left/right dichotomy are not going to want to hear.

And honestly—I may “wise up” on the whole thing and never say anything…because what is “in it” for me? A lot of these “firebrands” and “truthtellers” from the period I’m talking about—and even the period after that—are dead. Dead of strokes, dead of alcoholism, dead of what I can only assume is sheer crushing disappointment in a society they understood WAY too well…and of reasons **unknown**.

It all boils down to whether you’re going to say what the masses want to hear.

And a problem with a number of thinkers/pundits/etc. of the current era is that they are very careful to pay lip-service to one “side” or the other…and smartly so, because the biggest infuriator is often not that of your opposite “side” but the “ambiguous” critical thinker.

And so I may do all this reading, all this note-taking…and just “drop” the entire thing. I don’t know. You must understand…I take a near-orgasmic pleasure from just the research and notes alone. I didn’t always realize this about myself. I’m a real fucking nerd that way, I think.

Have a good Tuesday.

5 thoughts on “5.28.19: The Upgrade

  1. Michael A.

    Yeah, I think “problematic” is as good a description as any of conspiracy culture these days. As much as I devoured RAW and PKD in the 80s-90s, finding someone who also liked those books in real life had about a 50-50 chance that they would be either a “super-cool person I’d like to hang out with” or “crazy person I want to avoid at all costs”. Now, it seems more like a 90% chance it’s a “crazy person”. Or maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age.

    That being said, I think the time is ripe for a real gonzo “Fear and Loathing” warts-and-all look at conspiracy culture. I can only imagine what Hunter S. Thompson would have to say about incels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. harveyparadox

    Nice choice, ending with Truman. I’ve been dreaming of a sequel which shows just how crushed he is by the outside world, which doesn’t even pretend to be the friendly, homespun, connected sort of place that he grew up. I even know an actor who would be perfect for the part!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stacy

    Great post. Never stop blogging! I am super intrigued about what you have on these topics. And right? … about the incels … like wtf? I feel like in 2019 we are on the cusp of something BIG, or many BIG things right around the corner and in order to understand it, you have to go back to really start to connect the dots and figure out why and what might come next.


    1. harveyparadox

      The future is always a surprise, and the value of history is to show you how people in the past dealt with those future surprises. Got to be quick on your feet these days.


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