This week’s podcast is a conversation with Charles Upton. I recently reviewed two of Charles’ books at Amazon, The System of Antichrist: Truth & Falsehood in Postmodernism & the New Age and Vectors of the Counter-Initiation: The Course and Destiny of Inverted Spirituality.
“When the student is ready, the master appears” is the saying. When the reader is ready, the book appears. Or so it was for me.
Being a life-long spiritual seeker, I spent a couple of decades firmly entrenched in psychedelics and sorcery, alien love and occult lore, Gnosticism and Nature worship. Post- Crowley, post-Castaneda, post-Strieber, post-Shelby Downard, post-Michael Hoffman, post-Dave McGowan and Jan Irvin, post my own discoveries with Prisoner of Infinity & Occult Yorkshire, I was dangling at the end of an intellectual rope. There seemed to be no spiritual or philosophical authority left to turn to; or, more accurately, no reliable tools with which to separate good from bad knowledge. Finding the work of Charles Upton, and by extension the traditional metaphysics of Rene Guenon, could hardly have come at a better time.
Suffice to say, this has been a very long process, one that, I believe, bears clear parallels to Upton’s own journey. Like Upton, I more than dabbled in occultism; probably (if there is indeed an acceleration toward dissolution with each generation), I took it that much further. My emergence from occultism and the necessary “re-formation” and (dare I say?) repentance has been a long and quite public process until now. This has been a delicate and only partially conscious endeavor, to bring those readers ready to follow me, out of a shared delusion and darkness, back towards the light of sanity. Reading Upton’s work has provided not just confirmation but contextualization for my journey so far, which, frankly, has been all over the map. The context is a context I have spent my whole life backing away from: the true religious.
In these post-Truth times, with the growing awareness of just how thoroughly we have been misinformed, dis-informed, hoodwinked, suckered, co-opted, seduced, and downright engineered; when even the revelations of the methods of our controllers seem designed to further weaken our resolve and cloud or minds; Charles Upton’s work is like a breaking cloud in the desert. Upton has as firm a grasp on the scope, depth, and intricacy of social engineering as any writer I know of; but he has something else too. As a practicing Sufi, Upton’s religious faith, far from over-simplifying the material or weighing it down with dogma, grounds it in spiritual wisdom, rare enough in any field, but almost wholly absent in the field of “conspiracy theory.” It’s encouraging, to put it mildly, to find one who rushed in where angels fear to tread, well before I did, and who turned out so well!
Some lesser complaints: I was hoping Upton’s chapter on Castaneda would be more thorough and in-depth in exposing the errors of that path, as I feel there is still much to unravel here. At the same time, I think Castaneda’s works themselves are self-exposing and self-confronting to an unusual degree—referring to sorcery as a dead-end, for example—and that they may be the fullest literary demonstration of both the perils and the value, even necessity, of the left-hand path, the will to power. The capstone on that dark pyramid, for me, is Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Amy Wallace’s account of Castaneda’s cult and of his bitter end. The book clearly and painfully recounts how knowledge and power, divorced from devotional love or surrender, veritably make a prison of infinity. This is a prevailing theme of Upton’s book. Upton’s System of Antichrist is Blake’s dark Satanic mill: it thrives on human souls.
Christian writers have been telling us for decades that the New Age was a Trojan Horse for a Luciferian one-world religion, or that UFOs were really the early manifestations of the Antichrist. But, however right they may have been, the lack of nuance or intellectual depth rendered their works pretty unpalatable to non-Christians. Upton may write as a Sufi, but he isn’t writing exclusively for the religious-minded, though admittedly, if you are firmly anti-religious, you may encounter some resistance to these books. Upton makes a compelling case for religious devotion as the only possible response (survival strategy) in the face of a social reality that, when looked at unflinchingly, presents overwhelming evidence of “spiritual wickedness in high places.” This is what I mean by context. Upton writes:
“Consequently a necessary step for most of us in the work of renouncing This World is to become aware of it as an engineered control system. Thus the act of investigating the structure and exposing the agendas of the New World Order, for those dedicated to the spiritual path and also called to this work, can be of direct service to the contemplative life. . . . If we can witness the darkness of This World with apatheia, with detachment and equanimity, then we will have accomplished the greater part of the work of ‘shadow-integration’; we will be led, God willing, to the point of supreme nausea where we can vomit the World, along with the Ego, its master and slave, out of our souls forever.” (p. 330)
What makes Upton’s work so valuable is that he is essentially mapping his own journey of realization in a way that is both personal and universal (it certainly matches my own path quite closely). As a former psychedelic user, Beat poet, Castaneda-follower, and even briefly a New Age teacher (he took part in Jose Arguello’s “Harmonic Convergence”), his investigation into the machinery of spiritual deception and the creation of a counterfeit via the supplanting of psychic experiences for true spiritual realization, while rigorously researched and argued, is the opposite of academic: he is describing here, between the lines and sometimes openly, the struggle to rescue his own soul from the spell-binding allure of a diabolic “counter-tradition.”
As such, his testimony is of infinitely greater value than those Christian denunciations we are all familiar with. Nor is Upton presenting that rather sad spectacle of a soul burned by the Promethean fire, taking refuge in blind faith. His faith is anything but blind. It is his unflinching capacity to see, and gaze into, the abyss of our times (the system of Antichrist) that makes his descriptions of divine reality both rounded and grounded. His proximity to darkness gives substance to his faith, allowing it to manifest as works such as these.
Some highlights from those books:
System of the Antichrist
So postmodernism ends in deconstructionism, and deconstructionism ends (or hopefully will) in the deconstruction of deconstructionism: if the constructed view of the majority oppresses minorities, so do minority views oppress individuals …. and individual views (why not?) the views of the subpersonalities within the individual, as those subpersonalities oppress the experience of split seconds of consciousness, etc. etc. etc. Does anyone not recognize here the familiar quality of our daily life, the progressive pulverizing of reality? It’s as if the deconstructionists were total creatures of the electronic media, people who consider it a crime to possess an attention-span because that would impose arbitrary and oppressive form upon “pure” experience; at least that’s the terminal phase toward which they appear to be headed. If we take them seriously, will we have to conclude that to exist at all is to oppress and be oppressed? That the end of oppression must be the end of existence? That the final goal of postmodern nihilism is and should be annihilation? Maybe the word “postmodernism” really does refer to the termination of history, the end of time. Obviously, it’s a house founded upon sand. (34)
I believe the system of Antichrist will emerge—is in fact emerging—out of the conflict between the New World Order and the spectrum of militant reactions against it. (41)
As has so often been the case throughout history, in politics as well as religion, essentially incompatible ideas became linked in the popular mind by virtue of their common exclusion from the official view of reality. (46)
And spiritual liberation is presented by the New Age not as the fruit of the renunciation of the world, but as fully compatible with the magical pursuit of worldly goals, if not as the most powerful magic of all. The central New Age tenet seems to be, “you can serve God and Mammon.” Furthermore, the techniques being widely disseminated are either meaningless fantasies, useful psychological tools which have nothing spiritual about them, dangerous magical techniques, or, again, true mystical practices which, however, can be reliably effective only within a living spiritual tradition possessing an orthodox doctrine and a “hands-on” understanding of how contemplative spirituality is to be practiced, within both the doctrinal and the moral contexts.
But if anything characterizes New Age spirituality, it is the reduction of the doctrinal or metaphysical understanding of the universe, its relationship to its divine Principle, and the essential nature of that Principle to a set of technical rules, coupled with the tendency to take methods of contemplative or yogic or magical practice out of any moral context, as well as out of a sufficient doctrinal one. If it requires no moral commitment to operate a personal computer, neither is any required for the magical operation of the human nervous system, and the manipulation of the subtle forces which that nervous system may, under certain circumstances, tap into. To any person with an understanding of true spirituality, either devotional or contemplative, the inevitable outcome of such an approach is painfully obvious. It is not so obvious, unfortunately, to the New Age practitioners themselves, who think that their dangerous and chaotic experimentation with human consciousness is mystical spirituality, and have been carefully trained to prejudge as “prejudice” any warnings or expressions of concern on the part of those better informed than they are. A lack of listeners, however, in no way absolves the better-informed from their duty to speak. (48-49)
Where nothing is true and everything permitted, those who seize power can configure reality as if they were God Himself—but configure it according to what? With objective truth suppressed and power absolutized, what reality can the powerful turn to for a design according to which that power could be expressed? No reality but power itself, which means: no truth but chaos. (52)
The doctrine that there is no over-arching paradigm is itself an over-arching paradigm. So even though Unity is denied, it is perpetually invoked; but to invoke something which is both intellectually denied and emotionally feared is to make sure that it will present its most negative face.
Unity is. If we don’t take cognizance of it, then it will not be defined by cognizance, but by power. In other words, the denial of all unities, of which metaphysical Unity is the root principle, makes it certain that no view can stand as a rival to the unity of naked power. Postmodernism melts down traditional religions, cultures and forms-of-life—and power takes over. Thus Postmodernism paves the way for Globalism, first by destroying any view which could rival it, and secondly by creating a level of chaos which calls for repressive measures—in the mistaken belief that Chaos is Freedom (see Chapter Six). Unity is a metaphysical truth. If denied, it will reassert itself not so much against as by means of this denial: and this is the system of Antichrist. (53)
If we no longer believe in Absolute Truth, then everything becomes relative. If everything becomes relative, then Truth is replaced by power; it is reduced to whatever this or that powerful individual or government or special interest has the power to say is true. And this is exactly how we look at questions of truth today: we believe that they are nothing but masks for questions of power. . . . And the belief that truth is always necessarily sacrificed to power becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy; once partisanship is assumed to be universal, nothing outside partisanship is either recognized or allowed. (72)
The psychic plane is the natural “environment” of the human psyche, just as the earth and the material universe are the environment of the human body. It is not purely evil, as some Christians believe, but it is certainly dangerous, since if we break into it either accidentally or on our own initiative, we have lost the protection of the material realm before having necessarily gained the protection of the spiritual realm, and are therefore extremely vulnerable not only to the scattering of our psychic and vital energy, but to obsession or possession by the powers of evil.
Nonetheless, the psychic plane is not exclusively demonic, otherwise we could not receive divine guidance in dreams, nor could physical miracles occur, since every influence from the spiritual realm must pass through the psychic realm before it can come into material reality. But because this is so, it is very difficult to tell whether a psychic or anomalous physical manifestation originates on the psychic or the spiritual plane. Nonetheless there is a profound difference in level between an act of magic (whether for the purpose of healing or harming) which emanates from the psychic plane, and a miracle originating on the Spiritual plane. Psychic or magical or shamanic practices are “technologies,” instances of willful intervention by human beings or psychic entities. Miracles are manifestations of the Spirit, the eternal truth and love of God, on the psychic and material levels. (134)
The psychic plane is a multiple world made up of many subjective “points-of view.” The spiritual plane is the radiation of objective Divine Reality; they are not the same thing, which is why we can encounter people who are extremely psychic but not spiritual at all. (135)
Occultism is the practice of making contact with the psychic plane on our own initiative, or in response to an invitation coming from that plane alone. Our goal may be to “access” Spirit through the psyche, but more often it will simply be an attempt to extend the area of our own ego, to pursue in subtler worlds the basic ego-goals of security, pleasure and power. (136)
We don’t like being reminded of the truism that our belief only liberates us if it conforms to reality, because the word “reality” now largely denotes for us “material reality,” and we rebel against the reductionism that our own false definition implies. We rightly feel that there must be something beyond gross material conditions, but see nowhere to turn in search of it but to our own subjectivity. And since we have greater power to control our fantasies—or so it seems—than to affect material reality, we want to believe that we can somehow control material reality by means of our fantasies. (179)
Since psyche is higher than matter, and therefore functions as its proximate cause, we can say that God creates the material plane through us, but only after creating us first. (180)
Illusion—whose moral name is evil—is essentially a privation, a lack. One can never make complete sense of it because, as a “hole” in reality rather than a reality in its own right, it is fundamentally absurd. (292)
In other words, evil is like a hole in Being. In a sense it actually exists—you’d better not deny this, or you’ll fall into the hole. But in another sense, it isn’t real, since it is nothing but a lack or diminishment of reality, an empty space. (329)
And there is no better way to undermine revealed religion than by associating the idea of “transcendence” with the idea of “traumatic violation,” thus separating the True from the Good in the victims’ minds, and associating Truth, not with Goodness, but with evil, and naked power. According to traditional metaphysics, pure Being is in itself the Sovereign Good whom we call God; consequently the more real something is the better it is, and the better something is the realer it is. It is the goal of the Antichrist to separate Truth from Goodness and Love, and unite it instead with ruthless power, so as to wipe Goodness and Love from the earth. (373)
The falsehood here is the identification of the willing surrender of one’s ego with the forcible breaking of one’s will. God is not a hypnotist or a terrorist. . . . In the words of Muhammad (upon whom be peace), “there is no compulsion in religion.”….
From Vectors of the Counter-Initiation
It is common for nature-worshippers to see the doctrine of a Transcendent God common to the Abrahamic religions as destructive to the earth, as if “transcendent” meant “distant”, whereas what it really means “not limited by form and thus pervading all forms.” (89)
To be saved is to be integrated into the Archetype of Man, alInsan al-Kamil; to be damned is to be separated from it. We are not saved through our individuality, though if we are saved our individuality is saved too: we are saved through our union with, and expression of, humanity as such. (92)
4:117–118 They call, beside Him, upon mere goddesses! They invoke a rebel Satan! On them is the curse of God. For he said, “A portion of Thy servants will I surely take, and will lead them astray, and will stir desires within them, and will command them and they shall cut the ears of animals; and I will command them, and they shall alter the creation of God.” (100)
Both magic and technology seek to extend the power of human will rather than submitting to God’s will, and both attempt to command the forces of nature. So it is not surprising that, according to the Qur’an, it is the de facto Pagans who will finally alter the creation of God. (101)
Still, the question arises: Are there any archaic systems, forms of shamanism perhaps, where the daimones can still act as mediators between earth and Heaven? This is highly uncertain, but not entirely impossible. In the world of Shinto, for example (assuming it is still spiritually in force), where the kami, at least the lower ones, are a class of daimones roughly equivalent to the Jinn, the worshipper “makes friends” with a minor kami at a local shrine, who will, if The Fall of the Jinn all goes well, introduce him to more important kamis, and so on up the Great Chain of Being until the highest kami is reached, Amaterasu Omikami, Goddess of the Sun. So it is just possible that in Japan and other parts of Asia, as well as among some Native Americans, the role of the daimones as mediators between humans and the gods, and ultimately the Absolute Principle, is still partly in force, as it most certainly is not in the various contemporary revivals of Neo-Platonism or Northern European Paganism, nor under the dispensations of the living Abrahamic religions.
As the Christian Desert Father Abba Moises said, “In the latter days people will be much weaker than we are. Austerities will be largely impossible for them due to this weakness. But they will be better men than we are, because they will be given the opportunity to battle Satan face-to-face.” (150-51)
if changing their own consciousness could produce local manifestations of the preternatural, changing the consciousness of the mass could produce global ones. (156)
But the psychedelics, as well as various spiritual techniques such as secularized non-traditional yoga, are often approached on the basis of the very false and limiting context that people are seeking them in order to free themselves from: of the spiritual life as an exercise in self-will (as in the case of compulsive morality), and of God conceived as an experience rather than a Reality (as in the case of self-referential fervor; the New Age movement for example, which deifies experience, can be described as a kind of “non-Christian Pentecostalism”). . . . nothing is possible in the spiritual life outside of the Promethean attempt to take heaven by storm, and spiritual narcissism—two pathologies which are intimately related to each other and never appear apart. The will cut off from the spiritual Intellect (which is always virtually in force wherever Faith and Grace are present) produces Prometheanism; the alienation of the affections from the Intellect produces narcissism.
psychedelics, which at the very least can provide (though not without extremely negative consequences) a horizontal psychic expansiveness which appears to compensate for, and sometimes actually counterfeits, the loss of a vertical spiritual elevation, while at the same time concealing the fact that such a loss ever occurred. Psychedelics, in other words, were a kind of Luciferian “booby prize” offered as compensation for the fall of western Christendom. (214-5)
to say that [religions] have been initiated by psychedelics is to deny that God can act on His own initiative, and consequently to deny God. It is to make “religion” an entirely human affair, and thus to posit something that does not fit the definition of that word. (218)
So it may well be true that the use of such plants, at least beyond the cosmic era that might have allowed their use under certain conditions, represents a truly ancient deviation in humanity’s relationship with God. (220)
To syncretize different forms of the sacred, assuming that they were originally true Spiritual ways, not simply psychic “technologies”, is to relativize and subjectivize them and thus drive everything down to the psychic level while sealing off access to the Spirit; and this is tantamount to demonic invocation. . . . Of course some people like that kind of thing; instead of transcending their individuality through Spiritual ascent, they simply want to shatter it, and consequently sink below it, into the infra-psychic. It’s called “postmodernism”. (223)
What almost never occurs to us is that LSD may have imprinted or conditioned a deeply-buried layer of our psyche such that all subsequent experiences of any psychic or spiritual depth are filtered through this conditioning, resulting in a biased evaluation. (244)
It’s as if LSD can act to breach the natural barrier between Nous/Intellectus, associated with the ajñachakra or “third eye”, and dianoia/ratio, associated with the vishuddha-chakra, thus flooding the lower rational mind with material from the higher Intellectual mind; the lower mind becomes overloaded with this higher material, now expressed on a lower level, and ends by counterfeiting the quality of the Nous/Intellectus and thus blocking access to it. . . . It may in fact be the case that the use of LSD has the power to subtly damage the highest reflections of Nous/Intellectus, the “eye of the heart” [’ayn al-qalb], in the individual psyche, just as the physical eye may be damaged by staring into the sun; (245)
If the universe did not contain the possibility of evil, it would not be the universe, but God Himself. (292-3)
Lucifer represents not the descent from Principle into manifestation, but the potential, on every level of the ontological hierarchy, for delusion, privation, and subversion—the concrete manifestation of which, however, is only made possible by that very descent. As the “light bearer” he is symbolic, in his unfallen mode, of the Nous, the First Intellect, the first eternal motion of God’s knowledge of Himself as “other”. In his fallen mode, he symbolizes the possibility of spiritual subversion and metaphysical error on the highest possible level—in terms of the human microcosm, the subversion the Nous (which appears, in the Qur’an, as the refusal of Eblis to bow down to Adam.) The Nous, the Uncreated Intellect within man, cannot be subverted in its essence, but it most certainly can be counterfeited and veiled.
According to Schuon, for the “volitional and affective” man, the ego is “I” and God is “He”, while for the “intellective” man, God is “I” and the ego is “he.” Applying this distinction to Lucifer, we can imagine his fall as made possible by a descent from the intellective or jñanic station to the volitional/affective one, coupled with a refusal to accept the necessity of this creative descent—the later consequences of which God, in Genesis, looked upon and called good. If he had accepted the necessity of the descending radiation of the Absolute in the direction of manifestation, Lucifer would have been able—in his own case—to redress its potential deficiencies. Instead, he opposed it. In holding on to a “higher” conception of God as the Formless Absolute, he failed to understand that God’s celestial and cosmic manifestation is in no way a departure from His Essence, but rather a veiling of that Essence for the very purpose of revealing It. In other words—like the sectarian Gnostics—he looked upon God’s creative act not as a positive Self-manifestation, but strictly as a Fall. And by this very rejection of cosmic existence, which was both an intellectual error and a willful rebellion, he transformed it into a Fall; this is the “primordial irony”. Lucifer failed to understand that “If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.” The ambiguity of existence, which is the ambiguity of maya, is: that while manifestation must depart from the Essence, the Essence can never depart from Itself—and what is manifestation, on every level, but the revelation of that very Essence? (294-5)
As soon as manifestation descends from the purely intellective station to the volitional/affective one—in other words, as soon as free will is born—then the will is required to submit, and the affections, to love. This act of immediate submission to the new and more limited condition—not the will to reject it by holding on to the memory of the former and higher one—is the only way back to that higher one. (295)
He saw the objective Personal God as a veil covering the Essence (which It is) but not as a theophany of that very Essence (which It certainly also is). Thus, in the name of the “preservation” of the level of consciousness of the atman, he barred the only effective road of return to that atman, rejected God, entered into a state of self-worship, and fell: and the etiology of the fall of Lucifer is, precisely, the etiology of the ego. (296)
The Devil is not evil because, like the Gnostic Demiurge, he creates this cosmos of heaviness and material limitation, but rather because he subverts it. The goal of all cosmic manifestation, the “lowest” point where God can be reflected as integral Being, is the human form. (297)
The “punishment” of Prometheus, being precisely purgatorial, is the beginning of his salvation. (298)
Consequently a necessary step for most of us in the work of renouncing This World is to become aware of it as an engineered control system. Thus the act of investigating the structure and exposing the agendas of the New World Order, for those dedicated to the spiritual path and also called to this work, can be of direct service to the contemplative life. (329)
If we can witness the darkness of This World with apatheia, with detachment and equanimity, then we will have accomplished the greater part of the work of “shadow-integration”; we will be led, God willing, to the point of supreme nausea where we can vomit the World, along with the Ego, its master and slave, out of our souls forever. (330)