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February 2021

Lerro on the Need for Ritual: a Pivotal Work, Dare We Heed It

FAR MORE SUCCINCTLY than I have ever seen it explained elsewhere1, Bruce Lerro has described in an exceptionally thought-provoking, unusually well-crafted2 essay just how it is we might recapture and wield -- this time for the preservation of our species and the protection of our Mother Earth -- the psychologically transformative  power inherent in ritual. 

His point is that if we are to transcend our self-inflicted apocalypse, we must rediscover and reclaim that power for ourselves, thus giving ourselves psychological-warfare weaponry at least as potent as the psywar weapons our enemies now routinely wield against us. 

The piece in question is entitled "The Power of Magick: Why Materialists, Atheists and Marxists Need It." It was originally published Thursday (28 January 2021) on Mr. Lerro's website, Beyond Capitalism, then republished Sunday (31 January) by LA Progressive here, which is where I first read it.

I am embarrassed to say I had not explored Beyond Capitalism until now.

While the title of Mr. Lerro's  newest essay  is self-explanatory, the text also clearly describes -- in patently secular terms -- how and why what he labels "magick" actually works, its real-world psycho-dynamics perhaps best summarized in what seems to me his most telling paragraph:

"Magick is the art and science of altering states of consciousness at will through the use of imagination, the senses, the emotions through the arts. The techniques can be used for good or for bad purposes. The entire field of advertising is an industry in the use of black magick. Often the association with changing states of consciousness is that it is some kind of secular, recreational escape from reality. Of course, some of that is true, but my reasons for arguing for altered states of consciousness are dead serious. People alter their states of consciousness primarily for social and personal needs, not just for fun." (Italics as in original; boldface added for emphasis.)

Thus I cite Mr. Lerro's essay here both for its thought-provoking nature and for the vital support it provides those of us who clamor for broadening the accessibility of Marxian source-documents as well as techniques of socialist propagation and consciousness-raising in general, all of which suffer  unprecedented obscurity thanks to deliberately paralytic isolation in the academic prisons maintained by Neoliberal fundamentalism.

1My arson-doomed "Glimpses of a Pale Dancer" addressed this topic at length, mostly with examples from  the re-popularization of  traditional balladry c. 1930s-1950s.. The backbone of my entire manuscript, these examples  illustrated  how the behavioral dynamic Bruce Lerro defines as "magick" was evident in the Folk Renaissance, which boosted a long-simmering, profoundly iconoclastic but hitherto relatively obscure art movement into unprecedented popularity and so birthed the 1960s Counterculture.  Despite its seemingly irremediable  political, racial and socioeconomic divisions, the Counterculture was potentially unified by a unique aesthetic solidarity -- the mostly  unexplored  bond evident in the music and art shared by feminists, environmentalists, back-to-the-landers, anti-war activists and urban communards alike. (Its unity was momentarily evident even amongst the hopelessly Ayn Randified legions of bourgeois faddists who later became the postwar generation's New-Deal-destroying Moronic Majority -- i.e.,  the  class-and/or-race-privileged moral imbeciles whose craven embrace of the Neoliberal brand of Nazism now gets them rightfully damned as "Boomers," a subconsciously apt pejorative implicitly expressing the thermonuclear-caliber devastation inflicted on human society by their self-obsessed submissiveness.).  Indeed it was probably my photographically illustrated examples of the Counterculture's potentially revolutionary aesthetic  solidarity that provoked the destruction of "Dancer" and all the rest of my life's work, the main thrust of which was to resurrect the Counterculture from  the conceptual tomb in which our Oppressors hope to bury forever its significance as the first undeniably popular wave of consciously anti-apocalyptic (and therefore implicitly anti-patriarchal) revolution.  Even so, Mr. Lerro has stated in a relatively few paragraphs what over 24 years (1959-1983)  I wrote and discarded probably a half-dozen 150,000-word drafts to explain, with my extensively footnoted analyses derived mostly from Jungian sources and the works of Marshall McLuhan. Thus I cannot but hail the succinctness of Mr. Lerro's thinking, particularly in transforming the illusive notion of "sacred mysteries" into operational examples of secular psycho-dynamics. Obviously, both of us reason from mutual  recognition of paganism as perhaps our most effective tool for rediscovery and recovery of the self-empowerment prerequisite to community empowerment. In this context, Colin Wilson's disclosure in The Occult (Random House: 1971) -- that British Intelligence contacted the  Britannic witch covens and asked then to hex Hitler and especially his Luftwaffe  -- becomes a telling revelation of Ruling Class comprehension of magick's reality and power. 

2The only truly glaring error I as a member of the working press  -- a former editor-in-chief whose 30-year newspaper and magazine career climbed the proverbial ladder from copyboy to reporter/photographer and thence thru sports, city, news and picture editorships --  have found in Mr. Lerro's "The Power of Magick" is in the section entitled "The Catholic Church as closeted black magickians."The mistake is not in Mr. Lerro's conclusions, which I know from my own parochial school years to be true, but in his faulty grammar: he wrote, "When I was a boy my grandmother would go with my parents and I," demonstrating the ever-more-commonplace confusion of  the nominative (subjective) case with the objective case. It is an error  for which the blame goes neither to the writer  nor to the editor who failed to snag this particular foul ball, but (as with so much else that afflicts us), to the Oppressors who are methodically dumbing us down to functional illiteracy as part of their much broader psychological-warfare effort to render us unable to even conceptualize liberation.  For the multitudes who've been denied proper education in English grammar -- that is,  in the vital physics and chemistry of our language -- the proper form is "with my parents and me"; "I" is the subjective personal pronoun, in other words the actor; "me" is its objective form, here specifically among the objects of the preposition "with" and therefore denoting that which is acted upon. To observe the increasing frequency of such vexatious errors invariably saddens me,  particularly since  they cannot bur distract from both the credibility and the long-term accessibility of the texts in question.

LB/31 January-1 February 2021.