The question everyone has after reading Ginsberg is: what is Moloch?
My answer is: Moloch is exactly what the history books say he is. He is the god of child sacrifice, the fiery furnace into which you can toss your babies in exchange for victory in war.
He always and everywhere offers the same deal: throw what you love most into the flames, and I can grant you power.
As long as the offer’s open, it will be irresistible. So we need to close the offer. - Scott Alexander, Meditations on Moloch
'Cause hell's boiling over
And heaven is full
We're chained to the world
And we all gotta pull
And we're all gonna be
Just dirt in the ground - Tom Waits, Dirt In The Ground
This is Part Four of the investigation into Moloch, the Solid State Intelligence, Ahriman (yes, we'll get to him soon) and other dark forces which are either a kind of shorthand for coordination failures, or, from another viewpoint are in a very real sense evil entities.
My friend Amaia pointed something out having read the last instalment: the irony that Moloch was chosen by Scott Alexander and others as a symbol for coordination failures; what we called the 'soft strategy' after Darren Allen. But in fact Moloch is also claimed by proponents of the 'hard conspiracy' to be the object of worship of powerful elites, specifically at Bohemian Grove. As in, it is claimed that they literally get on their knees in front of a giant idol of Moloch (and possibly sacrifice children into the bargain).
This theory does somewhat fall down, as pointed out here in that what is being venerated appears to be a giant statue of an owl, rather than the usual depiction of Moloch as a bull-headed creature. I have to say that in this case, as in many (but obviously not all) claims of the 'hard conspiracy' variety, this appears to be what we British call 'bollocks'.
Still, it does seem strange that both the 'soft strategy' and the 'hard conspiracy' chose Moloch as a key symbol to illustrate their theory.
We now turn to Ahriman, who appears to be of the same archetype as Moloch but symbolises another aspect of the dark force, and of whom in 1919 Rudolf Steiner wrote an entire book, The Ahrimanic Deception. He could also be described as the equivalent of Satan in the Zoroastrian faith.
Whereas Moloch's chief characteristic is a fiery insatiability, Ahriman drags humanity downward towards his element: Earth, thus binding us in an ignorance born of materialism and attachment to technology. Ahriman could be thought of as the Devil in the tarot deck - the spirit of attachment itself, symbolised by being chained to the Earth.
As Gary Lachman writes in Revolutionaries of the Soul:
Steiner spoke ominously of the incarnation of Ahriman, an Antichrist-like figure whose display of miraculous powers would precede a catastrophic “war of all against all.” ... Steiner himself had grave doubts about the growing pace of technological development, warning his followers that materialist science gains its great power through unwittingly releasing Ahrimanic entities. In his last communications, Steiner called on his followers to develop their consciousness in order to rise above nature to the same extent that technology sank below it.
Steiner in The Ahrimanic Deception:
...the Ahrimanic influence has been at work since the middle of the fifteenth century and will increase in strength until an actual incarnation of Ahriman takes place among Western humanity.
Our immersion in materialism and technology will thus produce the conditions in order that a human incarnation of Ahriman can be born. It appears that Steiner considered Ahriman to be 'real' in a sense different to that in which, for example, Scott Alexander uses the idea of Moloch - as a kind of symbol for the accumulation of unwanted outcomes. If an incarnation of Ahriman is possible in the physical plane, then he is not claiming him as merely a symbol or fictional character representing a philosophical or religious concept, although he does appear also to fulfil that function within anthroposophy (the philosophical system of which Steiner is the founder).
This raises the question of how 'real' mythological, or indeed metaphorical, entities can be, and of course following this, the meta-enquiry of: what does it mean to be 'real'? Is my own story about myself 'real'? I experience myself as real, and my personality depends in large part on this story. However this is a rabbit hole that I am content not to go down in this series, other than to point out that things being 'real' or 'not real' is a more tricky question than most of us are accustomed to considering.
Anthroposophy holds that two forces are influencing humanity, one is Lucifer, a force pushing upwards towards the light, towards creativity and spirituality, but also towards inflation of the ego and pride. The other is Ahriman, who gravitates downwards towards the Earth, away from divinity and towards the material and practical side of life. Neither is wholly 'good' or 'bad' as long as there is a balance between the two. Anthroposophy posits that the balance between their twin impulses is mediated by the Christ impulse. If one or the other gets too much of an upper hand, the resulting imbalance will cause harm and may be called 'evil'.
From The Ahrimanic Deception:
Lucifer is the power that stirs up in man all fanatical, all falsely mystical forces, all that physiologically tends to bring the blood into disorder and so lift man above and outside himself. Ahriman is the power that makes man dry, prosaic, philistine - that ossifies him and brings him to the superstition of materialism. And the true nature and being of man is essentially the effort to hold the balance between the powers of Lucifer and Ahriman; the Christ Impulse helps present humanity to establish this equilibrium.
We will see in future instalments that Ahriman and John Lilly's Solid State Intelligence have much in common. It is not difficult to see the influence that Ahriman is having on this world, if we choose to see it that way.
The vast majority of science appears not to have integrated the new worldview proposed by quantum physics almost a century ago now which essentially invalidates the notion of a separate objective world 'out there'. As a result, a hard materialism still reigns in many disciplines, leading in many cases to a pernicious and self-important 'scientism' which is unwilling to look outside of its own boundaries. What was once a genuine spirit of enquiry now seems to have hardened in many areas into a dogmatism and dismissal, even if often unconscious, of anything which might contradict its central view of 'universe as machine'.
As an example, consider the notion of life after death. Despite the wealth of evidence from near death experiences, especially since the introduction in hospitals of improved cardiac resuscitation techniques in the 1960s, try suggesting to most scientists that we might continue to live in some way after the death of our physical body in this world. The vast majority would probably consider it a priori impossible and refuse to even consider the supposed evidence.
I am not necessarily claiming that NDEs are proof of life after death; surely absolute proof is by definition impossible in the land of the living, but the refusal to even look at the question from the majority of scientists shows how deeply rooted identification with the materialist view is, of course allied to a fear of losing status if the question is considered. Some things are considered to be 'beyond the pale'. The fact that I even mentioned this will put me in the 'crackpot' category to some people.
Allied to this materialist worldview, we appear to be, as Steiner predicted we would be if Ahriman got the upper hand, completely bound to our ideas of technological progress. Transhumanism, as I pointed out in the first instalment, is surely the apotheosis of this Ahrimanic worldview: a complete negation of the spiritual world - in fact a kind of mirror image of Christianity: to live forever in an artificial paradise constructed by man - and a dogmatic belief in the triumph of materialist science.
In the next instalment I will examine the Solid State Intelligence, which arguably shows a very similar facet of 'the dark force' to that made visible by considering the concept of Ahriman.