Friday, October 18, 2019

The Lovecraftian Enlightenment?

"... these things we’re summoning into the world right now…are more like the Lovecraftian The Great Old Ones, they’re entities that are not necessarily going to be aligned with what we want..."

Its no secret that H.P. Lovecraft is more popular than ever as the second decade of the twenty-first century fast comes to a close. During his lifetime (1890-1937), Lovecraft's famed "weird tales" were confined to pulp magazines, ensuring a limited audience for his works. In this day and age, eighty plus years after HPL shed his mortal coil, probably even fewer people have actually read his at-times copious prose. But those who did over the years took it to heart, and expanded upon his mythos and made it more commercially viable. As such, the mythos he allegedly created wholesale (which is highly debatable) have had a vast influence on popular culture. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to imagine the modern horror genre without Lovecraft.

The mainstreaming of Lovecraft really began in earnest during the first decade of this particular century and it coincided with the general rise of nerd culture. Nerds in turn have largely become the engine of popular culture over the past two decades thanks to the broader rise of Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general. Techies and nerds the are often one in the same and the innovations of the former made it increasingly possible to craft the aspirations of the latter via CGIs, increasingly elaborate video game platforms and so forth. And of course, there was the whole rise of the Internet, which made it easier for nerds to forge communities and spread their obsessions.

One was of course H.P. Lovecraft, whose mythos represent one of the darker corners of geekdom. But Lovecraft was only one such corner. On the whole, there are even more sinister undercurrents to geekdom.  

Of late, I've become fascinated (and more than a little disturbed) by a particularly bizarre branch of the "alt-right" sometimes referred to as the Dark Enlightenment, or simply NRx (neo-reactionary). Incidentally (or not), this curious ideology together brings Silicon Valley, the dark side of geekdom and of course Lovecraft in what might be one of the most dystopian of imagined futures.

The Dark Enlightenment and/or NRx can mean different things to different people, but certain characteristics seem to be reoccurring amongst the various ideologues: contempt for democracy, an obsession with technology and capitalism in equal measures, libertarian ethos taken to their logical extreme, a thinly veiled approval for eugenics, and a sense that the darkest of imagined cyberpunk futures is something to aspire towards. It is generally agreed that the two principal visionaries behind this particular ideology are Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) and Nick Land.

Mr. Moldburg and the Eye of Thiel

Geekdom and Lovecraft in particular weigh heavily on both men, while Yarvin is very much a creation of Silicon Valley. Before becoming a neo-reactionary blogger, Yarvin was a computer scientist with degrees from John HopkinsBrown, and UC Berkeley. Naturally, he was based out of San Francisco. Despite the ultra-liberal image of the tech heartlands, there are indications that the Valley has a small but influential alt right underground.

Yarvin routinely incorporates elements of geekdom into his writings. Lovecraft made an appearance early, in the first part of Yarvin's A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations. There, Yarvin riffs on the introduction Darren Staloff’s The Making of an American Thinking Class by quoting the professor's prose while replacing several phrases with references to Miskatonic UniversityCryptomenysis PatefactaUnaussprechlichen Kulten, and the "mad Arab Abdul Alhazred."

Inevitably, Cthulhu would turn up in Yarvin's writings. A gentle introduction... names drops him no less than ten times. Amusingly, Yarvin likens the high priest of the Great Old Ones to his concept of "The Cathedral." The Cathedral in turn can be defined loosely as a consensus of progressive opinion outlined by the universities, the media, and the civil service. It is given a religious description because it has become a kind of theology. In 2019, a planet destroying alien high priest is as apt a description for the mainstream consensus as one is apt to find.

Yarvin clearly knows his geekdom, which has led some to question the seriousness of his ideology. To be sure, there is an air of a LARP lark about Mr. Moldburg.

Which is why it is important to remember that Yarvin has received support from none other than Peter Thiel, who is a major investor in Yarvin's startup, Urbit. Nor is Yarvin the only neo-reactionary ideologue that Thiel has sponsored. He is also a major backer of the Seasteading Institute, founded by would-be neo-reactionary Patri Friedman (who is also the grandson of Noble Prize winning economist Milton). Elsewhere, Thiel was also a backer of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, which neo-reactionary blogger Michael Anissimov had previously worked at as a media director.

Patri Friedman (top) and Michael Anissimov (bottom)
But beyond sponsoring the Dark Enlightenment, Thiel himself is also a major ideological influence. Both Yarvin and Nick Land have cited a 2009 essay by Thiel for Cato Unbound in which the billionaire famously declared "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible" as a major inspiration. The influence may swing both ways as well, for it has been argued that a 2012 lecture at Stanford by Thiel displayed traces of Yarvin's themes.

Is Thiel's sponsorship for neo-reactionary ideologues and influence on the movement evidence that it is a kind of vehicle for his own personal beliefs? Certainly, this is not beyond the realm of extreme possibility, and that is a terrifying prospect. As I noted recently, Thiel is at the absolute vanguard of the far right, along with the Mercer and DeVos-Prince families. What's more, Thiel and the after-mentioned families appear to be major players in a vast private intelligence network behind both Trump and Brexit.

In the above-linked blog, I detailed the ties between the Mercer family and the SCL Group/Cambridge Analytica, which could be likened to a private, digitalized Psychological Warfare ExecutiveGrowing evidence has emerged that Thiel's Palantir Technologies collaborated with this network.

Naturally, Palantir takes its name from from a communications devise depicted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Given that these devices were later taken over by Sauron, the name is rather apt. Palantir is a big data analytics outfit that is known to work closely with the Department of Defense and US intelligence community. Of late it has gained much controversy over its collaboration with ICE, but its mining of data as a means of surveillance has been ongoing for years now.

Nor is Palantir the only defense-related company Thiel has ties too. Another curious entity is Carbyne, an Israeli company which officially provides high tech solutions to emergency centers fielding 911 calls and such like. In carrying out these duties Carbyne is given access to a caller's GPS, camera and other private information, which critics have alleged creates a high potential for abuse. These claims are further substantiated by the presence of numerous former Israeli intelligence officers among the shareholders and employees. Company director Pinchas Berkus, for instance, is the former head of the elite 8200 Unit.

The Israelis aren't the only ones with intelligence ties linked to Carbyne either. Present on the company's advisory board is Michael Chertoff, a former director of the Department of Homeland Security and co-author of the Patriot Act. After leaving government with the Bush II regime, Chertoff went into the private defense industry, starting his own "risk management" group with a former CIA officer and became the chairman of the mega British defense contractor BAE Systems.

Else, a co-founder and shareholder of Carbyne is another former Israeli intelligence officer, Lital Leshem. Leshem is also an executive director at Frontier Resources Group, a subsidiary of Frontier Services Group. FSG was of course founded by Erik Prince, whose FSG concern also appears in the SCL/Cambridge Analytica network.

And then there's former Israeli prime minister and highly decorated general Ehud Barak. Barak was also a major investor in the company, bu with a curious source for his funding: Jeffrey Epstein. In 2015, Barak formed a startup company called Sum for the sole purpose of investing in what became Carbyne. Reportedly, much of the capital for Sum was provided to Barak by Epstein.

Ehud Barak
This certainly puts Thiel in some curious company. Thiel is not only an investor in Carbyne, but also has a Palantir co-founder, Trae Stephens, on the company's advisory board.

Clearly, Thiel is well represented in the private intelligence racket. But under Trump, he has begun to make inroads with the official US intel community as well. Reportedly, Thiel himself was offered a leadership role on the influential President's Intelligence Advisory Board, but turned it down. He did, however, land former employee and reputed acolyte Kevin Harrington on the National Security Council. Harrington occupied a senior post from the get go and was reportedly bumped up further in recent days.

Kevin Harrington
Thiel has clearly emerged as a major player, with extensive ties to both the US intelligence community and the president himself. Indeed, he was likely at the forefront of the private initiatives to get Trump into the White House. And of course, there is the curious fact that he was a major investor in the Israeli firm Carbyne, along with Jeffrey Epstein. This is more tangible evidence that Epstein's network was part of the broader effort to put Trump into power. Thiel appears to have been at the center of these efforts.

And this is the man who is a crucial backer of the founder of the Dark Enlightenment and other major proponents. Of course, Thiel himself was clearly a major ideological influence as well, which at a minimum contributed to his support for the ideology. Even more sinister is the prospect that Thiel himself was the engine behind the Dark Enlightenment, with Yarvin and others simply being used to put things out there that Thiel himself did not wish to be directly associated with. It would certainly be interesting to know how far back Yarvin's relationship with Thiel goes.

A Land Darkly

My concern with this piece, however, is with Lovecraft's influence on the Dark Enlightenment, and that is nowhere more evident that with the movement's other founder, former Warwick University professor Nick Land. While Yarvin may have been the originator of NRx, it was Land who elevated it to the level of a true philosophy. This is hardly surprising, given Land's background as a philosophy professor.

During his time at Warwick, Land became involved with a student-run research group dubbed the "Cybernetic Culture Research Unit" (Ccru). This peculiar group was established in October of 1995, when self-described "cyberfeministSadie Plant joined the faculty at Warwick. Land co-founded the Ccru with Plant and several others. Its relationship with Warwick was always rather ambiguous, however. It was active on the campus between 1995 and 1997, but was officially shuttered after Plant resigned her post in '97. At the time, some school officials claimed the Ccru never even existed.

Sadie Plant
It continued on, in some form or another, for at least six additional years. Land had resigned from Warwick himself by '98, and would continue the group in a room above the Leamington Spa Body Shop for a few more years. Drugs had always been a major influence on the group, but by this point in time they had become epidemic. As such, the post-Warwick Ccru has been described as "quasi-cultish, quasi-religious."

This is hardly surprising, given its pursuits. The Ccru's purpose was to study a host of arcane topics --French philosophy (especially of the Deleuzian school), jungle music, science fiction (unsurprisingly, cyberpunk was a huge influence, especially Gibson's Neuromancer), cryptography, the occult (the group was especially fond of the kabbalah and Crowley, who was born in the same city that Warwick University is located in), rave culturecybernetics, and, of course, Lovecraft. From this heady brew emerged a cyber-age version of "Accelerationism."

an emblem designed by the Ccru
First conceived of by French philosophers in the wake of May of '68, the Ccru laid the foundation for the popularization of this particular philosophy in the English speaking world during the twenty-first century. The Ccru's version of accelerationism essentially called for the rapid speeding up of capitalism and technology in equal measures. In theory, this would lead humanity towards some type of techno-utopia resembling notions of the Singularity. By unleashing capital, silly relics of the past such as national borders could be dissolved. This would, in theory, release human potential and speed up technological advances. Ominously, some proponents believed that this would eventually liberate human potential from the human form all together.

Land certainly subscribed to these beliefs. As I noted before here, Land had happened upon the notion during his Ccru days that capitalism was the creation of an artificial intelligence from the future, which in turn had used the market to gradually assemble itself over the centuries. This would end with the glorious usurpation of humanity by this new intelligence. And Land apparently believed that we should be doing everything within out collective power to speed up this copious process. Whether this is still the case is unknown to this researcher, but he is still insisting on the similarities between capitalism and AI.

This was not the only strangest notion Land happened upon during this era either. At the height of the Ccru days, Land began heavily abusing "the sacred substance amphetamine" and subsisting on little to no sleep. During his final days at Warwick, he became known for amphetamine-addled lectures, which at times Land delivered while laying on the floor and accompanied by a jungle soundtrack. Eventually, he came to believe that he was being inhabited by various entities, which he dubbed "Cur," "Vauung," and "Can Sah."

Predictably, Land had a breakdown by the early part of millennium. He disappeared from public life all together for a time, and relocated to Shanghai. Nor was he the only Ccru that danced to close to the flame. Many members would struggle with depression for years afterwards. One of the most prominent members, Mark Fisher, eventually committed suicide in 2017, reportedly over concerns that Britain had entered into "stasis."

Mark Fisher
Throughout all of this, Lovecraft weighed heavily on Land and has continued to do so. Together with the Ccru troop, Land developed the notion of "hyperstition." Combining superstition with hyper, this concept is difficult to define. It has been described as that which is "equipoised between fiction and technology." In a sense, this is simply describing science fiction in its earliest incarnations. At least one former Ccru affiliate described Land's hyperstition as "quasi-Lovecraftian mythologies." Reportedly, Land came to believe that the Necronomicon itself was being sent back in time from the future, piece by piece, beginning with its appearances in Lovecraft's fiction.

Another concept that Land and his Ccru cohorts became obsessed with was the notion of "theory-fiction." In essence, it help that the writing of theory could fictionalize and produce reality. Such a notion would have had quite an appeal in the '90s, when imagined cyberpunk futures were beginning to become the reality. Now, we're effectively living in a cyberpunk novel. William Gibson, in essence, took scientific theory concerning future technologies, fictionalized it, and provided a template for our present reality.

The same could be said of Lovecraft, who was clearly more knowledgeable concerning the occult than scholars would have you believe. His fictionalized mythos, in turn, arguably did as much to mainstream the occult in popular culture as anyone, with the possible exception of Crowley. And Crowley himself frequently resorted to fiction to expand upon his theories.

Naturally, Land himself has written horror fiction as well, and it is firmly in the Lovecraftian camp. He seems to have first taken up this interest during the late '90s, when he wrote The Origins of the Cthulhu Club. This work was allegedly the first time he rolled out the hyperstititon concept. His Lovecraft obsession has continued in recent works such as 2014's short story Phyl-Undhu and 2015 novella Chasm. Indeed, it would seem that when Land isn't championing the Dark Enlightenment, he is crafting neo-Lovecraftian weird fiction.


Let us then return to the quote that opens this piece, which concerns emerging AI as being something akin to the Great Old Ones of Lovecraft's fiction. This is a notion that Nick Land has been prophesying about since roughly the mid-1990s. But is this something that we should really be concerned about? After all, Land is still largely a fringe figure. 

Peter Thiel, however, is not. And while Thiel has never been directly linked to Land, he has certainly supported other such fellow travelers, as was noted above. And this raises some truly disturbing prospects. 

The scientific community is often seen as progressive and forward looking. This is especially true of the tech sector. And yet William Shockley, the alleged inventor of the transistor (which essentially laid the foundation for the modern computer revolution), dedicated much of his later life to the rehabilitation of eugenics (noted before here). Thiel himself made his fortune investing in tech companies such as PayPal and Facebook. He is now one of the principal patrons of the alt-right, along with hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. Before delving into finance, Mercer was a computer scientist who worked for IBM for decades. As I noted before here, he contributed to the development of AI in this capacity.

Robert Mercer
These men are a far cry from the Christian fundamentalists who are often associated with the far right, and arguably far more unsettling. After all, men like Thiel and Mercer have the resources and potentially the inclination to bring about the post-human future envisioned by men like Land. This is precisely why I find many of the scientific-related revelations concerning Epstein so unsettling. 

In many ways, Jeffrey Epstein was already practicing what many of the NRx ideologues had been advocating. One such instance is the whole "seasteading" movement which Thiel has become a principal patron of. As I noted before here, one of its leading proponents was the above-mentioned Patri Friedman. Seasteading proposes building floating, sovereign city city-states in the ocean. These entities would be beyond the reach of the United States government, or any other for that matter. A return to the model of the city-state, a small entity more easily manageable than a chaotic nation-state, has long appealed to neo-reactionaries.

Of course, Jeffrey Epstein had been using his own private island, Little Saint James, as a lawless playground for millionaires and billionaires alike for years. While he surely wasn't the originator of such a notion, the possibility is strong that Epstein's efforts inspired the seasteading community in some capacity. Patri Friedman was involved in a transhumanist foundation supported by Epstein, after all.

Jeffrey Epstein
There are even far more ominous overlaps, most notably via the scientific community. Of course, many neo-reactionaries are obsessed with AI and related notions such as transhumanism/human augmentation, and the Singularity. This is hardly surprising, given the background that many of the proponents have in tech and Silicon Valley in particular.

Epstein clearly had a keen interest in these things as well. He was a major backer of pioneering AI researcher Marvin Minsky, who was also a crucial scientific adviser to Epstein. It was Minsky who put Epstein into contact with another young and upcoming AI researcher, Joscha Bach. Bach had been involved in the transhumanist outfit, humanity +, that also featured budding neo-reactionary Patri Friedman and funding from Epstein himself. Epstein also funded Ben Goertzel, the former chairman of Humanity +, the founder and CEO of SingularityNET, and a prominent AI researcher. Epstein also funded Goertzel's open source AI project OpenCog as well. Goertzel had also been the research director at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, which received funding from Thiel and produced neo-reactionary blogger Michael Anissimov, a former media director there.

Ben Goertzel
Of course, Epstein was also an investor in the above-mentioned Carbyne, along with Thiel. As such, this whole network seems rather incestuous. What's more, the NRx crowd would surely approve of the motives behind Epstein's philanthropy. He had alleged that mainstream foundations were failing science because they had become too "politically correct." Epstein was quick to point out that he supported diversity, but of ideas, and not people.

Besides AI and some of the fringe ideologies surrounding it, Epstein had another clear scientific passion: genetics. I've already dealt with this topic a bit before here, but even more information has come out since that post. In point of fact, Epstein spent much of this decade investing in genetic research. Specifically, Epstein sought to analyse and sequence human DNA. In time, this would be used to build a database. In theory, this database would have been sold to drug companies for a tidy profit, but given the man's apparent interest in eugenics, one has to wonder.

And that brings me to one of Land's darkest visions. In the final section of his landmark Dark Enlightenment essay, Land singles out University of California biologist John H. Campbell, whom he hails as a "prophet of monstrosity." This is as apt a description as any for a man who may have given away the endgame of the elite Epstein represented. His notions have been described as thus:
"Reasoning that the majority of humankind will not voluntarily accept qualitative population-management policies, Campbell points out that any attempt to raise the IQ of the whole human race would be tediously slow. He further points out that the general thrust of early eugenics was not so much species improvement as the prevention of decline. Campbell’s eugenics, therefore, advocates the abandonment of Homo sapiens as a 'relic' or 'living fossil' and the application of genetic technologies to intrude upon the genome, probably writing novel genes from scratch using a DNA synthesizer. Such eugenics would be practiced by elite groups, whose achievements would so quickly and radically outdistance the usual tempo of evolution that within ten generation the new groups will have advanced beyond our current form to the same degree that we transcend apes."
Was Epstein's venture into human DNA studies such a foray? Were the proceeds of his child sex trafficking being used to bring about a godlike elite that would fundamentally cease being human? The great Christopher Knowles has been warning against such developments on The Secret Sun for years. The Epstein revelations should make it clear that Mr. Knowles' warnings are no longer mere speculation, but are presently ongoing amongst the darkest corners of the deep private. Much of it is happening openly among prestigious scientific institutes, but I suspect a man like Epstein would be needed to further the more sinister aspects.

Land himself is coy about how he perceives these developments, but he clearly seems to believe that what is emerging will resemble something out of Lovecraft. He remarks: "For racial nationalists, concerned that their grandchildren should look like them, Campbell is the abyss. Miscegenation doesn’t get close to the issue. Think face tentacles."

Nick Land
Land has speculated about both an AI and the Necronomicon from the future meddling in our current world. But this researcher can't help but think of a more chilling scenario: What if it is the Great Old Ones themselves who are melding in the present from the future. And what if accelerationism and the Dark Enlightenment are one such bid to harness capitalism and technology towards one obvious end: their own creation and a distinctly post-human future. Are Lovecraft's demonic space gods then our own future when a tendril-faced elite final sever all ties to humanity and Earth as a whole? Certainly, I suspect such a notion has passed through Land's mind. And he may well be okay with such an outcome.

But the real question is, are men like Epstein and Thiel concerned with such an endgame? Based on circumstantial evidence, such a possibility can not be dismissed. And that is something that is truly horrifying to contemplate. This is why, as I've suggested before, that Epstein's child sex trafficking is not the darkest abyss. Rather, it is what the funds from this endeavor were being used to sponsor. And that may well be the birth of the Great Old Ones.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Back on We've Read the Documents

The great John Brisson was kind enough to have me back on We've Read the Documents earlier this week. In the span of just over an hour we managed to cover several complex topics, including the John Birch Society and the American Security Council; the origins of Alex Jones, the conspiratorial right, and the American militia movement in those shadowy bodies; propaganda and how it is skillfully applied; the Council for National Policy (CNP) and the various individuals linked to it; the CNP's influence on the Trump administration; the far right Hunt familyLe CercleEpstein and Robert Maxwell; the shadowy Regnery family, their decades spanning association with the far right, and their bizarre patronage of especially esoteric strands of Ufology; the upcoming 2020 US presidential elections, Trump's likely re-election and the looming shitshow that will be Hillary 2020. I'm sure there were more topics that I'm forgetting as well. I also offered some latest developments on my upcoming book with Frank Zero as well as the progress on my Epstein book.

The interview can be found here.

More information on the American Security Council, the John Birch Society, and so forth can be found here.

My initial series on Le Cercle can be found here.

Epstein and the Maxwells were addressed in the following articles:
Maxwell's Silver Hammer
Epstein's Little Black Book
Epstein Dies: Long Live the New Mexico Connection?
Russian Games

The CNP and some of the more current topics discussed in this interview were partly inspired by this recent post.

As always dear readers, I hope everyone enjoys. For long time readers who have been missing some of the more high weirdness-centric posts, take heart. I've got two very curious pieces that I'm currently working on that should be ready by the end of the month. For the time being, remain patient and stay tuned.