Spiritual Ecology, Psychogeography, and Poltergasmic Politics
"Is an oak tree breaking through concrete an insurrection? Is an alligator moving into a pond a political revolution?"From Dr. Bones
“My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (--its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ('union') with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on--" ---Freidrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power
“Si quieren que se los digaYo soy un alma sin dueñoA mí no me importa nadaPa' mí la vida es un sueño" --Ramon Ayala, "Un Puño De Tierra"
Breathe. Take it in. Breathe.
Just like pulling a trigger.
We are deep in the swamps, heading off of the Florida Trail into spongy ground that, just a few moments from now, will become a lake. There's a storm brewing about three miles west, big fucker, but we can't see it. A sea of green and brown blocks out the sky and calls from unseen animals hide the approach of rolling thunder. My comrades had asked earlier why the hell I was bringing a backpack for, what we assumed, was just a dayhike.
“Well," I said, “you never know what might happen." I drained another beer, carefully putting the empty in my pocket. “Besides I figure it's good training. Get used to moving with my sleeping hammock, tarps, the whole deal."
This was only a half-truth. I couldn't explain that this preparedness was actually a sacred covenant I'd undertaken after an acid-soaked ritual out at Lithia Springs. That not carrying a spare battery for my flashlight was a sin on par with shitting in a church pew. I couldn't explain the weird metaphysical bonds I'd forged between the land, how I'd understood its reptilian directives, and even put the very symbols it showed me on my skin permanently.
Florida, the remorseless lover. The fanged kiss. Womb and gnashing jaw all wrapped into one. Our Lady of Leche. ¡Soy el hombre más dichosa del mundo por tenerte como madre!
I was having trouble focusing. Political anxieties combined with visions of angry white men armed to the teeth. My mind swirled with these images even as the cypress brushed against me. On the podcast I co-host I made clear my belief that certain events meant we were on the threshold of great violence. A militia was being formed to stop any chance of impeachment with the express desire to train people to "put down" Leftists.
Things were finally coming to a head. For once I was actually, truly terrified.
We were out here to engage in a ritual to aid prisoners in Connecticut, to fill them with the watery, chaotic nature that flowed in this land as easily as you or I breathe. Spirits were thick. I could feel the bugs and trees in my blood.
To help ease my mind(and to ensure my attention could be focused on the ritual) I touched a tree and asked a simple question: how can I prepare for what's coming? I asked for wisdom, guidance.
I didn't realize then what I do now. That the area we were in wasn't just some swamp. That the storm, the graves we'd uncover, all would drip with potent meaning.
Meaning beyond mere politics. Meaning which, even as I type these words, moves me to tears and fills me with awe.
None of this may make sense. I feel compelled to write it all the same.
I have been gifted with a vision. Come sit with me in the humid air and let me tell you what I saw.
“That was definitely an alligator."
The head had dipped under the water, but judging by the size and placement of the ripples we knew exactly what he was. Mapite began to make gator calls, the sound of a youngling freshly hatched. No luck.
The small wooden bridge hadn't been taken care of, this entire section of woods seemed abandoned by rangers. Trees had fallen over the path ahead and a layer of moss had grown over the pressured wood we stumbled over, making the bridge right above the gator infested water very, very slippery.
People died out here. A lot.
For whatever reason this particular patch of woods had gained a reputation locally. Campers regularly got robbed, beat up. Quite a few murders. Shootings. Odd thing for a tract of wilderness to have such a violent temper.
But it made a lot more sense when you considered we were in one gigantic battle field.
Around 1870 a “feud" broke out between Brevard and Orange county residents. Course the folks up North called it a feud. We didn't.
We called it “The Range Wars."
Camped right in this hammock was a Florida cracker by the name of Mose Barber, a sixty-two year old veteran of both Seminole Wars and the Civil War. He'd grown rich rustling cattle and refused to pay any taxes to the “carpet-bagger government" of the Reconstruction era.
Enter Orange County Sheriff David Mizell. A fellow confederate veteran now turned Republican, he was also the tax collector and county commissioner. Barber hated Mizell, and couldn't understand why the twelve year resident of central Florida had betrayed his state by siding with the Republican newcomers. For Barber the Civil War was far from over. For Mizell it was just another Tuesday.
Mizell had made it clear to Barber: you don't pay your taxes I'm going to collect the payment in cattle. Twice now Mizell had done just that and Barber, very loud and publicly, had made it clear he intended to kill Mizell next time he tried.
Mizell, attempting to arrest Barber, crossed this very stream we were walking over. This. Very. Same. Place.
A single shot rang out from the palmettos and stopped him.
Mizell fell dead.
Perhaps now we might call the police. Do an investigation. Leave it to the hands of the State.
Not here. Cow Country operated under different rules, older ones, and the State's tendrils could not reach these pastures.
Blood for blood. Without a unifying force justice would have to be made. The same immutable law that operates in Detroit, Buenos Aires, Somalia, Libya, and a host of other places where the State simply can't be bothered to give a damn.
Over the years ambushes, snipers, and rogue beatings would claim the lives of 41 people from this spot all the way to St. Cloud. Vicious gang violence, the kind motivated solely by revenge and an atavistic desire to exterminate that which weren't your own. Only ten defendants were ever brought to trial, none were convicted, and at one point a courthouse was burned down to stop the proceedings.
You can often feel the presence of suicide in a house. Or murder. There's a subtle energetic shift, something that tastes like copper. The rage and animosity, the guns and blood, still lies in the soil of Normandy, Gettysburg, and other battlefields.
Battlefields like Bull Creek.
Everywhere we walked I could feel slips of time, echoes of sweating men huddled behind oaks. I couldn't understand what was happening. What were these memories? Whose were they?
The land, seeing that this specific symbolic language wasn't being understood clearly, decided to change pace.
So it sent the storm our way.
We were sitting on fallen cypress tree. The ritual had been a success, random twigs in the ritual space falling into the exact shape of a human being. “A good sign," I told my friends. I poured beer onto the ground in thanks and took a mighty swing myself. Mud covered my hands and mosquitoes were strangely absent.
Mapite and Vaquero were smoking cigarettes. We camped for a moment, basking in that weird after glow only sorcery can bring. We passed water and food to one another. Felt alive and united with the Earth around us. We headed west into the pines.
The ritual was over but I couldn't shake the feeling that we'd woken something up. Something larger than ourselves.
All the trees bore the marks of frequent wildfires, a total devastation that was practically required to bring nutrients into the soil. We were looking for a cemetery.
It was quite awhile before we found it, and in that time we'd traversed flooded trails and even shot my revolver, just for kicks.
“You could do that," Mapite said as I pointed the gun in the air. “But it would be loud."
“I know." I said. “That's kinda why I want to do it. It feels....right."
The echo cracked for miles, bouncing off the palmettos and weaving through pine trees who might very well have watched Mizell die.
Connections between timelines. A pointing finger. Do you understand? Do you see what I'm saying? I still couldn't hear her. She groaned and drew the storm closer.
At one point Mapite started to laugh. “I uh...I left my camping toilet paper in the car apparently."
“Oh?" A saurian smile crept across my teeth. “Here, have mine."
“You have some in your pack?"
“Always. Never know when you might need it."
He stood there, half chuckling himself. “Okay, okay. The pack was a good idea."
We finally reached the cemetery only to become greatly confused. The thing was old, no doubt about that. An entire row of corpses had been put under stone here in the 1870's. 1890's. 1920's. 1984.
“What the fuck?" Vaquero motioned me to a particularly large section of graves, just as ornate as the others, decorated with flowers. The date was confusing.
“Who..." I backed away. “Who the fuck is still burying people out here?"
“Where the fuck is the road? How'd they even bring this out here?"
“Seriously this is public land...this is way, way out in the woods. In the goddamn palmettos."
“Look at the beer." He motioned to a bench right next to the freshest grave.
“Somebody is coming out here and feeding these things. Sitting with them."
“That stone is easily one thousand dollars. These dead people are far from rested."
I wondered if the past was really the past. Mapite turned a corner. He pointed towards the sky.
“Storms coming. Maybe we ought to head back?"
“Every manifestation of life is impermanent. Our quest to make things permanent, to straighten everything out, to get it fixed is an impossible and insoluble problem.” ---Alan Watts
We walked back under a light drizzle, our hats shielding our faces. This was good practice. I reached in my pack and took out my poncho, a green one that had built in grommets. I had been told to carry it wherever I went in the woods. The rain-drops tattooed on my leg contained within it this message, and of course much more.
The storm went from light drizzle to pounding sheets. We broke for a treeline, but it quickly became apparent we would be soaked.
“My poncho!" I yelled over the thunder now cracking likes cannons above us. “It doubles as a tarp!" We grabbed the rope in my pack and tied a hasty shelter in between a patch of small trees. The sky was the darkest grey, streaks of lighting running across it like great veins in some sky whale.
We were wet but at least now we were drying out. This made all the difference. After carefully wiping my revolver and putting it in my pack we passed around a pipe. Told stories of the most scared we'd ever been in our life.
I look back now and laugh. Why, of all topics, had that been the one to come up?
It poured buckets for about 45 minutes. All we could do was wait.
“Okay. I'm just going to say it." Mapite shrugged, lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke into solid walls of water around us. “You saved the day. The pack was a great idea. I need one of these ponchos."
Vaquero laughs. “Me too!"
I smile, nodding to the Connecticut wizard a long way from snow and crumbling Victorian buildings.
“We'll make a Floridian out of you yet." I offer silent prayers to my mother, thank her for her wisdom.
Even as the storm raged we were comfortable. Fluid. Willing to adapt and change. If we were in a hurry to get home we'd be fucked. But if we rolled with the natural cycles, sought to surf them rather than force them one way or another...we'd be alright.
It may have been around then, hard to say, that everything sort of clicked for me. Natural cycles. Bloodshed, fire, hurricane winds. Lightning. All were part of the experience, deadly friends just as natural as moon phases and the passage of seasons. Were those folk fighting the Range Wars engaging in something deeper out here? Had the battle left some imprint that continued to push people to violence today? Were all the robberies, the killings, long after the feud was over echoes of some indescribable kinetic energy lying just behind our atoms?
Amid political upheavals pushed by Mars or Saturn, or random number generators across the planet picking up on 9/11 before it occurred, weird happenings hint even our most mundane problems have esoteric significance. Perhaps even causes.
What we called the universe then was some gigantic ecosystem, creature upon creature piling on, humanity the mitochondria for a body of ethereal beings.
Everything that emerged from the Land eventually and inevitably returned back to it, in a never-ending cycle of giving and taking, living and killing, feeding and being fed on, breathing in and breathing out. This included the Land itself, still conscious of its many years destined to rest back under the ocean. From the gods to the planet even bigger ecosystems waited, perhaps the Earth itself nothing more than some prey item for an even larger mouth. How much was the swamp pushed along by invisible hands?
These inter-relations rose to dizzying heights according to the Gnostics in the Gospel of Philip:
“The rulers thought that it was by their own power and will that they were doing what they did, but the Holy Spirit in secret was accomplishing everything through them as it wished. Truth, which existed since the beginning, is sown everywhere. And many see it being sown, but few are they who see it being reaped."
Was such a force behind the cycles of human conflict? The rulers spoken of by the Gnostics were the "Archons," spiritual beings who created humanity as slaves and food. If even their plans were but foam upon a much larger wave...what were ours? Were war and peace all manifestations of the same force that produced palm trees, bobcats, and the nourishing rain? Or even the lightning that was about to kill us?
“QUIET!" Mapite holds up his hand. We see the fear in his eyes. Bear? Hog? I move to grab the .357. He holds his arm up to us where we can see it.
Every hair is standing on end. Vaquero looks at his own arm. He too seems to be covered in little black figures standing perfectly at attention
We're being ionized. This is exactly what happens before you get hit by lightning.
There was a good solid minute that felt like hours, our eyes wide open and communicating in the unspoken language only fear can bring.
Our glaces said it all. Do we move? Should we jump out now?
I couldn't help but marvel at it. Out in The World storms were just an inconvenience. Lightning was just something in the sky. Out here it was alive, real. Hungry.
And now it was here. Pure electrical death from the air, a force you had no way of controlling and could only move around. Visceral, real, overwhelming power.
But it wasn't random. Unseen except by subtle senses was a dance of electrons and particles. What we called the “physical world" was almost a strange dream-image for them, perhaps even registering as only barriers of varying thickness.
Boars. Trees. Gators. Us. It was all just wiring to the electrical swirls currently running its fingers through our hair. Our physicality, our entire world, existed to these clouds as merely an exchange medium. Something for the cloud to pass energy through. How that energy manifested, weather in blown-apart cypress or fried human flesh, was of little concern to it.
What were our buildings, our hopes, our systems, our dreams? Right now we were staring down a death we could not kill. It could take us effortlessly. We were miles out, there'd be no rescue. We felt a hand slowly hover right above the tarp. The air began to smell like ozone. Everything felt like it was ready to explode and I remember closing my eyes waiting for it.
This is it. I'm....okay with this. This is a good place to die.
Heat filled the air. Everything went silent. A huge pressure suddenly filled the gaps between us and I gritted my teeth, deciding I wanted to wear a smile, a smirk, for my death mask. The fingers touched us
it's impossible to explain. Maybe I imagined it. But Mapite said he felt it too. We sensed a hand hang over us, an intelligent one, and right as it was about to close its circuit...it decided not to. We could feel, on some weird and unknowable level, this decision. And we all sat bolt upright as we all felt this intelligence, this weird conscious force right below the clouds, move away from us and look for something else to strike.
Our hairs went down.
We'd almost been killed but...something....had decided to spare us for reasons which, to this day, remain a mystery.
“All the emanations from the Father, therefore, are Pleromas, and all his emanations have their roots in the one who caused them all to grow from himself. He appointed a limit. They, then, became manifest individually in order that they might be in their own thought, for that place to which they extend their thoughts is their root, which lifts them upward through all heights to the Father... ...the Father is in them, and they are in the Father, since they are perfect, inseparable from him who is truly good. They lack nothing in any way, but they are given rest and are refreshed by the Spirit. And they listen to their root; they have leisure for themselves, they in whom he will find his root, and he will suffer no loss to his soul." ---The Gospel of Truth
The rain slowed, and finally let go. We untied our shelter, packed up the rope, and I threw the poncho back on.
“Jesus," said Mapite.
“With the poncho, the hat, the fucking jungle boots...you look like...like a goddamn army ranger out here. Like you live out here. All you need is a rifle."
I thought about the one I had at home. The one I wanted to bring out here.
What unseen patterns was I following? Were my behaviors, my clothing, being pulled along just the same as the ions swirling around me? How much of me was a manifestation, an exchange of two poles of energy pulsed through fleshy matter?
BOOM! Energy dreaming it's a single mother in the Arizona desert, wishing she had another shot at country music fame. BOOM! Energy striking ground as a 7-11 clerk, the poor health promised in the energy drinks he sells reflected in the bags under his eyes, the florescent lights, the dirty toilet, and the street light that won't stop flickering. BOOM! A boy whose eyes feel like they're on fire, who plays in swamps and drainage canals with strange creatures only he can see. Hours and hours he spends talking to trees and invisible things after school. The creatures mark him. His eyes will fail, reduced to relying on movement. Ideal. He keeps the lights on in his room after everyone goes to bed, watching the shadows fly at high speed across the walls.
Nothing is moving. Nothing he can see normally anyway.
The boy smiles, a toothy grin with a light hiss that might draw an alligator's attention. He is poor, born poor, probably die poor, but that's okay. Out here in the rain he feels just like any other lizard. Perfectly suited to his natural habitat. Forgetting the false safety of the law, of the State, of the bullshit economic arrangements. He trusts in the natural cycles. Death merely an energetic exchange, an ibis eating a bug, a gator eating an ibis, packs of humans killing each other to put corpses into the ground like squirrels hiding acorns.
I am ready for it.
For a moment my consciousness drifted into the landscape around me. An essay I'd once read by a woman nearly eaten alive by a crocodile trickled past my eyes:
“This concept of human identity positions humans outside and above the food chain, not as part of the feast in a chain of reciprocity but as external manipulators and masters of it...
Before the encounter, it was as if I saw the whole universe as framed by my own narrative, as though the two were joined perfectly and seamlessly together. As my own narrative and the larger story were ripped apart, I glimpsed a shockingly indifferent world in which I had no more significance than any other edible being."
Do you see? Do you see now?
Yes mother. I have heard your wisdom. Oh Great Mother, She of Scale and Feather, Potent Mistress of both the Fang and the Cow Tooth. A spiritual ecology ever present. Our story, our history, our conflicts, were small ripples in a very crowded pool.
That, or the manifestation of the never-ending hunger of the ground for more corpses.
Even with a Lovecraftian universe of endlessly changing shapes and lives we can remain political. We can still desire change suited to our interests. A truly sorcerous politics does not separate the self from the world around it. An organism implies environment. Ours is the entire cosmos, the dimensions that run through it, and storms that pass like clouds across the moon. When we separate this never-ending kudzu strand of forces and desires into static categories we lose the ability to perceive and think this reality clearly.
The African Diaspora and Indigenous people of this planet have avoided this fate. Spiritual ignorance, the one true sin in the Gnostic faith, is a distinctly Western problem.
We have made nature an abstract ideal rather than a living, breathing thing. We have made work the pinnacle of human endeavour and revolution rather than just another motion like laughing or fucking. We have even made the Gods far-removed rulers, rather than beings made up of the same currents that flow through our hearts.
“When the Tao is lost Righteousness & Justice appear to give direction Knowledge and shrewdness follow Ensuring great hypocrisy. When harmonious relationships dissolve Laws manifest to limit our homes. As a nation falls to chaos Yoked loyalty and patriotism become the norm." ---Tao te Ching
We are in a cycle. The political climate, maybe even this entire sector of reality, is inbetween lighting strikes. The energy is pulsing and forming and pooling into humans and ideologies. This has happened many times before and will continue to do so as long as humans exist.
How can our politics survive this reality, the smallness of our lives and the largeness of our existence? An existence where our descendants will be doomed just as we are to never fully be safe and never fully vanquish their enemies?
As above, so below. Body to body, breath to breath. We take our cues from the ecosystem and adapt.
Freedom from morality, the enjoyment of all kinds of uncertainty and experimentalism, the abandonment of the quest for “Truth" replaced by the development of the Self. The world not as something to overcome but a force to unite with to increase your own power. Take no form but what is called for in that moment and don't be afraid to dry out or get wet. This is the Wisdom of the Swamp. Remove yourself from The Flow and you will be overwhelmed with water. In a universe where the only constant is unceasing change the only sane decision is to embrace playful non-attachment. To simply be rather than to hold on to the spectral models promising permanence we keep in our head. The minute we lived for anything other than life all was lost.
Or as Max Stirner said:
“No sheep, no dog, exerts itself to become a 'proper sheep, a proper dog'; no beast has its essence appear to it as a task, i.e. as a concept that it has to realize. It realizes itself in living itself out...it does not ask to be or to become anything other than it is. Do I mean to advise you to be like the beasts? That you ought to become beasts is an exhortation which I certainly cannot give you, as that would again be a task, an ideal...It is different if you do not chase after an ideal as your 'destiny,' but dissolve yourself as time dissolves everything. The dissolution is not your 'destiny,' because it is present time."
Perhaps we aren't fighting for a new political system.
Perhaps we are entirely new creatures, molded and shaped by the rains and thunderstorms. Anarchists just as natural as tree frogs. As Vultures. Maybe we were to Communists as coyotes were to wolves. Fighting and tearing at a social and economic ecosystem like pythons displace alligators in the Everglades. Changing the world because to do so is to be in it, not to "save it" or even make it better.
My desire to be free wasn't placed there by dead white men, nor books or history. It burned with an invisible fire, as much a part of myself as my organs or the desire for food. Everything around me had the same immutable hunger, the same thirst.
We lived. We desired to live. Like water we would flow and soak everything around us, changing it to suit our purposes just like any other creature. Is an oak tree breaking through concrete an insurrection? Is an alligator moving into a pond a political revolution? Perhaps...but perhaps it's better understood as the unfiltered and pure desire for life. To be, fully and in every sense of the word. To overcome or be overrun.
Fish and birds be damned. Cops and laws be damned.
We left, tracing across flooded ground and practically unrecognizable trails. Vaquero wished aloud we were heading to camp, one formed by our own hands and our own choosing. Instead we'd return to human-beehives and cattle pens for good citizens. This made us sad, and as we scooted back across Bull Creek I felt eyes both human and non watch us go by. I felt as if we were leaving friends.
By the time we reached the road it was dark. Pitch black. The land was so wide and open you could see the storm that'd kissed us several miles off. We watched it's arms and fingers touch buildings off in the distance, though I'm sure the people there were oblivious.
“This calls for a victory beer." We ripped open the 18 pack. I took a solar-rechargeable LED lantern out of my backpack and held it between us.
“So you just carry this stuff. You're just prepared. That's your thing."
“Of course." I smiled, letting the brewed water flow down my throat like rain. My body felt like water, swampy water that would overcome anything solid. Anything that stood in the way of my way of manifestation. My lightning strike.
“After all, you never know what's going to happen..."
Dr. Bones is a Hoodoo-slingin’ Florida native and Egoist-Communist spitting pure vitriol and sorcerous wisdom at a world gone mad. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.
His poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism can be found at Gods & Radicals and The Conjure House. He can be reached by email, twitter, or facebook. Want to do him a favor? Help keep him alive for as little as $4.99 a month.
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