We live in an era of great plenty, in the midst of an abundance unprecedented in human history. Yet we also live in a time of artificial scarcity — calls for austerity, rationalistic excuses for massive economic inequality, and attacks on the poor in the name of a death-dealing morality masquerading as level-headed budgetary concern. While the poor are told that they need to choose between healthcare and iPhones, the rich find it acceptable to spend thousands of dollars on exclusive music festivals held on private islands. On left and right, a fatalistic obsession with the temporary autonomous zone — brief moments supposedly free from the control of restrictive and rapacious neoliberal capitalism — replace speculative visions of a better future that once drove both the political imaginaries of social movements, and the utopian dreams of the occultists, esotericists, and fringe religious communities. In the memorable phrase of Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams, and Armen Avanessian, “the future has been cancelled.”
The Politics of Abundance
Yet some new political formations are fighting back against this tendency in contemporary politics. Peter Frase (editor and frequent contributor to Jacobin Magazine) argues that we must embrace a “politics of abundance” rather than scarcity if we are to have any hope of reviving a left that attracts broad popular support for its vision of the future. Frase explains how the specter of scarcity is an artificial creation of capitalist economics, and how abundance for all should and could be the actual state of the contemporary world:
This scarcity is entirely a result of the dysfunction of the capitalist economy, in which idle resources confront unmet human need. We live in a world with greater material wealth than at any previous time in human history, which makes the idea of abundance more important than ever … The point of articulating [a politics of abundance] is to provide a firm grounding for why we resist the call for austerity. Rather than giving in to the ruling class’s politics of fear, we can be inspired by a vision of a better possible future. It is a vision that is profoundly optimistic about the potential of human societies, while questioning the ability of capitalism to deliver on that potential.1Peter Frase, “The Politics of Abundance.”
Similarly, the obscenity of poverty in an era of plenty is one of the primary arguments behind the call for a New Poor People’s Campaign, the work of the Kairos Center, Repairers of the Breach, and many other movement organizations and religious leaders to complete the unfinished work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. Dr. King knew then that abundance should be the right of every human being. At Frogmore on November 14, 1966, King said,
God has left enough (and to spare) in this world for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and God never intended for some of his children to live in inordinate superfluous wealth while others live in abject, deadening poverty. And somehow I believe that God made it all … I believe firmly that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. I don’t think it belongs to Mr. Rockefeller. I don’t think it belongs to Mr. Ford. I think the earth is the Lord’s, and since we didn’t make these things by ourselves, we must share them with each other. And I think this is the only way we are going to solve the basic problems and the restructuring of our society which I think is so desperately needed.2Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Dr. King’s Speech,” Frogmore, November 14, 1966.
Yet fifty years later, we still live in a society based on artificial scarcity, a world of growing economic inequality and rising poverty. Why has the left failed, and what could esoteric approaches to religion and spirituality contribute to a renewed movement for a future of abundance for all?
There is much in common between the politics of abundance, the planetary liberation theology and spirituality of the poor, and Srnicek and Williams’ vision of a “left accelerationism” — a political tendency rooted in the belief that the future must be newly constructed by a reinvigorated left unafraid of embracing contemporary technology and productive forces. As Srnicek and Williams write in their Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics,
We need to revive the argument that was traditionally made for post-capitalism: not only is capitalism an unjust and perverted system, but it is also a system that holds back progress. Our technological development is being suppressed by capitalism, as much as it has been unleashed. Accelerationism is the basic belief that these capacities can and should be let loose by moving beyond the limitations imposed by capitalist society.3#Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics, 3.22.
The left accelerationists contrast the “folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism” with what they call “an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology” (3.1). While the former focuses its attention on establishing temporary autonomous zones and on “registering discontent” rather than building the power necessary to truly restructure society, the latter “seeks to preserve the gains of late capitalism while going further than its value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies will allow” (3.1).
What truly distinguishes left acclerationism from the anarchist tendencies recently dominating popular leftist movements is the former’s emphasis on unleashing the “latent productive forces” of modern technology:
Accelerationists want to unleash latent productive forces. In this project, the material platform of neoliberalism does not need to be destroyed. It needs to be repurposed towards common ends. The existing infrastructure is not a capitalist stage to be smashed, but a springboard to launch towards post-capitalism. (3.5)
Srnicek and Williams “want to accelerate the process of technological evolution” (3.7). But this is not the same as techno-utopianism or a new post-capitalist technocracy. As the MAP states,
Never believe that technology will be sufficient to save us. Necessary, yes, but never sufficient without socio-political action. Technology and the social are intimately bound up with one another, and changes in either potentiate and reinforce changes in the other. Whereas the techno-utopians argue for acceleration on the basis that it will automatically overcome social conflict, our position is that technology should be accelerated precisely because it is needed in order to win social conflicts. (3.7)
An Acceleration with Navigation
The left accelerationists (as distinguished from the pro-capitalist accelerationism of Nick Land and the alt-right, and the dystopian libertarianism so popular today in Silicon Valley) thus argue for an acceleration with navigation, with a telos — not a mad dash to the future, but a planned one. This means bypassing the fetishization of process and horizontalism on the contemporary left:
The overwhelming privileging of democracy-as-process needs to be left behind. The fetishisation of openness, horizontality, and inclusion of much of today’s ‘radical’ left set the stage for ineffectiveness. Secrecy, verticality, and exclusion all have their place as well in effective political action (though not, of course, an exclusive one). (3.13)
What this openness to “secrecy, verticality, and exclusion” among the acclerationists makes possible is the esoteric and occult dimensions of left accelerationism — an “illuminated accelerationism,” if you will, updating the nineteenth century “illuminated socialism” of certain esoteric proponents of Saint-Simonianism and Fourierism, such as the French magus Éliphas Lévi.
After all, from the influence of Prince Hall Freemasonry on nineteenth century slave revolts to the early fraternal secrecy of the Knights of Labor, from the passwords of the Molly Maguires to the revolutionary lodges of Garibaldi’s Rite of Memphis-Misraim, secret oaths, esoteric hierarchies, and hidden gnosis have all had a place in the history of radical politics. Indeed, the Rosicrucian Manifestos of the early modern period, the inspiration of many later western esoteric orders, explicitly speak of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood as a hidden organization working secretly behind the scenes in Western Europe to spark a Universal Reformation in all sectors of society, from politics and religion to science and the arts. This is the occult telos of Western Esotericism, frequently lost behind the modern individualist drive toward personal spiritual attainment.
#Accelerate to #Integrality
What would an esoteric order of the accelerationist left, working secretly toward Universal Reformation in all spheres of modern life, look like? The MAP avoids prescribing any single organization of the left as the solution to the problems it raises — in fact, it suggests that no particular organization could embody all the “vectors” of what is needed to actualize an accelerationist politics. Instead, what is needed “is an ecology of organisations, a pluralism of forces, resonating and feeding back on their comparative strengths” (3.15).
Such an organization found its genesis in the early twentieth century, continuing the pansophic mission of traditional Rosicrucianism and working toward the realignment of the human Microcosm with God’s Providential plan for the Macrocosm — including the reformation of human society into a planetary unity based on the integralization of all human knowledge and religious traditions. This is, of course, the Universal Brotherhood, also known as the Integral Fellowship and the Mahacakra.
A highly obscure and secretive society since its “founding” as an outer organization in the first decade of the twentieth century, the UB in its broadest sense is technically “not one of the countless organizations and associations into which mankind is divided, but is rather the invisible bond that links together all organizations, associations, religions, philosophies, and other elements of terrestrial Humanity, into one stupendous and harmonious whole.” Recognizing this fact, it should “not be looked upon as a mere individual society or brotherhood, separate from all others, but as the Great Circle of the Macrocosm, with all creatures as its periphery and God Himself as its center.”
This is the theological arm of the MAP’s vision of an “ecology of organisations, a pluralism of forces” — “a collectively controlled legitimate vertical authority in addition to distributed horizontal forms of sociality” (3.14). If, according the MAP, the “command of The Plan must be married to the improvised order of The Network” (3.14), the UB’s conception of the consilience of all disparate forms of knowledge, gathered by the Providential workings of the Mahacakra into “the unity of the Integral Macrocosmic Idea,” provides an esoteric instrument for the MAP’s “Promethean politics of maximal mastery over society and its environment,” the only possible way of “dealing with global problems or achieving victory over capital” (3.21).
In other words, unlike the mistaken notions of the alt-right and the Silicon Valley libertarians, capitalism is not and never will be the vehicle of true acceleration. Instead, neoliberal capitalism “confuses speed with acceleration” — “We may be moving fast, but only within a strictly defined set of capitalist parameters that themselves never waver” (2.2). According to the MAP, under neoliberalism we “experience only the increasing speed of a local horizon, a simple brain-dead onrush rather than an acceleration which is also navigational, an experimental process of discovery within a universal space of possibility” (2.2).
If the “latter mode of acceleration” is essential to a future of abundance for all, the UB is its proper esoteric vehicle. The Mahacakra in its “outer, organized form is simply an instrumentality for systematically cooperating with the Eternal for the realization of that Perfect Order and Supreme Perfection … which mankind as a whole, so far as is in its power, has either fallen away from or failed to attain, to the inconceivable detriment both of individuals and of the race.”
The organized Mahacakra, like the Rosicrucians of early modern Europe, “endeavors to promote the perfect consummation” of “the great Macrocosmic laws of unity and order and harmony, of aspiration, fellowship and cooperation, of beauty and truth and goodness” in all the environment and in planetary human society. It speaks of a coming Age of Integrality made possible by the secretive work of the UB in all areas of human endeavor, vitalized by the Ewigkeitsgeist, “the spirit of eternity, or spirit as such.”
The esoteric vision of the UB, and its occult methods of organization, joined with the political philosophy and openness to technology of left accelerationism — an Illuminated Accelerationism — is an instrumentality for the construction of the future, a future that, as the MAP puts it, “is more modern” than the limited horizons of the neoliberal present — “an alternative modernity that neoliberalism is inherently unable to generate” (3.24).
If the future “must be cracked open once again, unfastening our horizons towards the universal possibilities of the Outside” (3.24), then the utopian futurism of the Mahacakra is exactly what the twenty-first century needs in order to accelerate to an era of “unity and order and harmony, of aspiration, fellowship and cooperation, of beauty and truth and goodness,” an era of universal abundance for all. Such a planetary unity, “the building up of the Integral Fellowship which is Humanity itself so far as it has become normally & organically united,” is a necessary prelude for what Frater Achad, the third Mahaguru of the UB, called “the Universal Terrestrial Realization of the Ideal, the deliberate carrying into effect and bringing to full fruition of the Divine and Macrocosmic Purposes” — the “Creative Intent” in the great cosmogonic enterprise of which humanity is the Microcosmic instrument.4Charles Stansfeld Jones to W.T. Smith, March 12, 1925, WTS Papers.