Ship of Fools
Well, it’s about time.
I was very pleased recently when my spiritual soul-brother Paul Kingsnorth finally came out in a series of blogposts and interviews that he thinks the world is sinking precipitously toward totalitarianism through the advent of the v@ccine passports and mandates that become more alarming by the minute, especially in Germany, Austria, and the Great Ahriman, Australia, but also in Ireland (where the Brit Kingsnorth makes his home) and a bewildering array of other countries, states, and municipalities such as California and New York. Enough, argues Kingsnorth in his own inimitable way, is enough.
Even Rod Dreher has finally come around and seen fit to comment on this concerning development. He did it using Kingsnorth’s epiphany as a screen in a recent post, though I don’t think he’s entered this fray heretofore. At least not that I’ve found. Must be a slow news week in Hungary.
I honestly don’t understand why it’s taken them so long.
I saw this coming from the proverbial mile away, as early as spring of 2020. It was not hard to predict—and many I know, even good friends, told me I was being paranoid and that such things could never happen. They’re happening. My astounding insight (jk) was not the product of anything remotely resembling spiritual vision, but due to the fact that I’ve been an English professor teaching students the ABCs of rhetoric and its evil stepsister propaganda for twenty-some years. Using texts from Plato’s Gorgias to Huxley and Orwell to to the novels of Philip K. Dick to Adam Curtis’s eye-opening Century of the Self series (and so many things besides) throughout my academic career I’ve been asking students to examine the toxic environment of words within which we are constantly saturated and bombarded. But solid teaching, it seems, is no match for the technocracy. Technocracy is here, and its winning.
I suppose it is a poet’s curse. As a poet and songwriter, I am keenly attuned to language and meaning, to text, context, and subtext. I’m attentive to the hypnotic cadences of lines and the insidious ways messages insert themselves into our awareness—and into our subconscious. I am sure you, gentle reader, could rattle off any number of advertising jingles from your earliest childhood without making a mistake—I was born in the early 60s, and I’m sure I could drop dozens without coming up for air. Political speech operates in the same register: “Just say no,” “I believe in a place called Hope,” “Change has come to America,” “Believe women,” “Make America Great Again,” and let’s not forget the New World Anthem, “Build Back Better.” None of these slogans mean a damn thing; their only quality is how they inject a feel-good soporific into the body politic while the social engineers and technocrats proceed apace in toward their goal of total control, a goal nearing its realization, as governments everywhere, but especially in the “democratic West,” move ever closer to the digital promised land of a social credit system.
People may wonder what this has to do with Sophiology. Everything, actually. As anyone familiar with my work would know (minuscule though that coterie is), my claim is that technocracy is the anti-Sophia (Kingsnorth calls it “The Machine”). It is (as I’ve written) completely Ahrimanic (a term I do not use in a dogmatic anthroposophical sense—so spare me the complaints). Simply put, my vehemence on this subject is a direct outgrowth of my Sophiology—for I see an inverse relationship between the sophiological and the technocratic: the more technocratic the world grows, the less room is there for Sophia to appear.
I felt this technocratic specter rising long ago, far earlier than my earliest attempt at capturing this in writing when I wrote about Blade Runner and transhumanism almost twenty years ago. I’ve been watching it approach and wrote my sophiological works at least in part as a way to alter that trajectory. I’ve failed, obviously, though I take some strange comfort in knowing that the technocrats see my work as enough of a threat to quash traffic to my various internet platforms. Maybe this is why Kingsnorth and Dreher (among others, certainly) have been so reluctant until now to speak up. I hope others join them.
I suspect things may come to a head on or around the twenty-fourth of this month, when Saturn and Uranus form a hard square from Aquarius to Taurus. This square suggests a breaking down of power structures and a tension between authority and technology. I remember, as you might, when the internet was a much more democratic digital environment—and not the Thought Police of the World Archons it is now. Saturn and Uranus were conjunct in 1989—the year the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Bloc Communism started to crumble. I remember how hopeful I was (my eldest son was born that year) that the world would be a better place. What a chump I was! Communism somehow became cool! When Saturn and Uranus were square in 2000, the world was in a financial crisis (remember Enron?) accompanied by the Y2K panic (computers). When the planets were in opposition—2008—finance and technocrats were in full-on “screw the proletariat” mode with the housing crisis and the tanking of the global economy. I fully expect a financial component to this one (Taurus), but there is also the possibility of something new coming into being (Aquarius). It could get ugly for a minute, but—and this depends on people of good will—that ugliness could turn to beauty.
If my life has taught me anything, it is that the Archons—at whatever level—may be clever, but they’re also entirely lacking in wisdom, which is to say stupid. This is nothing new, of course. Originating in Plato in the Republic, but very popular from the medieval through the early modern periods, the emblem of “The Ship of Fools” has born witness to the incredible folly of the human race, and especially of those assuming the reins of power. Here is Plato’s telling:
“There’s the shipowner, larger and stronger than everyone in the ship, but somewhat deaf and rather short-sighted, with a knowledge of sailing to match his eyesight. The sailors are quarrelling among themselves over captaincy of the ship, each one thinking that he ought to be captain, though he has never learnt that skill, nor can he point to the person who taught him or a time when he was learning it. On top of which they say it can’t be taught. In fact they’re prepared to cut to pieces anyone who says it can. The shipowner himself is always surrounded by them. They beg him and do everything they can to make him hand over the tiller to them. Sometimes, if other people can persuade him and they can’t, they kill those others or throw them overboard. Then they immobilise their worthy shipowner with drugs or drink or by some other means, and take control of the ship, helping themselves to what it is carrying. Drinking and feasting, they sail in the way you’d expect people like that to sail. More than that, if someone is good at finding them ways of persuading or compelling the shipowner to let them take control, they call him a real seaman, a real captain, and say he really knows about ships. Anyone who can’t do this they treat with contempt, calling him useless. They don’t even begin to understand that if he is to be truly fit to take command of a ship a real ship’s captain must of necessity be thoroughly familiar with the seasons of the year, the stars in the sky, the winds, and everything to do with his art. As for how he is going to steer the ship—regardless of whether anyone wants him to or not—they do not regard this as an additional skill or study which can be acquired over and above the art of being a ship’s captain. If this is the situation on board, don’t you think the person who is genuinely equipped to be captain will be called a stargazer, a chatterer, of no use to them, by those who sail in ships with this kind of crew?” (Book VI)
The past twenty-some months clearly bear this out. People haven’t changed all that much.
Hopefully, those who survive the coming madness (not to mention the current madness) will be able to bring wisdom back into the center of human striving and flourishing. We’d be fools not to.
Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine.