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Pepe

Updated: Oct 15, 2021



Sometime in 2007, during my undergraduate degree’s terminal phase, I came across a certain cartoon frog; a fairly jolly character as it happened, almost as jolly as Kermit the muppet. The source was my housemate, who as a masculine queer—icy and practical, not the sentimental type—always located high-grade hipster material. You know what I mean, the stuff that comes in bright primary colours and lumberjack shirts; the stuff that screams “Portland, Oregon”; it screamed it then, even though I had very little idea what Portland, Oregon was like. This material was always printed on luxury paper that had a certain roughness to the touch, and there was a certain crisp austerity to it as well—perhaps that is what a Pacific Coast dawn is like; crisp and clear. In short, I mean Vice magazine, Le Tigre, Neutral Milk Hotel, Ghost World, Tom of Finland, Boy’s Club, “zines” and—as my friend had in our halls of residence—bound editions of The Onion.


General territory: hipster. Yet the publications and CDs my friend found were arch and ironic without degeneration into complete sarkiness; somehow all the media maintained a serious and somewhat stark edge. Fight Club came from about the same geographical milieu and outlook and conveys the general sensation, slightly arch and yet oddly cold and existential and somewhat grotesque at the same time; or, for that matter, you could take the bright-cold look found in Twin Peaks. All this emanates from a world where men wear purple ski hats, sport a beard, and everyone has a tattoo, just not as a career criminal has—no the tattoo is something arch; perhaps a reference to Raymond Carver, who served as an inspiration for the novel they wrote to complete their MFA from Olympia (whether or not there is a college called “Olympia” in Oregon is irrelevant, if there is no such college then there should be).


Although everyone professes to hate the hipster, there is a sense in which the type—although somewhat decadent—represents a high point for what is probably best termed Anglo-Germanic American culture; personally, I think hipsterism, per the Pacific NorthWest, has a definite Germanic inflection—and perhaps it is something to do with the vast forests in that region, cold and damp and dark. The darkness in Twin Peaks and Fight Club feels German to me—the Black Forest, the hidden place where secrets dwell.


Conservatives decry hipsters for their tattoos, their narcissism, their bohemian sexual mores, and their virtue signals—and leftists decry hipsters for their firm cultural whiteness, their trust funds, and their quasi-genocidal determination to gentrify the bad side of town. Everyone claims to hate the hipsters; and yet you do kinda like artisanal coffee, right? And you have to admit that the boutique store that sells—well, comics like Boy’s Club and very blue tea sets…and…what is this shop, anyway? Nobody really knows, but it is sort of…well, not nice, sophisticated. Yes, hipsters are sophisticated and, frankly, artistic. They are not intellectual or philosophical, although they have studied theory. Hipsterism is far more about aesthetics; far more about that niche Mexican beer with the absolutely unique white can and ultra-austere red label—or about marshmallowy cartoons on my friend’s micro-brew IPA can. And did we mention the beards (Tom of Finland, again)?


The right likes to talk about virtue signals, and the hipsters are certainly elite signallers—though they are far too sophisticated to acknowledge that. It could be said that the hipsters are what happens when status-signalling is largely benign and not political, when the competition is about the latest beer from Mexico or Bolivia and to see who can find the most unique espresso cups then there is no reason to complain. Hipster culture can feel a bit “over-engineered” if you see what I mean, the beards—man-buns now—seem very stiffly maintained; there is a definite maintenance regime, quite strict. You have to work at being a hipster, although it must never look like work. In its worst form, this is decadence; it is the son of a Boeing executive, whose father specialises in winning defence contracts, who has “taken a break” to paint 237 exquisite tiles in sub-aqua blue that relate the internal mental states of cis-gender women in therapy for “gender indeterminacy”—and it will all be exquisitely understated and done in a slightly washed-out colour palette that shows complete self-possession and condescension and, simultaneously, a sort of sincere and non-pretentious frankness.


At its best, hipsterism is just what you yourself—you who sneer at them—will want to wear and do in a watered down and corporatised form after two or three years have passed. And as much as you complain about the “fuckin’ hipsters”, when you step into their habitat you have to admit that it is just, well, very pleasant.


So Pepe emerged from this world, from what could be called the Anglo-Germanic cultural vanguard in America; basically, he emerged from those people with an acute interest in aesthetics—perhaps to the extent that they are decadents, but certainly to the extent that they will explore the psyche’s radical aspects; just look at Chuck Palahniuk’s novels to see what I mean—you may never look at swimming pools the same way again. Now, Pepe the Frog is, so they say, a hate symbol; he became tied up with the alt-right—with populist racial nationalism—around 2016; he emerged as a well-known symbol just when Donald Trump and Brexit had unleashed a psychic break in the West—Trump and Farage looked like rather self-satisfied toads, and Farage, by blood, is a Frenchman; a frog. So the frog was used to torment progressives and liberals. The frog “owned the libs”. The frog was “a friggin’ Nazi” and surely that cannot be right; hipsters are solid progressives—they must be, you have seen the tiles about the mental states of gender-confused cis-gender women, right? (“So precisely painted, practically autistic—they say he’s very particular about his materials.”) Hipsters have impeccable ideological conformity, on the surface anyway.


Well, not quite; the “hipster Nazi” is a well-known phenomenon—blue-eyed icy queers with a strict gym regime, you see—and is perhaps best exemplified by the founder of Vice magazine, Gavin McInnes, a man who masterminded the quasi-paramilitary men’s club the Proud Boys (even the name is exquisite hipsterism, so arch and ironic) to defend Western values. McInnes is in no formal way a National Socialist; he is just a very vigorous classical liberal and civic nationalist—combine this with a commitment to masculinity and a street-fighter sensibility and, so far as hegemonic Western ideology goes, you are “a Nazi”.


As with many influential Americans, McInnes is a Canadian insurgent; spawned in a slightly less democratic culture—Canadians at least grow up with monarchical iconography around them—Canadians often become culture-leaders south of the border, since they have a more individuated and more integral approach. It is fun to check biographies on Wikipedia to see if notable figures are Jewish, but the great Canadian conspiracy—being, as Canadians are, quite reserved and polite—largely goes unnoticed; and many notable people you think are “American” actually turn out to be “Leafs”—some, such as Leonard Cohen, manage to be Canadian and Jewish.


To continue the hipster Nazi theme, Charles Krafft, a quintessential hipster artist—complete with a remarkable beard—from the Pacific NorthWest became notorious in the 2010s for ceramic Chinoiserie that depicted Hitler (and other great dictators), as well as several remarks on Facebook that were less than condemnatory as regards Uncle Adolf. For that matter, Palahniuk’s Fight Club was in many ways a novelisation of the contemporary Unabomber manifesto; in its quest for authenticity against state-corporate bureaucracies, its concern for neglected masculinity, and grotesque violence the novel speaks to anarcho-primitivist notions: time to re-wild, time to go back to nature—and we will not be too fussy about how many die in the process.


The reason why hipsterdom has this radical right edge to it is basically that it is an aesthetic social phenomenon, and radical right politics ultimately terminates in aesthetics. This was what Nietzsche said: aesthetics is morality; and to create an aesthetically pleasing work requires a brutal commitment to winnow away what is unnecessary. A man takes responsibility for his work and begins to strip down everything that is inessential about it—the inessential is entropy and ugliness; it must go so the work can represent reality’s essence in a flawless way, if you tolerate the excess then the work will die. Hipsters constitute North America’s white aesthetic elite; and by extension they constitute the West’s aesthetic elite and cultural antennae. The places that you most associate with hipsterdom—Oregon, Washington, Brooklyn—are, for the most part, hideously white. Indeed, the former two states had fairly strict legislation relatively late into the 20th century to keep the states white.


Yes, places like Oregon also see the most extravagant progressive activism—notably during the George Floyd riots—but, as noted in other articles, the arts enjoy an ambiguous nature. The hipster’s artistic nature—their MFA—inclines them towards conventional regime ideology; their little heart bleeds; and they are insulated from harsh realities around race and sex, since they live in enclaves or even astoundingly white cities and states where a virtue signal is easy enough. On the other hand, their basically bohemian outlook, commitment to aesthetics (to beauty, really), and attendant desire to engage in radical experiment to break new aesthetic territory makes them more than amenable to positions on the radical right—albeit such stances will remain somewhat dissentient in mainstream hipsterdom. This explains why, for example, the haircut sported by the sometime alt-right maximal leader, Richard Spencer, a cut dubbed “fashy”, also seemed decidedly hipsterish—as if someone with an acute aesthetic eye browsed photos of the Wehrmacht and decided to redo the cut with contemporary eyes and clippers.


Now, Pepe’s creator—poor man—has gone to great lengths to disassociate himself from Pepe’s “evil” reputation, and has even appeared in a documentary to discuss the ways the creature he summoned up has been misused by extremists; so it is not my contention that Pepe is an intentional creation in the same league as Krafft’s ceramics or even Palahniuk’s anarcho-primitivist novels—he has morphed from his original environment and been, if you like, appropriated. This was not a conscious act by one individual, but rather seems have happened in the dark underworld realm that is 4chan; an anonymous forum where Pepe was subject to unlimited memetic mutation and play until he became a quasi-autonomous egregore or tulpa—a thought-form grown in the dark pond, 4chan, that stood for almost every naughty, repressed, deviant, dirty, grotesque, or taboo notion that a contemporary person can entertain (only to immediately extinguish through repression).


However, I would say there is something in the hipster collective unconscious—in the collective unconscious of the West’s most advanced and sophisticated aesthetic cadre—that glommed onto the frog. In this sense, Pepe’s popularity is just the same as the way hipsters adopted Red Stripe beer, bushy beards, man-buns, and so on; he is another finely worked product from people who enjoy aesthetically pleasing things—albeit even just fashions, not as eternal art—and he “broke out” with as much force and popularity, albeit with altered semantics, as micro-breweries or IPAs. Further, however friendly, quirky, and ironic the original Pepe was meant to be there is always a “cold” aspect to hipster-produced products; basically, an amoral commitment to aesthetic novelty and excellence that is indifferent to what society currently believes to be “good”.


The above deals with the exoteric Pepe, but Pepe the Frog stands for a good deal more than what I have described so far. From slightly before 2016, Pepe has basically been associated with chaos, trolling, and outrageous humour—indeed, from the perspective of ideologically orthodox people Pepe has been deployed in ways that are “evil” and probably technically criminal, especially in the evermore tyrannical UK; for example, there are Pepes dressed in SS uniforms who smugly gas various opponents. As we shall see, Pepe can be anything you want—and there is a good reason for this—and so there are sad Pepes, happy Pepes, clown Pepes, Nazi Pepes, surreal Pepes, fat-ass Pepes, and on and on. Those people who fully inhabit the memetic ecology collect “rare Pepes”, and new Pepes manifest constantly. The constant in all these Pepes is a mischievous or trickster spirit to the frog; even the name “Pepe” itself suggests a cheeky, almost infantile, naughtiness, “Pee-pee, poo-poo.”


As an avatar for 4chan’s chaotic environment, Pepe was briefly identified on those very forums with an ancient Egyptian god, Kek—and, in turn, this led to a brief vogue for the expression “hail Kek!” whenever a chaotic event confounded the ideologically orthodox. In fact, Kek-Pepe is the “hidden spirit” in Ancient Greek (to kekrymenon pneuma); a hidden spirit instantiated in the sacred number 1746 (666 + 1080), itself related to “the grain of mustard” alluded to in the Bible. Put simply, Kek the chaos creature is Aeon’s avatar—eternity’s divine child at play, as talked about by Jung and Heraclitus. Naturally, Aeon is instantiated in an amphibian because the frog moves between the water and the land; it lives in two realms—in the esoteric formula: as above, so below. In its completeness, the frog can access Aeon and the divine possibilities that come about when dark and light are united. The frog is a hermaphrodite; it combines land and water, male and female—the condition that an alchemist seeks to attain; he unifies dark and light in one.


This explains why Pepe is such a chaotic little creature, so mischievous and full of possibilities—murderous possibilities, even. He represents a portal to reach unlimited creative potential, eternity. Jung spoke about synchronicity—an acausal connecting principle, instantiated in “meaningful coincidences”—and Pepe stands for this synchronous serendipity; hence he is associated with “unlikely” or “outrageous” events, such as Trump and Brexit, that defy expectations and predictions made by experts who live in the mundane causal world where everything is to do with cause-and-effect relations; and so Pepe is also tied to “meme magic”—the notion that through symbolic manipulation, by a “rare Pepe”, reality can be changed. This esoteric relation links back to the hipster as Anglo-Germanic aesthetic elite—the seers or mystics, albeit in modern garb—because everything I have described here is Gnostic in outlook; and Gnosticism, whether Jung’s Gnostic Christianity or in Buddhism, really is a more primordial Indo-Aryan religious tradition, strongly related to paganism; it is the idea that a person should transcend duality and “gno” the divine.


This vision is elitist, individualistic, and dispenses with priesthood; and so relates to right-wing politics in general, since the right seeks to escape priesthoods—the cult of experts, basically seen as dishonest rent-seekers—through a commitment to knowledge; not necessarily esoteric knowledge in normal politics but rather, perhaps, through a commitment to genuine experimental science. Either way, the commitment is to take personal responsibility for your own salvation and not to trust the priesthood—basically for women and feminised men—to work out what constitutes salvation; and this, in turn, remains true to the Anglo-American and Anglo-Saxon suspicion as regards the Vatican—or, in more recent mode, state organisations that seek to ban psychedelic drugs that might expand your consciousness and let you see beyond the veil. The vision is necessarily elitist; for only so many people will know the truth—salvation is not for everyone, and so the political implications are inherently anti-democratic.


This will sound rather peculiar, but Pepe is in fact an avatar for the Burning Bush that spoke to Moses all those years ago in the desert. This is because Pepe, if traced on the Tree of Life in Kabbalah, stands at the very top; he is an avatar for the Crown (the Keter) from whence all creation flows—namely, YHWH in the Old Testament. The Crown is said to be circular—rather as a pond—and it leads into eternity, the unmanifested (represented in Kabbalah by three “Ayins” and numerically by “0”—the curious number that is something and nothing at the same time). The Keter—as with Pepe’s endless mutations—can take any form, even a Burning Bush. This is because it is pure creation and divine play; as such, it is amoral—beyond good and evil—because it creates from sheer joy, whether that is an outrageous Pepe in SS uniform that terrifies (and thrills) the hoes or a gentle Apu (a variant Pepe) who plays with a small butterfly.


In pagan iconography—as adopted by Jung—the Keter can be represented as Aion or Aeon, a God that has a serpent body and a lion’s head. Alternatively, in Taoist thought the Keter is the Yin-Yang and its endless interdependent mutations. The commonality is that light and dark are combined and so overcome; in Jungian psychoanalysis, a person accepts their capacity to destroy—to do “evil”—as well as their ability to care and heal (to do “good”) and so becomes individuated; they become a frog, a dweller in water and on land—the hermaphrodite, male and female. There is now no limit to their creative potential, a chaotic synchronous state that has its own order nonetheless—consequently, Pepe may do quixotic things; for example, he may order you to sacrifice your son with a knife but tell you to stay your hand at the last moment (it was for the lolz, a total troll).


So we have Pepe as a portal; he is the circular Aeon (usually depicted with a circle in Roman iconography) or Crown who allows the paradoxical power contained in “0”, the unmanifest, to pour into our world—to create our world, actually. The circular gateway to zero; after all, this portal “0” is not really what it stands for—“0” is ineffable. Hence there is a tale that a rabbi said that people cannot see G-d today because they cannot bend low enough; G-d is the smallest thing which is the largest, “0”—it is nothing and everything. As related elsewhere, this dovetails with cybernetics, the I Ching, and binary because all these rely on 0 and interplay with 0 to work; there really is no difference between magic and technology, since Tantra and Kabbalah, for example, are merely ways to explore the variations in space and time related to differential calculus (itself Hermetic, for it describes a microcosmic and macrocosmic relationship). The interplay between 0 and 1, so central to computers and cybernetics, maps onto the Kabbalah and Tantra, since each point in these system represents a syzygy; a binary alternation.


In truth, there is no difference between “machines” and “organisms”; both are based on the same alternations and systems found in the entirely “organic” and “religious” Tantric and Kabbalistic systems. Leibniz was inspired to develop binary by the I Ching and Newton was also well-versed in esoterica. In modernity, this is regarded by many as trivia or a funny example of how a genius can “waste” his time on “pointless” activities, such as the Bible or numerology; in reality, calculus and binary are completely intertwined with these spiritual traditions—and perhaps these traditions are fragments from a higher technique that will come from calculus and binary, only to loop back upon itself. Gnostic authors, such as Philip K. Dick in his Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), pose the question as to whether we are androids or humans; in fact, there is no difference. The systems embedded in Tantra and Kabbalah are the same system, suitably refined, that will give rise to intelligent machines; we are automata, but sufficiently advanced automata become an organism—and this is cybernetics, the machine-organism. Again, there is no contradiction between “mechanical” science and technology and “organic” religion; for, as we shall see, these only appear separate, when, in fact, the surfaces touch at various points.


Calculus has even been spoken about allegorically as a mansion—a mansion with many rooms—where the top floor and bottom floor are connected while being separate, so that Heaven and Hell are joined yet apart; the vision is elitist, many people cannot attain the knowledge to elevate themselves to the higher storeys—the path to Heaven is narrow, and it is easy to fall off. The Möbius strip is a geometrical formation, related to calculus, that sums up the position; the way the apparently separate surfaces, twisted like a paper napkin, can touch and yet be apart at the same time; similarly this situation suggests how the soul (immaterial consciousness) and matter (the body) could mesh together while being separate entities. Leibniz held that the soul contains many such folds, so that to explore the soul is as if a flower unfurls itself—rather like the Lotus flower, an ancient symbol for awakening in many religious traditions.


Due to recursion, the soul can unfurl forever; hence, for Leibniz, the people who are saved are those who “turn up their volume” more and more, and presumably this process is asymptotic—it can go higher and higher but never reaches a termination point. Similarly, the damned are those who keep their souls at a very low volume, essentially being cramped by hate; and this relates to the old Greek notion that a man should become a megalopsychos, “great-souled man”—you must pump up the volume from within. The cosmos, in this view, must be understood as layers; and, through curious Möbius-like geometry, all places touch while being separate—an intimation that instant travel through space, time, and dimensions may be possible. Reality is striated—as with a marble counter or dense jungle topography—and so our souls, in line with Buddhist depictions where a person in the Lotus position emanates waves, sit within cosmic striation.


The idea put about by hippy-dippy women in California and Nikola Tesla that “it’s all about good vibrations and being at the right frequency” is basically correct (shades of The Beach Boys, too; good vibrations—good vibes). It is not exactly a moral view, for we may vibrate at many frequencies—so to speak—but the general goal, in line with Jungian ideas about individuation, could be seen as to increase the soul’s volume level; and this is not egotistic, for remember that everything is in the soul and the soul is in everything—the microcosm and macrocosm. Just think about the striation on marble: you zoom down to a particular line and it replicates a topography similar to where you were before; and this can go on indefinitely, whether you zoom in or out—further, consider that it is hard to tell the difference between the marble tabletop and a satellite photo of the Amazon basin; both enjoy striation.


So, in this view, to “raise the volume” is actually to shatter the ego as conceived as a separate self; in reality, “you” are many vibrational folds, just as my finger under a handkerchief creates an illusion that there is a ghost-like individual there. People who begin to vibrate at the right frequency are akin to a clean surface that has unfolded in a uniform way; if a person can hear the cosmic voice then “they” will unfurl in a continuous way with other “individuals”, as they appear on a surface. Salvation, per Buddhism, means to obliterate any notion that “you” exist; ultimately, to gno the truth may be to leave our bodies as currently constituted and fuse with more complex machine-organisms—perhaps ultimately to become vibrational energy itself, or strands of “ourselves”; such entities would be “the Hidden Masters”, they have hidden “themselves” in the folds of space-time.


Now, this article is headed by poor old Pepe crucified; in this case, crucified under the name “Yaldabaoth”. The meaning is somewhat ambiguous here, for the plaque above Pepe—which in a conventional crucifixion would say “INRI”, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Latin—says, in Ancient Greek, “Revolted against him Yaldabaoth”. This relates to the Gnostic idea that our material reality is an inferior shadow; our reality is an emanation from “0”, from the unmanifest light—philosophically, a monad that can become anything. For Gnostics, the creator-god, the demiurge, through which creation is realised is slightly imperfect; he is the chaos god—and, in a sense, he is the false god. As already noted, he could be identified with Aeon, Pepe, the Yin-Yang, YHWH, Yaldabaoth, and so on; he is a cosmic trickster. To realise his duality is to see beyond him, to see the light that stands behind him—pure emanation.


Gnostic schools vary as to how negatively they perceive the demiurge; for some Gnostics, the demiurge is imperfect in the way he mediates creation but not evil in intent; for others, the demiurge—bad Pepe!—is seen as fundamentally malevolent: his material creation is viewed as a prison, and the way he creates the world is intended to trap and deceive us as to the true nature of God—orthodox religions are mistaken, since they worship materiality; they really worship Pepe, since they do not know him—they live dualistically. Those who know Pepe can become as Pepe—become as gods, the old Gnostic goal—and so become mediators for the unmanifest light themselves; now they can create worlds, and this outlook is quite apparent in Mormonism, where adherents are promised that they will create their own worlds after they die—Mormons make extensive use of many esoteric symbols found in Freemasonry, a suggestion as to how Mormons think they can achieve this feat.


This is why Gnosticism is sometimes quite anti-Semitic; for the Jews worship YHWH, lord of the world—and their religion, including the orthodox Christianity and Islam it inspired, remains firmly dualist; everything is about good/evil and not creation. The Gnostic promise is that we shall became as YHWH-Pepe ourselves and build our own worlds; it is Promethean and also related to the Mithras cult, a cult that fused with early Christianity. Those who know Pepe’s duality transcend duality—see the divine light—and are never quite the same again, being autonomous creators in their own right.


The above depiction of crucified Pepe is somewhat ambiguous; perhaps the artist thought that Pepe, being mischievous, represents rebellion against the demiurge and so he has been punished for his rebellion by the demiurge. Alternatively—this makes more sense—the crucifixion acknowledges that Pepe is Yaldabaoth; to perceive the duality is to see beyond it: the final step is to crucify Pepe, kill the demiurge, and so bathe in the light—literally, to see the light and achieve gnosis (light being fundamental in physics and religion). To return to the picture, the veiled figure in the foreground seems female, so possibly this is Sophia—a lower manifestation in the Tree of Life said to aid knowledge as regards the unmanifested (her role in Gnosticism explains why this belief system has a particular affection for the feminine). Gnostics have various interpretations as regards Christ’s role in this drama; usually, he would be seen as a correction to the demiurge—suffused with Sophia—who comes to grant Gnostic knowledge that will allow initiates to access the light; and this is used to explain why YHWH in the Old Testament seems so arbitrary and cruel, whereas Jesus is a mellow man.


To conclude, the general scheme is that we live in a giant animal—we are part of it—and this is a cosmos, not a universe, since a cosmos implies that reality is alive. When people conventionally think about God as a being in “another place and outside time” they find it hard to credit; but if you understand that “God” is a system or circuit and that we are the system knowing itself, then—and this is how I feel—it makes a lot more sense; and does not have to remotely contradict scientific knowledge. Hence some have spoken of a “self-reflective universe” and Henry Miller, a mystical Buddhist, talked about a “Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company”—an allusion to the pluses, electrical and otherwise, that allow the animal that is the cosmos to communicate; and, in full Gnostic mode, men like Philip K. Dick perceived Pepe-YHWH as “Zebra”, a tricker who fools us with various projections—the ur-source for this material being Plato’s allegory of the cave.


In essence, reality is a machine that generates organicism so that we in fact live in a cosmos, a live organism which knows itself through us—Kabbalah and Tantra represent schematics for the system that creates life. The old question as regards where we can find God is resolved when one realises that the inside is the outside and the outside the inside. The atheist splutters that we should not presuppose a creator because we could always presuppose a creator for the creator; so, per Occam’s razor, God is unnecessary. I would respond: the creator eats himself; reality is a Möbius-like entity that is both an end and a beginning, inside and outside. It is the very constitutive nature of reality that it should be this way, as a necessity for it to exist at all; eternity is just a fact.







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