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Grant Morrison



I.


I’m a comic book writer who is also a skinhead. No, I’m not Grant Morrison—perhaps I’m his twin, whether I’m the “good” twin or the “evil” twin depends on your perspective (“twinness” is even in my name, if you know Ancient Greek).


In this lecture, delivered at the turn of the century, Morrison explains how he experimented with Aleister Crowley’s magic, experimented with chaos magic, got high in Nepal, and came back down to earth a changed man—now he evangelises for DIY magic (change your life, change the world). The issue with the segment here is his contention that we’re “nature knowing itself”; therefore, everything is natural—say, a nuclear power station—and, therefore, everything is benign.


There’s a conflation in Morrison’s thought between the normative and the descriptive. It’s the difference between when I say, “I sleep with women, it’s natural,” and when I say, “The penis is made up from a spongey tissue that becomes engorged with blood during sexual arousal, it’s natural.” The first statement is both descriptive—if we take “natural” to be synonymous with “observed average regularity”—and also normative; it could be rephrased as “I sleep with women, it’s right”. The latter phrase is purely descriptive. What men like Morrison do—liberals generally—is to confuse these two concepts.


So they’ll say, “Everything is natural,” and by that mean, “Everything can be seen from a scientific perspective as an observed regularity.” Science is purely descriptive, so “the natural sciences” don’t make a judgement—perhaps 2.8% of the population is homosexual but that is also natural, in the sense that it’s an observed regularity. In this sense, “everything is natural”—even nuclear power works on the same principles as the sun, as described in scientific form; if we take “natural” to be synonymous with “that which is” then, somewhat tautologically, “what ‘is’ is”—it can be no other, it can only “be”; and the true opposite to “natural” would not be “unnatural” but “nothingness” or “non-existence”.


So what Morrison has done is smuggle out moral judgement under the guise “everything is natural, all is one”. Obviously, if you look at the world scientifically, “nothing is unnatural” from a scientific view—you make no judgements about what you observe; and yet science itself requires judgements to exist—such as “I will report results accurately”.


Scientific people will respond that to report results with accuracy is just “how it works” and you do it because it works; yet you can achieve the same functional outcomes—for example, promotion—with results that have been forged in a subtle way; and that, from a scientific perspective, might enhance your survival value, help you pass on your genes (camouflage and deception are natural processes); hence there is no functional reason not to forge results if you can get away with it—hence any high-quality science rests on an injunction that comes from a non-scientific space to report results with accuracy.


So Morrison is involved in legerdemain to convince his audience that there is no morality (the logo on the podium is, incidentally, a little horned devil—it’s for a company called “Disinfo”, with a decidedly late 1990s psyberpunk vibe).


II.


I think Morrison picked up the idea from Robert Anton Wilson, Playboy occultist, who said the same—he really liked science, so he was keen on this “tech-gnosis” idea (nothing is unnatural, everything is permitted). The problem with the idea is that it conflates natura naturans with natura naturata—the former refers to “nature knowing itself” (really, the divine principle knowing itself) and the latter to the cause-and-effect processes found in the natural world.


Again, there’s an ambiguity with “nature”: the “nature that know itself” is some divine process not “trees and rocks and shit” (as we said in the late ’90s, perhaps under the influence of Kevin Smith and the convenience store habitués, Jay and Silent Bob).


What Morrison says is that natura naturans and natura naturata are the same, so that we are just the natural world knowing itself through, for example, the laws of physics and natural selection—ergo, that which is produced through science and technology is natural; we are all “one thing” at the quantum level and so there are no true divisions between people (as Morrison goes on to explain later—generously informing his left-libertarian audience that though they *hate* the police, the police were created by them, as educated middle-class people, to protect them from *real thugs*; hence it is a mistake to hate the police when they seize your recreational amphetamine cache—we created these thugs, all are one).


It’s perverted gnosis. Here’s how Buddhists put it: we are sparks in a fire, every spark is an individual and yet every spark is part of the fire; we are drops in a waterfall, every drop is an individual and yet every drop is part of the waterfall. Indeed, the sparks and the drops are the fire and waterfall respectively—except they are and are not, being individual and whole at the same time (the paradox at the heart of religion). These are metaphors to explain natura naturans. When we say “we are nature knowing itself” we could say “we are God knowing Himself”—we are both separate from Him and unified with Him at the same time.


What men like Morrison and Wilson do is take a metaphor like that as literal. So they say, “We are the natural world—we are the quantum entanglement, we are all one; it’s a scientific fact.” But that is actually natura naturata, it’s the world of cause and effect—and, as they correctly say, nothing is “unnatural” at that level because it’s a descriptive level concerned with observed regularities. Again, they’ve exploited the ambiguity around what “nature” is—whether it’s “nature” knowing itself as in natural processes, or as in “the divine principle”. Since they also incline towards socialism, being progressive liberals, they emphasise that “all is one” and “there’s no them and us”—and yet in the wild the wolves will eat you. “Don’t freak out, it’s totally natural, man.”


There’s a Buddhist observation that first you look at the mountain and the lake beneath, then you see that there is no difference between the mountain and the lake, and then, finally, you see that there is a difference between the mountain and the lake. Men like Morrison become stuck at the middle stage, what is known as being a “stone Buddha”—the type who intones, “Man, all is one. I am the wolf, the wolf is me—just relax” Nom, nom, nom.


The reason why this is not real enlightenment—real gnosis—is that you are meant to return from the “oneness” to see that there are boundaries and divisions as in the first stage. The difference is that you are no longer dominated by the boundaries and divisions, you see the whole and so hold the divisions lightly (basically, everything is fundamentally okay but in the meantime we have to get on with rules, laws, “them and us” as we work our way back to the one)—the sparks must be individual for there to be a fire, you cannot live as if there is just “fire” (otherwise your house will burn down when the stray sparks fall from the fire and are ignored). Grant Morrison will burn down your house.


People who live as if “all is one” all the time are either religious recluses or perverted people who want to live as if the Golden Age is now (i.e. Morrison—we’re all one, man; there’s no right or wrong, no them and us—peace). This is the problem with tech-gnosis, psychedelic drugs, and Crowley—these approaches tell people to live as if we’re in the Golden Age, so there is no need for rules and boundaries; except there is (we’re in a fallen age). Ultimately, it’ll all turn out in the wash but to reach the whole we must divide.










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