After much whinging and gnashing of teeth, I finally decided / was persuaded by the lovely Rose Darling to hop the Fung Wah Bus and make my pilgrimage to New York City to see Peter Lamborn Wilson AKA Hakim Bey speak. For those of you not hip, Peter Lamborn Wilson is one of the last men standing from his generation which also included Robert Anton Wilson, Christopher Hyatt, Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs and just about everyone responsible for my view of the world. He rarely makes public appearances due to declining health, so the chance to see him was impossible to resist, even given my furious, blinding hatred of New York City and all its skinny-jeaned, up its own ass, self-congratulatory glory.
Short story? It was worth it. Pics to prove it:
Peter's talk was on money, specifically, a long historical view of money viewed through magickal / hieroglyphic lens. Like a lot of people I know and a lot of people I hear, he claims that he saw the whole economic collapse coming about a year ago. This is either an example of 20/20 hindsight on a massive scale or the collapse was that obvious to see coming over the horizen. I tend to believe the latter. Mostly because of something that Mr. Wilson himself said. "An important key to understand reality is economics." People that tend to understand reality tend to understand economics- at least in the larger strokes. Still, I think it will forever confuse me why people like Mr. Wilson don't do something with this knowledge. He claims that if he had a million dollars last year he could have twelve millions today. It's not so much that I doubt the veracity of this claim so much as I lament it staying in the stage of the unverifiable. Money may not be wealth, but it can get you some very useful commodities like cigarettes, guns, food, land, housing, etc.
Mr. Wilson points out that "the Stone Age knows starvation but it does not know poverty." In other words, there might be a famine, your village might get raided, there might be crop blight, but the village will either thrive together or starve together. The Stone Age knew starvation, but it did not know a parasitic ruling class gorging itself while masses outside starved to death. Money, Mr. Wilson says, begins as Sumerian clay tokens shaped into the tradable commodities (oxen, barrels of wheat, bars of silver, etc.). Records of debt (at usurious interest rates up to 33.3% annually) were kept by (who else?) the scribes and priests of the temples who at that time monopolized the art of writing. This kept not only the peasantry and laboring classes in debt peonage, it also kept the merchant class in thrall to the temple. Peter has considered the anthropological facts about money alongside the more mytho-poetic evidence existing from the time, such as the Babylonian creation myth of the war between Tiamat and Marduk, and the legends of Staghorn and Gilgamesh.
Clay tablets existed in ancient Mesopotamia. Specie, that is coinage, did not. This is an invention of the ancient peoples of Asia Minor and the Greek Islands. Here we see money gaining a more explicit religious and magickal quality. Gold was plentiful in this area, and is also a malleable metal easy to imprint with both words and images. When temple sacrifices of the local bull cults became so popular that not everyone could get a piece of bull, an ingenius method was reached to give every pilgrim a symbol of involvement in the ritual- the temple token. Rather than a piece of bull, pilgrims were given a small piece of gold with a bull impressed on one face. The two sided coin comes later with an image on one side and a caption on the other. Money becomes qualitatively more magickal with this step, uniting the image and the word into a talismatic object which has a value unrelated to its real value as commodity. It is no longer simply a magickal document recording debt and / or wealth. It is a magickal object whose value comes from belief. As Peter points out: All money is fiat money. Gold has no inherent value. It's shiny, and makes cool jewelry and all that, but it is not what the anarcho-capitalist types will have you believe, a universal medium of exchange. Sure, it holds value over millenia (particlarly with regard to silver), but there is not reason to use gold more than say, diamonds or uranium or coal or any other commodity in limited supply. Quoth Mr. Wilson: "Money is proof that magick works, it is perhaps the only proof."
Peter gave the room an interesting story to illustrate this. Paracelsus the Alchemist was travelling through medieval Germany when he was invited to the court of the Count of one of the local statelets of the Holy Roman Empire. The Count begins asking the great alchemist about the secrets of alchemy. This, of course, leads to the Count asking for the secret of transmuting base metals into gold. The alchemist tells the Count that he is merely a puffer or a quack while the Count is a true alchemist who already knows the secret of making gold out of thin air. He tells the Count to give a license to create a bank and then borrow money from the bank. Remember that the United States, United Kingdom, and Euro countries do not mint their own currency. They have a private company such as the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England do it and then borrow that money at interest. As is often the case the alchemists of the middle ages knew more than we give them credit for.
In the final analysis, money is debt just as property is theft. If you take a look at what Mr. Wilson calls the "one dollar Bible of America" you will see an inscription which says that the bill is legal tender for all debts public and private. It is not legal tender for wealth. It is said that if one had all the money in the world one could buy all the wealth in the world three times over, a figure which Mr. Wilson estimates to be closer to ten times. All banks- not just the Federal Reserve- create money, but they do not create wealth. And it gets worse. Gresham's Law, a maxim of economics, states that bad money will always drive out good money which makes things like Labor Dollars (you know them as Ithaca Hours) and Social Credit inherently unworkable unless the entire world switches all at the same time. Two excellent proofs of this are the migration of productive capital to the 3rd world, and the Soviet Ruble which was not available for export.
Indeed, the last point about the Soviet Ruble is also an operation proof for another of Mr. Wilson's claims. That Marxists do not understand the spiritual nature of money. I would go one further and say that they do not understand the spiritual period and that is why they alienate most working class people. Peter arrived at his analysis of money through what he calls a Hermetic and Hieroglyphic technique. He suggests that we fight the power of money by creating our own myths to compete with it. But as any truly wise man will also tell you, he says he doesn't know what to do and doesn't have any real answers. He only raises questions. And if enough people start contemplating those questions then maybe one day we'll come up with answers.
As suggested by Peter Lamborn Wilson on the subject of money
The Gift - Lewis Hyde
The Accursed Share - Georges Bataille
Jesus the Magician - Morton Smith
Confessions of an Economic Hitman - John Perkins
Honore de Balzac
Coming from http://blacksungazette.com/ via the big master GREYLODGE