Questions and Answers: Part 3, Theophanocracy
Another remark which had been iterated during several of your interviews, and which caught my attention, is the tantalizing nugget that is Theophanocracy. I presume it's my oversight that I've not come across anything regarding the topic, but if you would expand on this topic I would be grateful.
First and foremost, a theory of Theophanocracy, i.e. the rule by theophanies, needs to be located in its basic outlines in the Bābī praxis of the early to middle Bābī periods (1844-63), and especially in the later writings of the Bāb himself. But as well as this, Theophanocracy also occurs within the overall phenomenology of Henry Corbin (d. 1978). The Book of the Point of Kāf (kitāb-i-nuqṭat’ul-kāf), which I mentioned previously, and particularly in its account regarding multiple theophanic loci of manifestation in the history of early Bābism, is very much a narratival meditation on Theophanocracy. Throughout his later works, and especially kitāb asmāʾ al-kullu-shayʾ (the Book of the Names of All-Things)[i] and kitāb-i-panj shaʾn (the Book of the Five Grades),[ii] the Bāb held his disciples to be the theophanic instantiations of various divine names and attributes with himself (as the embodiment of the universal primal will) as the generating point of these names and attributes. Kitāb-i-panj shaʾn revolves around seventeen such divine names and attributes and the individuals they are addressed to who are held to archetypally embody them. Given this, within the particular form of dialogue that the Bāb initiated between himself and his disciples, without losing sight of tawḥīd, we are present to a Theophany of Persons discoursing with each other; and when other members of the Bābī hierarchy communicated with each other (and especially with the Bāb), to use now alchemical terminology, we are in the presence of palengenicized adepts –- hence Theophanocracy –- who have embodified the Alchemy of the Word, as it were, as a result of the spiritual individuations of their wayfaring, that when explicitly articulated in such unambiguous yet transcendentally sonorous tonalities, constitutes the loftiest horizons, the highest realizations of the Shiʿite magnum opus (nay, the Shiʿite opus has recited itself to Itself). A great example of what I mean by this are in the expressive diaologies seen in the theophanological refrains by which the Bāb addresses Ṣubḥ-i-Azal in those series of epistles appointing him as his successor:
“…You are I and I am You (انت انا و انا انت), He and I (هو و انا), He and You (هو و انت), God, and I am God and You are God (الله و انا الله و انت الله) ” ; “…this is a Book from God the Protector, the Peerless Self-Subsistent unto God the Protector, the Peerless Self-Subsistent (هذا كتاب من عند الله المهيّمن القيّوم الى الله المهيّمن القيّوم)…this is a Book from ʿAlī before Nabīl, the Remembrance onto the Worlds, unto He whose name is equivalent to the Name of the One, the Remembrance onto the Worlds. O Name of the One (يا اسم الوحيد), protect that which has been revealed in the Bayān and command by it, for verily You are a Mighty way of Truth…;” or “O Name of the Pre-Eternal (يا اسم الازل), verily, I testify that there is no other God besides Me the Tremendous, the Best Beloved, and then I testify that there is no other God besides You the Protector, the Peerless Self-Subsistent (ان يا اسم الازل فاشهد على انّه لا اله الا انا العزيز المحبوب ثم اشهد على انّه لا اله الا انت المهيّمن القيّوم)…And if God manifests one like unto You, he is accounted by God as the one singular inheritor of the Cause…And if God manifests grandeur in Your days, manifest the Eight Paths (i.e. the remaining chapters of the Arabic Bayān)…We have made the distributor of the tablets which have been written of the versical-signs of God a deliverance to the One Supreme” (وحيد الاعلى, i.e. Ṣubḥ-i-Azal)…
A few words about the history and development of the term itself are in order now. Theophanocracy was a term I first coined in email during the course of a public discussion on the academic listserv firstname.lastname@example.org in mid 1995. A gentleman in Omaha, Nebraska was broaching the topic of “the marriage of Ibn ʿArabī with Thomas Jefferson” and as consequence of his insight I first coined the neologism. However, a theory of Theophanocracy –- while still even now in its developmental stages –- has come a very long way since that time, with many of its assumptions today being far more radical than those of the mid 1990s, especially given the fact that since that period I have largely come to reject many of the operative assumptions behind Jeffersonian liberalism: Jeffersonian liberalism which is the theory behind a largely failed North American white settler colonial project that not only did not deliver genuine social egalitarianism and economic equality anywhere but instead (besides its dark, checkered legacy of genocide of the native populations with the wholesale land and resource theft of these people, not to mention the slavery of Africans which actually built the so called “city on a hill” that is America) sowed the very seeds of the toxically classist and racially discriminatory ahrimanic neoliberal global capitalist order we see before us today that is responsible for the large-scale catastrophic ecocide perpetrated against the planet (a “crime against existence” itself) while simultaneously aiding and facilitating (via its internal contradictions) the re-rise of fascism and the demonic nazi-esque white supremacy during this second decade of the 21st century.
Instead since that time I have opted for much more leftwing and Marxian oriented discourses in the political theories I choose to bounce off the theophanology of a Theophanocratic political theory with. Deep Ecology,[iii] Latin American Liberation Theology,[iv] Critical Pedagogy,[v] the ideas of Paulo Freire,[vi] Franz Fanon,[vii] Hannah Arendt,[viii] Iranian Jalāl Āl-e Aḥmad,[ix] Palestinians Edward Saʿīd [x] and Joseph Massad,[xi] Charles W. Mills’ The Racial Contract[xii] and Hakim Bey’s (Peter Lamborn Wilson) Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ),[xiii] permaculture together with what may be labelled as ‘Indigenocentric Third Worldism’, are quite important as secondary discursive lenses and theoretical building blocs through and around which a long term critical Theophanocratic theory may be better fleshed out and conceptually detailed. But, as should be patently obvious, I am neither a Marxist nor uncritically subscribe to its dialectical materialism (which I find quite a limited, limiting and narrow lens to look at the world through). However, even with that, a critical engagement with -- and a careful, systematic reading of -- Karl Marx’s first volume of Das Kapital[xiv] is essential to any basic understanding of how this toxic neoliberal capitalist world order actually works in its proverbial nuts and bolts. And while Marxism itself cannot be made into a meta-narrative or taken as a ‘metaphysics’ within such a perspective as a theory of Theophanocracy, it is still very much a useful sociological lens of critique to at least examine the toxicities and structural flaws and contradictions in this (post)modern world. That is also why I often say that one should critically (and neutrally) read and meditate upon René Guénon’s The Reign of Quantity and the Sign of the Times[xv] together with Marx’s Das Kapital while reaching novel conclusions of one’s own about the greater problems of the world via a synthesis as well as a transcendence of both perspectives, since Guénonianism on its own has some seriously fatal and dangerous flaws attached to it as does Marxism on its own. The ideas of Thorstein Veblen[xvi] around “conspicuous consumption” are also quite relevant to the theory of Theophanocracy, and I should mention that Italian social scientist Guido Giacoma Preparata has been bouncing off Veblen to Rudolf Steiner[xvii] (as I do with Bābism) for some time now.
At the moment, there are seven basic guiding axioms to the political theory of Theophanocracy: (1) the pivoting centrality of God/the Pure Spirit and Its theophanic self-disclosure in all things. As should be obvious, I am speaking here about the theosophic God of high esotericism, the Living Divinity within all forms and experiences, and not the static, authoritarian deity belonging to the exoteric religious dogma of church, mosque and synagogue (which by definition makes of all presently formulated notions of ‘theocracy’ into dangerously flawed human constructs and so permutations of ideological authoritarianism); (2) the rejection of all forms, all systems and all types and notions of authoritarianism (which is inclusive of both localized authoritarian political structures as well as imperialism and colonialism both, being that these two often act in structurally fluid forms yet by nature are authoritarian and abusive while often externally propping up localized authoritarian political structures; not to mention classism, racism and sexism, which are three intrinsically linked social epiphenomenon always acting in one form or another as the pillars to any authoritarian system); (3) the sacrality of the Earth and of the four elements (i.e. Air, Fire, Water and Earth) and (per the injunction in section 11 of chapter 9 to the Persian Bayān as set out by Ṣubḥ-i-Azal) the prohibition in the buying, selling, commerce and trade of the four elements; (4) the complete rejection of the neoliberal “market” capitalist system –- including corporatism and corporatocracy -- in its entirety together with its technocentrism and ecophobia (with the revolutionary dismantling of all the insidious epistemologies, perspectives, assumptions and mechanisms undergirding it), and its replacement by a communitarian-universalist, ecocentric, post-industrial, post-technocentric (because technology is supposed to be merely a tool and not an end in itself), global indigenizing and non-authoritarian democratic socialist order (i.e. a thoroughly spiritualized radical Green social democracy); (5) the full augmentation of the concept of human rights beyond the presently circumscribed liberal modernist secular (i.e. so-called “European Enlightenment”) notions of right(s), with the definition(s) of the individual to include the reality of the Spirit itself as the actor and anchor within the individual (in which, and by which, and through which, the individual ontologically occurs, subsists, exists and ultimately individuates and beyond); and, as a consequence of this, the expansion of the very jurisprudential notion of ‘right(s)’ to include all animal, plant and vegetative, mineral and bacteriological life-forms in its primary orbit of discussion as well (with an unequivocal recognition of their sentience) within any future jurisprudence of ‘right(s)’ as such; (6) the universal implementation of an egalitarian and critical theophanological pedagogy that utilizes as its starting point the insights offered by Brazilian Paulo Freire[xviii] in his magisterial The Pedagogy of the Oppressed[xix] (as well as Franz Fanon’s in his The Wretched of the Earth)[xx] but one that goes well beyond them in both the larger conceptualization and contextualization of the greater issues involved around the question(s) of pedagogy as such; because such a pedagogy, when widely implemented across modalities and disciplines, would eventually become the first line of defence (and combat) against any and all creeping tendencies to authoritarianism, classism/racism/sexism, corporatism/corporatocracy, inequality, ecocide and the continued abuse of the non-human creatures and life-forms upon it, etc.; in short such a pedagogy can become the ultimate weapon against the capitalist “market” neo-liberal world order; and (7) ethicocentrism, meaning that beyond what either scripture(s), texts, philosophies or consensus realities may hold, a purposed teleology to the universe/multiverse actually exists and is true with the basic notions of right and wrong, good and evil, and especially “the golden rule” -- albeit expressed differently on an outward level between cultures and civilizations (and even species) –- recognized as existing everywhere and as such inherently woven into the very ontic fabric of being/existence itself by its Creator: axiomatic eidai which in turn can be discovered and demonstrated as concrete (and not merely subjective) empirical facts whether through the observation of (and interaction with) the laws of Nature or by introspective deductive and/or inductive methodologies, or processes not unlike the Platonic anamnesis and other similar discursive-meditative approaches.[xxi]
Now, the question of hierarchy is one that has become an incessant problem whenever esotericists have ventured into the political domain, where eventually esoteric spirituality and metaphysics have come to find themselves in the service of the worst forms of rightwing authoritarianism imaginable. The Guénonian-Evolian-Schuonian neo-Traditionalists are a classic example of this, where after the awful experience of the Schuon cult of the Maryamīyah -- with all the malevolent seeds it sowed -- their contemporary dark, inverted transmorgification and descent into Duginism has made them now become the open handmaidens of a resurgent 21st century fascism and the Satanism which undergirds it all.[xxii] However, they are not alone, and much of the New Age and the conspiracy culture around it has likewise fallen into similar traps. Given its acutely critical approach to the problem of authoritarianism itself, not to mention its ultimate spiritual source being in Shaykhism and Bābism, Theophanocracy short circuits even the possibility of an esoteric organization or movement, such as for example the FSO, of falling into such traps in the first place. In other words, and as I briefly mentioned at the conclusion of LDM, an esoteric spirituality of the Left is very much a possibility and one especially that does not shy away from the word ‘Revolution’. The historical example of the post-Bāb trajectory of Iranian history in the political activism of the Bayānīs for five decades afterwards (and more) is a solid case in point. The Bayānīs were directly responsible for toppling the authoritarianism of the Qājār dynasty and state via the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-09 while during and after it seeding the liberal social democratic ideals and consciousness of the nationalist non-Marxian wing of the Iranian Left which then confronted the Pahlavi dictatorship. In fact, whether acknowledged or not, Mossadegh himself as well as the nationalization of oil was a product of the Revolution initiated by the Bāb in 1844 since it was within the covers of the Persian Bayān where the veritable concept of a ‘nationalization’ of Iran under a conceived Bayānī state was first articulated, to my knowledge anyway, during the nineteenth century –- and this was a leftwing nationalism that did not become poisoned by those dislocative racialist, proto-fascist ideas imported later into Iran from Europe. So it is no surprise then that all of the initial revolutionaries of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution came directly out of Bābism, a fact that only now (together with its range and extent) is becoming more widely appreciated. However, it is now also time to augment and expand the struggle of these Bābīs and on to a global scale, since the proverbial ‘enemy’ is daily entrenching itself more and more within a system that is global and which will in fact destroy this planet and all life upon it if not confronted and toppled as the Bābīs confronted and ultimately toppled the Qājārs.
[xxi] Given this, notions and suggestions that ‘anything goes’, that ‘there are no rules the higher one goes’, ‘that reality is malleable to the conceits and contrivances of humans,’ and where morality and ethics can either be discarded altogether or opportunistically bent to some convenience are patently false and fallacious, insidious ruses by the counterpowers of darkness in whatever form they appear and whoever advocates them. However, the central point is that ethicocentrism cannot and should not be imposed by force or by any coercive authoritarian measures or modalities. Rather the space must be created and all means found allowing for individuals as well as collectives to discover and personally interact with these truisms in their facticities via both experiential as well as theoretical knowledge (in the sense of theoria) around these immutable ontological facts of creation. This also means that the metaphysics of Theophanocracy fully acknowledges the “reality of hell,” as it were, and what the religion of Mazdaeanism (i.e. Zoroastrianism) designates as “the counterpowers of darkness”(druj) and the necessity to struggle against these malevolent and malefic forces in the material and the spiritual worlds.