What do séances and “tapping tables” have to do with today’s zeitgeist? Perhaps as much as surrealism had to do with yesterday’s. Today’s age is the first fully electronic age with each “soul” represented on the net digitally. It is also the first age of electronic voting and mainstream radical politics that selects candidates “democratically”, who not only may fail to get the popular vote, but dictate policy that is not popularly supported.
In the current environment, a “Coalition to Win” can aid with the election of minority candidates that may dictate legislation that is in opposition to popular wishes. “Gutting”“ the health care system and forcing individuals to cover more of its costs, is just one example of this. Here, health care providers are rewarded while the government helps them “squeeze blood from turnips”. This system will most likely further squeeze an economy that is already stagnating, to finance political lobbying and fund these political campaigns.
Charles Kupchan says in The End of the American Era, that the very mechanism that allows you to achieve power is the thing that finally undoes it. The zietgeist that popularized surrealist art and radical liberal politics seems to have planted the seeds for an end to popular radical politics, particularly in America. Politicians and “organizers” have become royalty. Freedom has become oppression.
Conservatism, as well as economic discipline are sure to shape the next age of the United States on a globally connected or “open” landscape. These restrictions are sure to lead to a questioning about one’s own identity or role in this open and disciplined new world order. One method of coping that is sure to surface in these times is some form of necromancy or called spiritualism or spiritism by people involved in seances. The Lady in White will meet The Black Cat.
Prior to the nineteenth century, more was expected from artists than scientists. This changed as discoveries by scientists allowed the transformation of the environment to meet human needs. The seeds for the decline of the influence of the arts on society were perhaps planted with Rene Descarte. The seeds for the decline of the role of science on society can be thought to have started with Jean-Jacques Rousseau: a philosopher who thought that the arts and sciences had not done enough to improve man’s condition in the world. The works of this influential French philosopher contributed to the French Revolution; and today, politics is the leading influence on society. Politicians and the public often simply refuse to listen to scientists and now their constituencies as well. Today, we have Al Frankin, Jessie Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as racially-biased and polarized movements like those initiated by Saul Alinsky or the Tea Party of 2009. Hillary Clinton of Chicago becomes a Senator of New York, Dennis Kucinich considers Washington State, and candidates from the New Democratic Party in Canada become representatives of districts that they have never seen (but have heard are quite lovely).
Today’s world is depicted by openly corrupt financial institutions and openly corrupt churches in an open electronic society that has little common ground on moral issues other than terrorism. It is a time when Atheism is the fastest growing belief in America, yet polls taken only 15 years ago suggested that 69% of Americans believed in angels. In some ways, today’s time is similar to the time of Victor Hugo, where people are searching for a distraction from their constant confrontation with a reality that offers little personal control.
“On our planet packed with infamous prisons
There dwell the wicked of all the universe
The condemned who, come from alien skies diverse
Brood in your rocks, bend in your bowing trees
Yes, your savage universe is God’s convict
Your constellations, in letters of fire of somber script,
Spell out the prison shouldered by your world”
What the Shawdows Mouth Says. Victor Hugo. (Also see Victor Hugo’s Conversations with the Spiritual World. A Literary Genius’s Hidden Life. By John Chambers. 2008. Destiny Books, Rochester, VT. p 75.).
Victor Hugo was a well known author in the nineteenth century who became a weak statesman. Hugo did not even believe in his own supporters and soon became an exile from Napoleon III on Jersey Island in the English Channel. There, after first experimenting with “mesmerization”, Hugo took up “tapping tables”, the equivalent of the modern day Ouija board, at the suggestion of a visitor from France. Victor Hugo, a writer of the macabre and horror, turned Statesman of France and then exile, became the “medium” at a number of séances. Séances were regularly held by Hugo and his fellow exiles to communicate the souls on the “outside”, mainly those of the dead. These séances also continued on in their Hauteville House on Guernsey Island.
Victor Hugo often questioned the validity of the “spirits” that presented themselves at his séances in the English Channel. But upon his death, 2 million people attended his funeral, more than the population of Paris, itself. And although he left only a small portion of his fortune to the poor, he was buried in a black pauper’s coffin!
To those at home, in a shelter, on the street, or alone (disenfranchised) in Times Square – Happy Halloween! Things will get better. They have to. There are always “Ghosts in the Machine” (I, Robot, Isaac Asimov).