31 August 2016

Demon Est Deus Inversus

Vallée: 'There are, in fact, numerous stories in folklore of humans who have gone to fairlyland of their own will, either taking a message, or bringing one back, or performing some service for the supernatural beings who live there. But — and this is my third point we also have numerous accounts of abductions by the fairies. They take men and women, especially pregnant women or young mothers, and they are very active in stealing young children. Sometimes, they substitute a false child for the real one, leaving in place of the real child a broom with rugs wrapped around it or one of their children, a changeling. [...]
Of course, the UFO myth has not yet reached such romantic proportions, but we are perhaps not quite far from it, at least in certain rural areas, where strange flying objects have become a source of terror to people travelling at night, and where the rumour that "invaders" might be around has gained interest, if not support. A recent television series has capitalised on this aspect of UFO lore. In the show, the human race has been infiltrated by extraterrestrials who differ from humans in small details only. This is not a new idea, as the belief in changelings shows. And there is a well known passage in Martin Luther's Table Talk, in which he tells the Prince of Anhalt that he should throw into the Moldau a certain man who is, in his opinion, such a changeling — or killcrop, as they were called in Germany.'

Paranoia is both a modality of control and a means to its evasion. Vallée, with utmost methodological scrupulousness, draws a continuum between folklore, myth and the UFO phenomenon that not only charts its universal cultural persistence, but allows a smooth connection to be made between the replicants, clones and anthropathogenic parasites of modern science fiction, and the legends of changelings and killcrops that haunted medieval Europe. This fear of the alien insider has been with humanity for far, far longer than we might have at first assumed, and its specific brand of horror is connected to an intense doubt concerning the stability of our own imputed 'humanness'. How do we know what we are when other beings can fool us so profoundly? A security function is inevitably triggered, and endorsed by 'us' ... the faithful adherents of those religious institutions that have traditionally made it their job to purge villages of their interlopers, and will—so we persistently imagine—relieve our future cities of their inhuman intruders. 

The guiding affect is distrust, and distrust reaches its peak when it is no longer simply directed at the other—the alien, the immigrant, the machine—but turns upon itself. We are so paranoid because we know there is nothing to hang an enduring notion of the 'human' on that cannot also be perfectly simulated. 

Western monotheism, following a similar impulse, absolutises and anthropomorphises its god. Once this move has been made, all evil can be understood as essentially separate—inhuman, when held against the humanised image of god—and therefore, available for exorcism. 'Changelings and killcrops are laid in the place of legitimate children by Satan in order to plague mankind,' states Luther, 'such a changeling child is only a piece of flesh, a massa carnis, because it has no soul.' (The remedy hardly needs reiterating: 'That is not your child! It is the devil! Throw him into the brook!') H. P. Blavatsky, to whom the title of this post is owed, explains it in the following way: 'Satan never assumed an anthropomorphic, individualised shape, until the creation by man, of a "one living personal god" had been accomplished; and then merely as a matter of prime necessity. A screen was needed; a scape-goat to explain the cruelty, blunders, and all but too-evident injustice, perpetrated by him for whom absolute perfection, mercy, and goodness were claimed.' Rigidly enforced identity automatically generates an illusory negative, fooling its bearer into believing that circumscribing an antagonist supplies the power to eliminate it. It is exactly this fervour for purification that conceals the fact that the alien is already inside, and has always been there. Hygiene is its camouflage.

Taqiyya, perhaps, is our most terrifying contemporary reminder of this fear. Glossing Hamid Parsani's Peace in the Wake of Double-Betrayal ('a straight socio-anthropological analog to John Carpenter's movie The Thing') Reza Negarestani writes, 

'In order to infiltrate Jihadi forces, the state must first inquire into the very concept of citizenship, and strictly regulate what an ordinary citizen is and is not, so that the civilian is both the first and last target for the state and the Jihadi. It is in the wake of the doctrine of Taqiyya and Jihad that the civilian becomes an obscure allythat is, worse than the enemy.
"Today, Taqiyya, or adherence to the logic of the Thing, connects the survival of a believer who conceals his practice and belief to a catastrophic consequence for the enemies' community. Survival of individuals or collectives, particularly the very existence of native and indigenous entities, must become an object of police curiosity or even liquidation, because the hostile entities who exploit Taqiyya practice and revere everything but their own systems; they populate every niche and land but their own." (Hamid Parsani, Peace in the Wake of Double-Betrayal)
The proximity of this scenario to that of The Thing, according to Parsani, comes from the fact that it is not the Thing (the extremist under Taqiyya) which is targeted as the object of eradication and assault, but its potential hosts, or the positions (niches) which it might occupy.'

This is the logic of the labyrinth: upwards is downwards, resistance is openness. Everything is always covertly its opposite. These arch-injectors—the duplicitous fairy, the alien insider, the Thing, whatever name one gives it (it wants nothing more than for you to name it)—exploits the human desire for identity and its necessary definition. On this shoddy platform—the inability to rid ourselves of our desire for the same—a construction roughly equating 'intrinsic humanity' could, perhaps, be thrown up. But it only identifies a weakness and is entirely without hope. To be Human is to Desire Oneself—etched across the falling blade of a guillotine.