"Occultism is the metaphysic of dunces. The mediocrity of the mediums is no more accidental than the apocryphal triviality of the revelations"
Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1945)
Last year, I was persuaded by a colleague, against my better instincts to see a production, when it came to Dublin, of Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America. Overall the play did not impress me on many different levels - for example I simply didn't find the majority of the characters particularly sympathetic, the ridiculous juxtaposition of political and economic commentary was clumsily interwoven into a quasi, almost kitsch like gay-narcissistic metaphysical context, which seemed, quite frankly absurd, even unintentionally comical, when it was written, I believe to be taken seriously.
Anyway, as they say "You'es pay the money and you take your chances," however that been said, it enabled me to recall a few passages Theodor Adorno had written about popular occultism about 65 years ago. After reading these again I too recalled that odd problem relating the "grateful dead", and with the multitudes of angels that apparently reside by all our "sides" everyday, as witnessed upon so many chat-show book launches. And the problem wasn't one of relating to the truth or falsity in what's being communicated even though much of it is dull and tedious; but rather its untruth lies in the cardinal sin of making the genuinely spiritual or divine inauthentic by making it appear concrete - just like life - and by conversely de-valuing the genuine mystery of life and the spiritual wonder that can be discovered through it by the authentic person by consigning it to some, bland explainable spiritual process or programme panned off by wise beings and their often very worldly contacts. In such a scenario the dead become like the bored new arrival in one of Kafka’s short stories, where on vacation at lake Como every August, they now do the same things, like read the daily newspaper every morning (Das Spiegel), have beer every afternoon, and play around with the maid every evening- just as was in life. Nothing ever changes in the popular metaphysics of these worlds; they are human, all too human to be true, yet strangely they probably exist!
I think Jimmy Cagney famously said that the dead don't lie - I reckon they don't really talk either, but that does not mean something isn't? But what could it be, perhaps it's the fractured after-glow of all our collective conversations that linger on within some great semi-conscious, but fragmented being - who eventually sends the dead to their true homes? Maybe, maybe not - Angel or Ascended Master? Either way, I don't think we can learn much from such enlightened beings.