Before beginning this interview, I knew very little about James J. O’Meara. Based simply on his writings, I would describe him as a New Right/Radical Traditionalist-oriented literary and cultural critic residing somewhere Back East.
He is a highly valued contributor to Counter-Currents/North American New Right. He has also published in journals ranging from Alexandria to FringeWare Review to Judaic Book News.
His own blog is Where the Wild Boys Are, http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/which has the arresting subtitle “Aryan Futurism, Heavy Metal Entheogenic Mysticism, and pitiless hordes of adolescent warriors in rainbow thongs.” At the very least, I hope to get an explanation of that!
James, give us some basic biographical background: When were you born? Where are you from? Who are your people?
I have come to think that everything boils down to being born and raised in Detroit, a late Boomer during the period when Detroit was the true workers’ paradise, the High Tide of the American Dream, up to about 1972, when the city, and the country, and the West, entered its swift decline. Workers like my father had good jobs with high pay and amazing benefits; in his case, not in the auto industry, but the New York Central Railroad, itself soon to enter bankruptcy.
These were the last times that one man could support a family, buy a house and car with cash, no loans or mortgages, and men were expected to actually be doers rather than “consumers”; if shelves were needed, he made them, rather than go to some Home Depot. This is the background against which I try to analyze, and immunize myself from, all the post-1980 ideological nonsense of the Identity Left and Free Market Right. Yes, even Richard Nixon, in the light of today, was a wise and decent leader, and his world was the White Utopia.
More particularly, I witnessed in Detroit the utopia of White Youth—which I have identified with the concept of Wild Boys that Burroughs was just publishing at that time, as well as, later, with the Aryan Männerbund—that this relative prosperity provided, epitomized by the revolutionary political and musical groups of that time and place, unimaginable today; and also the destruction of all that through the encroachment of the Negro. Let’s say that having been exposed to “black educators,” I was already long familiar with candidate Obama’s idea that there are “really” more than 50 states.
This is not to say that my upbringing was ideal; it was, in fact, quite eccentric, to say the least. I was the only product of the late second marriage of a nearly uneducated, nearly elderly, second generation Irishman to an even less educated middle-aged woman he met inNassau.
Even aside from this, both parents would likely be diagnosed today as autistic.
My father spent nearly every waking hour at work, by choice; having made a mint and retired to the suburbs when I entered high school, he promptly dropped dead.
My mother spent the entire time I knew her on a sofa, watching soap operas; I believe that she wanted to come toAmericato see the programs she only knew by radio broadcasts in the islands. It was only later, near her own death, that I discovered, after finding her watching the Joseph Campbell PBS show (her!?) that she had actually been spending her time living in an extensive dream world in which she was continuing to live with her family and friends in the Bahamas. I suspect I inherited not merely their antisocial ways but also a precocious grasp of Jungian active fantasy, and even Corbin’s Sufi-inspired “imaginal realm.”
You can imagine the sort of dreamy, unpopular good-for-nothing this produced. I was the sort of kid that would attend the premiere of 2001 by myself and too young for drugs, and acquire an interest in Richard Strauss and Nietzsche. The sort of kid that would pick up Hesse’s Steppenwolf because I knew that was where the band had gotten its name, and then intensely identify with Harry Haller; later, at 50, I realized that I had indeed seen my future and become a 50-year-old misanthrope in a room full of books and cigar ash.
Tell us about your religious upbringing and present beliefs.
My parents were nominally Catholic; my mother had been the daughter of a Welsh Methodist minister and missionary to theBahamas, whom I think I take after in appearance and interests, but presumably disinterested enough to become apostate. They had no particular interest in my religious upbringing any more than my social or educational, other than a formal interest in making me go to church, until I rebelled against it, and a fixed idea that Catholic schools would be the best, which of course was true.
Once in the best Catholic high school, my parents took no further interest, leaving things like course selection (the age of the “option” was upon us) to me. Hence my eccentric choices of German as a foreign language, the better to read Nietzsche and Hesse, as well as the abandonment of mathematics, a true loss, I believe.
My mother, bless her shop girl’s soul, had a fixed idea that I should “take shorthand and typing and you’ll always have a job,” which I must say did prove helpful in the days of typewriters, but shows the rather low career bar that was set for me.
Your writing shows the signs of a wide and not entirely informal education. Where did you go to school?
Of course, while I can’t account for my uniquely odd birth and parenting (although Evola was fond of the idea that we choose our life’s course prenatally), I also cannot explain how I arrived at the idea of attending an obscure university in Canada; I can only assume that, growing up in Detroit, Canada, though universally despised by its own natives, had seemed like a colorful bit of the British Empire when visited as a child.
The school I chose had been quite a force in its little world back in the ’40s, when Wyndham Lewis and Marshall McLuhan spent some unhappy years of exile there (you can read about it in Lewis’s Self Condemned, a title which should give you some idea of how backward it was even then).
And for a little-known place, my classmates have had some effect on the world, from the actor Colm Feore, award-winning poet Phil Hall, the presidents of Chrysler and Fiat, to the Dean of the NYU Business School. I studied religion alongside Thomas Moore, whose popularization of archetypal psychology in The Care of the Soul was typical of the place, and very much in my own dreamy style; while my colleagues in philosophy included one who went on to become a billionaire as one of the architects of theCalifornia subprime mortgage disaster.
Going to an intellectual backwater, however, was I think the best thing for me. “Deconstruction” and other “critical theory” was only a dim rumor, and could be grasped only as some foolish modern misunderstanding of Hegel. We were taught—I’m speaking of philosophy, not physics or chemistry—in the grand French Thomist tradition of Gilson and Maritain. One read original texts, and lectures were devoted to “explication de texte,” like the English “close reading,” not fashionable PC claptrap.
And even the younger professors who chafed at the old school trappings were themselves useful, as they were pioneering what they called “informal logic,” which gave me an additional training in disassembling political arguments. Though short on “real world” facts, much better training, almost scholastic if not Platonic, than some sociology or arts graduate today.
Intellectually, the real influence was John N. Deck, an old school Platonist, a real “old time” Catholic, and an American who had fled to Canada during World War II to avoid fighting what he liked to call “National, I mean, Christian Socialism.” His combination of Neoplatonic idealism and personal eccentricity (he wore the same cheap Sears work clothes the rest of the faculty had given up after grad school, and shaved his head once a year, letting it grow out until he resembled Schopenhauer; a similar figure appears, eerily enough, in Mann’s Doctor Faustus, another book I read obsessively at the time) made a deep appeal to me, and I became one of many disciples of this guru who taught the most popular class on campus: a “kiddie” version of Plato called “Dream Worlds and Real Worlds,” a two semester long harangue worthy of a more sober Ignatius P. Reilly. Years later, I learned that an upstateNew York guru was using his one slender book as a holy text, and the group still keeps it in print to this day.
What is your occupation when you are not writing?
Reading, of course. As for paid work, well, with such a background, I was no more prepared for work than Reilly as well. I left graduate school and chose a profession simply because the training was easy and inexpensive, and some friends had gone the same route and actually got jobs. Eventually, in an equally somnambulist sequence of events, I came to New York, where I plied my trade at several major firms, until the recent economic downturn.
What is “entheogenic mysticism”?
Perhaps one could consider as my first venture in online writing to be my involvement with Michael Hoffman (not the anti-Judaic crusader, Michael A. Hoffman II, though the coincidence is interesting) and his decades-long personal research project on the roots, literally, of religious experience in psychoactive drugs. He believes that drugs are a more effective means than prayer, meditation, etc. for producing the core religious experience, which he defines as a breakdown of personal control, a “cybernetic crisis” relieved only by a relinquishing of control to a Higher Power. His work is archived at egodeath.com, where some of my own postings can be found, as well as a “main article,” “The Entheogen Theory of Religion,” which I partially ghost-wrote for a journal that ultimately never came out. So much for “real” publishing.
I differ from Michael mainly in taking a more Evola-inspired approach, preferring a more active, Aryan, heroic model based on Mithra rather than Christ; consequently, he takes hippie psychedelia as his model for “modern mystery ritual for the youth,” while I prefer implicitly White heavy metal for that role.
Who are your literary and philosophical idols and influences?
Again, it all comes back to Detroit in the late ’60s, early ’70s. In those days, the FCC required radio stations to broadcast some kind of religious content, so the local “underground” station played lectures by Alan Watts early Sunday morning. Other than my immature reading of Nietzsche, this was my first exposure to philosophy and mysticism, and something like his “spiritual materialism” has remained my touchstone ever since. His autobiography, In My Own Way, is a model for a well-lived, interesting life. By the way, Michael Hoffman thinks his essay “Zen and the Problem of Control” in the book This Is It, is the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century.
Wattsof course was something of a Traditionalist, but he broke away for reasons I think more of personal style than principle. Later, after absorbing a certain amount of Thomism and Hegelianism, I found a Penguin paperback of Guénon’s The Reign of Quantity in the college bookstore, and having seen the name in Watts’s books tried to read it, but found it impossible to assimilate; a combination of puzzlement over his radically different perspective on the “metaphysics” I had been taught, and, frankly, a sense of dread and terror at his matter-of-fact presentation of the unstoppable pulverizing and disintegration of the universe. I can only compare it to the sense of “cosmic indifference” present in the long, late works of Lovecraft; though less intense than in Guénon, it arises from similar reasons, as I explore in my essays on James and Lovecraft.
Eventually, I was able to assimilate some of his more purely “principial” works, such as The Symbolism of the Cross, and actually found his perspective, or “personal equation,” as Evola would say of himself, to be muy simpatico. A purely intellectual perspective on a world unworthy of notice anyway, was just what my dreamy, withdrawn nature craved. Around middle age, however, sometime after arriving inNew York, I experienced something of a personal crisis, feeling a great need for more involvement with the “real world.”
My old schoolmate Thomas Moore provided a clue, with his attempt to translate or adapt Fincino’s Renaissance Platonism first to archetypal psychology, then to everyday life, which I leaned to find value in as an intermediate level, between Matter and Spirit, Dream and Real, called “Soul.” Archetypal psychology brought me in touch with Peter Lamborn Wilson, a popularizing Sufi scholar who made Watts seem like a Presbyterian elder, and who also, likeWatts, had his own radio show, this time on WBAI. A chance mention by Wilson of a “happening” on the Lower East Side led me make contacts with the most degenerate levels of the New York arts scene, perhaps the most currently well-known and respectable survivor being the torch-singer Antony.
Archetypes, Soul, angels, the “imaginal realm” of the Sufis (and thus, through Schuon, of the Traditionalists); reading around about these, I stumbled on the work of Jeremy Reed, who shared my obsessions with Bowie and Brian Jones, but also introduced me to J. G. Ballard, and above all, to the ultimate angelic White soul, Scott Walker.
Just at the point where I might have entirely drowned in pop ephemera, I finally made the acquaintance of the man of iron, Baron Julius Evola. His name had never been mentioned byWattsor any Traditionalist I had read in English up at that time, despite his long and close collaboration with Guénon. And why should they, since he presented an entirely different perspective from theirs, and on them? Evola was the first person I knew who neither ignored the Traditionalists nor ridiculed them nor slavishly adhered to them, but came with a fully-formed worldview of his own, and was more than a match for them intellectually. Like Marx with Hegel, Evola turned Guénon upside down, as it were, and made use of their much vaunted “principles” as a way to give form to his nebulous ideas of the ideal civilization for Aryan man, how it had been, how it degenerated, how it could be revived today. Evola was all about doing something in the world, and provided an excellent antidote to Guénonian inertia.
So much for what might be called intellectual influences.
In literary terms, Rolling Stone was the biggest influence, hard as it may be to believe today. In those days, Hunter Thompson, along with Lester Bangs from Detroit’s rival music rag, Creem, were early and I think bad influences on my writing and lifestyle, especially when it came to producing existential nonsense in all-night binges in lieu of term papers. More importantly, the Stone introduced me to David Bowie, and, through Bowie, William Burroughs, since he contrived to be “interviewed” by Burroughs and gushed on about their “mutual” influences. The Wild Boys had just been published, Bowie later turned it into his Diamond Dogs epic, and I acquired the symbol for what eventually became my blog musings.
So we have now, what—rock music, etheogens, and, courtesy of Burroughs’s British publisher, the blurb about “pitiless hordes of adolescents in rainbow thongs.” All clear?
Jeremy Reed revealed that the obsessive attention a fan pays to pop trivia can be the equivalent of a poet’s heightened perception, and I try to do something similar in looking at pop culture from a Traditionalist perspective.
But the most important influence was provided by Danny Drennan, who published, in the early days of the Internet, a “weekly wrap-up” of Beverly Hills 90210. Drennan was the anti-Reed; having started as an obsessed fan, he grew to hate and despise the show as only a former lover could, and was creating pages and pages of weekly commentary, minutely chronicling the show’s idiocies, lazy habits of writing (“So here comes the Obligatory Moment of Donna Praise”), aging and inept actors, etc. But what was liberating was the breathless, faux Valley Girl style, with its Homeric epithets and easy transitions from one part of speech to another, all facilitated by the paperless, non-quantitative medium of the Internet (“So Noah Look Away, Smirk, and Reply Hunter looks away, smirks and replies . . .”).
This was Thompson’s mania, Burroughs’ cut-ups, Reed’s pop idolatry, taken to a new digital synthesis, and delivered weekly with a knowing smirk. This was how I wanted to write.
But of what?
Wasting time at work Googling various “Evola and . . .” searches, I stumbled upon Alisdair Clarke’s blog, Aryan Futurism. Here was someone putting Evola’s ideas to work in the modern political and social context, and in particular attacking that great contradiction at the heart of The Right, the Judaic antipathy to homoeroticism. The circle was completed, and I had a comprehensive worldview, from wild boys to drugs to pop and heavy metal to imaginal realms to Traditionalist metaphysics to the Aryan Männerbund to the New Right.
I also had a medium—the blog—where my Drennanesque rants could be easily “published” and even endlessly rewritten, thus finally conforming to my way of having a bright idea suddenly pop up, feverishly writing it down lest it pass into oblivion, and then consigning it to oblivion by losing interest in developing it into something publishable months later; what I liked to call my “Nietzschean aphorisms” or “McLuhanesque probes” but really more like ADD.
If I consider my work in what Guénon liked to call “principial” terms, I would say that I took from F. R. Leavis the importance of criticism as the application and policing of standards; from Nietzsche the vow to only attack people as when they serve as the vehicles of ideas significant or dangerous enough to be worth consideration; and never the less, from both A. E. Housman and Paul Feyerabend (a modern, yet outré enough to find his way into my school’s odd curriculum) the taking of a gleeful interest in ripping apart those who have publicly failed to uphold those standards yet sit back and smugly expect acclaim.
And on that note, perhaps my biggest critical “influence” is a fictional character, Chaim Breisacher, also from Mann’s Doctor Faustus. This Judaic “private scholar” in 1920s Munich delights in discombobulating his stuffy, Prussian “conservative” hosts by constantly pulling the rug out from under their haute bourgeois ideals, such as Goethe and Bach, by diagnosing their “cultural degeneration” and finding “true” conservatism in ever more primitive, “barbaric” forms, such as Christianity and Prophetic Judaism in favor of the blood sacrifices of the Temple.
Some have lately speculated that he was based on a Judaic scholar known to Evola, and, perhaps, Evola himself! I find myself in a similar position, using the historical facts of Traditionalism to prove to “conservatives,” and even soi-disant Traditionalists themselves, that they are hardly as “conservative” or “anti-Liberal” as they may think; for example, using Evola to show that “family values” is a Judaic attack on the homoerotic and entheogen-based male groups that created Aryan civilization, or Alain Daniélou prove that jazz is more valid, with its “blue” notes and microtones, than “equal tempered” Western Classical music.
Who are your favorite literary and cultural critics?
Seriously, it may sound like a commercial, or shamelessly self-indulgent, but my go-to cultural critics are the folks at Counter-Currents; yourself, Michael O’Meara (no relation, by the way), and Collin Cleary; for film, Derek Hawthorne and Trevor Lynch. Reading your blog is the first thing I do online each day. Also, anything by Troy Southgate or Keith Preston.
Jim Goad is always a good read, iconoclastic in the true sense, and hilarious as well. The aforementioned Michael A. Hoffman II is essential for keeping abreast of the Judaic and Zionist machinations of the our time; of course, being a Christian Fundamentalist, he’s actually extremely pro-Hebrew, he just thinks the current rabbinic sort aren’t the real Jews. As Robert Anton Wilson said of his book on the Kennedy assassination as a Masonic mind-control ritual, “he has the strangest reality tunnel I’ve ever encountered.”
Although technically deceased, the late Alisdair Clarke’s blog is recent enough to continue serve as a relevant and incisive commentary on contemporary happenings. I like to think of my blog, and now this book, as a continuation of, and tribute to, his work.
Thank you, James.