The following represents an essay that I began writing several years ago. In it, I examine Peter J Carroll’s theory of aeonics developed in his book Liber Null and Psychonaut, and some of the predictions it makes about the evolution of popular culture in the West. Not surprisingly, many of those predictions came true, though in unexpected ways and developments.
I never finished the essay, and left several gaps in its composition that I haven’t filled. Since I began writing the essay so long ago, I’ve lost the train of thought I was following in several places, and due to the changes in my own magical and religious outlook since, it’s been difficult to put myself back in the place I was intending to go. So I’ve put in a few rough conjunctions, and I present the essay as it is, even though it is only about half-finished. I think that even in is incomplete form, it communicates its basic point fairly well, and at the very least will (hopefully) encourage more in-depth thought on Carroll’s aeonic theory and how it will continue to manifest. I may someday complete and update it, but not today.
In his book Liber Null, Peter Carroll proposes a series of major social and cultural changes indicative of the shift into the Fifth Aeon. Carroll posits these changes in negative terms, defining them by what is lost, but this method of description does not detract from their usefulness in monitoring the aeonic shift, and indeed is most likely necessary due to the chaotic nature of the coming social matrix. Five such changes are predicted: the death of spirituality, of superstition, of identity, of belief, and of ideology.[i] The demise of these social concepts allows for the establishment of new ways of engaging reality and society, which can prove either terrifying or liberating, depending on how one chooses to make use of these new methods of interaction. It is obvious that Carroll supports making the most of these changes, and views them as inherently positive for the evolution of humanity.
While Carroll offers predictions of these Aeonic social changes, he provides few observations which serve to indicate whether or not some of them are starting to manifest in the more advanced cultures of the Fourth Aeon. In the decades since Liber Null was first published, many social changes have taken place in Western cultures, and specifically in American culture. Many of these changes in popular culture, entertainment, religious expression, sexuality, and thought reflect Carroll’s predictions, and may then be said to be indicative of the transition to the Fifth Aeon.
Carroll posits that the death of spirituality will come as ideas about the essence or nature or man are abandoned, favoring “Emotional Technology” which will emerge from new expressions of sexuality, faddism, and sensationalism, and from the embracement of drugs and new entertainments.[ii] A cursory examination of American pop culture shows these developments to be far under way. Sexuality has become open to the point of banality, faddism and the quest for new sensations have reached a fever pitch, bizarre forms of entertainment such as the reality TV show have emerged, and the use of both illegal and prescription drugs to alter and control emotional states is widespread.
The designation of the coming age as Aquarian in nature is also telling with regard to the consumption and generation of new fads, as shallowness and a thirst for new experiences and means of expression are archetypical of Aquarius. The positive Aquarius creates numerous new ideas and disseminates them to the eager masses, while the negative Aquarius consumes new fads without taking anything of substance from the experience, focusing only on the excitement of trying something new.
Carroll also predicts the death of superstition in popular culture. Some of the sentiments of superstition may still survive, but will be expressed through abstract understandings of high technology and advanced physics and scientific theories that may be misinterpreted by the popular cultures. Occultism will become more accepted, and even explained in more scientific terms.
Popular culture has openly embraced the paranormal and psychic. John Edwards enjoyed a successful television show in which he communicated with the dead, and psychic Sylvia Brown makes regular appearances on the Montel Williams show. Television programs depicting the exploits of police psychics are relatively common, and fictional shows such as “Medium” and “The Dead Zone” also capitalize upon this image. The Sci-Fi Channel has also recently introduced a program featuring paranormal experts investigating haunting. These popular depictions of psychic phenomena as beneficent and helpful to society are a far cry from the demonization of witchcraft that had plagued past societies.
Superstition has found a new life in pseudoscience and conspiracy theory. Large numbers of people rely upon evidence that is suspect, vague, or fabricate to “prove” that a massive conspiracy killed JFK, despite sound evidence (as well as Occam’s Razor) proving Oswald’s guilt in the matter.[iii] Books and television specials allege that man never walked on the moon — that it would be impossible to do so! — and again ignore all evidence to the contrary, instead manufacturing their own.[iv] Perhaps even more perversely, conspiracy theorists insist that the mass murder of almost 3000 people on September 11, 2001, was committed by United States agents who were either 1) paying the terrorists to do it; 2) flying remote controlled planes; or 3) firing missiles at the World Trade Center towers. Again, no witness or evidence can convince them otherwise.
Fears of the uncertainty of the natural world also give rise to myths which attribute natural disasters to the malicious use of advanced (and more often than not, nonexistent or impossible) technology. Numerous conspiracy theories claimed that the tsunami which devastated southeastern Asia in late 2004 was caused by the detonation of underwater nuclear devices, despite the fact that the amount of energy needed to simulate a magnitude 9 earthquake would require the simultaneous detonation of more nuclear devices than exist on the planet. Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S. gulf coast in 2005, was said to have been engineered by the CIA using weather control satellites, again ignoring the technological improbability of successfully harnessing and directing massive amounts of energy into an unpredictable chaotic system. It becomes easier to invent scenarios to blame abused technology and human ill-will for disastrous events than face the chaotic nature of the world.
Carroll predicts that identity will disintegrate as notions societal roles, lifestyle, and “ego qualities” cease to function as the forces that hold society together, giving rise to an increase in the number of subcultures and cliques, and spawning numerous “lifestyle consultants” who will help people adapt to new fashion and social trends.[v] American society has already seen a significant change in the definition of social roles, especially with regards to gender roles and to the use of hierarchy in social and professional organizations. Subcultures are becoming more numerous and disparate, and group identity is becoming a commodity that is more sought after than personal identity. Lastly, the proliferation television shows featuring makeovers or therapists demonstrates the ascendancy of Carroll’s “lifestyle consultants.”
The emergence of lifestyle consultants has not only come, but has almost already become passé as it takes the characteristic of another fad. Makeover shows such as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Trading Spaces” are indicative of this trend. Oprah Winfrey’s talk show has been popular for years, and personalities such has Dr. Phil and Laura Schlessinger have also proven very successful in offering people advice on how to live their lives. Perhaps a more significant development is the advent of therapism, in which individuals are encouraged to share their deepest feelings and desires in an effort to conform to popular notions of mental health and coping with adversity, regardless of the effectiveness of such techniques. Therapism in essence advocates turning over responsibility for dealing with personal and emotional problems to an expert, who is presumably well versed in the latest psychological and therapeutic trends and techniques, and is thus able to advise the client on how to properly operate his life.
[i] Peter J. Carroll. Liber Null & Psychonaut. York Beach; Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1987. p 90
[ii] Carroll, Null, 90
[iii] I was intending to reference a JFK conspiracy website. I have long since lost the URL. Apologies. Chances are any random JFK conspiracy site will make the same point.
[iv] There was an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit taking on conspiracy theories that I was referring to here. if you’re not familiar with this series, I highly recommend it.
[v] Carroll, Null, 90