Friday, 9 November 2018

Hermetic Freemasonry - What's up with the Compasses Part 2

For more posts on occult symbolism, click here. For an introduction to the Band, click the featured post to the right.

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In the first half of this post we started to look into the symbol of the compass in Freemasonry. It turned out to have a complicated backstory, so we split it in two. We left off with speculative Freemasonry - an 18th-century esoteric society with the kind of deist ideology that was typical of the Enlightenment, but based on a mythical history concocted by late Medieval masons from a variety of sources. The idea was that masons - the architects of their day - worked with sacred geometries that aligned with the fundamental nature of the cosmos. 

Rock of Masonry1871, lithograph by Bencke & Scott

The legend was that their secrets predated Noah's Flood, were rediscovered by Pythagoras and Hermes, and passed down through the ages through various secret societies. 

God the Pantokratorcirca 1220-40, illumination on parchment, 37.5 x 26.2 cm, Bible of St. Louis, f. 1v., Toledo Cathedral

The compass and square were tools used to calculate these sacred geometries, so they became symbols of divine creation - just as God created the world, masons use a human version of this knowledge to create material reflections of His achievement. 

This lengthy quote shows how this all tied together into a Masonic mythology:
"Freemasonry was founded around the image of the secular architect shaping the world and himself within it so as to provide both with a sense of moral order. Stonemasons, forerunners of modern architects, not only provided the symbolic tools :this reshaping process, but because of their past, particularly their association with the building of the great cathedrals in Europe, supplied the link with religious certainty and order. But it was the building of Solomon's Temple which was the central myth of freemasonry. It embodied spatially a utopic of moral order in which individuals might lead a virtuous life and come to create the social conditions of trust required in the contractual society that was emerging around them."
Kevin, Hetherington, The Badlands Of Modernity: Heterotopia And Social Ordering, Routledge, 1997, p. 86-87

This post will look at how esoteric ideas from the Renaissance - a basket of Hermeticism, alchemy, Neoplatonism, etc. - enriched this Medieval tale in modern speculative masonry. These gave the Freemasons their interesting imagery, but also opened the door to the occult. Because at heart all Satanic manifestations share pursuit of worldly power and/or fulfillment of worldly desires, without moral constraint. 

Aleister Crowley as Ordo Templi orientis (OTO) leader1916

Consider Aleister Crowley's "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law". Crowley and other occultists in the likes of the Order of the Golden Dawn or Ordo Templi Orientis had various connections with unorthodox Freemason groups. Obviously, official Freemasonry disavows any connection, but acknowledge Crowley was initiated into splinter masonic groups. The link is empowerment through supernatural sources, where esoteric study easily becomes occult worship. Crowley's concept of True Will derived in part from occultist Baphomet inventor and Freemason Elphias Levi. 

William Blake, Satan Exulting over Eve1795, pen and ink, watercolor, 42.5 × 53.5 cm, Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Of course, "do as thou wilt" is just an echo of the Satanic claim from Paradise Lost: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

The Italian Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement based on the revival of ancient learning that started a complete transformation of Western culture.Humanism was the new idea that society could progress through human knowledge - in this case, texts and art from Greco-Roman antiquity. It is true that empirical knowledge has greatly improved our qualities of life, but the humanists were thinking more abstractly. Ancient wisdom was held up as a way to improve morality, arts and letters, civility, good government, and anything else the humanists could market. 

Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-11, fresco, Vatican Museum

This did bring a flood of great art, literature, and thought back into the West...

...but that came with a lot of weird late antique mystical pseudo-philosophy from the first few centuries AD that claimed to be much older. Hermes had already been mythologized by this point as Trismagistus or Thrice-Great, a mix of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek Hermes reimagined as an incredibly ancient sage. For Renaissance humanists, the older something was, the better, and Hermes Trismagistus made it seem like Neoplatonic ideas were as old as Moses. 

Hermes Trismegistus philosophorum (Thrice-great Hermes, father of philosophy), circa 1475, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ashb. 1166, fol. 1v. 

A Renaissance picture of Hermes. Belief in his wisdom was part of a school of thought called prisca theologia. This held that all religions were imperfect reflections of an original lost wisdom. This included Christianity, which was seen as having some basis in truth, but no more the whole story than the Hermetica. By piecing together all the bits of wisdom, humanity could restore itself to a state of true knowledge. 

This is the origin of the irritating "all religions are great teachers of virtue" bullshit popular with the more "spiritual" progressives. It is also the basis of Unitarianism and any number of esoteric and occult orders like Theosophy or Freemasonry.

Hermeticism was based on the Neoplatonic idea that reality is a projection from an infinite godhead - the One, ultimate reality - that takes the form of a hierarchy or series of levels. This accounted for angels, spirits, gods, and other supernatural beings by placing them on higher planes of existence between us and the One. Humans were unique in creation because the had bodies and souls - a spark of the One in a material form. Because of this, we don't have a fixed place on the existential ladder - we can wallow like in animals, die, and crumble to dirt, or cultivate our spiritual/intellectual sides and ascend to the source. 

Title page to Oswald Croll, Basilica chymica, continens philosophicam propria laborum experientia confirmatam descriptionem et usum remediorum chymicorum selectissimorum è lumine gratiae & naturae desumptorum... Frankfurt, 1609

This title page includes thinkers from different traditions around symbols of a metaphysically connected heaven and earth.

Here's a close-up of Hermes with a plaque stating "as above so below". This is the connection between heaven and earth that allows humans to move up and down.

Neoplatonism was somewhat compatible with Christianity in this way, because Christian dualism - body and soul - has similar choices and outcomes. But Christian salvation was ultimately an act of God - without grace, the world is hopelessly fallen. Hermeticism was like any Neoplatonic mysticism in that reunion with the One came by entirely human means. The One was utterly indifferent rather than a light and a way, so ascension happened through knowledge, ritual, meditation, spells, and so forth. Christian Neoplatonism removed the esoteric ritual stuff and turned the idea of returning to the source into salvation through Christ. Hermeticism joined with alchemy and other esoteric branches to put the potential power of attaining a higher state of reality in human hands. 

Frontispiece from The Hermetical Triumph: Or, The Victorious Philosophical Stone, pub in French in 1689, translated in 1723.

The Hermetic world is balanced, and ascending requires effort and secret knowledge, not faith.

This is where the occult/esoteric distinction gets blurry. Hermetic knowledge is esoteric, in that it is something hidden that is learned and not direct contact with the supernatural. But Hermetic mysticism is intended to attain a literally supernatural outcome. It is Neoplatonic, which means that all forms of the supernatural are just different rungs on the same metaphysical latter. When Hermetic sources refer to "becoming gods", they mean mystically entering the higher planes where the more spiritual entities that were known historically as gods existed. This is occult.

Renaissance Humanists thought they could discover the grand theory of the universe - the meaning of everything - if they could get back far enough. Their culture had declined in learning from ancient Greece and Rome, so Greco-Roman antiquity must have declined from something purer - prisca theologia. Hermeticism and other esoteric schools taught that restoration was possible. So how do you do it in practice? Lots of ritual survived from antiquity, but number symbolism was important. Kabbalah was one ancient esoteric form of numerology and Pythagoreanism another. 

Salvator Rosa, Pythagoras Emerging from the Underworld, 1662, oil on canvas, 131.2 x 189 cm, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX

Pythagoras is shadowy mathematician and philosopher who inspired a cult of followers who mythologized him over time. His supposed descent and return from the underworld became a metaphor for a mystical ascent that didn't involve Christian concepts or figures. 

It is impossible to determine how much "Pythagoreanism" actually came from Pythagoras and how much from his followers, so the Band will just use Pythagorean for all of it. The Pythagoreans believed that the earth was at the center of a universe of concentric rings that were spaced at regular intervals. As they spun, they emitted an imperceptible music  - the music of the spheres - that could be perceived mystically by someone sufficiently enlightened. 

Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris [On the Two Worlds, namely, the Major and the Minor], Oppenheim, 1617-21

The Harmony of the Spheres in one image. Understanding the ratios leads to understanding the cosmos. The distances between the spheres corresponded with the changes in string length on an instrument needed for the notes on the harmonic scale. Earth to the fixed stars was one octave and the planetary subdivisions are simple ratios that can be visualized with basic shapes. 

Pythagorean geometry was the tool to unify occult threads because it provided a clear, rational way to express the fundamental nature that humanity and the universe sharedClick here for more on esoteric number symbolism.

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, circa 1487, pen and ink with wash over metalpoint, on paper, 34.6 × 25.5 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

The circle and square were the most basic shapes with long histories of symbolizing heaven and earth. This is the idea of the microcosm - that the human is a miniature image of the universe. Ideal human proportions are shown to align with the fundamental harmonies of the universe. 

Palladio, Villa Capra Rotonda, 1566-71, Vicenza, Italy

These concepts could be given physical form with architecture. The simple proportions and classical style associated with the Renaissance was partly a reaction to Pythagorean and other esoteric ideas about geometry.

The great chain from  Fludd's Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris, vol. 1, fol. 4-5

Fludd  tied the esoteric threads together - Hermeticism, Pythagorean geometry, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, Neoplatonism, etc.

You can see the Hermetic progress through the spheres, surrounded by ordered symbols of the Zodiac, planets, elements, and other esoterica. The human figure straddles the spheres with an ape - an animal - on the world at her feet, and the divine mind above. Note that God had no Christian identifiers. 

When the actual Freemasons formed in the early 1700s, they filtered the stories of Pythagoras and Hermes in the Medieval Old Charges through this Hermetic Renaissance esoterica. As with any group, we have to remember that not everyone who joined a fraternal lodge thought they were commencing a Hermetic ascent. Masonic principles just call for brotherhood and good citizenship under a generic God. The problem is more of an ideological one - what does the group actually stand for, and how is this of use to elite occultists?

Masonic Passport from Toulouse, France, 1785

This would have been given to a new member. There's the Classical architecture - working as a gate to a hidden world of symbols lit by an animated sun. Initiation is literally a lifting the veil to the same sort of esoteric symbolic path found in earlier Hermetic and alchemical writers. 

Rising towards a non-Christian God rings a few alarm bells on the potential for occult subversion.

What is this secret knowledge that is promised?

Jacob BöhmeEarth and Heaven Mysterium, frontispiece to his Theosophische Werke (Amsterdam, 1682)
From Darkness to Light, Masonic poster by Hazen (New York, 1908) with symbols based on 19th century sources
Böhme was another peddler of esoteric connections between heaven and earth. Considering that the "G" is a Masonic symbol for their non-denominational God, his vision is remarkably similar to early 20th century Freemasonry. Specifically Masonic symbols appear in the poster - the pillars of knowledge, the Temple of Solomon as an architectural path to divinity, and, of course, the compass and square for sacred geometry.

So the path behind the veil is a Hermetic one, where it is secret knowledge that leads to an indifferent, deistic, Enlightenment "God". But Hermeticism talks about becoming gods, or at least like gods, by your own means - studying your way to the divine, so to speak. This is utterly incompatible with Christian ontology, since it claims unfallen pure knowledge can be accessed without need of God's grace. Metaphysical authority transfers to human knowledge and ingenuity. But you don't have to be Christian to realize that human knowledge is limited in scope and that the enlightenment they are peddling is human status-seeking and vanity. Doubtful? Take a look:

William Blake, The Ancient of Days, frontispiece to copy K of Europe a Prophecy1794, hand-colored etching, 23.3 x 16.8 cm, British Museum, London

Blake was a strange mystic who gets thrown in with the early Romantics for his visionary images and un-Classical themes. This is a fairly late example of the divine creator with his compasses. 

Lee Lawrie, Wisdom, with Light and Sound1933, entrance of 30 Rockefeller Center (GE Building), New York City, photograph by Jaime Ardiles-Arce

Rockefeller was a Templar, who have connections with the Freemasons and embrace similar esoterica. Take a closer look at the central figure over his building:

Looks familiar, only it's an electric god of human progress creating a maze of gear wheels and other mechanisms. It's not faith that can bring the new Golden Age, but human ingenuity. 

We can be gods. 


Harvey Wiley Corbett, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, 1922-32, Alexandria, VA

This monument was raised in the early 20th century with Masonic funding to celebrate their most important American member. 

But look inside...

Making gods.

The conclusion? Freemasonry is not openly Satanic, but it's esoteric traditions and Enlightenment myth of human perfectibility through knowledge makes it vulnerable to those who want to seek darker knowledge. Members like Albert Pike and Éliphas Lévi don't speak for the movement officially, but nor were they expelled for their ideas (some quotes). Some smug decievers will point out that this is "Lucifarianism" and not Satanism, as if an idol becomes meaningfully different because you've given it a different name. 

Is Freemasonry occult? Depends on your opinion of "Lucifer".

John Martin, Pandemonium, 1841, 123 x 185 cm, Louvre Museum

Friday, 2 November 2018

Modern Architecture - the Set-Up, or A Tale of Two Fakes

If you are new to the Band, this post is an introduction and overview of the point of this blog. Older posts are in the archive on the right.

Other links: The Band on GabThe Band on Oneway 

Its time to consider Modern architecture, and Modernism in general for that matter. There has been a lot of sidetracking, but that is inevitable when we are talking about something as basic to human existence as our environment. To get to where massive slabs that no one likes are imposed on communities, a lot of falsehood has to be normalized in the larger culture. The last few posts have put aside standard textbook historical narratives to look at the intellectual incoherence, hypocrisy, and magical thinking needed for public funds to be squandered on the likes of this:

John Madin, Birmingham Central Library, 1973-2016

Ah, the deep historical roots of England seeps from every pore in the concrete...

J. H. Chamberlain, Birmingham Central Library, 1882-1974

But there is something important to remember. The building it replaced was more attractive, but was another imposition by cultural elites. In the late nineteenth century, England was an imperial power, and used a style based on ancient Greco-Roman architecture to express status and cultural sophistication. 

This didn't guarantee Modernism would happen, but it is only possible to impose monstrous, dehumanizing forms on a people if design is already cut off from organic cultural expression. If it's just elite globalist discourse, there is no firewall against it becoming weaponized against its home nation. 

Architecture and culture are obviously intertwined in a lot of ways, but the Band has emphasized two key factors that opened the road to Modernism: Progress as a value and Architecture as a discourse.

The Enlightenment gifted us the idea of Progress as an absolute value in human affairs - in the sense that we are somehow defined by progress in a fundamental way. This is the root of the Enlightenment- Marxist-Globalist myth of movement towards the objectively non-existent "principle" of equality that drives their monstrous belief in human fungibility. But it is also the root of false faith in a future techno-utopia that seems ever further away.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830, oil on canvas, 260 × 325 cm, Louvre, Paris

The reality is progress is relational - you progress towards something

Without a goal, there is no progress, only directed movement. This means that over time, progress is noticeable - it is evident, whether by quantifiable or non-quantifiable standards. Progress as an end in itself is meaningless. Where are you going, and what will it look like when you get there? Claiming progress without a clearly articulated goal is retarded for reasons to obvious to bother elaborating. 

Horace Vernet, Angel of Death1851, oil on canvas, 146 x 113 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Lfe is a journey not a destination because the endpoint is the same for us all. Without metaphysics, "meaning" is genetic success or some soon-to-be-forgotten accolade. These are legitimate goals to measure progress against, but they are just that - goals. Teleological progress, meaning general existential progress towards some abstract ideal, requires belief in something metaphysical aka. faith. 

Because we are the most recent, we like to see ourselves as the culmination of a positive progression, and not the latest in a series of ultimately meaningless genetic dice rolls. But all progress is circumstantial. The evolutionist believes we are a series of beta-tested reactions to the environment. The Christian believes progress is the individual alignment with God in a world that is inherently fallen. Belief in universal progress - progress as the end in itself, as in endless revolution or movement towards something empirically impossible - is an act of faith that contravenes empirical observation. Acting as if contingent relationships were ultimate reality is one of the things that defines leftism as mental illness, that is, when it isn't naked evil. But for a long time finite, circumstantial progress in limited, defined areas WAS mistaken as something metaphysical:

Emanuel Leutze, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, 1861, stereochromy, 609.6 x 914.4 cm, US Capitol, Washington
The only "destinies" in this picture are reproductive success - population growth -  and improvements in technology. But it is depicted as an historical inevitability with a metaphysical force driving it ever onward. 

Material growth became a default assumption in the American psyche, if such a thing can even be said to exist. But it is hardly a new insight to point out the importance of rootlessness and some new frontier in defining American optimism - just look at the extent to which it has been mythologized ever since. 

The Western Film and T.V. Annual, 1958

The Western genre is a sign of the enduring popularity of what was seen as a simpler and morally clearer life. 


The myth of the new horizon allowed a slackness when it came to considering the real causes of national prosperity. You can sidestep questions of immigration and compatibility when there is lots of space and enough decentralization for communities to develop their own identities. This allowed Progress to soak up waves of newcomers and became a pressure valve for social failure in Europe. 

Soundtrack for California Dreaming, a 1979 American International Pictures movie

Progress! Endless reinvention! California dreaming! It's so much cooler and better than anything in your life!

The myth kept going for a long time. But the road doesn't end in "the light". Progress isn't metaphysical. California has become a largely a shithole. 

We've been "progressing since the 
Enlightenment. Where to now?

The other element is the idea of "Architecture" as a "discourse", to appropriate a Postmodern term. This means a body of rules, customs, institutions, expectations, etc. that characterize a field or discipline called architecture that is separate from construction. One way to think of it is as the art of design. Not all builders get to call themselves "architects", and you don't need to be an architect to build something. Defining architecture as an art and limiting it to elite practitioners was the first step towards professionalization and credentialism. You need to have a centralized network with control points for globalists to take something over. The result:

To recap:

The notion of architecture a distinct discourse and the idea of historical progress appear around the same time, in the humanist thought of the Renaissance. This came out of efforts to revive ancient culture as a way to drive human progress. We looked at this in an earlier post on historiography - mainly how the idea of history as a chronicle of events was given a moral direction by turning it into the idea of decline and rebirth.Suddenly, there was a newly enlightened culturati with a new calling: to restore or improve "society", and the idea of cultural "progress" was born. 

Donato Bramante, Tempietto, 1502, Rome

Architectural progress was linked to cultural progress in the Renaissance. Bramante's Tempietto is considered a landmark because of its accurate use of the ancient Doric order and its simple classical proportions. By humanist thinking, a culture that produces sincere classical architecture is superior - it has progressed in a positive direction. The building is important because the cultural elites have proclaimed it a milestone of social AND artistic progress.

One big Renaissance invention was the idea of the Fine Arts - that Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture were different from just building or making pictures. And not just different, but better, with higher intellectual and cultural status. This is a combination of two things. The humanist obsession with ancient culture led them to ancient art theory, which was a new way of judging and classifying images. They applied this to their own culture - the actual artistic practices of the later Middle Ages - and came up with a concept of the arts that was entirely a Renaissance creation. Over time, this idea evolves into the default Western concept of Art. 

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1490s, tempera and gesso, 460 × 880 cm, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

This famous painting is in bad shape, but the unified balanced arrangement is very clear. Leonardo was one of the first to apply the Renaissance version of the classical ideal to painting. 

Arts needed theoretical definitions to distinguish them from crafts, meaning that if these new Renaissance ideas about the visual arts were to stick, they needed some kind of "objective" first principles. Music was an Art because its basis - harmony - was based on quantifiable mathematical ratios, and was therefore a consistent theoretical foundation. But at its heart, art, and all its various forms and meanings, is the expression of a culture. It is something that is circumstantial and evolving. 

Portrait of a Zen Master, Muromachi period, 15th century, lacquer on wood with inlaid crystal eyes, 94.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This statue is very realistic, but the symbolism and cultural significance are different from a lifelike portrait in the Medieval West. Both deal with issues of memory and time, but from totally different viewpoints. 

The point is that this statue is evidence of a concept of art, with sophisticated ideas about tradition, form, style, and meaning, that is different from those in Europe. 

Even at the conceptual level, art is an expression of culture. 

This is a preview of the Enlightenment-style bait and switch, where you are promised a universal law, but given some arbitrary response to a set of historical circumstances. But like any of the seemingly endless string of fake metaphysical proclamations that the Band deals with, if people really commit to it, it can defy gravity for a long time.

Just not forever...

So the Renaissance peels the Architect off from the Medieval mason, who would have been responsible for grand stone architecture in an earlier time. There were hierarchies among masons - the architects of the great cathedrals were a lot higher on the totem pole than the guys patching the stable wall - but they were all considered practitioners of the same craft. With the idea of the Architect, building becomes an Art as well as a technical craft - the art of design - and therefor it needed a theoretical base to define it. 

Because this is a conditional masquerading a a universal - meaning a set of historically determined cultural assumptions pretending to be the timeless rules of Architecture - it will be built on unquestioned assumptions. In this case, humanist ideology.

The same simple Pythagorean geometry of circle and square that links man to the cosmos is the base of Michelangelo's plan for St. Peter's. 

The idea of progress to a humanist was the improvement of society through the rebirth of ancient ideas. These were more projection than archaeology, but the impact was enormous. Just think for a moment about the persistence of Greco-Roman elements in Western culture. This is the impact of the Renaissance.

Demitri Porphyrios, Duncan Aviation Galleries, 2002, Lincoln, Nebraska

So it is obvious that if these people are defining Architecture, they would do so in ancient terms. Their understanding of Roman architecture -  a mix of idealized pseudo-archaeology and theoretical sources like Vitruvius - gave them a visual style based in the clear, simple geometries that symbolized more perfect states of existence. In the Christian Neoplatonism of the Renaissance humanists, simplicity and harmony were steps from the chaos of the world to the perfect unity of the divine. The geometric clarity of ancient architecture was a sort of way station between the human condition and God. 

Vincenzo Scamozzi, Villa Pisani, 1576, Lonigo

The Renaissance humanists were smarter than leftists, and realized that humans aren't fungible. More than a certificate is needed to master the art of design. What made the Renaissance system of the arts so flexible was that it tempered the rules by making space for genius. Medieval writers didn't use the concept of genius in relation to the visual arts - it was a Renaissance notion that based on ancient accounts of poetic inspiration but credited to God. Artistic genius was a divine gift. 

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Inspiration, 1769, oil on canvas, 80 x 64 cm, Louvre Museum

Bartolome Esteban Murillo, St. Augustine in Ecstasy, 1665, oil on canvas, 76 1/2" x 55", Seattle Art Museum

Even though this was just a denatured form of religious inspiration that permitted people feel important while being dishonest about faith. It's still "mystical", only it's a magical human power that rises to more than electric impulses in a synaptic network because people really want it to.

So we get "Architecture as a Discourse" - inspired creativity within a rule set - with a built-in structure of progress that comes from "restoring" culture to a historically non-existent Classical ideal. Which raises a problem:

This is important - Humanist belief melts away over time, but Architecture as a discourse - which was founded on humanist principles in the first place - somehow hangs around. It actually becomes more and more established, until we get to the situation today where it is taken for granted as a vocation. Over time, it develops its own history, where the old heroes remain objects of reverence, even though the fundamental beliefs that guided them have disappeared. The discourse achieved a life of its own, and became an accepted thing in the West. 

Today, it is given that "architects" design buildings. Have you ever questioned why?

By detaching from society architecture outlives Renaissance metaphysics, but also gives up any claim to real meaning beyond taste. Well, taste and the thoughtless momentum that comes from always having done something a certain way. 

Thomas Jefferson, The Rotonda, 1822-26, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Sir William Chambers, Somerset House, 1775-86, London

Enlightenment reason and Imperial power can both be expressed with Classical forms. 

Nationalist sentiments? Gothic forms can cover that.

Eduard Knoblauch and Friedrich August Stüler, Neue Synagoge, 1859-66, Berlin

Increased contact with the wider world brings other forms. The Moorish revival was popular for synagogues as a way of distinguishing Jewish foundations from Western traditions and to recall an idealized golden age of Judaism under Moorish rule in Spain.

Philosophically, architecture changed completely, from claiming to be the true expression of cosmic harmonies to a way for elites to signal status and taste while retaining traditional appearances. This raises the obvious question of why follow historical styles at all, if the meanings that they evolved to express are no longer taken seriously? At best, there is reverence for tradition, though this has little weight in the Modern era. At worst, it's just elite whims - the endless search for the next big splash.

William W. Boyington, Chicago Water Tower, 1869

Anyone sense the unified notion of God and community expressed in Medieval architecture?


George N. Ray, Riggs-Tompkins Building, 1922, Washington, DC

How about a feeling of alignment with a Neoplatonic concept of the Godhead?

George Kingsley, Reebie Storage and Moving Co., 1922, Chicago

The majesty of a divine pharaoh?

It becomes obvious that that all these styles are just reanimated historical carcasses that have been stripped of the meaning that shaped them in the first place. They are plucked from the past with little regard for their original significance beyond being old, stylish, and interesting to look at. Their value is in letting wealthy clients show their wealth and taste. This is critically important to understand:

Artistic patronage is a special kind of conspicuous consumption because it flaunts wealth in a way that looks better for the donor. Architecture lets you build a huge monument to yourself that lets you posture as a sophisticate AND virtue signal about the value of art, or the betterment of society, or sustainability, or whatever the elite cause de jour might be. So  while it goes without saying that architects need elite clients, as long "the arts" convey cultural capital, that relationship is two way. It's the name architects, critics, academics, and other cognoscenti that tell the elites what they should like.

 Click for source

Architecture is deeply connected to economic power. This has always been the case - buildings are pricey. 

But the face of elite power changed in the modern era, even if the financial substructure didn't. The Industrial Revolution made the land wealth of the traditional aristocracy less valuable than industrial holdings, and the tycoons that arose during the 19th century came to amass wealth beyond imagining. More recently, we have had a "post-industrial" age inflicted on us - the apotheosis of bankers, where finance IS the aristocratic path and everyone moves moves chits around a computer network as a vocation.

Shanghai Skyline, with the 2,073 ft, 128-story megatall Shanghai Tower as the centerpiece. 

Progress for elites is more wealth, power, prestige. Architects are useful insofar as they can further these aims. 

The Roots of Globalism sections of recent posts have made the case that the elites have always been anti-nationalistic in the truest sense of sacrificing what is best for their nations for themselves and their internationalist, power-building adventures. When the promote "nationalism" it is of a fake, manufactured sort that at best harmlessly dispurses communal feelings and at worst hijacks these for tyrannical ends. They don't care about tradition beyond it's propaganda value, and happily bulldoze landmarks in the name of progress.

The Donaldson Litho Co., A union in the interest of humanity - civilization - freedom and peace for all time, circa 1898, chromolithograph poster, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC

And suddenly, they're friends! And there's Britannia! Sitting next to the American fake goddess, Columbia. The creation of a national mythology with the likes of Columbia, Uncle Sam, the ascending Washington was necessary if America was to pursue the fiction that a nation can be willed into existence with platitudes and good intentions. 

The entire process of fake nation building is predicated on faith in Progress - that all humans are fungible units that, under the correct guidance, can overcome their natures and finally forge that Utopian city on the hill. This is obviously untrue, but the booming material progress of the Second Industrial Revolution was the circumstantial cover that enabled the pretense. Progress is based on the con that techological improvement is a model for human behavior - newest is generally best and iterative improvement is the norm. This is why the globalist anti-human left is so hostile towards history and tradition - they need to erase the past for you to accept their lies as reality.

Wilhelm Gause, Court Ball at the Hofburg, 1900, watercolor, 49.8 x 69.3 cm, Historisches Museum, Vienna

The point is that this could have been any court in Europe. And the elites of the American Gilded Age attempted to emulate aristocratic European style in their architecture, fachion, and art collecting. 

The Band suspects that the elite obsession with fashion, with being up to date, au courrant, or stylish - comes from that same desperate need for Progress to be real in order to validate their lunatic ideology. They are rootless. They have no land or people. Every aspect of their existence is defined by an intricately coded social world built on markers of status that are always changing. The architect that appeals to such creatures is one that can deliver the new in a way that "makes people talk" until the next splash.

Take a look at these three museums:

Richard Morris Hunt, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1902, New York

Frank Lloyd Wright, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1959, New York

Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 1997, Bilbao

Museums are catnip for elite philanthropy - civic virtue signaling, cultural sophistication, and consumption so conspicuous that your name gets engraved on it. 

There are few things as absurd or self-serving than the efforts of 20th century culturati to enculturate the masses.

What they have is common is the choice of the elite style of the day. Hunt's ecclectic Beaux-Arts classicism, Wright's ideosyncratic modernism, and Gehry's deconstructivism were hatched and promoted in the world of architecture as a discourse, and chosen for these landmarks of culture for that reason. They are "stylish", even "bold". But what connection do they have to the cities that they colonize? What "enculturation" is offered to visitors? In a way they are similar to Greek temples - abstract, detached homes for alien gods whose Delphic whims carry the weight of sacred pronouncement. Contrast the self-righteous pomposity and holier-than-thou attitude of the dwellers in these shrines with the disdain for organic national cultures expressed by their buildings. This is the essence of globalist high culture - a self-contained universe where they determine the values. 

Paloma Picasso Thevenet and Larry Gagosian at the 2012 Guggenheim International Gala

The art world power in a picture. Picasso's youngest daughter brings the name-value while Gagosian, a power player  owner of a major  gallery chain, funnels the money. Apparently were she to smile, some might question whether this really is a meritocracy after all. 

Is this who should be determining 
the culture of the West?

At the highest levels, architecture is a self-regulating profession/discourse that transforms the dyscivic ideology of the art world into lived reality for the elites. It is the mysterious cultural status that clings to the art world that allows sociopathic "designers" to pose as genii. For some reason, elites crave the bohemian kiss on the forehead. 

This is, of course, a generalization - each client has their own specific spin. But at the levels where the discourse is formed - the starchitects, elite institutions, and high-profile projects - the theoretical language of the Wormtongues is globalist. 

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Seagram Building, completed 1958, New York

Mies designed this Modernist landmark for the Bronfman family, a wealthy line of arch-globalists. This would be the same family facing charges around the sinister NXIVM cult. Mies' champion Phyllis Lambert was Edgar Bronfman's sister, and NXIVM Clare Bronfman his daughter. Money well spent.

This was built during the 50's that many nationalists pine for. The Guggenheim opened one year earlier. The seeds of corruption are much older.

Something more recent? How about awarding the 2017 Alvar Aalto Medal for "humanism in architecture" to Zhang Ke of ZAO/standardarchitecture? The linked article emphasizes a legitimately fun looking play center, but Zhang's other work seems less than humanistic, prestigious awards notwithstanding. Architecture as a discourse appeals to authoritarans of all stripes because it erases traditional streetscapes and replaces them with abstract-sculptures-as-buildings that could be built anywhere. No pesky national character to impede the fungibility.

Zhang Ke, Shanghai Novartis Office Building, 2016, Shanghai

With a beautiful new take on the distinctive flavor of the bustling, centuries-old, Shanghai street, this tasteful addition to... 

I can't even.

It does update Mies by beveling the windows. And supposedly it's "green". So there's that.

Of course, there are worse things than erasing your own culture with dehumanizing monstrosities...

Zhang KeNiyang River Visitor Center, 2009, Nyingchi, Tibet using them to erase someone else's.

The Chinese power structure is separate from the Western financial elites, but they share a commitment to co-optable global institutions and an aversion to the nationalism of others. Chinese hostility to Tibetan culture is well known, as is their efforts to dilute it with Han invaders - demographic warfare is something else they share with the globalists. 

When you see the imposition of this sort of lump in the context of imperialist tyranny, it makes the cultural violence committed by architecture on our streets more apparent. 

Go back to our three museums for a moment:

It's easy to see the Gehry and the Wright as forerunners of Zhang, while viewing Hunt's Met as the sort of appealing traditional architecture that Modernism replaced. This would be a mistake.

Hunt was a master of the Beaux-Arts style, the last phase of Classicism that was the "it" style in the later 19th century. His success came from his time as lead assistant to Hector Lefuel during the latter's additions to the Louvre. Hunt even did some of the design work, which is about as elite as you could get at the time.  

The Beaux-Arts may be better looking than the distorted polyhedra, but it was the product of an theoretical approach to architecture that was globalized. The theory was a reanimated corpse by this point, but Classical styles had been used for so long that they had grown a weight of tradition of their own. 

By the later part of the 19th century, there had been so many revivals and variations that architects were mixing and matching decorative elements without much regard for historical accuracy at all. Sub-styles proliferate:

Eduard Riedel, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and Christian Jank, Neuschwanstein Castle, 1869-86, Schwangau, Germany
Castle Romanticism is one of these. King Ludwig privately funded his fairy-tale home rather than spend public money. No wonder they called him Mad. The building is classified as Romanesque Revival, but it has northern and southern Renaissance elements as well. But its Medieval basis is at least connected to the local culture. 

Henry Hobson Richardson, Trinity Church, 1872-77, Boston

That wasn't really the case for the Richardsonian Romanesque, an American Romanesque Revival style. Richardson's building is stunning, but really an aesthetic novelty that sparked a brief fad.

It's also the site of an all-time great Modernism blunder.

Eventually academies turned the history of architecture into entries in a pattern book. Creativity was the ability to choose and arrange them in pleasing ways. 

Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas, and Charles Girault,Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, 1897-1900, Paris

The Beaux-Arts was the apotheosis of this process.

In America, the Beaux-Arts became the preferred style for corporate and political elites. Consider these four examples from McKim, Mead & White, one of the leading architectural firms of the era: clockwise from top left: an Ivy League library, an estate home, a railway station, and a bank.

Stanford White, Bowery Savings Bank, 1894, New York
McKim, Mead & White, Rosecliff, 1902, Newport, RI
Charles Follen McKim, Low Memorial Library, 1895, Columbia University, New York
McKim,Mead & White, Pennsylvania Station, 1910-63, New York

The only "Classical principles" tying these together is generic impression of significance. All of them mix and match elements to churn out endless variations on a grand theme. 

McKim, Mead & White, Vanderbilt Mansion, 1896- 99. Hyde Park, NY

Oh look! The Vanderbilts. 

So this was the ground for Modernism - an established prestigious artistic discourse that was dependent on rules, but rules detached from anything of metaphysical or organic cultural significance. These are no more than what the gatekeepers and authorities declare them to be. The elites want to be stylish, the cultural Svengalis make up rules tell them what to like, architects get paid, new rules get crafted, the elites want to be stylish... and the symbiosis continues.

What was different about Modernism was the sense that historical revival based styles were played out - not just the classical ones. Take another look at the Grande Palais:

Pay attention to the roof. The exterior elements are Classical...

...but the interior is all glass and steel. It was a Modern structure, made of industrial materials, with a veneer of Classical detailing that had nothing to do with a world's fair. 

Modernism was about change - a parade of new inventions, ideas, and living conditions - and the grand styles of the past seemed fussy and old fashioned. 

Henry Ives Cobb, Chicago Federal Building, 1898-1905, dest. 1965

Not to mention out of place. The soaring Renaissance dome is the perfect touch for a court house and post office. 

The building was steel framed. The Beaux-Arts skin covered what was basically an office block

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Kluczynski Federal Building, completed 1974, Chicago

This is what replaced it. And look at the designer! All our old pals are dropping by. When culture is centralized, it only takes a few a-holes to inflict civilizational damage.

The problems with old styles weren't just theoretical, but practical. Populations were expanding. And new building types were appearing with proportions that historical architects never had to contend with.

Stephen D. Hatch; McKim, Mead & White, Former New York Life Insurance Company Building/Clock Tower Building, 1868-70 and 1894-99, New York

When McKim, Mead & White expanded and redesigned Hatch's building, they followed the Beaux-Arts pattern and adapted a classical model - in his case, a Renaissance palace. But the proportions of a palazzo were based on a three story facade, not a high-rise. "Window" openings span multiple floors, string-courses break the facade up in ways that seem choppy, and nothing on the outside reflects the regular steel framing of the interior.

There was a sense that the world had changed too much for buildings of the past to have a relevant connection to the present. So for the first time since architecture was portioned off as a distinct art, it was looking for a new style.

Newness was in the air - how could it not be? Everything was changing. It smelled like...

Gustave Doré, Satan1890, engraving from Dante Alighieri's Inferno from the Original by Dante Alighieri and Illustrated with the Designs of Gustave Doré (New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1890


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