In The Political Religions (1938 ), German-American political theorist Eric Voeglin explores how the modern totalitarian ideologies of fascism, Nazism, and Bolshevism become so all-encompassing and all-consuming that they supplant traditional religious belief and practice in the minds of their adherents. Condemnation of such movements, for Voegelin, is assumed; rather the important role of the intellectual is to furnish satisfactory effort at rationalization. “Resistance against a satanical substance that is not only morally but also religiously evil can only be derived from an equally strong, religiously good force,” he writes. “For the Luciferian aspects are not simply morally negative or atrocious, but are a force and a very attractive force at that” (24-25). Per Voegelin’s approach, this review essay shall concern, in all seriousness, One Mind at a Time: A Deep State of Illusion (2020), the political testament of Jacob Anthony Chansley, nom de plume Angeli, the “QAnon Shaman,” who successfully defiled the United States Senate floor with his horns, spear, and vociferous war cries.
Currently awaiting trial for insurrection in the Arizona District Court, Chansley describes himself on the back cover of his self-published book from last year as “an author, shamanic practitioner, a QAnon digital soldier, an energetic healer, a YouTube personality, a behavior health technician, a Navy sailor, and a God loving, country protecting patriot of the USA.” The greatest public alarm has been attached to the third self-reported attribute, the adherence to and prominence within “QAnon”—a political tendency that has rapidly developed its own extensive iconography, received the public profession of numerous Republican candidates, and achieved extraordinary recognition throughout the population as a whole. But how does one critically evaluate a diffuse formation that originated in posts from an anonymous internet user, consists of no formal membership or acknowledged leadership, and is based on no written public platform? Analysis is reduced to depend, in this case, on the written work of the QAnon network’s now most infamous adherent.
To those who might question the utility, necessity, or propriety of publicly lavishing critical attention upon the treatise of a dangerous radical, the robust answer is that the outlines of Soviet government first appeared in Vladimir Lenin’s adamantine State and Revolution (1917), the fall of France was prefigured in various diatribes of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1927), the People’s Republic of China from 1949 institutionalized Mao Tse-tung’s contrarian thesis On Guerrilla Warfare (1961), and the Milestones (1964) of an incarcerated Sayyid Qutb, once successfully smuggled out under a burqa, helped incite generations of Sunni Muslim revolution. The paramount importance of furnishing dynamic critical engagement with the systematic assertions of extremists is written in the blood and iron of a century of international revolution and total war.
Chansley’s overarching assertion is that a deep state consisting of the “unknown and unchecked portion of US government power” (5) at once recruits and blackmails the socially prominent from within and outside government in order to help sustain its permanent counter-revolution of satanic pedophilia. He unfolds this thesis through identification and discussion of the five “layers” of power and influence of this deep state. He denominates the first layer corrupted intelligence. “The corporate corrosion of America’s education system coupled with the use of polarizing labels used by the MSM have become the first layer of the deep state of illusion” (16). Although the book as a whole cites no sources, we are introduced in this section to the unfortunate ends of whistleblowers, state-sponsored drug trafficking, and the suggestion that the interminable Afghan war has resulted in the opioid epidemic.
Layer two is political blackmail, and holds that the politicians and other high-society figures revealed as sex offenders in recent years were actually CIA contractors, obliging the deep state for a time but then exposed as punishment for disobedience. The Apostolic See, meanwhile, is accused of similar behavior within its own sphere. The third purported layer of the tyranny of the deep state is false diplomacy, wherein the recruitment of Nazi scientists after World War II and the portfolio of CIA mind control experiments of the 1950s indicate a much larger conspiracy. Military economics (deep state layer 4) asserts, “our corrupt government is being manipulated by the companies and corporations who run the military industrial complex” (73); and Chansley in this section reveals himself at least passingly familiar with at once recent advances in geo-engineering as well as the Gaia hypothesis emphasized during the 1970s. The fifth layer of scientific evil suggests that the secrecy and paranoia of the deep state may in part derive from its classified operations against extra-terrestrial enemy forces, the author having observed a UFO in his backyard.
Perhaps the most useful beginning to an educated discussion of this grotesque dissertation is to clarify the perhaps anticipated elements not present. One Mind at a Time contains absolutely no bigoted statements of any sort, whether of an anti-Semitic, white nationalist, xenophobic, or misogynistic variety. Neither Donald Trump nor his administration receives any mention, and there is no incitement to violence. Were this a blind review in the absence of the author’s infamous associations, I would probably have described the overall posture as Left-Libertarian, written from a frontier anti-state and anti-imperialist ecological perspective that owes much to the New Left of Tom Hayden, Noam Chomsky, Herbert Marcuse, and the many Students for a Democratic Society. There is also enough truth in Chansley’s numerous accusations to angrily mobilize masses of Americans who cannot reasonably be expected to devote years of faithful study to such questions, and who have been comprehensively excluded from participation in power.
It is an established fact that the CIA worked to counteract the self-determination of much of the Third World during much of the twentieth century, above all under the iron fist of operational chief William Colby in Indochina and in Central and South America under John Foster Dulles and his successors. The Afghan war, meanwhile, has proven so interminable and inconclusive that the man-in-the-street can be forgiven for concluding that some ulterior motive must be responsible for our continued presence there. And the existing Bretton Woods system of multilateral free trade and global capitalism, however well-intentioned the Allied deliberations that created it, failed to predict and to counteract the mass expropriation of the labor of the Third World and consequent disembowelment of American production, all while being too uncritically defended by the leading foreign policy practitioners of both major parties. Sufficient systemic failures can thus be laid to the charge of American liberalism that the roar and howl of protest, however preposterous in content, must not be entirely unexpected.
The word that for this reviewer most fully encapsulates Chansley’s manifesto is alienation, the state of being artificially cut off from the natural society of one’s fellow creatures. The Capitol Hill putschists of the sixth of January deliberately threw the gauntlet down and issued an existential challenge to American democracy, a rebellion that requires an existential answer. Without straying too far afield from the purpose, or indulging in divisive criticism of an endangered order worth preserving, the author feels moved to submit various remarks that are the fruit of long contemplation and profound emotion, and which he feels inform the question of how a neurosis as malignant as QAnon could so directly threaten the life of our republic.
Conversation should open with recognition of the saturation of virtual reality, which historically began with the development of an odious advertising industry, continued through the profusion of immersive, usually violent video games, and has most recently resulted in the confinement of erotic expression to a handful of approved dating applications. QAnon is an outstanding citizen of the atomized, pornographic, and resentful virtual world, where no product is ever denominated in a whole number, and no person ever greeted without suspicion. The tyranny of the electronic screen in turn partially results from suburban isolation, wherein almost all Americans must drive almost everywhere. The near extinction within the United States of meaningful communal life based around natural town centers finds millions of disunited souls trapped in freestanding, air-conditioned boxes, unable to organically encounter their fellow citizens and deprived of spiritual communion with nature.
The atrocious result is that food and drink and conversation, music and dancing, art and sport, as well as the genuine politics of association, argument, and oratory are all completely precluded. The urgency and importance of at least the attempt at moral reconstitution of social order is proclaimed in the soul-stirring conclusion of Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism (1950: 478): “What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness… has become an everyday experience of the evergrowing masses of our century. The merciless process into which totalitarianism drives and organizes the masses looks like a suicidal escape from this reality.”