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On esoteric communism

· Notes · Commentary

The Fall, Lovecraft and communists. That’s probably how you’d sum up my cultural interests these days, and my two book ideas: a police procedural set in 1974 Volgograd and a Hawksmoorian occult psycogeographic thriller set in the five medieval churches of Ipswich.

(It’s fairly deflating to read that St Lawrence’s has the earliest ring of bells in Christendom… [and] is now a welcoming venue selling reasonably-priced food and drink.)

I think there’s a thread here. It’s not particularly original to argue that twentieth century communism was essentially a millenarian cult (it is my life’s work to finish this magnificent book, incidentally), but you could perhaps interpret personal communism (as opposed to the monstrous states it spawned) and esotericism as ironically individual, spiritual practices that offer an escape from oppression, or even just the mundane. Sarah Watling’s review of The Romance of American Communism expresses the idea well:

…again and again people speak of the sense of purpose and meaning they derived from being communists; they speak of a process of “becoming” and a sense of “wholeness”: a cohesion between what they believed in and what they poured their life’s efforts into. “It gave me a home inside myself,” one of them tells her [the author, Vivian Gornick], “Inside. Do you know what I’m talking about?” The Romance of American Communism by Vivian Gornick review – a flawed masterpiece — Sarah Watling

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