In the Sangre de Christo Mountains

Commandante Tezcatlipoca was pleased –on the whole. For over twenty years he had been planning and building. Traveling across Latin America and the Islamic world, Asia, and Africa, using his cover as a civil servant and a rising academic, he had recruited marginalized, angry intellectuals one by one and then taught them how to identify who among their students was a likely recruit. These students had, in turn, been sent back to their villages and barrios to recruit their less fortunate neighbors who had not been able to attend the university and who, living on the edge of starvation, and already deep in the abyss of worldly despair, were willing to do anything to find meaning and purpose, a community, and their daily bread. Working slowly and methodically he had assembled what, by his own estimate, was the largest disciplined revolutionary organization in the history of humanity, with millions of members spread all across the planet. And he was ever so gradually cultivating them, preparing them for …

Therein lay the question.

Tezcatlipoca had succeeded where others had failed because he had been the first, if not to understand, then at least to act on the essentially metaphysical –even religious– character of the communist project. Communism had never been just about the material welfare of the working classes. Nor was it simply about collective self-determination or the unleashing the productive forces, though these aims were higher and closer to the mark. “Communism,” Marx had written, “is the solution to the contradiction between existence and essence, between objectification and self-affirmation, between individual and species. It is the solution to the riddle of history and knows itself to be that solution.” Marx, however, had spent his best energies analyzing the economic contradictions of capitalism, incorrectly concluding that these contradictions would create the conditions for an authentically communist transformation. Instead they had led to social democratic reformism and capitalist crisis management.

Lenin sometimes seemed aware of the metaphysical character of the communist imperative. He had, after all, insisted that it was necessary to master Hegel’s Logic before even attempting to understand Marx’s Capital. And he called the Paris Commune “an attempt to take the Kingdom of Heaven by storm.” But he had been impatient, insisting on the conquest of state power in one country, in his own lifetime, at the cost of the higher Good of which even he was at least dimly aware. There were apocryphal stories which held that on his deathbed Lenin had said that with “seven men like St. Francis” he could have remade and saved humanity. Failing that, the result was more rapid industrialization, a strengthened state capable projecting military power on a global scale, and an unrivaled scientific and cultural establishment. But the people remained mired in consumerism and when the system did not satisfy their appetites they grew lazy and growth stalled. Ultimately the Soviets lost their game of peaceful competition with Capital and their system collapsed.

Mao went a bit further. He saw that the Soviets had failed to actually defeat Capital and recognized the key role played by recalcitrant consumerism in this failure. But he assumed that humanity could be remade spiritually by a few years of “study and struggle,” and that an undisciplined movement of angry, anticivilizational, underemployed youth would succeed where millennia of spiritual masters had failed. As a result, he nearly destroyed one of the planet’s most ancient civilizations.

Then there were the theoreticians. Bodganov and his fellow “god-builders” understood what communism was about. So did Lukacs, who called the proletariat, or rather its political party, “the unique subject-object of human history.” But they had all been typical intellectuals, unable to organize, unwilling to fight.

Tezcatlipoca was different. His mother was Mexican drug mule from Juárez. His father was a Yemeni terrorist who she helped cross the border into the United States. Both had been killed –he didn’t really know why or by whom– when he was seven. He was “adopted” by one of his mother’s handlers and pressed into service, first as a mule, then running increasingly complex smuggling missions on his own. He attended the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez in his spare time, eventually completing a degree in sociology, something he leveraged into a fellowship in the Anthropology doctoral program at the University of New Mexico. It was at UACJ that he encountered Salvador Macehuatlin, an exile from Cuzcatlán teaching there on a visiting appointment, who introduced him to communism and unlocked for him its hidden metaphysical and spiritual –even religious– character. At the time he had been a genuine revolutionary, committed to finding a way to “organize and direct the cosmohistorical evolutionary process” achieve unity with the Agent Intellect, and eventually divinity through political means. But he had gradually adopted an increasingly spiritualized position, arguing that the revolution, like the process of enlightenment for some of the older Buddhist schools (the one that had not survived) took endless eons and that the deification which resulted was precisely the opposite of that sought at the beginning of the process –a pure, relational, transformative generativity beyond substance or subject. To be fair, he never disavowed politics and Tezcatlipoca continued to find much of his political-theological analysis and many of his spiritual teachings interesting and relevant. But where Tezcatlipoca taught that spirituality needed to become a political discipline, Salvador had reverted to the axial age position which subordinated the political to the spiritual. The last he had heard he was teaching at a community college in Northwest New Mexico. It was not clear what, if anything, he was actually doing.

Tezcatlipoca had taken Salvador’s earlier ideas and acted on them. Tezcatlipoca knew that he would never build a mass organization of committed god-builders. God-building was an ideology for intellectuals. He also knew that the old model of party-cum-mass organization which had been the mainstay of the international communist movement since the time of Lenin was dead as well. The need to satisfy at least some of the demands of the masses inevitably perverted the communist project. What he needed was a network of organizations, arranged in concentric circles, with him at the center. Even the Partido Communista – Estrella Roja, by historic standards an elite vanguard political-military organization, was just another of those circles, fairly close in, but by no means at the center. The Center, following Aristotle, he called the Agent Intellect. And its aim was nothing other than identity with the Agent Intellect, retheorized in accord with modern science. Tezcatlipoca would become the intellect which organized and directed the entire cosmohistorical evolutionary process.

This model had allowed him to build links, some stronger and some weaker, with nearly every “anti-imperialist” resistance movement on the planet –with what Hardt and Negri called the Multitude. To Muslims he advocated “commanding right and forbidding wrong.” To the resurgent Chinese dao xue he said that he was “restoring the mandate of heaven.” Among Hindus he preached a dharmaraj. And among Buddhists he had his followers proclaim him to be a “wheel turning king.” And, of course, the Neo-Aztec revivalists saw him as the high priest of the great god whose name he had taken as his alias: Tezcatlipoca. He had even penetrated deep inside the US intelligence and counterinsurgency/counterterrorism apparatus, recruiting cells insight the CIA, the State Department’s Intelligence and Research unit, the FBI and the Army’s Human Terrain System. And he was poised to position one of his agents in the later at the very center of Minerva, the government’s new sociocultural intelligence command.

In his own mind, his claims were quite true. Communism, properly understood, was the inner, rational essence of all religion, at once capturing the creative potential of matter itself and annihilating the illusion of the individual self. And his organizational strategy, which kept not only cells but entire movements compartmentalized meant that only his most senior agents in each knew of their links to Agent Intellect.

Forging those highest level relationships did, to be sure, involve both quite a bit of formal study, into which he invited a fairly broad group of senior cadre and classic “ideological struggle,” with which he engaged those who actually seemed promising. But Tezcatlipoca both catalyzed and sealed his most important relationships forged using a technique he had learned not from Salvador (who seemed to have lived out his life in a series of only vaguely romantic Platonic friendships), but from the integral traditionalist Julian Evola and one of his own Tamil recruits: the sexual magic of the left-handed tantra. Only those engaged in this way entered –or rather were entered by– Agent Intellect.

Now, though, he was in quandry. He had engaged in the patient, passive accumulation of forces which Salvador had taught him. It was his actually quite modest differences around the relationship between spirituality and politics –and most especially his tantric method of relationship building and political-theological transformation– which differentiated him. And this was beyond both the capacity and the “need to know” of those outside the rather small inner circle he could personally … service. Even his most trusted cadre below this echelon were now clamoring for action. Estrella Roja (as they knew the organization) was larger, more highly cultivated, and more disciplined than any revolutionary organization in the history of humanity. It dwarfed not only the prerevolutionary Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party but also religious organizations such as the Jesuits or Opus Dei, and disposed of comparable assets. Passive accumulation had been necessary to create this. But was the point of creating it action?

Herein lay his dilemma. Agent Intellect’s (or rather Estrella Roja’s) first public action would benefit from element of surprise. Later actions would not. In order to meet his criteria the action would have to engage his entire network, inflict crippling damage on Capital, and leave him with more rather than less support among the suffering masses of humanity than he had enjoyed before he acted. But it was not clear that there was any such possible action within the capacity of Agent Intellect —or any other global actor at present. If he acted hastily he risked exposing everyting he built to discovery and destruction. If he did not, he rised becoming … Salvador.

It was this question which he pondered when the department secretary wandered down to his brand new office at the University of New Mexico and said:

Professor Ramirez, there are two men from the Forest Service here looking for you. They say that they need to talk to you right away.

Published by:

Anthony Mansueto

Humanity is the desire to be God (Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness, 1943/1993: 556). Being finite, we are aware of the infinite and seek it without limit. Being contingent, dependent on other beings for our existence, we seek the power of Being as such and seek it absolutely. Human history is fundamentally the history of this seeking, and of the distinct ways of being human to which it has given rise. Precisely because we are finite and contingent, our seeking takes place under definite material (physical, ecological, demographic, built-environmental) conditions which shape the ways which emerge, as well as the social structures through which we pursue them. As something set apart we call this power of Being the sacred but it is, in fact, the warp and woof of the world in which we live, driving secular projects as much as those which understand themselves as religious. My work is centered around an effort to engage the sacred analytically, interpretively, normatively, creatively, and practically. My scholarship is centered around an effort to restore theoria to its original sense as an encounter with the sacred which is empirical, analytic, interpretive and normative, and specifically to understand the diverse ways (including secular ways) in which humanity seeks (to be) God in the context of the material realities out which they emerged and the structures through which they operate while engaging these ways normatively, contributing to the transhistorical deliberation around what it means to be human. As an artist I work first and foremost with narrative, telling stories which, blending elements from magic realism, science fiction, and fantasy, highlight humanity’s engagement with the sacred. But I also create paintings, photo collages, and illuminations and am experimenting with alterealities, games which actually change the world, and which engage all these elements in an interactive context. And I work in the medium of food, creating alchemical cuisine which at once encodes meaning and transforms those who consume it —especially in community. My scholarly and creative work aims at charting a new way of being human, at making the sacred present to people in their day to day lives, and at helping people situate their lives and their decisions, individual and collective, in he context of the ultimate aims of human life. My practical engagements with the sacred cross the boundaries between teaching and mentoring, leading and organizing. As a teacher, it is my aim to cultivate free, creative human beings and engaged citizens with a mature spirituality who have the ability to make rationally autonomous decisions regarding questions of meaning and value, to understand their particular calling and how to realize it, to build and exercise power in service to the common good, to learn the difficult spiritual lessons that come from both success and failure in our lives, and thus to pursue and progress along the way they have chosen. In addition to teaching in formal academic and community based settings, I mentor individuals using a process which integrates deep listening with both traditional spiritual disciplines and secular insights drawn from organizing and business strategy. I cultivate both scholars and practitioners, and challenge my students to cross the boundaries between these two domains. As an academic leader I have worked to promote liberal education for students from working class and ethnic minority communities, to make the institutions I serve into centers for deliberation around questions of meaning, value, and public policy, and to restore (nonconfessional, pluralistic, but still normative) engagement with the sacred to its rightful place in the academy. I see this academic leadership as an extension of my broader work as an institutional organizer helping organizations and institutions find their way, and working to build, conserve, and transform them in service to the Common Good. My work as an organizer has also included significant contributions to interfaith dialogue, deliberation, and organizing, from building financial and institutional support for interfaith organizing through catalyzing public deliberation around questions of meaning and value across diverse spiritual and civilizational traditions. I bring to this engagement a substantial record of publications, including nine books and numerous articles in both scholarly journals and journals of public opinion setting forth my vision and strategy, decades of experience teaching the liberal arts to students from working class and ethnic minority communities, a history active civic engagement, primarily in interfaith dialogue, deliberation, and organizing, and a range of institutional leadership roles in the academy including department chair, program director, dean, and campus leader with responsibility for all community college functions for a large rural area. As I continue my formal institutional engagements as an academic administrator over the next several years, I am also looking to build support for my creative work and a consulting practice mentoring individual leaders and organizations across the academic, religious, and civil society sectors. Supporting my work through Patreon is a way to contribute to making this possible while getting a glimpse of my creative process, free or discounted artifacts from my alterealities, and the opportunity to benefit from my mentoring and consulting practice at much reduced rates.

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