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The King in Orange

The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

• Details the magical war that took place behind the scenes of the 2016 election

• Examines in detail the failed magical actions of Trump’s opponents, with insights on political magic from Dion Fortune’s war letters

• Reveals the influence of a number of occult forces from Julius Evola to chaos magick to show how the political and magical landscape of American society has permanently changed since the 2016 election

Magic and politics seem like unlikely bedfellows, but in The King in Orange, author John Michael Greer goes beyond superficial memes and extreme partisanship to reveal the unmentionable realities that spawned the unexpected presidential victory of an elderly real-estate mogul turned reality-TV star and which continue to drive the deepening divide that is now the defining characteristic of American society.

Greer convincingly shows how two competing schools of magic were led to contend for the presidency in 2016 and details the magical war that took place behind the scenes of the campaign. Through the influence of a number of occult forces, from Julius Evola to chaos magicians as well as the cult of positive thinking, Greer shows that the main contenders in this magical war were the status quo magical state--as defined by the late scholar Ioan Couliano--which has repurposed the “manipulative magic” techniques of the Renaissance magi into the subliminal techniques of modern advertising, and an older, deeper, and less reasonable form of magic--the “magic of the excluded”--which was employed by chaos magicians and alt-right internet wizards, whose desires coalesced in the form of a frog avatar that led the assault against the world we knew.

Examining in detail the magical actions of Trump’s opponents, with insights on political magic from occultist Dion Fortune’s war letters, the author discusses how the magic of the privileged has functioned to keep the comfortable classes from being able to respond effectively to the populist challenge and how and why the “Magic Resistance,” which tried to turn magic against Trump, has failed.

Showing how the political and magical landscape of American society has permanently changed since the 2016 election cycle, Greer reveals that understanding the coming of the King in Orange will be a crucial step in making sense of the world for a long time to come.

From the Introduction

“Don’t make fun of madmen. Their madness lasts longer than ours. . . . That’s the only difference.”

--from “The Repairer of Reputations” in The King in Yellow

We like to think, most of us, that we live in a world that makes rational sense. The dominant cultural narratives of the industrial Western world portray the universe as a vast machine governed by rigid and deterministic laws, in which everything that will ever happen could be known in advance, if only we could just gather enough data. Our political expectations are much the same: we elect candidates to office because they claim to be able to make the machinery of representative democracy do what we want it to do, and the mere fact that things never quite manage to work that way never seems to shake the conviction that they will, or at least that they should.

It’s all a pretense, and we know it. The reason we can be sure it’s a pretense is that when some part of the world misbehaves in a way that won’t allow the fantasy to be maintained, a great many of us respond with rage. We aren’t baffled or intrigued or stunned; we’re furious that the universe has seen fit to break the rules again----and of course it’s that “again,” stated or unstated, that gives away the game. We know at some level that the rules in question are simply a set of narratives in the heads of some not very bright social primates on the third lump of rock from a midsized star nowhere in particular in a very big universe. Most of us cling to the narratives anyway, since the alternative is to let go and fall free into a wider and stranger world, where we can’t count on being able to predict or control anything.

Sometimes, though, the pretense becomes very, very hard to maintain. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in one of those times. It’s a source of fascination and wry amusement to me that the event that plunged us into a realm of paradox, that tore open the familiar world of half--truths and comfortable evasions and sent a great many of us spinning off into the void, wasn’t any of the grandiose cataclysms or cosmic leaps of consciousness so luridly portrayed by the last three or four generations of would--be prophets. It wasn’t the arrival of the space brothers or the Second Coming of Christ or the end of the thirteenth baktun of the Mayan calendar. No, it was the election of an elderly reality--television star, wrestling promoter, and real estate mogul named Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States of America.

Just when we crossed over the border into nonordinary reality is an interesting question, and it’s one I’m far from sure I can answer exactly. Well over a year before the 2016 election, certainly, I noticed that something very strange was happening out there in the twilight realms of the American imagination, something that the corporate media weren’t covering and pundits and politicians seemed to be going out of their way to ignore. By the new year I was certain that politics as usual were about to be chucked out the window, and less than a month later----on January 20, 2016, to be precise----I posted an essay to the blog I wrote in those days, The Archdruid Report, titled “Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment.” In it I talked about some of the reasons that the bipartisan political consensus in the United States was coming apart at the seams and predicted that Trump would win the election.

In the months that followed I expanded on that prediction, watched in bemusement as Trump’s campaign turned nimble and clever while Clinton’s stumbled from one self--inflicted disaster to another, and caught my first glimpses of deeper and stranger forces at work under the pretense of business as usual. I started hearing about “the chans,” Pepe the frog, a forgotten Europop song titled “Shadilay,” and an ancient Egyptian god named Kek. In my blog posts I tried to sketch out a first tentative outline of the landscape of politics and consciousness that was coming into view as Trump’s campaign shrugged off the sustained attacks of the entire US political and corporate establishment and pulled off a victory that most respectable thinkers at the time considered utterly impossible.

It was the aftermath, however, that made it clear just how far we’d strayed into the absolute elsewhere. In the weeks immediately after the election, I thought that the tantrums being thrown by the losing side were simply a slightly amplified version of the sulky--toddler behavior we saw from Republicans after the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and Democrats after the election of George W. Bush in 2000. I honestly expected that the Democrats, once they’d gotten over the ritual period of wailing in anguish because they’d lost, would pick themselves up, learn from the manifold mistakes their candidate made during the campaign, and figure out why a significant number of voters who normally sided with them had taken their chances on Donald Trump.

That didn’t happen. Not only did the tantrums keep coming, they turned more shrill and surreal with each passing week. . . . Meanwhile Trump began to use the overreactions of his opponents as an instrument of political warfare, bombarding the internet with carefully timed Twitter salvoes to keep his critics distracted while he carried out the most dramatic reshaping of the American governmental landscape in living memory. It really did look at times as though Trump’s opponents were under some kind of magic spell.

In a certain sense, of course, that’s exactly what was going on.

John Michael Greer is a highly respected writer, blogger, and independent scholar who has written more than 70 books, including The Long Descent, Circles of Power, and the award-winning New Encyclopedia of the Occult. An initiate in a variety of Hermetic, Masonic, and Druidic lineages, he served for twelve years as Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. He lives in Rhode Island.

“Against a humorous and informed survey of the American political landscape, Greer analyzes the 2016 U.S. presidential election through the lens of magic. Taking his cue from Ioan P. Couliano’s masterpiece Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, Greer shows the power of symbols in forming popular opinion and political action and with it the competing and combating views of magic of the two principal parties: the magic of the privileged versus pragmatic positivism and where they meet in the Faustian dream of perpetual progress. An essential book for anyone seeking to understand the direction in which ‘cancel culture,’ the industrial world, and its formerly liberal democracies are heading.”

– Mark Stavish, author of Egregores

“John Michael Greer is one of the true original minds on the scene in these rather dire days of the wobbling American experiment. His books hack through the precooked ideology of our so-called thinking classes to present always-fresh connections between events on the ground and the deep mysteries of our being here in the first place, especially the issues of good and evil, which so befog us today.”

– James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency

“Greer does an excellent job explaining the primary division amongst Americans as being investment class, salary class, wage class, and welfare class. Things get more interesting when Greer starts tracking the chaos magic of the 4Chans, and the reactionary workings of the magical resistance. The King in Orange does an excellent job comparing and contrasting not only the philosophies of these groups, but also their operational practices. There is much to be learned about magic, just from the author’s observations and explanations. The King in Orange is a thought provoking look at the 2016 election through the prism of Greer’s political opinions and magical experience. Whether you agree 100% with his findings, you will still find yourself with much to consider."

– The Magical Buffet