Panarchy! A How-To (Part 1 – Beginning)


I’ve been trying to write this article for a week now because I decided to start with four whole books but it took too long and got stalled so I’m starting again with an outline and the first of the four books I wrote about – Elaine Pagels’ Gnostic Gospels, a fabulous book on the beliefs of an ancient heretical sect of Christianity and their relationship with a nascent orthodox church. Groovy! Let’s start:

Why Panarchy?

Panarchy is a word I came up with in the last hour after thinking about what to call this book for the past week or so. I’ve been thinking “Anarchy and Hierarchy”, “Heterachy”, “Non-Hierarchical Organisation” (Doesn’t really flow off the tongue does it?) but for one reason or another I haven’t been happy with any of them. Panarchy is a new word I came up with after about 20 minutes of checking out the etymology of the word “hierarchy” and more specifically the suffix “-archy” and then going to the toilet and reading Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World for a while. Panarchy means two things which are the same thing: the rule of all and the rule of satire (Pan = Satyr = Satire). The rule of all – the rule of everyone as equals, kings and queens alike – is contingent on the rule of laughter and play. This is play in the sense of the old question “What would you do if you were king for a day?” This is satire in the liberating sense, because good satire only punches upward.

Only equals may laugh…. To make men smile at the god Apis is to deprive him of his sacred rank and to transform him into a common bull.”

When we develop the religious metaphor the relationship between satyrs, satires, devils and Panarchy will become clear. The old Christian Devil – THE Devil, the big goat man – was once Pan, the Horned God (Which will also be covered when I look over Slaine, this cool old comic book). The question here is why Pan, as opposed to any other stolen god (eg. Beelzebub, who is especially interesting because of his other name, Baal, whose principle of fun and debauchery is expressed in Bertold Brecht’s play of the same name) has become the dominant popular image of The Devil. What is it about the fun-loving, free-wheeling Pan that makes him the antithesis of old Christian seriousness? These are fantastically interesting questions which we’ll have to leave til later. We’ll explore the seriousness of angels, their opposition to the devils and their freedoms (Also interesting – the autonomous, self-organising computer programs known as “Demons”, to be covered in a review of Manuel DeLanda’s War in the Age of Intelligent Machines.).

I love this article so I’m going to publish it as it is, following up with the first book next time.

Next time: Elaine Pagels’ Gnostic Gospels and the method of the High Priests.


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