On Airports and Modernity
Every 6-months, according to the standard way of reckoning time on earth, a particular order of beneficent beings hold their regular convocations. These are not convocations in the normal sense. These beings do not have bodies, so are not bound by the limits of space. Yet while they do not need to assemble in a particular place, they can and do attune what Thomas Aquinas called their angelic powers to commune with each other at specific times. This is how such a convocation should be understood. The nine orders of beneficent beings are divided into three triads, with the third triad being those closest to the affairs of earth, and most deeply involved in human proceedings. This order are termed by tradition, Principalities. Different groups of Principalities have jurisdiction over different things. The convocations being discussed here are for the Principalities that have jurisdiction over particular places.
These beings do not need to belong to any place, yet each of them chooses to let their powers reside in a particular place, the place for which they take responsibility. As beneficent creatures, they accept this limitation on their potential in service to the Highest Good, purely because it is right and just to do so. They crop-up frequently in folklore and mythology, although their forms then vary according to cultural influences. They are usually recognisable as the guardian spirits of certain localities. In attuning their power to a place, they cooperate with the affairs of that place, to ensure that what occurs there proceeds, as far as possible, in the closest approximation to the will of the Highest Good. This is only one outworking of the role of the order of Principalities. These heavenly spirits inspire art and science: participating and co-operating in human endeavours to bring those endeavours to their highest fulfillment.
During their convocations, some spirits make a stronger impression than others. This is because those spirits carry with them a sense of grandeur coming from an age long past. One of these once-formidable spirits guards a network of fields to the west of the City of London. Here, human beings worked in a symbiotic relationship with the natural landscape for many centuries; overseeing it, facilitating it, cultivating it. In Neolithic times a significant settlement was established here, and its Principality gently nudged and prompted those early inhabitants in the construction of the flint tools, arrowheads, and artifacts of pottery which are to this day still discovered beneath the soil. Many years later, this same patch of land included an Anglo Saxon village where agriculture thrived and the little populace worked together to till the soil and reap the fruits thereof. The Normans then settled on the land, bringing more sophisticated methods of farming. Through all this, the Principality of this place was quietly working away in the background, inspiring inventive solutions to practical problems, fostering community, and helping the people to keep the forces of chaos and darkness at bay. The place was to make its first appearance in written records in the 14th Century, with a name that bears the mark of its Norman inhabitants: La Hetherewe.
That the guardian spirit of this place did great work is well-recognized by the other Principalities. There have been notable achievements. In the first place, this Principality invoked some inspirations of science which led to this place being used for the first trigonometrical survey reaching across the English Channel to France. The site was well-suited for this, being flat and a good distance from the place where the first universal means of reckoning time was developed to aid naval navigation in the 15th Century, which happened at Greenwich. The spirit of Greenwich had therefore also been established as a significant being, especially when GMT was adopted universally at Washington DC in 1884, enabling the delineation of the globe into today’s 24 time-zones. The spirit of Greenwich and the spirit of La Hetherewe had both been amongst the highest grades of this group of Principalities until relatively recently, when the spirit of La Hetherewe’s star began to wane.
The waning did not happen overnight. Right up until the early 20th Century this spirit was in very good standing, not least because it had assisted the people of that place in maintaining their settled way of life when the surrounding environs were rapidly developed for housing and light-industry. On maps from the turn of the century, a little group of farms can be seen, holding their own against the new developments encroaching on all sides. The paddock hedgerows and the network of ancient draining channels bespeak a small community where generations lived in the stability of traditional networks of kinship, not disrupted by the force of the industrialized markets. The spirits of the neighbouring places had begun to wane more quickly than the spirit of La Hetherewe. To understand how this came to pass, we need to turn our attention to what causes one of the beneficent beings to undergo a loss of radiance. To do this, our minds will need to turn to the forces of chaos and darkness.
Focusing on those forces necessitates an examination of matters oftentimes neglected by those who discuss the Principalities and their convocations. In truth, it is deliberately passed over by souls less reckless than this one. But if it is to described, it must be done quickly and clinically, as one would wipe a malignant bedsore beset with rancid pus. Let us hope the stench is eradicated as if by the clinician’s vapours of iodine and disinfectant. Because for every convocation that occurs, an upside-down convocation is also called together. It is an inversion, of sorts, happening in a murky realm populated by the orders of maleficent beings that ceaselessly yearn to disrupt and destroy that which works in service of the Highest Good. Now, it is important to state that the convocation of the beneficent beings cannot in and of itself be subverted by its inverted malevolents. It is something intrinsically immune from their brooding and angry schemes. Nonetheless, the beneficents freely choose to allow their schemes to be disrupted by them, solely because it is the will of the Highest Good.
On the basis of a decree which went out from the chief of the Principalities just over 2,000 years ago, the beneficents are restrained from taking regular action directly against the malevolents. The chief of the Principalities guards a hill which was then on the outskirts of the City of Jerusalem. In the fullness of time, it was decided to allow the malevolents to pursue their evil scheming until the end of this age. This was to proceed by allowing them to have one element of the cosmos, and one element only, which they could directly influence. This element is the same element which the beneficent beings influence when prompting and cultivating the good in people: free will. The malevolents, however, prompt only evil.
But be clear about the fact there is no power to match the Highest Good, no demiurge of anywhere near equal standing. Rather, the beneficent beings magnanimously stand aside and allow the shadowy, inverted beings of the upside-down to do their worst to inspire evil. The malevolents are incapable of discerning the truth of anything anyway, so letting them count their continuance as victory was no hard task for the beneficents. They did this for the same reason they do anything. Because it will be put to work for the Good. That is, they instinctively knew that this decree formed part of a greater scheme. They were right; for it will allow those human beings who win battle with the temptations of the malevolents eventually to glimpse the land of eternal blessedness to which the beneficent beings themselves belong. The benevolents are good at accepting such decrees. After all, it was precisely their willingness to accept a much earlier decree that separated them from those who refused to do the same at the dawn of time. Those who refused are those we now call the malevolents.
The spirit of La Hetherewe’s star had shone brightest in the early 1930s. Its radiance swelled with maximum luminosity then due to a particular triumph of human ingenuity developing in that place, when an airfield was established on 71 acres there in 1929. But when human ingenuity reaches lofty peaks, the malevolents swirl and brood yet more ferociously, decanting their foulsome brew of poisonous temptations even more nefariously than before. So the spirit of La Hetherewe knew the volatility and the risk which would attend the new possibilities of travel being explored from its territory, while still urging the many who used the airfield to use their new capacities in service of the Highest Good. Within a few years, however, the inverted malevolent below had sucked the radiance of that spirit dry. The fact this inverted spirit won the day is made clear enough when one considers the name this place now has in the modern vernacular: Heathrow.
The battle over that place included some of the most toilsome and traumatic scenes witnessed at any of the angelic convocations. Huge numbers of human beings were to succumb to the temptations of that place’s malevolent spirit. Moreover, similar battles were raging between the spirits of many of other places over those same decades, and the malevolents seemed able to coordinate their attacks on humanity with a breadth and range that had never been possible before. The exercise of human free will was operating under conditions different from those it had done previously. A fall in one place was quickly repeated in other places across the world, dragging more and more mortals down with execrable force. The malevolents of patches of land around Chicago, Paris, New York, Berlin, Rome, and countless other places, found themselves gaining ground and forging a powerful new alliance with a diverse range of fallen mortals.
The level of malevolent organization witnessed to here, meant that something approaching what mortals would term an ‘ideology’ was even beginning to emerge. As a malevolent construction, it needed no particular figurehead, no base-text manifesto, very little in the way of the propositional, philosophical analysis which usually attends other developments in human civilization. Rather, it was to be an insidious and inexorable force, its texture and its dominion functioning like an inversion of the mysterious quality of livingness imparted to all creatures by the very breath of the Highest Good himself. But this was not a life-force, of course, but quite the opposite.
The malevolents of once-obscure areas of land near big cities were thus hugely emboldened by a particular, concrete collection of edifices – but unlike a village, city or even a nomadic encampment – they inverted the conditions of being settled and worked only to unsettle and despoil the base configurations of human life. These inverted settlements are like temples to the death force of the malevolents’ power. Perhaps they should best understood as something like the tumours which beset a mortal’s body during extreme sickness. The working principle of a malevolent is always to make evil appear as good, so these temples are signified by a word which conjures images of freedom, recreation, and limitless possibilities in the minds of those who visit them: airports.
Air travel enabled the malevolents to realize that they had a chance to strike directly at a primordial condition of constructive life which had until that point been entirely out of their range of influence. This aspect is acutely important for mortal life, because human life is by definition embodied. We are dealing here with the conditions of space. The malevolents discerned that if they give the impression to mortals that they are no longer intrinsically bound to the place where they reside, they need no longer take any responsibility for it. Of course this has begun in the previous century with rail travel, but air travel took things so much further: wingéd flight is the preserve of angels and demons, and because the distances involved meant mortals could be tempted to see themselves as citizens of the Kingdom of this World, and not a particular kingdom within in. Mortals need no longer consider the places they reside as constitutive for their identity, so they underwent a primal estrangement. If mortals could choose wherever they wished to go, and move from one place to another with astonishing rapidity, the destabilization of collective responsibility and the permanent disequilibrium to communities would throw the will of the Highest Good almost permanently out of kilter.
So it was to be, to such a degree that disequilibrium became the default mortal setting, and the genuine equilibrium of the beneficents increasingly appears to mortals as offensive, even sickening. The ensuing battles reached a particular intensity when the malevolents’ work was consolidated into an exceptionally deleterious contrivance. This was to plant the idea in the human mind, that the globe could become a borderless, unlimited domain for all – a space not limited by the conditions of space. Ripples of glee went out across the caverns under the earth as this contrivance was worked upon, night after night. For were it to be successful, individual mortals would never need to bear responsibility for each other ever again, unless it was on the basis of immediate self-interest. The malevolents knew well that only despair could result from this. Each mortal would be thrust into a compulsive, perpetually addicted state of trying to establish roots and stability for himself by whatever cheap dopamine fix came readily to hand, eye, nose, or mouth. At last, it seemed, the malevolents would approach their overarching objective, to reduce mortals to level of mere beasts.
The contrivance was to begin in the airports themselves. It required a source, a centre; some kind of place where the idea of a borderless space would derive from. After much deliberation, the malevolents decided to treat their new temples – airports – like the beneficents had once treated the ultimate Temple of the Most High: the ancient Temple of Jerusalem. They needed an inverted Holy of Holies, like that around which the ancient Temple is constructed. The inversion was to be exact. The original Holy of Holies is where this one place is unique and exclusively proximate to the Most High. Inverting it meant establishing in airports a central chamber called the ‘transit zone’, which belongs to no-place, a dimension of sheer liminality, if you will. This would be a new magnitude, seeking to exist outside the 3-dimensions by which mortal life is conditioned. In the ‘transit zone’, there could be no duty to the networks of responsibility which must invariably govern a particular place. They needed to make mortals feel like ‘citizens of anywhere’, knowing this would mean they were in truth subjects of the Kingdom of this World, and therefore subjected to the Prince of this World. It was a powerful temptation, because it provoked the mortals into something which mirrored the original querulousness that led to the malevolents’ original fall: refusal to accept the limits and rules of the conditions of existence, the perfect expression of the will of the Highest Good. Those ancient words, ‘You will be like unto God’, were thus transposed into a powerfully seductive new form for those who fell for the ersatz omnipresence of the transit zone.
It is rare for internecine strife between the heavenly host and their expelled inversions to reach the human sphere explicitly, but this nearly happened when the concept of a transit zone came under discussion in the case of Edward Snowden. Snowden took flight from the US government and found himself stranded in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Suddenly, then, the notion of a borderless domain belonging equally to all places (and therefore to no places), came under direct scrutiny in the popular mind. The Russian authorities argued that the transit area of an airport is not part of Russia’s sovereign territory, that it was like unto ungoverned airspace. This revealed the malevolents scheme; that the territories of earth can be as the heavens above, and their subjects be like unto God. Once this notion was established in the airports, they schemed, it would spread until the entire globe becomes a mere transit area, just as the Holy of Holies was said to be the inner-fulcrum from whence the rivers of holiness gushed forth to all the nations. A battle was won on this front, and it was very satisfying indeed for the benelovents. International lawyers argued that transit zones are governed as any other part of sovereign territory is in the country they stand, and they won the day.
The victory described above is but one small chapter in the greater cosmic battle taking place around airports. Another front on which it proceeds arose with different foulsome scheme which is no less noxious in character. This scheme arose from a desire to construct an Inner Court in every airport, like that which enclosed the Holy of Holies in the Ancient Temple as the temple court penultimate and most proximate to it. The scheme had been brewed for many years, but came into its fullness on 9/11. The malevolents feed on death and destruction, they feast most gleefully on the spoils of war. Yes, mortals will always enter into armed conflict with other mortals, but it is not so much armed conflict which is at issue. The malevolents want to ensure that the boundaries of what mortals called ‘just war’ could not be heeded-to. Even more arrogantly, they seek to make war the default condition of human civilization. This was best achieved by making human beings unaware that they live in wartime, to make the various accouterments of being permanently under siege an entirely expected and unquestioned reality. This scheme took shape by establishing an inverted veil of the Temple, around the inner court in the centre of which was the inverted Holy of Holies or transit zone.
The idea was for the inner court of an airport to be governed by a battlefield level of security clearance. Mortals would need to queue and wait in line like cavalry, or rather cattle, and be mercilessly examined, poked, and prodded to see if they carried concealed weapons or explosives disguised as everyday items. This possibility was to become so expected, so widespread, that no mortal would even question why it is their society lives under the threat that bottles of drinking water, shoes, and laptops might be thought to contain the high-powered ammunition of the battlefield. ‘Passing through security’ was their euphemism for entering the front line of the trenches, where mortals now entered – blissfully unware – into the ‘transit area’ of no-mans-land which governed the realm between the trenches. In fact, not only unaware, but delighted and blissful at the promise of travel and limitless possibilities. Thus it was to be that the ‘in-between’ or the upside-down was to usurp settled and stable living. There was to be a permanency of total war over against the consciously punctuated episodes of battle of moments when a just war is sadly inevitable.
But let us not assume this diabolical tale ends here. Let not it seem that the malevolents only hold sway over the inverted holy of holies at the center of the transit zone and the inverted veil of the Inner Court on its perimeter. For between the veil and the central sanctum is the inner court itself, and here the malevolents could work on that which they had always sought to bring to a rotten and putrid fruition. This is the ‘departure lounge’. The departure here was to be a departure from the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Assailing each of these, the malevolents knew, involved assailing the means by which mortals approximate their lives toward these three: culture. What needed to be established therefore was a realm in which a profound inversion of decent and proper human culture held sway. An ‘anticulture’, if you will. The concept of an inverted culture masquerading as true culture has recently been articulated, within a mortal framework, by Patrick Deneen. Deneen argues in Why Liberalism Failed that true culture cultivates the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and is intrinsically bound to particular localities with their distinct histories and customs. Liberal culture is therefore antagonistic to true culture, promising that mortals can transcend place and transcend nature. The job, as ever, for the malevolents, is to make the evil appear as the good, the atrophy of culture had to appear a dazzling array of human possibilities.
And so entering the departure lounge had to involve a full-fronted assault on the senses. Through smell, first, making people pass through synthetic perfumes and toiletries made of bizarrely artificial concoctions. Then through sound, with the most debased, vacuous and empty forms of music always playing away in the background. Then through sight, with the faux-regal and peacock clothing of the courtiers of the Prince of this World, the dress of the citizens of anywhere, the clothes in one continent being indistinguishable from the clothes of another.
The story so far is rather troubling, to say the least, and if any mortals in whom a glimmer of the good can still be glimpsed are reading, it might well lead to feelings of despair. In these cosmic battles, nonetheless, all cannot be lost, as stated earlier. The malevolents have established new footholds with airports, but the story does not end here. There are movements afoot suggesting the tide might be turning. The biggest fear of malevolents is that mortals might become aware of their operations, and even worse, those of their enemies, the Principalities. A promise of systems of collective human decision making infused with an awareness of angels and demons terrify the malevolents like little else. This is why the malevolents always ensure their appearance in popular discourse seems utterly toxic and completely absurd, like Kenneth Copeland trying to blow coronavirus away on live TV, or Paula White invoking angels against Leviathan on behalf of Donald Trump. But there are signs that the metaphysical realm of causation behind this world is beginning to make its presence felt without the malevolents controlling the way it is received. Every time the bare possibility of there being angels and demons participating in human affairs, a little glimmer of light is returned to La Hetherewe’s radiance. Any mortal reading this tale can choose to do the same, or choose to let their scoffs be added to the raucous cacophonies of laughter which are ever echoing in the caverns beneath this world.
Jacob Phillips is an academic living in London.
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