Our 4,000th Article!
James J. O'Meara
“Whitechapel girls they don’t let go”
Jonathan Bowden’s Demon
Edited by Alex Kurtagić
London: The Palingenesis Project, 2014
The Jonathan Bowden Project is not a progressive rock band, although transgressive might apply. Rather, it is Alex Kurtagić’s project to republish material from The Collected Works of Jonathan Bowden, in something of a respectable and reader-friendly format; the original having been, apparently, something of a self-published mess. I will discuss how well it serves this purpose later, but first, let’s look at the actual text.
As editor Kurtagić correctly says in his Note on this Edition:
Jonathan’s earlier writing was chaotic; it seldom stayed focused on a topic – or even a genre – for long. This does not make it less readable, but it does make it undefinable, except as a record of the thoughts and insights of Jonathan Bowden or his ongoing commentary on the various topics, events, and individuals that preoccupied him at the time of the writing.
Or, as he says on the jacket flap, Bowden’s texts
Belong to no specific genre, the prose being allowed to roam where it may, drawing from many strands, finding unexpected links and collecting shrewd insights along the way.
Based on that description, this “essay” certainly fulfills our expectations.
Bowden begins by considering “one of the most notorious and disturbing cases of criminal malfeasance,” namely “the Ripper murders . . . a series of mutilations that were committed at the height of the Victorian period in the East End of London.” Having “touched a nerve in the Victorian sensibility,” it’s no surprise that they have continued to fascinate the Brits.
Thanks to the plethora of “history” and “chiller” cable channels, Americans are certainly at least vaguely familiar (vagueness seeming to be the state of all their historical knowledge) of the Ripper case, and that, as the murders stopped, and no suspect was taken, some mystery remains. However, I don’t think it quite has the same fascination on this side of the pond (consider the indifference according Johnny Depp’s From Hell), and I must confess I’ve never been all that intrigued myself, despite figuring in the work of such widely different folks as Colin Wilson and Chi Chi Valenti (to say nothing of Spinal Tap’s never finished rock opera, Saucy Jack).
Bowden reviews the various theories and suspects, which gives him a chance to indulge in some of that “commentary on the various topics, events, and individuals that preoccupied him.” But right from the start, almost, Bowden insists that, contrary to the plethora of Dukes and Royal Physicians and even midwifes offered up as suspects, the Ripper must have been
A lonely, violent, fantasizing man of scant education; a piece of low-life – if not necessarily a piece of complete and utter dross – someone not particularly different (certainly not from a distinct social set) to the girls he murdered. Such an individual was poor and disabused, lacking in foresight and most probably alone. He may have been a drinker . . . he might possibly have had some rudimentary experience as a butcher [or] have worked in an abattoir . . . None of which is particularly crucial for the prosecution of this case.
Although Bowden doesn’t mention the connection, the search for the Ripper seems, to this Yank, to resemble the “Oxfordian” case against Will Shakespeare — surely the man capable of writing such dramas could not be an uneducated hick; surely he must have been, if not a royal, at least a noble; if not a noble, at least a titled professional; if not that, then at least a villainous Prof. Moriarty.
In American terms, the search for the Ripper resembles much “conspiracy” theorizing in that the official perp is usually a patsy too stupid to possibly have worked alone. In Oliver Stone’s JFK, based on the investigations of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, Oswald is disparaged as a “a creep” while Garrison’s investigation “uncovers” a CIA conspiracy led by rich, handsome, educated Clay Shaw (who is, to boot, a “butch john, not one of them limp wrists”).
All this “Ripperology” sputters out to no particular conclusion, but it serves to illustrate his real interest, the notion of crime as a response by the superman (Wilson’s “outsider,” Evola’s “differentiated man”) to the crowed anonymity of modern society. This part of the book, roughly the second half, should prove more interesting to most American readers.
For, if we start at the bottom, why does crime exist? Quite literally, what is it for? Does it serve any meaningful purpose at all?
Unfortunately, Bowden stumbles right out of the gate; his πρῶτον ψεῡδος (first false step) is the offhand claim that “homosexuality only occurs in captivity.” Here, he might have benefited from the sort of editor William Burroughs had for his first book, Junkie; rather than, as here, spending half a page explaining what a crinoline is, such an editor would have inserted a note to the effect that “This claim is not supported by reliable medical authorities.”
This in turn leads some of his meanderings into dead ends; such as the suggestion that homosexuality is a product — by no means ignoble in itself — of civilization — thus decadence — somehow genetically passed down in some Lamarckian fashion; rather than androphilia being the source of culture, from the primeval Männerbund to the SS Orden Staat, with “family values” civilization being the product of Semitic culture-distortion.
Bowden is definitely onto something, though, in linking deviance, whether it be criminal, sexual, or artistic, with elitism, true order, and the various concern of the Right. Whether he agrees or disagrees with this, or any other Bowden’s other “probes,” as Marshall McLuhan called his own audacious essays, the reader will find both delight and profit in exposing himself to Bowden’s kaleidoscopic tour of the dark side of the imagination, the natural home of that exile from modern civilization, the Right.
The artistic sensibility has hit upon a salient fact: namely, that crime can be aesthetically understood, but it should not be appreciated – it can be reckoned with and judged, contrary to liberal diktat. For in truth, much liberal opinion does not respect anything enough o want to proscribe it. Yet, artistic and /or intellectual insight into criminality – more accurately, the recesses of the process of human destruction – is more than ever necessary. It is part-and-parcel of any understanding of what it is to be human.
Now, we come to the role of this text in the Jonathan Bowden Project. According to editor Kurtagić, “in their published form [the aforementioned, self-published Collected Works of Jonathan Bowden] the texts were in sore need of line-editing.” Given Bowden’s writing and speaking style, and his lack of “access to a sophisticated word processor,” one can well believe it. But on the evidence of this edition, the original texts must have been one unholy mess, perhaps resembling the work of the Ripper himself; for the text presented here is not very good at all.
There are basically two problems here; first, the text is littered with typos, of the irritating and counter-productive make-you-stop-and-think sort:
. . . (to white: the Romantic agony) . . .
They reside in the archies of the New York Academy of Medicine . . .
. . . who was then an impoverished and Bohemian painted living in the . . .
For it we return to the case for a moment . . .
. . . with considerable gabs between each slaying . . .
All of which has a lot to do with the crowing together of human beings . . .
And with double marks for originality, take this one:
(This, at any rate, is how Coppola doubles meant it: the redundant American parable that had its originis in . . .
Now, some of these were perhaps simply not caught by the editors in the original text, messy as it was; however, as is the frustrating nature of the editing process, some are introduced by the editors themselves. Consider Kurtagić’s own statement of his goals:
The Jonathan Bowden Collection aims at making these obscure texts readily available for the first time, complete with annotations and indeces, so that they may be studied and / or enjoyed by present and future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.
Another problem is due to the nature of the text, which, though apparently not a transcript, reads like one. Since Kurtagić has brought what he calls a “light hand” to Bowden’s style, there are passages which, when spoken, or rather, performed by an orator of Bowden’s caliber, would likely be reasonably clear, but on the printed page become unnecessarily cryptic:
In a sense, to dream a ‘transgressive’ fantasy is the very alternative, the literal – if not the dark, morbid or transgressive side to the artistic imagination or intellect is merely a genetic displacement: a cauterizing of the nature of the human.
This might be useful to some future scholar — in Castalia, perhaps — seeking as pure a text from the Master’s hand as possible, with no editorial intrusions, but the un-readablility of this sort of thing makes it less likely that enough readers will grow among the general populace right now to result in any “future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.”
Now, as I’ve criticized several recent Wermod & Wermod publications for the same peccadilloes, perhaps I should insert some explanation/self-justification. Their publications of Yockey’s Imperium and Proclamation of London are expensive, but this is justified not only by the value of the contents, but the rarity of print editions and the high quality of the editorial material contributed by Kerry Bolton and Michael O’Meara; occasional errors are hardly relevant.
On the other hand, something like Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, which is widely available free, cheaply, or in extensively annotated editions, needs to be judged by stricter criteria. The Partisan is intended to present new fiction to a popular audience, and again, the presentation – despite the “book by its cover” cliché – needs to attract rather than frustrate the reader.
In other words, I don’t intend these as niggling little criticisms but as attempts to judge these publications on their own terms; the text themselves being rather self-recommending anyway.
So in this case, you’ll recall this edition’s statement of purpose:
. . . so that they may be studied and / or enjoyed by present and future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.
Although the footnotes do help those hoping to study the text, the overall presentation is hardly conducive to enjoyment, although a lot of the problem could, hopefully, be corrected in future printings.
1. Wilson devoted many pages to the Ripper, along with other criminals, madmen and messiahs; after a lecture at the New York Open Center I met up with him (as part of a group of listeners) at a Greenwich Village “theme pub” called The Slaughtered Lamb. “Indeed, when these issues are brought up, you feel like a lamb led to the sacrificial slaughter” (p, 61). Chi Chi epitomized the sort of American who would think an interest in the Ripper denoted “class” and “sophistication”; her elegy “Whitechapel Girls (The Ripper Poem)” was published in her literary fetish ‘zine Verbal Abuse in 1993 (online here), and later recited at a Ripper themed night at her nightclub, Jackie 60 (see my “Fashion Tips for the Far From Fabulous Right” in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2112)
2. A term, it should be noted, invented by the CIA to demonize anyone questioning the Warren Commission; see the documents collected here.
3. Of course, the FBI’s post-911 “terror plots foiled” record shows a remarkably consistent narrative of half-witted Muslims approached by the FBI with a can’t miss plan to bring glory to Allah, so who’s reading whose scripts?
4. “People like you just walk between the raindrops” muses Garrison. Even the more louche conspirators are given a kind of sheen: David Ferrie “knows five languages, knows a lot about history, philosophy . . .” while even imprisoned rent boy Willie O’Keefe struts around shirtless for our admiration, paraphrasing Yockey (“You a liberal, Mr. Garrison, you don’t know shit ’cause you never been fucked in the ass. This ain’t about justice! No, this is about order! Who rules? Fascism is coming back!”) and explains his motives in confessing as “I hate to think they blame it on silly, fucking Oswald. Didn’t know shit, anyway.”
5. A favorite expression of Schopenhauer’s; see, for example, The Basis of Morality, Part II, Chapter II.
6. On the all-pervasive nature of homosexual – or rather, “ambisexual” — relations in the animal kingdom, especially primates, see James Neill’s The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies (McFarland & Co., 2008), as well as my subsequent kindle single (only $0.99, cheap!), A Review of James Neill’s “The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies.”
7. See “A Band Apart: Wulf Grimsson’s Loki’s Way,” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro.
8. See Julius Evola, Men Among The Ruins (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002) and the reviews “René Guénon: East and West” and “East and West: The Gordian Knot” reprinted in East and West (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
9. See my “Welcome to the Club: The Rise & Fall of the Männerbund in Pre-War American Pop Culture,” here and in my forthcoming collection, Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
10. Aryan superman Elliot Ness, putting together his “Untouchables” (incorruptible, outcaste, and immortal) to renew order (dharma) in the chaos of Prohibition era Chicago, looks among the riff-raff of official police culture (rejecting one recruit, his guru Malone sneers “There goes the next Chief of Police”), and stubbornly insists “I don’t want any married men” (see my “’God, I’m with a heathen.’ The Rebirth of the Männerbund in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables,” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro; while his opposite number, immigrant superman Ricco (Little Caesar) sneers “nahh, that’s soft stuff” when his buddy and partner talks about girls.
11. The modern “genius serial killer” is perhaps the American version of Ripperology, from Manson to Hannibal Lecter to The Black List. In Manhunter, Will Graham, the FBI profiler who can “get inside the mind” of such a one, due to his own latent superman tendencies (Will), achieves his own breakthrough when he becomes “tired of all you sons of bitches” and, however the Tooth Fairy was abused as a child, today he just wants to “shoot him out of his socks” — and does so; see “Will and Phil: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror and Manhunter,” here as well as my review of Andy Nowicki‘s Beauty and the Least (Chicago: Hopeless Books, Uninc., 2014), here.
12. See my review, “The Original Weird Critick,” here.
13. Demon, by the way, has a very nifty cover illustration, of Bowden as Ripper, from Alex Kurtagić himself.
Good catch! I recall reading something about that, namely this from the chap at Semitic Controversies; seems to fit the “loser” profile Bowden supported:
Jack the Ripper was Jewish: The New DNA Evidence
I don’t normally blow my own trumpet about getting things right well before other people get to the root of the issue, but in this case I’d like to highlight the fact that I argued four years ago in 2010 that Aaron Kosminski was the likeliest candidate for the serial killer who we know (incorrectly in all likelihood) under the label ‘Jack the Ripper’.
A recent bit of creative investigation into the forensic evidence we know was related to the Ripper and his crimes in Whitechapel (London) was then linked via genetic material left on it to one of the principle suspects fingered by the original detectives investigating the Ripper’s killing spree.
That suspect was a jewish immigrant from Poland (who was later admitted a lunatic asylum) named Aaron Kosminski.
Ripperologists have often fingered jewish suspects (of which Kosminski is the most favoured but there are other strong ones such as one David Cohen) as being some of the likeliest candidates for being the Ripper. I am usually rather skeptical about genetic testing carried decades (in this case more than a century) after the fact (due to all the potential for contamination and chain of evidence issues), but what makes me believe this could well be right is that we have a double match in the genetics (which is truly hard to achieve).
The researchers took DNA from a relative of the second canonical Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes as well as one of Aaron Kosminski’s and the bit of cloth (said to have been part of Eddowes’ dress) concerned matched both individuals. That is not likely to be a coincidence for the simple reason that there were thousands upon thousands of individuals in Whitechapel at the time: it cannot be reasonably argued that cloth soaked in Eddowes’ blood could also have had genetic material on it from Kosminski (who just happens to be a principle suspect for the Ripper killings).
What are the chances that that is a coincidence?
I’d say they are almost infinitesimal bordering on the non-existent given that Kosminski would have to be seriously unlucky to both accidentally handle cloth soaked in the blood of the second victim of the Ripper (which remember was committed in the small hours in a small courtyard off the street called Mitre Square) and then be mistakenly fingered by Scotland Yard detectives as being a prime suspect for being Jack the Ripper.
Don’t you think that is a coincidence too far?
On “homosexuality only occurs in captivity” and “homosexuality is a product — by no means ignoble in itself — of civilization”.
This first point is well known in zoologist literature, though will be unpalatable to some. In ‘normal’ conditions (shorthand for the a wild, healthy environment untouched by man) true animal homosexuality does not occur. i.e. A preference for the same sex that remains after any imbalance is restored. However, in captivity or maladaptive environments animal homosexuality occurs regularly. So does animal attraction to human handlers, which, again, is a product of captivity and not a trait found in wild creatures.
On both points, it sounds like Bowden has been reading Desmond Morris, who many here will view as a kindred spirit. His The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo are brilliant studies of 21st century man.
Connecting with the topic: Here is an article discussing Morris’ view of homosexuality – http://a-atheistinthecloset.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/desmond-morris-thoughts-on.html
Actually, asked and answered, as the lawyers say. See references to Neill, who provide hundreds of pages of documentation. and my kindle book above. If that’s too hard, then try this:
This article is interesting as well because it raises an issue Neill does as well, for not only zoologists but historians and classical scholars. The “all zoologists” argument is an illusion because until recently, they all lied.
“Such sexual behavior has been documented only relatively recently. Zoologists have been accused of skirting round the subject for fear of stepping into a political minefield.
“There was a lot of hiding of what was going on, I think, because people were maybe afraid that they would get into trouble by talking about it,” notes de Waal. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s hard not make comparisons between humans and other animals, especially primates. The fact that homosexuality does, after all, exist in the natural world is bound to be used against people who insist such behavior is unnatural. ”
Of course, I suppose by “untouched by man” you mean, unobserved (as in, if a tree falls in the forest). So yeah, no observations where no one has observed.
Thanks for the review. I have tried to read some of Bowden’s texts in their raw form, reproduced from his own website, but most of them are unreadable. The prose is clumsy in the extreme – worse than what one might expect from Fernando Pessoa after two bottles of whiskey – and I’m inclined to think that the spoken word was his strong point. It seems like a missed opportunity that the same problem is present in these edited reptroductions. He excelled at the spoken word. I find his speeches very gratifying to listen to, and I’m quite sad that I will never have a chance to speak with him. I’m still inclined to give these published forms a try, though. I have always enjoyed stream-of-consciousness literature, and I can hardly pretend that my own (usually inerbriated, such as now) ramblings are the epitome of coherence, but I relate to meandering written text as much as concision. Who doesn’t? At least, who from those of us who grew up reading Kerouac and listening to Can.
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