The Black Flag of Captain Nemo: Towards a Dark Anarchism of the Empyrean

Jules Verne, the famous science fiction and fantasy writer, has been described as a ‘conservative anarchist’ in respect to his political leanings. His fictional character of Captain Nemo is seen at the end of the novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, unfolding a black flag – the popular symbol of anarchism – at the South Pole, with the letter ‘N’ in gold at its centre.

An icon of steampunk and perhaps a prophet of the eco-futurist ‘solar punk’ paradigm, the esoteric historian Michel Lamy portrays Verne as having completely rejected the materialist and reductionist ethos of Marxism in his book, The Secret Message of Jules Verne: Decoding his Masonic, Rosicrucian, and Occult Writings (Destiny Books, 2007).

In his fantasy writings, Verne attempted to develop characters such as Captain Nemo, and Kaw-Djer in The Survivors of the Jonathan, to depict the mystical concept of the ‘Anark’, a gothic synthesis of aristocratic principles with Catholic personalism, blending both magic realism with mythical perennialism. This is symbolized in the submarine Nautilus with its motto, ‘moving amidst mobility’, the sea being the mother waters of divine creation.

Two similar characters are Haabard Celine in Robert Anton Wilson’s conspiracy-inspired Illuminatus trilogy, based aboard the yellow submarine Leif Ericson, and Ragnor Danneskjold, Ayn Rand’s libertarian pirate in Atlas Shrugged.

The name Nemo translates as ‘nobody’ in Latin, and Verne describes him as the son of an Indian Raja and a scientific genius driven by a hatred for all forms of imperialism. Like Anton Wilson’s and Rand’s characters, Nemo participates in the black market while being rooted in a spirituality akin to the discordianism of Anton Wilson. Verne was himself a Freemason, Rosicrucian and deathbed Roman Catholic.

This discordian anarchism has had further developments in the ‘ontological anarchy’ of Hakim Bey, who was influenced by Sufism and fused individualist anarchism with a mystical non-duality merging a transcendent radical monism with the ‘egotism’ of Max Stirner. Here, the Nietzschean model of the ‘overcoming man’ bears resemblance to the Hindu Vedanta, where the ego is a form of false consciousness trapped in illusion, and Max Stirner’s template of ‘the unique and his ownness’ encapsulating the liberated individual having an ego, not in opposition to soul or spirit, but as having a personality whose completeness depends on the ‘other’ and not a socially atomised absorption and isolation.

Thus, the ‘union of unique ones’ is akin to ‘thou [individual self] art that [absolute self]’. As many of Verne’s novels concentrate on cosmological themes, even if largely earth-centric – beneath the sea, a hollow earth, mysterious islands – Nemo the scientist would undoubtedly be very well versed in the new physics of quantum mechanics, non-locality and the multiverse.

The Fortean paradigm of a ‘concave earth’ could serve as an imaginative icon, given its esoteric and hermetic interpretation by visionary William Blake in The Mundane Shell. So could the ancient Greek and medieval allegory, The Empyrean, being a divine order where reality is perceived as three nesting spheres turned inside out, reflecting social structure.

Perhaps the mission of Nemo and that of the conservative anarchist is the awakening of true revolutionary order within ‘tradition’ – as above, so below, on Earth as it is in heaven.

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