The Game, Social Alchemy, and Communitas Crafting
My first meme, inspired by a Key and Peele clip, was found in one of my pseudo-mentee’s “ta eis heauton” journal entries, where he provided this kind testimonial for my journals:
To any fellow looking for a multi-perspectival, balanced, yin-yang, and utterly spectacular approach to being a total fucking bad-ass, I recommend reading up on his work. It blows my mind and continues to as his journals roll into my inbox.
My ego smiled, which I experienced para-egoically of course. Be sure to follow his Substack, he is a great writer, and I sense he’ll be a player in the metamodern scene.
I also had a really great conversation with Joe Lightfoot on The Lightfoot Podcast. The episode is called “The Steward Speaks,” and we covered a lot of ground. Joe is a wonderful interlocutor, and I recommend you check out his podcast if you are interested in this communitas thing. It has featured the likes of Daniel Thorson, Jason Fox, and many others in the communitas game.
January 20th, 2021
I would like to write a book one day called “Social Alchemy,” on how to transmute social dynamics in the wild.
The pick-up artists are informative here. Their scene basically started in 1994, when a student of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner Ross Jeffries—the apparent influence of Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey character in Magnolia—created a Usenet newsgroup called newsgroup.alt.seduction.fast (ASF). This is where men, under pseudonyms, shared their tactics on how to pick-up women.
Pick-up gurus started emerging: David DeAngelo, Mystery, Tyler Durden (Owen Cook), etc. The scene gained mainstream attention after journalist Neil Strauss wrote his infamous book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, and the scene reached its peak popularity after it spawned its own reality television show called The Pickup Artist. Some of the original gurus, such as Mark Manson, wisely got out and made themselves mainstream kosher.
A part of the scene mutated when blogger Roissy (now Heartiste) combined pick-up artistry with an anti-feminist critique, which spawned the “manosphere,” which consisted of the likes of Roosh V and Rolo Tomassi. Things got darker after that, and non-manosphere pick-up artists started getting cancelled for doing outrageous techniques. It started dropping in popularity due to the rise of the dating apps, “looksmaxing,” and “sexual marketplace” defeatist memetic tribes such as incels and MGTOW.
Many people hand-waved it away as something that does not work, or shamed it as being highly problematic. The scene was incredibly diverse however, with many different gurus leading followers in various systems. Some focused on “inner game” (mindset) or “outer game” (tactics). A good read which would be uncommonly recommended is from feminist and S&M author Clarisse Thorn, called Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men.
It was a fair assessment of the scene, and she presents her view of an ethical feminist-friendly game, which is something Daniel Görtz would agree with. A lot of the stuff can be chalked up to exposure therapy and assertiveness training, which Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) advocated: to get over his anxiety around women he cold approached 130 in one summer.
I was never a pick-up artist, as I was too romantic for that, and I found the lifestyle really seedy. It promoted what Martin Buber calls “I-It relationships.” I did engage in approach challenges however—for exaptive purposes. As mentioned before, I approached 100 women in one day, asking for their number, which my former therapist spoke about (he got the approach number wrong though). Rejection towards the opposite sex was no longer a fear for me after that challenge.
The scene offered more than just becoming fearless in the face of attractive women however. Men around the world were sharing, in a decentralized way, hours upon hours of knowledge gleaned from experience. They not only got a better sense of female and male psychology, which they translated into propositional knowledge, they also grokked social dynamics very well. The good ones got the ability to read a room, spot power dynamics, and know who the “alpha” in the group was. They even had techniques to disarm them, which they called “AMOG Destroyers.”
A term from them that I have mentioned in a few recent sessions at The Stoa, is called “social nexus.” This is the person who is the gravitational force in a social setting, and who the group orientates around. They usually have host status, or have what John R. P. French and Bertram Raven call “legitimate power.”
When you are in the social wild, and when people’s status or power is unknown, the social nexus role is up for grabs. In these cases, usually the person who has high verbal intelligence, and is an epistemic authority, especially in an autodidact sort of way, captures the role. Alternatively, a conversational narcissist—somebody who pathologically engages in the “shift response,” e.g. constantly points attention to themselves—tends to become the social nexus.
Now, being in a group with a conversational narcissist who is charming can be a treat, if experienced in doses, but in most cases it is a fucking bore. The model that helps one understand the power of the social nexus is Steven Lukes's “Three Faces of Power,” which I wrote about before in relation to social dynamics:
Face 1 is the issue. This game is usually played in the realm of propositions. People who can win arguments, or appear to by signalling that they are smart, have power in this domain.
Face 2 is the agenda. Who controls the agenda controls what is talked about. In formal meetings this is obvious, but in the interpersonal wild, agendas are at play as well. This is the frame that the conversation is housed in, and frame is king.
Face 3 is the ideology. The agenda is influenced by the ideology at play. This is why it is important to become intimate with all the reality tunnels at play in the noosphere. Not only on a propositional level, but on a felt-sense level as well.
The social nexus owns the agenda, either formally by being a host or having authority bestowed on them via an institution, or informally because they dominate the conversational airspace in a blitzkrieg fashion through the first face.
Many people in the social nexus role do not “hold space” for others, and instead, they create a temporary autonomous mini-cult around their personality, oftentimes unwittingly. A part of the art of social alchemy is to steal the agenda from the social nexus. There are many techniques for this. You could of course go rivalrous style, and go mano a mano, but that will engender lots of social awkwardness.
Instead, you want to disarm the social nexus, while allowing them to save face, in such a way that they do not even notice what happened. There are many techniques for this: metacommunication is a powerful one, there is Dale Carnegie’s stuff of course, Luke Archer’s Verbal Aikido is helpful, and so are many NLP techniques, especially ones about rapport.
For particularly egoic characters, you’ll need to get a sense of where their narcissistic supply is allocated, then authentically love bomb their ego—in an area where they probably do not get much recognition. This will throw them off-balance, and temporarily encourage them to be less egoic, because their validation-seeking algorithm is not needed.
While I have the capacity to do social alchemy, in a lot of cases it is way too much work. Like the Stoics recommend, it is better to avoid social situations that would corrupt you. With individuals who have well-over 10 thousand hours of being an egoic-enthroned social nexus, it is wiser to ignore and prosper.
The fastest way to capture the agenda is to own the ideology. This is that culture war shit, and it is understandable why a “nebulous woke” eregore has become the most powerful ideology in the mainstream, and is now being fully weaponized by the neoliberal Empire. Everyone can be cancelled now, for the most nebulous of reasons, and if one is afraid of being cancelled, as Pat Ryan pointed out, they can be easily blackmailed. Control this eregore, then you’ll gain full spectrum dominance on all of the agendas in play.
While we still have time, it is wise to learn how to do social alchemy, and its telos should be clear: transmute “I-It relationships” to “I-Thou relationships.” Capturing agendas should be in service to this. “Communitas crafting” will soon become an art form, especially for those who want to create their tribe as a work of art. If you are already in a social nexus role, the idea is to hold space in the right way, a way that gives us glimpses of what is going to come.
And it will come, because we are going to steal the culture from the ground up.
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