Archive for the ‘Recommended Reading’ Category

h1

Free Will

July 26, 2008

I stumbled upon a blog entry at Reality Sandwich from Charles Eisenstein which I really like. In the comments from two posts back Dan touched on the issue of whether we really have true free will and here,  coming at it from a slightly different angle is what Charles Eisenstein has to say:

…do you ever have the feeling at such times that you didn’t choose the compulsive habitual behavior at all? You just found yourself doing it, you didn’t choose it. In a valiant attempt to take responsibility, you might say, “Why did I choose to do that?” yet your felt experience was not one of choice, but of helpless automaticity. There is a good reason for this. The reason you feel like you did not make a choice is that, in fact, you did not actually make a choice. You did not choose to start shouting, to have a cigarette, to eat the whole bag of chips, to browse some porn sites, to flip on the television. Your feeling of helpless automaticity is accurate.

It is not that we humans are automatons, bereft of choice or free will. It is that we make the real choice long, long before we appear to. We choose indirectly, through who we create ourselves as. We create ourselves as someone who will, or will not, start yelling in a given situation. We create ourselves as someone who will, or will not, smoke cigarettes. We create ourselves as someone who will or will not respond to a given situation in a given way. Therefore, if you want to change the way you think, speak, and act, you can only do so by recreating your self. You cannot enforce behavioral changes through will, nor through the program of threat and incentive that we mistake for will.

Charles Eisenstein was surprised to find scientific backing for his idea:

In a study published this year in Nature Neuroscience, European researchers found that the outcomes of simple decisions can be detected in the brain up to ten seconds before the subject is aware of them. They conclude that we make choices ten seconds before we think we do, but perhaps these last ten seconds are only the final stage of an invisible, cumulative process of years. As the research does confirm the automaticity of our actions, the researchers could not help but say that their experiment seems to prove that free will is an illusion.

Eisenstein responds with:

Actually, they are looking for free will in the wrong place. Free will only operates in our self-creation, and it is from this that we make predetermined “choices” that are really just manifestations and symptoms of our self-creation.

So, how do we create ourselves? We create ourselves through the one and only choice we actually do have at any given moment. It is our only power as human beings; it is the entirety of our free will. Our only choice, our only power, our only means of self-creation and world-creation, is our power of attention. In other words, at any given moment the only thing we are actually choosing is where to place our attention. Everything else is automatic.

I think the reason this particularly hit home to me is that I’m working with someone at the moment who is totally into the negative explanation for everything. People are rude, they’re stupid, they’re taking the piss, in fact “the whole town is f—-d”. He can always tell you a person’s shortcomings and although he’s generally right he’s also totally wrong because there is always more to a person than their shortcomings.

Anyway, aside from the general dragginess of being around this I realised the other day that it was starting to infect my personal viewpoint and I was beginning to approach a few people in the shop with suspicion in the back of my mind – and occasionally letting this attitude out too. What the guy I’m working with does when he’s in that situation is to temporarily repress his feelings while the person is in the shop which only serves to feed back into his feelings of resentment of the world – although it’s important to note that the temporary repression doesn’t always work either.  I couldn’t have found a better example of what the article talks about.

At least I have a clearcut example of what happens when a person focuses entirely on the negative story but I think I will have to make some kind of stand against it because my subconscious doesn’t apply any judgement when it hears the negative viewpoint, it just soaks it all up.

h1

Pay Attention

July 20, 2008

In my meanderings around Saharasia and The Fall I also came across Eckhart Tolle, I think Dan may have linked to an article about him ages ago but anyway here’s a quote from a chapter of his book The Power of Now. (I won’t speculate on the issue of whether his appearance on Oprah is a good or a bad sign and nor will I bemoan – for long – that fact that his latest book is out on-loan at the local library and that I would have to wait for a further 13 people to borrow it before I could get a look).

The first sentence was written specifically for me I’m sure:

The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation. You can take the first step right now. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years. This is what I mean by “watching the thinker,” which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence.

When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not judge or condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. You’ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.

So when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. As you listen to the thought, you feel a conscious presence – your deeper self – behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream – a gap of “no-mind.” At first, the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt oneness with Being, which is usually obscured by the mind. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. In fact, there is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within: the joy of Being.

It is not a trancelike state. Not at all. There is no loss of consciousness here. The opposite is the case. If the price of peace were a lowering of your consciousness, and the price of stillness a lack of vitality and alertness, then they would not be worth having. In this state of inner connectedness, you are much more alert, more awake than in the mind-identified state. You are fully present. It also raises the vibrational frequency of the energy field that gives life to the physical body.

As you go more deeply into this realm of no-mind, as it is sometimes called in the East, you realize the state of pure consciousness. In that state, you feel your own presence with such intensity and such joy that all thinking, all emotions, your physical body, as well as the whole external world become relatively insignificant in comparison to it. And yet this is not a selfish but a selfless state. It takes you beyond what you previously thought of as “your self.” That presence is essentially you and at the same time inconceivably greater than you. What I am trying to convey here may sound paradoxical or even contradictory, but there is no other way that I can express it.

Instead of “watching the thinker,” you can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of your attention into the Now. Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation. In your everyday life, you can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on. Or when you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence. There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace that you feel within.

Shortly after reading this I was feeling particularly worried about some issue or other and managed to remember to shut the voice in my head down by focussing 100% on the task I was performing at the time – and it worked! The level of tension I was experiencing eased right off.

So many of us use the statement “I just can’t stop thinking about “……” and it’s because we’ve been trying to replace one disembodied thought with another disembodied thought. I’ve mentioned in the past about how I’ve found rock climbing to be a good way to pull my mind of out a depression or stop that worrying voice but now I realise there is no need to go to such extremes, all I need to do is pay 100% attention to any real thing that is right in front of me.

h1

Saharasia

July 13, 2008

If you want to know more about Steve Taylor who wrote The Fall (subject of the last post), he has a website which includes a collection of essays where you can get a feel for his writing and subject matter.

As Dan commented at the end of my last post there is another writer who has covered this territory, James De Meo. He also has a website where, in a circular moment, I found a link (near bottom of page) where Steve Taylor briefly discusses their differing position on what caused the intensification of our ego consciousness.

Anyway, from this article, here is James De Meo outlining how he think civilisation first began in the Saharasia region:

What I speak about is the effects of extreme drought, and the consequent death-giving famine and starvation which follows, and which often kills large percentages of people in a given social group, destroying virtually all social institutions (cooperative work, extended and nuclear families, the maternal-infant bond, etc.).

The effects of such severe drought and famine are brutal, no less than if an army had invaded your town, murdered half the people, stole every scrap of food and material goods, poisoned the wells, killed all the animals, and burned down everything remaining, leaving you to fend for yourself in the middle of a harsh winter, and with no hope of being “rescued” by anybody else, as everyone in surrounding towns would have suffered a nearly identical fate. And then, it happens again and again, every year for perhaps several hundred years, distorting and warping your original peaceful social structure, firstly in the development of defensive reactions, but later, the new generations grow up having known nothing else than this kind of deprived and traumatic existence, and all references to the former time of lush vegetation and happiness are recorded only as myths.

Meanwhile, mothers and babies do not interact so lovingly as before, and neither do young men and women, whose relations are governed more by anxiety and contraction, while the adults must create new social institutions to deal with their collective sadistic aggressions. Afterward, it is perpetuated down the generations by those new social institutions and belief systems, which demand punishment and pain and trauma be visited upon young people through rituals, and sexual pleasure be reduced and denied, through religion. Now, each new generation is armored up by social institutions, and desert climate only becomes a factor which occasionally makes things worse.

From the start of this essay, James De Meo also offers this summary of his theories:

My research was initially aimed at developing a global geographical analysis of social factors related to early childhood trauma and sexual repression, as a test of the sex-economic theory of Wilhelm Reich (1935, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1967, 1983). Reich’s theory, which developed and diverged from psychoanalysis, labeled the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens a completely abnormal condition, resultant from the traumatically-induced chronic inhibition of respiration, emotional expression, and pleasure-directed impulses.

According to this viewpoint, inhibition is made chronic within the individual by virtue of specific painful and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions, which consciously or unconsciously interfere with maternal-infant and male-female bonds. These rituals and institutions exist among both subsistence-level “primitives” and technologically developed “civilized” societies. Some examples are: unconscious or rationalized infliction of pain upon newborn infants and children through various means; separation and isolation of the infant from its mother; indifference towards the crying, upset infant; immobilizing, round-the-clock swaddling; denial of the breast to, and premature weaning of the infant; cutting of the child’s flesh, usually the genitals; traumatic toilet training; and demands to be quiet, uncurious, and obedient, enforced by physical punishment or threats.

Other social institutions aim to control or crush the child’s budding sexual interests, such as the female virginity taboo, demanded by every culture worshiping a patriarchal high god, and the punishment- and guilt-enforced arranged or compulsive marriage. Most of these ritual punishments and restraints fall more painfully upon the female, though males are also greatly affected. Demands for pain endurance, emotion- suppression, and uncritical obedience to elder (usually male) authority figures regarding basic life decisions are integral aspects of such social institutions, which extend to control adult behavior as well.

These repressive institutions are supported and defended by the average individual within a given society, irrespective of their painful, pleasure-reducing, or life-threatening consequences, and are uncritically viewed as being “good”, “character building” experiences, a part of “tradition”. Nevertheless, from such a complex of painful and repressive social institutions, it is argued, comes the neurotic, psychotic, self-destructive and sadistic components of human behavior, which are expressed in a plethora of either disguised and unconscious, or blatantly clear and obvious ways.

I’ve spent the last few years discussing all these issues in somewhat piecemeal fashion on this blog and I have to admit surprise that I’ve never come across James De Meo before. I have yet to read the book but it seems to cast a long shadow across most of what I do here.

h1

The Fall 2

July 9, 2008

From the ever resourcefull Continuum Concept list I’ve just discovered a book called ‘The Fall‘ by Steve Taylor. I’ve already got a post called The Fall, so I’ve called this one The Fall 2 but really by the sounds of things this book has more to offer on the subject that my wee blog does. I like the sound of the book but I’m really amazed I haven’t seen it mentioned in our circle of blogs. If anyone has read it I’m interested to hear what you think.

Anyway, since it’s going to be a while before I buy, read and report back on the book, here (in the form of a guest post) is a review of the book by Tamara, from the Continuum Concept list.

The cover states: “The evidence for a Golden Age, 6,000 years of insanity, and the dawning of a new era.” On the back cover it reads: “It is not ‘natural’ for human beings to kill each other, for men to oppress women, for individuals to accumulate massive wealth and power, or to abuse nature. The roots of our current malaise like in an ‘ego explosion’ which occurred several thousand years ago. ‘Primitive,’ pre-civilizaiton men and women were largely free of our social ills and had a more unified and harmonious state of being than us.”

Taylor says that, due to dramatic changes in climate and the drying up of Saharasia (the Middle East and central Asia), survival became intensely difficult and caused a “sharpened sense of individuality,” or a greater sense of ego-separateness. He called these Saharasian societies the “fallen peoples”; and he called the psychic change the “ego explosion.” Of course, we in western societies are part of the fallen peoples. (BTW He says that on a positive note, this need to survive did inspire new inventions.)

He quotes the anthropologist, Richard Gabriel, as saying: “For the first 95 thousand years after the Homo sapiens Stone Age began [until 4000 BCE], there is no evidence that man engaged in war on any level… There is little evidence of any killing at all.” He gives descriptions of hunter gatherers and the “simple horticultural” societies, which he calls “unfallen peoples”:
– Usually not territorial, nor greedy. Lack of possessiveness about food and other natural resources; don’t collect and hoard things, especially unnecessary things.
– Egalitarain (rather than matriarchal; certainly not patriarchal). No formal leaders, no need for status or power. Women, children, and men considered equal.
– Belief in a spirit force that permeates everything, alive or inanimate. Belief that all things are alive.
– Reverential attitude towards nature; consider themselves custodians – but never owners – of the land.
– Virtually no aggression or violence or competition. Men no more aggressive than women; women no more gentle than men.
– Belief that everything is interconnected and interdependent – people, animals, things. Their identity is bound up with their community; they think and act in terms of the family group, or tribe.
– Empathic, compassionate. (eg. Aboriginal Australian cultures teach/model compassion to/for children.
– Natural state of contentment; no psychic disharmony. (eg. can sit for hours and wait, happily, without feeling anxious, angry… Are happy just being. Don’t need constant external distractions.)
– Less developed sense of ego.
etc.
He describes a “negative aspect” to unfallen cultures: their lack of understanding of cause and effect, their superstitions and taboos.

Interestingly, he says: “…it’s not merely justifiable to speak of all of these peoples as one basic type, it’s justifiable to extend the umbrella even farther, so to speak, deep into the human races’ past. The primal peoples who have existed over recent centuries have a basic core of commonness with the hunter-gathererer and horticultural peoples who have made up the world’s populations before 4000 BCE. The similarities between them are so great that it’s possible to say that together they represent a kind of original or even natural human type. It’s us – those of us who are descended from the Indo-Europeans, the Semites and other Saharasian groups- who are the different ones.”

He describes the characteristics of the fallen peoples as pretty much as the opposite of each item in the list above. About fallen peoples’ “fallen psyche,” he says it was:- the development of a new self-awareness which gave people the new ability to observe and judge themselves.
– a new kind of individuality and self-sufficiency: They started to live by their own will rather than the will of nature; saw themselves a separate from the cosmos.
– causing psychic dysharmony and suffering (a sense of aloneness and separateness; uncontrollable ego chattering; perceptual sleep – we think and do more but perceive less; we fear death).

Contrast this with unfallen peoples who “acted without analysing their behaviour, presumably because they were less self-aware, and so free from feelings of guilt and pride.” Taylor describes the views of Julian Jaynes, psychologist, who suggests that: humans prior to the 2nd millenium BCE “didn’t think in the same way we do because they had no ‘I’ in their heads to think with. Instead of having thoughts, he believes they heard voices inside their heads, stemming from the right hemisphere of their brains, telling them what to do. Thus, a person wouldn’t suddenly ‘think’ to herself that it was time to breastfeed the baby again… – instead, voices inside her head would command, ‘Breastfeed your baby again now.'” (I wasn’t clear as to whether Taylor agreed with Jaynes, but I found Jaynes’ idea interesting.)

Taylor guesses that because Saharasian people were challenged by drought and harsh conditions, they were forced to think more, had to “develop powers of self-reflection, and begin to reason and ‘talk’ to themselves inside their heads.” They had to focus more about their own individual needs in order to survive. And thus they developed a stronger sense of ego, or “I.”

The second half of book describes the psychology of The Fall. It becomes rather bleak when he goes into how little time he believes we have left to change the way we treat the Earth, or perish. But he believes we are in the midst of a “trans-fall era.” He believe we are capable of an evolutionary leap in which we can transcend ego-separation more or less en masse.

Taylor suggests we meditate, do yoga, tai-chi, or any spiritual activity that intensifies our consciousness-energy, because we do our small part to help our species move towards spiritual evolution. He says we can devote part of our lives to serving others and the Earth. We can live lightly.

h1

Exit Conspiracy

November 3, 2007

This was supposed to be posted about a week ago when it would have been much more timely. On the better late than never theory, here it is, late;

Tim’s got a post about stepping out of the conspiracy theory headspace and it’s got me thinking about how much good judgment is missing in our world. I have friends who like to tell me that people are spontaneously getting stupid or that we have evolution in reverse or some such. Frankly I think this is just another sign of poor judgment, it’s a step up from common poor judgment but we really need to get to the top of the stairs and not just be smug about being on a different step to the rabble.

One of the problems is that our judgment is stripped from us as we grow up. We’re supposed to learn to use our own judgment via our relationships with stable adults and from our ever-growing body of life experience. School very effectively prevents this by separating us from the grounding experience of our connection with our parents and presenting subjects as discrete disconnected areas of information, which can only ever be verified by reference to a higher authority (the teacher). It’s interesting how often the word separation comes up in there, (almost) needless to say it also separates us from genuine life experiences and nature.

The mess this creates is then locked-in as adults by the media, which both distracts us and distorts the flow of information that we need to make sense of the world. By now we’re getting into the 3rd generation of this carry-on and you can see the results in these comments of an old teacher that I keep hearing about ­everywhere. It obviously strikes a chord but I don’t think anyone knows what to do with it.

The teacher is right about technology short circuiting kids brains but he misses the part of his institution in it. Both serve to provide disconnections. The technology is particularly insidious though and is worth dwelling on. Under the guise of connecting us up it actually serves to disconnect us. Teenagers don’t have to learn the dance of saying what they want to say without insulting people (it would help if their own parents hadn’t insulted them throughout their child hood of course) because it’s not necessary to worry about that when you txting. Me, I can’t stand txt, I always want to be as clear as possible because I’ve learnt the need for clear communication from a lifetime’s experience of a million communication failures. Tis is only one example of the real-life experiences that kid are missing out on as they sit in the fake environment of school texting each other under the desk.

I mentioned before that no one knows what to do with this situation but there is perhaps one person who does. Gordon Neufeld, psychiatrist, dissects the issue of ‘peer attachment’ in Hold on to Your Kids and leaves the reader with the distinct impression that teenagers today are basically a case of the blind leading the blind (with occasional help from Britney Spears). Once I read about this issue a lot of things fell into place. It certainly explains what the old teacher is talking about and has stopped me from passing off such comments as merely being the result an ever-widening generation gap.

Back to Tim:

Upon my return to terra firma, it was rather difficult to untangle the effects of looking at the world through this lens. But I somehow did it. Part of it, I think, was simply having to go through unrelated emotional drama in my own life,

Emotional drama (if properly dealt with) must be a very grounding experience. I don’t know what Tim went through but I know that my own experiences have taught me a lot about myself – basically all the things I had to forget in order to be good at school. I was very good at school so I have a lot of things to unlearn.

I mentioned before about the anchoring effect of adults in a child’s life and I think once you get to know yourself better you reclaim the internal anchor that you were supposed to have from the moment you became an adult. Once that is achieved I think we can all start to work outward from our own center to create a properly functioning model of world. The key about this model is that it will not be handed to us, we will base it on our own judgment – which is another thing we can claim back as adults.

Tim refers to Jeff Wells as being someone who has learned to swim in the world of conspiracies. It’s possibly one reason his site is so popular, I always feel strangely calmed after visiting his site despite having just read about all manner of strangeness. I really don’t understand how he does this except to guess that he is the rare, maybe unique, event of a person who really does have a handle on the conspiracy landscape.

Of course he can’t really help his visitors who still bang on about how Noam Chomsky is a CIA asset or those who think that if we could just prove the JFK was assassinated by the powers that be or that 9-11 was organized by people in power we could finally change the world.

I think the main reason Chomsky won’t go into that territory is that he’s well aware that the evidence he presents of corruption in high places should be adequate to prove things are not as they seem. If his iron-clad and easier-to-stomach evidence can’t convince someone then swimming in the much murkier waters of JFK or 9-11 conspiracies is not going to achieve it either

The reason I back Chomksy as a person of substance is less about the evidence that people put forward and more about my understanding of people and emotions. To me it defies good sense to think that Chomsky is a construct of any kind. His analysis of the issues he’s prepared to entertain is far too good to be faked and I just think that he doesn’t want to confront the weirder more confusing stuff at an emotional level. This should hardly be considered a matter of surprise given that every one has their limit and most people’s limits are much less radical than Chomsky’s. Essentially what we’ve got is a guy who is more radical than 95% of the population and people are criticizing him for not going far enough.

To be honest, even if David Icke’s reptiles turned out to be the real deal I’m not sure what I’d gain by learning about it. There’s not much I can do about reptiles, I alredy know that the mainstream is just a matrix of lies and I’ve already decided to leave the beaten track and chart my own course – what more can I do?

I’ve got far more from following the truths I’ve learned in anti-civ writing about how I have been effected and how I might change in order to have the sort of life I want. Maybe the attraction of conspiracy land is that it takes responsibility away from people so that they don’t have to enter into the much more difficult territory of working on themselves – which means that all they have done is swap one matrix for another one. If a lot of mainstream people consciously make the decision to not get into this stuff because they know what it will mean for their lives (and they do) then living in conspiracy-land where you still don’t have to change anything means all you’ve done is move sideays into a much more cunning matrix.

I think once we’ve learned enough factual truths about our reality to see that a lot of mainstream beliefs are based on lies then we need to move on to dealing with the spiritual/mental truths of reality – which is why I get so much from Ran’s writing. I’ve learnt enough about how corrupt power systems are and now I’m learning how to undermine them with a different kind of power.

Kevin has arrived at a similar point, he’s more technical about it than Ran but has proven over and over again that the most powerful act we can undertake is to drop out of their system and to stop feeding the beast.

People on the Rigorous Intuition comments board sometimes refer to people like Chomsky and Amy Goodman as being Gatekeepers who’s job is to prevent people from looking too far least the uncover truer and deeper conspiracies. In my case Chomksy wasn’t a gate-keeper so much as a gate-way who led me into a new world that included Derrick Jensen, Ran Prieur, Jeff Wells…. It’s a long list. I think if people aren’t going through the gate it’s got more to do with what’s happening in their minds than Chomsky’s.

Essentially I used Chomsky as a stepping stone as I moved further and further into the fringes and gradually built up my map of the world. I’m now in a position where I can make all the connections from my personal experience out to those fringes. I think it may well be the people who haven’t used any stepping stones but have gone directly to deep conspiracy that have lost their anchor and tend to see a conspiracy behind every rock. At the very least if I keep my emotional intuition intact I can read Chomsky and evaluate what he has to say based on, well, what he has to say. Usually it seems pretty smart and I’ll take it on board. If I don’t like what he has to say, fine, I can leave those comments behind without having to build a great conspiracy theory to explain my actions.

Really, I think learning on the fringes (regardless of how deep you go) is great but at some point you need to get into some kind of action because that’s a natural human response. From Ran and Kevin I would say that dropping out of the world’s system is a key strategic move but if you really want to cement these changes in place then choosing how you raise you kids is going to make have biggest long term impact. To inform this decision I think that Hold on to Your Kids, for it’s technical insight and The Continuum Concept for it’s inspirational value are important resources but essentially they the can both be summed up with the advice to simply love your children. I have to add though, because many people love their kids but somehow don’t respect them, to remember that loving them includes respecting their opinions and the choices they make, even when they’re very little.

h1

Healing

October 3, 2007

Coincidences between blogs are always interesting, while I just wrote a piece called Climax Culture the Archdruid was writing one talking about Climax Community. We were of course coming at the issue from very different places and the respective articles don’t look that similar but we were both talking about a more successful way that our culture might operate. The implication of what the Archdruid was saying is that the time is right to be building toward a k-selected culture and that the short term, ‘me-first’ thinking of our current culture is ready to burn out and be usurped by a different approach.

Another implication was that looking back at stone-age or climax cultures is a good place to go to figure out what our future cultures might be like. Stone-age cultures meet the definition of climax community due to their success at maintaining their lifestyle for who-knows-how-long but I’m not sure the Archdruid will like me making that conclusion. I’m not a hard core primitivist though. I’m not interested in actually living in a jungle and nor do I think that I am capable of doing so, at least not on an emotional level. I am however, interested in what I can learn from primitive, climax cultures about how it’s members inter-relate, and of course how they treat their children..

It’s not just theory driving that thought for me either but the observable fact, as evidenced in the likes of The Continuum Concept, that many primitive cultures provide a very happy and joyful life for their individual members.

Also coincidently Ted has been writing about Soul Wholeness and the shamanic process of soul retrieval – I think we’re both agreed that this is verging on new-agey territory but the need to repair ourselves from the trauma of our lives, be it the sort of abuse our culture acknowledges or the ‘normal’ low level abuse that we all suffer as children, is a strong need in members of our society.

One Ted’s posting reminded me of was this fascinating paper Technoshamansim: Spiritual Healing in the Rave Subculture, which took raves, and the people who attended them, seriously enough to investigate claims by participants that they enjoyed ‘meaningful spiritual experiences’ during a rave. The author writes:

References to shamanism and catchphrases about self-empowerment and spiritual healing permeate raver discourse and invite an anthropological perspective similar to that applied to nonbiomedical healing in small scale, non-western societies.

before embarking on an analysis of rave culture from just such a perspective.

Specifically, I argue that the DJ acts much like a shaman who, aided by key symbols, guides the ravers on an ecstatic journey to paradise–a presocial state of nondifferentiation and communitas. It is this return to paradise through altered states of consciousness which brings spiritual ease to ravers facing an anxious and uncertain society

I’m going to tie this back into the same part of The Continuum Concept (Chapter 5, Deprivation of Essential Experiences) that I referred to in my previous posting where the issue of achieving high degrees of serenity was discussed. Jean Liedloff writes:

…it appears that there are two separate contributors to the to the feeling of wrongness that is so general in us. One is the individual’s sense of the continuum in him acting as a gauge of what is up to it’s expectations; the other is an even more primordial one.

That we are so universally subject to a conviction that serenity has been lost to us can not be accounted for solely by the loss, at an early age of , of our place in a continuum of appropriate treatment and surroundings. Even people like the relaxed and joyful Yequana, who have not been deprived of their expected experiences, have a mythology that includes a fall from grace, or bliss, and the notion that they live outside that lost state.

Considering that we have been referring to some primitive cultures as living in an Eden-like, pre-fall state this is a comment that should force us into a major rethink. Perhaps the The Fall was less a metaphor for a decent into civilisation than a descent into self awareness and the ability to worry about the future – and perhaps some of us have fallen further than others. You’ll often hear people around here saying that our current mess became inevitable the day we invented agriculture but maybe agriculture became inevitable the day we acheived self-awareness. Maybe that’s where all this began.

Anyway, despite primitive cultures now appearing to be on the same side of the fence as us they are still a good place to go for pointers on how best to go about healing. In fact they may be an even better place to go than I first thought because not only do they have the same goal in mind as we do but they’re also better placed to do something about it being as they are in a climax culture.

I have to confess that prior to this I had been somewhat put off by the discussions of shamanism coming out of either primitivist or (sort-of) sixties drug cultures head spaces. I not sure what it says that it’s taken an academic paper and comments from someone who has moved away from primitivism (Ted) to get me to look closer at it, but this healing aspect of shamanism is something that interests me. A lot of healing is, and still will be hard work but the virtues of healing by dancing or merely laughing shouldn’t need any promotion. Jean Liedoff goes on:

It would seem that in the enormously long period…before our antecedents developed an intellect able to reflect on troublesome matters like our mortality and purpose, we did indeed live in the only blissful way: entirely in the present. Like every other animal, we enjoyed the great blessing of being incapable of worry. There were discomforts, hungers, wounds, fears and deprivations to be endured even as beasts, but the fall from grace, invariably described as a choice made the wrong way, would have been impossible to creatures without mind enough to make a choice. Only with the advent of the capacity to choose does the fall become possible.

So perhaps it’s not just civilisation that we need healing from but the even deeper unmet need of being unable to live in the moment. Maybe ignorance really is bliss. Jean Liedloff again:

In the age old pursuit of this sense of unalloyed being… unconditioned by choices or relativities, men have sought and found disciplines and rituals by which to reverse the tendency to think. Ways have been discovered to still the galloping thoughts of man, put him at peace, leave him not to think but only to be. Awareness has been trained by various means to rest upon emptiness or upon some object or word, chant or exercise…

Meditation is the word usually given to the procedure of dethinking [Un-thinking perhaps?]. It is at the centre of many schools of discipline that seek to raise the serenity level. A commonly used technique is the repetition of a mantra, a word or a phrase as an eraser of thoughts of the associative kind that the mind tends to pursue. As the procession of thoughts is slowed and stopped, the physiological state of the subject changes to resemble, in certain ways, that of the infant. Breathing becomes shallower, and recent experiments have shown that brain waves are produced of a sort that are unlike those of either adult wakefulness or adult sleep.

For those who meditate regularly, there is an apparent increase in serenity…which also lends a stabalising influence to the rest of their time….It is as though they were, in the case of the civilised, in-arms deprived persons, filling in the gap in infant experience which would have provided greater serenity, by putting themselves into a state like that which was missed, that which possibly is also attained through the use of opiates. The most deprived people, those of our western cultures, if they meditate, would be putting in a great deal of time moving up to the centredness of a year-old continuum-complete baby. It would take them a vastly greater amount of time to catch up on the missed doses of serenity than people of other cultures whose infancies included a larger proportion of in-arms experience.

When I knew them the Sanema Indians – more than the neighboring Yequana – were engaged in active cultivation of this extra serenity, or spirituality. Their method includes the occasional use of hallucinogenic drugs, but consists mainly of chanting. The chant, begun with the repetition of a single short musical phrase of three or four syllables, is continued, like the mantra in an effortless manner until it commences to elaborate itself with added notes or syllables, with no conscious effort on the part of the chanter.

…With a fulfilled personality based solidly in a sense of his own rightness, the Sanema who reproduces the mindless bliss of the infant in himself with frequency and at length, can build a freedom from the fringe liabilities of the intellect with far greater speed and effect.

And from that point the book continues into the passages I quoted in my previous posting.

***********************************

Naturally after reading this I cast about in my own life looking for similar experiences much as I did after I read about the healing nature of true-community. Usually I find music is involved. There is a song by Ben Harper (‘God Fearing Man’ off the album, Fight For Your Mind) which disappears into a dream-like jam state for most of it’s 11 minutes, that has the potential to take my mind away from itself, especially if I am feeling sleepy. I know I found the last U2 concert in New Zealand to have a minor healing quality to it, although I should admit to being a huge fan of theirs, and I have always found that sitting in while friends of mine jam on various musical instruments to be a particularly enjoyable experience. Much better though if I could play and join in myself .

The last thing it kind of reminds me of is rock climbing. There is nothing like clinging to the side of a rock face high above the ground to make your mind focus on the here and now and I’m sure it had a lot to do with my recovery from the somewhat oppressive time I had at Architecture School ten years ago.

They’re all rather fleeting moments and compared to my work in the building industry, which is all about the burden of making decisions (with expensive consequences if you get it wrong) it pales into total insignificance. At the very least I may look at music differently now.

h1

Stories and stuff

September 22, 2007

I’m always interested in people’s personal stories. I often think they’re of more use than all the collected wisdom that us bloggers see fit to dispense. I’d love to see some kind of collection of these things but in the meantime here’s a few:

Dan’s story, John Brady’s story, Rix’s (not yet finished) story and how Urban Scout came into existence.

In other links: from Just Folks this article about Socialisation in Schools

I can’t believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we’re homeschooling, our kids won’t be “socialized.” The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning. The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader. Having been a “reader” for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I’ve never known two 6 yr olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because “We are not here to socialize, young ladies.” Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I’ve ever had.

And for the few people who saw a posting here called J2 and are wondering what happened to it, I’m feeling very harrassed at the moment and it quickly became apparent that that posting wasn’t helping. Hopefully this small note will not cause me any problems.

Lastly, The Plan from Comrade Simba outlining his survival strategies for varying degrees of crashness – notable for it’s succinctness plus the introduction to the english language of the word ‘bazzooness’.

Even more lastly from Ted some Suburban Surivival advice on how to be homeless without looking like you are. Part1, Part2

h1

Guns and Gold

August 25, 2007

You may have read a little about the economic crash in Argentina and how nice middle-class ladies were seen attacking ATM machines with knives amidst other mayhem. Well here’s an article formed out of what appears to have been a series of postings to a peak oil message board by a guy living in Argentina. From what he says Argentina is in a permanent post-crash situation and the article is both highly illuminating and very frightening with the advice it dispenses. Particularly worrying is the amount of time the guys spent talking about guns.Yes I still believe that oportunites for community will occur but I after this I am much more convinced of the need to be  prepared for, shall we say, other eventualities.

h1

Home Work

August 24, 2007

Further to Ran’s discussion of roofing materials yesterday, I was indeed glad he bought the issue up, We will probably end up using a modern roofing material on the house we will build but I think we will make it steep enough so that long term some kind of thatch can be used over the top of it when it begins to fail, or else make the timbers strong enough that they can take homemade clay tiles if it comes to that. 

Ran quoted an email of mine which ended with: 

This roofing issue is hard, maybe we need to get away from attempting to go long term and look at what renewable materials are available locally so we know we can always maintain it. 

If we’re looking long term then this really is our only option but I have to admit that it wasn’t my ‘position’ on sustainability that prompted me to make this comment. It was a combination of trying to think really long term along with a quote from a book called Home Work, by Llod Kahn. This quote got the point across to me in a way that no one had previously: 

In the early 70’s I got on a charter flight to Ireland, crossed the Irish Sea and got a long ride with a salesman; when he learned I was interested in building he started pointing out buildings and showing us that each was built of materials from near the site. You see the slate roofs, there’s a slate quarry nearby…” and then, “Now the roofs are tile because there is clay in the soil here…” As we travelled through England, it was striking: the thatched roofs in Norfolk, land of marshes and reeds; the sandstone walls of the Cotswalds, where the light tan colours blend perfectly with the surroundings; cob in Devon; flint in Sussex… 

I got the book because it has a photo collection of unusual and low-tech buildings in it. It will serve as creative fuel for when I get to designing our new place but it also has more than that. It’s full of inspiration for dropping out and using non-mainstream methods of constructing homes. Plus it’s great eye-candy. Here’s some of the pictures from the front cover. Note the house on the little island.

d04729f332d503b0159ae1ee15461cba.jpg

One thing that bugged me though was the collection of people in the book who had gone off the grid. The main focus for all of them was their wind and solar power generating systems. Clearly the issue of EROEI was never discussed but somehow it seems worse that in their attempts to get ‘away from it all’ they had actually bought ‘a lot of it’ with them. They had simply altered the energy equation so that they could maintain essentially the same lifestyle – except with the addition of more trees about the place.

A minor quibble though, it’s a great book, not just for the know-how but also for the inspiration.

h1

Step One

August 6, 2007

bda6cfb601feb26e14b9827d80ca9321.gif

This is the post I’ve been meaning to write ever since I started the blog. The first thing anyone should do if they mean to start any kind of community is get this book; Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian. That includes for people wanting to start Ecovillages, co-housing communities or even Palaeolithic tribes (are you listening Tribe of Anthropik?). 

Diana Leafe Christian is the editor of Communities Magazine and has visited many, many intentional communities. She asserts at the start that 90% of intentional communities fail and then goes about explaining what it is that the 10% do differently. 

In short the answer is mostly to do with the vision the community has and making sure that all community members are in agreement about it at the earliest possible stage. Her recommended way of creating a vision is for only 2 or 3 couples/individuals to form a core group and to work out a vision for the community they wish to start. Once the vision is set in stone only then does she suggest you go out and seek other members for the community. 

With a clear vision document it should be clear to potential members what they are getting into and only people who are in agreement with that vision should come on board. Once a larger group has formed their job is to work out the details of the vision, learn consensus decisions making and to form themselves into a community. 

Only at this point does she recommend that the community starts looking for land. Usually this is the very first thing that people do so there is a whole chapter devoted to why the purchase of land should be delayed. 

Essentially Creating a Life Together is a bible for people looking to start a community and we certainly won’t be leaving home without it. Not only does it outline the steps but offers much more; from how to get to know people properly to processes that will help you unearth what your key values are so that they can come to the surface during the visioning process rather than years later when it’s too late. 

It’s a very comprehensive book that takes a while to get through but it is pretty essential, I can’t think of any other way an individual could come by the crucial information it contains about setting up communities except by reading it. I’d like to think that every member of a community I go into would not just have read it but actually own a copy of Creating a Life Together. 

I’m intending for my next posting to be a rough form of vision document that we’ve worked up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.