I have spent much of the past 15 years examining the problem of the Post-Modern Crisis. This followed my own existential experience of the Post-Modern Crisis over the previous decades (excuse me while I spend a paragraph summarizing part of my adult life in a bit of the hyperbole and pompous language of a Post-Modern Theorist): a rise from hippie idealism into a yuppie consumerist whose agnostic and blatantly nihilistic apex, marked by admittedly undeserved wealth and power, gave way to hubris and ruin in a 3rd World Country that is undoubtedly one of the epitomes of a nihilistic dystopia—a product of Modern Global Culture ala USA. But the idealism of my youth never fully gave way to materialism. This is despite the fact that I had been thoroughly indoctrinated by today’s rationalistic objectivist programming; and, after all, science puts up a strong argument. Instead, after my resignation into religious skepticism, I was given various subjective proofs (beginning with a peasant farmer with an archaic indigenous gift of healing) that there is far more to this world than mere physical existence.
The Post-Modern Crisis, in my assessment, is the logical end-conclusion of rationalist objectivism and the continued adherence to the Post-Planter Culture zeitgeist that spawned it back in the early dawn of civilization. The components of this zeitgeist, which have become problematic in modern times, include not only rationalism, and objectivism, but also a Planter Culture group ethic, dualism, over-emphasis of the masculine, and an overly inflated ego-shadow complex. While all these factors have shaped the progress of mankind, they have pushed us to the limits of what benefit they can provide and we are left with nothing but the problems they create: the alienation of man from his own subconscious and true self, divisiveness, elitism, factionalism (especially the extremely dangerous dynamics of nationalism and utopianism), reductionism, modern day nihilism and so forth. It was only natural that this Post-Planter Culture rationalist objectivism would eventually strip away all idealism, and leave man in the precarious state where, as Nietzsche said, “God is dead,” and that it was the very powers that tried to protect him, that killed him.
Thus we find ourselves living in a culture without any unifying truths to provide meaning for not only our culture, but even our very lives. Alas, we are programmed to believe that our lives do have meaning, but in the end, we are all very one-dimensional trained monkeys, and the bulk of what brings meaning to our lives is the superficial values of consumption. Unfortunately for mankind, this modern culture we are speaking of is no longer one confined to a single nation or a single continent. This time it is global. This means that how we resolve the Post-Modern Crisis, will be a species-wide deal breaker.
The problem is we can no longer turn to traditional unifying truths (or unifying myths if you prefer) such as ‘the church,’ which has long been a traditional unifying truth for Western Culture. The reasons why include the fact that, as a culture, we now view such institutions through post-enlightenment eyes, and they would quickly be undermined, as they already are, by rationalism, modern nihilism, and relativism. Then there is the fact that such institutions would be too reductionist for the diversity of modern culture, which is built upon a rich variety of religious traditions and localized cultures. And each and every such tradition is grounded in, and validates, the Post-Planter Culture zeitgeist that is at the root of the Post-Modern Crisis to begin with.
On the other hand, it was the ideal of the Modern Age that science would become the new unifying truth. But the rationalist objectivism of the Modern Age fueled the dogmas of science to father fascism, socialism, two world wars, State slavery, nuclear bombs, unprecedented spying upon private citizens… The list of threats, tragedies, and follies inflicted upon Modern Man in the name of science goes on and on. And that does not even touch upon the fact that the materialist dogma of traditional science leaves far too many individuals in a state of existential anguish.
In fact, a good part of this Post-Modern problem lies in the final step that enabled such amazing malevolent, and benevolent, progress in the Modern Age: the Kantian split between metaphysics and physics; spiritual and physical; rational and irrational; or idealism and materialism—they all amount to the same thing. This division was not much different in effect from the earlier Post-Planter Culture split between male and female; heaven and earth; spiritual and physical; rational and irrational (they too all amount to the same thing) many centuries earlier.
In order to resolve the Post Modern Crisis, we need to find a source of meaning that is non-reductionist, non-utopian, and that resolves both the Kantian and earlier Post-Planter Culture ontological/epistemological divisions. It would have to allow for a multiplicity of traditions and embrace diversity. It would also need to validate a break away from the Post-Planter Culture zeitgeist of duality, group ethic, emphasis on the masculine, the inflated ego-shadow complex, mankind’s alienation from himself, and the modern over-emphasis on rationalism and objectivism. But to be accepted by post-enlightenment, post-Kantian, Modern Man, it would have to originate in a source that appeases the modern need for rational truth.
It is interesting to note at this point that as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity came of age, so did a philosophy of relativism that, while adding to the nihilism of the Modern Age, also served to break down old dogmas, rationalism, dualities, traditional ethics, and served as a dynamic of deconstruction. And philosophy, on an ontological basis, has yet to really come to terms with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Quantum Mechanics or Quantum Physics is still coming of age with such yet to be achieved developments as the quantum computer. Interestingly enough, the quantum world offers the world, not a duality, but a multiplicity. (Coincidentally, this would take us full circle, from duality back to the multiplicity of the Hunter-Gatherer, and the earlier Planter Cultures—the indigenous ancestors of all mankind.) I therefore suggest that the answer to the Post-Modern Crisis lies in part within the realm of Quantum Physics. It is in this school of science that we are, in a sense, on the verge of touching the face (or hand) of God. It is here where we can potentially find a non-reductionist path back to idealism. This is perhaps Martin Heidegger’s path back to God or the God’s, as he lamented Nietzsche’s proclamation that ‘God is dead.’ Need I mention that here too, philosophy has yet to come to terms, on an ontological basis, with Quantum Physics?
It is in this light–a slowly dying nihilistic world that is starved for meaning, which is also grappling with a science that presents reality far more bazaar and paradoxical than even man’s ancient mystical traditions suggested–that I present to you my philosophy of Archephenomenalism. The cornerstone of this philosophy follows a Cartesian-like skepticism back to Descartes’ First Principle, “I think, therefore I am.” However, instead of taking this subjective point of reference and expanding back out to objectivist conclusions, it keeps the focus distinctly subjective by adding two more principles: ‘I am here in time, therefore it is Now’ (the Second Principle meaning that all we can determine to truly exist as a physical reality is the present, and only the present); and ‘I remember, perceive, and intend, therefore I transcend physical time’ (the Third Principle meaning that if all physical reality only exists in this single point of Now, then the mind must therefore transcend physical reality). Notice that these three principles together make use of the three a priori aspects of reality as determined by Kant: self, space, and time.
Archephenomenalism is a philosophy that stands opposite to that of Epiphenomenalism—an older Cartesian-based philosophy of mind. Epiphenomenalism provided a materialist explanation for mind-body duality. In a typically objectivist fashion, epiphenomenalism downplayed the significance of consciousness and its role within reality. The mind was simply considered a mirror of the biochemical interactions within the brain. Free thought was an illusion hiding a more mechanical process. Archephenomenalism, on the other hand, is a philosophy of mind that posits consciousness as multidimensional. Ultimately, like the epicenter of an earthquake, it presents consciousness as the deep hidden source of all phenomena. More importantly, it undoes the blatant focus on objective reality that Cartesian philosophy brought to the Modern Age, and places focus back on subjective reality. Or, as a Dakota Yuwipi Medicine Man states it best, to, “Focus on life.”
Archephenomenalism is a philosophy that comes to terms with the bazaar reality of light and time as demonstrated by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Light is the primary carrier of all phenomena. This is despite the fact that light is nothing more than a ghost within our physical reality—a zero-time zero-mass wave/particle that, travelling at the speed of light, passes through all time and space within a single instant flash, while simultaneously existing at all points in its path clear across that same time and space. Archephenomenalism also comes to terms with the bazaar world of quantum reality, where all quanta, including light, exist as that same wave, super-positioned at all infinite points across its path through space-time, until observed as a particle, at which time the wave collapses to a single point within space-time (a probability wave collapse). As a type of phenomenalism, wherein we perceive all reality through its phenomena rather than the object in itself, Archephenomenalism paints physical reality as a hologram centered in the almost infinitely small moment of now, what I call the quantum now, represented by all the simultaneous probability wave collapses of that particular infinitesimal point of Now. This quantum now is a single point of now that stretches simultaneously clear across the universe. Existence therefore is defined only within each individual flash of a quantum now, and is, as the 18th Century philosopher, George Berkeley said, “Esse est percipi” (Existence is perception).
The quantum now as that single infinitesimal moment—an imperceptible flash—creates a gestalt against the background of the 4th Dimension—with each, every, and all, the simultaneous probability wave collapses across the universe, all within and only within that single moment. Theoretically, to either side of each individual quantum now, is an equally infinitesimal moment of nothingness—the very nothingness that Sartre describes, apparently without fully realizing that the nothingness he applies to consciousness is more a dynamic of time than it is of mind. All probability wave collapses before that quantum now, represent the past, and no longer exist in our physical reality in any way that we can know. Any subsequent probability wave collapses represent the future, and do not yet exist in our physical reality in any way that we can know. The implication here is that all phenomena, no matter how old or new, that is yet to be experienced does not exist within our physical reality. For example, the light travelling millions of light years from a distant star does not exist within our physical reality, until that single instant of a quantum now, whereupon it is perceived. Until that point it exists only within the 4th Dimension—the realm of light. It is in this way that there is a single point of now clear across the universe, which, universal as it is, is experienced locally. It is also in this manner that the universal hologram is perceived as holographic, or three-dimensional in nature.
How can I rationalize that nothing exists outside of the quantum now? Consider three different photons racing towards you at the speed of light, each one destined to hit a vision cell within one of your eyes. The first one is barely a millimeter in front of your eye; the second one is three feet in front of you. Both of these will be absorbed by an atom within a vision cell in your eye, literally, in less than the blink of an eye. The third one however, is somewhere out in space a whole light year away from you. It will not reach your eye for another year yet. However it doesn’t matter how close or how far any of these photons are–it would be impossible to detect any one of them in their current positions in the present. To do so would require bouncing some kind of signal off of them, which would have to get back to you faster than the speed of light. We cannot do it, because the speed of light is the speed of time. As far as the now goes, no one can deny that physically we are trapped in the present. You can’t temporarily step into tomorrow. You can’t jump from the morning into the evening and then back into that same morning. You can’t even go back to five minutes ago. Since only the present exists per my Second Principle, none of those three photons exist within your physical reality.
It is the same thing with any photons moving away from you (for example, the visual phenomena of your physical body). Except that they are in your past. You cannot detect or perceive them leaving your presence (present), just as you cannot detect photons heading towards you before they reach you. Therefore they no longer exist in your reality, but only exist in the 4th dimension.
Your physical reality is nothing more than the three-dimensional reality you perceive within that quantum now–a hologram of phenomena. What we experience is three dimesnions within an infinitessimally thin peek of the 4th dimension, which is the Now.
Archephenomenalism also builds upon the relatively new theory of Bernard Haisch and Alfonso Rueda, which recalculates Newton’s Law of Motion using light as the inertia of mass. The implications of this theory is that all mass is light energy, vibrating in place at the speed of light—trapped by the inertia of the light energy of the zero-point energy field (the ground energy field that is, in fact, the universe itself). This implies that light energy is both form and mass, in other words the thing-in-itself, or the noumenal world, is much like Aristotle’s hylomorphic material, only as light existing within the 4th Dimension. The 4th Dimension is therefore, not only the realm of light, but also the realm of form and the noumena. (However, unlike Kant’s noumena, quantum physics allows us to gain understanding of the reality of the thing-in-itself. We already know through quantum physics, for example, that mass is not as concrete as it seems, but mostly empty space, filled with energy that is in constant motion, and consisting of a reality that is oddly determined by observation. And now it appears, at an absolute level, it is nothing more than light trapped by a field of light. Modern physics, through the work of Dr. David Bohm and others also provides us with the possibility that the physical universe is in fact nothing more than a hologram.)
This then begs the question, what shapes the form? If mass is simply light, what gives it shape, and then maintains that shape? Historically this has always been a metaphysical question that returns us back to idealism. If consciousness is, based on the Third Principle, transcendent of physical reality, then there may very well be some level or dimension where it becomes universal providing a level of consciousness that stretches clear across the universe. Here then is one aspect of the observer that seems so oddly necessary at the quantum level. This would be the Tao, Wakan Tanka (the great spirit), the Atman, Buddha mind, Cosmic Consciousness, Aristotle’s Nous, or God. Its presence is implied, but to attempt to describe it would only invite reductionist thinking and then too, to limit it’s very being.
Does this imply that everything is all of one mind and that our ultimate goal is to remerge with that single mind? My own feelings regarding Archephenomenalism is that it is so dependent on the subjective individual that it would be wrong to emphasize a unity of all things as does, for example, Eastern Philosophy. Our own existential experiences of life are that of an individual, and there are even those compelling cases of supposed reincarnation, which suggests individual knowledge being passed from one life, through death, to another. I therefore posit, based on my Third Principle that our own subjective individuality exists into a higher dimension. However, having said that, to determine that individuation should be the only spiritual goal, as opposed to the interpretation of Eastern philosophies for example, would be to once again start heading down that path of reductionism, and to deny the multiplistic nature of Archephenomenalism.
This philosophy should embrace all interpretations of such metaphysical questions, even that of atheism which would reject much of the idealism of Archephenomenalism. An atheist, for example, would not accept the archephenomenalist answer to the need of an observer according to quantum physics, in which case he could always fall back upon the multiple universe solution, and treat the other metaphysical components of the philosophy at a level akin to that of Sartre’s existentialism, for example. (In consideration for such beliefs, I have speculated whether or not probability wave collapses could occur simply by the event horizon of one quantum, touching against the event horizon of another quantum in such a way that the positions of both quanta are determined.)
But while we don’t want to push one religious or spiritual tradition over another, neither can we downplay the significance of the individual. In fact the individual is key within this philosophy to validating our own free will and existential freedom. The Wheeler Delayed Observation version of the double slit experiment, for example, suggests that not only does the individual observer determine how reality is manifested, but suggests to scientists that the observer also changes the past in doing so.
The unsettling implication of this experiment is that free will does not exist. There is after all the possibility that the past was not changed, rather that the experimenter was destined to do the experiment at that exact time.
Archephenomenalism however would respond that the real problem is that scientists are analyzing a 4-dimenional problem from the limited perspective of the three physical dimensions. To explain, the double slit experiment basically consists of shining a light through two vertical slits onto a screen. One might expect that you would get a reflection of two slits on the screen, but instead you get a series of bars representing an interference pattern. This indicates that light exists as a wave. However when you try to measure the light going through the slits or identify the position of light particles, the interference pattern changes to reflect the two slits, indicating that it is now passing through the slits as particles (i.e. a probability wave collapse has occurred). This experiment is what validated that an observer creates the probability wave collapse. The delayed observation version of the experiment involves measuring the light after it has passed through the slits. Common sense would tell us that it has already passed through the slits as a wave and that to measure it after the fact should have no bearing on the results. But once again, when the light is measured, the interference pattern gives way to the double slit pattern. This suggests that we not only changed the present—from an interference pattern to two slits, but that we had to have changed the past as well—the light before it went through the slits which thus enabled it to reflect the slits.
The problem is that light really exists in the 4th dimension, and that in this dimension time does not exist, and as mentioned earlier, traveling at the speed of light, all space and time becomes a single instantaneous flash. This means that even though we may have technically changed the past, this past did not exist in our physical reality (per my Second Principle), but in the timeless 4th Dimension, therefore we did not change the physical past. The change itself did not exist until we actually perceived it as such phenomena in the present quantum now.
If our actions can change elements of the fourth dimension, that is to change a non-physical past to impact the present, then this implies that we do in fact have existential freedom and free will. Or to put it in a different way, we have significant power to manipulate the future. Consider, for example, that we are using the light from a star, 400 Million Light Years away, to conduct this experiment. From our perspective, the light that is traveling to us, even though it is nonphysical and still a part of our future, has been traveling to us for about 400 Million years, and it is doing so on the probability that it will be perceived as a wave. But suddenly, moments before we perceive that particular light, we begin measuring it after it has passed through the slits, and now, there is a probability wave collapse going back, from our perspective, 400 Million years, even though it did not represent any change to the actual physical past. After all, we still remember that the light up until we began measuring reached us as a wave. As long as we continue to measure the light in this manner, photons that were in our future moments earlier are now reaching us in a new quantum now—the present at this time, not as waves (even though they were travelling as such before the experiment), but as individual particles. We have changed a non-physical past, to manifest in a different way than its original probability in the present and the future.
You may see then that, because the mind is transcendent of physical reality (per my Third Principle) that it is very possible that we can pick up approaching probabilities of a future—prophecies and visions. But we also have the existential freedom to change that future.
Another way to look at this is to consider that the physical past is made up of phenomena that were experienced in a past physical reality. That past has become our history. But there could also be that phenomena of our past that has yet to be experienced. The phenomena of my computer reaches me almost instantaneously, but the light, or phenomena, of the sun takes roughly eight minutes to reach me, while that of the example of the star I used takes 400 Million years. Each of these cases provides examples of phenomena that reach me from a past that is not yet physically experienced, until I actually perceive it. If reality is determined by my observation of it, imagine the power I could have if I chose to perceive future phenomena differently from the probability that exists. The trick is that I would have to believe in a different future phenomena, or reality, than the probability suggests.
Likewise, since the 4th dimension is timeless, and the same light traveling at the speed of light is as much a part of our future as it is of our past, it is possible that our transcendent mind can sometimes pick up probabilities from the past that have yet to be experienced, but also from the future, or literally, future phenomena which have not yet even manifested in the universe from the perspective of time within our physical dimensions. Therefore we may, under the right circumstances, see visions of future probabilities. But once again, I would have the ability to change such future probabilities.
In fact our mental ability to change physical reality is validated by a series of well-documented experiments regarding intention at MIT that was surprisingly successful, and done in a manner that could be easily duplicated elsewhere. These MIT experiments have demonstrated that the conscious mental action of intention (or volition) can in fact alter physical reality. Researchers have successfully altered how human blood coagulates, the ph levels of water, the growth of insect larva and other physical phenomena. Archephenomenalism does not offer proof of such things, but it does offer philosophical reasoning behind such things, and states that consciousness is of a higher dimension and transcends time and space. There are therefore implications in this that the individual has far more power to alter reality than he or she realizes—much greater than mere physical existential freedom, or that most existential philosophers would allow for.
If consciousness is the epicenter of phenomena, then we as individuals shape the localized phenomena, in other words, the reality around us. We shape, even the phenomena of our physical selves, i.e. who we are. Our physical bodies may be constructed of the physical materials derived, for example, from the food we have eaten through out our lives, and structured from a blueprint imprinted within our DNA. But we experience that body, like all the rest of reality, as the phenomena present within that quantum now. Our body exists, where our individual mind pierces into the three physical dimensions within that moment of now. Our physical body is therefore our physical presence within the physical world. It is our point of existential experience of physical life. And to borrow from Carl Jung, it is the ego, acting as a filter, eliminating all non-essential stimuli, phenomena, and knowledge, for the simple purpose of maintaining a consistent physical personality, that keeps us trapped as a physical being within the physical world.
Contrary to the Cartesian mind-body duality, the body is experienced in subjective terms. If someone does something to my physical body, they are doing it to me. If the mind is of a higher dimension, then clearly we can assume that it can exist without the physical body. But as long as I am a part of this physical existence, and subject to the filtering process of my own ego, then the existential reality I experience is that my mind and body are one single being. In fact, if it is only the phenomena of my body that I experience, then like any other thing-in-itself, the question of how much is essential (mind) and how much is actual physical body is very difficult to know. Archephenomenalism holds that the only physical portion of your physical being at any given quantum now, is only that of the actual quanta observed in that particular quantum now. In other words, your own body is a material existent only in so far as what part of your body you actually see, feel, and experience (including internal experiences such as pain, hunger, an itch, etc) at any given time.
If you have trouble with the metaphysical elements of this, I can’t blame you. Kant, in his phenomenalism, determined that there could be no proof of metaphysical realities—hence the divide between idealism and materialism, or the irrational from the rational, or even, if you will, the spiritual from the physical. And thus the modern disdain for metaphysics. (Though Kant never had the opportunity to experience a Lakota yuwipi ceremony, or any other traditional spiritual ceremony of what civilized people long ago deemed as savages, practicing savage ways. But ways, nonetheless, that very often defy rational explanation and the laws of physics.) But experiments such as those at MIT strongly point to a nonphysical aspect to reality. Beyond that, the problem with metaphysical proof is that it is extremely subjective. I would suggest that if anyone looks for it hard enough, they will find it. But it is a proof for them. I have experienced things in my own search, which I would expect no one to believe. Only I can know what truly happened, how hard I tried to disprove and rationalize what happened, and why it could not have been merely coincidence, a mistake, a hallucination, or, as some try to say, an illusion based on faulty pattern recognition.
In order to resolve the Kantian split between metaphysical sciences and those of an empirical nature, it is possible that we need further development in the areas of quantum physics, and other areas of science such as the research at MIT. Such research is still often considered the fringe of science, which implies that it is questionable. But once such areas of science are accepted, Archephenomenalism provides a possible philosophical answer and validation to whatever such developments provide lynchpins to changing the cultural zeitgeist.
Archephenomenalism provides an explanation for other problems of physics as well. One example is that of entanglement, wherein two particles share the same properties, such as spin, as if they were connected to each other despite the distance between them. For example, two entangled particles could exist with a distance of many light years between them. If the spin of one particle suddenly changes, then the spin of the other particle would simultaneously change in the same direction too. This seems to defy the laws of physics, as it would require information (the direction of spin) to be shared instantly at a speed much greater than the speed of light. (If the particles were many light years apart, then it would take many years for the information to be shared at the speed of light.) The archephenomenalist solution to this problem is that it again represents information being shared within the 4th Dimension with both particles existing within the same quantum now. Here again, it is a problem of trying to decipher a 4th Dimensional event from the limited perspective of the three physical dimensions. The event is simultaneous because it all happens within the same Now.
Before closing, I would like to respond to the existentialist criticism of essentialism. The problem with essentialist philosophies is that they force a value system based on the idea that the existent is determined by its essence. To illustrate, consider that if one was to look at the essentialist implications of racism, they may see that many racially prejudiced indiviuals consider that the essence of African-Americans, for example, will determine that they are more prone to criminal activities, unable to be fully educated, and apparently in today’s world, need to be beat up by the police in order to be arrested. No wonder essentialism has long been a source of hatred and oppression.
The essentialism of Archephenomenalism however holds that essence is consciousness. At a subjective level, such as in the existential case of human beings, it is a consciousness that is multidimensional and able to change and be changed through free will, and an existential freedom. In addition, we experience the reality created by others and would be subject to such other influences as well. Because of our existential freedom, our causal relationship to the world, and our ability to alter reality, there are no predetermined constraints placed upon us by our essence. It is, instead, the source of our freedom.
However this also implies that an existent is subject to its essence only in so far as we deem it to be so. Here again we see the interplay of observation determining reality. If we see the essence of ‘tableness’ determining that a given object is a table, then it is a table. Imagine though, the implications of seeing the essence of a given person, or group of people, determining that person’s, or group of people’s, success. Such a person has, or group of people have, the existential freedom to change their ability to achieve success, but they have to overcome not only their own perceptions, but also any causal effect of our own perceptions upon them.
Finally, Archephenomenalism as a multiplistic philosophy forces no universal values onto existence. Our purpose in this world is to experience. The universe is filled with forces we perceive as good, and those we may perceive as bad, but there are those that are neutral, and those that are of the trickster variety, or those that are somewhat good, somewhat bad, and so forth. Ultimately if we were to want to gain knowledge of how one should live in such a universe it all boils down to a question of balance.
In the physical everyday realm, we are existentialist in nature. The one caveat is that there are doors to the metaphysical that can be accessed. But whatever knowledge and experience we gain in such matters is purely subjective.
On an ontological level however, the nothingness of mind that Descartes tried to deal with, that Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, and so many others have tried to explain, is not, per Archephenomenalism, a true nothingness. Instead, mind is a non-physical existent of a higher dimension, exactly as light is per Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (and I think we can all agree that we do experience light). As a nonmaterial epidimensional (and epicentric) existent, the Archephenomenalist mind is at the core of both perception and phenomena.
Another military action in Israel—the years change, the names change, but the story stays the same. Sadly, Israel is nothing more than the recurring metaphor-of-the-day for the entire history of human civilization. Even we Americans cannot claim that much difference. It is high time to make a change.
Here in America we are all quick to blame one side or the other. Hamas is founded upon a principle of destroying Israel. The Israeli government wants to destroy Hamas. Hamas recently initiated the current violence by shooting missiles into Israel. The offensive against the Hamas in 2007 resulted in almost 2,000 Palestinian deaths, most of whom were civilians, and only 3 Israeli deaths. This time it is playing out the same way. Coincidentally, there is a huge Natural Gas field under the waters of Gaza that could turn Israel into an energy exporter. The Israelis are just ‘dying’ to get their hands on it. Maybe dying isn’t the right word.
In the end, both the Israeli government and the leaders of Hamas are to blame for they both adhere to, and are driven by, a philosophy of Utopianism. Zionism on the one hand, and an Islamic promised land free of infidels on the other. Christianity too, bears the same dangerous Utopianist ideals. In fact, world history is filled with the follies of Utopianism. If Modern man were to learn from recent history, we have the well documented, graphic, gruesome, and horribly cruel examples of Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Pol Pot, just to name a few. But no one learns. As a Palestinian comedian recently said about the Israelis and the Palestinians on CNN, ‘If violence worked, it would have solved the problem a long time ago.’
Our own Utopianist ideology, fueled by Post World War II patriotism, has been largely buried, since the late 1960’s, under a morass of nihilism; and disgust at the atrocities we commit against ourselves and others. This disgust has not stopped the atrocities, nor has it prevented the continuing actions of our own Utopianist policies. Instead the game has simply devolved into a greed based dynamic, painted over with a consumerist-driven fantasy of happy gratification. Often times, what we think to be Nationalist ideals, or even revolutionary means of economic liberation, turn out to be nothing more than corporate manipulations led by a very greedy elite. Yet we are all seduced by the spectacle that drives consumerism, and wouldn’t dream of leaving the fantasy. But scratch below the surface of this fantasy, and the nihilism is there. It is from there, that so many Americans feed the fires of our own Utopianism, longing for that overly idealistic and perfect past that never truly existed, and pushing for the same old policies and traditions that only perpetuate the greed, exploitation, nihilism, alienation, repression, atrocities, and the other ills of Modern Man.
America is at the heart of the greatest empire the world has ever known. It is not an empire of military domination (and to try to convince ourselves that it is, is dangerously destructive), but rather it is an empire of cultural influence. It may be too much to ask, but it is time we redefine our values, redefine our philosophy, and the meaning to our lives. It is time to discard the outdated and destructive Utopianist ideals that has led man down all of his most destructive paths in futile attempts to achieve an unachievable promised land. It is time to return to placing value on the greatest gift we have been given: life.
In the meantime, innocent men, women, children, and babies are blown to bits all across the very small region of Gaza. At the same time, The Iron Dome, heralded as the “most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen,” makes anything fired from Gaza greatly ineffective.
Tags: Alienation, Consumerism, Corporations, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Judeo-Christian, militarism, Modern World, Nihilism, Philosophy, Post-Modern Crisis, Post-Modernism, Religion, Social Change, society of the spectacle, Utopia, Utopian. Utopianism, Westrn culture, Zionism
I know a Dakota man who was given a gift by his dead grandmother. We call him a Yuwipi Man—a medicine man that performs Yuwipis—or spirit calling ceremonies. But he will tell you outright that he is nothing more than a common man, and has no powers. Nonetheless, he goes through intense and tough sacrifices for the people with this gift. And to sit through a Yuwipi with this man is an amazing and very powerful experience that helps many people. It is not a game, nor a show, nor is it filled with tricks. It is a very serious ceremony through which the spirits provide miraculous help to those people who need it. Numerous times I have heard him relay from these spirits the message to, ‘focus on life.’ These three words are so simple, yet so profound. It is one of those things that can be easily missed, like the proverbial forest that you cannot see for the trees.
For years I have been preaching that the problem of the modern age is that we have become too objectivistic. All the things around us, including the people we connect and interact with, are nothing more than objects. We need to find a new philosophical focus on the subjective, the individual. The first time I heard my friend relay this message in ceremony, I did not even make the connection to this modern day problem—but it is the answer: Focus on life.
On the one hand, the message is all about the subjective—the subject or individual. You can only live your life as your self. You have to respect yourself, and value your life. If your whole life is spent jumping from one short term pleasure to the next, you are taking your life for granted. If you spend your life working long hours at a job you absolutely do not enjoy,then you are taking your life for granted. In one Yuwipi ceremony, to an individual who continuously, without stopping, jokes around and teases those around him, the spirits added the point that, if you always joke around, your life will be a joke (this was not an issue of humor, for the spirits love humor). In any of these cases you are just another face in the crowd of the immense mass of humanity. You are not becoming, what the father of existentialism, Soren Kierkegaard, called, an authentic individual. You are not becoming individuated, as Carl Jung would say. You are creatively avoiding the deeper questions of ‘WHO you truly are,’ and ‘the big WHY of your existence.’
But on the other hand, there all those other selves—other subjects—in your life too. Just as we shouldn’t take ourselves for granted,we shouldn’t take others for granted either. We shouldn’t determine that what is good for “me,” is good for everyone else too. You shouldn’t objectively judge everyone else based on your own morals, life experiences, or perspectives. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, their own joys and fears, their own life experiences, their own feelings, and their own existential freedom. We shouldn’t treat people as objects or tools—they are all life, just as we ourselves are life. This is especially true for those closest too us—our families and others we care about. (But then, as Lakota traditions (i.e. the traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, and the other related tribes) teach, we are each related to all of creation, and if all of creation is alive, then we must show such respect and appreciation for all of creation.)
On a grander scale, to focus on life is to focus on the life we live—not the material things we collect, not the unending search for short term pleasures, but to experience and live our life for what it is—as an authentic individual. (Hint: this is where those deeper questions of, ‘who and why we are’ come in.) But it is also to enable others to live their whole lives, as genuine and authentic as we can help them make it—-giving them the freedom to be who they are (as a subjective being, not an object (i.e. not to treat them as someone we objectively expect them to be, or as a tool for our own use)).
In the Post Modern global culture, we define the term, ‘becoming somebody,’ as someone who has influence (power) over others, someone who has accumulated much in the way of material objects: objects such as money, toys, houses, people… But in the end, far too many of these people discover that their lives have become more meaningless and emptier than ever.
A common theme among men who have truly become somebody is to try to reconnect with themselves, for a few hours every week, and perhaps a weekend every few months, by finding someone with whom they can be themselves, at least as much of themselves as they still have in their empty lives. It is not a family member that such a man turns to—his family members, in the end, are merely objects that helped him achieve success, and that defines who he is, protagonistically or antagonistically,* as a ‘somebody.’ So he cannot reconnect with himself through his wife and children. Even a mistress, in many such cases is the wrong object in such matters, as she is too similar an object, in this regard, to his family. Besides, his whole life has become so defined in terms of buying and selling objects and he is so disconnected and alienated from life, that anything and everything in his life is trapped into the terms of financial transactions. Therefore to reconnect with what life he has left, he needs an object that can be bought and paid for: namely, the expensive call girls who cater to such successfully made men. These women are much more than a tool of sexual release, they are a tool of reconnection. They are tools that are paid very well for their time, and showered with expensive gifts of all kinds. In return, this man can act like himself, and share details about his life that he does not share with anyone else.
But this man has an empty life because he is so alienated from himself, and as a made-man, his distant true self is buried so deeply under various personas that fit the societal concepts of success, that to approach his true self is risky, a taboo, and faces the possibility that everything in his life is actually meaningless. If he is to approach what he has left of himself, it must mimic this constructed reality in order to have meaning to him. Therefore it must be in a controlled and limited manner, and probably would be valueless, and unreal, if it was not determined by a financial transaction. He approaches himself, what’s left of his self, under discrete, risky circumstances, determined by a financial transaction, through an alienated object, the call-girl, all within a limited and controlled manner. Typically, such a man is not so alienated that he needs an almost faceless body—a prostitute plucked off the street from the mass of humanity. Instead, such cases usually involve a relationship with the call girl, financially determined, but a controlled limited relationship just the same. (This is what enables the professional life of such girls to be so different from that of a regular prostitute.)
But every time he meets this object of reconnection, and reenacts a simulacra-based operation of approaching himself,** there is that sense of taboo, a risk to reputation, marriage, career, success, and his personas of a made-man success. This is despite the fact that such a call-girl relationship is yet another defining statement of this success. But this risk relates metaphorically to the risk of actually facing his true subjective self. Such risk and taboo is, like everything else in his life, objectified, and then projected onto his clandestine meetings with his call girl in hotel rooms and the weekend trip to Paris or the Bahamas. In his conversations with her, he certainly shares covertly and subconsciously, and perhaps sometimes honestly and blatantly, his fears of meaninglessness and the emptiness of his life.
Before you feel pity for this woman who is simply another objectified tool in this man’s life, remember that he is simply another objectified tool in her own drive to success to become somebody. Her own self is buried, protected, beneath many personas of success in the life she luxuriously has chosen for herself. But she too is alienated from her own true self and refuses to allow it to be touched, as she provides a simulacrum of human closeness, intimacy, relationship, and caring to him, and each and every other customer, who pays her very nicely for the services she provides. For her too, each connection to the men in her life, is controlled, limited, and defined by a financial transaction. The majority of such women are not abused and mistreated; they do not have pimps, and have control over who their clients will be. They are living a life they have chosen and enjoying the benefits of it. However, their own body, their own intimacy, is objectified to a point of a mere tool to achieve their own personal success. (And this is also the case for many women outside of such professions, throughout society, at varying levels of degree, than is politely acknowledged.) But it is certainly not to the extent of a more common prostitute where every entry becomes another journal entry from yet another faceless member of the mass of humanity. (Please keep in mind that this is not a discussion on the ethics, or morality nor the merits or demerits of prostitution. This is simply about the human connection to the true individual self in the Modern World. Unfortunately, a common prostitute suffers far more indignation, abuse, and even violence, and is placed in far more dehumanizing situations than a typical high-priced call-girl, escort, or whatever name is applied to the working girls who manage their own affairs and serve primarily the very wealthy. To focus on life, we must remember that these girls are living beings, with their own subjective wants, needs, and circumstances too.)
We could certainly argue that his wife is a victim in such a case. Though it is their own subjective affair, and it is not our place to judge them. Certainly the marriage could be a sham, the wife using the husband as much as he uses her—mutually objective tools used for show and to achieve material ends. How can any of us, for that matter, have authentic relationships when every living thing in life has been reduced to mere objects, to be used for our own benefit? We all have become so alienated from our own humanity—that all relationships may be little more than great simulacra-based operations of show. As the Post-Modern philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, said in regards to today’s world in his book, The Transparency of Evil, “Since it is no longer possible to base any claim on one’s own existence, there is nothing for it but to perform an appearing act without concerning oneself with being—or even with being seen. So it is not: I exist, I am here! But rather: I am an image—look! Look!”
The children are certainly victims, the living objects created by their parents, whose love is bought and paid for through every gift, and (from the parents’ perspective) with every payment to every boarding school. But by adulthood, the objectivist programming is complete, and they too are ready to burst forth into the world and to objectify and dehumanize whatever faceless members of the mass of humanity whose lives they touch in their continued quest for wealth and material gain. One must wonder how manylooks of affection had to be feigned, as the parents in their own meaningless lives, raised their children in their own image, forming a redundant chain of meaningless empty, yet ever-consuming, lives—generation upon generation.
‘Of course,’ some of you may answer, ‘it is no secret that so many celebrities, leaders of industry and those of the gilded class, not too mention all their smart-alecky trust fund children, must certainly lead empty meaningless lives with all that hedonism, risk taking, and never-ending search for short term pleasure. As they say, money can’t buy happiness. And how many wives do they go through, how many mistresses—it is all in the tabloids.’ And yet the tabloids, the paparazzi, and the media in general makes so much money by objectifying so many of the faceless masses—the public—who enviously gobble up every news byte about such celebrities, leaders of industry, and those of the gilded class (their other victims of objectification and exploitation). And just about each of those objectified faceless people who consume the spectacle created of these people’s lives carry opinions jealously mirroring just that sentiment. (Yes, if that is your sentiment, I am implying that you too are both envious and jealous of such celebrities and very wealthy people, just saying…).
But not everyone is free enough, or financially able, to act in the ways of such wealthy individuals. Or, we weren’t lucky enough to marry one. Not everyone chooses to lead the life of a highly-paid escort either. So we could easily argue that such cases are extreme and not representative of the general population (despite how envious or jealous of this elite so many of the general population may be). Yet, how many of you are not fully satisfied with the one you are with? (And for those who answer, ‘not me,’ are you really satisfied, or is that just one of your own personas—acting out satisfaction because that is how it is supposed to be?) How many times do you escape reality, to be someone else in a virtual reality? How do you avoid human contact? How do you USE the people in your life? In your professional life, how many people are you truly friends with, as opposed to people that are there simply for you to get the job done? At the grocery store, is the lowly paid cashier there to quickly and correctly get your groceries rung up, or is she a fellow human being that is potentially prone to mistakes just as often as you are (and possibly exploited to a greater extent than you are due to the wage level of her position)? If you stray in to the bad side of town, and pass a street corner occupied by several prostitutes, would you refer to them as whores, or understand that they are fellow human beings and worthy of just as much love and respect as you are? Consider a single mother of five, who works hard, as much as she can, but her low income requires her to receive food stamps—is she a fellow human being, who, if you personally knew you’d be happy to help out in whatever way you can, or is she just another one of those food stamp parasites, burdening society with their unwanted children, and cutting into your hard-earned pay? Is a poor peasant father, who would walk a few hundred miles across a blistering Mexican desert, sneak into the US, and then work a grueling job in our nation’s farmlands under the burning hot sun just to feed and clothe his family, a commendable and devoted family man, or a scumbag illegal immigrant who is taking American jobs from Americans (even if they don’t want those jobs)?
In retrospect, we may very well find that very few of us are much different than this high wealth individual, or his expensive wife, or his highly paid call girl. We are just as objectivistic, and just as alienated from humanity, both within ourselves, and within that of others. And we are just as self-centered, which is to say that we are just as centered on our own beliefs, prejudices, opinions, needs, and wants.
Take love, for example, surveys hint to the fact that around the world, there is a huge number, much more than one would expect, of people who cheat on their boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses. Research has shown that monogamy is not human nature, just like in the case of our primate relatives, but it is one thing to allow and enjoy an open relationship, or allow another person or two to be a part of the relationship, but it is quite another thing to cheat, deceive, and sneak around on a partner. This is why many people often discover that it is not the sexual implications of a cheating partner that bothers them as much as it is the deceit and lies.
A romantic relationship should be built on honesty and respect for each other (and ideally, love)—a shared subjectivity. Each relationship is as individual as each individual is. Nonetheless, each partner should be for the other partner, and in this way, both partners are mutually benefited. Ideally, if a husband does all he can for his wife rather than himself, and if a wife does all she can for her husband rather than herself, than both will be mutually benefited as if they acted for themselves.
And so the spirits tell us, through this Dakota Yuwipi Man, “Focus on life!”
Yet we still haven’t covered the full implication of this profound statement. We have only talked about fellow humans. But in the Native traditions, the subjective—as spirit—extends through out all of creation. ‘Mitakuye Oyase,’ (all my relatives) which is expressed at every step in Lakota ceremony, recognizes, honors, and gives respect to this concept. All my relatives, refers not only to family members, or one’s tribe, but to all the people—and by this they do not mean just the human race, but all the animals, the trees and plants, the rocks and soil, water, grandmother earth, the sun and moon, the stars—in other words, all of creation. Science concurs with this concept of relatedness, for we are all composed of the same stardust, created in the early stars shortly after the Big Bang.
But in this case when we speak in the subjective of rocks, or mountains, or trees, for example, we are saying that they are alive. This may seem strange to our Western concept of reality, but it is really not that alien to our heritage. In the philosophy of Ancient Greece, which spawned Western rationalism, defined Western objectivism, and shaped philosophy and religion all the way to the present, we find this same animistic concept applied to all of creation.
One example of this is the ancient Greek word, αυτόματον (automaton), which we associate, as the Greeks did, with a self propelled mechanical machine. It meant to act of one’s will, but it also meant chance. Therefore if, by chance, a rock came crashing down a mountainside and crashed into your home destroying it, the rock acted by its own will. By the same token, if you win in a game of chance, it is the will of the dice or the cards, or perhaps the will of some other cosmic force that today we personify as Lady Luck. The implication is that there is always a subjective, self-willed, actor at work in every movement or event. Aristotle referred to this subjective actor as, νους (nous or mind) a cosmic presence that permeates the whole universe.
But we have advanced so far away from that. We are so distanced from such quaint superstitions as animism, that even the idea of Aristotle’s, νους (nous) seems little more than the musings of primitive, and grossly naïve ancestors. With science, there is no need for an enchanted universe. It seems so apparent to so many sophisticated and highly intelligent faceless members of the Modern Age, that dead inanimate matter floods the universe. Life in the end, has become no more than an anomaly, rising exclusively from physical matter, under the very rare, and very precise conditions to allow such anomalies among a universe of infinite physical possibilities. And if anyone should stop to lift a voice about the fact that there is so much about life and consciousness that science can not even begin to explain, then the intellectual materialists and objectivists simply respond, ‘give it time, science will figure it out.’
And so it is that we live in a disenchanted cosmos, a seemingly cold and dead universe, rapidly becoming so alienated from life that we are already faced with the question, as Baudrillard writes, “Am I a man or a machine?” The outside world has become so objectified that it has now turned inward to invade even the life force that animates us. It is as if we are headed down a path where we will be reduced to nothing more than the mere organic app upon which all the rest of technology runs—from cell phones, to tablets, to computers, and whatever great new device is yet to come out of the world’s many research labs.
We have already breached the barriers to such a digitalized lifeless existence as a machine, most recently, for example, with such movies as Her, where a lonely introverted man falls in love with the female voice of a computer operating system. About the same time that this movie was released,another one came out, Transcendence, about a man whose conscious self is uploaded into a computer system before he dies. Once he is connected to the internet, he gains access to almost unlimited knowledge, and tremendous power. But the question is there, as his intentions become unclear to the humans still in his life—is he human, or machine? The existentialist, Martin Heidegger, speaking of another Modern Day problem, the self destruction of our species, said that,“What technology offers—for instance, nuclear annihilation—is not something that might possibly happen but the unthinkable already happened by our having thought it.” Breaching these barriers of life vs. machine is the unthinkable, already happening.
Or consider the great number of workers in the industrialized world who are nothing more to their employer, than a number attached to a computer—the organic fitting that provides the un-programmable parameters and qualia that is needed for the computer to complete its job. A customer service rep, for example, attached to a computer and a telephone, is nothing more than an easily replaceable fitting that provides the human element of interaction, and some simplified data input, while the computer does all the rest. Even the telephone typically provides to the system most of the customer identification, allowing the computer to retrieve the necessary records and customer history. The human part of this closed system is the voice, the dexterity of the fingers, and a portion of the human consciousness that fits tightly into the strict parameters of the job description. The employer needs nothing more, and any efforts and expenses spent to create the impression of enhancing any subjective human values under the label of worker satisfaction, are simply there to appease the rest of the living package in order to assure that the human app will work at optimum levels of efficiency and meet quality standards.
In the end, this is only a reflection of how most all of us treat all of creation—selfishly using what we need, spending the effort and expense to create conservationist values in order to assure that nature will provide at optimum levels of abundance, while meeting quality standards. We are masters of our domain—the physical universe as it stretches in all directions to infinity—and what little life we recognize as existent, arising as it does from physical existence, is therefore there for our own selfish purposes and amusement—without a soul, without feelings—organic automatons that have evolved for our impersonal use (and here I am using automaton in a purely Modern English sense).
But yet, in what we see as a cold dead universe, where we, in our infinite mortal wisdom, have determined that nothing beyond the physical could ever possibly manifest, quantum physics, as it struggles to understand the outer edges of our scientific knowledge, struggles with the fact that there must be an observer, a subjective sentient—some kind of form of consciousness, before even the smallest quanta can physically manifest.
And then, in all our smugness over our ability to lord over and harness the powers of nature, suddenly a hurricane, or volcano, tornado, or even an earthquake comes along, and we are reminded once again that we are but helpless little insects crawling across this earth’s great surface, when faced with the full fury of nature’s energy.
Clearly anyone who would suggest that we live in a cold dead universe where there is no reality beyond the physical has not sat in a Yuwipi ceremony. For example, in one recent ceremony performed by my friend, the Yuwipi Man, a spirit touched the hand of a person who needed help, and who, at the last minute, I just happened to bring along. It felt like a human hand was touching him. The spirit said, through the Yuwipi Man, “Now you know what life feels like.”
Life is real, it is living, it is the most real thing we have. For without life nothing else could be experienced, perceived, understood, or even (per our latest understanding of the reality we try our best to work around) manifest at the smallest quantum level. It is not something that is to be observed objectively as a disengaged observer peering out at the world from somewhere deep in the organic shell of his or her body. Life is to be experienced; respected; nurtured; lived; appreciated; coveted; honored;and allowed to be, for it is a gift to all that exists.
But in order to focus on life, we as a species, need to become reconnected to life. We need to reconnect to ourselves, to each other,and to all the living things around us—nature and all of creation itself. We need to reconnect at a very deep and intimate subjective level. A level that is deeper than any label—boss, underling, cashier, customer, welfare mama, prostitute, illegal immigrant, pet, damned dog, vermin, mosquito, tree, rock… We need to, ‘Focus on life!’ Omitakuye oyase.
* The wife, for example, is typically a protagonist, the ex-wife an antagonist; the good child that follows in his shoes, a protagonist, while the wayward or black-sheep child, serves as the antagonist.
** Simulacra, because to truly face himself is too risky,and he has even lost the way so it must be done in a simulated manner. It is an operation or process as the Post-Modern philosopher, Baudrillard, points out that, Modern life has become one of less action and purpose, than one of process and operation, like the workings of a computer applied to the ongoing redundancy of Modern life where everything is merely an act, and action has become important only for and in itself, without purpose, and void of true meaning.
Tags: Alienation, Baudrillard, Carl Jung, Consumerism, existentialism, Heidegger, individuality, Jean Baudrillard, Kierkegaard, Life, Martin Heidegger, Native American Spirituality, Nihilism, objectivism, Philosophy, Post-Modern Crisis, Post-Modernism, psychology, Religion, Social Change, Soren Kierkegaard, spirituality, subjectivism, Western Culture, Yuwipi, Yuwipi Ceremony
We the people, living within Modern American culture (which is in effect Post-Modern global culture) have become so trapped in objectivist reality, that we no longer even understand what it means to be a person. Case in point, is today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of family run corporations not having to cover contraceptives for female workers based on religious grounds. In other words, the Supreme Court is continuing to allow a corporation to execute the rights of a person, even if doing so infringes upon the rights of real people.
This is touted as religious freedom, which it is as long as we consider it only in terms of the historically traditional popular American definition of freedom of religion: one is free to worship the religion he or she chooses as long as that religion is a form of Christianity. (No wonder it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their own traditional beliefs until the mid 1970’s.)
How can there be religious freedom, when a family run corporation is able to impose its own religious beliefs and values onto its workers? What about the religious beliefs and values of all those workers who are, in fact, real people? The religious right in this country fails to see the real implications. But they very quickly would, for example, if a Muslim family owned corporation used this law to require all women to don burqas while at work. Or what if a Hindu family owned corporation used the law to require all workers to practice daily meditation using a Sanskrit mantra?
The problem is a corporation, even a family owned one, does not go to church. It does not consciously hold a religious, or any other kind of belief, in fact, it is not even conscious, let alone, conscious of moral, ethical, religious, or spiritual values. To argue that such an entity can be religious due to a corporate culture, is to deny the subjective value of individuals. A corporation may have a corporate culture, but it is nothing more than an abstract representation of someone’s or a group of someone’s conscious beliefs and values. It does not, and cannot, compare to an individual’s subjective experience of having beliefs and values.
In short, a corporation, or any company for that matter, is not a person. It is a collection of people who come together for a specific purpose. Therefore it is an objective reality. Only people experience life in a subjective existential manner.
The modern world does not, of course, consider that ‘corporations’ experience life in a subjective manner as much as it denies subjectivity and operates on the false assumption that all life is objective. We are all so deeply alienated from our true selves, that we have fallen onto a dysfunctional objective concept of the individual. This is made even worse by the fact that Modern Man, each individually, understands such objectivist reality of all others each from his or her own selfish subjective perception. We live by the maxim that what is good and correct for me, is good and correct for all others. Hence all the terribly sexist remarks made by so many male congressmen, senators, and presidential candidates of the GOP. They are not women, and by objectively determining what a woman is based solely on their own self-centered male understanding of women, they see no problem at all with their remarks and attempts to regulate women’s lives. This understanding of life is so simplistically false that it is the same as someone who enjoys the experience of mustard gas so much, that they force everyone to experience mustard gas (because, they decide, that no matter how much others protest, they must actually like it), whether it has fatal results or not.
It is long past the time that we must rediscover what life is, and what it means to be an individual. It was in consideration of this very same problem that such schools of philosophy as phenomenalism and existentialism developed well over a century ago. And yet the problem has only become more aggravated since philosophy began questioning the growing objectivism of science and its shape on our daily lives.
At the very least, corporations, even those owned by a family, should not be given the rights reserved for individual living people. A corporation does not go to church, it cannot be put in jail when it breaks the law, and it does not experience infringement upon its own rights in the same manner that an individual experiences them. Any time a corporation exercises the rights that should be reserved for authentic living individuals, it infringes upon the rights of others—others that are in fact authentic living people.
In the early 1960’s a group of young people gathered to hang out with a group of beatniks in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. They were hip, but they were too young to be beatniks, so the beats started calling them ‘Hippies.’ A surprising collection of talent was found in this growing yet small group of young people, and from very humble and grassroots beginnings they started, from that little corner in San Francisco, a counterculture movement that quickly shaped a global generation, and changed history. In a world heavily bent on objectivism and rationality, they gave birth to a new focus on the individual, subjectivism, and irrationality. They were a culture of, “spontaneous individuality,” as the author, Theodore Roszak, referred to them. But they were also of the earth, and had rediscovered nature. And just like the ecstatic and intoxicated followers of Bacchus and Dionysus of ancient times, the hippies exploded forth to shock and awaken a mankind that was rapidly falling prey to both decadence, and an alienation from that which makes us human. In short, the Hippies were, the Ubermensch—overman, or superman, that was predicted by Friedrich Nietzsche almost a century earlier.
But while they came to awaken mankind in the 60’s, today we once again find ourselves falling into the same trap of decadence, rationalistic objectivism, and alienation. The problem is, where is that Ubermensch to awaken the man and woman of Western culture, or what today has become global culture? Who will save us now?
It is always controversial in philosophical circles to suggest that any specific group or subculture represents Nietzsche’s Ubermensch. After all, the Nazi’s twisted Nietzsche’s philosophy to justify their actions, all the while claiming to be Nietzsche’s Ubermensch. There are anarchists who believe that they are the Ubermensch, and they are certainly more justified than the Nazis. There have even been some to state that the Ubermensch is a designed evolution using natural selection to create a superior person, which again suggests the Nazi concept of the Master Race, and their embracing of Eugenics. But there is good reason, as we shall see, to label the Hippies as Ubermensch.
First and foremost is the fact that the Hippies so strongly represented the return of the Dionysian force in Western culture. The Dionysian is one of two social dynamics that Nietzsche identified, the other being Apollinian. The Dionysian force is, like the God Dionysus, a force of nature, explosively generative, full of unbridled passion, ecstatic, orgasmic, intoxicating and intoxicated. Dionysus (and his Roman counterpart, Bacchus) was the God of Wine, but also the God of Madness, ecstasy, and excess. He represented mankind as a being of nature, filled with an inherent power of growth, but it was a growth that risked going too far, even taking one into the darkness of schizophrenic madness. The Apollinian force on the other hand, like the God Apollo, was repressive, dualistic, and controlled, emerging as man attempted to master nature, including his own. Apollo was the Sun God, the god of truth, light, healing, and the protector of flocks and herds. But where Dionysus was subjective, irrational, and generative, Apollo was objective, rational, and repressive, even oppressive. Dionysus was the bearded man, and the satyr, while Apollo was the athletic beardless youth, who slayed the python.
Nature is an irrational force, most strongly represented in mankind, by his subconscious. Civilized Man rationalizes the forces of nature, creating the illusion that he can control it. He does this by focusing on conscious physical reality and then objectifying the world around him—transforming it into tools for his manipulation. But this process eventually leads to alienation from his (and her) own subconscious and his (and her) natural self, and from other humans who also become nothing more than tools for manipulation.
The Hippies rejected just such an Apollinian world, as they made their appearance shocking the conformist status quo still living in the illusion of a ‘Father Know’s Best’ world. Compare, for example, the music the Hippies embraced to that of the Dionysian music as described by Nietzsche in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy:
“…and the Dionysian music in particular excited awe and terror. If music, as it would seem, had been previously known as an Apollinian art, it was so, strictly speaking, only as the wave beat of rhythm… The music of Apollo was Doric architectonics in tones, but in tones that were merely suggestive, such as those of the cithara. The very element which forms the essence of Dionysian music (and hence of music in general) is carefully excluded as un-Apollinian—namely the emotional power of the tone, the uniform flow of the melody, and the utterly incomparable world of harmony.”
If he had been writing a hundred years later, he could have easily been describing the emergence of Rock music, as it stood out against all the music that came before it, older music, that in comparison to rock, seemed like the hushed tones of the κιθάρα (cithara)—the ancient Greek lyre.
Consider for a moment, the song Gene Kelley re-popularized, “Singing in the Rain,” in a movie of the same title:”
I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love…”
Now consider a culture for which this song is iconic to, that in retrospect seems very innocent and naïve. Notice the Apollinian sun shining in Gene Kelley’s heart reflecting the very Apollinian culture built upon good Christian morals and a strong sense of rationality to keep things in check. But as this 1952 movie showed us, one could be so moved by the irrational emotions of love, that a person might do something really wild and bold, like fold up their umbrella and sing and tap dance in the rain. But it was ok, and rationally justified, because the good was within him—the Apollinian sun was shining through in his heart. “I’m singing in the rain…”
Enter the Dionysian music, which, as Nietzsche described, “…excited awe and terror.” Listen to the explosion of intense emotion as Janis Joplin, and Big Brother and the Holding Company alter the foundations of existential reality, as only Acid Rock could, in their hit, Ball and Chain:
This song is raw blues—a tale of emotional pain inflicted upon a lover, who now feels her relationship as a ball and chain. But it is an affirmation of life, a true life, as it is genuinely experienced at the deepest of subjective levels, from the hushed quiet tones as we fall back into sorrow, quiet and sadly contemplative, as emotions build until they burst forth, in their full irrational fury. But then, we again fall back, this time into the hushed silence of exhaustion, until the emotions once again build up to where they can no longer be contained. The wail of the guitar, provides just as much emotional statement as the vocals, which overflow with emotion as only Janis could do it. Harmony itself is taken to irrational limits, as if derived not from the conscious mind, but beyond, somewhere in the depths of the subconscious. Compared to this song, as experience in emotion, Gene Kelley’s singing in the rain seems restrained and plastic—nothing more than abstract entertainment on a two-dimensional screen. Ball and Chain is true life, as Dionysus came to remind man—a life filled with ecstatic joy, but also soul-wrenching sadness. But above all a life to be experienced.
And it is experienced from the very beginning—starting with the initial pause in the powerful electric lead guitar intro that builds anticipation, as you keep anticipating that follow through into the next sound from that initial taste of a chord.
Big Brother and the Holding Company emerged, like so many of the other original Hippies, from Haight Ashbury. They came into a world that, like the Gene Kelley movie, consisted of an innocent and naïve Apollinian culture built upon good Christian morals and a strong sense of rationality to keep things in check. But it was a culture that blindly moved through a world that rationalist objectivism had turned largely decadent. The rational forces of the Atomic Age, for example, were pushing mankind towards the irrational suicide of self-imposed extinction. The Nation’s youth, our sons, were being murdered in faraway jungles, supposedly to prevent a domino-like spread of Anti-American ideology, but really just to protect American corporate interests. Meanwhile here at home, our parents had already been programmed by the spectacle of the machine—to conform by consuming goods, and working 9 to 5, followed by cocktail or pinochle parties, and church on Sundays.
The Hippies however, rejected this 9 to 5 plastic life of plastic values and religion. After all, the Ubermensch is tied directly to the death of God, and the creation of new values. But the death of God as Nietzsche most strongly understood it, is the death of the otherworldly, rationally objectivistic Sky Father, who stands high in the sky, Lord over all—in other words, the Christian God. But the obvious connection to Apollo, the bright Sun God, whose bright rays shine upon all creation creating the stark difference between light (good) and dark (bad), is very obvious, both in Nietzsche’s philosophy, and the literal Greek influence upon Hebraic thought in the evolution into Christianity.
But both the Hippies and the Ubermensch are of nature, of the earth, and of humanity. Therefore, the creation of new values, as we have seen, did not mean the death of the god qua God, i.e. the absolute (as Hegel, for example, would have envisioned it). The Hippies, rather than officiating the funeral of the divine, paved the way for a return of the gods of the earth and nature, bringing the divine back to earth; but not just the spirits and gods, for, underlying all of nature and reality, they rediscovered a profound mystery, the Great Spirit, or the Tao. The New Age, though naïve, and a product of the rationalistic Modern Age (and therefore rife with fallacy), is a testament to this establishment of New spiritual values and a newfound home of the divine. (And while many fell victim to the New Age which was a Post-Modern hodge podge of traditions stripped of much of their cultural context and meaning, many more actually rediscovered those ancient traditions for what they were, exploring them within their native and natural context, and thereby keeping the tradition genuine and filled with meaning.)
In this way, the Hippies as Ubermensch, broke through the Apollinian experience of life as the unattached objectivistic observer. And just like the ancient followers of Dionysus, found new value and experience through their διθύραμβος (dithyrambs—the wildly ecstatic and enthusiastic hymns sung and danced in honor of Dionysus). The Hippies created the modern day dithyramb through their rock.
Nietzsche continued his description in, The Birth of Tragedy,
“In the Dionysian dithyramb man is incited to the greatest of all his symbolic faculties; something never before experienced struggles for utterance—the annihilation of the veil of maya, oneness as the soul of the race and of nature itself. The essence of nature is now to be expressed symbolically; we need a new world of symbols; and the entire symbolism of the body is called into play…”
I could argue that this essence of nature is expressed in Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Ball and Chain with the intense emotion expressed by Ms. Joplin, but perhaps in a more modern day Hippie dithyrambic format, consider, “Walking In Space,” from the Tribal Rock Musical, Hair:
Rather than use the song from the original play, notice that I used the video from the 1979 movie version of the play. I did this because it juxtaposes the intense subjective and therefore very Dionysian nature of the song, against the intense Apollinian and objectivistic, nature of boot camp. As clearly demonstrated in the video, boot camps served the military purpose of breaking down the individual ego, in order to make the individual into just another cog in the military war machine.
“…My body. (My body) My bodyyy. My body is walking in space…” This is the subjective experience of my body that is truly Dionysian, unlike the disembodied body of Cartesian objectivism, where ‘I think therefore I am,’ but everything else, including my body, is an object outside of me-as-observer. In this song the body and mind are a holistic whole—intricately interconnected as a cloud of being, like Heidegger’s Dassein. The indidiviual finally stands out against the ground of being, as body and soul. “…My mind is as clear as country air. I feel my flesh, all colors mesh…”
The hippies needed new symbols as they brought, in true Ubermensch fashion, new values to Western culture. And of course you can’t hide the fact that, like the Roman Bacchanal, the Greek Maenads, and other followers of Dionysus, these new values and symbols were discovered through intoxication. But this too was part of the Dionysian subjective nature, and the reason why the Hippies, the Bacchanal, and the Maenads were so dangerous to the existing social structure and its institutions.
Just look at some of the new values of this Ubermensch as expressed in the song:
“All the clouds are cumuloft
Walking in space
Oh my God your skin is soft
I love your face
How dare they try to end this beauty?
How dare they try to end this beauty?
To keep us under foot
They bury us in soot
Pretending it’s a chore
To ship us off to war
In this dive
We rediscover sensation
In this dive
We rediscover sensation
Walking in space
We find the purpose of peace
The beauty of life
You can no longer hide
Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Wide wide wide!”
The Apollinian forces become the strongest at the most decadent point of a culture: before its downfall. And it is then when everyone’s eyes are the most closed. In fact, it should be obvious that it is this Apollinian force, which is a struggle to try to preserve what was by implementing further control and manipulation, is also what contributes to that downfall. Its stark objectivistic rationalism only serves to turn individuals into abstract numbers, and lifeless objects, further alienating them from their own humanity. We need only to look at how Ancient Greece, or Ancient Rome, or even the Bourgeoisie European culture of a century ago, all embraced the apex of rationalism as they headed into collapse.
The Atomic Age, Vietnam, McCarthyism, all serve as examples of the Apollinian objectivism that was leading us to our doom. It took an Ubermensch, the Hippies, to save us. The Hippies and the others they inspired brought forth all kinds of radical ideas, from art, and politics, to life and relationships.
Half a century later, as the Apollinian forces have regained control, there is no longer any advocate or agent to this expression of the Dionysian. Granted, music by nature is Dionysian expression. But the most extreme music today, Death Metal and its brothers and sisters, with all their darkness and focus on death, is a reflection of our current age of nihilism, rather than an affirmation of life. But can we expect any different? After all, Death Metal descended down to us from Heavy Metal.
Heavy Metal emerged in the 1970’s, though it really came of age in the 1980’s. Its appearance marked the take over, once again, of the machine. Many of the Hippies had retreated to the hidden corners of the nation, to live their own lives as free and underground as they could. Others had taken the advice of Jerry Rubin who came to the realization that true freedom had to include economic freedom, and thereby reattached themselves to the establishment—the machine—as the willing Yuppies. The rebellion of the counterculture had lost both its direction and momentum, and as Mick Jagger prophetically sang, “I’m a street-fighting man…” the tradition of the Dionysian, hung over from too much narcotic excess and alienated from its own ideologies, fell into the decadence of the streets—as punks in the punk rock scene.
But it wasn’t just Heavy Metal. All of music and the arts were in change. With the commercialization of Rock in the 70’s, many people had been searching for the New Wave. So, as corporations took over the rock scene, a New Wave did appear, and they embraced it, not stopping to think that it was a New Age of the abstract world of automation: the Information Age. And thus the jerky automaton-like movements of Devo, matched the research of digitalization taking place in the technology centers around the world, moving us from the natural-based sound of analog, to the computer-based sound of digital. But Heavy Metal was the mechanistic side of this New Wave. It took the raw-emotion filled electronic guitar of acid rock (subjectivity at its limit) and pushed it into the realm of the machine. Tonal and chord patterns became mechanistic as notes sped by at the speed of the machine. It is no coincidence that Heavy Metal came of age about the time that theatre audiences were thrilled to the nightmarish chase of the Terminator, as this human-like machine chased down a boy who was to become the last human hero. This boy’s future was to face almost sure death as the machine takes over the world once and for all.
But what happens to the subjective individual—the human—when computers and machines take over? Automation and industrialization force the alienation from human-ness upon the individual. The enslaved factory workers of the 40’s and 50’s became the enslaved call center employees of today. As Herbert Marcuse in his book, One Dimensional Man, wrote, slavery is not about obedience, or the difficulty of one’s labor, rather it is, “to exist as an instrument, a thing.”
And so the call center employees toil, not as humans, but as tools programmed to follow scripted conversations, monitored through call stats and recordings, through which, with cold and mechanical surveys, are used to objectively determine if their effectiveness as a tool, is up to standard, or whether they should be discarded. But even those who do not see themselves as slave tools tied to a computer are nonetheless thoroughly programmed by the computers and machines around them. In this way the subjective wants, needs, and desires of individuals, even the individual’s outlook of the world around him or her (through the abstract reality provided by the internet) are all determined by objectivistic algorithms. Objectivism rules the world and masks over genuine truth and value with a thick gooey paste of consumerism. In fact, the genuine values and truths, are buried so deep, that only nihilism is left, whether recognized or not.
So where is the human (especially that which still retains any semblance of the Dionysian) in such an objectivistic and digitally automated universe? Metaphorically the human has died hence the rise of Death Metal and the Gothic subculture. Death Metal calls out to us from the hard metallic machine, but it is the demons that are actually screaming out from Hell (as the vocals), through the gnashing teeth of the Earth Maul. Therefore the vocals are as unique to Death Metal as the metal itself, which it inherited from Heavy Metal.
On the other hand, in the Goth culture, there are still signs of the subjective—the individual calling out, as it is, from the morbid darkness beyond the grave. The Gothic culture recognizes the pain, struggle, and even the futility of human experience, but limited by modern day nihilism, as a cultural phenomena and art form, it is wanting in the ecstatic joy that also bursts forth with the Dionysian in all of its glory. Alas, it remains to be seen, if the Goth stands out as a post-death lament of the Modern Day individual, or the surviving glimmer of life in the underworld, before it again springs forth in rebirth.
But there can be no rebirth, if there is no appearance of the living Dionysus as manifested by a new Ubermensch. What were radical ideas to the Father Knows Best culture at the previous peak in the Apollinian dynamic has been absorbed and made a part of the machine that is Modern culture. Media screams out to us that if we want to rebel, or simply stand out as a unique individual, then we simply have to buy this product, or eat that food, or drink this whiskey… The hipster is nothing more than one of a multiple of modes of consumerist activities feeding the machine. But what does it matter anyway, for we can be as bad, as free, as unique, and even as powerful as our wildest dreams may want us to be, in the virtual realities we can create within the modern day gaming world. But such a virtual reality is not any different from the dreaming—the only way that Apollinian man, in all his objectivity, sees the irrational side of life according to Nietzsche.
In the end, it simply keeps our minds occupied, as we blindly head towards cultural oblivion. Only this time, everyone’s mind is occupied. Anyone with a radical tendency, with an impulse to break free from the masses, is kept in check; is kept pacified. This is perhaps the ultimate Post-Modern crisis: that any movement of human nature, buried in mankind’s collective subconscious, that would be so inclined to generate an uprising into radical non-conformity—and lead the way as the next Ubermensch—has already been pacified into non-existence.
Who will step up to break through the Apollinian forces and rescue Western culture—Global culture—from its self-imposed doom? Where art thou, Dionysian Ubermensch, hero of human culture?
The idea that we won’t get fooled again is implied, if not outright declared, in just about every political movement, revolution, election, or change. The air around such change can be electric with hope and anticipation. ‘Finally, things will be better…’ But after that change takes place, the various follies built into the philosophy that inspired such change, begin to create dynamics of regression. One of the most dangerous of follies is the reductionist thinking that is so readily embraced. In fact, it is this very reductionist thinking that engenders the idea that this time is different. Because the precept of being reductionist, or believing that there is one solution that answers everything, is the idea that this time you have found that solution that answers everything. This is why this time you won’t be fooled again. However invariably at some point, we are forced to take a look around and realize that nothing really changed. The beards may have grown longer overnight when the change was in the air, but in the end we have to conclude, just as The Who did in their song, Wont Get Fooled Again: “Meet the new boss, just like the old boss.”
Karl Marx, for example, saw a serious problem—the alienation of the worker in capitalist society where the market creates a wedge between the producer (the individual as a worker) and the consumer (the individual as a buyer). He realized that the market forces new values defined by the market itself first onto commodities, and finished goods, but eventually onto the individuals themselves. Once the individual is commodified, or debased to nothing more than a marketable commodity, in which all the individual’s intrinsic values have been stripped away leaving him or her as either an exploitable expense point, or an exploitable profit source, then the powers that be are handed the reigns to exploit, expend, remove, manipulate, control, and otherwise own the individual. The individual is stripped of his or her humanity.
While he recognized that the market represents a serious problem with capitalism, he failed to recognize that it is actually a problem with the Industrial Age, not simply capitalism. The Socialist societies that resulted from Marxist revolutions, could not escape the market mechanism. Goods for consumption had to be made available, produced goods had to be distributed, and workers had to be acquired and paid. The alienation and commodification was still there. The difference was that everything was now owned by the State, which resulted in even further alienation as the forces of objectivistic rationalism repressed everyone into State slaves.
The most ironic thing of all is that, with the exception of the Khmer Rouge in Laos, Marxist revolutions were always revolutions of industrialization, which developed the respective markets into more powerful and advanced mechanisms than had existed in the pre-revolutionary society that felt it necessary to be liberated from their repressive economic and political realities. Unfortunately, Marx’s attempt to help humanity simply furthered the repression.
Alvin Toffler has pointed out that we really can’t blame Marx for this misunderstanding. The only other alternative style of society he had to compare with was that of feudalism, and perhaps the idealized versions of tribal society. Marx clearly serves as an example of the fact that social and economic theories and philosophies are not as cut, clean, and dry as those of mathematics or other sciences where rationalism can be easily guided by rules and laws born of empirical observation. Since it is hard to foresee the real results of such change induced by theory and philosophy, the end result is that we are always fooled again.
It can’t be exemplified enough that reductionist thinking is one of the more dangerous dynamics that results in our being fooled again, and arguably the strongest driving force behind all other such dynamics in this recurring chain of social change and disappointment. It is too easy to fall into the trap that we (the rebels, activists, or promoters of change) have this ultimate solution. Even the problem with religion is that it is reductionist: ‘Jesus is the answer;’ ‘if you are not saved you will never have everlasting life;’ ‘convert to Islam, or die an infidel…’ But science is no better. There is just as much dogma and reductionist thinking in the hallowed halls of our scientific institutions, as there is among the pulpits and pews of our churches. If you don’t believe me, just try to suggest to the scientific community, the possibility that physical matter may be emergent from consciousness, rather than the other way around.
It stands to reason that this reductionist thinking emerged along with the dualistic zeitgeist and group ethics in the early stages of our planter culture past. This was probably part of the process of civilization and nation building that gave rise to both institutions and the early city-states that were the beginnings of civilization. As man began to understand that the fields he and his neighbors worked on to produce food and surplus were their property (group ethic), and that anyone who was not a part of the community (in-group) was an outsider, and needed to be understood as such (dualistic zeitgeist of in-group vs. out-group). Then it must also be true that just as the world is made up of in-groups and out-groups, there must also be a right way and a wrong way, and therefore a good and an evil, and if these things are truths for the whole community, then they must therefore be truths for everyone everywhere (reductionism).
Granted, the animistic spirituality of the hunter-gatherer is also reductionist in nature in the sense that if there is an animating force in all things, then this life force itself is a universal. But such reductionist thinking is quite benign in the multiplistic universe of the hunter-gatherer. This is because it does not force the blatant value judgments that are ever present in the dualistic universe. This is why, much to the demise of their traditions and cultures, indigenous people around the world readily adopted the teachings of missionaries as just another way of worship, rather than to judge them. The missionaries, on the other hand, judged these savages (as they referred to them), as lost in the evil ways of the devil, forever damned to hell, unless they adopt the Christian faith. Clearly these indigenous tribes did not have a problem with reductionist thinking. But the dominant societies and their missionaries did. Eventually the dominant society passed its reductionist philosophy onto these indigenous converts, who in turn severed ties to their own cultural heritage, and created severe social strains in every indigenous community between progessives and traditionalists.
Reductionist thinking is hard to escape. For example, Historicism, which first became fully developed under Hegel, was an attempt to examine specific periods in history, and the characters within it based on many factors, including history, culture, traditions, language, and the zeitgeist (or ‘spirit of the age,’ or ‘times,’ a concept attributed to Hegel). It therefore tried to explain history in terms of factors and forces that were local to a specific time and place, rather than a more reductionist approach to history that is based on universals and fundamental concepts that lump all of mankind and his history under one or a few common denominators. But as anti-reductionist as this sounds, left in the hands of the conservative Right Hegelians, historicism certainly added political and religious influence to the once innocent concept of Romantic Nationalism, which in turn in the 19th Century, provided fuel for such reductionist policies as Manifest Destiny in the United States. Then in the 20th Century Romantic Nationalism reached one of its most extreme and dangerous reductionist levels in Hitler’s Germany, and the Fascism of Italy and other nations.
If you watch any political or social documentary to come out of America during the years around World War II, you might be surprised at the level of Romantic Nationalism that existed in our own country—almost fascist by today’s standards. But even today, the ‘American Way,’ justifiably or not, is seen in a reductionist light as the only way by most Americans.
Duality is another example of the tenacity of reductionism. We are so programmed by the dualistic group ethic we have inherited from our long ago planter culture ancestors, that any suggestion to a contrary concept of the universe is immediately met with reductionist disagreement. I am always being told that we cannot escape duality, because after all, how can there be good if there is no evil?
Many people cannot see any other kind of cosmology. In fact, it is widely accepted (despite the reductionist efforts of scientific materialism—on the other side of the spectrum) that man’s concept of good and evil are universals. We speak of God in terms of unconditional love, a love that is so powerful that it is beyond human comprehension. But then we trap God within a confined ethical structure to operate from, based entirely upon man-made universal values, based on our existential experiences limited primarily to mere physical reality.
No wonder the world has become so polarized today.
We do not live in a black and white universe that is divided between good and evil. There are a myriad of colors, just as the world is filled with things that are neutral, or not-so-bad, or, ok, kind-of-good, a-little-worse, pretty-good, fairly-bad, and so on, and so forth. Our world is naturally multiplistic, not dualistic.
Yes, reductionist thinking is a tricky one. And history shows us, time and time again how dangerous this mode of thinking is. From wiping out whole indigenous cultures clear across the Americas through disease, murder, starvation, and outright war, to Hitler’s attempt to wipe out a whole race and religious group of people.
Earlier I referred to the mistake made by Karl Marx in assuming that the alienation of the market was a function of Capitalism, rather than of the Industrial Age. But even after the world saw the failure of Marxism under Lenin, and especially under Stalin, Marxist rebels the world over continued to embrace it with reductionist zeal for many decades. Far too many souls have been trampled upon by the State embracing such reductionist thinking. In this regard Fascist, Communist, or Socialist, there is no difference.
But the reductionist policies of a small tribe wandering around a desert killing everyone in nearby city-states a few odd millennia ago, does not have the global impact that a single nation or super-power falling to the dogma of reductionism in today’s Modern World has. It was not until we were well into the Modern World, that an actual world war became a reality. Or even that two nations, engaged in a war of espionage against each other, could manipulate almost every other nation on earth, like pieces on a chess board, as we also saw in the last century.
In short, Reductionism today is more dangerous than ever before.
But, there is one (dare we say) reductionist concept that history has shown us over and over again to be true: As long as we fall victim to reductionist thinking, WE WILL BE FOOLED AGAIN!
(In my next blog post, I plan to explore reductionist thinking a little further. I will apply it to the one thing lacking in our modern culture that could spell its demise—the Metaverse, or Unifying Truth.)
Tags: Communism, Fascism, Hegel, Historicism, Hitler, Karl Marx, Marxism, Naziism, Philosophy, Post-Modern Crisis, Post-Modernism, Reductionism, Religion, revolution, Romantic Nationalism, Science, Social Change, Socialism, spirituality, The Who, World War II
The Mayan Calendar has marked the dawn of the 5th world. This implies that we are sitting at a point of significant change. Whether you believe in this calendar or not, we certainly find ourselves in very much need of change as mankind lies a little too close to destroying himself and most of the life that lives on this planet.
But I am very leery of some of the talk that I hear regarding a shift into the 5th World (i.e. the change that man needs to make). I am referring to the anti-individualistic rhetoric that keeps popping up everywhere. The common feeling is that the New Age will be one of a more communal consciousness rather than the individualism of the Modern Age.
There is good reason for this. Modern Age individualism is one of greed and materialism. Individualism is now being blamed as a key dynamic that has resulted in man’s alienation from his true self, and part of why psychologically the dominant civilizations live in a continuous state of ego inflation. Deep down, it certainly has enabled us to all live in a false dream of freedom while the powerful forces of consumerism manipulate us to always struggle towards happiness rather than face what is in reality an empty existence.
But civilization itself rose up from the early planter cultures thousands of years ago. The dominant global cultures therefore carry a legacy founded upon the early planter group ethic that is somewhere close to 10,000 years old. This means almost 10,000 years of seeing the world from a dualistic zeitgeist of in-group/out-group, a legacy all civilizations carry. In the past few centuries, the only alternative Modern Age Man saw against the socially oppressive group ethic of planter cultures such as in the Middle East and throughout Asia, or the politically oppressive group ethic of both Fascist and Socialist Dictatorships, was the rugged individualism of American civilization. But if you think about it, deep down, Americans (i.e. Modern Man) are simply promoting individualism as a life of an elitist group ethic. For example, teenagers express their individuality by embracing a subculture (a group). As adults we become ‘individuals’ by ‘making it,’ i.e. achieving the status of a specific socio-economic level of society. Each social group defines itself in part by a ‘better than thou’ mentality. Those who have truly made it (often by way of birth) are those who are in the most elitist group of all, the 1%. But even socio-economic status groups at the various levels within the so-called 99% of society have their own elitist ‘better than thou’ attitudes based on the skills and knowledge it takes to ‘make it’ within that group. For example, just try to make amateurish suggestions on woodworking to a successful and experienced carpenter.
We see this rugged individualism as an exercise of freedom, because we as individuals have the freedom to ‘choose how’ and to ‘do what’ in order to make it. We fail to recognize that this choice is usually a risk, and we have to use all of our resources to ‘make it.’ If you make it, you are a somebody. If you fail, you are a nobody. It doesn’t matter if the system is broken, if you have fallen on bad luck, if others in their quest to make it have unfairly taken your chances away from you, or if the more elite levels of society have tossed you aside like an outdated useless machine. As an individual in the Modern Age, it really is up to you, or you become a faceless nobody. It is a merciless dynamic, because it is an ego-based ethic in a culture where ego-inflation is the norm.
The recent credit crisis, and the global debt crisis that our world still faces, represent a major break in the system. Add into this the recent Presidential Election, the doomsday sensationalism that filled our media, especially in 2012, Washington’s inability to solve the Nation’s most critical problems, climate change, and the severe state of polarization we find ourselves in, just to name a few of the problems we now face. Factions of our religious communities strike out with reactionary measures against threats they perceive from the Modern Age. Our nation, like the world around it, is filled with anger, disappointment, hopelessness, and hate. We turn to look behind us, and we see the world created by the Modern Age, and its version of individualism. It is only natural that we look for an alternative, and based on that 10,000-year legacy of the group ethic, it would naturally follow a course of anti-individualism. If the Modern Age has failed us, then the obvious Post-Modern response is to build a spiritually based society that rejects the rugged individualism of the Modern Age.
But the Modern Age has a name for a socio-political system that embraces anti-individualism to create a society that is supposed to be ethically, morally, and spiritually superior: Fascism.
Benito Mussolini wrote, “Fascism, in short, is not only a lawgiver and the founder of institutions, but an educator and promoter of the spiritual life.” He argued that individualism led to a control of the majority by a select few, and that in the end, the individuals that made up the majority only had a quantitative, rather than a qualitative value to their society. He reasoned that fascism valued people at a morally superior qualitative value because they are united as a state, and therefore come together within a realization of a single consciousness and will for all (sounds like 5th World Rhetoric). “Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception is for the State; it is for the individual only in so far as he coincides with the State, universal consciousness and will of man in his historic existence.”
He further explained that, “Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the only true expression of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of the scarecrow invented by the individualistic Liberalism, then Fascism is for liberty.”
This anti-individualism for a spiritually and morally superior nation is the rational behind Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and any of the other oppressive and violent fascist movements that rose out of Europe after the collapse of the European Bourgeois Culture in the early 1900’s. The scary thing for today is that it is mankind’s inclination, as his culture begins to crumble and decay around him, to embrace what Friedrich Nietzsche called the Apollonian Dynamic—to embrace forces and methods of rational control, management, suppression, and repression, in an effort to forcefully squeeze out a state of maintained status quo, maintained growth, and to sustain the culture indefinitely. (Nietzsche saw this as the opposite of the Dionysian Dynamic of natural, unfettered growth and excess). One example of this Apollonian Dynamic in the US today is the fact that much of the workforce is working harder, at effectively smaller wages, while the unemployment rate sits at an unacceptably high rate. Another example is the Patriot Act and the War on Terror.
Anti-Individualism in a nation that seeks to solve its problems through Apollonian means, is a dangerous thing. It takes us down a road paved with the skeletons of enslaved citizens of fascist states of the past. In fact, if we are at the dawn of a new age, does it even make sense to carry the group ethic forward into that new age when it has been the source of division, hatred, discrimination and outright war since the dawn of civilization?
Carl Jung spoke out in favor of the individual (especially see, for example, his book, The Undiscovered Self). But he did not speak in favor of the Modern or Industrial Age individualism. Instead he thought that it was each individual’s purpose in life to achieve what he called, individuation—to become a whole individual. When I stated earlier that Modern Age individualism is ego-based, I meant that we are almost wholly focused on the conscious mind. Our conscious mind correlates, as much as individually possible, with the physical world. But our true self consists of far more than just our conscious mind and what the filter of the ego allows us to consciously perceive. As we become more and more individuated, we open the filter of the ego, which opens perceptions, and begins to integrate the subconscious more fully into our perceived self. This is not only mind expanding, but a healing process as well. Jungian psychologists attribute mental problems, and issues with violence, anger and other dysfunctional aspects of man, to elements buried within the subconscious that, as individuals alienated from our subconscious, we are unable to deal with in a healthy and constructive manner. The more individuated we become, the more balanced we become.
Jung believed that the amazing physical feats of India’s fakirs, and the abilities of shamans, Tibetan monks, medicine people, and others to do different amazing things, were based on their higher levels of individuation. He said that history has very few fully individuated individuals, but the list would include Jesus, Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha), perhaps Mahatma Gandhi, and other great benevolent spiritual leaders.
Jung also believed that indigenous people, with their deep connection to archetypical motifs (spirit and nature), live a life that more fully integrates the subconscious mind. Jung also understood that the world of the indigenous was filled with miraculous events he explained as synchronicities. He defined this as a coincidence where two unrelated events happen together in such a way, and at such a time to represent significant meaning to the observer.
An interesting synchronicity that relates the Mayan calendar to this discussion is that the start of each world was believed to mark the arrival of Quetzalcoatl in human form. Cortez was so easily received in Central America because he arrived around the appointed time, and was therefore believed to be Quetzalcoatl. Unfortunately, his evil brother, Tezcatlipoca, can, and has appeared instead, and is mistaken for Quetzalcoatl. When this happens the people suffer. In retrospect, Cortez was more of a Tezcatlipoca than a Quetzalcaotl. His arrival in Central America, complete with the regalia of the Mayan World Tree (but which was in fact the Christian cross), did in fact pretty much mark the point of the beginning of the decimation of over 90% of the indigenous populations of the Americas through disease, starvation, and slaughter. The survivors were labeled and treated as savages for much of their remaining history. It was predicted that things would not start to change for the better until the eagle lands on the moon. At about the time that man first landed on the moon (in the Lunar Lander called the Eagle), things began to slowly change for the better. It is therefore interesting that the 5th World of the Mayan calendar, is referred to as a time when the indigenous communities will once again shine, so to speak.
Jamake Highwater (whose mother was Blackfeet, and his father Eastern Cherokee), wrote in his book, The Primal Mind, that in his opinion, indigenous man finds the rugged individualism of the West as a scary thing. Yet, indigenous man himself comes from a deeply individualistic culture. The difference is that indigenous man is free to be himself, where as Western man, as we have seen, is free to take the risk of success in order to become ‘somebody.’ One example of this indigenous individuality is how names are given. In the West, we are born with a name, and that name follows us through life, regardless of what we do or where we go, good or bad—we are that same individual by that name. Our bad history follows that name, probably better than the good history does. In many tribal cultures however, a name can change. The name reflects who that person is as an individual at that particular stage of his life.
This concept of a tribal individuality really hit home when I experienced my first haŋblečiya (Vision Quest). When a person is put on the hill, he is not simply left up there while everyone goes home. There is ritual behind it, you have supporters helping you, and as you sit all alone up on the hill, down below the people are praying for you. When your time on the hill is over, they all return for you. While the haŋblečiya itself is a very individualistic and personal experience, there is a group framework around it. One elderly Native lady, who sat on the hill the same time I did, explained the group aspect the best. She said that as she watched us come to get her, this feeling of love hit her so hard, that she almost fell over backwards. We were all individuals up there, but we were part of a family sharing a powerful experience in one way or another.
You find the same dynamic in the sweat lodge communities (referred to as lodge communities). We are all individuals that come to the lodge. But it doesn’t matter who you are as an individual in Western Society, you could be good, bad, rich or poor, but at the lodge you are simply an individual person—a common man as the Lakota say. Even the one who pours, filled with wisdom, having suffered to achieve the ability to pour, taking on a heavy responsibility by pouring, in a difficult and serious position as the one who pours, and worthy of unlimited respect, yet he is just a humble common man.
The sweat lodge itself is a circle, and I have been taught that to participate in the sweat lodge is to participate, or in other words, to join ‘in’ the circle. (In fact the Red Road, or traditional Native spirituality, is based on the circle. Wallace Black Elk, and many others, have said that the circle has no end and no beginning.) To join into the circle is to join into a family, which is in many ways similar to being in one’s own immediate family, a group of individuals tied together by familial love. The lodge experience itself is an individualistic experience, for some a particular lodge is hotter than it is for others. Each individual has his or her own individual prayers he or she brings to the lodge, and he or she may experience things differently than any other person in the lodge. But at the same time, from start to finish, it is a shared experience, ending with the sharing of the spirit food and the čanuŋpas (the sacred pipes), after which each and every person thanks each other for the prayers and being a part of the circle. The lodge community, again, is a family.
I try to refrain from offering too much of my own opinion on Native traditions, because after all, I am not qualified. But let me take the liberty of talking a bit about the powerful phrase that is used throughout Lakota ceremony, Mitakuye Oyasiŋ, meaning all my relatives. It is a powerful phrase which I have been taught acknowledges, reveres, and honors all of creation—not just one’s familial relatives, or one’s own tribe, or race, or not even all humans—but all creation as a living relative. This includes even those inanimate objects that non-indigenous man generally considers to be dead, such as rocks, our planet earth, the sun and moon, and everything else. Oyasiŋ comes from the word Oyate, which means any group from a family, to a clan, or tribe, or race, or four-legged people (four legged animals), or any other grouping of living things. This phrase therefore groups all of creation into one group—a relative. But certainly it is a group of very diversified and individual talents, virtues, and characteristics. Two-legged people (humans) are certainly different from the four-legged people (four-legged animals). And even within those categories there is wide diversity. A buffalo, for example, has different characteristics and virtues than a wolf, or an elk. In this group, man is simply a part of creation or nature, not lord over it.
Even more important is the fact that since Mitakuye Oyasiŋ includes literally all of creation as a relative, in other words, as an in-group, than unlike the dualistic universe of civilized man, there can be no out-group, not even the most distant galaxies and quasars, and whatever life forms are found there.
Jamake Hightower explains that indigenous man sees the universe from a multiplistic philosophy, rather than the dualistic one of civilized man. I think the Lakota creation story provides a good example of this as it took many participants to create our world: Father wind had to send out his sons, the four winds, to first set up the four directions. This was after the beautiful maiden Wohpe was sent down to them from Grandfather to get them started, and created a jealous rivalry between the North Wind and South Wind. Then there was the roles played by the Thunderbirds and the powerful wizard, Wažiya. The story goes on from there with other participants, each with an important role.
In a multiplistic universe, man seeks to find balance among the many forces. This is very different from the dualistic universe where man is part of a universal struggle between two opposing forces. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out that maintaining individuality within the balance of a multiplistic zeitgeist is more easily obtainable, than maintaining individuality within a dualistic zeitgeist as a member of the in-group struggling against the forces of the out-groups. After all, it is easier being an individual in a balanced family than a serial number in a combat platoon.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you believe in the cycles of the Mayan Calendar. It doesn’t matter if you prefer your universe as based on a duality or a multiplicity, or if you choose to define your world in pure scientific materialism. Mankind is rapidly approaching a crossroad where change, good or bad, is imminent. If we approach this crossroad with a rally cry of Anti-Individualism, as the powers that be of modern civilization grasp at Apollonian means of control, then surely the gates will open once again to totalitarian fascist control, and a possible trip into the horrors of mass genocide
We can certainly declare an end to industrial Age, or Modern Age individualism, after all, I argue that in the end it turns out to be nothing more than a diverse collection of elitist group ethics masquerading as individualism. But never should we denounce the value of the individual as an individual. Furthermore, as we speak of change, we should seek to discard the outmoded, divisive, and destructive duality-based group ethic we have carried along since the early planter cultures. In its place, we should seek a more loosely formed group structure that promotes individuation of the group’s individuals. If successful, this should naturally create a group coherence and balance, archaic in nature, that civilized man has not known since before his distant ancestors began to move into small settlements to share in planting.
Tags: 2012, 5th World, Anti-Individualism, Carl Jung, duality, Fascism, Hitler, Indigenous ways, Individualism, Industrial Age, Jung, Mayan Calendar, Modern World, multiplicity, Mussolini, New Age, Philosophy, Post-Modernism, Red Road, Religion, Social Change, Socialism, spirituality, Sweat Lodge
Yesterday I blogged about the Spectacle, as defined by the Post-Modern theorist, Guy Debord. The Spectacle is an immense and powerful dynamic of modern Industrialized Societies constructed of commercials, promotions, programs, movies, websites, simulations, virtual realities, lights, music, holograms… It is the multitude of spectacles that bombards modern man, every day of his life, designed to either, seduce him, shape him, manipulate him, provide temporary happiness, replace live human interaction, or all of the above.
Today’s Americans are seduced by PlayStation and XBox, 3-D IMAX, 100+ Channels on cable. We work hard, and then we go home and sit (or go to a theatre, or club, or wherever and sit) while entertainment is made available at a flick of a switch. We will plan our life around blocks of time to let our emotions feed off of the Spectacle. More than ever we are seeking short term satisfaction, short term happiness, rather than worrying about and fighting for the things that are important. Our corporations and our government are free to do as they please, as long as they keep us pacified, and hooked up to that bottle of baby-formula: Nonstop entertainment.
The real problem is our younger generations. We have raised a whole generation that is even more pliable and shapeable by the machine, than we were. They have become almost mindless automatons, fueled by momentary bits of pleasure in either an abstract or a virtual world. The machine (the corporate and political side of consumerism) is more and more able to do what it wants as it reshapes society and civil liberties into its own image. Meanwhile, the automatons are oblivious, and are covertly being well-trained for menial jobs in a fully automated future.
The Industrial Age saw all levels of society reshaped into the image of the mechanical machine, or the factory, in order to maximize the benefits of Standardization, Specialization, Synchronization, Concentration, Maximization, and Centralization (what Alvin Toffler, author of The Future Shock and The Third Wave, referred to as ‘The Code’ of industrialization). But while mankind went to work in factories, or offices structured off of factories, or schools designed like factories, and listened to orchestral music modeled after factories and machines, his civil rights, his private life, and humanity, kept him human.
If the Information Age is reshaping society the way it appears to be through the Spectacle, we may find humanity itself finally modeled after the machine–an automated machine–lacking in civil rights and liberties, and alienated from the essence of humanity. If the illusion of satisfaction through temporary happiness remains strong enough, most of us will never know. Instead, we will continue on in abstract hyper-realities, reaching new levels of insensibility to reality and our true condition. Sadly, capitalism and democracy would fail to exist, and the words themselves would be redefined to fit the purposes of the machine.
(OK—I apologize—-Haven’t blogged anything for quite some time on this one—-I got busy with this subject as a book, and it is actually a set of three books—not finished yet. Anyway I will continue adding to this blog with various things on the subject at hand…)
The popular singer, Dev, in the Dubstep song, Turn the World On, is a perfect example of the ‘Spectacle.’ I am referring to the definition of Guy Debord, a Post-Modern theorist. This Spectacle is the immense institutional and technical apparatus of modern capitalism that is most blatantly manifested in media and the complex array of consumer industries. It includes the non-stop bombardment of advertising that we are victims to; and the alternate realities created by PlayStation, and XBox, or even in the movie and Imax theatres; and anything and everything that enters your living room or bedroom via the TV, the Computer, and the Radio. It is the Spectacle that manipulates Modern Man to live in a world designed by someone else, filled with abstraction, a false reality, that masks over the effects of capitalism’s power and deprivations.
Debord began writing in the 1970’s but his Society of the Spectacle is more real and blatant than it was even then. He wrote long before PlayStation, long before twitter and facebook, before Cable news had the instant sponsor-paid coverage that exists today. Long before the debt crisis (Yes—it is easy to blame Wall Street, it takes our minds off of the real problem—that the Spectacle makes us think that everyone needs to consume, even if he/she does not have the means, which can exponentially expand the two-fold exploitation of the Modern Man: as a laborer, and as a consumer. As long as there is a scapegoat, we believe in the dreams induced by the Spectacle, and the game continues. The wealthy continue to get rich. The rest continue to work and pile up debt.)
Dev sings, ‘Turn me on, I’m better than sex.” While this can refer to the Spectacle as a whole, just the porn industry alone is a good example of the dynamic of the Spectacle. With all the porn readily available, packaged for all kinds of consumption, it can easily lead to a sense that robs us of reality and becomes, what we believe is better than sex. Sex exists in the real world, the Spectacle of porn is the abstract world of a consumer-induced reality. It is abstract, unreal, and alienates us from the physical world, and the companionship of a fellow human being—even, if allowed to dominate our minds far enough, while actually engaged in physical love with a living partner. We are alienated because that partner can never be the fulfillment of all the immense multiplicity of perfect fantasy partners created by the Spectacle—and thus we suffer from alienation—from ourselves, and from our partners.
She sings, “I hear static” and of course the group that performs this is coincidentally named, Static Revenger. But what is the static in my interpretation, but the all-consuming onslaught of the Spectacle. It comes at us from all directions and all walks of life. Even alternative lifestyles, which back in the 60’s and 70’s were entirely the realm of the counterculture, and were grass roots, revolutionary, homespun, and anti-establishment. The New Age was entirely a Post-Modern search for meaning—a reaction to the failed unifying myth of science, and the utopian promise it once held. The New Age, trapped by the point of history it arose from (The Modern World) was misguided, and all the meaning it found was most often nothing more than a ‘parody’ of the spiritual truths from a Pre-Modern World. It could create nothing more than a parody as opposed to the truth, because it was seen through Modern eyes. But at least it was an alternative.
And, at least it was something stretching out from the abyss of rational objectivism, grasping for the irrational truth that manifests living consciousness.
But today, this New Age Movement, just like most everything else, has been consumed and transformed by the Spectacle, and is just as bad, with its mass-marketed Buddhism, and a hodgepodge of beliefs for sale. take Boulder Colorado for example, it was once a haven for hippies and the counterculture that rejected the Modern World. You could buy all kinds of spiritual items from around the world, especially India, for barely a dollar. Today, if you seek the goods to find your enlightenment in Boulder, you’ll need to bring thousands of dollars. And you will find the Spectacle live and well—and spirituality of any and every kind for sale.
She (the personification of the Spectacle, as Dev) turns the world on, both figuratively and literally—we are manipulated to believe that only through modern consumerism will we find happiness and fulfillment, fantasies revealed and fulfilled (but the happiness too is not real, which is why it is so temporary, and meaningless). And yes, we simply turn it on—a flick of a switch and it is right there—ready to tell us what to desire, how to be happy, what to think, how to be—and what to buy. Step outside, and someone always flicks the switch to turn her on. Yes—But, step out of the dream she induces though and you hear static.
The venue, if you will, for the song is the disco—which is probably where I first understood the emptiness of the Modern World as a young hippy. Don’t get me wrong, the world of the disco was a beautiful world—laser lights and brilliant colors, fog, music enveloping your senses, and the whole sensory-realm further empowered by alcohol and narcotics. Dance and sexuality—a Dionysian abandon in 360 degrees of direction. It was very seductive, and I would spend the whole night there. It is one of many places in our culture where the Spectacle has achieved perfection.
Returning to reality, when the club closed down and everyone had to go home, was like returning to a drab planet filled by a mundane existence. But there were times when I would go to the disco, and I’d look around at all the people drinking and getting high, trying to impress a date or someone they just met, getting it on on the dance floor, with all the seductive static blaring around them, and I’d wonder, what do they really get out of it? It really was a meaningless life of short term pleasure. They really were nothing more than just a bunch of dumb sheep, struggling through boring and oppressive jobs, just so they could return to this 4 or 5 hours of fantasy, usually in an effort to get sexually involved with another fantasy for the last few hours of the night—a partner whose name they won’t even try to remember. Is there anything more nihilistic and empty, than such an existence?
But this song is dubstep—and therein is the bass drop. For me, the drop does not celebrate the fulfillment of the purpose she sings, but, if it does refer to the Spectacle, it is the hidden menace, the alienating force of domination and the enveloping false reality that results. Or, we could see the drop as a sign that there is something to life other than the Spectacle. In other words, it could represent the underlying truth of life and being, empowered by the Dionysian life-force. We are living beings, and underlying the Spectacle is always that reality of who we truly are–the pure and true, and human, reality struggling to express itself.
Tags: Alienation, Consumerism, Dev, Dionysus, Dubstep, Exploitation, Guy Debord, Humanism, imax theatres, Media, Modern World, Music, New Age, Post-Modernism, Social Change, society of the spectacle, spirituality, Static Revenger
(This is Part 3 of a series of 4 on the subject I call: Kαιρός—Metamorphosis of the Gods.)
A lot of Christians would consider me a pagan. After spending 3 or 4 days up on the hill last year, without any food or water, and only a sacred pipe, and a boundary made up of tobacco ties to protect me, my Christian sister thought I must be possessed by evil spirits. My stepdaughter, misunderstanding my beliefs, warned me that it is wrong to worship animals, or trees, or whatever it is that I worship. I am not a new age weekend warrior, who tries out the latest spiritual fad until things get tough, and then moves to the next one. However, for a number of years I have followed traditions that were on this land long before white man came, and probably even before Moses led a small group of Hebrews out of Egypt.
But during the years I had previously spent living in Asia, I learned that no matter what one believes, culturally, they are still a part of the dominant religion of their culture. A Japanese person may claim to be a Christian or an atheist, but culturally, they will always be a Shinto-Buddhist, i.e. a part of the two dominant religious institutions of Japan (granted Shinto is more animistic spirituality than organized religion, but…). Having grown up in America, no matter what I do, I am still culturally a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Even if I was to profess atheism, I am still culturally Judeo-Christian. This makes all those idiot arguments about Christmas decorations on public property, well, pretty stupid and mundane.
Living in different parts of Asia, and here in America, I have also come to agree with the Quantum Physicist, Fred Alan Wolf, when he wrote that he believes there are local spirits of the land, but that is a deeper and different issue.
Since America is the center of modern Western Culture, and since, as part of that culture here in America, we cannot escape the culture of Judeo-Christianity, I wanted to touch a little further on this subject, again, from a Jungian and indigenous perspective.
(Before moving into the discussion though, I would like to make a point to Christians about my comments here. Please keep in mind that I am writing about Kαιρός (kairos)—Metamorphosis of the Gods. From your own perspective this is probably represented by the manifestation of the second coming. Consider the differences between the Old and New Testaments. The older one is represented by the philosophy of, ‘an eye for an eye.’ The newer one is, ‘Love thy brother.’ Isn’t it possible that we have reached that time, when this teaching of love thy brother has to be expanded upon? Thus we are at a point of Kαιρός. While I may sound critical of certain dogmatic points of the faith, I will never say that your beliefs are wrong. The points I make concern how I see changes occurring in this philosophy. There are many paths to the divine and the important thing is to find that one that is right for you. So, I ask of you, if I seem a little critical, don’t dismiss it, but see where it leaves you at the end).
There is a universal concept across all spiritual traditions, in all corners of the globe: The Tree of Life, or as it is also called, the World Tree, Celestial Axis, Axis Mundi, World Mountain, and so forth. In its most basic form it represents a tree whose roots lie in the lower world(s), which then passes through our world, universally the middle world, and rises up into the upper world(s). The World Tree is therefore a connection between all the worlds, and is a center point of the universe. Because it traverses all the worlds of the local cosmology, it is also a portal. It is through the World Tree that the divine enters into our world, and we enter into the world of the divine. In Central Asian tribes, the shaman literally climbs the world tree set up in the center of his yurt to heal or to perform the purpose for which he must go into the spirit world. As he does this, typically the shaman will describe what is happening to him in the spirit world to all present as he makes his way up and down the tree.
An interesting aspect of the World Tree is that it is universally connected to the serpent. In one corner of the Southern tip of South America, the World Tree is nothing more than a long snake. The caduceus, with its snakes coiling up a cross, which is the symbol of medicine today, was an ancient Greek representation of the World Tree. The Nordic World Tree, Yggdrasil, is circled around its roots by the World Serpent. In the Midwestern US is a very old petroglyph of a tree that stretches through the 3 worlds, and which a giant snake stretches diagonally across the tree. In the Western Pacific, where the snake has been long forgotten on many Maori Islands, it was replaced by the tail of a giant lizard which circles the World Tree. As we move East across the Pacific, and the snake becomes even more forgotten, it is replaced by an eel. In other cultures, the serpent can be replaced with a serpentine creature, such as the dragon, a lizard, or an alligator.
As the center of the universe, the tree in northern latitudes is connected to the North Star, in central latitudes where the pole star is not readily experienced, the World Tree is often associated with the Milky Way. In the tropics where gardening, and agriculture is very old, the World Tree is the source of all food.
The cave is another aspect of the World Tree. It too is a portal to the other side. The stupa and minaret are symbolic representations of the World Mountain, with the World Tree at its top, and the World Cave at its center. Temples typically symbolize the same thing with the inner most chambers beneath the tallest temple structures. The pyramids are representations of the World Mountain, with the burial chambers within the World Cave. In both Egypt and Central America, there are similar traditions that the pyramid represented the World Mountain as it first emerged from the primal sea. The ziggurat is another case of the World Mountain, and has a lot to do with why the people in the story of Babel felt that their tower could reach heaven (it didn’t have to actually reach heaven since as the celestial axis it already was a portal). We find the same symbolism of the World Mountain/Cave with the dolmens and menhirs which stretch clear across North Africa, Europe, and Asia, and some possible examples in the US. The labyrinth is another example of the World Cave, and it too exists in both the old and the new world.
The world tree is commonly portrayed as a tree, a pillar, a cross, a ladder, a sunbeam, and so forth. It is the center point of the Medicine Wheel, the swastika, and the spiral. It is symbolically connected to the fire at the center of the Mongolian and Siberian yurt, and the North American teepee. The same is true for the pit holding the hot stones at the center of the sweat lodge. The sacred pipe, or čanuŋpa (pronounced chanunpa), or what white people call the peace pipe, is a symbol of the World Tree as universal center, that combines the male (the stem) and the female (the bowl) which is actually an intimate aspect of the Tree. The čanuŋpa is also a portable World Tree. I believe the Egyptian Ankh hieroglyph (the symbol (or key) of life) is also the World Tree, and I can point out other hieroglyphs that back up my theory. This makes much more sense than the suggestion by some Egyptologists that it is a sandal strap.
But what I have often wondered about as very fascinating, is that the only case I am aware of where the World Tree was broken down into two trees, is in the Old Testament book, Genesis. In the Garden of Eden, the early Jewish writers broke the World Tree into the Tree of Knowledge, and the Tree of Life.
I have found that every religion has an older precedents behind it. The Jewish tradition has plenty of older symbolism going back to the older Goddess cults of Aster and Astarte. The Jewish traditions surrounding the blood sacrifice go back even into our Paleolithic ancestors. But I couldn’t figure out why they split the World Tree into two parts. I explored ideas of where the Egyptians seemed to hint to two celestial portals, for the path of the sun: points of sunrise and sunset. I even considered archeological finds of twin pillars in the Neolithic sites of the Goddess cultures that flourished in South Eastern Europe and Turkey.
But I finally realized that the reason for the twin trees was more basic than that. In my last post, The Burden of Western (and Modern) Man, I discussed the rise of the Group ethic at the dawn of agriculture (civilization), and the rise of the masculine. I discussed briefly on how these things are all evident in the story of the Garden of Eden.
While Adam and Eve were thought of as the first man and woman, the story tells of the dawn of agriculture, and the rise and fall of the feminine. Genesis then ends with man already living in a male-dominated planter society. Let me expand on this.
After the creation of Adam and Eve (Eve was made from the rib of Adam and therefore subservient to him—demonstrating male dominance. But Genesis is written in the past tense and therefore from a later male-dominated perspective, so lets ignore that for the moment) we find them living in an innocent and naïve state. They are without sin, and able to communicate directly with the animals and God.
This is an idealized picture of mankind as hunter-gatherer. The indigenous hunter-gatherer does not understand the secular and non-secular. Because they are surrounded by the divine, they see the divine in mundane things that planter and modern cultures do not. Examples such as the hunter gatherer tribes deep in the Amazon, demonstrate a satisfied and humble existence. Their desires and wants are not bothered by the materialism that has clouded the minds of members of civilization. They are more in tune with the subconscious (the path to the divine) and therefore have an understanding of direct communication with God. They communicate with nature and the animals directly at an archetypical level. And their shamans or medicine people are able to communicate at a more physical level to aid in their hunts. Their lives may not be perfect, but clearly they represent the ideal described in Adam and Eve’s naïve existence in the Garden.
But then Eve is tempted by the snake to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent on the Tree of Knowledge represents first the connection between the World Tree and the serpent. But it also represents the magic of the Goddess cults. Being that the Goddess cults were an earlier precedent to the spirituality of the early Hebrews, it is natural that they associated, for the most part, the serpent with the older Goddess cults. The serpent was an intricate part of the Goddess cults, being that it was chthonic (of the underworld, or within the earth) and had attributes suggestive of both male and female genitalia. In fact, in another Hebrew tradition where Adam had a first wife, Lilith, we see a stronger symbol of the male perspective of the Goddess cults. She was obstinate and therefore a bad wife, it was her that became the serpent, in fact, as Leviathan, she became the World Serpent.
So through the Magic of the Goddess (the serpent) Eve was tempted and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. In other words, she gained the knowledge of the Tree, which is carnal love or sexuality, and fertility. She gained the knowledge of creating life, through sex and planting—the knowledge of the Goddess. If men hunted, while women gathered, a typical social structure among hunter-gatherer cultures, it makes sense that it would be the women, who would have accidentally spilled seeds on the ground, only to later notice that they sprouted into new plants. In addition, it is the female that is the vessel through which a new life emerges, and therefore the Goddess who personifies the power of fertility. Fertility is intricately associated with sexuality, and sexuality is one of the constant aspects of the shadow through the bible.
In most of the Goddess cultures, property and other rights were passed through the woman. The Goddess was the all-powerful and had eternal life, while her consort, the God was mortal, like the cycle of vegetation (plant, grow, harvest, die). Only through the grace of the Goddess, was the God able to be reborn. Her living representative was also the Queen, and often times she too took on an annual consort. The harlot, the Bible’s personification of the evil of wanton sex (and one of the feminine personifications of the shadow), was the temple prostitute, and she too had a high status and performed an important service to the Goddess. No wonder Lilith, who would have dominated over Adam was deemed evil in the subsequent male-focused culture.
Briefly Eve held power over Adam, for she held knowledge that Adam did not. But the knowledge was, from the male perspective, evil, which is why Adam hesitated before attaining the same knowledge. This is also why it went against God’s commandment. The fact that Eve’s temptation and consumption of the fruit was evil, is recognition of the rise of the masculine and the rebellion against the feminine. If women controlled society and the evil of wanton sex was the result, then man had to take control, harlotry became evil, and women were controlled through matrimony (which translates to a life-binding contract over the matrix or womb. In other words, if the contract was broken, the womb could be broken too. By the way, you can guess what would be broken if you were to break the contract of a testimony).
From a Jungian standpoint, Adam clearly represents the ego. Adam tries to define and follow what is right. But he is led astray by the shadow (Eve, and the serpent). There is another, very male oriented, analogy here: If we consider Adam as the ego, or the key aspect of the male consciousness, then Eve is the anima, the inner female archetype of the male subconscious. Jung discovered that every male has an inner female (anima) and every female has an inner male (animus) as a key archetype within their subconscious. Here again is the rise of the conscious mind, versus the subconscious mind, and the rise of the masculine vs the feminine as I discussed in the previous post.
The Tree of Knowledge itself, represented the feminine aspect of the World Tree, because it held the knowledge of the feminine: carnal love or sexuality, and fertility.
After having consumed of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve had placed themselves into the realm of the planter. No longer could they exist in the Garden of the hunter-gatherer. They now had the knowledge to bring about new life, and that meant new responsibilities.
This could have been a good thing, but it was considered a sin. Adam & Eve had broken the Lord’s commandment and had to be removed from the Garden. The Tree of Life had to be taken away, and was guarded by flaming swords and cherubs. I believe that there were several factors that played in the rise of the masculine. First of all, after hundreds of thousands of years of hunting, and defending the family and tribe, it would be hard for the man to simply work the fields and abide peacefully in one place. Digs of early Goddess culture sites tend to validate the fact that they were largely peaceful settlements with very few weapons. But as these early villages grew larger and institutions developed to manage, control, and protect the bigger villages, which soon became cities and then city states, a military and police force would also have developed. As the military developed, inevitably there would be skirmishes with other city-states. Sooner or later the inherited male aggression within the collective subconscious would play out. Hundreds of thousands of years of history does not just disappear without a trace in the human psyche. It would be inevitable that the masculine would rise up, and eventually certain aspects of the feminine would be repressed into the shadow. Eventually this growing shadow would be projected onto the feminine-based cultures and their morals and traditions would then become evil. Consequently the female could take the blame for our being kicked out of the garden, where the male would have been free to hunt to his delight.
If you think about it though, man now had the knowledge to plant and create life, so obviously, the ancient Jewish writers rationalized (remember that the rise of the masculine meant that the masculine side of the psyche was predominant. Rationalism would be dominant over intuition), they no longer needed the knowledge afforded by that part of the World Tree. That fruit had been consumed. But they did not have power over death. In fact, the precedent at the time was that it was the Goddess who was immortal, while the God was mortal. Yahweh, in fact was the consort of Astarte/Astoreth/Asherah, and therefore it was part of this Goddess complex that was the source of his rebirth. But with the rise of the masculine, and the rise of Yahweh to the supreme position, he would therefore need to become immortal. But there was no such symbolic example of this like the old symbols of the Goddess (for example, father sky, like the vegetation, changed with the seasons, while Mother Earth remained forever constant).
So while the feminine aspect of the tree (the Tree of Knowledge) was already possessed by man, the masculine aspect of the tree (the Tree of Life) was taken away and had to be achieved. Therefore the Tree of Life represented all the ego ideals of perfection and goodness, based on the masculine perspective, which had to be reached by achieving perfection based on the persona of the ego-consciousness, or the ego-ideal.
On top of this duality of ego/shadow, good/evil, Tree of Life/Tree of Knowledge, masculine/feminine, conscious/subconscious, we must add the duality of perfection to achieve the ego ideal in order to win over death vs the carnal forces of fertility to create life, but which represented the breaking of God’s rules. An easier way to express this duality is the achievement of the ego-ideal (perfection)/inherited carnal vulgarity (imperfection).
So the Hebrews took away the Tree of Life—which is actually pretty strange. No one else lost the Tree of Life, nor did anyone else split it into two. The Tungus Shaman has his Tree of Life, or World Tree, and when needed it is placed right in the center hearth of his yurt. I have seen in an Igorot village in the Philippines a very prominent post, and at the top of this is the skull and horns of a water buffalo, a classic representation of the World Tree. When that horrible South East Asian tsunami struck earlier this decade, it was noted that very few animals, and no indigenous people were harmed. One indigenous tribe in Indonesia explained that when the, ‘World Tree starts shaking very hard, there will be a battle between the sky and the water over where the horizon should be,’ and by this they knew it was time to move to higher ground.
I have seen the World Tree at the center of the Lakota Sundance. I understand that it is also symbolically in the center of the inipi ceremony (the Lakota sweat lodge), just as it is in the center of the fire for the Mongol Shamans. The čanuŋpa (sacred pipe), is also a symbolic World Tree, for when it is filled with tobacco, its circular bowl represents all of the universe, i.e. it is the center of the universe. The smoke of the tobacco, just like any other form of the World Tree as portal, carries the prayers skyward, to the divine. And the čanuŋpa, like some other symbols of the world tree, blatantly retains the symbolism of the male and female.
Perhaps the problem was that Hebrews had lost control of their power over death. There must have been a deep significance in the death and rebirth of the male God in the older traditions. While the Goddess was immortal and never changing, the God’s vegetation cycle of life signified that man’s life in this realm is only a temporary stopping point, and with death, he must move to his next stopping point. If everything is sacred in the hunter-gatherer and early planter universe, than a God who is reborn, is made up of that same substance that the rest of the universe is. The animals die and are reborn, trees and plants die and are reborn, therefore man too, must also be reborn after death. And that is the purpose of the blood sacrifice, as it was physically practiced, and the natural blood sacrifice that made up the menstrual cycle (which was an obvious cosmological event, because it was tied to the lunar cycle). That is why there was a universal practice of covering the dead in ochre (the color of blood) in mankind’s early burials.
But with the rise of the masculine, and the simultaneous rise of rationalism, which shone bright as day, the Hebrew tribes must have questioned this. At the very least, it is easy to imagine that they would have questioned their own burial practices against the backdrop of the complex Egyptian rites that ensured a place in the afterlife for the extremely righteous.
So instead of the eternal life that was guaranteed in the Garden—the easy passage of the hunter-gatherer, after having committed the sin of eating the fruit (ego-shadow development) they now had to become worthy of such a great thing as a good afterlife. You had to achieve that ego-ideal.
The Christians believe that Jesus brought the Tree of Life back to earth, at least for all those that believe in him. He was born under an αστέρος (asteros, star) and left the earth on a σταυρός (stauros, cross). Notice the root form of star, for both words? That is not a coincidence. Some theologians try to downplay the symbolism of the cross, saying that it was merely a tool of capital punishment. But the significance is blatant—it is the axis Mundi, the World Tree. I mentioned earlier the significance of the star to the World Tree (which gives me some trouble because this is more significant just a little bit further north). Then consider that the place of the crucifixion is atop a hill whose name refers to the place where the skull of Adam was buried (the first World Man). Once again, as in the Igorot Villages, we have that classic symbolism of the axis mundi of the Sky Father—the World Tree with the skull, only it is reversed with the skull at its base in the earth.
The act of his crucifixion also provided a significant victory, at least for the Christian, of God over the Goddess (man over woman, conscious mind over anima, and perhaps a bit of further repression by the ego of the feminine into the shadow), for it was a case of the God (Jesus) sacrificing himself to himself (God), and resurrecting himself of himself. No Goddess was needed. (This was also seen in the Indo-European scripture, the Rig Veda, and in the Germanic story of Odin).
But this didn’t resolve the issue of the duality between the ego and the shadow. And death was not returned to being another step in the course of our lives. Jesus did phase out the blood sacrifice for much of Western Man, replacing it with communion (though earlier Gods who died and were reborn incorporated the same rite). But the institution still required achievement of that ego-ideal. If you slipped up or didn’t believe, then it was eternal damnation for you. And to get you to slip up was that ever present personification of evil, the Devil, who was thought to be more powerful than you.
But let’s return to the early Hebrew tribes and their early ego-shadow creation. Historically, we know that the Hebrew tribes were still goddess worshippers even after they would have left from the Garden. They were a Canaanite tribe, and the Canaanites worshipped the Goddess that fell into the complex of Asher (which includes Isis (Egyptian), Aphrodite (Greek) and Venus (Roman) as aspects of this same complex). By the time of Abraham, the male God was already toppling the dominance of the Goddess. But this was certainly not yet the exclusive belief of the Semitic peoples. And it wasn’t until much later with Moses that Yahweh became significant as the male God. Even as Moses came down from the hill with the first stone tablets, he found the Hebrews with the Golden Calf, and returning to their not-so-older traditions. But Moses taught them well with his Ten Commandments, and there would be no more of that hanky panky. In other words, much of those older traditions, and particularly the worship of the Goddess (and her other consorts such as Baal) was repressed into the shadow.
And what do you suppose happens next? These Hebrews go around attacking, killing, and destroying every Goddess (or Baal) village they come to. We could question whether or not they needed to go so far in smiting their enemies. Or we could ask, why doesn’t the ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy go the other way? Shouldn’t some retribution be given for all this killing? But the answer is very clear, they were fighting their own shadow. Many of these other enemies, like the Hebrews themselves, were part of the Canaanite tribes. It is easy to assume that they were almost all Semitic (unless they had a run in with the Indo-European Hittites). The point is their enemies all followed the same traditions that their own ancestors did, but having now repressed that into their own shadow, these older traditions became something they abhorred and were angered over. Being that the traditions now went against their morals and religious teachings, it probably embarrassed them, just as Adam and Eve had suddenly became embarrassed over their own nakedness. But no matter how many tribes and villages they destroyed, it would never be enough, because their real battles were within their own psyche.
This is the duality that Western, or Judeo-Christian-Islamic, culture has carried out of the Garden.
From this dualistic perspective, the only way to achieve final resolution is for a final massive battle of good over evil, which destroys most of creation (for there is much inherent evil in all of it, as the projected shadow runs deep), and good finally wins out. But this ultimately doesn’t achieve anything. If good (the ego) wins out over evil (the shadow) then all we have really done is to repress the shadow back into the shadows of the subconscious. Or in religious terms, the devil already is within the prison of hell, if he is immortal as all the other heavenly forms, then all we can do in the end is put him back into hell. The shadow can never be destroyed.
If the shadow is repressed, it will be projected again. The deeper we repress it, the more wild, uncontrollable and dangerous it will once again become. How can an earthly, or any other, paradise ever be achieved if the good-evil duality still exists.
Once again we are faced with the problem that in order to defuse the power of the shadow, it has to be accepted, understood, and integrated into the whole self. Then we realize that our psyche is not a duality of just the ego and the shadow, but a multiplicity of all the different archetypes and complexes, that need to be integrated into a holistic self.
And who would the Christian soldiers be fighting in this final conflict of good over evil, besides their projected shadow? The feminine has been all but wiped out by the Ancient masculine-based forces of the West. We stamped it out of Europe, the Indo-Europeans invaded Persia and the Indian subcontinent and oppressed the Goddess worshippers there (though in a major case of institutional manipulation of the masses, reintegrated the feminine back into the cosmology, possibly as an indoctrination technique of what were to become the lower castes within Hindu India), We then saw a rebellion there against the hypocrisy and dogma (pronounced dharma), resulting in Buddhism which moved across the rest of the Asian continent and added, at least somewhat, to the milder repression of the feminine there.
The most likely target of our projected shadow is the Muslims, which would also make sense of where this battle is supposed to occur. But really–are Muslims actually evil? They are also a descendant of Abraham. The Koran has many shared stories with the Bible and even talks of Moses and Jesus as a prophet who revealed God to man. What can they be other than a projected shadow?
And we must ask the same of the Muslims, some of whom take literally the concept of, ‘believe in Allah or die by the sword’ (and isn’t it fair to say that Allah simply means God in Arabic, just as Allat is Goddess?) So, really, are the Christians evil, or just a projected shadow?
But if our cosmology, or the spiritual structure of our universe, is a reflection of our psyche (this being the way we were created in God’s image, and there are similar indigenous ontological concepts), and that the Western psyche from the very start of Genesis and man’s fall from grace, became entrapped in this duality between the ego and the shadow, then perhaps for many Christians a final conflict is needed to start the resolution process. This is just as the mentally ill patient may not be able to heal until his or her internal conflicts are raised to the surface.
If I remember correctly, it is at the height of this final battle, that the divine intervenes. Perhaps at this point of dialectic crisis, the divine provides the revelation that enables a synthesis of the shadow and ego into the whole self (by synthesis, I do not mean that the shadow and ego are combined into a new form, but that the ego finally accepts, and integrates the shadow into the recognized self, and thereby defuses it).
If that is the case, it brings us right back to the problem I am writing about of the Kαιρός. If we do not change, we will find ourselves headed for a long bloody war, or nature will take it upon itself to destroy us. From the Judeo-Christian perspective then, we have 3 possibilities:
- This Western duality is resolved through a bloody horrible conflict of conflicts that is so bad it requires an unexpected irrational climax that brings about a new understanding of humanity and our relationship with nature and the universe.
- Christians, Jews, and Muslims through prayer, and the raising of awareness, break down the duality between the ego and shadow such that a final conflict is no longer necessary to resolve this duality. An example of what I am talking about from a religious standpoint, the Christians and Jews would have to pray that Satan once again be reintegrated into God’s heavenly fold. Muslims, without the strong personification of the devil, but still a black and white contrasted shadow, would have to pray for all the nonbelievers to be reintegrated into the same heavenly fold.
- Another possibility is that the actual secular forces of objectivistic rationalism, combined with the propensity for diversity that technology brings forth, may have actually deflated the power of the personified shadow, and is continuing to break down this Western duality, simply through the evolution of society. In today’s world you have quite a few people who do not believe in God, but you have many more people who do not believe in the Devil. Many people are turning to non-Western religion, and even indigenous spirituality is having a comeback. If society has deflated enough of the power of the old Western duality, then again such a final battle is no longer necessary. Though this alone does not save the environment and the issue of dwindling resources.
This is a good argument for Process Theology, the concept that God changes as our perception of God changes (I personally think that the validity of Process Theology, goes only as far as the higher dimension of human mind, which from the 3-dimensional perspective of physical reality, is still a higher dimension and of the spirit. But I would argue that the divine itself, The Great Mystery, is of a still higher dimension and is the ultimate constant of the universe. But that is my opinion.).
If you are a fundamentalist Christian, you may think that the only option for man is the first one. I suspect that you would have trouble with the second one, but, there is the teaching after all, of ‘love thy enemy as thyself.’ Or is that ‘neighbor?’ Either way, in terms of shadow projection, it can all become the same.
But some of the more liberal Christians may be able to understand option 3 as a possibility. There are Christians who have trouble with the Book of Revelations and other doomsday predictions. This was a significant part of my own break from the Christian religion. The church I grew up in didn’t focus on this, so I didn’t really encounter it until I was 10 or 11. At that age, it was some pretty scary stuff, and to me it had a very sinister feeling about it. As I grew a bit older I felt very strongly that a God of unconditional love could never do such a thing.
The book of Revelations has always been a problem for theologians. Its symbolism was better understood by the people at the time it was written. In fact, it was written in response to political issues of that time. It was believed back then that it would happen within their lifetimes.
Then there is the issue of all the intense symbolism. The problem with myth and prophecy is that it is related in terms of a spiritual reality, which often times is different from our physical reality (Whenever I use the term myth, I am not referring to fictional fairy tales. I define myth as a story or revelation that puts a spiritual reality into something we can understand within our physical world. The problem is that it can only be related to us through the language of the subconscious so it is filled with archetypical symbolism, and so forth). Therefore things do not always play out the way we would expect from a literal interpretation.
But what if there is a deeper purpose in this. What if the actual purpose is to create questions within the faithful. To create a time when people would really look at this and have trouble with it; to foster a time when more liberal interpretations would develop and in response more liberal branches of the church would appear; a time when some people would even break away and explore other traditions. In other words, what if man was meant to go through a period of time when the ego-shadow duality would define his existence, and the rise of objectivistic empiricism would lead man down a path where he would achieve great progress on his own, but where eventually the religious foundations of his being would break as that same rationalistic masculine-based consciousness would attack some of the very forces that gave it life.
For what purpose would this serve? The first purpose would be to ensure a faithful following during the years when this stark duality was needed to instill future progress. The Book of Revelations provides plenty of fuel to feed that fire of fear, which is one of the problems I have with the institutions of religion. But the rationalism that this male-based ontology creates would inevitably come back to attack it, and perhaps that was meant to one day break down the ego-shadow duality before it destroys all of us.
In this regard, The Book of Revelations would become the dire warning that indigenous prophecy is, i.e. It becomes a prophecy of what could happen if we continue down the same path. As people question, and re-examine, the duality starts to break down. Mankind would still have the choice over his future.
This would also serve to prepare man for this period of Kαιρός, or if you are Christian, the second coming. People who are so deeply stuck in the mentality of a struggle between good and evil, God and Devil, ego and shadow, would seem to have a much more difficult time to understand a mentality where the power of the shadow is defused by being integrated into the self in an act of self-realization.
Even more of the traditional lines of shadow projection seem to be breaking down. In the Middle East you see change occurring, as people are finally rising up against the old totalitarian regimes and the old ways and institutions they represented. As I write this, President Obama has suggested to Israel, peace talks that incorporate the 1967-Palestinian borders. It wasn’t long ago that the King of Jordan told the Daly Show that the whole crux of the Middle East issues lie on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Solve that, and the whole dynamic changes for the Arab countries.
Each person will have to answer on their own what the future will hold in this regard. But you can certainly see how deep this duality runs, created by splitting the World Tree into two, within Western civilization. To Christians perhaps, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ represents the return of the Tree of Life (though still riddled with duality). To many Jews, perhaps we have yet to achieve that Tree of Life. But to the indigenous people of the world, who still keep the World Tree in the center of their ceremony, the World Tree was never lost—and to that I say, Mitakuye oyasiŋ.*
* Mitakuye oyasiŋ (mitakuye Oyasin) is a proclamation or acknowledgement in Lakota that means, ‘All My Relatives.’ By relatives, it refers to, not just humans, but all of creation from Mother earth, and the rocks, stones, water, and dirt upon her, to the trees, and all of life on the planet, to the moon, the sun, and the stars. It acknowledges that all of creation is our living relatives, just as our own relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and so forth. This also implies that all of creation should be acknowledged, respected, and cared for, just as our own immediate family of relatives. Aho, Mitakuye oyasiŋ…