Saturday, September 27, 2008

Construction and the Glass Factory

I spent the last three days working on a public art project, as an unskilled assistant to the artist and craftsman who were making the sculpture -- a large concrete, steel, and stained glass arch spanning a bicycle path in Connellsville, PA. My duties consisted mostly of digging, lifting, fetching, and cleaning.

It was a memorable experience that left me with several strong impressions. One was the craftsman Jeff Dardozzi's mastery of materials such as wood, metal, and concrete. His comfort with the material world was inspiring and humbling. I have always felt a sense of helplessness when confronted by large material objects, having not the experience or knowledge of tools necessary to bend them to my design. There was no error that Jeff couldn't think of a way to rectify, using an oxyacetalene torch, hammer drill, cold chisel, or some other tool I'd never heard of.

I pondered the reasons for my somewhat partial engagement with this material world. Could it be connected to my long-standing resistance to joining the Project of Civilization? I am not pleased with my material ineptitude, nor do I find anything noble or spiritual about it. I do not advocate any kind of dematerialization as an alternative to civilization's attitude of domination. We can respect materials and use them as they wish to be used. I imagine that the concrete and steel liked the use we put them to. I think everybody, inanimate objects included, like to be a part of something beautiful. I think my ignorance of material skills is due to my having "thrown the baby out with the bathwater". I rejected the good with the bad, and I want to make friends with matter again.

Even my body reflects a rejection of materiality. I am extremely thin, with delicate bone structure and a very youthful appearance. It is as if I am not fully embodied, not solidly in this material world. I wonder if my body will change when I become more comfortable with materials. I hope to learn from Jeff and others, if they are willing to have someone around who is so unskilled. If I acquire even a tenth of his skills, I can fulfill my dream of building a simple house.

One of the high points of the trip was at the stained glass factory. I am always moved by industrial machinery. It is a miracle that human beings of mere flesh and blood could create such a thing. The giant furnaces, rolling equipment, and so on embody hundreds of generations of accumulated knowledge. For a Stone Age person, to create even a simple component like a steel rod would be an unattainable achievement. This glass factory, and the stained glass it makes, was nothing short of beautiful. The company founder put his entire life into creating it, even designing and building the kilns himself. He developed many new stained glass variations. I thought, as I have thought before in reflecting on various technological achievements, there is surely a place in the world for such a thing, such a factory. Surely an Age of Reunion must have room for something like this. The feeling I got there is, to me, sufficient answer to the primitivist ideologue who, citing the wreckage of civilization and culture, calls for their abandonment. The journey of Separation has not been in vain. In my heart I KNOW that there is a way to separate the gift of technology and culture from the curse.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Brotherhood

In the past week I have completed another, somewhat desultory reading of Orwell's 1984. I have read this book at least six times, and each time I get something new from it. Besides, I think Orwell is a master of English prose, and I hope to absorb something of his direct, transparent style. If you have not read this book, be forewarned that the following remarks contain spoilers that will muffle its full impact. They are not an essay, but rather a partial sketch of a much longer piece that will take me several weeks to write.

Today the following passage leapt out at me. O'Brien is speaking as he "recruits" Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood, the underground resistance to the Party:

You have imagined, probably, a huge underworld of conspirators, meeting secretly in cellars, scribbling messages on walls, recognizing one another by code words or special movements of the hand. Nothing of the kind exists. The members of the Brotherhood have no way of recognizing one another, and it is impossible for any one member to be aware of the identity of more than a very few others.... [It] is not an organization in the ordinary sense. Nothing holds it together except an idea which is indestructible. You will never have anything to sustain you except the idea. You will get no comradeship and no encouragement. When finally you are caught, you will get no help.... You will have to get used to living without results and without hope. You will work for a while, you will be caught, you will confess, and then you will die. Those are the only results that you will ever see. There is no possibility that any perceptible change will happen within our own lifetime. We are the dead. Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that future may be, there is no knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little. We cannot act collectively. We can only spread our knowledge outwards from individual to individual, generation after generation. In the face of the Thought Police, there is no other way.

Later on, in the dungeons of the Ministry of Love, he asks his torturer O'Brien if the Brotherhood really exists. "That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live, it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind."

I was struck by the similarity to O'Brien's description of the Brotherhood to my own life-work and that of millions like me, silent, hopeless revolutionaries going back to the dawn of civilization. Even though the Brotherhood O'Brien claimed to represent turned out to be a counterfeit, Orwell very significantly left the existence of a genuine Brotherhood an open question. Could it be that O'Brien was describing something real? Real in the milieu of the novel, and real in our world as well?

Could you and I be members of this Brotherhood (and Sisterhood), without even knowing it?

Sometimes I read about someone long-dead, or hear or meet someone still living, who inspires in me the feeling, "This person is my ally." I imagine we are both part of a vast, unconscious sodality, dedicated to a goal so distant and so impossibly beautiful that we cannot describe it, cannot even see it clearly except for a brief glimpse granted only on very rare occasions and purely by grace. Yet even a single brief glimpse is enough to redirect our lives toward its fulfillment, so great is its beauty. Even if we forget what we have seen and deny, with our conscious intellect, its very existence, still its possibility tugs at our lives and draws us into the Brotherhood.

In order to better understand this feeling, let us examine the metaphorical structure of 1984 and decode what Big Brother and the Party represent. I won't claim that the interpretation I will offer is what Orwell intended. Perhaps it was; perhaps it is something he unconsciously channeled into his work; perhaps it is my own fabrication. No matter. I see Big Brother and the Party as representing the age-old program of control; not the temporary ascendancy of any particular political regime, but the ongoing migration of all that is spontaneous, unowned, unregulated, and undefined into the realm of the numbered, the managed, the controlled.

On the psychological level, Big Brother represents the internalization of this Ascent of Civilization. "Big Brother is watching," say the slogans in 1984. Big Brother, the internalized eye of civilization, is watching you, the human being, all the time. Through his agents the Thought Police, he constantly monitors everything you think, say, and do for any deviation from orthodoxy. What is orthodoxy? Orthodoxy means "being good".

Externally, if we don't conform to the program of ascent, the human mastery of the world and its conversion into money and property; if we don't provide service to the Machine in some way, then we suffer the same fate as Winston. Oh, we are not (usually) subjected to physical imprisonment and torture. We are only deprived of freedom and the means to survive. We are subject to spiritual abuse, a relentless interrogation designed to crumble our structures of resistance. Our gifts are rejected, our work seen as valueless and foolish, our lives as a series of naive, foolish blunders. The world deems us incompetent, insane, or irresponsible for our refusal to go along with a program we know intuitively is wrong.

We know it intuitively, but most of us have difficulty articulating it in a way that is persuasive to ourselves, let alone others. Under interrogation, Winston was frustrated at every turn by O'Brien's superior intellect, which demolished his every argument with ease. Look at the forces arrayed against you. All those brilliant minds: scientists, doctors, entire think tanks, analysts, psychologists, writers, and all the rich and powerful who would either directly with their words label you a malcontent, or indirectly by their participation imply it. Who are you to think that you are right and they are wrong?

Let us assume that everything that O'Brien said about the Brotherhood were true. You are a member solely by virtue of your subscription to an "idea which is indestructible." The idea is freedom, truth, and love. I call it "the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible." People have been working for it for millennia, without hope and without seeing any perceptible change except for the worse. Yet their work was not without effect. It created a swelling undercurrent that is emerging in our time to overthrow the Party and usher in the More Beautiful World. O'Brien's description has been true for millennia but it is not true now, because now IS the future, now IS "a thousand years". The thankless efforts of the Brotherhood are bearing fruit in our time.

"position" available

I saw this on a billboard today (without the quotes) and I thought about the implications of that word, "position", as used to mean a job. All the time I notice how our language reinforces the assumptions of the Machine, of the Technological Program, the Scientific Program, and the deeper axioms of self underlying them.

A position implies a structure that defines that position. It is already waiting, empty for now, for somebody to "fill" it. When you fill it, then your work too is defined by that same structure that defines the position. It is preexisting, not something you create, nor something that grows in relation to you.

There will still be such a thing as employment, for a long time at least, as humanity enters into the Age of Reunion, but instead of defining a position that needs to be filled, employers will hire people they like, and let positions grow around those people. They will think in terms of needs, not job descriptions, and seek people to meet those needs. This might sound like a superficial semantic distinction, but it is really a different way of thinking. It puts the uniqueness of the human being first, rather than trying to fit the unique human being into a standardized role. It recognizes and welcomes that each addition to an organization changes the organization in unpredictable ways; it is open to growth and change and evolution and death.

If any of the above sounds like platitudes from business success books, that is because the intuitions of Reunion have been infiltrating our thinking for several decades now. In the 1920s or 30s it was very different -- all about conforming the man to the organization. However, people who try to apply these ideas to organizations even today meet terrific resistance, because the entire economy and society were created from Machine logic: standardization, mass production, uniformity, routine, regularity. Deep forces conspire to perpetuate the Machine, including that part of its ideology that is embedded in the language.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

current events

Someone asked me to discuss current events such as war, child abuse, etc. from the perspective of Ascent. I guess I could do this: I could show how each is a different manifestation of separation; how labels, categories, and stories distance us from other people and from nature, and thus allow us to treat them as an other. Our behavior is a result of our ideology, the ideology of the discrete and separate self in an objective universe. However, I think anyone who has carefully read the book can perform this analysis. You could also trace the same phenomena to money, to the conversion of nature and community and relationship into money.

The sense of self that I call Separation gives birth to a compulsion to control, related to the belief that there is no purpose to life except to survive, to maximize comfort and minimize risk. We see this in our medical system, our education system, our financial system, and in nations' foreign policy. Why oh why is "security" the highest priority? Obama said recently, "My top priority as President will be to keep Americans safe." I find that insulting. It implies that that is the will and top priority of the American people too. Even if it is true, it is still insulting. We humans are better than that. When is a candidate going to say, "My top priority will be to create a more beautiful world"?

It is impossible for politicians to make any meaningful changes when the operate from the same deep assumptions about self and world that have held sway for the last several millennia. The world we know today is the inevitable result of those assumptions. Real change will only result from a thorough revolution in the human sense of self; I call it a revolution in human beingness. I have made this point at length in AOH. It is time for me to move on I think.

Move on to what? Recently, aside from my occasional essays on Reality Sandwich and a couple other places, most of my work has been with individuals: conversations and correspondence. Another book is brewing as well. It may be fiction. In the meantime I will publish a collection of essays I've written over the past two years. Probably about half will be from Reality Sandwich.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Search

A friend just asked me: If the drive to search comes from within, are people who are happy or miserable, as the case may be, deep in UNreality land responsible for their failure to search or search hard enough or respond to awakening calls around them?

In a word, no. But the terms of the question make it unanswerable. The terms of the question smuggle in assumptions that are already false. The key word is "responsible".

"Responsible" implies that there is a standard of virtue, of goodness, and if you measure up to it then you are good, and if you don't, you are bad, and it is totally up to you. Some people do, and some people don't. Some people are responsible and some people are not. Those who are, are better than those who are not.

What we would like would be to congratulate ourselves for our spiritual attainments, for our consciousness, for our understanding. We want to approve of and love ourselves, and in this world of separation we need to have a reason. We cannot love and approve of ourselves unconditionally. In the Matrix essays I wrote that we cannot find what we are looking for through searching, yet it is the search that allows us to be found. So if someone has not been found, we can blame them, right? They just aren't searching hard enough. We are, and they are not. We are better than they are.

One of the commonest phrases of judgement is: "So-and-so could at least make an effort..." We stand in disdainful disapproval of the ignorance of others, thinking that we, in their shoes, would not be so ignorant, so apathetic, so irresponsible. This thought gives us license to approve of ourselves.

The truth is that all of us are, in one way or another, in Unreality Land. We are all sojourners on the walk into separation and back to reunion. Each of us explores a unique part of that territory. Some of those explorations take a very long time, requiring total immersion in a deep realm of what you call Unreality. We each spend exactly as much time there as necessary to complete the experience. When the experience is almost complete, we get restless. Its reality wears thin and we sense a larger realm awaiting us. This is when the Search begins. It does not and cannot begin before then. If you see some children having a game of make-believe, you don't pull them out of it before the game is finished.

If you are a crusader for truth, in whatever political, social, or psychological realm, by all means continue to broadcast your message. These days there are many restless people. Unreality Land is falling apart; it isn't coherent anymore. More and more people crave a new way of understanding things. There are many people searching: knowing the world they've accepted isn't quite right, not knowing what they are looking for but knowing it is there. But as you broadcast your truth, don't condemn those who just don't get it. It is not through any failing or inferiority that they aren't interested. They aren't supposed to get it. They are at a different phase of the cycle of growth, perhaps the phase of exploring and growing into a new realm. We don't rip a baby from the womb before it is ready (well, we do, but that's a separate issue!)

I am also NOT saying that those in "Unreality Land" are babies and we are more mature. The cycle of birth, growth, confinement, death, and birth repeats endlessly, within each biographical lifetime and beyond it, overlapping across many areas of life. Someone can be highly evolved in one area of consciousness and an ogre in another. But even this explanation can be misleading. It isn't that there are a given number of life subjects, as in school, and we progress or "evolve" upward in each of them. While there are some commonalities, essentially each of us has taken on a curriculum that is unique. You could even say that those most deeply immersed in unreality, in the world of separation, are the most heroic. They have explored the painful reaches of separation the most deeply, and have the longest road back. That takes courage.

When someone is ready to transition into truth, he will attract someone or something into his life to provide the necessary experience or information. Maybe that someone is you! A teacher or a healer is called, and the appropriate attitude is one of humble gratitude for being the agent of another person's self-teaching or self-healing. What you provide might not even be the "truth" in any absolute sense. It is merely something that a person needs right now to make a transition.

Let me give just one example. For some people I knew in high school, Marxism was the "truth" that brought them into an expanded reality. It brought them out of an inwardly focused, depressive rage into a broader, more encompassing understanding of the impersonal origins of the wrongness in the world. They grew and thrived, for a time, in the worldview of Marxism, until eventually it too grew confining. That is how it works: what was initially liberating eventually becomes limiting. The same happens quite often with cults, spiritual groups, religious groups, activist movements, and so on. We progress from to broader and broader understandings, staying in each world exactly as long as is necessary.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

you don't need to..

In working on my next book, Storyteller Consciousness, I have become increasingly aware of my own unconscious language patterns and what they reveal about my relationships and beliefs. First, I'll say a bit about this new book. It is about how to exercise that most fundamental means of human creativity: words. Ancient traditions associated a magical power to words; indeed, in Western religions it is through Word that God created the universe, while in Eastern religions the universe IS word. Om, the sound that generates all things, for example. Moreover, any leader exercises power through words. If George Bush starts World War Three, it will be because he commands it to start. He has the power to speak a war into existence. More prosaically, everything that Congress does is, on one level, nothing but generating a bunch of words. This book examines how to recover the power of word in an age where words seem increasingly ineffectual.

Like Ascent, the book has a personal and a social aspect. How can we create the world; how can we create our lives? Many authors have already pointed out the insidious effects of words like should, can't, and but. Their observations are the starting point of this work.

Somewhat naively, some people decide to stop using "should" or "but" or "try to" in hopes that it will magically lift them out of victim mentality. This shortcut will not usually work: it is entirely possible to stop using those words while continuing to entertain the thought-forms behind them, substituting euphemisms that to the unconscious mind actually mean should, but, and try. I see these words instead as symptoms. When we bring awareness to our habitual use of these words, it brings awareness as well to the attitudes and beliefs underlying them. Awareness, attention, is itself healing. When old hurts come to light, when they rise to the surface of consciousness, then healing has reached its final stage, just as certain deep diseases end up as skin eruptions before they are finally healed. Only when the underlying attitude is truly changing will a willful change of language patterns be effective.

If you mean should, say should. If you mean but, say but. If you really feel helpless, say can't. Don't lie to yourself. Let the words, though, shed light on your state of consciousness.

Today I was writing a letter to someone and noticed the phrase, "You don't need to tell me..." All of a sudden I realized the arrogance of telling someone what they need or do not need to do. How patronizing! Certainly there may be times when I actually do perceive another person's need, maybe better than they do, but this was not one of those times. The truth was not, "You don't need to." The truth was "I don't need you to." My reflexive use of "You don't need to..." reveals an unconscious habit of manipulation, of trying to control other people. Don't get me wrong -- probably no one who knows me would say I'm a particularly controlling person -- but I am like all of us inculcated with the habits of civilization. Today, however, I am no longer comfortable telling people what they need, especially when I don't know.

I went on to ruminate on how often I hear the phrase "You need to..." especially directed at children. Many parents use this phrasing as their primary way to deliver a threat. "You need to put that down and come inside right now! One, two..." I think this sows confusion in children. It says that needs come from outside themselves, and desensitizes them to their own needs. It also stymies the development of their own internal authority.

I think it is much better to speak the truth to children. The truth could be, "I need you to put that down and come inside right now." It could be, "I am feeling very impatient," or, "I'm really getting angry." At least then, the truth comes out that it is not the child's needs at all that are being served by coming in right now, it is the parent's needs. Sometimes we believe that as parents, we are supposed to always put the child's needs first, and so we pretend to be doing so even when we are not. We do the same in a relationship. It is part of the self-denial that goes along with the War Against the Self whose origins I describe in my books.

It is time to stop pretending and to stop denying ourselves. As I shake off the Age of Separation, I become more comfortable with my own needs, and less prone to projecting them onto other people in order to validate them. This naturally happens as I become more comfortable with my own self, which is not the isolated, disconnected self of Descartes, but interwoven with all the other selfs around me, because I see then that my truest needs are not in opposition to the needs of our planet.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I'm back after a few hectic days. Recently I've had several successes using herbs for healing. I've dabbled in herbs for many years now, but until recently most (not all) of my experiences were along the lines of "Well, that might have helped... I think that worked..." That's not good enough for me, if someone is putting their health in my hands. I need to KNOW they work.

Thinking back over the times they have and have not worked dramatically, I noticed a pattern. Generally speaking, the herbs that work for me are those I've been personally introduced to, mostly by my herbal mentor, Jennifer Tucker. Inspired by my recent successes, I went to visit her last week to be introduced and reintroduced to some more. At some point, sometimes after a single introduction, sometimes after more than one, the herb sort of "crystallizes" in me. I can recognize it at a distance and I have a feel for its personality and a sense of at least one way it can be used. I understand it -- not all of it, but an aspect of it.

It is like getting to know a friend. When someone is no longer an acquaintance but a real friend, you know that person -- again, not all of him, but some important essence of him.

Who are you more likely to help: your friends, or a total stranger? Your friends, of course. The same is true for herbs. The ones that are my friends are much more likely to help me. Just knowing an herb from books is not enough. It would be like expecting a celebrity to be friendly and helpful to you because you've read so much about her and seen all her movies.

Sometimes, of course, we do help strangers. Herbs you look up in books do work sometimes. But I am not that kind of herbalist. I use herbs that I grow or gather myself, or are gathered by a friend. I don't want to live in an anonymous world. I best learn about an herb by hearing stories about: not "This herb is used for X, Y, and Z," but anecdotes about how someone has used it before, the person she used it on, etc. I especially like Matthew Wood's stories and descriptions of the personality and signature of the plant.

A rational explanation for my success only with plants that are my friends is: obviously, I know them better so I know when to use them. True, but there is more to it than that. I believe that the same herb for the same condition works better after it has become my friend than before. I think it works better only after it has given me its friendship and permission to use it.

I was ecstatic after my walk with Jennifer last week, because I made some new friends and deepened some existing friendships. We repeatedly found St. John's Wort, which I had been acquainted with before, but this time I felt that crystallization, that connection, and now it is my friend. A number of others too: Figwort, Wild Bergamot, Self-Heal, White Vervain. I feel more whole the more new friends I meet; each connects me to lost aspects of myself and to the richness of being that is our birthright, that we all sense and long for. We lament its loss and strive toward wholeness. It is natural to me then, for plants to help recover it.