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.