Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Aristotle's Secret

Those of my readers who have looked on from a distance as a large car wreck took place have some idea of my state of mind over the last week. Each of the three high-stakes poker games I mentioned in last week’s post—the European financial mess, the evolution (or devolution) of Occupy Wall Street, and the seismic shifts in world politics driven by the rise of China—have continued along trajectories that are pretty much guaranteed to end messily.

In Europe, the spotlight has shifted from Greece to Italy as investors around the world bail out of Italian government bonds, driving interest rates above the 7% threshold that, by general consent, separates investments from junk. There’s a new Italian government, and a new Greek government, and no doubt there will be new governments in other countries before long, but since nobody is willing to do the one thing that will fix the problem—that is, admit that debts that can’t be paid will, in fact, not be paid, and allow the banks that unwisely lent money to deadbeat nations to go under, as capitalist economic theory says they should—changing governments won’t change anything significant. I wish more people remembered what happened the last time European governments put allegiance to a global financial regime ahead of the needs of their own people; that was in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, for those who need a reminder. We’ll talk more about that down the road a bit.

On this side of the water, the Occupy Wall Street protest and its equivalents in other American cities seem to have peaked for now, and the authorities have responded predictably by wading in with pepper spray and billy clubs. We’re still early in this particular game, though, far too early for either side to have a shot at winning or losing. Whether or not the protesters retain a token presence in urban centers over the winter, the coming of warm weather, the continuing decline of the American economy, and the public embarrassment of an upcoming presidential campaign in which nobody’s willing to talk about any of the real issues, will bring the protest kettle back to a steady boil in the new year.

China’s emergence as the next superpower, finally, touched off a flurry of undiplomatic sniping. Obama, scrambling once again to shore up his fading reelection prospects, tried to talk tough about Chinese monetary policy at an international meeting, demanding that China "play by the rules." The Chinese retorted tartly that they were quite willing to play by rules that were decided on fairly by all parties, but submitting to a set of rules the United States established to shore up its own interests to everyone else’s disadvantage did not interest them. Across a wide range of issues, from trade policy to saber-rattling over Iran, China continues to carve out a position diametrically opposed to US interests in the face of increasingly ineffectual US opposition. How that will play out in the long run is a very good question, and will probably determine a great deal of the way that the 21st century plays out.

All this, and the twilight of American empire that gives it its context and importance, will be central to a series of posts I plan on beginning here in the not too distant future. In the meantime, though, there are a few more points about magic I want to discuss, and weave back into the discussion of Green Wizardry that has guided this blog for almost a year and a half now.

The elements of magical philosophy I’ve covered in recent posts here on The Archdruid Report aren’t simply an odd fit for a discussion on peak oil; they also contradict some of the most basic habits of contemporary thought. Thus it’s come as a pleasant surprise to see how many of my readers have been able to keep up with the discussion, and even to anticipate the issues to be raised in the next post. My post two weeks ago, A Choice of Contemplations, was no exception; several commenters thought about the principle that "what you contemplate, you imitate," noted that a great many people in the peak oil movement spend a great deal of time contemplating worst case scenarios, and worried aloud that this habit might conceivably help bring those worst case scenarios about.

To some extent, that concern is based on a misunderstanding I’ve addressed already. Just as contemplating a toaster oven may make you imitate a toaster oven, but it won’t make one magically appear on your kitchen counter, contemplating a global disaster won’t necessarily make global disaster more likely—though it’s fair to note that it may make you imitate the behavior that you believe is going to cause global disaster, if your contemplations focus on that behavior intensely enough. This last point is a real issue, not only in the peak oil scene, but all through the spectrum of movements that have risen in response to industrial society’s failure to deal with its dependence on the planet it plunders so recklessly: far too many people in these movements devote more attention to what they oppose than to what they value.

Sometimes this gets taken to a familiar and embarrassing extreme. I suspect all of us have met people who are fixated on the belief that some particular set of bad people are personally and malevolently responsible for whatever grievances they happen to feel most acutely. Talk to them about anything, and pretty quickly the conversation will come around to the badness of the bad people and the bad things they’re doing, whoever and whatever happen to be the object of their obsessions. Wind them up and get them going, in fact, and quite often it all starts to sound weirdly like an infatuated teenager talking about the girl of his dreams. From a psychological standpoint, of course, this is exactly what’s going on; the actions of the putative villains, like the charms of the girl, have become an inkblot onto which wholly internal psychological needs and emotions are projected.

Still, it’s not necessary to go to this extreme to get caught up in contemplation of what you don’t want to imitate. There are doubtless plenty of reasons why so many people in the climate change movement never got around to accepting the sharp reductions in their personal carbon footprints that they wanted to impose on everyone else, but I’ve long suspected that too much contemplation of what they thought they were fighting was one of them. There were some people in that movement who tried to sketch out visions of a low-carbon future that was more interesting and more appealing than the present, but by and large the movement presented the world with a choice between a continuation of business as usual by low-carbon means, on the one hand, and planetary dieoff on the other. The ineffective but familiar strategy of trying to get people to change by scaring the bejesus out of them—sinners in the hands of an angry Gaia!—took over from there, preaching vehemently about greedy polluters ravaging the Earth in an orgy of conspicuous consumption. The result was to make this image so powerful that a great many people in the climate change movement were drawn into contemplating it, and thus imitating it.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this trap. The most obvious, and most basic, is to go out of your way to spend more time contemplating what you value than what you oppose. It’s not necessary to have a comprehensive plan for a better world already in mind, since the levels of your brain and nervous system that respond to contemplation with imitation don’t need abstract plans, and can’t really use them. What they need are good clear images that express the values you want to cultivate. That’s why advertising has so little conceptual content and so many emotionally compelling images, for example; the thaumaturgists of Madison Avenue know perfectly well what they’re doing—which is one of the many good reasons why you should scrap your TV sooner rather than later. The same method works as well when you choose the images, instead of letting big corporations choose them for you.

There’s a step beyond this, one that combines several of the principles we’ve discussed here already, but the best way to make sense of this further step involves a detour involving ancient Greece, modern California, and one of the more interesting figures in 20th-century occultism, the Austrian philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner.

Steiner was an oddity in the occult community of his time, a genuine scholar—he’s the guy who edited the standard edition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s scientific works—whose visionary experiences led him first into a variety of early 20th century occult circles and then to the creation of his own highly original teachings. The movement he founded, Anthroposophy, was one of the options I seriously considered, back in the day when I was first looking for a source of occult training. That didn’t turn out to be the path I chose, but even so, Steiner’s work on biodynamic agriculture has had a lot of influence on my own gardening methods, and if I’d had children, it’s a good bet that they would have gone to a school that used the Waldorf system of education that Steiner founded.

His particular system of occult (or, as his followers like to say, "spiritual-scientific") teachings covers a lot of ground, enough to fill a couple of good-sized bookshelves, and—as the examples just mentioned suggest—strays fairly regularly into territory, such as gardening and education, that aren’t normally associated with the occult. One core theme of his teaching, though, has a direct bearing on what we’re discussing here. Steiner’s work drew extensively on central European traditions of occult Christianity, but his Christianity differs from the standard version in an intriguing way. Most varieties of Christianity map the moral dimension of existence onto a binary spectrum extending from God to Satan. Steiner argued instead that there were two powers of evil—he called them Ahriman and Lucifer respectively—who were as opposed to each other as both were to the powers of good, represented in this age of the world by the Archangel Michael.

While that redefinition came out of Steiner’s own visionary experiences, he was following the lead of one of the towering minds of the Western tradition, the ancient Greek polymath Aristotle. In the Nicomachean Ethics, arguably the most influential work on the philosophy of ethics ever penned, Aristotle argued that any given virtue was not the opposite of one vice but the midpoint between two. Courage, he pointed out, was opposed to cowardice, but it was equally opposed to the sort of rash stupidity that ignores the existence of danger; real generosity is no more compatible with greed than with spendthrift wastefulness, and so on through the catalog of the virtues. For most of two thousand years, Christian philosophers have coped uneasily with the mismatch between Aristotle’s ethical insights and the mythic imagery of their own faith; Steiner found what is certainly one of the more thoughtful ways through the tangle.

Ahriman and Lucifer—well, those of my readers who have been to California’s two most famous cities already know them well enough to pick them out in a perp walk. Los Angeles is as Ahrimanic a city as you’ll find this side of the underworld. Everyone there seems to be there exclusively for the purposes of getting rich, getting famous, getting laid, and getting stoned, not necessarily in that order. That’s the Ahrimanic end of evil—wallowing in material experience, the coarser the better, until you drown in it. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Luciferic capital of North America, San Francisco, where the reigning vice is the spiritual pride that sees oneself as too good for the world as it is, and turns every interaction into a display of one’s self-defined superiority to the rest of the cosmos. Weirdly, an identical polarity existed through much of the 19th century on the opposite side of the continent, between gaudily greedy New York City and holier-than-thou Boston; the prevalence of the pattern suggests that something in the American character, at least, is well described by Steiner’s theory.

According to the metaphor, there ought to be a place halfway in between where neither the Ahrimanic nor the Luciferic influence holds sway, and the good that is opposed by both these evils comes into its own. Unfortunately the large city that’s more or less midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is Fresno, which has as yet shown no sign of rising to its cosmic destiny, and Hartford, Connecticut—which is roughly halfway between Boston and New York—seems to have gotten through the 19th century without any particular gleam of archangelic radiance. Whether or not this says something worth noticing about America’s capacity to manifest its ideals, or simply about the fact that every metaphor sooner or later hits the point of diminishing returns, the concept central to Aristotle’s philosophy and Steiner’s vision—that it’s possible to run off the rails on either side of the track—is the thing I’m hoping to communicate here.

Apply that concept to the pervasive binaries that run through contemporary thinking about the future and some of the strategy that’s guided this blog since its inception may be a little more clear to my regular readers. When The Archdruid Report was launched five and a half years ago, the most common of those binaries was the insistence that the future of industrial society had to be either an endless trajectory of continued progress, on the one hand, or a sudden cataclysmic dieoff on the other. The experiment of consistently proposing a more plausible third option—the option of decline, which after all is what’s happened to every past civilization that’s overshot its resource base, as ours has—seems to have played some role in helping the peak oil scene get past that fixation.

The same principle has other uses, though. Let’s say you’re faced with a status quo that is obviously problematic and headed for trouble, and you want to envision an alternative. Even among thoughtful people these days, it’s all too common to meet this sort of situation by imagining the opposite of the status quo as your alternative, and assuming that since the status quo is bad, the opposite must be good. There are some obvious problems with this sort of thinking, and some that may not be so obvious; we’ll be talking in another week or so about the way that binary opposition locks into place whatever it sets out to oppose, for example.

Put Aristotle’s and Steiner’s logic to work, though, and you have a far more useful tool. Take the status quo, and then imagine an opposite that’s just as bad as the status quo, but for the opposite reasons. That makes you think about just what it is about the status quo that’s problematic, to begin with; once you’ve identified the problems, it challenges you to consider the downside of going to the opposite extremes; and once you’ve identified the spectrum of possibilities, it leads you to explore many points along that spectrum, in search of the range of options that offer the most benefits and the fewest drawbacks. It’s far less simple—or simplistic—than going to the opposite extreme; it also works better in the real world, where hard binary oppositions are a good deal less common than muddily complex issues in which moderation is inevitably a better strategy than extremism.

Finally, the same logic can be applied to the problem I raised earlier—the risks run in contemplating something you don’t want to imitate. If you’re going to have to pay attention to something you don’t want to mirror in your own life, figure out what the equally destructive opposite to that thing would be, and put some attention into that, too. If you’ve chosen your opposite precisely enough, the two will cancel each other out—you can’t imitate something and its exact opposite at the same time—and the positive alternative halfway between the two, the thing you want to imitate and that you should also be contemplating, trumps both the negatives.

Imitating the status quo, for example, is not a good idea; there are plenty of reasons for that, some of which we’ll be discussing down the road a bit, but the dubious value of copying the mores of a society that in practice treats shopping for products as the highest reach of human potential will probably be evident to most of my readers. What defines the modern industrial world, from this perspective, is a mode of life dominated by absurd material extravagance. What’s the opposite of that? A mode of life dominated by bitter material insufficiency—that is to say, the kind of society we may yet end up with, if the delusions of infinite material growth continue to guide our collective policy for too much longer: a society in which early death by starvation, exposure, and treatable disease is the fate of most people, because the resources that might have prevented that outcome were squandered on the senseless wastefulness of previous decades.

Between these two extremes, in turn, quite a range of potentially viable midpoints can be found, and of course that’s part of the point; a binary analysis allows for only two options, a ternary analysis for an infinite number between the far ends of a spectrum. Still, the options that are viable all share certain basic elements in common. First of all, they start from the realization that the material resources that support human life are finite, and can be exhausted if they’re used too greedily or treated too cavalierly. They recognize that too much is as problematic as not enough, that "longages" can be as destructive as shortages. Given the current and continuing trajectory of contemporary industrial civilization, they take it as a given that most resources are going to be in much shorter supply in the years to come, that collective institutions such as governments and markets—which are geared to the fantasy of perpetual growth—are unlikely to take useful steps until it’s too late to do much, and that individual action focused on learning to get by with much less is therefore essential to any viable path to the future.

That is to say, they share certain important things in common with the Green Wizardry we’ve been discussing here over the last year and a half. In the weeks to come, we’ll bring both the discussions involved in this last point—the exploration of Green Wizardry and that of magic—full circle.

136 comments: said...

A really wonderful post, JMG, and one that I, coincidentally, quite needed to read this week. As someone who has been somewhat involved in and an attentive follower of the OWS movement, I've found myself sniping at some non-supporting friends this week on Facebook. And I was realizing last night that, aside from obviously needing to spend a hell of a lot less time on Facebook (why am I on that thing, anyway?) I also need to be easing away from trapping myself in spirals of anger and frustration. Reading your post, I have to feel that those emotions have stemmed at least partly from slipping into binary thinking and boiling down my pro-OWS sentiments and others' anti-OWS sentiments into thoughts of good and evil.

At such times, I often think of Wendell Berry, whose writings have quite influenced and resonated with me and whom I think often strikes a nice balance between liberal and conservative, progressive and libertarian. He seems simply to have a very well-rounded and coherent world view. It's one I often, but not always, agree with, but it's something much deeper and more whole than the majority of world views I encounter, including my own. That intrigues me and leaves me wanting to emulate it (in its depth, if not always in its exact specifics) whenever I read him. (And I am just now thinking, I suppose it would make sense that your own point of emulating that which you are thinking about is part of the intoxicating attraction of a well-written argument, since as you read it, you are immersed completely in that argument. Perhaps that's also why when I read David Foster Wallace, I start writing like him. [Or writing in a poor imitation of him, anyway.])

Or, to play devil's advocate with myself, could it be simply that my own internal preoccupation last night and today with questioning my own behavior and thinking I need to spend less time obsessing on the internet led me to slot your own writing into that mindframe, thus reflecting the point in your eighth paragraph? Perhaps!

Either way, the post has proven helpful. Less time on the internet, MUCH less time on Facebook, more time outside in the world, in the rain, in the trees, near the river, on the farm. Less time arguing, more time writing, more time pondering what I want my life and the world to be and not being angry about what I think it is.


Larry said...

I really enjoy your writing, this week's is great, though I particularly enjoyed reading your thoughts last week on the peak oil conference. Although the Oil Drum has posted a couple write ups of the conference, I don't think they've referenced yours, which is the best.

I stumbled upon an audio book recently which I think your readers would enjoy and which indirectly deals with some of the same issues -- Freedom From Fear by David Kennedy, a Pulitzer prize winner which is a history of the US from 1929 to 1945. Apparently Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt were dealing with the same issues that the federal government is dealing with today -- how to rescue the banking system, inflation versus hard money, deficit spending versus a balanced budget, international focus versus purely a national focus. Just like now, they were none too successful at solving the problems of the day.

From this book, though, one gets the sense that President Roosevelt was pretty good at envisioning and steering towards a cheery course between the various extremes, which undoubtedly contributed to his ultimate success.

Jeff Z said...

That's quite a lot to contemplate in one post. Ahriman and Lucifer? I've had a similar thought about the west and east coasts, with the virtuous midwest falling in between.

Maybe the politics of the current midwest are showing it to be anything but virtuous. I live in the state that has provided the world with Michelle Bachmann. Not as virtuous a place as I had previously thought.

But I appreciate your attention to the value of the grey area between the poles, and to the reflection on the fact that people tend to imitate what they contemplate. There's a lot of value in contemplation of the positive to be had here are now, and envisioning the future as it could be, as well as taking concrete action to make it happen, rather than holding signs and screaming at 'the other'.

As much as I appreciate Occupy Wall Street for shining a light on the corruption in the financial industry and government, I want to see work continue in a positive vein- not positive in a happy smiley way, but positive in the sense that it's working to create something, versus point to the decay which is becoming more and more obvious.

Permit me to pimp my own blog for a moment, but I talk about the positive aspects of the urban heat island this week- yes- an unfortunate effect of urbanization and too many parking lots- but something that is also beneficial to gardeners in northern urban areas. Like global warming, it's happening and tragic in some ways, but there is also a silver lining. Humans, like roaches, can adapt to most any situation.
Please read it at:

Ruben said...

"it’s possible to run off the rails on either side of the track"


John Michael Greer said...

Joel, glad to hear that this week's post was of use! It's crucial to pay attention to your own emotional states in this work -- among many other things, the more unexamined emotional energy you have caught up in politics or the like, the easier it is for thaumaturgy to manipulate you. It's part of choosing what the inside of your own head is going to be filled with!

Larry, thanks for the recommendation. There's a huge amount to be learned from the Great Depression that's relevant to today; I hope to get into that in some detail down the road a bit.

Jeff, I think the midwest is more of the Fresno of the United States -- it's where the powers of good should manifest, but aren't. I wish that were a joke. Thanks for the link!

Greg Reynolds @ Riverbend said...


Another very timely posting. I'm trying to find some balance in small scale farming, making a living, and a semblance of a normal life.

It is very helpful to be going 'Up North' to discuss and think about the future with some of this week's ideas in mind.

Particularly helpful are the ideas to devote more attention to what you value, virtue is the midpoint between opposite vices, and that it is possible to run off the rails on either side.

I think that we will start by taking the status quo and imagining an opposite that is just as bad, for opposite reasons.

Thanks for some tools to frame our thinking about the future.


ps. I'm hoping to get the roof for the long awaited root cellar poured Friday morning before we leave.

Stuart Long said...

When I remember, I try to practice "balance in all things." Aristotle's idea of virtue being located between two extremes sounds a bit like that.

Another way to escape bipolarity: When confronted by a tough either-or decision, try to think of a third choice. Almost always the effort brings to light more than three possibilities.

Just ran across Bernard Lietaer's efforts to create healthier forms of money, which gives me hope that human ingenuity may salvage some of the modern world.

John Wheeler said...

Moderation in everything, I say, including moderation!

Roy Smith said...

JMG, if I ever hope to get to the bottom of my reading list, I will have to stop reading your blog. It seems like every other post or so you pique my curiosity about yet another author or book that I haven't read yet.

Keep up the good work!

Zach said...

sinners in the hands of an angry Gaia!

Ha! That's very funny -- and on-target. Coincidentally, I already have on the way from the library the original from Jonathan Edwards. That and his Religious Affections are up next for my son's literature study, and I am looking forward to re-reading "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" myself.

As for China -- I saw this earlier today:

Obama insists US does not fear China

If our President is having to issue such denials as he is inking a deal with Australia to deploy American troops, then things must be going pear-shaped with the Chinese more than I realized.

We are clearly in for "interesting times."


(verification word: "chilly")

Red Neck Girl said...

Reading your post I suddenly had an epiphany over why I 'get it' with your blog. Besides my love of nature I've never had a mind or personality that fit the chosen model of our educational system. As a child in first grade on those comparison assignments I always saw similarities no one else did. 'Why shouldn't this fit with the other two? It does this like both of those!' I can also remember being excited at something I observed in nature and trying to tell classmates about how wonderful it was and being met with a near total lack of interest. Pretty much the same disinterest I encounter when I extol the sense and virtues of your blog!

I need to practice my changed thought patterns rigorously, to get over the issues left from my youthful education and at the same time not kick myself for realizing I could have done better if I'd just taken time out to think about it in breadth and depth, followed through on my insights instead of conforming to expected actions and patterns by society and family.

Having spent most of my life trying to get along in our current society with the old meme of perpetual growth I almost feel like I'm trying to break out of a chrysalis. It's hard work shedding the old husk to find out how well I can fly. I suppose I just need to focus on unfolding those wings, drying them out and finding out how well they'll flex before I try fluttering away. And I so want to fly in a natural world.

Wadulisi Tsalagi

markbc said...

I am very glad I found your blog recently, JMG. I have always been a centrist, not merely because it’s the path of least resistance, but because I firmly believe that all beliefs out there have merit – that’s why people believe in them. But, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and inevitably all beliefs come attached with negative baggage, the kind of stuff that you so eloquently explore in your blog. The world is so much more complex than any one belief system can possibly explain, and therefore the only real path to long term success as a species on this planet is going to be through understanding all of them, and picking out the good parts of each and discarding the bad.

I come from a science and engineering background and above everything else I consider myself to be a scientist. But to me science is not some letters behind your name, it is an approach to analyzing the world – the scientific method. And rather than discovering what the truth is, the SM works by finding what the truth isn’t. That’s how the hypothesis formulation process works, with the null hypothesis as the default fall-back option. The minute, literally, that I finally figured this out was one of the big eureka moments in my life, a turning point.

We use our brains (which are non-deterministic and therefore not explainable by scientific reductionism), and the inspiration our brains provide, to synthesize new ideas about how the world works, based on our understanding of our previously accumulated knowledge. Then we put these hypotheses to the world to scrutinize their validity. If real world observation does not disprove the hypothesis after a few years of harsh scrutiny, then it can be safely called a theory. But that scientific theory can never be considered to be Truth (if there was such a thing), because we are observers only; and observers cannot be separated from the observed. Modern science was invented by the clergy who needed a way to discover the glory of God’s creation, and the SM was how they did it. In this sense, the SM is not in any way incompatible with the “softer” sciences and arts, and spirituality, because science is not about discovering the truth; it is about discovering the non-truth. This makes it so much more liberating than most people understand. Rather than being constrained by what the truth is, science allows us to look outwards, with only the non-truth as handrails guiding us.

Anyways, that’s a long way to get around to saying that I appreciate how you bring together arts and science while not in any way shying away from the natural laws established by the SM. I think more scientists need to take this approach as well. As you mentioned before, militant atheists (I used to be one) are so much closer to their arch enemies than they understand, and in many ways they share the same underlying philosophies and world views – just flip around to the mirror image some of the interpretations of those views and voila... That’s why militant atheists tend to spring up in militant theistic environments. (Dawkins…)

I too am trying to avoid falling into the trap of mimicking what I am thinking. I carry a particularly acute animosity towards the field of economics which I am trying to temper in my writing, but I need to find some kind of balance between exposing the economic system for what it is and maintaining objectivity. In my blog I explain in great detail how energy moves through our economies and powers everything we do, and try to relate this to the monetary system and explain how it’s all falling apart.

PhysicsDoc said...

In Jung's Analytical Psychology,psychic energy can be described by archtypal figures which come in pairs (there's that binary thing again). One of these pairs is comprised of the conscious Ego and unconscious Shadow. The Shadow among other things is that which the person does not want to be, and tends to be repressed by the Ego. A balance of these two elements (the third middle ground?) is required for a healthy psyche. An inflated Ego for instance may project the Shadow onto others. This may be behind the observation that people often obsess on the evil others as the source of all the problems.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

JM, what is a deadbeat nation, exactly?

Not often that I'm moved to chide your work, but that phrase sounds like a mis-step. Deadbeat rulers, did you mean?

But still, a brilliant post. Thanks as ever for real education on the hoof about urgently-needed practical tools for the immediate future. I love this, for example:

"’s possible to run off the rails on either side of the track..."

As vivid a mnemonic for the crucial idea of ternary thinking as you could ask for!

Cheers JM!

SophieGale said...

According to the way I was educated maaaaany years ago, I wouldn't expect to find the midpoint between Ahriman and Lucifer actually on that line but as the third point of a triangle--ideally an equilateral triangle...but in the real world most likely skewed to one side or the other. (With lots of little triangle concepts nested inside.)

For folks in need of contemplation, may I recommend "My Life as a Turkey":

Karen said...

Dear Mr. Greer,

A very timely post indeed. I have often wondered when I have observed someone becoming shrill concerning their "position", whether it was really the position or their emotional attachment to the idea of the position that made them react so strongly. Often this would occur when a valid question would be asked that opened up the possibility that there were other options besides their "position.

Avery said...

Your posts are such a breath of fresh air in an Internet community that's being increasingly seized by the quakes of faltering American politics. They reminds me of Michael Ende's demand to economists and writers to imagine utopia, to create positive fantasies about the future.

If contemplation is imitation, we'd certainly do well to imagine a world that's better than what's being created today.

GuRan said...

@markbc -

Take a look at Steven Keen's blog. His approach to economic analysis is I think worth a great deal of respect and a useful antidote to the "all economists are stupid" meme.

Cherokee Organics said...


Thankyou for the additional tools for the mental tool kit. I particularly enjoyed the practical explanation and will practice this tool. Very clever.

Do you think 2,500 US marines in Northern Australia make for a military base? Actually I believe it's only proposed that they spend 6 months of the year at an existing Australian base. I wouldn't be excited about the wet season in the Northern Territory either although plenty of people seem to be able to live there.

China's official response to US troops in Northern Australia

The dry season in the Northern Territory is however very pleasant.

To be honest I haven't seen much sabre rattling from the Chinese except for a bit of a dust up about some islands in the South China Sea. They can afford to wait. To me it appears - and I could be wrong - that the majority of the noise is coming from the US.

The problem with shipping your manufacturing overseas is that it locks you in to a dance with your manufacturing providers. We're there too and decline maybe will eventually turn the tide back, but who knows? The noise is more of the type where two roosters are butting heads without spilling blood. It's more about perception and ego.

PS: The gallows humor from last week has got me writing a new article!



Chris said...

I liked the thoughts about focussing on what one values, as opposed to what one merely vehemently rejects.

I'm often caught between these two paralells, waging a tugawar on my identity. There is what you want to believe and then there is simply what is. The more I find myself challenging what I believe, I realise the simple things I do need to align with my beliefs. Otherwise it does become a spiral of never ending uncertainty.

To truly know one's self is a powerful exercise, but little encouraged in binary cultures. There seems to be the oppostie paralells of believe or don't believe (pick your tribe of counsel) but certainly there's no room for flagarant re-interpretation.

No place is given to learning, which is why you problably highlighted Steiner's approach to development. In our modern culture you're either born an academic or you're ill informed. There is no realm where creative (often spontaneous) ideas are explored as a basis for understanding.

I'm trying to break free from my doctorate in cultural indoctrination, LOL. I've got a lot of free thought to catch up on!

Yupped said...

One tricky thing about avoiding extremes or binaries is that there is actually a whole spectrum of different paths in between, not just one with a big “here’s the midpoint” sign attached to it. So you have to sort of feel your way, and adjust and be pragmatic as you move forward through the middle. The other thing I’ve realized is that extremes are rarely actually practical, and are mostly conceptual, and so they trap you into not really doing anything real to change.

I’ve been giving the topic of personal and home security some contemplation in this context recently, as I consider what may happen in my neighborhood over the next few years as the economy continues to spiral down. The two extremes seem to be a) “buy lots of guns and prepare to play a starring role in your own personal Die Hard”. Or b) “don’t worry about it, everything will be fine, surely the police SUVs will be immune to the energy dilemma and we will all love each other in the age to come”. I’ve been able to take practical steps over the last few years in many areas (food and energy and consumption and lifestyle and other fun-stuff). But I’m having a hard time moving out of the binary on this security topic. Maybe because it cuts so close to one root of the problem – my reptilian brain’s urge to fight or flight in the face of real danger?

Don Stewart said...

On successive weekends I attended the ASPO conference in DC and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association convention here at home. The experiences were both rewarding in their own ways, but the feelings were quite different.

ASPO tends to do what it does best which is tell us that the age of fossil fuels is ending and everything is going to go downhill from here. CFSA agrees that the fossil fuel age is ending and also that we are at a peak of other resources such as stable weather, water, and phosphorus. CFSA also understands that TPTB in DC are going to do everything they can to further the cause of Big Ag and destroy small, organic farmers.

Since CFSA has a broader view of the world than ASPO, and they are dealing with a lot of negatives, why are they all so happy and looking around for new methods or reworking old methods or stealing methods from other cultures? I have tentatively concluded that it is simply because farming presents the farmer every day with concrete problems which need attention. There is never any lack of physical or mental work to be done. A second factor is awe at the fecundity of Nature--anyone contemplating healthy soil has to be amazed and humbled.

In short, idle hands are the devil's workshop and perhaps too many ASPO people aren't confronted by the daily problems and opportunities that small organic farmers face.

The best experience I had at ASPO was actually not on the program. I got to meet Albert Bates, the Biochar guy. He told me about his success in growing topsoil using methods including biochar. This led to my thinking that a pretty good investment for a Septuagenarian might be to invest in worn out farmland and then just engage in growing topsoil on that land. Regardless of inflation or deflation or bankruptcies in Europe or gold up or down, I suspect that five years from now fertile soil will have retained its value.

Albert told me his two children have farms and both are currently engaged in soil building. So great minds think alike!

So I guess I come down not only on the side of avoiding binaries, but also on the side of having a plan which involves real work and real output TODAY.

Don Stewart

Mister Roboto said...

This is kind of a "no-duh" observation, but one I think should be made anyway: Any sort of True Believerism (including and especially atheist-skeptic fanaticism) would be a prime example of "Luciferism". It was a recognition of the dangers of True Believerism as well as its appeal to those alienated from mainstream society that finally got me away from thinking about industrial decline exclusively through the lens of neoprimitivist theory.

Nestorian said...

The distinction you make between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic origins of human evil are actually not at all foreign to Christian thought. Christian thinkers refer to this same distinction using the terms “pride” and “concupiscence.” So I do not think it is fair to accuse traditional Christian moral thinking of the narrowly binary character you ascribe to it on these grounds.

Also, I am not aware of any uneasiness in the way that medieval Christian thought accommodated the Aristotelian notion of virtue as consisting in a mean lying between two extremes. There are certainly many aspect of Aristotle’s thought that did cause problems to Christian attempts at assimilation (and that ought for that reason have simply been rejected as false, in my view), but I do not see how the definition of virtue as a mean between two extremes fits into this category. said...

Arguably, the problem is one of false comparisons. In high school, one of the students a year behind me would wear a t-shirt, from a christian youth group of all things, with a top ten list of b.s. reasons to use drugs. Mostly, I thought they had the intellectual depth of a milk-carton Archie comic, but one somewhere in the middle made enough of an impression that I still remember it years later. It went: "hey, at least I'm not as bad as that guy!"

I don't know that you imitate what you contemplate, necessarily, but you incorporate it into your scale of proportions. If you are rich, own three acres with a big house, work as a lawyer, etc, but don't have servants, are you middle class? It depends who you contemplate. If you spend your time thinking about people with five acres, who have a cleaning lady, then you are solidly middle class. If you spend your time thinking about people in apartment buildings with a broken laundry room, you're rich.

What happened with the carbon footprint people, I think, is that they got so caught up worrying about Hummers and corporate jets that they started feeling like their ten-year old Cherokee wasn't a big polluter. They ate chicken, so they wouldn't worry about beef feedlots. They only had their laptop plugged in, so the problem was about people with plasma screen TVs. Had they contemplated Haitians, or Andaman islanders instead, they would have felt like horrendous carbon bombs. But instead: hey! at least they aren't as bad as that guy!


Chris Balow said...

Great post, JMG. I see that you plan to discuss the twilight of the American Empire, and I wonder how quickly you believe this process can unfold. Certainly, there is a military aspect to the Empire, but there is also the fact that the US Dollar is held as the global reserve currency. While the strength of the former would probably take some time to diminish, it seems that the latter could evaporate in rather short order, sending the nation into an Argentina-styled tailspin of economic disaster.

I ask this because I, like many people, face a limited income stacked against large debts. While I do what I can to develop self-sufficiency, the time spent chasing the money to pay back those debts would be a valuable asset toward further development of my Green Wizardry skillset. If the American Empire still has some fight left in it, and hyperinflation or some other economic disaster is more than just a year or two out, then it might make sense to try to pay down debts. If not, well, maybe not.

I don't mean to ask you to be my crystal ball, but I do put great stock in your opinion, and am very interested to know how fast you believe this process can unfold.



Jason said...

This is a lovely post. I've found this approach so useful in the debate on the 'paranormal', 'psi' stuff -- proponents vs. so-called "skeptics".

One addition to the method is to remember your identity. Argue against any polarised cultural position and you will be contemplating something that considers you squarely in the opposite camp because it doesn't know the needlessness of the camps.

IOW if you are in favour of x and against y you will be lumped in with the "x-ers who are always anti-y". That kind of thinking can easily become quite panicked in the paranoid. The way out is just to remind yourself one can bear a relationship with a group identity that is neither in it nor out of it but merely tangential to it in more or less specific ways.

RPC said...

Parts of this post remind me very much of the return journey in C. S. Lewis' Pilgrim's Regress where the way to the goal is a path between the arid highlands of Reason/Pride and the swamps of Sense/Lust.
One ternary I think worth exploring is that between public and private life. When I hear you proposing that we "tend our own gardens", the other ear hears Plato's dictum: "The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of government is to live under the government of unwise men." There may be a spectrum of stances to be explored here, too.

BruceH said...

I have been aware and have tried to move beyond the kind of dualist thinking you’ve described for many years. From my study of Biology and Ecology I know that few things in nature are black and white. There are grey areas everywhere: transition zones, fuzzy boundaries, multiple and redundant pathways, chains, networks, webs, cascading effects, mutual causation, etc.

In particular, I have tried in vain to communicate to those with whom I am involved in the Green Party that it was a mistake to assume that the Greens are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from what we oppose, i.e. that we are of the “Left.” This causes us to ignore the great and messy middle where our potential majority resides.

Why we continue to cling to a concept that originally described where certain people chose to sit at a meeting on an indoor tennis court two centuries ago I will never know. I often remind people that the original European Greens had the slogan: “Not Left or Right, but In Front!”

This implies that there is at least one “Third Way.” It is also amazing that a political movement that claims “Ecological Wisdom” as one of its “Four Pillars” so seldom attempts to apply an ecological analysis to the challenges we face.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying to remain active within the Green Party. But governments still control vast resources that could be put to better use (or not dug up and used in the first place). Governments and all of their traditions and trappings are still part of “what is” so they can’t easily be ignored. And the Green Party is still the only organized political movement in Western Society with at least a slim potential for becoming the new majority.

It is good to know this idea of getting beyond Left and Right has some very old roots. I can use that.

RainbowShadow said...

Speaking not contemplating what you don't wish to imitate for fear of BECOMING what you don't wish to imitate, someone tried to assassinate the President recently.

His name's Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, and he fired on the White House not realizing that the President was visiting Hawaii at the time.

Why did he do this? According to authorities, because he was "obsessed" with the President to the point that he thought God told him to kill the man.

I swear, the stars must have aligned (pun intended, given this blog's focus on the alternative magic tradition) to give a perfect example for John Michael Greer to use when he wants to make clear what it means to become what you negatively obsess over.

Twilight said...

The most obvious, and most basic, is to go out of your way to spend more time contemplating what you value than what you oppose. It’s not necessary to have a comprehensive plan for a better world already in mind, since the levels of your brain and nervous system that respond to contemplation with imitation don’t need abstract plans, and can’t really use them. What they need are good clear images that express the values you want to cultivate.

In a time of transition such as we're entering now, it is often very hard to envision things in detail. It's easy enough to imagine in broad strokes what might be coming in our own futures and for the society as a whole, and much of that unpleasant. But in understanding that we're caught in the interplay of several powerful forces, one realizes the hopelessness of trying to come up with a vision or set of expectations with any kind of detail. Then one is left trying to read and pay attention, and just keep one or two steps ahead of circumstances.

When I contemplate my own future, mostly I simply see...nothing. Some vague ideas involving many of the Green Wizarding concepts, but really there are so many unknowns that there is little believable structure on which to construct much of a plausible narrative. I cannot even frame it in a particular location. I'm past being too depressed about it, as I know adaptation will be key and we'll simply each have to make the best of it we can, but I'm perhaps a victim of contemplating the true nature of our predicament a little too much.

However, of late I've been thinking that the dreams of my youth had some value I may have lost as I've become more jaded and contemplate realities of where we are and the various difficulties that may happen from here. Not the particular dreams themselves, those have long become irrelevant, but the simple act of having them. And as you point out, one does not need to have a complete structured narrative to go with it. Simply to have a vision that might work, might be achievable and that fits with one's values in order to allow one to see other paths that might already be there. It's not quite hope, but a foil for getting stuck in the contemplation of the negative, in order to change one's own state of being.

Thank you for the insight into some of these tools that you've provided over the last several weeks. I may never master them entirely, but the awareness of them will help to avoid some of the many traps that will test us in the times ahead.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

So, this post articulates so much of what my whole life has been about...

Just the other day I was facilitating a (very) small workshop for faculty and staff in which we discussed the idea that the economy and human society nest within the biosphere, not the other way around--the economy isn't the world! Then we worked to envision and define sustainability and what that might look like: someone from a corporate background said something like "but that means we can't have endless growth--that means capitalism won't work."

Ding, ding, ding!

So we discussed implications for awhile.

A most productive, and I feel, magical afternoon.


And then last night, consulting with students about their argumentative essays, helping various individuals come up with less binary points of view from which to construct a coherent thesis (and making them rewrite said theses until reasonably coherent)--and after class discussing with several why French revolution-style action might not be such a wise method of achieving change...

Stacy said...

Regarding Waldorf schools: binary thinking here is just as common as in the rest of our culture. Our daughter was exposed to so much racist thought in her Waldorf school that we felt we had to leave, despite our strong support of this teaching method.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Jeff Z (& JMG)

The Midwest came to mind for me, as well--what about Chicago (metro region) or Minneapolis as metaphorical "cities in the middle"?

The Midwest as a whole may be like Fresno, but those two cities (and maybe Madison, WI) have a lot that's good going on.

GHung said...

"The elements of magical philosophy I’ve covered in recent posts here on The Archdruid Report aren’t simply an odd fit for a discussion on peak oil; they also contradict some of the most basic habits of contemporary thought."

Your posts on magic, and last week's mention of your encounter with William Catton led me to revisit this interview, August, 2008. From part 5:

" that book I do clarify the distinctions between determinism and fate, and I also try to suggest that some of the cherished beliefs we've had need to be regarded as beliefs in magic, and we know better than that, we know that magic is really illusion. I don't know whether the public is going to want to buy that book or not...

Catton seems to suggest that we are in the conundrum zone due to our belief in magic. Greer suggests that the only way through the zone is more magic.

I spent last night watching a couple of PBS shows (TV, yes), one (Nature) about a guy who discovered a new personal reality through raising a flock of wild turkeys from eggs into adulthood. They taught him to live in and cherish the "now".

Next, I watched Nova: Quantum Leap, about how quantum mechanics tells us that the "real world" is a very fuzzy place, based entirely on sub-atomic particles that are neither here nor there, or perhaps are in both places at once. These quanta are really nowhere (nowhen) until we measure them.... some of the scientists actually suggested that our entire existence is based on what are essentially "magical" phenomena; provable, verifiable, yet unexplainable. I somehow found this useful; reality and magic coexist in constant flux - sort of explains our behavior.

I continued on to watch Catton's 5 part interview, followed by this week's excellent submission from the Archdruid, punctuated with a shot of excellent bourbon. Not a bad way to spend a rainy, blustery night.

Anyway, I have my homework assignment for the week - to try and sort it all out... the knife's edge between magic and reality, living in the 'now' when there is no 'now' (or an infinite number of them), and my place in a world where nothing/everything either exists everywhere at once or nowhere except when observed. If you guys never hear from me again, it means I've figured it out. POOF!

Mark Angelini said...

JMG, your timing seems perfect with this.

Just last night I gave a talk to a group of Master Gardeners on a gardening concept called Edible Forest Gardening, that mimics natural ecosystems to provide human needs. Anyways, in the talk I mentioned the many uses of Autumn Olive as a nitrogen fixing support species and nutritious food producer. In the room were two self-proclaimed invasion biology proponents who came to me and my partner after the talk to argue how "evil" Autumn Olive supposedly is as an "invasive" species. They told us that planting it purposefully is the most polluting act possible, among other things. Both came to us clearly perturbed, did not want to hear what we had to say, and if they did, they would retort after us about how bad certain plants are and that looking at plants from ecological standpoints is fundamentally flawed...

Afterwards my partner and I were talking about why invasion biologists believe so fervently that some plants are okay and others are not -- that some deserve eradication or shunning, yet others don't (like botanical fascism -- strangely enough the foundations of the invasion biology were exported from the third reich...). On one end we have the industrial food system that turns functioning ecosystems into bare soil and people and large groups of people trying desperately to remake ecosystems by fighting back "invasive" species -- often in a holier than thou sort-of-way, on the other end.

We concluded that in both cases, humans are viewed as passive bystanders to the consequences of our own actions. Either certain plants or bad practices become the object of hate or blame -- or the external baggage rack for internal strife... We simply wanted to convey to these folks the middle road -- that by utilizing plants for their inherent -- and very useful -- characteristics to grow our own needs in micro-biomes puts less pressure on farmland development, and allows certain percentages of native habitats to reclaim themselves...

So, thank you for reaffirming our own discoveries and writing in such a historically insightful way. These are aspects of Steiner's teachings I am not yet familiar with, will have to get reading...

LewisLucanBooks said...

To finish of last week and touch on something you mentioned this week. China wants to buy 50 square miles close to the Boise, Idaho airport for a self contained city and free trade zone. Something similar is planed for, if I remember correctly, Ohio. The Chinese are also buying up gas leases in Texas. No time this morning to look up the appropriate links, but the Idaho story came from the Boise Idaho Statesman newspaper.

Interesting. I just read a book of speculative fiction called "2030" by Albert Brooks. One of the major themes is that LA is destroyed by 'the big one' and broke America can't afford to repair it. The Chinese step in and offer a partnership to repair LA in return for half the profits off the city ... forever.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


Tangential, but not entirely OT--

As a non-scientist, I always thought the SM was about finding out how things work (on various scales).

Are you familiar with the work of the environmental economists or with the work of Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding and his "Dismal Theorums"?

Hal said...

First, a small quibble: I think in the second paragraph, you've been pulled into a common binary yourself. It seems in the more market-enthralled parts of the peak-oil/financial-meltdown punditry, there is this meme that the only alternative to bail-out mania is to let all of the profligate financial institutions of the world collapse. Being immersed in this ongoing discussion, it's easy to make this leap. It seems to me that that this Austrian-school wing has done as much to position their pet beliefs as the only alternative to the status quo as the professional fringe malcontents currently jockeying to run away with the OWS franchise threaten to do to position themselves as the only alternative to Wall Street excesses. I think in both cases, there are many alternatives available to us that need not suffer the weaknesses of the fringes. Though I don't think this is a case of the virtuous state being somewhere in the middle: that's where we find the status quo.

That's a small quibble, though, and detracts little from this week's excellent lesson. I especially liked the penultimate paragraph, and will have to find some venue to quote it liberally, and soon.

Maria said...

This was a very timely essay for me, too. As I am working toward a plan for my future, I've been stuck between two binaries of thought. Only recently have I started thinking that society is set up for conspicuous consumption and a girl's gotta eat -- so how do I navigate the terrain between continuing in the conspicuous consumption and virtuous starvation?

You see, I'm a New Englander living much closer to Boston than New York. I'd already figured out that the prevailing attitude that "turns every interaction into a display of one’s self-defined superiority" was annoying at best and harmful at worst. (You describe that far better than I ever have, BTW.)

So I am joining the salvage community, and hoping to make some bucks doing it. (I feel guilty even saying that!) Since I started contemplating this, the synchronicities are piling up: meeting an herbalism teacher and a sewing teacher two skills I want to learn for the future, but I need to be able to pay for classes-- although with one I may be able to create a barter opportunity). Lunch with a friend turns into an afternoon of going through stored boxes of things belonging to his elderly mother who is unfortunately in failing health and mentally quite deteriorated. Urging him to keep her Christmas decorations out of the landfill and sell them to people who will love them anew has turned into potential income for me. Gifts of jewelry I've made from repurposed and reclaimed parts have been enthusiastically received by my friends, who report that people want to know where to get them. Presto! I'm starting a jewelry business. People find out I make things out of other things, and they are giving me things right and left, both to free up space in their own homes and to help me out.

And yet, the Puritan ancestors living in my psyche are saying I'm not virtuous enough. By selling things, they hiss, I am part of the problem. But the fact remains that the cat and I both need to eat every day, and I have to work with what is to make that happen, not life as I wish it to be.

I needed to hear the message to beware of the urge to run to an opposite extreme and to look for workable solutions somewhere in the middle. On spiritual level, I think there is a message to trust the magic -- not the Harry Potter kind, but the kind that comes from hard work in the inner and outer worlds.

Lizzy said...

Hello there,

I think I've said before: I love coming in on Thursdays and knowing there will be one of your messages.

Thanks very much.


Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Mark Angelini--

It's not always native vs. invasive, and people who worry about the effects of invasive species are not necessarily wrong.
There's some binary thinking going on there, on both "sides" of that debate. I chop buckthorn so as to give native forbs and trees such as Trilliums and oak saplings some breathing space, but understand that many foreign plants will inevitably appear in any prairie/savanna restoration.

Many of us reside in that middle ground. One might go foraging for autumn olive (there's certainly plenty of it around!); but I'm not sure I'd plant it deliberately. I'd look to native berry-bearing species first.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@LuwisLucanBooks & Cherokee Organics--

Interesting comments you both make, and so--

re the Chinese approach: Why do by force what you can do with patience, and observing and catering to and thus helping increase your opponents weakness?

Softly flowing water overcomes mountains.

Thomas Daulton said...

I haven't yet read today's column, but I did want to post a general comment, which relates to GHung's comment on this page above mine.

I'm very glad you explained the underlying basis of the "Golden Dawn" system of magic. I have noticed a huge benefit to my blood pressure, my general health, and my mood now that I can walk around thinking "Everybody I deal with is the victim of malicious thaumaturgy, probably including me" ...rather than thinking, "Everybody I deal with is clearly an idiot, probably including me!" It allows me to take a much more optimistic view of my fellow man.


Joel said...

I think SF doesn't go to quite such an extreme as LA. As a matter of fact, this post has helped me express just what I love so much about the city I've chosen to live in: Oakland.

That said, there are bright points to Fresno: if you're ever there, be sure to visit the Forestiere Underground Gardens: a greater monument to moderate-but-persistent efforts to improve comfort and energy-efficiency in the built environment would be difficult to imagine. My only quibble is how little Mr. Forestiere engaged others in his project, either as a community or by documenting his work.

* * *

Did you really mean to use the word "devolution"? When a friend of mine uses that sort of language, I now try to point them to "Taking Evolution Seriously" in hopes that they'll see the error in their thinking.

siddrudge said...

Thanks so much for the link to "My Life As a Turkey." I just finished watching the entire episode online. A wonderful contemplation indeed!

I should have been working but I'm grateful for the detour you offered -- I really needed that walk in the woods! :-)

dragonfly said...

Ghung, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

JMG, while reading this blog and the multitude of insightful comments often feels like a university course I wish I could have taken back in the day, I am increasingly of the feeling that something deeper is at work here - that I am (we are ?) perhaps in recovery from Western Civilization™, to borrow a phrase.

Many heartfelt thanks.

PhysicsDoc said...

@ Mark Angelini
The stranger interpretations of quantum mechanics and laboratory results do not invalidate the physics that governs the world we humans operate in. For example, mass and energy are always conserved, perpetual motion is impossible, gravity cannot be turned off, time has a definite arrow, etc. What people normally consider magic are effects that violate these macroscopic laws of physics. In that sense quantum mechanics does not say magic is possible.

John Michael Greer said...

Ruben, thank you.

Greg, you're welcome. Pass them on to others who can use them.

Stuart, exactly! "Either-or" questions are binaries, and often deliberately engineered binaries. Find a third option, and very quickly you'll find the fourth, fifth, hundredth, etc.

John, I find that a moderate amount of excess also has its place.

Roy, that's good to hear! One of my plans is to make sure that my reading list is still full when I celebrate my hundredth birthday.

Zach, Edwards' sermon is well worth reading, especially if you then compare it to the last century and a half of liberal political rhetoric, and the last half century from the right. As for China, who does Obama think he's kidding? The US is basically wetting itself over China, and with very good reason.

Girl, I had very much the same experience in school, and elsewhere -- it's a rough row to hoe. Still, opening your wings now beats the stuffing out of crawling into a cocoon to die -- which is what I'm afraid a lot of people are going to do in the years ahead of us.

Markbc, exactly. The scientific method is one of the great achievements of our species, but like any other tool, there are things it can't do well -- or at all. (In particular, if you can't isolate and control the variables, you can't really use it, though you can sometimes manage workarounds.) One thing I'd really like to see is an effort, on the part of people in the sciences, to make sure the scientific method makes it through the convulsions ahead of us; getting it into the hands of nonscientists is a crucial step in that direction.

PhysicsDoc, good! And the third factor that brings the ego and shadow into balance, in Jung's theories, is the Self, the deep coordinating center of the unconscious mind. You can apply ternary logic to Jungian psych straight across the board -- not surprising, that, since Jung ran with a lot of occultists.

Rhisiart, in American slang -- I have no idea if this is so elsewhere in the English-speaking world -- a deadbeat is somebody who can't pay his bills. Greece certainly can't pay its bills -- not just the current government, but the nation as a whole, has spent far more than it earns for quite a while now. Thus the reference.

John Michael Greer said...

Sophie, good! That's a geometrical way of expressing the same symbolism -- I was using the spectrum analogy instead.

Karen, exactly. The shrill tone is a good sign that what's going on has less to do with the facts on the ground than with the emotional states of the person getting shrill.

Avery, no argument there.

Cherokee, of course the noise is mostly coming from the US. The Chinese don't need to make noise; they're pursuing their agenda step by step. The problem with the US is that there's really nothing we can do but bluster and rattle our sabers; we don't dare actually start a war with China, and it's tolerably clear that nothing short of that is going to slow them down. Thus the posturing and noise.

Chris, self-knowledge has never been a popular habit, but it's one of the few ways out from between the jaws of the trap we're in just now. We've all got a lot of free thought to catch up on!

Yupped, there are all kinds of alternatives when it comes to personal and -- more important by far -- community security. Have you considered helping to start a block watch program, for example, which can morph into a community volunteer police system if things start going pear-shaped? That's one third option out of many.

Don, that's a good point. By and large, the people I know in the peak oil scene who are managing to stay fairly balanced and functional are those who are doing something practical themselves, in their own lives, to prepare for it and deal with the consequences.

Mister R, true enough. To the extent that true-believerism focuses on being better than other people because you believe the right thing -- and that's usually an important part of it -- it's a Luciferic vice rather than an Ahrimanic one.

Nestorian, you're taking what I said out of context and stretching it much further than it will go. All I said was that Christians have had some trouble fitting their ethical philosophy, which like all Western ethical philosophy is heavily influenced by Aristotle, with the mythic imagery of their faith. Of course the job has been tackled in various ways; my point was simply that Steiner's way of doing it was among the more interesting.

Huntgather, the issue of loaded comparisons is a huge one. A lot of the wrath currently being directed against the so-called 1% is coming from people who, in global terms, are part of the 1% themselves, and are busy trying to distract attention from their own privileges by finding scapegoats among the even richer.

Chris, it's totally unpredictable at this point, but unlikely to happen anything like as fast as the fact-collapse people like to think. (I'll be covering the reasons for that claim in a later post.) I'd encourage you to keep on working at getting out of debt, while putting free time into learning skills that are relevant in a deindustrializing economy.

Jason, good! The use of canned identities is a common tool of hostile thaumaturgy, and it's also one of the ways that binary thinking goes really metastatic.

ixpieth said...

Dear JMG, thank you again for your words, altho' I noticed you somewhat brought down to Earth in your post last week and this week's post began in the same vein.
However, when you got "into" the meat of the issue there seemed to be a few questions raised in my mind that ran through the piece. When we talk of a binary attitude, particularly with peak oil, it is a natural occurance to "realise" certain basic thoughts in the past "life" have been based on misconceptions, ie, that oil would last forever. Seeing the "other side" of this maya leads every entrant into an opposite world of doom, and for quite a while those are the only 2 versions of life available. Then a process which I believe you have decribed before of various emotional states takes us to another place where these 2 very different states are recognised and accepted. I am firmly of the belief this occurs as you would perhaps agree through "thinking". I am very much of the opinion that this is the point where life begins. Where you are able to assess both a past existance, a dire alternative, and a state of grace which accepts there is not much to be done to influence things either way. This, I would accept "could" be a mid point.
What I do find hard to accept in this post though is your treatment of Anthroposophy. I find it VERY hard to assess this in a binary manner. The first book I read of Rudolf Steiners was called, "The Three Main Streams in the Evolution of Mankind" in which he describes the Ahrimanic, Luciferic and Judeo Christian (Archangel Michael)"FORCES" which each individually act on every human being. Steiner also stresses the "evolution" of thought from Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas and Goethe into the present whereby each individual is able to use thinking to decipher their own destiny. AND apply it to whichever "force" he chooses in freedom. This thinking process is I would suggest, ALL there is in common with Anthroposophy.
I think it is a misrepresentation to suggest that a "midpoint between Lucifer or Ahriman" (Los Angeles and San Francisco) will supply a place where we can all live in enlightenment. "Fresno" ??

The Judeo Christian impulse (through Jesus) provided us all with an example of how the individual can cope with these extremes through an individuals thinking and there are many introspective processes using pure thought to recognise and many levels of interconnected "bodies" (physical, etheric, astral, ego) to discover and explore along the way.
I think a much more pertinent religious similie would have been Buddhism, which Steiner gave many references to in his works.

John Michael Greer said...

RPC, the similarity's not accidental -- one of Lewis' good friends was Owen Barfield, who was a student of Steiner as well as a very deep thinker in his own right. As for the binary between public and private, that's what civil society -- the world of community groups and voluntary associations -- is about; it's among the best ways to resolve that binary into a ternary.

Bruce, as long as the Green Party remains stuck in the rut of the current left-right binary, it's going to remain powerless. To succeed, it's got to be able to appeal to something other than the usual activists on the leftward fringe -- and that means a lot of the standard shibboleths of the left need to be jettisoned. I don't expect that to happen, but that's what it will take.

Rainbow, I heard about that. Just what this nation doesn't need...

Twilight, I'd encourage you to imagine a future even if you don't believe in it. Your nervous system doesn't know the difference. Feed it with positive imagery of yourself in a green wizard role in a deindustrial future, and getting by just fine; you'll find that it helps a great deal.

Adrian, excellent! The fact that he noticed is a very positive sign. Ten years ago I don't think the notion would have occurred to anybody in the corporate world.

Stacy, I'm sorry to hear that.

Ghung, what Catton means by magic and what I mean by magic are not the same thing. He's careful to define his terms; for him, "magic [is the] supposed achievement of results by means that are in fact inadequate to produce such outcomes" (Bottleneck, p. 254). For me, magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will. I disagree with his definition -- I think he's falling victim to a popular misunderstanding as egregious as the one that insists that "evolution" is the same thing as "progress" -- but there's no actual disagreement in content; I agree with him completely that a lot of people are trying to make things happen in the material world using a variety of means, including magic (in my sense of the word), that are not suited to make those things happen.

Mark, I'm familiar with the quarrel. To my mind both sides have their points; yes, there are good reasons to bring in the occasional plant from outside the ecosystem, but yes, there have also been repeated and massive problems with invasive species causing disruption to ecosystems. I tend to use native or thoroughly naturalized plants by preference, without being a purist about it; that's one potential middle ground between the two extremes.

Lewis, if the US starts letting China build Chinese cities on American territory, it deserves what it's going to get. Good gods...

Hal, no, the opposite of the bailout mania is hanging bankers from lampposts and abolishing the current economic and monetary system. Allowing banks that are in every ordinary sense bankrupt to fail, paying out what's needed to cover the depositors, and restoring sensible regulation to the banking industry -- in this country, starting by reenacting the Glass-Steagall act in its entirety -- seems to me to be a relatively moderate suggestion.

idiotgrrl said...

An observation from a reluctantly but most decidedly (been doing some soul-searching) Luciferian reader of your blog -

You're wondering where the 3rd point of the triangle is, where goodness lies. You are disappointed because you can't find it.

That's because you, like Steiner, are looking for St. Michael with a flaming sword. You're not looking for the solid, stolid Midwesterner (frex) who does goes to work and raises the family and knows deep-down what is and isn't right. You're (metaphorical mode here)looking for the union organizer and overlooking the hotel maid.

Just my $0.02 from someone culturally a San Franciscan, but whose father came from the hills.

There's a character in science fiction, Miles Vorkosigan, who had always fancied himself to be Michael with a flaming sword, tripped over his shortcuts, and only came back to sanity and honesty when he realized that deep-down, he was a man of his native hills, "solid as a rock, thick as a rock, too thick to know when to give up." And he took his moral cue from a mountain housewife who said "You just go on. That's all. You just keep going on."

John Michael Greer said...

Maria, there's nothing wrong with making money or earning a living! Every living thing applies its own energies to the task of providing for its needs; in modern societies, we do that by earning a wage or a salary, but it's as natural a process as squirrels gathering seeds or plants gathering sunlight. If you've found a way to make a living by salvaging things of value and selling them to people who need or want them, that's not merely a living, it's a positive good -- every old Christmas ornament you sell to somebody means that a new Christmas ornament doesn't have to be manufactured out of the planet's limited resources to meet that person's wants, and a landfill somewhere is a little less full, too. You've found a constructive ecological niche -- don't feel guilty about it, delight in it.

Lizzy, thank you.

Thomas, glad to be of help!

Joel, the funny thing there is that I find LA less abrasive than SF. That ought to tell you that I tend more toward the Luciferic than the Ahrimanic end of vice! As for "devolution," I meant it simply in the sense of "unraveling," "coming apart."

Dragonfly, in recovery from industrial civilization, perhaps. Most of what I'm trying to discuss comes straight out of the legacy of Western civilization, with some dollops from points further east. Still, you're right that I'm trying to push the discussion past the surface issues of the end of the industrial age, and confront the deeper issues -- of which there are plenty.

John Michael Greer said...

Ixpieth, this week's post was hardly a detailed treatment of Steiner's thinking! I simply drew on one of his (many) ideas to illustrate a point, and proposed a deliberately humorous metaphor to give that point a bit more bite. Don't take the metaphor too seriously!

Grrl, same goes for you as well. I'm not "disappointed because I can't find where goodness lies;" I was making a joke about Fresno -- I've been there, and in fact have friends there -- and using it to communicate a useful mental habit, one that's been in use in the occult community for a long time, in a way that I hope people will grasp. As for where goodness lies, the potential for it lies in each human being -- "the unquenched flame in every one," in the words of an old Druid ritual.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, I'll be catching another train this evening, and may not have much internet access for a while. Your comments will get put through -- I've made arrangements for that -- but it may be a few days before I can reply. Have a good weekend!

Thijs Goverde said...

Oh dear. I've been afraid for weeks something like this would happen on your blog, Mr. Greer, and now it has. I sat staring at my computer screen in disbelief for a full five minutes. Chilled to the bone. Sinking feeling in stomach. My SO actually asked me, in a slightly worried tone, whether I was sure I was allright.

The occasion was the phrase: "... Aristotle's and Steiner's logic..."

Oh, the horror!

There is no denying that Aristotle was a genius who made tremendous advances in, well, logic. Formal logic. (Among the many other advances he made.)

Whereas Steiner... well, the less I speak of him, the better. First of all because your rules do not allow impolite language, and second because I refuse to contemplate the man more than I have to, for reasons which should need no explaining here.

I'm afraid I didn't take in much of your post after that.
A pity - I usually enjoy your writing, and it has certainly had an influence on me.

Oh well, on to next week!

PS @ Guran: your link's broken. There's a 't' missing.

Aluramia said...

As I live with a rather intense green man with very definite opinions on the world, politics, and just which way we should take to "stay out of the line of fire"...

I find myself very much a middle path gal. We have very lively discussions on how to recreate our lives in a healthy/positive balanced way in relation to the world as we know it and how we wish to shift it (in a day to day life sort of way).

Sometimes having a 360 degree viewpoint can be dizzying in the extreme and I find myself at a loss for true North both internally and externally.

Then again, I am at the side-by-side helm of a family of six offspring plus our odd collection of kitties, goats, chickens, and few boarded horses.

I find my deepest issues are around having hope. In the decline, I see many things in dissolution and have to find creative ways to lead my children to thinking outside of the box for future endeavors such as: "how about carpentry? or perhaps you would like to learn animal husbandry in some form?" while they look at me a tad confused.

Raising children in the middle of this muck is absolutely soul deranging. Walking the middle way, seeing the different sides and guiding them at the same time while capturing their respect is an awesome and time consuming activity. That looks, to outsiders, like you are doing "nothing" while you do it.

I applaud your endeavors to show the way...

Please DO continue :)

Cherokee Organics said...


Much to contemplate! I don't worry about the whole China - US noise. It's a very different relationship to the cold war, yet I'm unsure that the powers that be understand this. They probably have only a limited tool box for responses.

I was thinking about activism, which unless it is done on a mass scale seems kind of unsuccessful. With activism, you are raising an issue and demanding that someone, somehow, do something about it. Individual responses are probably more successful because an individual is actually doing something.

Didn't Gandhi say, "be the change you wish to see in the world". Much more powerful. Activism allows you to continue with BAU for just that little bit longer and I think therein lies its appeal.

It's a bit early in the morning for those sort of thoughts, but there you go. We're in good company!



LewisLucanBooks said...

OK. Here's the original article on China in Idaho...

And here's a follow up. I guess the blogasphere went crazy.

SLClaire said...

Another sign that people are having trouble responding to decline: a rather reasonable plan to close some St. Louis County (Missouri) county parks because county tax revenues have decreased significantly in the last few years has drawn a great deal of opposition from people of a green-leftward bent. The county executive is facing a shortfall in the 2012 budget, so he has to come up with a way to close the shortfall in 6 weeks, limiting what he can do. I can vouch for the decrease in county tax revenues: our property tax bill has just come in, and it's $800 lower than last year; that's a decrease of almost half. This condition is by no means limited to us; to a greater or lesser degree it's true for much of the county, probably most of it. Of the four nearby parks that I know the best, the proposal leaves open the park with the best facilities that is most used and closes the three whose usage together doesn't begin to approach the park proposed to leave open. I have been pointing that out in comments to Facebook posts to friends who have posted against the closures. Not a single person has responded to the points I've raised.

Dwig said...

Thanks for bringing up Steiner agan -- I keep running into bits of his legacy, and it's nice to encounter another, especially when it resonates with an experience I had a few years ago. I suddenly realized that, of the seven deadly sins, I could only name two, and not too sure of those. After studying them for a while, it occurred to me that their binary opposites were probably sins as well (Sins Deadly Seven?), and that there were probably virtues in the "balancing points". I didn't take it much further, though, and had forgotten it until now.

If you're looking for a Michael midway between SF-Lucifer and LA-Ahriman, San Luis Obispo and environs is a pretty good candidate, at least in its outward aspects (not a large city, but that may also be a virtue). If I weren't a bloom-where-you're-planted kind of guy, I might well have moved there by now. As it is, I'll continue trying to create the balance in the belly of the beast. (To get away from binary characterizations, though, the defining characteristic of LA, to me at least, seems to be diversity. Which is, according to , also an Ahrimanic Trait.)

Speaking of binaries: "... collective institutions such as governments and markets ... are unlikely to take useful steps until it’s too late to do much, and that individual action focused on learning to get by with much less is therefore essential to any viable path to the future." So, what is/are between governments/markets at one extreme, and individual action on the other? And will that be the subject of a subsequent post?

Finally: "One thing I'd really like to see is an effort, on the part of people in the sciences, to make sure the scientific method makes it through the convulsions ahead of us; getting it into the hands of nonscientists is a crucial step in that direction." Sounds like a job for the Culture Conservers!

Ares Olympus said...

Listening today to a debate over Obama's job bill, I wondered what the "sides" really are about, when BOTH publicly are required to believe re-starting growth is the only answer. So thinking about contraction seems the counter-position. A few weeks ago I upset a declared socialist at our local OccupyMN protest, so he walked away, saying he wasn't required to listen to me. I suggested that we need to organize society in a way that people can live on less money, and that was not acceptable while there's yet rich people to blame. I was surprised he couldn't see the dual-sided solution - sure we can tax the rich more, and I'm sure we will, but every "transition" vision to me requires people finding ways to live on less income. OWS seemed to capture a part of that vision - being effective squatters on public land, what if people discover a way to live, without huge long term debt or high rents? What if some people could take jobs at $5/hour and save money?! Those people's success would validate the republicans claims of self-determination can work, very dangerous ideas to the socialists who say poverty can only be fought, and never embraced. Its really hard to fight both directions at the same time, but as you say, trying, negates the delusional excesses of each.

idiotgrrl said...

"Grrl, same goes for you as well. I'm not "disappointed because I can't find where goodness lies;" I was making a joke about Fresno -- I've been there, and in fact have friends there -- and using it to communicate a useful mental habit, one that's been in use in the occult community for a long time, in a way that I hope people will grasp. As for where goodness lies, the potential for it lies in each human being -- "the unquenched flame in every one," in the words of an old Druid ritual.

11/17/11 1:16 PM"

Okay - well, I misunderstood. Perhaps I have too literal a mind - or am too ignorant of where you're coming from.

Richard Larson said...

Ok. So we have a binary idea of the future; either we will progress, to the stars, and beyond, or, suffer a total global economic collapse resulting in humans devolving.

JMG, you have taught the first point is impossible, and I should agree. However, I have yet to read a similar statement about the second point, or some such similar catastrophic collapse, is just as impossible as progress.

If you do have an idea that a collapse could be quick, then the odds of a collapse happening quickly is the same as a ternary idea of a slow decline.

I will look for your comment on this.

Have been working on the tv thing since the last time you mentioned it, my usage is way down, along with the electricity bill!

hadashi said...

I'm a little hazy with US geography, and I thought for one terrible moment that the in-between location twixt L.A. and San Francisco was going to be Disneyland. Phew!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Adrian,

Thanks for your thoughts. Doing nothing is always a valid option and sometimes far more powerful.

I reckon that weeds are a man made concept. I prefer the term pioneering species as I think this tends to sum up the situation better. People get freaked out here about blackberries (yum I pick kilograms of these for jam every year!), but they haven't taken over the place yet.

Eco systems don't seem all that stable to me. They are constantly changing. You hear a lot about the native vs non native argument here. It's ideologically driven. How many of those people making those arguments eat a local diet? I dunno, not many here - you'd be very hungry! With a world of plants to pick from we'd very silly indeed not to get a bit of help from those than can give it.

Hope your forest is growing well into the late Autumn. So far, things are booming in Spring here - although there was a rooster incident a couple of days ago...



S. Starwind said...

While all of the posts I read here are particularly interesting, this one took me some extra time to read simply due to the fact that, whether it be caused by you touching on things I've been considering recently or by my drinking too much espresso this morning, my thoughts seemed to run away on long tangents of contemplation concerning certain things (well, all things, furthering the possibility of the espresso effect) that were said and I would completely forget what any individual paragraph was actually about. (*Thumbs up* for that)

One such mental tangent started with the statement, "The most obvious, and most basic, is to go out of your way to spend more time contemplating what you value than what you oppose." At first, I found myself a bit short of being able to comprehend this statement, cocking my head as a slightly confused dog would. It wasn't at all that I didn't understand exactly what was being said but rather that I didn't, at first, understand why someone would spend more time contemplating that which they oppose than that which they value. Only after some thought did I realize the truth in the statement, even if I still, while typing this, question it. I've spent so much time in my young life shaping my fantasy world around that which I find value in and, in a further step, spending an equal amount of time trying to figure out how I might make that fantasy world come to be. As I've matured, this fantasy has become more... realistic(?) and, in the wake of the world events today, plausible.
I guess that, after all of that contemplation of my own dreams, I just find it odd that one would spend the majority of their contemplative power on something they would wish not to be.

What's more is that I've come to notice small bits of evidence in my own life that the fanasy I wish to live is, indeed, slowly coming to fruition in the most subtle ways. I speculate that this is on some account that what I think I imitate on either a conscious, subconscious, or unconscious level at any given moment. And that is where the train of logic comes full circle. When a train of logic comes full circle, something utterly truthful has been stumbled upon (that, or I am, indeed, quite naive).

To make an ever-lengthening comment (one that would be better suited as an entire blog entry were it posted in full--busy brains!) shorter, it is a wonderful post and, as always, appreciated is the oportunity to further the expansion of mind in different directions.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hey SLClaire,

Perhaps this is an opportunity for a couple of volunteer groups to approach the county and take over management - not ownership - of the parks?

With management of the parks in the hands of some enthusiastic volunteer groups, you could set up a community garden with rentable vegetable plots. Perhaps some of the plots could be provided free of charge to volunteers in return for measurable labour? It will provide fresh local fruit and vegies and more importantly a place for the local community to rally around. If you were really clever you'd hit the county up for some funds for basic infrastructure. There's probably even grants floating around for such activities.

I've never used facebook but the above suggestion probably sure beats mucking around on a computer.



frubhouse said...


You probably know this already, but there's a slightly more subtle formulation of the "middle of 2 extremes" theory in the idea of the triad. Like everything else, this goes back to the Greeks (Pythagoras I believe) and was picked up more recently not only by by Rudolf Steiner, but also by the somewhat enigmatic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, who died in 1955.

Gurdjieff formulated his "Law of Three" which says that every dynamic process needs not just two sources (e.g positive and negative poles in electricity), but three (which he called Active or Affirming, Passive or Denying, and Neutral or Reconciling). This is exemplified at every level (e.g. at the atomic level, protons, electrons and neutrons; at the philosophical level, Yin, Yang and Tao). It would take a large book to explore the whole of this, but the psycho-spiritual significance of it is that in our normal state of inattention we tend to be what Gurdjieff called "Third-force blind" so that we collapse the triad into a polarity, whereas when we are properly attending to what we're doing (what Gurdjieff called "awake"), our awareness acts as the "third force" which enables us to disidentify and not get drawn into polarities. The similarity between this process and what you are describing as "magical practice" will be obvious.

My teacher in the 60s, J G Bennett, had been a student of Gurdjieff and he developed the properties of the triad to an extraordinary degree as part of his science of "Systematics" (in which he also explored the characteristics of 4-term, 5-term etc. up to 12-term systems). If you're interested, I can point you towards some of his published work, although I'm not sure it is still available now. I think you might find it interesting.

As a psychotherapist, I'm using Triads all the time, especially during processes like Focusing, where people attend to their inner polarities in a way that allows them to be fully present without getting drawn into the usual inner struggle between "yes" and "no".

Excellent work, Archdruid. I'm glad you have felt able to include all the recent psycho-spiritual stuff in your hitherto very practical and down-to-earth blog.

Best wishes
Chris Wilson

Hal said...

Hi, JMG. I suppose drawing and quartering them, razing their mansions, salting the earth, and selling their women and children into slavery would be even more polar opposite, but maybe someone can think of something better.

Seriously, I guess I'm misunderstanding the concept. I was suggesting that there are a lot of people using the absurdity of the bailouts to validate a pre-existing bias that the only solution is draconian "free-market" discipline. Now, on the spectrum of "disciplining the bankers" there might be further extreme opposites to the pole we're sitting on right now, which seems to amount to "nothing." But I was thinking more of your previous post about binaries, more than the current one, which, if I understand it right, seems to be more about finding a moral middle ground between extremes. That's why I used that word.

One problem, now that I put it that way, is that you could always find a greater extreme and call your position the moderate one. It's done all the time in politics.

More to the point I was trying to make, I'm thinking there are a lot of alternatives that don't reside on that spectrum, some more bearable than others. Can we envision one that will work for most of us? Or is there a nascent Napoleon camping in Zuccotti park as we opine, or maybe a homegrown Mussolini trying on his tri-corner hat and currying favor with the Koch brothers? I leave out the equally distasteful possibility of a Lenin/Stalin figure, because I think the probability of that in this country is pretty close to zero, but I could be wrong.

x said...

So Green parties need to jettison left shibboleths. What remains - Right shibboleths?

Another site I read bemoans that people of colour, feminists and the such want redress to inequality but nature doesn't care about such trivial human concerns. Nature only cares about the damage the human species is doing to the environment.

Yet, we humans have human concerns about inequality and injustice. If we don't have the human energy to tackle them in any environment, then why bother at all. Just so we can survive?

Justin said...

Maybe the midpoint between LA, SF, NY and Boston as a unit is the midwest? Chicago?

Allison said...

Perhaps we might, instead of geographic areas, consider institutions as the Ahrimanic and Luciferian poles? For example, perhaps the metaphor could work with corporate America as the Ahrimanic pole and the political sphere as the Luciferian pole - one consumed by material greed, the other by a self-righteous quest for power. In this case, might the space between the two be found in a group or context that values neither material wealth nor power above all else? I would argue that academia is not in this realm, as it seems to me to be quite Luciferian in its political, power-seeking, status-seeking way of relating to itself and to the world, and also I would argue that institutional religion has more in common with the Ahrimanic attributes of corporate America than it would like to admit - how else to explain the pressure put on members to participate in constant tithing and/or donations? Or the injunction to consume the intellectual products of one religion but not of another, and to not consume a variety of secular ideas, entertainments, substances, etc. In opposing Ahrimanic sin, does institutional religion create a shadow of the same? It seems that the richest religion, at any given historical point, "wins". Anyway, I suppose that means that perhaps a reduction in degree might point to a more virtuous middle ground - perhaps it's the largeness of entrenched institutions that draws the worst qualities in them to the surface. I would argue that the virtue between the poles of vice in American society just now might be found on the local scale at almost any geographic point in the U.S.; perhaps a smaller scale in anything limits not only the reach of its good works, but also the scope of its corruption. Could not the synthesis between Big Business and its antithesis, Big Government, actually be the re-localization of both economies and social institutions?

Cathy McGuire said...

I do so look forward to late Wednesday/early Thursday when the new posting appears. I had never heard of Lucifer/Ahriman, but had read some of Steiner’s work on color and light (very interesting!). You have articulated the middle ground better than I have, but for years when people started getting into an either/or argument, I’d try to step in with “actually, it’s both/and” or “what we need most is a balance of the two” – because it’s very clear that too much of one thing leads to a flip or swing to the other side! Jung called that enantidromia, describing the tendency to flip to the opposite when one has been too long at one extreme. I’ve experienced the flip-flop (usually painful) and am attempting to look for third ways whenever I sense I’m framing things in either/or. Wish I could believe that my attempts to suggest this to others have produced any results.

One way that I’m continuing to break free of the consumer culture’s mindset is to spend more time contemplating nature than culture. Nature has such different rhythms and patterns, and immersing myself in my rural mini-homestead (and restricting my contact with the world of malls and advertising) helps me regain those more natural rhythms. But, remembering some wag who commented, ‘It’s also natural to sit in a tree and eat raw meat”, I am not much in danger of going too far the other way. ;-}

One thing that my meditations on nature are bringing home to me is that individual bits of nature are not guaranteed any kind of success, but the overall system works (well… it adapts, though I realize humans have really tipped a lot of balances askew). But it leads me to muse that my individual life is not so important to the whole as our modern culture tries to get us to believe. I am a cell in the body of Gaia, and as such, might have significant difficulties while still functioning as an element in the overall pattern. This counters the hubris of society, and it seems close to your counter-spell, “There is no better future ahead”. This might be framed, “You are not important enough to save first, if ever.” It helps me develop a proper relationship with my soil and plants.

Don Stewart said...

It is perhaps unfair to post twice on a particular subject, but life has been busy in the last couple of days and I have been thinking about binaries and what is important and what is not very important at all.

This morning my wife and I went to see the Rembrandt in America show at the Art Museum. Rembrandt is most well known for portraits of rich people in 17th century Holland. Granted that he had some interesting sylistic devices, the portraits strike me as almost completely lacking in substance. Why should anyone care about these people? Especially when we see wealthy young men, we can assume that they inherited their position. Who cares? Are these important? Were we wasting our time?

Also at the Museum was an exhibition of people doing self-portraits. As befits the modern age, many of these are digitally manipulated images of all sorts of surface effects. Few of them involve any tools or anything else that might be useful. The most useful things portrayed were paint brushes, which the artists are using to paint themselves. Again, is this as serious as we can get?

Now let's look at some art which I happen to think is important, and see if we can discern some differences. Stoneleigh has been putting some old photographs on her website. If we study these pictures, we can discern some important things about people who are surviving in tough times. If tough times are coming again, we could do a lot worse than spend some time contemplating these photographs and thinking about what they imply in terms of skills and tools and family living arrangements and such matters.

For a modern incarnation of these 1930s 'campers', look at Janaia Donadson's 'winter camp':

Here is another photograph that I consider important. Geoff Lawton, the Permaculturist, writes about his experiences in Slovakia. There is a tremendous amount of stuff here that you can read and ponder if you have the inclination, but for now just look at this:
Look for Denisa Müllerova in the second picture down

So here we have some visual evidence from people who are coping in tough times, making do with little both back in the 1930s and also in 2011. We have the visual evidence of what a person can accomplish in trying circumstances in a foreign culture under siege.

I submit that binary thinking (e.g., endless debates about the Austrian vs. Chicago vs. Keynesian economic camps; mandatory schooling vs. home schooling; cornucopianism vs. collapse) fades into insignificance in all these photographs. The photographs show resilient people doing what they need to do. Some of them show extraordinary skill. These photographs are worth studying.

The 'scholarship' at the Museum was all about 'is this a REAL Rembrandt'? Rembrandt had numerous students who, naturally, painted like he did. So we were entertained with tales of experts who decided a hundred years ago that this was a REAL Rembrandt, only to be debunked 50 years ago by another expert who declared it a FAKE, but that now the tide is turning back toward REAL. All of that is not worth nearly as much as a glance at even one of the photographs referenced above.

Don Stewart

Luciddreams said...

I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit on why you chose not to follow anthroposophy? And what was your initial chosen direction for occult studies? Obviously Druidism is where you ended up. I understand this may not be the place to acquire this information, but I would like to know. Does one of your books cover this, or have you written about it already somewhere online.

I'm in the process of finding my own course of occult studies. Druidism seems to fit the bill. I've read your Druidry Handbook, but even that resource seems to be a patchwork of many schools of occult thought. I know it's all very personal.

I'm just curious about why you chose not to follow Anthroposophy and what your path looked like. Any suggestions? Is there a better place to engage you on this topic?

Ing said...

I'm reminded of a couple of things that a teacher tried to help me grasp. The first is that everything serves and understanding how something serves allows for choice rather than reaction. Attempting to see what is in front of us from more than one or two perspectives, and preferably also from one that is impersonal, broadens our vision and our options. The second is to hold the tension between two seeming opposites and from there we develop further rather than collapse into one or the other, again reaching for choice instead of reaction. I've found meditation focusing on the heart chakra helpful here. The travel required for those studies was more than I wanted to or could sustain and since then I've found other means of continuing the journey such as your book with Clare Vaughn and Earl King, Jr. Learning Ritual Magic. I've enjoyed your blog for some time now and have been particularly happy to see your recent posts. Thank you.

sgage said...

@ Cherokee,

"You hear a lot about the native vs non native argument here. It's ideologically driven."

It's also real. There really are invasive species that unravel native ecosytems.

Unless by "ideology" you mean "caring that native ecosystems not be destroyed".

There are non-native species, and there are invasive species, and it's important to make the distinction.

carlgombrich said...


Interesting post.

Recently I learned that Gandhi said 'your habits will become your values, so make sure you have good habits'. It strikes me that this has close parallels with what you say about contemplation.

I like all the stuff about finding a middle way. As an educator I would say that we have to extend this principle to include all possible positions until we are sure which one is best to follow - and even then, keeping the 'old' theories, or the clapped-out theories, as optional parts of a curriculum may have value in the long run. For me this involves finding some kind of consensus in dissensus - a position I know you find problematic, but I would fear for society or any given community that did not enjoy some kind of overriding consensus.

Somewhat along these lines of wishing to include as many views, people, philosophies etc as possible, I am uneasy about the word 'tribe' in your previous post. Even if the descent is long so that the wheels come off slowly and we have time to jostle for new positions; and even if we cannot, I suppose, help but define ourselves by reference to some group or other, don't you think we are all beholden to avoid talk of 'tribes' and the like as far as we possibly can?

All best,


Goat Path said...

Your post lead me to the readings of Rudolph Steiner. There on Amazon, was his Outline of Occult Science, (and a plethora of other electronic versions of occult writings, all for free). The the other dimension(s) as Steiner describes them, or Ching (42), the Well of the I Ching, seem to hold nourishment in these times of alienation. I felt rejuvenated and alive after reading just the introduction. Thanks for reminding me of him.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Autumn olives are one of my favorite fruits, they produce so abundantly with no maintenance even under pretty adverse conditions. While there are certain exotics that I would never plant because of invasiveness (for example, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Chinese Privet) I don't put Autumn Olive on that list, even though I've never planted it myself, there are plenty around already and I plant the related Goumi fruit. I have experience with it in a number of different localities and it always seems to be a pioneer species invading disturbed areas. Plus the fruit are wonderful, as long as you don't pick them too early.

I tend to be more on the side of those such as Allan Savory and David Holmgren that see most of these invasions as a response to human changes to the habitat, leaving niches that the exotics fill. Hovever, I don't take the extreme on that side either as some of the most aggressive ones are certainly adding insult to injury. It would certeinly have been nice if the chestnut blight hadn't ever come here. However I always try to steer talks about invasive species toward conidering how different human disturbances of the land is playing a role in the changing ecosystem.

Whenever I have a discussion with someone who is millitantly anti-exotics, I always bring up what they eat, and not one of them so far eats a diet of even predominantly native foods. It's ironic to me when someone will pass miles and miles of industrial monocultures of corn and soybeans, or the biological desert of suburban sprawl without saying a thing, and then be upset about a relatively small patch of autumn-olives.

Considering historical precedent, autumn-olives won't always be as problem-free as they are now, although they very well could be through the lifetimes of anyone alive now. The Ozarks used to be a major apple growing area. Apples are also an introduced species, and and grew easily with few problems at first, and then the pests and diseases arrived. There are very few apple orchards in the Ozarks today. I've read that peaches used to spread so prolificly in the mid-atlantic that people were worried about the woods becoming a solid stand of peaches. There's a good chance that at some point pests and diseases will catsh up eith te autumn-olives too, and they will still be around but not as prolifically. Those with awareness of the issue may be envious of the time in which autumn-olives were so incredibly prolific.

katsmama said...
The Rudolf Steiner reference to Saint Michael reminded me of this song, about hard times and lust. Listening to it brightened up my Friday night.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sgage,

I hear you.

As a bit of history about where I live. The mountain range has been clear felled several times since 1860. The ecosystem no longer resembles the original ecosystem although the original plants are still represented here and they are far and away in the majority.

However, with clear felling, the animals that called this place home died off or moved on. Young eucalypt trees have no hollows in which animals and birds live. They must be at least 80+ years before they get the hollows in which to nest.

People of European descent suppress the regular low intensity bush fires through this area which the forest had become accustomed to under the traditional owners regime. The result is irregular large scale wild fires which kill off the older trees and create a uniform forest. You can see that there has been a build up of small sapling of eucalypts. The last major fire through here was in 1983 and the regrowth from that lot are now monster trees.

The traditional owners don't have clean hands either - although to their credit they maintained a very stable long term culture. They ate the mega fauna herbivores which used to keep the forests more open providing feed for other animals and fertilising the soil in the process. Once the mega fauna were finished off, the traditional owners then had to do the same job of clearing using fire. A very skilled business, but a necessary one. I spend a lot of time thinning the forest around my house following their thinking. Because in burning the forest off for so many millennia, they've created an environment that responds to being burned off - and in fact the vegetation encourages it.

What I'm trying to show is that there aren't many places on the planet that haven't been affected by the hand of man - whether you can see it or not.

My diet is comprised of entirely exotic species. I am only aware of one edible native indigenous species on the entire mountain range and I couldn't survive on that species alone. The garden around my house is planted with ornamental and edible exotic species. Some have already escaped into the forest. I find feral seedling apple trees in unusual places now. But, the local native birds and animals are welcome to dine here - in moderation - and this place supports far more bird, reptile, insect and animal life than the surrounding forest.

The real elephant in the room is how much of your arable land is planted to mono cultures? Also, how much of your supposed wilderness areas are untouched by the hand of man? What impact is GM organisms having on weeds and insect pests?

Nature will always try to move towards an equilibrium regardless of your intentions. Even really invasive exotics eventually end up becoming food for something else in the environment. It's a process of adaption.

I would worry more about the heavy reliance on oil of the industrial agriculture system than a few invasive exotic species.



idiotgrrl said...

The Wild Hunt blog put me onto Fields Bookstore in San Francisco, an independent occult bookstore with a wealth of the books recommended in this blog. The Hunt said this sort of store was vanishing rapidly from San Francisco, so I visited their website and ordered The Druidry Handbook and the one on Druidry Ritual Magic from them just now. S/H was reasonably priced, too.

Save out book sources!

Maria said...

You knew I needed permission, didn't you, clever Archdruid? Thank you for giving it. My medium-ish term plan is to open a clothing resale shop. I figure there will be people looking to sell off fancy duds for cash, people looking to keep up the appearance of prosperity a little longer by shopping used, people who want to shop "green," and people on really tight budgets. That's where I come in.

I am descended from a long line of Portuguese housewives (not on the Puritan side, the other side) who knew how to repurpose and reuse, and how to dress well, decorate well, and cook good food on a budget. It's in my DNA. I've already started to share what I know on my blogs; some of my readers seem to prefer it when I'm posting something funny, but I am persevering -- and hoping to eventually hit that sweet spot beween "funny" and "practical."

Thanks for providing inspiration as I find my way.

Petro said...

I expressed an observation a few posts ago ("The Trouble with Binary Thinking") that I considered all thought to be irrevocably binary, and that what you (and apparently Aristotle and Steiner) consider "ternary thinking" is something else entirely.

You disagreed, and I vowed to consider the matter further, given my respect for the myriad other writings of yours that I have found to be personally instructive. Well, the "jury is in," as they say.

As to methodology: I cannot and will not point to any authority or authoritative body of knowledge to buttress my assertions here. I rely only on my own observations, and since the arena of the mind is at least one laboratory that we all have equal access to, I believe that should satisfy. Basically, I do thought experiments by placing concepts proposed as templates against my own experience, and see how, and well, they fit.

In this case, this is all very interesting, but my takeaway is that "ternary option from a spectrum between two binary poles" is a bit of a torturous defense of the primacy of reason. What I had posited before is that there is an aspect of consciousness that can inform the logical process of reason with fresh knowledge, thus permitting it to refresh a pool that would otherwise grow stagnant with the self-referential navel-gazing that is the very hallmark of logic and reason.

One clue, to what I think is a deception, is the fact that this so-called "spectrum" seems to snap to a mid-point "ternary" position - it's not really a spectrum at all, else there would be other places to sit. This goes to my self-observation and thought experiments - the mid-point, or ternary, option is indeed the "correct" and only one, but I am able to reach it without contemplation of either Ahriman or Lucifer.

I have already gone past the short form of a comment in a blog, and am breaching the protocol of arguing with someone in their own house, so I will end this here. Please understand that I take no pleasure in contrariness, but that this is a serious subject for me and I find you a serious individual that I admire, and some things I would rather not just whistle on past.

(On that note, if you strongly feel that I am missing something, that I am worth setting straight, and that this is not the forum to do so, I would welcome a side discussion - my contact information is accessible through existing links.)

sgage said...

@ Cherokee,

I hear you, too.

I am a Forest Ecologist, and I know full well that there are surely very few places on Earth that have not felt the influence of human meddling. Certainly in my corner of New England you simply cannot understand the ecology of the area if you don't know the human history of it. And I surely agree that human disturbance of the land enables a lot of what we call "invasives". What we like to call "weeds" fall in that category. You don't see your garden weeds in the forest...

OTOH, the willy-nilly global transportation of organisms all over the place is of a scale in time and space that is a real challenge to native ecosystems.

My diet, of course, is mostly "exotic" species, but you don't find them sprouting up here and there in the wild, displacing native species and rendering specialist wildlife extinct. Again, we must make that distinction between "exotic" or "introduced" species and aggressively invasive species. It isn't useful in my opinion to say that since we eat wheat, it's therefor somehow OK for kudzu to take over, or purple loosestrife to destroy the ecology of wetlands, or... you see what I mean.

Of course Nature reaches for an equilibrium - that's another way of saying "Nature". In the long term, of course, it's all good, but it's a very long term. Where I live, 12,000 years ago it was under a mile of ice.

We do not live in some Panglossian best of all possible worlds, and some trends honestly are alarming - I share your disquiet re: GMO's, for one thing.

The more you know about the way ecosystems actually work, the more frightening it seems...

Red Neck Girl said...

"We do not live in some Panglossian best of all possible worlds, and some trends honestly are alarming - I share your disquiet re: GMO's, for one thing.

The more you know about the way ecosystems actually work, the more frightening it seems..."

I am so outraged at Monsanto's efforts to own the genetic patent to every heirloom garden seed, at their cart blanche they've been granted in reporting to the government 'studies' they have done on their franken crops to prove them harmless, at their indiscriminate sale of harmful chemicals they claim are harmless and of course their control over OUR government through their 'donations' to the campaign coffers of our elected officials!

The god of nature needs to 'smite' them so hard their mommas get a hand print on their faces! LOL!

I'm not much passionate on the subject, I'm overwhelmingly passionate about that nest of poisonous creatures that call themselves a corporation!

Wadulisi Tsalagi

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Cherokee, have you seen this article?

I mention it to you specifically because the author comes from an Australian perspective, however there's much that's relevant in his perspective to those of us in other places as well.

Gaviotas, a community in Colombia, has restored native rainforest to degraded land simply by planting an exotic pine. The pine was planted to harvest the pitch, as it was one of the only trees that would grow in their harsh conditions, but they noticed that the rainforest trees were growing up beneath the pines. The microclimate beneath the pines proved favorable for the forest to regenerate.

Sgage, since you're an ecologist I assume you're familiar with island biogeography. Since I first found out about it, it has seemed to me to contadict the more extreme scenarios of exotic species takeover. Since the theory states that islands closer to other landmasses that act as a source of migrants have higher biodiversity than those that receive fewer migrants, that indicates to me that, while the migrants may drive some species to extinction, overall they add to the diversity more than they remove it. If the worst-case scenarios of exotic takeover were to be believed, then wouldn't the islands closer to sources or migrants be worse off, being hit by successive waves of new species so aggressive that they drive many or the pre-existing species extinct?

Of course I have seen areas that do resemble the worst-case scenarios, being a tangle of one or very few exotics with little else there. Human changes have affected the habitat so much that the natives often aren't fully adapted anymore, which gives exotics an edge. I will agree about certain exotics harming certain ecosystems, but I'm just sick of the blatently one-sided view of any trait of an exotic that ever naturalizes itself anywhere to be completely negative. I have seen too many cases of exaggerations and dishonesty printed to support fighting exotics, luckily there seem to be more and more voices questioning this and calling some of the claims out, which will hopefully lead to more balance on this issue.

I have personally planted many native species, and removed some invasives in certain situations as well. I don't consider my use of certain exotics to diversify my food supply to be in opposition to helping preserve native species that have been harmed by human mismanagement of the land.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi sgage,

I envy you your training in ecology. For me it's like trying to piece a jigsaw puzzle together from all sorts of sources and current thinking because present forest management practices here equate to "do nothing because it's too expensive and labour intensive". It's a bit of a disaster really for the plants and the animals which evolved over tens of millenia with human interaction and control. The traditional owners were literally part of the balancing mechanism in the entire ecology here. Mess with things too much and you may just find yourself in a never ending job!

I guess I'm coming at things from a different perspective to you. A bit of extra bio diversity here is not necessarily a bad thing. The over storey eucalypt species (eucalyptus obliqua here) readily hybridise within a generation or two (like all other eucalypts too). So they are the ultimate adapters - as good as people.



Bert L. said...

Thanks for another inspiring post. Your comments on Rudolf Steiner are appreciated. I know Steiner has a lot of agricultural followers, but I have to wonder whether his very complex, non-intuitive (at least to me) methods give any better results than Jeavons’ or Rodale’s. I guess that can only be measured in the eye of the beholder.
I haven’t heard you mention directly the binary thinking which accompanies the pervasive American cultural phenomenon known as “positive thinking”. I just finished Barbara Ehrenreich’s well-researched book "Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America". Ehrenreich shows how the cult of positive thinking has infiltrated nearly every aspect of American life. I was surprised to learn that many of the mega churches attract followers by emphasizing positive thinking and grossly deemphasizing traditional Christian doctrine. “God wants you to be rich and all you have to do is think positively to receive his bounty” etc etc.
On examination, I believe that the threat of being relegated to the wrong side of the binary: positive person vs negative person, has tempered my contribution to many a conversation. Alternatively, I sense that in many conversations people simply don’t want to hear my version of reality. I suspect that the accepted attitude: that it is best to ignore, so called, negative thoughts, is a primary reason why 21st century Americans willingly overlooking the evidence of immanent decline.
Best, Bert

Jason Heppenstall said...

This analysis makes a lot of sense to me. From it I can see that I live in a 'luciferic' place (Denmark). There is hardly a week that goes by without some report or other coming out that says this country is the happiest/most eco friendly/socially responsible nation on earth. We even had Oprah Winfrey over here proclaiming what an angelic paradise it was (on the basis of two days of observation).

Francis Fukuyama (gods bless him) recently coined the term 'getting to Denmark' - meaning that this country is some kind of end goal for progressive government and should be an aspiring model for all nations.

The only trouble is that it isn't.

When I try to point out to Danes the indisputable concrete fact that they are Europe's biggest per capita generators of trash, electricity generation is reliant for the most part on coal (much of it shipped from Brazil) and the average person is so biophobic that I literally have to keep my compost worm bin a secret (well, it's out now) ... people just look at me blankly and aks me if I actually read the newspapers. They assume, perhaps, that I'm slightly insane.

The irony of this was brought into sharp focus at the COP15 climate talks, with PR bureaux going into overdrive to promote Denmark's vision of green capitalism. Copenhagen temporarily rebranded itself as 'Hopenhagen' - which was unfortunate as witty protestors with spray cans added an 's' before the 'h' on billboards when they actually saw the level of material consumption in this self-proclaimed green capital.

Of course, that's not to say that there aren't some great intiatiatives here - I love the fact that I can cycle to work with hundreds of thousands of other cyclists every day - it just seems that people here believe the hype so deeply that they actually associate the entire country with virtuosity - a mistake in my opinion.

All people/cities/countries have their good and bad sides - it just takes clear sightedness and honesty to admit it.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Regarding 'imagining a future and filling it with positive imagery' - that really strikes a chord with me.

I have recently discovered how cheaply one can buy a piece of woodland for - which is very attractive for someone with at-present slender means. This has coincided with me finding out about ebidle forest gardening and synthesisied with some vague ideas of making charcoal.

Whoa - all of a sudden I have a realisable plan and the best thing is that my enthusiasm has finally infected my other half for the first time and now even she is talking about beeswax candles and woodland crafts.

It sure makes those paying off the last of my debts as I sit in an over-heated office a lot more pleasant - I'm not at my desk, I'm coppicing ash poles in my 4 acre wood!

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Sgage and Cherokee Organics--

I've been following your discussion with interest. I agree with you, Sgage that the distinction between aggressively invasive and exotic plants should be kept clearly in mind--even native species can be aggressively invasive if in the wrong place (Canada goldenrod, anyone?).

To all interested in these matters, I highly recommend the new book 1493 which is a wide-ranging history of the "Columbian Exchange," or the movement of people, plants, animals, pests and diseases around the globe beginning in the 15th century.

Did you know that the first real monocultures were mulberry trees in China for the silk trade? That the Irish potato famine came about partly because mold spores hitchhiked in loads of South American guano bound for European fields and partly because the Irish were forced out of planting in raised beds by more modern "scientific" farming methods? I sure didn't.

The book fully illustrates Cherokee/Chris's comments about the human influence on landscapes.

And Chris, my garden is doing well, thanks for the good words. I just cleaned up the raised bed and have pulled some pioneer species ;) that were too numerous among the wild strawberries that grow beneath the chokeberry and running serviceberry bushes.(That's my little US-native berry-bearing plant guild.) Today I'm making green tomato and apple chutney with the last tomatoes that couldn't ripen in the November chill.

Happy spring to you!

Kieran O'Neill said...

Coming back to some of your earlier writings on the use of thaumaturgy in politics, here is an unusually deep analysis of the somewhat Christian iconography of a photograph of an 84-year old woman who was pepper sprayed at Occupy Seattle.

The generally indignant comments below the article are a stark reminder of the obliviousness of the general public.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

"1493" is one of the books on my list to read at some point, as I liked "1491" by the same author.

siddrudge said...

JMG said: " . . . go out of your way to spend more time contemplating what you value than what you oppose."

I've been thinking that we might get more from our leaders if we hold them to their dreams rather than their rigid (binary) positions. There actually might be less wiggle room and more accountability in their dreams.

When we know what the ideal world is for someone, we can drill down from there . . . so what color are the people in your ideal world? . . . what do they believe? . . . how do they make their living? . . . how will they care for each other? . . . if there are rich and powerful in your ideal world, how did they get there? . . .

But we've outsourced our dreams to our leaders haven't we? I don't know about you, but I was never asked what I thought "The American Dream" was. Perhaps that should be put to a vote. But we don't vote on our dreams do we? That's probably why that recently proposed Greek referendum (which was really a chance for the people to voice where they wanted to go in the future) never saw the light of day. That was a sad sad day in the history of democracy -- and in Greece of all places, the cradle of democracy.

Henry Ford once said "If we asked people what they wanted they would have just said faster horses." So we were never asked. I wonder what Henry Ford contemplated as an ideal world.

But for now, I'll take your wise advice and contemplate what I value rather than what I oppose. Thanks for another thought-provoking post Mr. Greer!

hadashi said...

@siddrudge (it could only be you)
"we've outsourced our dreams to our leaders"

another great phrase that leaped out at me from the wealth of comments generated yet another week.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hey Ozark,

Thanks for the link. To be honest I reckon it's where I pinched the term pioneering species from. His farm is about 40km from me and I've visited it and was most impressed. He's a very switched on dude.

I really enjoyed reading about your autumn olives. To the far west of me in the Adelaide Hills (which is lower, less fertile and drier) they are a so called "weed" species. But olives are such undemanding givers. Plus they taste really good.

If you're interested in weeds, I can also recommend a guy by the name of Peter Andrews who farms up in the drylands of New South Wales (far north of me) and there's a good story on his life and experiments on youtube plus the costs he has personally paid for his beliefs.

Australian Story - Natural Land Regeneration Part 1

If you are interested in parts 2 etc... do a youtube search.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Adrian,


I think the Irish didn't cultivate more than about 2 species of potatoes which didn't help their cause either. The 2 species (of almost 1,000 to choose from) just happened to also be of the type susceptible to potato blight. You're quite right though raised beds would have helped. I planted potatoes for the first time last year and this year they just kept turning up, so I'm experimenting and growing them in old paint cans (cleaned thoroughly of course).

I get tomatoes through to May here so we must be getting a similar climate? I find organically grown potatoes ripen from green when brought inside. The green chutney turned into an inedible disaster last year... Oh well, if at first you don't succeed!

I had my first local cherries (Burgsdorf) today! WOO HOO!



John Michael Greer said...

Thijs, I draw on a very wide range of intellectual influences. If you find one or another of them intolerable, well, de gustibus non disputandum est.

Aluramia, the old Taoists used to say that the art of doing nothing is among the most challenging, and most important, of all arts to master. By all means continue -- and if course I'll do the same.

Cherokee, I'm not sure whether activism is always an attempt to prolong business as usual, but in the present setting -- at least here in America -- it certainly is far more often than not. How many of the OWSers would keep on protesting if somebody suddenly offered them all nice middle class jobs and an SUV apiece?

Lewis, thank you for the links!

SLClaire, that doesn't surprise me. The deafening silence that follows whenever anyone brings up the hard fact that the age of abundance is over, and we need to scale down our sense of entitlement accordingly, is starting to become very familiar.

Dwig, the midpoint between the individual and mass institutions is voluntary civil society -- the network of local voluntary groups that weaves community together. More on this down the road a bit.

Ares, one of the great failings of the American left is that it's so deeply committed to the idea that everybody can and should live an American middle class lifestyle. In the not too distant future, nobody will be able to live such a lifestyle -- not even those of the rich who happen to have survived -- and the cognitive dissonance between that reality and the political jargon of the left is going to be a major source of problems.

Grrl, just a simple misunderstanding, I'd guess.

Richard, I spent the first two years or so this blog was in existence hashing through the reasons why collapse wasn't going to be quick. The very short version is that, first, the sheer waste common all through the world's industrial societies provides an unexpected source of resilience in really hard times; second, arguments in favor of fast collapse basically assume that governments and militaries will sit on their hands and do nothing, when they have plenty of options and all the incentive in the world to use them; and third, history shows that societies under appalling strain far more often suck it up and cope, rather than falling apart suddenly and forever. There are plenty of other details, and plenty of other reasons, but those will do for now.

Hadashi, Disneyland is in the LA suburbs, and deserves to be.

S., excellent. Thank you for taking the time to work through the post's ideas, rather than simply reacting to them!

Joy said...

Santa Cruz - the midpoint where you will find the Archangel - or the Goddess.

John Michael Greer said...

Frubhouse, no, I didn't know that Gurdjieff also taught ternary thinking! Most interesting; it seems to have been pretty much pervasive among esoteric traditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Hal, er, I think you missed my point. The binary I'm trying to resolve is the one that says that the only alternative to business as usual in the form of endless bailouts of the rich by everyone else is the complete overthrow of the current system. The third option I'm proposing is one of reform and regulation; there could be any number of ways of doing that, but any of them that matter, it seems to me, need to start from the suggestion that people who do stupid things with money should not be rewarded.

X, how about we ditch the whole set of shibboleths (left and right both), start paying attention to the hard limits of the biosphere, and rework our ideas of who ought to have what to fit within those limits?

Justin, the odd thing is that I just taught a weekend workshop in the Chicago area, and people were by and large more responsive and more interested in what I was trying to communicate than groups on either coast have tended to be.

Allison, that's an interesting analysis, and one worth considering. The one thing I'd suggest is that there's not just one "third option" -- there are plenty of them, from which one or more will be chosen (either by people or by circumstances).

Cathy, excellent! You get tonight's gold star, no question. The belief in individual entitlement that pervades so much of contemporary American society, and is the root of so many of our crises, rests on the unstated assumption by each person that he or she is very, very important to the whole universe; call that assumption into question and you'll very often get white-hot rage, either directly or veiled in any number of passive-aggressive forms. To come to terms with the basic unimportance of the self in the great scheme of things is a step toward maturity that very few people ever get around to taking.

Don, a lot depends on what you're looking for, and whether you've learned how to look for it. I find a great deal of depth in Rembrandt -- but then I also find the classic Depression photos Stoneleigh has been using very powerful as well.

Lucid, back when I was young and silly, I wanted magic -- occult philosophy and meditation didn't cut it, as far as I was concerned. That led me into the Golden Dawn tradition, which was at the time the most comprehensive magical training I could get. Druidry came later, when I wanted to find a way to connect my occult studies and practices with the "green" side of my life.

Ing, good. The art of remaining balanced between two opposing forces, rather than being caught up in one or the other, is a very useful one. I'm glad you're finding the book you mentioned to be of use!

Carl, why avoid "tribe"? I don't think anybody took it literally, and it makes a good metaphor; even as a literal description, though, what makes that term more problematic than other ways of talking about a group of people who feel themselves to be united by something more than mutual convenience?

Goat Path, glad to be of help. I didn't know Steiner's stuff was online.

Katsmama, thanks for the link!

John Michael Greer said...

Grrl, Fields is a great bookstore -- I always make time to stop there when I'm in SF.

Maria, you're most welcome.

Petro, why on earth does suggesting that people ought to try to think clearly when they think amount to a "defense of the primacy of reason"? That's akin to saying that suggesting that people learn to pound nails efficiently is a defense of the primacy of hammers. As for the ternary option always being stuck halfway between the opposites, er, have you actually read the last few weeks' worth of posts? I've repeatedly said in so many words that there are many "third options." I'm not sure what I can say that will make that point any clearer.

Bert, that's a post in itself. Ehrenreich's book is very timely and, to my mind, spot on; I'd argue that a good many of our national problems would be a lot easier to face if we didn't have such a pathological terror of thinking about the downside.

Jason, that's fascinating. Here in the US we don't get much news of this kind about the smaller countries, and it's oddly cheering to know that we're not the only country with these problems. I'm delighted to hear of your coppicing project, too! That strikes me as a very good plan.

Kieran, thanks for the link!

Sid, very nicely put. One place to start, it seems to me, is -- as you've suggested -- to begin to pay more attention to our own dreams and hopes and visions of the future.

Cathy McGuire said...

This feels like a green wizardry type of project:

Agricultural Program Helps Keep Youth Out of Gangs

WOODLAKE, Calif. (AP) — When Manuel Jimenez first set eyes on the land below a levee, thick with brush and weeds, the one-time field worker envisioned a place where youngsters could escape the temptations of gang life and learn about the Central Valley's most vital industry....

Rich_P said...


RE Fresno: After returning from a trip to Bakersfield last month, I remarked to a friend that the cities along the spine of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys (e.g., Redding, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield) are indistinguishable blobs of suburban sprawl, decay, stripmalls, high unemployment, and gridlock, despite being built in one of the most agriculturally productive regions on Earth. (I say this as someone who has lived in several of those places.)

I have also lived in San Francisco, and the City By The Bay is a world-leader in "greenwashing": the public transportation system is effectively in a permanent state of crisis, automobiles receive all sorts of subsidies (e.g., below-market parking rates, though this is BAU throughout the country), but the former mayor, and now Lt. Gov. of California, Gavin Newsom, always reminded us that S.F. was "transit first!" Fortunately, S.F. is a beautiful city to walk around in, so my feet often spared me the frustration of waiting 40 mins for the next train or bus.

phil harris said...

@Cherokee et al
Re Potatoes.
Great crop. Centre of diversity is Andean highlands. Our European stock was derived from a novelty single species (S. solanum)import to Europe that was then selected gradually to become adapted to N Hemisphere long summer days, before becoming a widespread 'subsistence' crop for example in areas where cereal growing was more difficult. e.g. west Eire. Each variety that we grow is actually a 'clone' - genetically identical. New varieties are each derived from a single seedling. Mr Burbank in the USA sometime around 1900 had set up breeding on an industrial scale and is reputed to have walked the long rows of seedlings when the tubers had been dug, and selected out of many thousands the Russet Burbank. Never surpassed since as the variety for French Fries, when grown in certain US potato producing regions.
The highland Andean people who first domesticated potato in its centre of origin grow (grew?) several distinct species in the same potato patch (S.phureja for example as well as S. solanum) and partly due to environment and partly due to various disease resistance were not plagued by diseases (particularly the sirborne fungus that is Potato Blight as well as many insec transmitted viruses) that infected all the potatoe crops as they spread round the world. Modern breeding has identified several resistance genes for blight, but these do not give total protection. Producing 'clean seed', tubers for next year's sowing, is still a very technical exercise at a large scale, but can be done using 'low-tec' methods.
PS We personally have an organic garden but I had a career in potato quarantine for a couple of decades and a bit. I am very interested in relatively low-tec methods of crop protection for the future. Ditto human health protection, when it comes to that!

russell1200 said...

Very interesting.

The other example that came to my mind was the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel in the period following King David.

Israel was on the lush fertile areas and had close ties with the Phoenician (Canaanite) City of Tyre.

My only qualm with your post is the comment to the effect that societies that overshoot their resources have the option of decline.

In many cases we don't really know what happened. But while it is true that the collapses get the big notices, it is also true that there are an awful lot of them. What I find telling is that in many cases the collapses are so extreme that we don't even know that the society existed until archeologists dig up some ruins. T

Michael said...

While standing in the supermarket line yesterday, I paged through Money magazine. There was an article on the best things to do these days with $1,000.

Some of the suggestions were about practicalities, but one caught my eye. It was headlined something like "Bet on scarcity," and acknowledged that most experts think the global peak in oil production is near or already past, while demand is only rising.

They did not seem to have thought through the ripple effect of declining supplies, and their advice was all about how to profit from it, but it was an acknowledgment of the situation in a mainstream publication -- a good sign, I thought.

Glenn said...


Just re-read your Atlantis book again. A few legominisms of your own in there that are more obvious now that this blog has shifted more to the mechanics of magic and magical thinking. Of course, many books can be read on multiple levels, I loved the old "Pogo" strip for that. If it's subtle enough I suppose it qualifies as legominism.

I've started reading it to my 12 year old daughter. I think you've put a lot of valuable information on Western Civilization in there, from ancient philosophy through renaissance occultism to modern politics, to name just a few.

ando said...


Maharaj told those that visited his loft in Mumbai that you are what you pay attention to. As usual, when the truth is pointed to, whether by an Archdruid or a Maharaj, it sounds the same.

I will not be paying attention to a jingoistic and nationalistic holiday that celebrates a feast based on the obliteration and subjugation of indigenous peoples.

I will start Thursday as usual reading the "Archdruid Report", then tilling the garden and spreading some manure. I will take the oportunity to see family, especially the children.

I did not see any feasts or festivals, other than maybe a harvest festival for druids. How will the Archdruid spend the so-called holiday??



phil harris said...

Please forgive the typos in my recent comment on potato.
Can hardly believe one of them myself! Ouch - more like a braino than typo!
Our common 'potato' is actually one species; Solanum tuberosum as distinct from the different lineages of genetically distinct domesticated species grown indigenously in the Andes, which include for example Solanum phureja as well as S. tuberosum.

Cathy McGuire said...

Not that this would surprise any of us…

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"These studies were designed to help understand the so-called 'ignorance is bliss' approach to social issues," said author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "The findings can assist educators in addressing significant barriers to getting people involved and engaged in social issues."
Through a series of five studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada, the researchers described "a chain reaction from ignorance about a subject to dependence on and trust in the government to deal with the issue."

… Participants who felt unknowledgeable about oil supplies not only avoided negative information about the issue, they became even more reluctant to know more when the issue was urgent, as in an imminent oil shortage in the United States, according the authors….

SLClaire said...

Hi Cherokee and others,

Those opposed to closing any county parks organized themselves to attend the county council meeting on Nov. 15, to speak during the public comment portion. Here's what the paper of record said about it:

My friends who attended the meeting said that the idea of organizing volunteers to help keep some parks open was brought up more than once. That would be a good solution if some volunteers could keep some of the parks open at least some of the time.

JMG's blog addresses the general reasons why we all have trouble with the prospect of doing less with less. In this case, two other conditions also come into play, I think.

The first is that in the U.S., municipalities have taken onto themselves a lot of the functions that county governments do in unincorporated areas. Most municipal dwellers such as my friends hardly notice the county exists. The parks are the most visible sign that there is a county governmental level. Threaten the parks and everyone notices. Threaten funding for county police, say, and municipal-dwellers yawn. I live in an unincorporated area so the county is my lowest level of government. I pay attention to it for that reason.

Second, because it took a few years for enough houses to sell at reduced prices to reflect in most house assessments, and because the county executive has done a good job of cutting fat out of the budget over the past few years, this is the first year that local folks have had to contend with the possibility that they might have to do less with less at the county level.

The state of Missouri has also been able to delay major funding cuts, because we came into 2008 with a surplus. That surplus is gone now. I expect things to get *interesting* over the next few years.

Slorisb said...

Hello JMG and everyone else,

I've been following this blog since mid spring and am constantly rewarded with new/old things to think and rethink. Not only from you JMG, but also from all the wonderful people that enrich the ongoing learning conversation herein.

It seems that every time I find something that I really want to comment about, someone has beat me to it. And that's fine with me.

What I most want to thank you all for right now is the caring and safe environment maintained in the atmosphere of this blog space. I follow many of the most notable blogs on this subject matter, and oftentimes the space becomes hostile and no longer a good learning experience.

Thank you all, and have a safe and pleasant "holiday".


John Michael Greer said...

Joy, I'll have to visit next time I'm on the left coast.

Cathy, that sounds like a very good idea!

Rich, my only experience with Fresno was a visit to a Golden Dawn lodge there; they didn't have a building of their own, and met in somebody's living room, but the ritual work was excellent. The town itself seemed pretty faceless. As for San Francisco, well, let's just say that your comments on greenwashing don't surprise me a bit.

Russell, it's a perennial irritation to me that I can say the same thing over and over again, as clearly as possible, and people still insist that I've said something that I haven't said. Decline ends in fall; those failed civilizations went through a long curve of decline, one to three centuries in length, before those archeological sites were abandoned. (You can find the traces of the decline very clearly in the ruins.) The distinction I'm drawing is between decline and fall, on the one hand, and the fantasies of instantaneous collapse that fill so much space in the blogosphere these days.

Michael, that's fascinating. I confess that I'd sooner read an old Vladivostok phone directory than Money Magazine, but it's intriguing to hear that a first whisper of trouble ia being heard even there.

Glenn, excellent. Yes, I deal in legominisms now and then; just remember, it's not subtlety that defines a legominism, it's the use of a narrative structure that seems to say one thing and actually teaches another.

Ando, our garden harvest is in and the weather's turned decisively toward winter, and so we'll be celebrating that with a pleasant dinner and a day to sleep in. I'm going to be on Coast to Coast AM in the small hours of the morning, so the sleeping in will be welcome!

Cathy, thanks for the link! This is very timely; I've just negotiated a contract for a peak oil book for which this will be highly relevant.

Slorisb, I second the motion. I appreciate the fact that so many readers and commenters have been willing to help keep this a civil and courteous place to discuss what are, after all, some very challenging and emotionally loaded issues. I do have to delete some attempted trollishness every week, but these days, it's not really that much. Thank you all for contributing to that!

lsjarvi said...

"There ought to be a place equidistant between L.A. and San Francisco..."

That's a good one! Let's see. A physical location equidistant to L.A. and San Francisco...Hmmm... That would have to be Christville, maybe? Just south of Fresno?

This really takes the cake. Thanks for the laugh!

S. Starwind said...

Is not one of the primary purposes of this blog to provide a vehicle for using the mind to work through such ideas? That is how it seems to me, at least.
Each new tree of enlightenment grows not from the material being read but from within ourselves. The seed is planted within and all that we take in is merely nourishment for that seed to grow. What you write here is nourishment and it is up to the reader to determine the growth of that seed.

I am looking forward to receiving today's double dose with your appearance on Coast to Coast!


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Phil,

No stress, I enjoyed your post. I've traveled to Peru and noticed all of the different potatoes there. It was interesting because some of them had a crystalline texture which I quite liked.

Actually, as a bit of a confession, I said potatoes when I meant tomatoes at one point in my comment post anyway, so we're all in good company!



Cherokee Organics said...


I'm sorry to hassle you so late in the week, but I hope you are watching the economic indicators. Interesting stuff. A good regression analysis on indices would show interesting parallels to the Great Depression.



idiotgrrl said...

Well, pseudo holiday and oppression of the Indians or not, I intend to give thanks for the native products on my table and the Indians who invented them, and tuck in and celebrate what harvest we have. The drought hit us hard, especially the green chile and the pecans, so that we have these things at all, I am grateful.

And I need to finish peeling and coring the pears to turn into "apple"sauce - the last one has been off the tree and in the fridge for over a month.

Meanwhile, the best thing someone who feels bad about the Indians can do is pick up Native America Calling on NPR (KUNM-FM if you're around here) and actually listen to them for a few years. Quite enlightening.

Captcha of the day - trollaca.

ando said...


Do you have any idea when you will be on coast to coast tonight? I can sleep in also.



Zach said...


Interesting. By the way, just in this morning's reading I found an example of a binary:

"The core of that way of thinking, and the focal point of the disagreements that surround it, is the issue of environmental limits. It's no exaggeration to say that either you believe in those limits or you don't." - The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered, p. 54


Of course, any ternary can be trivially reduced to a binary by selecting one of the poles, call it "A", and then classifying the other two together as "not-A". Whether this is useful or not depends on the problem...

It's important to realize that ternary thinking can be a mental trap also, in at least two cases. One case would be (as you've noted previously) where one is dealing with a true binary decision -- looking for a ternary option is not helpful for making a quick predator/not-predator decision!

Another would be poor choices of the two "endpoints," then rigidly insisting that the Aristotelean mean is at the exact midpoint of the two. An example: dividing American politics into Left-extreme, Right-extreme, and therefore Moderate-virtuous. The flaw of this model is that it ends up making the mushy middle compromises of our two dominant parties (i.e., "business as usual") the virtuous norm, and relegates any serious critique of business as usual as necessarily belonging to either the Right-extreme or the Left-extreme.

I'd also like to point out that the traditional Christian approach to good and evil is being somewhat oversimplified here. While ultimately this is a binary (at the end of life, one will either be in harmonious relationship with the Source of goodness, or one will... NOT be ...), we have other models to use when navigating life. For example, the Way of Life, from which one can stray to one side or the other. (Or Martin Luther's famous metaphor of humanity as a drunken horseman, continually lurching off one side of the saddle then over-correcting and falling off the other side.) And the classic three-fold model of evil (the World, the Flesh, and the Devil) is more complex than Steiner's two-fold model.

It occurs to me that we also have a number of correctives to the problem of becoming that which you contemplate, even in opposition, but I'll leave that alone for now.


John Michael Greer said...

Isjarvi, I think Steiner would have approved! ;-)

Shark, good. You're getting it...

Cherokee, of course! Economic indicators and the price of oil are among the things I track pretty much daily.

Grrl, enjoy your turkey!

Ando, it'll be 2-5 am EST -- at least in theory, I'll be on for three hours straight.

Zach, good. As I commented back a ways, binaries aren't bad, and there are times and places where they are appropriate. Now find a third factor to turn that binary into a ternary! With regard to Christianity, though, as I pointed out to Nestorian a while back, I'd addressed that point already, in pointing out that Christians have found ways to reconcile an ethic influenced by Aristotle with a binary mythic narrative, and noting that Steiner's version was, ahem, "one of the more thoughtful ways out of the tangle." If you can turn that into an insistence that all other Christian approaches are less thoughtful, I'm impressed. (Not favorably impressed, but impressed.)

katsmama said...

I always learn something here- this week, the new word for me, legominism. I had to look up that it is a story that has a hidden meaning, a dog whistle, whose message is understood by those who are ready to understand it, but not seen by others. Now I will be seeing legoministic tales everywhere- The Twilight series is not really about young adult vampires, it's about losing your virginity. Every rock song ever written is really about sex, even if it seems to be about driving. A new world opening up. I can't wait to see what I learn tomorrow.

Zach said...


If you can turn that into an insistence that all other Christian approaches are less thoughtful, I'm impressed. (Not favorably impressed, but impressed.)

Well, now I'm confused, because I didn't think that's what I was saying. Evidently we're mis-communicating (alternately, I am truly confused, and communicating my confusion well).

Would be happy to try to untangle it if you think that would be interesting and useful; otherwise, please chalk it up to a failed musing on my part.


siddrudge said...

@Cathy McGuire & JMG said:

Cathy: "This counters the hubris of society, and it seems close to your counter-spell, “There is no better future ahead”. This might be framed, “You are not important enough to save first, if ever.” It helps me develop a proper relationship with my soil and plants.

JMG: "To come to terms with the basic unimportance of the self in the great scheme of things is a step toward maturity that very few people ever get around to taking."

How true! It seems that my life lately is absolutely infested with self-absorbed narcissists. I can't escape them. Our culture encourages it-- the self, the self, the exalted self! If the human ego was a source of energy it would reach to the outer edges of the universe! ;-)

I came from a loud and lively Irish/Italian family and am one of nine children, including my twin sister. I never had a bedroom of my own and with seven other brothers I didn't have a pair of socks or undershorts I could call my own until I was married. ;-) At one point, when my grandparents moved in with us, and then my oldest brother's wife and baby, we had fifteen people living under one roof! LOL!

We weren't rich,and we weren't poor, but we were civilized. Trust me, none of us ever felt as though we were the center of the universe. To this day my siblings are some of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know.

I too take refuge from the cult of the self by going out to work in the garden. Sometimes I find myself staring into the compost bin, marveling at the utter efficiency of nature in reconciling life with death.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Wowie, Zowie!!! The Arch Druid on the radio. 10pm PST. Got my radio set up and tuned in. Going to take a nap.

Posted the broadcast on our local newspaper's on-line forum. Also sent out a few e-mailes to friends in as scattered places as Seattle, Georgia and Cleveland.

I think this is a great venue for getting the word out to a ... less enlightened segment of the population.

John Michael Greer said...

Katsmama, I'd always thought that the Twilight saga was the heartwarming story of a girl on the brink of womanhood facing a choice between bestiality and necrophilia. ;-)

Zach, oh, very probably a simple miscommunication. I wasn't trying to talk about the entire traditional Christian approach to ethics, just one of the challenges that Christian thinkers of various kinds (including Steiner) have had to meet, with varying degrees of success.

Sidd, I think it's fair to say that self-absorbed narcissists make up an uncomfortably large fraction of everybody's experience these days.

Lew, 11pm PST, not 10pm! You'll be able to read this week's Archdruid Report post while you wait, of course.

siddrudge said...


The Coast-to-Coast website has you listed as 10 PM PT. You may want to double-check so that you're not late for your own interview. ;-)

Looking forward to hearing it!


Dwig said...

A but late, of course, but it suddenly occurred to me that the Apollonian-Dionysian binary seems very similar to Lucifer-Ahriman. I'm curious as to the similarities and differences.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Hmmm. C to C's website says 10 Pacific Time. So did the advance ads on the radio, this afternoon. They're probably giving you an hour intro. I mean, with the number of books you've written and the wide variety of interests you have, a hour would not be enough. I say that without irony, sarcasm or even a little smiley face.

Well, yes, I'll read this weeks post. But, I'll be in the store, noshing on an early beginning to Thanksgiving and "polishing" piles of books. Plastic jackets on dust jackets and such. T minus less then two months and counting to be out of here and moved out in the woods, a bit.

Richard Larson said...

Ok. Pardon my thick binary skull!

PDoodle100 said...

Has anyone else come across "The Pilgrim's Regress" by C S Lewis? It's the tale of a metaphorical journey through a world populated by just the sort of binary-thinking fallacies which JG refers to.
Well worth getting hold of.

ando said...


a fine essay, as usual. Your writings continue to be good pointers for appropriate responses to the coming descent.

Kunstler's closing this morning was in line with your teachings and the green wizard philospy.

"This holiday season spend a little time musing on what the re-set economy will be like in your part of the country. Think of what you do in it as a "role," or a "vocation," or a "trade," or a "calling," or a "way of life," rather than a "job." Imagine that life will surely go on, even civilized life, though it will be organized differently. Add to this the notion that you are part of a larger group, a society, and that societies evolve emergently according to the circumstances that their time and place presents. Let that imagining be your new American Dream."

Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit,