Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Choice of Contemplations

Last week’s post on the problematic nature of binary thinking went out of its way to sidestep the most explosive of the binaries in contemporary industrial culture. That was a necessary evasion; those of my readers who are following the argument I’ve been developing over most of the last two months have now had a week to mull over the point I’ve raised in that post, to consider its pitfalls and possibilities, and to get ready for a hard look the most sacrosanct binary of our time: the binary between society as it is and society as we want it to become.

That’s become a hot issue in the news of late, and a significant part of that unfolds from the presence of the Occupy protests in various downtowns. There’s a complex magical context to that fact. The vast majority of Americans these days believe that something has gone very wrong with their country, but there’s nothing like a national consensus about what has gone wrong, much less how to fix it. By chance or design, the Occupy movement has capitalized on this by refusing to be pinned down to specific demands or specific critiques, mounting a protest in which protest itself is the central content. Tactically speaking, this is brilliant; it’s created a movement that anyone with a grievance can join.

The movement has also displayed a deft hand at the sort of binary thaumaturgy we discussed last week. Over the last few months, it has capably promoted a narrative in which it claims to speak for 99% of Americans while assigning its opponents the remainder. This is a difficult trick for what is, after all, a tiny protest movement supported by a minority of Americans, but I can’t think of an example since Lenin redefined his little revolutionary faction as “the Majority”—that’s what bolshevik means in Russian—where it has been carried off with such aplomb.

As this example may suggest, I’m of two minds about the Occupy phenomenon. If it follows the trajectory mapped out in a recent press release, holds a national convention next July to set out its demands, and forms a third party when those demands aren’t met, American politics could undergo a seismic shift. A successful third party in America rarely remains a third party for long; in 1860, when the Republicans first took the White House, the Whig party imploded and a political landscape that had been fixed in place since the republic’s early decades changed forever. That could happen again, and if it does, it’s probably the Democratic Party’s turn to land face first in history’s compost heap; after three decades pushing policies that could uncharitably but accurately be described as GOP Lite, the Dems are practically defenseless against a strong challenge from further to the left.

Such a challenge might work out well, or it might not. If the movement turns away from the options for change that our constitution provides, though, things become much harder to anticipate, and some of the possible outcomes are very ugly indeed. Mass protest movements, as anyone who’s followed current events knows well, are quite capable of destabilizing a nation, but what comes into being in their wake is a complete crapshoot. It’s never safe to assume that the character of the protests will be reflected in the system they put into power; both the French and Russian revolutions began with lively participatory democracy, and ended in the Terror and the gulags. There’s no certainty that successful mass protest in America will go the same way—but it’s critical for all concerned to realize that it could.

That brings us back in turn to the binary I mentioned above. I sincerely doubt that there’s anyone in America today who doesn’t cherish the thought that if only the right political changes were made, the world would be a much better place. I have such thoughts fairly often, though they’re tempered in my case by the wry realization that the changes I’d most like to see, if put to a popular ballot, would probably not get a single favorable vote other than mine. Daydream politics of this sort are now and then helpful, since that’s one of the ways that people come up with the currently unthinkable notions that will dominate serious politics fifty years from now, but in times of severe social stress they can feed into the sort of unwelcome consequences I’ve outlined above.

The structure of binary logic plays a large role in this. Remember that the binary reaction is meant to produce snap judgments in stressful situations, and it has no gray areas at all; a distant bit of color in a tree is either food or it’s not, the snap of a twig breaking in the forest behind you is either a predator or it’s not, and our australopithecine ancestors didn’t normally have to cope with things that were partly food and partly a predator, and might turn into one or the other depending on how a set of complex processes went. They also didn’t, as far as we know, have to deal with other australopithecines trying to convince them that food was predators and predators were food.

Part of the human predicament is that we do have to deal with such complex choices, where one thing can be an object of desire and an object of fear at the same time; we have to do that with a nervous system that still has most of its australopithecine reactions hardwired into place; and we have to deal with the fact that other people are trying to manipulate us against our best interests using those reactions. Politics is only one of the arenas where this is a major issue, to be sure, but the level of stress in politics is very often higher than elsewhere, and it’s thus far from rare for people who make nuanced judgments in other contexts to fall into extreme binary thinking when it comes to politics.

This is where we get the conviction, which is limited to the fringes in ordinary times but spreads rapidly into the mass of the population in times of extreme social stress, that the existing order of society is the worst possible state of affairs, and that any change to it must therefore be a change for the better. This is binary logic in its purest form: the existing order is bad, therefore whatever replaces the existing order must be good; since the existing order is bad, it’s equated with every other bad thing, even those that contradict each other, while whatever is to replace the existing order, since it’s good, can’t be bad in any sense. Add in white-hot emotions on all sides of the equation, and you get today’s fringe politics—and quite possibly the mainstream politics of tomorrow.

Still, the binary reaction isn’t the only factor at work Another bit of practical psychology that’s been used by operative mages for a very long time also comes into play, especially when the politics of an age are more intently focused on denouncing the existing order than in offering a coherent alternative to it. You’ll find this principle expressed in different ways in magical traditions, but the phrasing I first learned is to my mind the one that expresses it best: what you contemplate, you imitate.

It’s important to realize, before we go on, that this phrase means no more than it says, which is simply that the more attention you focus on something, the more likely you are to imitate it. In particular, it doesn’t mean that you can get anything you want simply by wanting it badly enough, or concentrating on it long enough; your own thoughts, words, and actions will be shaped by whatever most often fills the center of your attention, but if imitating whatever fills the center of your attention won’t get you what you want, the effect isn’t going to help you. Contemplating a new toaster oven, in other words, won’t get you one, it’ll simply make you imitate one—which is not exactly a useful thing under most conditions. If what you want to accomplish can be done by changing your thoughts, words, and actions, on the other hand, contemplation on carefully chosen subjects can accomplish a great deal; this is one of the major working tools of magic.

Like the binary reaction, the contemplation reaction has roots reaching deep into our evolutionary history. One of the reasons that mammals have been the dominant land animals on this planet for the last fifty million years or so is that they evolved the trick of supplementing inherited behavioral patterns with learned ones picked up early in life from one or both parents. Watch kittens learning how to hunt from their mother, and you’re seeing one of the foundations of mammalian dominance; the kittens watch every move intently, and then imitate therepertoire of motions in play. Rinse and repeat, and your kittens have a set of behaviors that are nicely adapted to local conditions. Primates do this even more than other mammals; there’s a reason we all know the phrase "monkey see, monkey do."

Every religious tradition that’s been around long enough to put together a decent collection of magical technique uses the resulting reaction to the hilt. Visit an old-fashioned Catholic or Orthodox church, a Hindu temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, or what have you, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a wealth of imagery, designed and created according to precise patterns handed down by tradition, inviting you to contemplation. In religions such as Islam and Judaism, which reject representational images, exactly the same effect is produced by the words of sacred texts that are in many places ablaze with vivid verbal imagery.

A Buddhist burning incense before an image of a bodhisattva, a Christian prayerfully studying the narratives of the Bible, or for that matter a Druid standing with arms outstretched in the midst of circle of trees in the rain, taking part in the dance of the natural world, are all contemplating that which they hope, in their own way, to imitate. All three, and their equivalents in other traditions, are aware of the other side of the balance; the Buddhist affirms the reality of suffering, the Christian likely considers original sin as a fact of existence, the Druid knows full well that the dance of nature also includes pain and death, but the devotional and meditative practices of these and other faiths carefully balance such reflections with a more sustained contemplation of exactly those things the believer seeks to imitate.

Still, the intellectual assent and emotional exaltation of the worshipper in the presence of the holy are not required to give the effect we’re discussing its power. The contemplation effect is remarkably independent of the other activities of the mind, and in particular, it works regardless of the thoughts and feelings you associate with the object of contemplation. One of the more bitterly ironic narratives in recent American history shows this independence in action.

When the neoconservative movement burst on the American scene in the last years of the 20th century, some thinkers in the older and more, well, conservative ends of the American right noted with a good deal of disquiet that the "neocons" had very little in common with conservatism in any historically meaningful sense of that word. In the Anglo-American world, conservatism had its genesis in the writings of Edmund Burke (1729-1797), who argued for an organic concept of society, and saw social and political structures as phenomena evolving over time in response to the needs and possibilities of the real world. Burke objected, not to social change—he was a passionate supporter of the American Revolution, for instance—but to the notion, popular among revolutionary ideologues of his time (and of course since then as well), that it was possible to construct a perfect society according to somebody’s abstract plan, and existing social structures should therefore be overthrown so that this could be done.

By and large, Burke’s stance was the intellectual driving force behind Anglo-American conservatism from Burke’s own time until the late twentieth century, though of course—politics being what they are—it was no more exempt from being used as rhetorical camouflage for various crassly selfish projects than were the competing ideas on the other end of the political spectrum. Still, beginning in the 1920s, a radically different sense of what conservatism ought to be took shape on the fringes of the right wing in America and elsewhere, and moved slowly inward over the decades that followed. The rise to power of the neoconservatives in 2000 marked the completion of this trajectory.

This new version of conservatism stood in flat contradiction to Burke and the entire tradition descended from him. It postulated that a perfect society could indeed be brought into being, by following a set of ideological prescriptions set out by Ayn Rand and detailed by an assortment of economists, political scientists, and philosophers, of whom Leo Strauss was the most influential. It called for a grand crusade that would not only make over the United States in the image of its ideal, but spread the same system around the world by any means necessary. It argued that bourgeois sentimentality about human rights and the rule of law should not stand in the way of the glorious capitalist revolution, and went on to create a familiar landscape of prison camps, torture, and aggressive war waged under dubious pretexts. Neoconservatism, in other words, was not conservatism at all; it was to Communism precisely what Satanism is to Christianity, a straightforward inversion that adopted nearly every detail of the Third International’s philosophy, rhetoric and practice and simply reversed some of the value judgments.

The magical principle we’ve just discussed explains this bizarre bit of ideological transformation. The main figures in the neoconservative movement entered public life in one or another of the panics over Communism that swept through the American right every decade or so from 1919 until just before the Soviet Union’s collapse. Like most political panics, these focused obsessively on the feared and hated Other, and a glance back through the biographies of prominent figures in neoconservatism shows plenty of involvement in that pastime. The result of this fixation of attention was utterly predictable to anyone with a grasp of magical theory: what the "neocons" contemplated, they imitated.

The same process can be seen in action all through the culture of denuciation that has replaced civil discourse in so much of contemporary life. From the evangelical preachers whose spluttering polemics about homosexuality provide an interesting counterpoint to their propensity for being caught in compromising positions with their boyfriends, to the militant atheists whose hostility toward religion is neatly matched by their eagerness to match the intolerance and self-righteousness of its least impressive forms, today’s society is well stocked with object lessons relating to this branch of magical philosophy. Still, such reflections are less important just now than the issues raised at the beginning of this essay.

The decision on the part of the Occupy movement to create a protest with protest itself as its only fixed content was, as I suggested earlier, a brilliant tactical stroke. What makes for good tactics, though, may not be equally wise as strategy. If the movement proceeds along the lines mentioned already, moving to the formulation of demands and then to the pursuit of active political goals, it has a good chance of dodging the inherent strategic weaknesses of its tactical choice. The longer it tries to avoid formulating its own coherent vision, though, the more likely it is to find itself following out the implications of someone else’s vision. That may happen by way of the contemplation effect—there’s a reason why revolutions so often end up installing governments all but identical to the ones they overthrow—or by way of any of several other modes of derailment; as history shows, a movement of the kind we’re discussing can run off the rails in any of a remarkable number of ways.

Of course, the peak oil movement is at least as vulnerable to deflection along these same lines. From its beginning, a great many people in that latter movement have focused attention on visions of a very troubled future. That focus was reasonable and indeed inevitable, especially early on; over the last three centuries, and more particularly over the last three decades, modern industrial civilization has backed itself into a very tight corner, and that reality needs to be recognized; trying to imitate a fantasy of sustainable growth by contemplating it, while refusing to recognize the hard material constraints that make it a fantasy, is exactly the kind of confusion between what magic can do and what technology can do that occupied an earlier post in this series. Again, contemplating a toaster oven won’t get you one; it’ll just make you more prone to overheat and burn the toast.

Yet it’s important to balance the recognition of inflexible planetary limits with a clear sense of the way human consciousness responds to such reflections, and to avoid the pitfalls that come from spending too much time contemplating what you don’t want to imitate. There are any number of ways to attain the necessary balance; those of my readers who follow religious, spiritual, or magical traditions have ample resources; those who don’t may find the regular contemplation of nature and natural systems to be an effective response; and of course one of the many reasons why I’ve encouraged readers who are interested in pursuing the "green wizardry" advocated in these posts to collect books and other information sources from the appropriate-tech movement of the 70s is that these tend to be stocked with colorful visions of the future we could have had—and even though that future is water under the micro-hydro turbine at this point, imitating it is by no means a useless strategy even this late in the game.

One way or another, though, what you contemplate, you imitate. Choose your contemplations well.

There are two details I should mention here for the benefit of readers. First, by the time this post goes up I will be at this year’s ASPO-USA conference in Washington DC; I’ve arranged to have comments put through, but won’t be responding to them until I get back.

Second, the anthology of science fiction short stories about a post-peak oil future, which I proposed in a post a little while back, has taken a major step toward realization; after talking to a couple of publishers, I have one that’s interested. I’d like to ask everyone who has a story in the works, but hasn’t yet submitted it, to get it up on the internet and post a link to it in the comments to this post by November 10. Yes, that’s a firm deadline.

I’d also like to ask everybody who’s submitted a story to get me your real name, email address, and mailing address, so I can get in touch with you if your story is selected for the anthology. The easy way to do that is to submit a comment to this post with that info, and a note asking me not to put it through. I’ll copy down the info and delete the post.

I’ve received upwards of fifty stories so far, by the way, ranging from quite readable to stunningly good, and it’s going to take some hard work to winnow the selection down to the 12 or 14 stories that will go into the anthology. Many thanks to all for your submissions, and I hope that even those of you whose stories aren’t selected gain something from the experience.


idiotgrrl said...

You said "the snap of a twig breaking in the forest behind you is either a predator or it’s not, and our australopithecine ancestors didn’t normally have to cope with things that were partly food and partly a predator, and might turn into one or the other depending on how a set of complex processes went. They also didn’t, as far as we know, have to deal with other australopithecines trying to convince them that food was predators and predators were food."

Okay - I'm being a bit of a wise guy here, but that sounds a lot like the dance of courtship! I have made exactly such calculations - predator? Or possibility - in my youth, when dealing with the opposite sex, and so have we all.

John Wheeler said...

"What you contemplate, you imitate."

Thank you. I have heard that sentiment in many different forms, but that is the best I've heard. It also perfectly explains why I like to focus on colonizing Mars and beyond. It's not that Mars itself will save the planet, it's that any problems we have on Earth will be trivial compared to those on Mars. On Mars we can't draw down oil reserves or exploit the biosphere, they aren't there to begin with.

And in a way it doesn't even matter if we get there. By treating the Earth like the spaceship it is, we can solve so many of the problems the industrial mindset has created.

Cathy McGuire said...

Excellent post, and definitely one I’ll remind myself of often! “What you contemplate, you imitate” is such an important realization – and one I’ve struggled with for a long time. As you say – one needs to find the balance between being aware of something and obsessing about it. I don’t find it easy at all. :-}

A few comments on your comments:
…it’s created a movement that anyone with a grievance can join.
Except neo-Nazi’s, apparently… one of them showed up today at Occupy Phoenix and it was explained to him that they didn’t share his complaints about the world.

Mass protest movements, as anyone who’s followed current events knows well, are quite capable of destabilizing a nation, but what comes into being in their wake is a complete crapshoot.
There is an excellent 5 hour movie called the French Revolution on YouTube:
which does bear a frightening similarity to current events. A sobering history to watch! Anyone who thinks they can start up a mob and control subsequent events is crazy. (Oh - and my verification word is "riater" - rioter??)

And I would like to say that thanks to your contest, I have gotten back to my fiction writing and so, no matter what, I am very grateful to you for proposing it! You’ve been an inspiration (also, your novel “Star’s Reach” has been very fun to read and a prod to me as well). Here is a link to a new story, (hope I got it in under the wire):

Ceworthe said...

So this principle is the reason for the statement "Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them" More positively stated, What you focus on, you become, or you create. Even better reason to ditch the tv ;-)

hadashi said...

Since so much of this essay rings true, there's a wealth of material one could comment on. I'll restrict myself to an observation/suggestion/wish regarding the OWS movement.

Since the sixties, I haven't been this inspired by any social movement (sadly, I was just too young to take part; by the time I grew into my teens the party had vanished).

JMG's comment about strategy and tactics bears thinking about. While I applaud the emergence of the 99% versus 1% meme that has brought about focus, I do worry about its binary potential.

I'd like to see it morph into something that does not have the effect of dividing or polarizing the public. How about 'We are the 100%'? After all, '100% = One'. Wouldn't contemplation on that be more likely to lead us where we want to arrive?

Mister Roboto said...

What you contemplate, you will imitate.

Very true. For instance, it's really a good idea to develop some constructive emotional equipment for dealing with disappointment when you're young. Otherwise, always fretting and fuming over one's own disappointments is likely to turn one into something of a disappointment. This is very important to keep in mind during a time of decline and collapse.

Kieran O'Neill said...

This reminds me strongly of the marketing maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I can certainly see it happening in political campaigning, too. Avoid all mention of the other side, and especially any fringe sides, to keep them out of your prospective voters' minds.

But two more practical extensions I can think of these:

Firstly, the idea speaks to the value of role models, or at least proof of concept, particularly in something like green wizardry. By canning, or growing your own vegetables, or travelling by bicycle when 80-90% of everyone else is using a car, you start people contemplating these as options, where before they tuned them out as irrelevant or impossible.

Secondly, it carries a warning and perhaps suggestions for dealing with opposing points of view. To be able to engage in meaningful debate with someone, you have to spend some time contemplating their ideas. The warning would be that spending too long doing so might slant you towards those ideas in your thinking, when you might have good rational reasons not to. The suggestion for dealing with this would be to balance any time spent contemplating views you oppose and which are contentious by spending more time contemplating something completely neutral, or closer to what you would like yourself to be.

This also ties in with the stress-binary thinking relationship. By contemplating relaxing, positive ideas or things, you reduce your stress, as well as your vulnerability to falling into false binaries.

Thank-you for a very thought-provoking post. Enjoy Washington! Hopefully you can get to see the new Martin Luther King memorial.

Linda at Headwater said...

JMG, my fiction piece is entitled The Wonderful Machine at Much success at the conference!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG and everyone!

I had to go all the way back to June 2010 to have a closer look at and again contemplate the spell:

"There is no brighter future ahead."

So, in contemplating it, we are considering it or focusing on it, are we not?

Well it already confirmed my own world view anyway that we have past the peak in our society and are now on the decline. This could be age or cynicism though.

Over the past decade or so, I've been coming to the conclusion that people are far more base than I'd previously given credit for their motivations. If people don't fall into the behaviour categories of greedy, lazy or self-interested I'm reasonably surprised and also pleased.

You have also neatly explained the phenomena of why when one party follows another into government it seems to be more of the same. The differences are minute unless they have the power to pursue their ideological wheelbarrows and then it is usually their undoing.

A nice quote for everyone: "Oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them."

Also explained was the tendency of opposition parties to spout objectionable rhetoric rather than coherent policies. It all makes sense.

The Third International policies - which I had to look up - sound not that dissimilar from a dictatorship. The perfect society is a myth - this is why so many multiple occupancies fail.

Also "the Druid knows full well that the dance of nature also includes pain and death". The organic gardener also knows this to be true. Yes, I contemplate nature as an antidote to contemporary thinking. It never ceases to surprise me how well you are known as an individual, even when you think that you are doing something different from the rest of society!

Good luck at the conference, I hope it goes well.



phil harris said...

This was a pop-up toaster one for me!
Regards to all at ASPO.
phil h

h0neanias said...

What I am sure Mr. Greer is acutely aware of, yet what perhaps should have been mentioned anyway, is that you follow your contemplations according to what is already in place inside, be it innate, grown, or internalized. For us it means that sooner or later, we may hit not only the boundaries of objective reality, but also the limitations of what the objective "stands against" -- our selves. That this standing against often really means dancing together cannot change the fact that your legs can get you only so far.

nutty professor said...

Enjoy your ASPO conference, Archdruid!
Perhaps the seeds of the new political movement you cautiously envision here can derive some energy from that organization as well. I for one would love to hear what you think that the OWS and the ASPO have in common, along the lines that you have laid out in your post.

And I am grateful that you are "representing!" in DC, as the kids say.
be safe

ZenMouser said...

I was glad to see you get down to the issue of resource conceptualization & management as an intersect with theurgy - eventually. To read the thread of your logic, you begin by citing historic examples of (r)evolutions that only gave rise to installation of different-but-same regimes. Then you tie those outcomes to improper contemplation as having primary influence on outcome. THEN you get around to mentioning resource mgmt as a factor. Case in point, resource mgmgt is currently done using thaumaturgy, while the effort to evolve is employing theurgy. Previous efforts have not fallen short due to use of theurgy. They've fallen short because thaumaturgy wasn't transformed at the base. It's one thing to have slight of hand, only joking duplicity as a source of entertainment. It is quite another to have such duplicity as a core heuristic undermining natural theurgy. btw, the 'fringe' is instrumental as to the next formulation of thaumaturgy, and it's not just hollow contemplation if the fringe knows of such contemplations as part of their current reality. Shared along theurgic channels, is an inoculation, used proactively. Threads of possibility extend out for one and all. Think of the cascading effects if, for example, a (r)evolution were to be initiated at the same time as the introduction of free energy. The percent chance of plus ca change... outcome would be significantly diminished. Theurgy is about true paradigm change. Thaumaturgy rearranges deck chairs.

Justin said...

If I may restate to see if I am getting it.

We make sense of reality through our conciousness. Our concious is littered with the constructs, habits, heuristics, or frameworks that we acquire from whatever we study or acculturate ourselves to. That is to say that our conciousness is not what or the way that we think or what seems to make sense, those are the ingrained habits or patterns that exist and our bounded within our conciousness. A clunky analogy, but appropriate given the medium we are communicating through, is the computer. The computer is conciousness, the programs that are installed on it, including the operating system, are the constructs of conciousness. You could equate the programs and operating systems to the individuals culture, education, and social norms. You refract the world through those constructs, or rather, you first map what you observe through the familiarity of these constructs to understand it. Whatever is unfamiliar is commonly reinterpreted through the familiar, where it cannot be, it is ignored as irrelevant, or considered trivial or boring. That dos not make it so, and its why we often miss important information that in retrospect was staring us in the face.

So choose well what is familiar to you, and make sure that nothing is so singularly familiar that it appears to explain everything. And keep in mind that just because something seems very familiar, you may be ignoring some crucial difference in the circumstances for the reason that you did not see it before, or worse, because it has been misintrepreted before and you are reenforcing that misintrepretation now. Its more likely than not that if some master ideology appears to explain everything, then you have really more likely to have trained yourself to have cognitive tunnel vision. Maybe things are usually close enough not to matter, but maybe not. Its not enough to double check your vision with others, because they may have the same tunnel vision as you, thats the effect of sharing culture.

To compound matters, we are hard wired to seek cognitive tunnel vision in our binary stimuli-response evolutionary past, where snap judgments and instant responses are necessary. As social animals, with perhaps the most highly evolved social abilities of all animals, we are also hard wired to adopt and learn from others their knowledge along these lines because its more effecient to get the information from others than having to learn the same sorting/response information independantly.

idiotgrrl said...

I knew the other side of "What you contemplate, you imitate" as "What you resist, persists."

Today, reading the comments to Brin's Blog,
I read one that pointed out how reality shows used to have us rooting for someone to win, but for some time now have instead given us the "vote them off the island" meme, in which we end up counting the losers and seeing who is the last one standing."

At least this person has noticed the media to good effect: warning us what the people are being fed now, and have been for some time.

There is another comment on the need for resilience,and asking that we implement it where we can. I consider this to be important.

Hal said...

Grrl: Many a buck has made that error during the rut. I always thought it was rather cruel, but then, it sure works.

Maria said...

I think the CAPTCHA robot thought I was a fellow bot, so I will try again:

It's interesting to me how the things you are discussing are also applicable to my personal life. Perhaps it's just the nature of the thing.

I've noticed lately how my thinking tends, in times of stress, to snap back automatically to what I learned in childhood (and much of what I learned there is Not Good, or at least, Not Helpful).

Furthermore, I'm seeing where that habitual thinking has made me food for a completely different type of predator than my australopithecine ancestors had to deal with, and how the predators piled on the stress to get me to comply. It has worked like a charm!

So it seems I have two tasks in my immediate future: 1) to learn not to be bowled over by the loud noises predators make when they are deprived of food (i.e., not to be afraid of their anger); and 2) to unpack a lot of what I've been told (or, more accurately, psychologically beaten into submission about) in light of the idea that the truth may actually be a mirror image. Food is not a predator and a predator is not food.

You maybe be discussing Peak Oil, JMG, but you are also helping me to heal my life from the ground up by shoing me my own unproductive ways of thinking. And I believe I know how you're doing it: instead of pointing out my wrong thinking and handing me a set of ready-made solutions, you're saying, in effect, "Here are the tools; fix it yourself." Well played, Archdruid. Thank you.

Jason said...

The alert will realise now why 'contemplating one's navel' could be good for those interested in ultimate origins.

Mister Roboto is quite correct that contemplation of one's miseries is not smart.

A recent good example came from a (psychologist) friend: the upsurge of transvestism correlates to increased opportunity for devoted contemplation of photos of glamorous women. :) There's evidence to back that one I believe.

redoak said...

I would like to offer a quick apology for Leo Strauss who in my opinion is unfairly associated with the neocons. It is true that many of the intellectuals in the neocon movement were students or students of students of Strauss. It is also true that many Nazis were ardent readers of Nietzsche and that Alcibiades was a known associate of Socrates. But a philosopher should not be held accountable for the actions of his students.

The general goal of Strauss' thinking seems to me highly compatible with the direction of your own thinking JMG. His specialization, political philosophy, properly understood is precisely aimed at the difference between theurgy and thaumaturgy you have described in these posts. Practically he emphasized the subordination of social science to philosophy and the politically moderating affect of philosophical wisdom. His essential ambition was to resurrect the validity of classical philosophy in the face of an academic culture dominated by illusions of progress in the arts and sciences.

Many of his students suffered from a common but fatal error of philosophy: they believed themselves to be wise.

I wrote because it would be regretable if one of your readers passed by a used copy of Strauss on the basis of your remarks. I recommend they try him out! But by all means, pass by Ayn Rand!

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Greetings to JMG in DC--

Good wishes for the conference and I hope your talk goes well.

Thanks for the meditation suggestion last thread.

A thought, having little to do with the main thrust of the discussion:

Australopithecines may have relied on the predator/prey dichotomy. But they seem to have eaten a largely plant-based diet, so there was plenty of room for uncertainty when encountering a new fruit or vegetable that might possibly be food or might possibly be poison (or even both, depending on degree of ripeness or whether it was leaves or berries of a given plant)--and who was going to test it to find out?

It seems to me that OWS is trying to change the national conversation, not take over--but it could turn into anything at all, depending on events.

Toaster oven, lol. This week I've been contemplating Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin as I do my zhan zhuang practice.

I had never heard "what you contemplate, you imitate" expressed exactly that way before. That is an extremely complex concept, which requires much thought. More meditation, I think.

We are living the post peak story even now.

No need for you to reply, since you're so busy. ;)

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


Greetings, and I hope you saw my message to you at the end of last week's thread.

Justin said...

I should add that I think I understand why the fiction project ties into this, and that is that we perform to expectations. The economic realities of peak oil and its impact on the current order are unavoidable, and if what we envision as an unavoidable social consequence of that is apocalyptic breakdown and zombie hordes, that is what we will become. That is a choice we are making now though with Mad Maxian fantasy.

Jason Heppenstall said...

"What you contemplate, you imitate."

Thank you for that nugget of wisdom! Perhaps it goes some way towards explaining why a sizable number of outspoken 'environmentalists' in the UK have become passionate advocates of everything they once stood against.

I have seen it time and again how the more respectable a former crank becomes the more they begin to sound like the people they used to spend all their time doing battle with. Could it be by contemplating their enemies so deeply and fervidly they lose something of themselves in the process?

I recently had an online 'discussion' with one of them who was promoting his new book of epiphanic cornucopian fantasies. I merely pointed out that his newfound belief that GMO technology could sustain 10 billion people had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese. His reaction was telling and he skillfully twisted my argument to imply that I (a 'non-realist') would be happy to see billions die - something I definitely didn't say! I wonder where he learned that binary trick ...

He went on to suggested that I lighten the planet's load by one and cease my consumption of air, and actually called me 'evil' - which excited all the attack trolls who then descended on my virtual carcass with glee.

Quite an reaction for merely suggesting that our resources might be, you know, not infinite.

On a related note, it has occurred to me that reading (good) fiction can have the effect of breaking down one's binary ways of thinking. Some of the most rigid-minded people I know insist that the only kind of book worth reading is a book based on solid facts.

But it's difficult to think in black and white when presented with so much colour and that is, I assume, one of the things you are hoping to acheive with the fiction competition.

Anyway, best of luck at the conference and thanks again for another important essay.


Joel said...

"Neoconservatism, in other words, was not conservatism at all; it was to Communism precisely what Satanism is to Christianity"

Not surprisingly, then, there is a figure corresponding to Oscar Romero, but on the other side: a certain Dr. Michael Aquino is described by Brad Hicks as "the founder of the largest Satanic church in the world, and you have never met a more staunch Republican in your life. Nor did he make any bones about why: he is a Republican Party loyalist because the Republican Party stands in total opposition to the Christian scriptures."

That said, I think Republicanism fits fairly well with the more dualist branches of Christianity. There's a dualistic aspect (and a polytheistic one, truth to tell) of the Christian scriptures. The unfortunate thing is that so many dualist Christians focus their contemplation on the lesser of the two deities they believe in.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

The grip of the two party system could be broken by adopting instant runoff voting,
Instant runoff voting takes away the "spoiler effect" that discourages many people from voting for a third party in America even if that party is more in line with their values. It's used in several countries at the national level and also in a few local elections within the US.

The issue now is that neither major party in a two party system supports instant runoff voting because they want third parties to be marginalized. However, if a successful third party is formed by Occupy Wall St. or anyone else, adopting instant runoff voting could become a part of their platform, and if they have much success, whichever of the major parties that's losing the most votes/seats to the new party could also suddenly become a supporter of instant runoff voting because it would also be in their best interest vs. the other major party.

andrewbwatt said...

The "voting off the island" phenomena is not new. It's akin to the via negativa of philosophy in the Western world, which was quite popular in the Middle Ages, as though to say, "not this, not this, not this, not this either, nor this other thing," until everything but one thing is gone. What reality shows like Survivor have done, though, is not given the last one standing a chance to also be "voted off," which the via negativa always does. It's only when everything is gone that was under consideration that one can begin to really evaluate the 'real remainders'.

This past week, I had a conversation in the warmth and light of a rare mid-autumn mid-day without students. I've had no school for four days due to this Octoblizzard or Snowvember that knocked out power lines all over Connecticut and left school and home without power. A large number of my contemplations originally revolved around heat and light. Once I realized I wasn't getting them back any time soon, I stopped worrying about that, and started thinking about food and neighbors. As a result, I met a good many of my neighbors over backyard barbecues and impromptu lunches in the cold, as we got used to wearing our gloves and hats at the kitchen table. I made two grocery trips to towns that had working supermarkets, to bring back food for me and some of my neighbors.

Anyway, this conversation on the porch: one woman said she really wanted to go down and join the protestors on Occupy Wall Street, but something prevented her. When I and my neighbors asked her what was on her mind, it became clear that she didn't fear violence, and she didn't fear being injured. She feared being used. She was able to see, as clearly as this post made me see (and as I saw when she articulated it), that she'd felt conned into taking student loans she now couldn't afford, and conned into taking a series of bad paying jobs that left her with no money to start her own business, and conned into giving up her dreams of being a nurse practitioner for something 'more practical' because it would pay someone else's bill on her mental training. The idea that her energy — her money, her time, her devotion to THE CAUSE — would only serve to put a different set of frauds in charge, galled her tremendously. "It's much better to be here, talking to my neighbors, figuring out what to do the next time the power goes off," she said. Which is what we did.

Another person on the porch had chosen to come back to his cold, dark apartment because he'd gone to a friend's house for heat and light and warmth... only to discover that his friends were using their time off from work, and the blessings of available energy, to play multi-player video games and watch hours of weird TV. "One of the folks there," he said, "has a nearly-failing business, and is about to have his house foreclosed on, maybe; but it's easier for him to use his leadership and management skills in an invented digital world to use a graphical interface to shift random numbers around in a spreadsheet and a database." He came home. His food and apartment was cold, but his mind was on fire.

So I think that some people are waking up to the problems of duality, and are choosing to contemplate different endings here. I'm meeting more such people, at least, and the conversations in physical space are clearly helping us get our act together for organizing real change, locally. Building our Guild, I guess. :-)

AussieGal said...

Had to pass this link on. Made me think of you! Well worth a full read, but I'm referring to the section titled "Avoiding Collapse" Enjoy.

Hal said...

Oops, Grrl, I was responding to your first comment!

Petro said...

Excellent post and analysis once again. One little detail not mentioned that only underscores your point about the neoconservative movement - which I'm sure you're quite aware of and I only mention for the other readers - is that many of the anti-Communist reactionaries that formed it originally hailed from the left.

You read the Occupy well, IMO. I absolutely agree with the issues of "contemplation," and I agree that the "tactical" advantage of non-specificity has so far held at bay a run-of-the-mill reactionary revolution that will once again, resurrect the same devilish situation at the end of it.

My "contemplation" ("hope," in a way) in this context, is the stubborn and relentless egalitarianism and non-violence that is being so consciously adhered to is the "contemplation" of the occupiers, and will so inform the aftermath.

Modern ideologically-fueled Utopianism has *so* been played out over the last couple of centuries.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Regarding reality shows, I only watch the ones where people are helping other people or working together toward a goal, e.g., Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the one about the pop-up bar in Sturgis during the motorcycle rally.

I won't watch shows where the entertainment is humiliating someone or forcing a lot of people to lose and then watching their reactions. That kind of entertainment is as morally degrading to onlookers as a show in the Roman Colosseum.

I do watch and read shows and books that depict violence and competition, if the emphasis is on watching people solve problems, deal with moral dilemmas and adversity, or perfect their skills. E.g., pro football, police procedurals, True Blood, The Good Wife.

Mark Angelini said...

JMG, in last and this weeks' post you have cleverly illustrated two of seven principles I am familiarizing myself with right now. Namely: The Principle of Polarity and The Principle of Mentalism (But your writing often seems to illustrate some or all seven principles! Very well...). It seems to me that employing ternary thinking starts one on the path toward mastering "The Art of Polarization". Would you agree? And that by consciously observing or deciding that which one contemplates, one works toward unlocking the doors of The Temple as opposed to knocking on them in vain.

I am as curious as you to watch if the Occupy movement will attempt to master its' own polarization to unlock some "doors", or if it plays out as another round of door-bell dixie...

Overall I found this post showing me the true power and utility of goal setting/intention (or what have you..). This seems "huge" for me. A small, but important, "unlocking".

macsr said...

Well, after peak oil awareness forced me back towards permaculture, so the Archdruid Report is pushing me back towards magick! No biggie, life is all spirals, we keep going over the same ground but work closer to the centre with each pass.

The principle of imitating what you contemplate reminded me of an old instructional, allegedly drawn from a Zen source: the student who - despite the greatest Master - had failed to attain satori was sent to a cell to meditate upon the Ox. After 20 years the Master came to him and asked whether he'd found enlightnment. 'Alas, no', said the student. The Master shook his head and said 'Then leave the cell and return to the world.' But the student replied 'Master, I can't do that!'

'Why not?' asked the Master.

'My horns won't fit through the door.'

liralex said...

The change of subject (to OWS) is timely, what with the General Strike yesterday, but I have to admit I was hoping instead for another installment of the Intro to Magic survey course in the essays of the last few weeks. May I humbly suggest you consider writing a survey-style textbook targeted at the masses rather than aspiring mages? I'd be more than willing to pay the $200 or so this sort of thing costs, and I bet there are quite a few colleges that would consider offering the course.

Do any of your more specific guides contain this sort of magical overview in them? Or are there other standard texts you can recommend?

I'm a long-time reader/lurker, first time poster, and wanted to thank you for writing this blog. I'm quite surprised at the level of interest in magic these posts have sparked within me and would love to learn more.

Thomas Daulton said...

Many aphorisms leap to mind -- how did we get through a whole essay about "What you contemplate, you imitate" without quoting Nietzsche's most famous maxim: "Do not do battle with monsters, lest you become a monster; and when you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you."

The down-home-on-the-farm version of that maxim, I have found, to be extremely true in the political arena: "When you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty, but the pig... likes it." (True about many situations, though perhaps not about pigs, whom I hear are instinctive neatniks.)

Maybe five years ago I (slowly, gradually) stopped engaging in long, point-by-point / Lincoln-Douglas style debates with my political opponents, because I started noticing that it was accomplishing nothing besides dragging me down to _their_ level. Conceding ground before I begin to fight. I will still fire off a factual refutation here and there, but the dire forces we face today really have the Sauron trick down cold, where they win by corrupting you even if you actually defeat them.

Thanks for another great column!

LewisLucanBooks said...

I hope you'll give us a little report on the ASPO conference, or maybe a link or two to what went on.

LewisLucanBooks said...

What you contemplate, you imitate. Mmmm. I'm still trying to get a grip on this.

Is it like a concept I picked up, somewhere along the way? The concept I picked up was that if I actively dislike someone (for maybe no obvious apparent reason) perhaps I dislike their traits or habits that I also dislike in myself.

Right track or flailing around in the blackberry patch?

Gary said...

"Choose your contemplations well." I'd like to think that the OWS movement, with its emphasis on inclusion of the 99% is contemplating equality and justice.

Jeffrey said...

You imitate what you contemplate. I was in China in 1986 together with a Chinese colleague from HongKong. He told me that China has this inferiority complex with the chinese from Hong Kong and with the west and that in the next 20 years they will be obsessed with progress to imitate the west.

I have often felt how prophetic were his words and this essay seems to underscore this.

Kieran O'Neill said...

Well, on the topic of a three-party system, I just found an unusually deep and candid analysis of the general sociopathic insanity on the part of the Republicans, and the general failure of the democrats to do anything about it, from none other than a highly respected, just-retired Republican Capitol hill staffer. The sentiments are remarkably similar to those you express in this article.

Meanwhile, if recent events in Oakland are anything to go by, it could be a close race between democratic participation and more serious uprising. July next year is eight months away, while in just three weeks we've seen several clashes between protesters and police, with the protesters' resolve only growing as a result.

On the topic of controlling what you contemplate, in the context of Oakland, it's interesting to see how a significant portion of the press did not use the term "general strike" to describe, well, the general strike the protesters called. "Unrest" seems to have been more favoured, though I believe Rush Limbaugh called it a "riot".

I've noticed this elsewhere with the US press, that the right-wing mouthpieces have words that just aren't used, and wonder whether this is in accordance with some official policy intended to keep certain ideas beyond even the contemplation of audiences...

foxystoat said...

Namaste, JMG (and fellow readers).

I didn't start actively reading your blog until "The Twilight of Meaning" post, and am rather grateful, as I've now a cache of over 200 posts to read.

Everything I've read so far has been lovely, enjoyable, inquisitive, lucid, and cogent. And playful. I should like to state the same is true of the majority of the readers/commentators. To be provided with so much psychic (in the rational sense... mostly) fodder is a sincere gift from all parties. When I, too, have gifts of substance, I will share; observation and contemplation, meanwhile.

One of the others blogs I read regularly is that of the BBC's Adam Curtis. Time and curiosity permitting, I'd appreciate any comments you (or others) might have after reading the post "Dream On." There seems to me several interesting correlations between your post, here, and his.

I hope the ASPO-USA conference proves eventful.

Ruben said...

This is the strength of Appreciative, or Affirmative, Inquiry.

The problem with being a problem solver is all you see are problems. AI focusses on the things you do well in order to cause them to grow.

LewisLucanBooks said...

On noticing magic around me. Our local newspaper (Pacific NW, small town, rural county) is going from publishing 6 days a week, to 3. Seeing the first issue of this diminished product, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing. But...

It's been amusing to watch the newspaper staff whip itself into a frenzy of techno ecstasy. And, they have a frequently repeated spell. "Apps! Smart Phones! Tablets!"

Tatanka Suta said...

Not only do we get brilliant analysis we also get good jokes:

"Contemplating a new toaster oven, in other words, won’t get you one, it’ll simply make you imitate one—which is not exactly a useful thing under most conditions."

Thank you

dltrammel said...

We have an unofficail list of the story submissions on the Green Wizard forum.

"Stories About the Future - A list of submissions to ADR"


If you have submitted a link, and JMG has gotten back to you, then you do not need to add your link there. Though we'd love to read your

Going through the list I've noticed problems with some of the links. Mostly, links which go to collections of stories or chapters in a story much larger than the limit for the anthology.

Or they link to your blog, which now has more posts than the original story. To post the story link, just click on the story title and you will get a specific link to that entry, then post it please.

Remember there is a limit of between 2500 and 7500 to what can be included. If you want a sample chapter considered, please note which one.

If you are the author of one of these stories, please contact me either via the Green Wizard forum email, or post here (or there) your answer.

It might make JMG's job a bit easier and your chance of acceptance better if he doesn't have to hunt down what you are submitting.


------------ by Risa

Risa which chapter do you wish to submit.

Also it appears as if this is already in print. There may be conflicts over publishing rights to include a sample in an anthology by another company.

------------ by Degringolade

Which chapter are you submitting?

------------ by R.A.Davies

Also in print by another publisher. What are you submitting?

------------ by Farfetched

Very large story, which chapter are you submitting?

------------ by Unknown (aka Michael Ayers)

Which story or stories are you submitting?

------------ by Randall

Which story or stories are you submitting?

------------ by Eric

Which story or stories are you submitting?

JoeR said...

This is one of my favorite ADR posts in a while. No time for a substantive response for now, but keep up the thought-provoking work.

Ric said...

Small joke from the world of computing: There are 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.

Couldn't resist posting that. Can't decide whether in this context it's annoyingly trivial or profound.

'Course, could be something else...

Ric Merritt

Joel said...


I took this to be a continuation of the series: an essay on the use and potential pitfalls of contemplation effect, that happened to draw from timely examples to illustrate the principles involved.

Richard Larson said...

I am sorry to have update my story yet again! My mind continues to think about the story as I go about my business! said...

Ah, Thanks, Adrian Ayres Fisher; I just read it after being shocked to see your message to me here!

I know that it was probably aimed at students who have had absolutely no experience with critical thinking whatsoever and I suppose that it's necessary to actually teach it in certain professions since no one seems to learn it in any other venue nowadays. It was rather agonizing though. My husband took a philosophy class his first year in college (way back when) and we have had many discussions on the virtues of 'circular reasoning' as I call it :)

I all seriousness though, I think it (philosophy) should be a required course, for the simple reason that it requires one to evaluate one's prejudices absorbed throughout childhood that one doesn't even realize one has. Challenging them is something else again, but at least becoming aware of them is a good place to start.

JMG, I think that OWS has a much wider support amongst the general population than you realize. At least among working and school aged people. I would venture to guess for the most part, though, that they are like me - I have too much to lose at this point to take a chance on getting arrested. It would put my license at risk, regardless of whether any charge was upheld. No license = no job = immanent homelessness. Yuck. If I were younger, though, or just a renter without huge student loan debt, or just less cynical about the possibility for real change...or if things get worse and I have less to lose...I'll be there.

Mr. Roberts said...

I've been contemplating this topic in relation to the Asian game of Go.

I taught myself how to play the game a few months ago and have been fascinated by the way that, to me, it seems to be a physical manifestation of the Tao.

Black and White take turns placing stones on a 19x19 grid of lines. The goal is to surround territory, not to "kill" your opponent, though you might kill your
opponent's stones in the process of acquiring territory.

When I first started playing, I would aggressively attack my opponent by always playing directly beside her moves. She would calmy develop away from my attacks. I would continue the push, and I would end up surrounded and defeated, similar
to the way that Napoleon lost when he attacked the Russians. The Russians strategically retreated, thereby allowing Napoleon to overextend himself and
suffer the consequences.

I gradually learned to develop away from my opponent's strength, rather than playing into it. In this way, which to me is a paradox, I would be able
to eventually herd my opponent into my strong positions.

I think that "what you contemplate, you imitate" can also be understood along
these lines: the harder you push against something, the harder it pushes back.

In Go, when you play a stone directly beside your opponent's stone, it is called
an attaching move. The interesting thing is that attaching moves end up
making your opponent's position stronger because they will almost definitely play another stone beside theirs, which prompts you to do the same, and so on.

What you should try to do instead is build your own positions of strength so that as your opponent expands, her position becomes constricted by your own
strength. She has to work harder and harder to keep her stones alive, and your passive forces win out.

In some way, to me, this sums up most of what the Archdruid advocates: change your own life first. Begin learning to garden. Weatherproof your own home.
Learn a skill. Etc.

The temptation is to try to push against your own culture; however, as many a visionary has learned, culture pushes back. Hard.

Even in terms of your own friends, it is far more productive to let your own positions of strength serve as an example rather than try to use logic to
convince people to change their ways. As people around you become more constrained (financially, emotionally, etc) by the way things are moving, they
might see the things that you are doing as another option.

Does this make sense?


Jennifer D Riley said...

If i were writing an essay, I would include two clear sentences: During the 20th Century, Americans used dualistic thinking as they organized themselves around dual political parties. In the first decade of the 21st century, dualism failed, giving rise to Occupied Wall Street.

That's how my essay begins! Someone corrected me this week: we do not live in a democracy; we live in a representative republic where we elect representatives, send them to Congress, and then they fall under the rule of lobbyists (for how long is another discussion).

Magic to me: the bailouts have gone to the banks, to bonuses, and somehow to continued lobbyists on Capitol Hill. So I deduce magic has a finite endpoint. This past week I read the bankers don't care if the buildings collapse and the bank names go away, as long as the hallucinated wealth is in the private Swiss bank accounts of the bank CEOs and their top 500 executives.

Another magic aspect: Occupy Wall Street's m'organization, if I can coin a term, will be interesting watch as the summer political conventions are conducted, then the proposed 04Jul2012 convention, and then the Nov 2012 election. It's interesting to think about magic versus navigation.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG, I also would welcome your commentary on the ASPO conference when you return, and links to other people's reports and critiques. I looked for reportage on last year's conference, but didn't turn up any.

Unless they decide to hold one fairly near to where I live, chances are I'll never go, so reactions from participants would be enlightening.

siddrudge said...

@ andrewbwatt
Great comments! But those keen observations of your neighbors during the recent power outage, and your account of the "conversations on the porch" really resonated here. I had some similar encounters with my neighbors during a near week-long power outage from Hurricane Irene. My take-away from that whole experience was that people overall were friendlier and more thoughtful. I wished for the lights to never come back on! :)

Thijs Goverde said...

As long as we´re playing a game of say-you've-heard-the-contemplation-effect-called-by-another-name, I'd like to submit The Tar-Baby Principle: you become attached to what you attack.

This weeks post, and that of last week, lest me curiously unaffected. It think the reason is that here in Europe the binary thinking is somewhat less entrenched than it is on your side of the pond. In politics, that is.

Reason might be that you have a two-party system, whereas we usually have a larger number of political parties and therefore a larger number of proposed solutions to most problems.

flipside of this is the fiendis difficulty of getting 17 multi-party nations to agree on anything, as demonstrated by the current tangle around the Greek Debt Crisis, the European reaction to which has been... well, let's call it extremely resilient.

Thijs Goverde said...

Argh! I previewed my last comment, took note of all the spelling mistakes and misformulations and then accidentally hit "publish". Sorry about the mess!

Ricardo Rolo said...

I have been waiting for a while to comment on your last series of post regarding magic, but I have to ask if you ever read Le Matin des Magiciens from Jacques Bergier, since your description of how people can get controlled by the magic they make to deceive others seems extremely similar to his description of Hitler and associates Götterdämmerung by fooling himself with his own magic spells ( The whole "German Fire will make the winter go back " just for starters )

Anyway, on this post ... if you care a little with the European news, you will see a nice example of magical thought and how people tend to go binary and sheep mode when the greek PM dared to question the TINA mantra on "austerity" by proposing to ask the Greeks if they wanted it. A lot of inflamed voices got out saying all the same: you are with us or you are against us, and even thinking on asking someone else than us is a capital sin. This definitely does not bode well ...

Unknown said...

Down here in Tasmania we are blessed with 3 political parties that are deeply flawed. Contemplation of the problem has led me to actions to form an organisation whose function is tpo act as an antidote to politcal parties. Its aim is to promote the value of independnet members of the legislature, and to assist those candidates of any and all stipes to get elected.
The genisis of this effort was the realisation that party candidates self select for failure to appreciate conflict of interest and the massive hurdle it presents for sensible, practical efforts to find a sane and sustainable way forward.

Slorisb said...

Daniel Ortega, one time communist rebel in Nicaragua and and demonized by the Nixon Admin, is a certain winner of a second term as President. He benefits from business backed economic growth. Just another example of becoming that which you oppose.

Matt and Jess said...

I wonder what would happen if the Occupy movement adopted appropriate tech as a part of their platform! "Solar thermal installation not bank bailouts!"

On another note, I was surprised to see this article in our newspaper this morning:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hey siddrudge,

Yeah, I've noticed that too. In times of crisis, neighbours get together. It's not really the zombie apocalypse that some may promote. It's interesting too, that this is also supported by historical accounts of the depression era from around here. Still, it continually surprises me how many promote this myth. It might be the old divide and conquer strategy?

Hey unknown,

Respect. How good is Tasmania! Years ago I spent a month there travelling around checking out every corner. I have very fond memories and am envious of your location.

The proportional voting system there gets some interesting results which is good for democracy but can make for difficult government. Oh well.



Cathy McGuire said...

@ Matt and Jess: the link didn't go to any article - could you try again, and maybe give us a title? Also, if you want to make it a live link, you can bracket it with < a > and then < /a > and it will create a link (take out the spaces in between)

Lidia17 said...

As for becoming what you oppose, I was dismayed to read this post about decision-making at the OWS NY general assembly:

The newly formed Spokes Council claims to adhere to… “direct-democracy, non-hierarchy, participation, and inclusion.” …In the Spokes Council, proposals can be blocked by 11% of the members of 11% of the Working Groups, meaning that a minority of 1.2% can stymie the will of 98.8% majority. …one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking “opinions, not facts,” which is why I would not be allowed to continue…

What to take away from this? Perhaps that we can only 'occupy' effectively as individuals… choosing to occupy OURSELVES in such a way as to empower ourselves while disempowering evil and corrupting forces. Maybe that means a full-scale rejection of modernity, maybe not… but occupying ourselves with personal creative activities means, quite simply and non-violently, DISoccupying a whole host of corporate (and other) predators on time and resources.

“Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask anything of them” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

andrewbwatt said...


Most of my colleagues and acquaintances felt much the same. There was a level of discourse, dialogue and helpfulness during the blackout that we didn't normally have when the power is on.

Maybe when "the power" is in the wires, we don't actually have "power" ourselves, or at least we forget that we have it. An interesting magical theory, but probably not one worthy of contemplation. I prefer to be more like myself, and less like a toaster oven. :-)

RainbowShadow said...

"It’s never safe to assume that the character of the protests will be reflected in the system they put into power; both the French and Russian revolutions began with lively participatory democracy, and ended in the Terror and the gulags. There’s no certainty that successful mass protest in America will go the same way—but it’s critical for all concerned to realize that it could."

This possibility scares me half to death. And not just for the reason you cited, either.

Because the reason these protests happened was that the rich are no longer being held accountable to the rule of law when they break it, and the corporate culture is negatively influencing the minds of schoolchildren and citizens alike that ceaseless competition to crush everyone else to grab money and power is the only way to live, closing libraries that house Marcus Aurelius or any other books that can guide humans to live another way that isn't disrespectful to compassion and deep learning, etc.

So what happens if these protests succeed, go bad and elect a Terror or Gulag, and then a few hundred years from now the rich decide to use that as an excuse to declare ALL attempts to help the poor to be misguided? I can almost hear the historians now:

"We gave the poor what they wanted, and they misused that power! From now on we'll never empathize with anyone else or bother to learn the histories of the countries we make war on ever again, and we'll teach our children never to do it either!"

The last Dark Age happened because we didn't have enough information.

For this collapse, we're practically drowning in information, but if these protests don't work correctly and abuse the information and learning we have, the powers that be might decide to use that future history as an excuse to curb information permanently.

"Look at what historically happened to the American experiment when we gave the common people democracy and learning! Let's never do that again!"

LewisLucanBooks said...

Interesting article over at from Thom Hartmann. Why have I never heard of this guy? "How can we save us from ourselves."

I'll be interested to see if this works as a live link. I'm trying Cathy McGuire's advice. Didn't work on my blog.Sigh.

Petro said...

Rick Merritt - that was funny. First time I heard that one. :)

Unknown said...

Deborah Bender

One of the big differences between the protest movements of the Sixties and the antinuke and peace direct actions of the Eighties and subsequently is that the latter adopted consensus decision making as a standard and developed some sophisticated methods to use it more systematically in large groups. Consensus has objectives, rules and procedures that are different from Robert's Rules of Order or any other system for achieving majority rule. For people accustomed to majority rule decision making, learning how to achieve consensus is not entirely intuitive. It requires training and practice.

Leadership of a political or protest movement by an organized vanguard has the disadvantages of any authoritarian system, but direct democracy of the town meeting variety also doesn't work well in large groups of people who come and go and don't know each other well. It's easily hijacked by cabals.

True consensus differs from majority rule in that it requires that every single person's concerns be listened to and taken into account before a decision is reached. The decision does not have to make everyone happy, but it has to be a solution that everyone can live with. In pure consensus, even a single person can block a decision that everyone else supports. Consequently, consensus process in large, diverse groups sometimes incorporates modifications to prevent a single holdout or a small group from deliberately torpedoing any action whatsoever. The 11 1/2% rule that you cite sounds like such a modification.

Consensus process, even when expertly employed, moves slowly, but it has the potential to arrive at more creative solutions than majority rule. For a grassroots social movement, it also has the great advantage that once a decision has been reached, everyone who participated buys into the decision; there are no disgruntled factions waiting for an opportunity to undo it.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Slorisb--Daniel Ortega's political career is enabled by cheap Venezualan oil supplied by his ally Hugo Chavez. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Ortega buys votes with various social programs for the poor which the government could not pay for without outside help. That's better than ruling by terror, but Ortega is a pure opportunist.

My psychic teacher said, "What you resist, you become."

Jennifer D Riley said...

De-corporatization update. This past weekend I attended a professional conference. A month ago a former chemistry professor updated me that several health sciences buildings were for sale because of downsizings and layoffs. Saturday I drove by the first, in use up until 3 years ago. Completely closed.

Around the corner, a corporate IT education building that had stood empty for several years had been completely bulldozed to the ground! Now, if the clay can be made friable, the research park should be switched to garden space.

John Michael Greer said...

Greetings all,

I'm back from ASPO, and finished responding to the most important of the nearly 300 emails that were waiting for me when I got back last night! Thank you all for your comments.

Grrl, I sometimes wonder how much of the evolution of human language and intelligence was an offshoot of the transformations of human courtship.

John, fair enough, but do you want to imitate the experience of living on a hostile and lifeless world?

Cathy, you're under the wire -- cutoff date is November 10.

Ceworthe, exactly.

Hadashi, "we are the 100%" would be great, not least because it would help people grasp how their own actions are feeding what they protest. Still, I doubt it will catch on, for exactly that reason.

Mister R., good! Yes, that's a valid application of the principle.

Kieran, unfortunately I didn't have the chance -- next time, maybe.

Linda, got it. You're in the competition.

Chris, excellent. When you contemplate the absence of a brighter future, what do you then imitate?

Phil, thank you. Er, a pop-up toaster?

h0neanias, one step at a time...

Off to a lodge meeting -- I'll get back to work on responses when I get home!

Matt and Jess said...

Hmm ... the link seems to work when I use it. Not sure what happened. I thought it was an interesting example of a binary. The techno-aricrats vs. everyone else. It at least acknowledged what JMG had mentioned about the 99%...the transition to farmer, or rather, what the rest of the world is, was at least mentioned, which seems to be unusual.

katsmama said...

I attempted to submit a story several times last week, but I haven't seen a message that you got it. So, I am submitting a link again, and hope the robot lets it through. Also, Cathy McGuire- thank you for teaching me how to make a link!

John Michael Greer said...

Professor, I may have to do a post on the interface -- or lack of same -- between OWS and ASPO. It's a complicated issue.

Mouser, nicely put. Thaumaturgy doesn't just rearrange the deck chairs, though -- it determines who gets a chair and who sits on the bare deck.

Justin, very good. Yes, you're getting it.

Grrl, "what you resist, persists" is partly the contemplation effect, partly one of the other dimensions of binary thinking -- we'll get to that in a bit. Thanks for the link to Brin's blog; I tend to avoid it for reasons that will probably be obvious, but I'll have a look.

Maria, excellent! Yes, all this stuff can and should be used in personal as well as social settings; most teachers of magic start with the personal dimension, because it's usually easier to see the connections coming together there first.

Jason, now that's a fascinating point! I don't know much about the history of transvestism in Western society; it might be an interesting project to trace that, and relate it to trends in the visual arts.

Redoak, I'd find your argument a bit more convincing if most of the Nazis had actually been personal students of Nietzsche! Still, I appreciate the counterpoint; I haven't taken the time to read any significant amount of Strauss' work, and will have to remedy that.

Adrian, imitating Bach sonatas seems like a good idea to me!

Justin, excellent! You get tonight's gold star.

Jason, the sheer blind fury with which cornucopians so often respond to reasonable questions about their fantasies is the best piece of evidence I can think of that they know, on some level, that they're shoveling smoke. People who are truly confident of their beliefs do not go into a Donald Duck frenzy when those beliefs are questioned.

Joel, that makes perfect sense; as I've mentioned before, the current GOP platform is exactly parallel with the social views presented by Anton Szandor LaVey in The Satanic Bible. It astonishes me that more Christians haven't noticed the complete antithesis between that platform and the teachings of their own founder.

Ozark, if I understand correctly, it will take a Constitutional amendment to change the current US voting system on the national level. That can be done -- the Progressive movement managed changes at least as profound a century ago -- but it'll involve a lot of work. If you feel strongly about it, I'd encourage you to get involved in the effort.

John Michael Greer said...

Andrew, your neighbor has keen
intuition -- that, or a lot of experience with modern activist politics. As for weaving connections with the neighbors, yes, that's a central dimension of the work.

Aussie, thank you for the link!

Petro, well, we'll see. What I'm hearing is that OWS, at least, is rapidly falling into the hands of the professional activists, which means that it will begin fading into irrelevance. More on this soon.

Deborah, well, de gustibus non disputandum est, but throwing out the TV altogether seems like a better plan to me.

Mark, excellent. Yes, that particular handbook of political theory (etc.) was central to one phase of my training, and ternary thinking does indeed relate to the Principle of Polarization -- also, as you figure out how to work it, to the whole panoply of methods of mental alchemy. As for intention setting, the secret here is that contemplation of a well chosen image will do that without setting off the various traps that reasoning so often puts in the way.

Macsr, nice. I hadn't thought of that delightful old koan, either.

Liralex, this is still very much about magic; the practice of contemplation is a central magical tool. As for my books on the subject, they're written for practitioners rather than the general public; you might find my book The Druid Magic Handbook a little more accessible than most. The book on the magical dimensions of peak oil I'm currently preparing to write will be more along the lines of what's been discussed here, but I'm not sure it will be for the general public; I'm more interested in providing insights to green wizards and others who are facing up to the crisis of our age.

Thomas, one of the best magical theorists of the 20th century, Dion Fortune, used to say that you win in magical combat the way a First World War air ace won in his own more physical combat, by rising above the opponent. That's a challenging postulate, but it works.

Lewis, when you recognize that what's upsetting you is your own projection of your shadow onto the other person, to use Jungian terms, you gain a great deal of freedom you didn't previously have. That's not quite what I was talking about, but it's equally important.

Gary, well, we'll see. Let's see how they deal with internal decision making -- in practice, not in theory (or propaganda).

Jeffrey, well, I hope they outgrow it.

Kieran, there are plenty of things you do not mention on American media. I sometimes wonder if when the Soviet Union fell, the staff of Pravda got snapped up by US media firms; our media these days bears a weird similarity to the official Soviet media back in the day.

Foxy, I'll check it out when time permits.

John Michael Greer said...

Ruben, interesting. I'm not familiar with the system you're discussing.

Lewis, I tend to think of that as the failing newspaper equivalent of "Drill, Baby, Drill."

Tatanka, thank you for getting it!

Joe, glad to hear it.

Ric, er, you're the 11rd person to post that one so far...

Richard, duly updated.

Tinfoil, I grant that at the moment the Occupy movement is supported by a sizable minority of Americans, but it does still seem to be a minority.

Mr. R, that makes a very great deal of sense. I'm not a Go player, but the strategy you've outlined is a very effective one in the work we're discussing here.

Jennifer, well, we'll see.

Deborah, I'll keep that in mind!

Thijs, well, yes -- I'm primarily speaking to an American audience, for reasons repeatedly discussed, and people in those countries that have more of a clue (which, I'm sorry to say, amounts to most of them) are going to find some of this very basic.

Ricardo, yes, I read The Morning of the Magicians (as it was titled in translation) very nearly when it first came out. I'll probbly have to talk about Hitler in more detail one of these days, since he's such a good example of how to fail by trying to make magic do what it's not able to do -- and thank goodness for that! You're certainly right, though, that it's fascinating to watch the entire European political class throw a tantrum over the suggestion that Greece ought to make a very important decision democratically. There's almost no way this can end well.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown, that's an interesting project. I hope it goes well.

Slorisb, no, he was demonized by the Reagan administration. Other than that, no argument.

Jess, that's intriguing. I don't think the author gets it, but he's closer than most.

Lidia, thanks for the link. That's what I was beginning to hear and, to be frank, what I expected -- that the OWS thing would fall into the hands of professional activists, who are proceeding to use the standard tools of manipulative pseudoconsensus to get control of the money and organizational framework and use it for their own, not particularly impressive purposes. If that goes unchallenged, the whole thing will end with a whimper.

Rainbow, Greek democracy and the Roman republic both ended messily, and people still used them as a model for -- well, among other things, our constitution. My guess is that the short term effects are far more of an issue than the long term.

Lewis, well, I'll check it out, but Thom Hartmann is a very mixed bag; a very early post here critiqued one of his essays.

Deborah, I'm with Lidia on this one. I'm quite familiar with consensus methods, and avoid them wherever possible; far more often than not, in practice, they serve as a mechanism by which a small and unelected group skilled at manipulating process controls the less sophisticated majority. OWS seems to be well on their way down that road.

Jennifer, I'm not sure whether that's decorporatization or simply economic collapse! Either way, though, the sooner that garden gets in, the better.

Jess, the link worked for me, too.

Katsmama, got it! You're in the contest.

Cherokee Organics said...


Hope your talk at ASPO went well. I did like the title Independent scholar too. Very cool.

I will try to imitate well.

Not sure whether you noticed that the Greek PM tried breaking free of binary thought when he suggested having a referendum. Unfortunately it looks as though he has been thoroughly stomped, but he was proposing a fair question and the Greek people haven’t really been asked whether they are happy to accept the bailout. It’s not the only game in town. Oh well.

I was thinking today, that it won’t be the droughts that cause a tipping point. It will be the flooding rains, possibly following a drought. Water causes so much damage, it’s just amazing. I’m in a cool temperate environment, but the water cycle here is just getting stranger by the year.

Over autumn and winter, it will drizzle and you may get 10mm of rain over a period of 6 hours. No drama’s, it’s wet, but everything is gentle and it doesn’t challenge your infrastructure. This is normal.

Not so over spring and summer as it’s a whole different story. 10mm can fall in under 10 minutes. The most I’ve seen so far is 100mm in a day. The amount of damage that this can cause is huge given I’m on the side of a dormant volcano and I have to keep upgrading the infrastructure to cope with these storms which are happening more frequently as well as try to capture as much of this water in the soil as possible (which is the key to it all really ). It is a bit of a juggling act.

The vegie beds are now all no dig beds which seem to do OK in these conditions. I can’t recommend no dig beds highly enough for very wet conditions.

It looks as though we may be on track here for another record year of rainfall.



Adrian Skilling said...

A most though provoking post. I am hooked on your magic and it is healing me slowly from the inside.

A physical example of "What you contemplate, you immitate". A hanglider pilot friend of mine once told me a story of another pilot. When trying to land he was so desperate to avoid a family picnic in the middle of a field that he focused on them and ended up landing on top of them.

Through your teaching I'm become much more aware of my thinking processes and how I can improve myself. More problematically I'm become very aware of other peoples thinking processes and the counterproductive methods I've used so far to change others thinking.

Do your good work well as ASPO.

phil harris said...

Like Tatanka Suta I liked your good joke; "Again, contemplating a toaster oven won’t get you one; it’ll just make you more prone to overheat and burn the toast."

Sorry about my (too) obscure attempted joke when I likened reading your post to a "pop-up toaster" moment. Toast arrival is important in my daily rituals - an 'arrival' moment. So it was with your sketch of the uses, hazards and limitations of contemplative attention.

I sometimes wonder whether my recent few years close attention to the complexities of our extraordinary global moment, especially the financial dynamics, is perhaps making me an 'economist' Help ;-)
PS I don't actually know exactly what a "toaster oven" might be. Seriously not in touch here on the Scottish Border.

idiotgrrl said...

Trivial, but - I'm finally making good use of my pear harvest. I thinned the pears earlier in the year when they were only babies, and now have some quite worth eating in the hand, instead of the hard, tart, green ones of yore. And stewing slices of the ones not worth eating in the hand (or marginal) in water and sugar all day in the crockpot (for which one can substitute a solar cooker or a common stewpot on the fire) had provided much baking material. So we do have progress!

I have this column to thank for the inspiration. Not the practical one, but the very idea of getting down to business on this.

P.S. Pears from my tree are not only better than supermarket pears, which I have never liked; they are better than supermarket apples, which I've been eating all my life.

Pat, about to make another batch of stewed pears to freeze.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, yes, I've been watching the European situation as closely as I can; if it's mishandled badly enough, it could land all of us in an economic crisis even worse than the one we're already in. As for floods and droughts, I think it depends on place -- if Texas doesn't get rain in the next year or so (and there's good reason to think it may not), there are going to be a lot of refugees.

Adrian, excellent. Again, this stuff can be applied to many parts of life outside peak oil!

Phil, no need to apologize! I wondered if it was a bit of British slang. As for toaster ovens, you probably have them under another name; think of a countertop appliance that looks much like a microwave, but uses heating coils rather than microwave radiation; you can use it to toast bread, heat up pastries, do small baking tasks, etc.

Grrl, not trivial at all. Learning, practicing, and teaching the respectful management of food resources is one of the major tasks we face right now.

phil harris said...

(as we used to say here)
I have just looked at Foxy's link to Adam Curtis at BBC; 'Dream On'.
1968 and all that and the Cromwell Road in London.

Ceworthe said...

manipulative pseudoconsensus- I need to burn that phrase into my brain to remember when dealing with the professional activist types in order to find myself a third or more way of looking at an issue.

Kieran O'Neill said...

On the topic of ideas beyond general contemplation, and also of alternatives to false binaries, last night I ran across the idea of distributism. The theory is that the system works better when wealth (and more importantly the means of production) is more evenly distributed among people, in opposition to the other theories which prefer wealth to be concentrated (towards the state in socialism, and towards large corporations in laissez faire capitalism).

While not vastly popular, it has had some influence in society -- allotments, credit unions, various forms of food and housing co-ops all seem to be examples of distributism in action.

I have the feeling it's also pretty close to what the Occupy protesters are feeling, but have not yet framed in coherent terms. In some ways, it's also not far off the ideas behind Green Wizardry (though GW tries to avoid politics altogether).

As for OWS -- distributism was originally intended to be a more Christian approach to economics. Both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury having announced their support for the protests within the past week or two, and I suspect that they must both be thinking along quite similar lines.

John Michael Greer said...

Ceworthe, I'm trying to decide between that phrase and "coercive consensus" as a label for the art of group manipulation through the consensus process. It's very common, and in fact I'd suggest that the adoption of consensus methods by activists in general over the last thirty years has a lot to do with the spectacular and repeated failures of activism since that time.

Kieran, Distributism actually came up here back in 2007 -- you'll find the post here -- the comments section has some discussion of it. It's one of many interesting ideas that were squeezed out by the binary between capitalism and Marxism in the middle years of the 20th century.

John Michael Greer said...

Oh, and apparently the subject matter of this series of posts have finally come to the attention of the web's spirituality trolls -- I've gotten a minor flurry of attempted comments from them over the last couple of weeks. Guys, you might as well save your breath; anything that doesn't meet the guidelines above the comment box will get no response other than a rolling of eyes and a quick click on the delete button.

Speaking of which, Isjarvi (offlist), let's see: scare quotes, check; third-person snark, check; grammatical nitpicking, check. If I was still playing Troll Bingo, that would probably fill in a card. As it is, the only bell that's ringing is the one that's telling you to go away and wave your overinflated ego somewhere else.

Cathy McGuire said...

In case JMG is too busy reading manuscripts for a while to give us a summary of the ASPO conference, I found a member of the audience who described JMG, Orlov & Astyk's panel:

idiotgrrl said...

An image to contemplate: My statuette of the Millenial Gaia, ordered directly from the Church of All Worlds (others have it $10 cheaper, but if you can get it )or in this case, her) directly from the artist, I prefer to do so.

Now to find a place to set her up. She is currently sharing an altar with the very goddess of city life and the fiber arts, who is also the Defender of the City. That has to be a temporary expedient.

She is lovely.

SophieGale said...

@Katsmama, for some reason there is no http in from of the link for your short story--which I liked. The page seems to be simply

Ceworthe said...

Hmm, manipulative pseudoconsensus so fits my own experience that I was bouncing up and down saying, yes, yes exactly!, but I can see that coercive consensus gets the point across more concisely. Coercive pseudoconsensus? (after all, it's not a real consensus) I dunno, coercive sound a bit more physically violent or physically intimidating to me. It's a more subtle subterfuge or intimidation in my experience.

Cherokee Organics said...


I'm watching the goings on in Europe closely too.

The sticking point for me though is that a write down of the current debt on top of providing more debt, seems, well, kind of an odd solution and will simply push the matter further down the road a bit.

The imposition of "tough" conditions on additional Greek debt is a farce given that the existing conditions weren't adhered too.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Even our government is loaning money to the IMF to then on loan to Europe. The best laugh was when our politicians were explaining to the media that it wasn't a gift, it was a loan and we would see the funds again. It was described as an asset on the balance sheet of our country.

I suspect that John Kenneth Galbraith would describe the recent meetings of government leaders (G20 etc.) as a non-meeting.

Oh well, ours is not to wonder, but to float along on the currents of events. Chop wood, carry water.

Back to the garden for me though. We're in for a ripper storm tonight too. The warnings are even hitting the main stream media.



Cherokee Organics said...

Thanks Cathy



Matt and Jess said...

Does anyone have any further reading on "coercive consensus" or anything negative about it? Frankly the only things I've ever read about it are written by anarchists and of course therefore positive. I find it interesting and would enjoy reading more if anyone knows of anything. Particularly how group manipulation happens...

In my own, brief, experience with it, my only thoughts would be that consensus could give a platform to subtler, more personality-based forms of authoritarianism.

Thanks to the person who brought up distributism. It's fascinating reading. I had no idea that G.K. Chesterton had any hand in that type of thing, but I remember enjoying reading some of his thoughts on fairy tales while in college.

Cherokee Organics said...


Forgot to mention Texas in my last comment. Apologies, as an Australian, I state for the record that I have no idea about Texas.

However, in a strange twist of fate, Texas has been raising its head in the media here of late. Why? Well, because we have some of the most expensive housing in the Western world and Texas seems to have some of the cheapest.

The media here have been pointing to the Texan's laissez-faire approach to planning and supply as the key to keeping housing prices low and suggesting that we follow suit.

Then I read about the lack of rainfall from yourself and I'm wondering whether there is a heat island effect going on. Who knows?

Still, even if I'm wrong, you can't move huge numbers of people to a desert / arid area and expect them to be able to survive without a massive fossil fuel subsidy. I sometimes wonder how this will play out in places like the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Surely it can't be good.



The carp who jumped Hukou Falls said...

@phil harris

What do you mean, "as we used to say"? I say 'crikey' all the time, and i'm not old! (Though of course, the Lady Gaga generation might have something to say about that!

Speaking of Lady Gaga, who came up a few posts ago, I'd like to share this link with you all.... just because.

As they say, "If you have ever thought to yourself that you would really like to hear Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” covered in the Hunan dialect by retirees dancing with young women in miniskirts playing traditional Chinese instruments…then this is your chance".

Hunan pensioners sing Lady Gaga

Let's enjoy this world while it lasts...

John Michael Greer said...

Cathy, thank you! Still, I should have something of interest this evening.

Grrl, a very traditional application of the principle! Deities sharing altars is nothing new, though -- it's standard practice in most polytheist faiths (and the juxtapositions on my home altar would probably give quite a few people conniption fits, for that matter).

Ceworthe, duly noted. By all means use whatever label fits your own experience best.

Cherokee, when all else fails, to borrow a thought from Voltaire, you can always cultivate your garden. That's especially worth considering when a lot of things are on the brink of failure.

Jess, I've seen a few critiques of consensus online -- here, here, and here are examples -- and I have yet to see much of anything discussing the deliberate use of coercive consensus as a means of domination. It's a subject that badly needs a thorough study.

Cherokee, the reaason Texas has low housing prices and you've got high ones is that our housing bubble has popped and yours hasn't yet. When it does, and it will, expect a lot of current rhetoric to look very remarkably foolish.

Carp, I'm speechless.

RainbowShadow said...

This person shares your middle-ground opinion on the OWS movement:

He draws from Edmund Burke, just like you, he thinks there's a middle ground between "revolution and quietism".

The reason I bring this up is that my fellow liberals misinterpreted the article as "life isn't fair so you might as well shut up."

Despite the misinterpretation, that slogan DOES in fact motivate a lot of American "pseudo-conservative behavior."

Modern Republicans start with the assumption in advance that so-called "maturity" means absolute DOCILITY, and if you grow up in communities they run, it is assumed that you cannot be an "adult" unless you be quiet about whatever unjust and, more importantly, unethical decisions your leaders make (rather than acknowledging that REAL adulthood is taking responsibility for your opinions instead of mindlessly following or rejecting the herd).

Never complain, shut your mouth, never point out an obvious problem staring everyone in the face, never come to the assistance of someone who is suffering, life is a constant war and absolutely nothing else BUT war and all foreign wars are justified because they all want to destroy us, no attention should ever be paid to art and literature because they're not productive and make you into emotional "sissies" or "fags"...

...and ESPECIALLY, "unselfishness and gentlemanly conduct are for naive people and should remain dead so how dare you suggest we strive for them, selfishness and cruelty and especially greedy accumulation of wealth are normal human nature and therefore justified," etc.

I grew up in a Jewish community, with its strong element of "tikkun olum" ("repair the world" in whatever small way you can).

So, because of that, the area where I live and work is an exception to all this, because we tend to actively try to fix problems when we see them, and we tend to believe that humans have free will and can choose to act politely, with respect to the needs of others, etc. My grandmother, especially, taught me that if someone rationalizes his own bad behavior or the behavior of his party by mindlessly insisting that there are no high ideals we should strive for, you stand up to that person and tell him that's nonsense.

If Johannes Gutenberg had grown up in communities like these, he never would've invented the printing press, because "Hey only the clergy can read and the masses can't read, so we might as well accept the current trend as the natural state of affairs."

Do you understand this, John Michael Greer? It ties into a lot of what my posts were trying to say.

Modern Republicans have a strong "life isn't fair and you should NEVER DO ANYTHING AT ALL to make it fair" mentality that absolves them of all responsibility for their part in contributing to the mess. It mindlessly excuses PREVENTABLE (if the public cared) social trends like the closing of public libraries and fire departments, etc.

It's the primary reason why Americans can't seem to do anything about creeping anti-intellectualism and social Darwinism. Ralph Nader once remarked that we're almost as passively "democratic" as Bangladesh.

They live in an "eternal present" to paraphrase John Taylor Gatto, rather than remembering what 5,000 of our ancestors dating back to the epic of Gilgamesh spilled blood for, and can't understand that if you just passively sit back when bad things happen, doing absolutely nothing at all, problems usually get even worse.

Do you understand what I'm trying to say, JMG? I have Asperger's Syndrome like you so I don't always express myself properly.

ando said...


Seems like you had a lively conference (thanks to Cathy's link).

A little more from the advaitin view as it pertains to the 99% or Owsers and the 1% for that matter.

Gandhi said be the change you want to see. Trying to change a system that is on life support is pointless, and the Descent is natural if you study Taoism, another non-dualistic philosphy.

Those who have had the change of consciousness to accept peak oil and the descent will be much better off making changes to homes, way of life, and local communities. This makes the so called 1% irrelevant.

I took a liking to your blog because you provide solutions geared to natural, intelligent and peaceful change, which is one of the main aspects of Nisarga Yoga.

The Green Wizard is a very advaitin creature.

Looking forward to the next essay, your teachings are appreciated,


idiotgrrl said...

Lady Gaia has been moved to the more intimate altar in the bedroom,in front of the portable shrine (Egyptian - flavored, from Tuscano of Sky All fame, picked up at a science fiction club auction for $50 and everyone marveled at how high I was willing to go!)

In the shrine are Pan as the Lord and Bast as the Lady (long story) and when I needed some serious work done for someone, I found myself addressing the Owl Lady as "the only grownup in the room."

Now we have another.

Interestingly, I find myself doing spontaneous reverence to images of the Statue of Liberty on a YouTube music video (Stairway to Heaven in Gregorian chant) and to the all-white flower-decked Ghost Bicycles of Albuquerque, memorials to cyclists killed in traffic. A variation on the old custom of descansos by the roadside, memorials to people killed along the roads.

P.S. The Captcha is 'dogie." Whoopie-ti-yi-yo!

Dr. Brian Cornforth said...

A heartwarming story of irreversible decline:

dltrammel said...

Just under the wire, here's my story for the contest.

"Small Town Justice"

nutty professor said...

Great travelogue, Archdruid
I felt I was there with you!
glad you are well,

Adam said...

Essentially, what your arguing is the philosophy of Rene Girard:

Bytesmiths said...

"What you contemplate, you imitate."

It sounds like a corollary to the Law of Attraction, and yet with a subtle depth that the Law does not provide.

And yet, things like planning require us to contemplate even the unthinkable. Is there a way around this trap, or does this really mean "don't do disaster planning?"

We've done a lot of planning around the coming decline of fossil sunlight. Does this mean that we necessarily must imitate those things we are planning to avoid?

Sounds like a pedagogical trap to me. I hope you'll spend some time sorting out ways to plan, without inviting imitation.

Laylah said...

I don't know if you even get comments on posts this old, but I wanted to say thank you for this one -- What you contemplate, you imitate is becoming a spell itself for me, a ward to keep the vicious cycles of anxiety at bay. Gentle, succinct, and effective.