No we can’t

A comment on:
Management by Consciousness: a spirituo-technical approach, by Dr. G.P.Gupta. – Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Science, 1994 (5th ed. 2009). – 202 p.

One of these days I saw that book on someone’s desk. I was very much interested in learning about different views on Sri Aurobindo’s teachings. So I had a look inside. A minute later I disgustedly put it back on the desk. My god, how unconscious can one consciousness-seeking man be? At which point has self-deception entered the game? Integral yoga for managers – come on!
Here’s how it would be done… or preferrably not.

“The normal human consciousness fails to see the Divine in money, and it wants to possess it for its value in fulfilling desires and the self-gratification of man’s ego. Money is a higher form of the Divine in manifestation and it has a higher role to play in the life of each individual and the collectivity…” (p.83-84)

People use money for everything, not just for the satisfaction of desires, because, for them, there is no other way of achieving anything. Usually they have no clue about money’s history, creation, or role in the market system. They are even more unaware of its intrinsic mechanisms. The market system, especially money, keeps us from seeing the damage done to the Earth in the process of creating wealth; it keeps us from noticing the working conditions of those who harvest, dig, produce, transport, and distribute; it makes us see a vendor as a replacable instance rather than a human being who is worth our love. With currency in your pocket it becomes much too convenient to go on with your specialized job and just purchase the stuff of which you have no clue how to achieve it any other way, like food for instance. Money lets us forget that it is not money we need, but clean water, nourishment, shelter, medicine, clothes, inner growth, and relationships.

Aside from the smoke screen created by it, we have to look at another intrinsic mechanism. The money we spend needs to be replaced somehow, and that is where wage slavery, gambling, stock speculation, stealing, and bribery are kicking in. All those sorts of behaviour which we see as hard-to-extinguish problems do not exist merely because of billions of people failing to use money properly, on a more conscious level; the whole chain of abusive actions, from ripping the Earth of its treasures, to the exploitation of each and every money-dependent person, to the alienation of the customer from the foundation of his life, to greedily hoarding money due to a subconscious fear of running short on resources – all that is triggered automatically as soon as we use money. It happens systematically because of the innate mechanisms of civilization, and especially money, no matter your intention or idea about it. In other words, making and spending money is an act of structural violence done to life.

On a third note, we have to talk about desires. Money is not merely spent on the satisfaction of desires, it actually creates them.
Having left the abundant world of local ‘production’ in a tribal setting (i.e. where everyone knows how to provide for all necessities) was the original sin by which we created the need for trading goods. At a later point in time money offered itself as the ideal means for simplifying trade, when we already had created an economy of scarcity. This, by the way, is the whole point of trading. You cannot sell things that are abundantly available to a potential customer, or which he can easily craft himself. Traders want both scarcity and people caught in job specialization because this means they can sell their stuff, and the scarcer that stuff is the higher the price achieved. Therefore scarcity actually gets created for the sake of establishing markets, and along with it the desire for the scarce product, while money gives customers comfortable access. The development on the food and oil markets is one current example of that. Trade with antiquities is another. Clearly dividing the world into the domains of mine and not-mine, money creates an artificial separation that renders true human unity impossible.

Money is a powerful tool in the hands of those trying to achieve power over people i.e. control over their environment. It came into existence only after our minds were separating themselves from each other and nature. A peaceful soul, at oneness with the Universe and liberated from the tyranny of the ego, has no need for global trade. It does not strive for expanding its influence by conquering markets. It is glad to just be, no matter the conditions. To withdraw from money’s influence comes as a natural tendency through living a simple life.

“I do not regard business as something evil or tainted, any more than it is so regarded in ancient spiritual India. If I did, I would not be able to receive money from X or from those of our disciples who in Bombay trade with East Africa; nor could we then encourage them to go on with their work…” (p. VII)

It’s easy to put the blame on money when it comes to some of the most pressing yet persistent problems in the world. One of the reasons they have never been solved is that the root causes usually do not get addressed.
I do regard neither business nor money as the root of all evil, as people use to claim when I talk about the problems connected to it. Money is just one – though extremely harmful – phenomenon within the larger framework of civilization, which itself is the outcome of our separation from nature and each other. Confronted with money as a problem, our idea of it is not relevant in finding a solution. Without considering the essence of what it means to be a civilized human, every attempt of addressing money’s unwanted “byproducts” is futile. Still, currency had a role to play in mankind’s development. So, provided you’re a religious or spiritual person, what do you think did the Divine have in mind when it gave us financial means?

“All depends on the spirit in which a thing is done, the principles on which it is built and the use to which it is turned… Krishna calls upon Arjuna to carry on war of the most terrible kind and by his example encourage men to do every kind of human work. Do you contend that Krishna was an unspiritual man and that his advice to Arjuna was mistaken or wrong in principle?… It is in his view quite possible for a man to do business and make money and earn profits and yet be a spiritual man, practice yoga, and have an inner life.” (p. VII)

As I’ve explained in previous posts, and as I have pointed out above, no matter how you look at it, using money is by itself an act of structural violence. Whether you spend it with love or not, whether you purchase one thing or another, it doesn’t keep Mother Earth and her inhabitants from getting physically harmed, and it sure doesn’t help with your karma:

While I agree that the suffering money causes is helping us with learning important lessons about the material world, it is a totally different thing if you deliberately continue its use forever, knowing that it inflicts harm on others. The Buddha, for instance, defined a nonviolent man this way: “He does not kill nor cause to kill.” Pointing at the Divine then, to me, is merely a justification for laziness with taming the ego, so one can keep on doing whatever one does.

We could discuss the nature of the force called Krishna, whether he is manlike or omnipresent or anything inbetween. Whether he even exists or not. Whether the scriptures pass on the will of the gods or if they have been made up by humans. Actually, I don’t believe in any of those scriptures and the gods mentioned therein. The point is, that there is a difference between spirituality and religion, the former being based on personal experience, the latter on belief. The Mother explicitly declared that her and Sri Aurobindo’s teachings were based on spirituality, not on religion. It is safe to say then that only observation allows for learning, i.e. making steps towards the divine consciousness. You may stay in business and be a moral person, no doubt. But we’re not talking about simple morals here. Seriously following a path means you clearly cannot proceed ‘managing’ business as usual, or even expanding it, after having learned about money’s intrinsic mechanisms, as that would mean to hold on to the division between the Self and the Other, and the violence connected to it.
What about money as an incentive, then?

“On the lower levels man is motivated by a desire for reward – money, fame, prestige, respect, success.

At a higher level he works out of interest. Interest is a broader, less personal, more mental motive than desire.” (p.85)

When I do necessary work at home, like cleaning the room, as well as when I joyfully participate in the activities of my community, where is there a desire for reward? We do things for a reason, sure. The reason is what motivates us. In a very general sense, the good feeling after having achieved our goals could be regarded as a reward. But I disagree. The deeper reason for any activity of any living being is a need. Negative emotions arise from unmet needs. Desires express unmet needs. Violence is a manifestation of unmet needs. We want our needs to be met. In a society where this is only possible with a bundle of bucks in your hand you will do whatever is necessary to bring some of it into your possession. You work a useless job, or you start selling crap, or you act criminally just because it makes money, while urgently needed stuff does not get done when finances are low. Money becomes your sovereign lord who decides what you can and cannot do.

On ‘higher’ and ‘lower’, what does it mean anyway? I cannot help but reject the idea that some parts of the inner life of a human are more valuable than others. To me, they are just different ways of perceiving the world and dealing with it. Dependent on the situation, some means may work better than others. But they all have value in and of themselves. That’s why they exist.
The same goes for life forms. From algae, to worms, to grass, to flies, to trees, to reptiles, fish, birds, and primates, all species and each individual has a role to play. The reason why fungi and humans exist at the same time is that both fulfill their purpose and that we are all important in a way. Without bacteria, most other species, and certainly homo sapiens, would disappear. Without humans… guess. So, again, what does ‘higher developed’ mean?

It is very likely that man will evolve into a species even more intelligent, aware, and conscious, an explorative voyage a curious human being like me can get easily fascinated by. It makes sense to me. But that does not mean that we are generally superior to every, or any, other species. We are not masters of the Universe, we’re not exempt from its laws (if such a thing exists).

Does the Universe issue currency to barter with itself? Observing something like that would help with discovering the Divine within money. As far as we know, the concept exists only in the minds of members of one single culture – our civilization. All the rest of creation, billions of years in evolution, has been achieved without coins. What does that mean for the overall role and importance of money?

“In a creative economy of modern life, the role and importance of money can not be overemphasized. Without money nothing can be achieved in material life… All socio-economic activities…depend directly upon and are determined by money… Money is a force, a lever of control and a power of possession. The index of modern (material) prosperity is money and money-power.

But money is not an unmixed blessing!…It is a source of much evil. But that is so with all material forces and powers in the world. One never thinks of eschewing fire because it burns, or water because it drowns.” (p.182)

Only that it is not water’s intrinsic property to drown people immediately, everytime it gets touched, and it is not fire’s innate task to consume the whole world. If we are about to compare apples and pears, let’s rather point at the fact that you never let a fire handle things by itself, that you keep it from burning unwanted materials like your house or your skin, that you reduce its size to the absolutely necessary, and that, after it has done its job, you finally extinguish it.
Let’s then look at money and how it took over ever aspect of our existence. Don’t economists and politicians constantly emphasize the self-healing abilities of the free market? Don’t we buy and sell even immaterial things like time, knowledge, and music? Hasn’t all that gone so far out of control that, without money, your life is in danger, and you are worth less in the eyes of others? Isn’t it true that people think a moneyless man deserves his fate, for he must have been a lazy bum to get in trouble? Prosperity is for those who possess, while the decision to use money or not is not merely about freedom of choice, but about life and death.

And on another note, what do we have to achieve in material life that cannot be done by our own hands, including the hands of our friends and family? In modern life, I agree, it has taken over all kinds of activities by making it convenient for everyone to let someone else (or technology) do the job; one step later, the only way to get things done was paying for it. This is true for every society that followed Europe’s path of indistrialization. In other places, like remote villages of rural Asia and Africa, in gift economies, or tribal settings, people are living on less than one Dollar a day, foraging and/or running subsistency farms. Does that mean they are poor? Does it mean they have a harder time, have less freedom, are less happy, less healthy, and that they are uncapable of sustaining themselves?
The power of possession amounts to nothing when it comes to points like inner growth, the meaning to life, fulfillment, self-realization, or the ability to survive in times of serious setbacks in trade. Burn your e-currency during a dark cold night and see how much comfort you get out of this. Try to buy enlightenment. Measure the friendliness of your friends. Can you possess wisdom? Can you feed on cash when you are lost in the middle of nowhere?

“The real solution to the ills of money that it brings in its train lies in understanding it through the mechanisms of Divinity.” (p.183)

Is that true for nuclear plants as well? Can you solve the ills of radioactivity by understanding the ways of God? Then why would anyone expect exactly that to happen with something that is bearing a multiplicity of dangers?

“Money is a universal force derived, like other forces from the Divine. But, like every other force, it is appropriated and perverted by the beings of darkness and is used to serve and satisfy their own ends… For a harmonious progressive and luminous life on earth money, like all material means, is indispensible and none should plead for its extinction from earthly life.” (p.184)

Again, as shown above, certain characteristics of money imply the hurt of its user and the user’s wider environment. The only pervert element about it is the idea we could ‘manage’ the damage it causes by throwing even more money at something. We have to learn that everything we do comes at a price in ‘kind’, the loss of health, of beauty, of species, of sanity, of relationships, or even life, and no sort of control can stop that.
Like money itself, the concept of management (control), which encompasses sub-concepts like security, separation, preservation, and all the rest of it, is tightly interwoven with the fabric of civilization. We cannot solve any problem sustainably without going back to the foundations of civilization: the erroneous thought that man stands outside, above nature, and follows different rules than the rest of creation; that it is man’s ability, right, and duty to improve on nature; that we got to make sure we get our will; that this new, cultural, creation of ours can do it safer, more persistent, bigger, faster, and generally better than the Universe itself.
Compared to the ‘primitive’ state humanity has been in during three million years of human evolution, so-called ingenuity has improved on exactly nothing, as far as I see it (o.k., apart from the iPod…); the Golden Age is still lurking ‘just around the corner’. Half of mankind dieing early because of expropriation by the other half of mankind, of which millions die early due to civilizational diseases, traffic accidents, pollution, suicide, capital crimes, war.

Everyone who gave up the rat race after money can tell that his/her life effortlessly became more luminous, peaceful and harmoneous, leaving more space for inner growth, artistry, and yogic dedication to their activities. It works almost automatically. Experiences like these show the way to a brighter future, without the need for putting money on an altar, or blaming its negative effects on occult powers. As we use money, we are buying its innate consequences. Why point fingers at outside forces? Who are those mysterious creatures of darkness supposed to be? True spirituality knows nothing about any such evildoers, but tremendously more about the responsibility of each conscious being for its own happiness.
So let’s have a look at the conceptual foundations of management by consciousness.

On p.83, the author quotes from Sri Aurobindo’s words:

“Money is the visible sign of a universal force, and this force in its manifestation on earth works on the vital and physical planes and is indispensible to the fullness of the outer life. In its origin and its true action it belongs to the Divine” (Sri Aurobindo in: The Mother)

Then he proceeds quoting The Mother:

“…money is meant to increase the wealth, the prosperity and the productiveness of a group, a country, or, better, of the whole earth.” (The Mother)

Most religious and spiritual traditions originally ask for a reduction in the use of money, even keeping it at arm’s length. They speak about living a simple life. They do so for a reason. Intuitively or consciously, wise men of the past held a knowledge we’d better give a second thought. We have to ask ourselves the questions why they, and our intuition as well, shy away from currency.
Having made my experiences for some decades, noticing how money issues prevented humane behaviour, reasonable action, or urgent responses to challenges over and over again, I studied its functioning in society as a whole as well as in the hands of individuals. I came to the conclusion that I had to find ways how to reduce its influence on my life. I don’t pretend I already made it out. In a world the lion’s share of which has been taken over by the monetary system, this is hardly a trivial task.
I am still using money, only that I, following a tendency toward simplification, reduced the scale tremendously, with the intention to remove it completely from my life. I take steps into that direction, irregardable of Sri Aurobindo’s ideas, because believing in old scriptures, gurus, or divine authorities simply isn’t enough.
I don’t want to diminish Sri Aurobindo’s or The Mother’s reputation. There is so much wisdom in what they have said. But like all religions of the world, and unlike every serious spiritual tradition, they hold up the flag of civilization, with its belief in human superiority and its fixation on growth, expansion, and ascent. The origins of civilization and money’s life cycle may have been hidden to them. Maybe that’s why they didn’t question the so-called need for money. For them, it was just part of the given setup; for me it’s the key to our culture’s destructive behaviour. I find it obvious that removing money from my life, putting the ego in its proper place, and getting conscious about things that actually matter, go hand in hand.

If you say, “No dynamic spirituality can afford to put a ban on money, for that will mean leaving the money-power in the hands of the vital forces on the one hand and on the other paralysing the material world by poverty.” (p.187), these lines give evidence enough to claim that basic facts of economic mechanisms haven’t been understood. If you rely on outside sources to get supplied with stuff you need, you become dependent on the hands of the above so-called vital forces. A constant flow of money (including surplus gains and interest) runs from you to the supplyers, helping them to accumulate even more, and supporting their exploitation of both resources and human labour. At the same time, keeping up this cycle of consumption forces you to ‘make’ money. Being dependent on deliveries for money, the latter becomes your foremost concern, and in the end you will do anything to get a grip on it. That’s when your spirituality gets spoiled and you become a companion in the destruction of life.

“The way to win”, how John Michael so perfectly put it in one of his recent articles, “is not to play the game.” Working from inside the system, trying to make it more “just”, “green”, “democratic”, or “spiritual” won’t change the tiniest bit of its path towards consuming every last bit of the earth. It consumes the Earth because we consume all sorts of stuff in the name of progress, independent of how we look at it. This is how it works.
Becoming aware of the origins of money and being conscious about its impact on the functioning of the economy and the human psyche means that you’ll never again be friends with it. As money is the fruit of separation, its nature is to disconnect its users from the source of the goods and services purchased by it.
If you believe that you can sleep with the devil as long as only you take care you withdraw before he’s coming, you will have a rude awakening when you discover that he got you by your ass – like all the world today believing in the fairytale of endless growth is going to have their doomsday when vital resources of the global economy will eventually be used up.

To sum it up, the “root of all evil” lies not within currency itself, but in the larger framework called civilization, a construct which is based on materialistic, divisive thinking. We cannot possibly solve money-related problems by spending it consciously, only by changing our world view on the deepest level. To bring such a shift about, we can start on the material level by withdrawing from money making and spending, in order to live a simple sustainable life that gives us space for the necessary inner shift; we may as well start with cleaning our mind in the first place, so the deceptions and temptations of civilization loose their power over us and go away, along with the “need” to spend money.

I fully accept that people have all kinds of views on money. My truth is not the only truth there is to this subject. But the ideas given in the above mentioned book are deceptive in a way. They might wake the impression we could continue our o-so-comfortable way of consuming goods and services without, at some point, having to pay the bill attached to it.
We can’t.
I thought you might like to know; I’m equally ok if you don’t.

The mathematics of the One

To the world, there are no losses. If it is true that all is one – a fact that I feel within ever more often – people, too, can never lose anything or anyone. The key we lost on our way home is still somewhere around. The leftovers of last month’s party which we threw away (where is “away” supposed to be anyway?) only changed their consistency and did the next step in their cycle of transformations. The person we miss is just in some distant place, making other Earthlings happy, other parts of me. That thought actually reconciles me with the ‘odds’, and makes me feel connected to the whole world. Only by dividing it into the domains of me and not-me can something get lost to one side, are there winners and losers.

Divine conspiracy

Some thoughts that appeared after reading “To be a true Aurovilian”, a text given by The Mother.

1) They say, “Good things come to those who wait”. In Auroville (or any spiritual community) the right thing comes along as soon as there is a need for it. A typical example would be the balance created by the flow of goods and services within a gift circle, where the gift tends to go where the most urgent need is, so that everyone’s needs get met.
The sense of possession distracts the trust in that “mechanism”. Instead of asking, “What can I give? How can I make your life more wonderful?” the possessive mind focusses on, “How can I get the most? What is in there for me? How can I preserve my stuff?” and thereby nourishes greed, building up severe imbalances of wealth and power.

2) Material life, along with personal identity, is like clothing. It is covering the surface of the actual body. We can pretend that there is nothing beneath the fancy surface and then even forget that we pretend, but the psychic body, as well as the physical one, has needs that ought to be met. If we don’t satisfy our hunger, the body will get weaker, become ill, and eventually die.

3) There is a difference between needs and desires. Needs are asking for the most basic elements that keep us alive. We can live without satisfying desires, the stuff we wish for, but we cannot last long with our needs unmet. Desires are like addictions. Sometimes they feel like urgent needs, but actually they just distract our mind by keeping us in constant movement in pursuit of excitement.

4) There is another difference, between desires and aspiration.
How do you know that the thing you wish for is coming from a higher consciousness, your true inner self, and is therefore sincerely aspired; or when is it merely a desire of the ego?
If your ego desires something you will hardly be able to let go of it. You cannot accept a “no”. When your desire gets satisfied new desires arise shortly after. If it does not get satisfied, you cannot give up the idea without feeling pity, frustration, grief, anger, and/or victimization.
The one who aspires is not dependent on specific results. There is no attachment to a certain outcome to an effort. He does not force others into accordance. He is not frustrated in case of failure; aspiration means acceptance of, and surrender to, the supreme reality (or fate, or the ways of the Universe, or God’s will, if you wish. One of my fellow newcomers called it Divine Conspiracy.)
Although the powers of the Universe sometimes seem to plot against your plans, like the gods of ancient Greece, in the end it always turns out that the right thing did happen when you failed. We must fail in order to understand what works not. We must fail in order to learn how to accept failures. We must fail in order to realize we cannot possibly go against the will of the Divine Consciousness (or the laws of nature, or God’s plan, if you wish) and hope to succeed in that. The Supreme has its ways, and we better trust in its general benevolence.

As an example, after having heard of Auroville I was quite on fire. At last a place where I would be free, where I would fit in, where I could put in my energy and my efforts for the benefit of mankind. It finally turned out to be the right decision to come here, very well in line with the plans of the Highest Consciousness; but looking back from today’s point of view it started primarily as one of my ego’s desires. By the teachings of Adyashanti, and also during my first stay here, as a guest, I learned that life in general, and this place especially, is not about me, my liberation, and my development in the first place, but about serving a higher truth. Only along with the sincere aspiration for the realization of that truth comes my liberation as an individual. I had to develop trust into the idea that everything will turn out as it is supposed to be, and the Aurovilians, creating the welcoming atmosphere in this township, helped a lot with that. It actually worked out for me, not only as a concept, but in various experiences.

Still the question remained, “Am I enforcing some self-centered mental idea, or am I supposed to be here?”
So, is it desire or aspiration that makes me want to join Auroville? Now that you know the difference you can imagine what I went through since my discovery of the place. I was looking for ways to be absolutely sure. I didn’t want to fool myself. How could I tell that my motivation was sincerely based in the realm beyond rationality, beyond the ego? How could I ensure I was not deluding myself?
Not to be attached to become a citizen was the ultimate test I could take, and when I realized that, I several times tried again to get in touch with a friend who recently seemed to refuse talking to me. By word of mouth I had the impression that he was not too well off now. A few years ago he helped me financially, so this was both an opportunity to bring back the non-abusive part of our former relationship and find out if I was ready to give up Auroville in case my friend needed the money more urgently than I did.
After four previously failed meeting appointments, another three attempts to re-establish contact were unsuccessful – completely. It was disappointing that a chance for reconciliation has been turned down, but I had to accept that. At least there were no more doubts about sincerety, and at the same time my path to Auroville has been confirmed.

The observation of the movements of mind and body during that period of time raised awareness of similar situations when the ego pretends to have a “need” that “must” be met under any circumstances. It is so much easier now to identify the diversion and counter it by taking a step back. Suddenly there is openness towards the results of my attempts to achieve my goals. What are my petty ideas compared to the work of a higher truth? Suddenly the pressure and the frustration dissolute. And life becomes beautiful in each and every moment.

What a life! What a chance!

“If that happened to me, man, I’d just go… WILD!”
Have you ever heard someone say something like that? Me, I heard it all too often, and I felt like that myself all too often. Someone got murdered. Someone got raped. Someone got tortured. Someone got fired, or judged, or debased under the most unjust circumstances. Rage and anger or a feeling of unsettlement, powerlessness, or depression are the most natural reactions to have unto hearing or even suffering yourself such violation of human dignity. It drives us crazy, cries for revenge. No wonder we find those who commit such violations themselves been treated this way. Their suffering is the key to your suffering, so understanding your own grief in turn can be the key to your understanding their motives; they are taking revenge for their needs not being met; they are acting out the lessons they have learned.

Our first reaction to hearing about victims who were forgiving the perpetrators often is incredulity. “How can they? I don’t believe this.” Like Marshall Rosenberg speaking of the Rwandan woman who lost her whole family in the genocide, but shows no hate, no rejection, no call for revenge. She is not in denial. She is not suppressing the grief. On the contrary, her acceptance of grief, her commitment to vulnerability, her insight into the inevitability of physical suffering, is the one thing that healed her psychological wounds and drove her to work in a positive direction, for peace; to break the chain of unmet needs.
Rosenberg might have got her wrong, or he is exaggerating in order to promote his best-selling Non-violent communication books. But I don’t think so.

Having overcome huge amounts of life-long grudge and hatred myself within a few months, I found clear evidence to his accuracy of observation. The film Scared Sacred shows several more of them. Survivors of Bhopal, Hiroshima, 9/11, Intifada, the Khmer Rouge tyranny, the Jewish holocaust, and the wars in Bosnia and Afghanistan opened their hearts to film director Velcrow Ripper and showed how they developed their capacity to transcend hate, stopped thinking of themselves as victims, and turned the lessons learned from grief into positive actions.

From Rumi to Rosenberg, from Buddha to Eisenstein, from Jesus to Krishnamurti, from Ruppert to Adyashanti, from Native Americans to Indian fakirs, from the Shamans of South America to Kübler-Ross, people have shown that, while physical suffering may not be avoided, psychological suffering can be ended. It is merely stories we tell about the world and ourselves. While some say it takes courage to choose a bold one, I believe this is just another story about reasons for not moving on.

Suffering is learning, like making mistakes is learning. If we allow ourselves to examine the grief a certain behaviour brings, or the problems a certain technique creates, we find out about what doesn’t work, so we can turn to something that actually does. The trick is to let go of ideas that feel comfortable, yet don’t work. You don’t stick with a bridge-building technique that ended in a crash, do you? So you may not want to stick with hateful feelings forever, as well. And, as a society, we better not stick with the everyone-for-themselves paradigm, as it has proven to create tremendous amounts of suffering due to its intrinsic inability for meeting needs, both on individual and collective level.

So you see, all that philosophical stuff I am talking about all the time is deeply rooted in everyday life. It is connected to our individual experiences. I am far from preaching morals or virtues; all this is about discovering correlations, connections, ties, between our sense of being and the world at large. By using words, I am limited to offering concepts: the concept of interdependency; the concept of oneness. Don’t just accept them; try to find truth in yourself. If you feel like your psychological suffering means eternal disablement – go ahead; examine that to its farthest reach. Yet, apart from such concepts, there is an age-old insight, shared by all humanity, into a reality beyond suffering. If you can feel it, too, learn about people who touched it. They can help you to proceed.

What do we actually need?

I seem to have a phase of disorientation lately, resulting in either not knowing what to think (and therefore write), or alternating between multiple ways of looking at the world. The dissolution of wrong and right combined with the study of various solutions to the current crises do me no good, some may say; although I guess this is the only way for me to eventually get rid of a sickening belief in the concept of control over my environment. During the past two years I have learnt to let go of the idea that, by controlling money flow, people’s view of my person and the world, and other variables, I could finally reach a stable state of security, a safe ground to plan the future on. I was taught to believe in the power of control – and believe I did.

The concept of control is an illusion. After all that has gone ‘wrong’ in my life, all failed plans and relationships, hardly anyone around here knows better than me. (I owe everyone hugs and apologies for having been mean, I guess.) Still it ain’t easy to accept and let things come my way, awashed as I am still by Western culture. To naturally let go means to have faith, trust and belief in fate, especially the ways of people. I admit to have a deficit in that field, a deficit that, thanks to Auroville, is not quite as awful as it used to be.
Back in Europe, where I am currently stuck, I am also stuck with developing ‘skills’ like those mentioned above. For how can you trust people in a competitive society, i.e. an everyone-for-themselves system of constant fighting, battling, and warfare? Can people whose whole life is based on againstness and who make a living out of destructiveness show you how to love and feel loved? Would you ask a priest to learn programming?

It sure takes a peaceful environment and a loving teacher to develop the qualities mentioned above. You cannot do it all by yourself in environments like the one I have been in all my life. Therefore my longing for a fundamental change in the ways of the world. And yes, there is an emphasis on ‘my’, as I might share this longing, this need, with other fellow creatures, but can only speak for myself. When I once adopted Jacque Fresco’s vision of a resource-based, fully-automated civilization, I had the dream of cutting off the crap, preserving only the best of nowadays’ society. But shortly after, I had to learn that, right when I got where I was intellectually going, the road was still stretching a long way in front of me.

Yes, there is the need for a very different social environment, but no matter how you put it, the way there starts with a thought, feeling or intuition, rather than with an action.

If we are able to survive the next 100 years, The Venus Project may very well become a reality. But the longer I go into the subject of improving the world and ourselves the more I doubt the necessitiy of having a civilization at all. If we ourselves did the work that sustains our lives, it would be the ultimate means to reconnect to the foundations of existence and the happiness of being one with what we separated ourselves from as “environment”. It would be the ultimate means to free ourselves from governance and 8 hours or more a day of alienating work. Instead, we’d spend just 2-4 hours on occupations we care about, and that were really satisfactory as they make us learn, grow and survive. It was civilization that made work such an uncomfortable experience. It was civilization that made us needy and greedy. It was civilization that created organizational structures bigger than a single individual can handle. You hardly find people complaining about such things in tribal, spiritual or buddhist environments for instance – which are based on contentment with what IS rather than what could come.

Under such conditions there is no need for insurances, money, global markets and all the like. There is also no need for cities, industries, robots and all the technologies that endlessly distract and amuse our minds, separating us from the real world around us, and that demand for solutions to problems that haven’t been there in the first place.

We know that people can be happy without possession. We know that we can be happy with living off the land, not wanting anything but a little bit of company. In fact, it is the wanting that makes us (and others) suffer, for it creates discontentment; in other words unhappiness; in other words conflict with our situation.

All that boils down to the question: What do we actually need? How did we ever come to the idea we could not live without all the stuff that surrounds us today, along with made-up concepts of “society”, “institution” and “civilization” that have materialized in our lives without any basis in the material world whatsoever?

Of course we are a species that doesn’t like to relinquish even the slightest bit. It would be hard to change ourselves to being content with less stuff than we own today. But isn’t that exactly the walls we are running into all the time? People refusing to give up the pieces of shit they have, despite accurate information of a better world where there is no ownership, no fight, no oppression?
Then how much does it actually take to make our existence worth living?

I’d say, it is just a change of mind on the deep spiritual level – which no technology in all the world will be able to bring about. Whether or not there will be highly developed technology in the future hence doesn’t make a difference in bringing about such a process. On the level of ideas I am not against the direction of The Venus Project in so far as we want the same: The end of the monetary madness giving path to something much more healthy.
It is only that I highly doubt we’ll be able to trigger a general paradigm shift as long as we are organizing at the millions, while using technology as a means of control. To learn how to govern yourself you would want to live with and by yourself; to learn how to heal the world you would actually have to stop treating it like disposable, dead lump. To know what is real we have to get rid of the symbol, the word, the rational logic, and “get in touch” again.
How do you do that within our culture? – You can’t! It is the culture’s aim to keep you off this path. It provides no means by which to achieve it, even destroys you if you try too hard. You cannot change it as a whole, yet need a place to stay.

And there I go, off into the wilderness, into communes, or whatever my path may be. As I leave, as we leave one by one, the culture of competition, againstness and destruction dissolves, and society falls apart in yet another way than the self-defeating rip-off of nature’s gifts.

eu angelion ex carolus

“From the egalitarian societies of the Paleolithic, humanity evolved into great agrarian civilizations in which the rich were those who owned slaves. In the Machine Age, overt slavery disappeared, only to be replaced with a system in which nearly everyone did demeaning work out of survival anxiety. “Do it or you will die!” That’s slavery, all right. The great promise of machine technology — Every man a king! Every man a god! — has borne its opposite. Every man a slave. Slaves without human owners, all laboring under the yoke of money.”

Most of the misery we witness, and go through ourselves, arises from the idea of separation and control. We cannot watch things happening “naturally”. We just don’t let go. As we try to subdue reality according to our will, our whole civilization consists of thick layers of patches to problems which previous “solutions” have created in the first place. That’s why things look so complicated; hence the need for experts. To my experience that need is an illusion. Life is much simpler than it seems. It became obvious as soon as I learned how to not divide the world into wrong and right, what should and what should not be, or to look after what I think I “deserve” as “my right”. The first two steps – seeing the illusion and letting go of it – were the most difficult, and the latter one, in my case, is still in progress. Adyashanti so aptly called that, which is keeping us, a fear of breaking the ultimate taboo of leaving humanity behind, as it actually implies the realization that the world (in every sense) cannot be saved, and does neither need nor want to be saved. In fact, civilization has to collapse – rather than slowly fade away – so that every man eventually allows the urge for a different paradigm to be felt within himself.

“With the end of the age of the Machine, we see the possibility of a return to the original egalitarianism, in which the economy is a flow of gifts within a context of abundance […] The collapse of the Newtonian World-machine will reunite us with the world, and we shall once again fall in love with it. To be in love is to dissolve boundaries, to expand oneself to include an other. Already it is happening. Have you noticed? One by one, we are rejecting our society’s priorities and falling in love again with life. That is our true nature, which we can deny only with increasing effort.”

(Quotes from Charles Eisenstein’s “The Ascent of Humanity“, Chapter VII-6. My own writing originally appeared as comment to Mark Boyle’s Freeconomy Blog)

Am I out to saving the world?

Definitely not.
What do you mean by ‘world’ anyway?
The Universe? – It doesn’t need to be saved.
The Planet? – So far we cannot destroy it.
The Biosphere? – Well, one could say that man, being the most powerful species on Earth, has some responsibility for his fellow creatures. But that derives from a human understanding of ‘morality’, ‘rights’, and ‘justice’ or, on the material level, of ‘resources’ and ‘life stock’. It has nothing to do with laws of nature – if they even exist outside our intellectual concepts of the fabric of reality.
So maybe saving the world is about saving our species, our civilization, the status quo. And I am not even trying to help that. It would mean that I’d impose my idea of what the world should look like on others. It would mean that they’d have to live under conditions that I find to be useful, regardless of their needs, and I think that is a fascist way of handling the situation we’re in.

I mean, it’s alright to find likeminded folks to join forces. But there’s a limit to how many allies you can bind. Have you ever explained your world view to another person, or have you ever tried to help them, and then noticed how many reject your view or your way of helping? Even if you had the power to force ‘their advantage’ onto them, the only thing you can achieve by that is turning an advantage into misery for them.
So what can we do at all?

As far as I’m concerned the only thing we can actually change is ourselves: our way of looking at the world, our emotional, rational and behavioural reactions, and our expectations. Altering ourselves can be learned easily and it doesn’t require the smallest piece of technology. Not even a pencil.
That sounds revolutionary but it is knowledge having stood the test of time for thousands of years.
That sounds selfish but the result of changing yourself into someone content is a human being able to relate peacefully to others.
That sounds destructive, and in fact it is. It destroys the notion of being a separate self and creates a feeling of oneness that comes from deep within. It destroys my ability to act loyal towards faceless institutions and replaces it with loyalty towards all forms of life. It destroys consumerism and progress-ism and gigant-ism in favour of sustainable living. It destroys the belief into atomistic models of reality so I am able to mentally return to where I am never able to quit physically – interdependency.

If you are content with what you have – what you ARE – then there is no need to argue with others over world views and resources and saving the world. There is no need for a common system of governance, trade, administration, farming. There is also no need for an objective language (which is physically impossible to have anyway). And most important: there is no need for waiting for the right moment, a trustworthy politician, or a ‘necessary’ invention to actually make the world a better place.

You can argue that backing down from the world’s affairs doesn’t solve anything. But the same goes for forceful intervention which we have tried over and over again, this situation being a result of it. Top-down doesn’t work. It never did.
After all, what does a group, organisation, institution, society, or even mankind consist of? It is persons, isn’t it? You and me. What each of us believes, thinks, says, decides, does, sums up to the thing we call society. It makes a difference, however small you may think it is.
So, whether I try to change society or myself, it is a systems approach because I face the situation at its very root: human behaviour, and at the root of that: human thought.
Only that, starting out small, I am not dependent on others.
When I decide not to take a gun then war stops right where I am.
When I buy less stuff then consumerism ends at my door.
When I step back for the benefit of another person then greed gets extinct before my eyes.
When I share my surplus with others then poverty ends where I live.
When I neither demand / expect nor obey the culture of dominance collapses.
When I see similarities instead of differences human unity becomes real.
Trying to change the world without having to change oneself right now is an attempt to have the cake and eat it, too.

Why I had to leave the movement to actually join the movement

Recently, I read a blog that really impressed me with its reasonable criticizm of The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM). Although Jacque Fresco’s vision of a resource-based economy (RBE) is one of the most desirable to me, Fresco and TZM are missing one thing that is absolutely necessary for bringing about fundamental change: The values on which an RBE is based have to be part of people’s world view FIRST, before they are going to actually work towards a transition. Otherwise people will just perpetuate their previous ways until someone does the revolution for them.
The real revolution takes place in people’s individual heads, just like Jiddu Krishnamurti said, or it will stay “a theoretical fantasy that will appease those who still want both their gadgets along with their clean air”. As a matter of fact, many TZM members are in for saving their asses from the grip of impending poverty.

The new society cannot work if the paradigm it is based upon remains a mere intellectual knowledge instead of becoming a fact of (everyday) life.
Why?
“My argument is”, says Mark Boyle, “that under the vision that Peter [Joseph] and Jacque have, people will be so far disconnected from the things they consume to have (or maintain) any respect for them now or continuously. I also believe they will have no understanding as to why we need to change so drastically to begin with.”

The lack of understanding within the front rows of TZM has shown blatantly since late 2009. In fact, the request for a practice-what-you-preach approach has been regarded as a threat to the integrity of a movement that is, in contrast to its vision, busy with aggressively self-protecting its hierarchical chain of command and telling their members to proceed with supporting the monetary system til doomsday.

“The low-tech but completely organic society I am proposing, whilst not as attractive to the addicted masses, I believe is actually possible and not just a fantasy that looks great and will appeal to people who want to continue with their fantasies and addictions. – Walden versus TVP, I guess, as a solution”, states Boyle, author of “The Moneyless Man”. And I agree, because I see the need to first reconnect people to the foundations of their lives before enabling them to toy around with nanotech and other stuff from which we would really benefit… provided we became wise enough to avoid self-destruct.

Given a real shift in how we look at the world, a low-tech resource-based approach will offer at least as much contentment in life as Fresco’s technical wonderland. The change we need, no matter if we go for huts or skyscrapers, is a progress in our social abilities which are horribly retarded compared to our scientific achievements. It can only result from inner observation and understanding the processes of the mind. Such an understanding will manifest, without effort, in behaviours much more sane. And no matter what type of society structure we erect then (likely some sort of RBE anyway), it is going to be a highly desirable one.

The one-straw revolution

Do-nothing farming, also known as natural farming, Fukuoka farming, and The Fukuoka method, is an alternative permaculture farming method to chemical or traditional farming. It reduces human intervention to an absolute minimum, allowing nature to do the work. As odd as it may seem, do-nothing farming is able to produce at least as much food per acre as any other method, without tilling, nursing, pruning, planting in tidy rows, or using machinery, fertilizers, compost and pesticides.

The One-Straw Revolution

The method became widely known through the book The One-Straw Revolution, originally published in 1975, by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008), a Japanese microbiologist who tested spiritual insights on his father’s farm.

He began his career as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology. In 1938, he began to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job as a research scientist, and returned to his family’s farm on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan to grow organic fruits, vegetables and grain. From that point on he devoted his life to developing a unique small scale organic farming system that does not require weeding, pesticides, fertilizers, or tilling.

The One Straw Revolution has been translated into many languages and usually sold for the net cost price. Fukuoka shared his knowledge with everyone interested and allowed people to volunteer on his farm for days, months or even years.

Idea

Origins

Going through a crisis at the age of 25, Fukuoka had a revelation: “In this world there is nothing at all.” There was no reason to worry about life because he suddenly realized that “all the concepts to which he had been clinging were empty fabrications. All his agonies disappeared like dreams and illusions, a something one might call ‘true nature’ stood revealed.”[1]

This insight, and the observation of a rice plant growing wildly on an uncultivated piece of land lead him to the notion of do-nothing. But having ruined his father’s tangerine garden that way, his first important lesson in natural farming was that one can’t change agricultural techniques abruptly. Trees that have been cultivated cannot adapt to neglect. Newly-planted untouched plants can, he found out. They seem to somehow remember their natural offspring which required no cultivation whatsoever. Human intervention weakens plants, so they get addicted to pruning, fertilizing, plowing, additional watering and pesticides.

During the following years, Masanobu Fukuoka developed, by observing nature and trial, simple methods for a natural way of doing agriculture.

A Way of Life

Fukuoka insisted that natural farming was not just a method but a way of life based on simplicity and oneness with the Earth. Ideally, all people would become farmers. He predicted that a large-scale change in consciousness would lead to the fall of governments and whole economies, for a human being, independent of external food supply, would be no more prey to manipulation, power games and consumerism. He wanted man to reexamine his relationship with nature in its entirety. That would be a revolution triggered by straw. But it requires that people shift to seasonal, regional and vegetarian diet rather than consume exotic and/or protein-rich food.

Fukuoka saw an opportunity that people could live in harmony with each other and with nature: “Natural farming is not simply a way of growing crops; it is the cultivation and perfection of human beings”[2], he said. “Most people do not yet understand the distinction between organic gardening and natural farming. Both scientific agriculture and organic farming are basically scientific in their approach. The boundary between the two is not clear.”[3]

While nature is the real expert in growing stuff, Fukuoka says, man’s intellect has distorted this wisdom. Modern science, along with industry and government, is leading man ever further away from the community of life. We seem to be “so steeped in science that a method of farming which discards science altogether will not be digested.”[4]

Method

Despite the catching phrase “do-nothing” there still is some work to do, of course. But it points out that many agricultural practices, which generally are regarded as essential and indispensable, can be left out, which results in a significant reduction of effort, money and time to be invested.

The method, originally developed for Japanese conditions, got successfully adapted to other places around the world. In India, for example, natural farming is often referred to as Rishi Kheshi.

Green Manure only

Fukuoka mixed seeds of white clover with rice or winter grain. A ground cover of white clover will grow under the grain plants to provide nitrogen and keep weed plants from overpowering the crop. Weeds are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to rot on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil.

Ducks are let into the grain plot, to eat slugs and other pests. They leave just a little bit of manure.

No prepared compost or chemical fertilizer must be applied.

Seed Balls

In order to protect seeds from being eaten by birds, they have to be dampened a bit, then wrapped in a layer of clay powder, compost, and sometimes manure. The seeds necessary for 1/4 acre can be prepared within a few hours. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.

Little or no Tillage

The seeds get brought out on the surface of the untilled earth to grow. Tillage is usually unnecessary if the ground is not too hard. Plowing severely disturbs insects and worms which keep the earth fertile.

Mulching

The ground has to stay covered all the time. The clover does that during the growing season.

Shortly after the harvest, the complete straw is scattered loosely (not straight!) in thick layers as mulch. The straw decomposts until the next harvest time, giving back all the taken-out nutrients from the previous crop.

Fukuoka used short-stemmed grains which had a spike to halm weight ratio of 1:1

Crop Rotation

By observation of natural processes, Fukuoka learned about the optimal moment for seeding, and also which plants best complement with each other. He only intervened when necessary.

Regarding grain, he brought out rice and winter grain in rotation. Each grain crop is sown two weeks before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop(!) During the harvest, the new shoots get trampled down, of course, but they recover quickly and begin to sprout.

This sort of double crop rotation can be done over and over on the exact same spot, without ever depleting the soil. Mulching by clover and straw even enriched its fertility over the years.

Minimal Irrigation

Fukuoka seeded rice directly on the spot where it finally got harvested, without transplanting from a nursery field and without the use of paddy fields. With very little irrigation and just one week of water standing in the field, the do-nothing method saves enormeous amounts of water and labour (i.e. transplanting, min. four times of weeding a year, flooding) and thereby avoids overly methane production.

Natural Pests Regulation

Instead of trying to root out pests, natural farming lets nature have its way. The insect population in and above the ground is much higher than in plowed and sprayed fields. Predators like mice, birds and spiders are allowed to roam. The species control each other and keep balanced. Plagues appear rarely and never mean the loss of whole crops.

No Pruning

Trees and bushes never get pruned. Branches and twigs arrange themselves so they each get the optimum of sunlight. An already pruned tree has to be withdrawn carefully over at least two years before it adapts to do-nothing farming. A wide range of grass species on the ground and mixing various tree species keeps the orchard healthy.

Scattering and Mixing

Vegetables can be grown wherever there is a small unused piece of land, preferrably among fruit trees to enrich the soil. Varieties should be brought out mixed with each other on the already existing vegetation cover.

Results

Fukuoka’s labor resulted in an equal or higher amount in crops than traditional and chemical farming in the same area, while the fertility of the soil constantly increased over the years and natural balance was kept. This balance self-regulated pests so there have been little to no losses in crops. With an average of about one hour of work per day, Fukuoka was able to get as much grain from a quarter acre of land as needed to feed a family of five. Costs reduced to almost zero, as no fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, heavy machines or food had to be bought to run the farm.

Literature

* Masanobu Fukuoka: The One Straw Revolution – The Natural Way of Farming.
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature
* Masanobu Fukuoka: The Natural Way of Farming – The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy

References

1. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/MasanobuFukuoka.htm
2. ↑ http://www.onestrawrevolution.net
3. ↑ Masanobu Fukuoka: The Road Back to Nature p.363
4. ↑ http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyFukuokaMas.htm

Deep Ecology II

(compiled of Wikipedia, notes from my current Deep Ecology class, and personal knowledge)
Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological philosophy that recognizes the inherent worth of other beings aside from their utility. The philosophy emphasizes the interdependent nature of human and non-human life as well as the importance of the ecosystem and natural processes. It provides a foundation for the environmental, ecology and green movements and has fostered a new system of environmental ethics.
Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that, like humanity, the living environment as a whole has the same right to live and flourish:

“The right of all forms of life is a universal right which cannot be quantified. No single species of living being has more of this particular right to live and unfold than any other species.” (Arne Næss)

1 The Name

Deep ecology describes itself as “deep” because it persists in asking deeper questions concerning “why” and “how” and thus is concerned with the fundamental philosophical questions about the impacts of human life as one part of the ecosphere, rather than with a narrow view of ecology as a branch of biological science, and aims to avoid merely anthropocentric environmentalism, which is concerned with conservation of the environment only for exploitation by and for humans purposes, which excludes the fundamental philosophy of deep ecology. Deep ecology seeks a more holistic view of the world we live in and seeks to apply to life the understanding that separate parts of the ecosystem (including humans) function as a whole.

2 The Deep Ecology tree

The movement can be seen as a tree. The picture relates to deepening levels of questioning, as well correspondingly, increasingly relevant practices.
Each person comes from its own direction, with its own fundamental beliefs and convictions, which constitute the roots of the tree. It is the basis for everything else.
Nevertheless, all supporters of the movement agree on the 8-point platform, which is the trunk of the tree. It is a unifying guideline, a common source of collaboration between many different kinds of movements, and it provides both strength and flexibility.
The values of the 8-point platform show in different branches on the level of society and lifestyle choices. People form projects, groups, organisations and are also part of general directions, like vegetarianism.
The particular decisions and actions taken each moment are regarded as the leaves of the Deep Ecology tree.

3 The 8-point platform

Supporters of the deep ecology movement (rather than being referred to as “deep ecologists” or followers) are united by a long-range vision of what is necessary to protect the integrity of the Earth’s ecological communities and ecocentric values. In order to establish shared objectives, Arne Næss proposed a set of eight principles to characterize the deep ecology movement as part of the general ecology movement.
Due to its inclusive character the platform is not meant to be a rigid set of doctrinaire statements, but rather a set of discussion points, open to modification by people who broadly accept them. Therefore it is natural that the wording of a version of the platform cannot be the same everywhere.

  1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
  2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
  3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital human needs.
  4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
  5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
  6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
  7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
  8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.[1]

4 Social ramifications

Individuals adopt appropriate lifestyles and actions consistent with, but not determined by the 8-point platform.

“The frontier is long. There are many ways of acting for good. You cannot do everything!” (Arne Næss)

In practice, deep ecology supporters work towards decentralization, the creation of ecoregions, the breakdown of industrialism in its current form, and an end to authoritarianism. Deep ecology calls for nothing less than a complete overhaul of the way humans live on the Earth. It wants to be the framework for future societies.

5 Development

The phrase “deep ecology” was coined by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss in 1973,[2] and he helped give it a theoretical foundation.  

“For Arne Næss, ecological science, concerned with facts and logic alone, cannot answer ethical questions about how we should live. For this we need ecological wisdom. Deep ecology seeks to develop this by focusing on deep experience, deep questioning and deep commitment. These constitute an interconnected system. Each gives rise to and supports the other, whilst the entire system is, what Næss would call, an ecosophy: an evolving but consistent philosophy of being, thinking and acting in the world, that embodies ecological wisdom and harmony” (Stephan Harding)[3]

Næss rejected the idea that beings can be ranked according to their relative value. For example, judgments on whether an animal has an eternal soul, whether it uses reason or whether it has consciousness (or indeed higher consciousness) have all been used to justify the ranking of the human animal as superior to other animals. Næss states that from an ecological point of view “the right of all forms [of life] to live is a universal right which cannot be quantified. No single species of living being has more of this particular right to live and unfold than any other species.”
This metaphysical idea is elucidated in Warwick Fox’s claim that we and all other beings are “aspects of a single unfolding reality”.[4]
As such Deep Ecology would support the view of Aldo Leopold in his book, A “Sand County Almanac” that humans are “plain members of the biotic community”.
They also would support Leopold’s “Land Ethic”: “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Daniel Quinn in Ishmael, showed that an anthropocentric myth underlies our current view of the world, and a jellyfish would have an equivalent jellyfish centric view.[5]
Deep ecology offers a philosophical basis for environmental advocacy which may, in turn, guide human activity against perceived self-destruction. Deep ecology and environmentalism hold that the science of ecology shows that ecosystems can absorb only limited change by humans or other dissonant influences. Further, both hold that the actions of modern civilization threaten global ecological well-being. Ecologists have described change and stability in ecological systems in various ways, including homeostasis, dynamic equilibrium, and “flux of nature”.[6]
Regardless of which model is most accurate, environmentalists contend that massive human economic activity has pushed the biosphere far from its “natural” state through reduction of biodiversity, climate change, and other influences. As a consequence, civilization is causing mass extinction. Deep ecologists hope to influence social and political change through their philosophy.

5.1 Scientific basis

Næss and Fox do not claim to use logic or induction to derive the philosophy directly from scientific ecology [7] but rather hold that scientific ecology directly implies the metaphysics of deep ecology, including its ideas about the self and further, that deep ecology finds scientific underpinnings in the fields of ecology and system dynamics.
In their 1985 book “Deep Ecology”[8], Bill Devall and George Sessions describe a series of sources of deep ecology. They include the science of ecology itself, and cite its major contribution as the rediscovery in a modern context that “everything is connected to everything else”. They point out that some ecologists and natural historians, in addition to their scientific viewpoint, have developed a deep ecological consciousness—for some a political consciousness and at times a spiritual consciousness. This is a perspective beyond the strictly human viewpoint, beyond anthropocentrism. Among the scientists they mention specifically are Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John Livingston, Paul R. Ehrlich and Barry Commoner, together with Frank Fraser Darling, Charles Sutherland Elton, Eugene Odum and Paul Sears.
A further scientific source for deep ecology adduced by Devall and Sessions is the “new physics” which they describe as shattering Descartes’s and Newton’s vision of the universe as a machine explainable in terms of simple linear cause and effect, and instead providing a view of Nature in constant flux and the idea that observers are separate an illusion. They refer to Fritjof Capra’s “The Tao of Physics” and “The Turning Point” for their characterisation of how the new physics leads to metaphysical and ecological views of interrelatedness, which, according to Capra, should make deep ecology a framework for future human societies. Devall and Sessions also credit the American poet and social critic Gary Snyder—with his devotion to Buddhism, Native American studies, the outdoors, and alternative social movements—as a major voice of wisdom in the evolution of their ideas.
The scientific version of the Gaia hypothesis was also an influence on the development of deep ecology.

5.2 Spiritual basis

The central spiritual tenet of deep ecology is that the human species is a part of the Earth and not separate from it. A process of self-realisation or “re-earthing” is used for an individual to intuitively gain an ecocentric perspective. The notion is based on the idea that the more we expand the self to identify with “others” (people, animals, ecosystems), the more we realize ourselves. Transpersonal psychology has been used by Warwick Fox to support this idea.
In relation to the Judeo-Christian tradition, Næss offers the following criticism: “The arrogance of stewardship [as found in the Bible] consists in the idea of superiority which underlies the thought that we exist to watch over nature like a highly respected middleman between the Creator and Creation.”[9] This theme had been expounded in Lynn Townsend White, Jr.’s 1967 article “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis“, in which however he also offered as an alternative Christian view of man’s relation to nature that of Saint Francis of Assisi, who he says spoke for the equality of all creatures, in place of the idea of man’s domination over creation.

5.3 Experiential basis

Drawing upon the Buddhist tradition is the work of Joanna Macy. Macy, working as an anti-nuclear activist in the USA, found that one of the major impediments confronting the activists’ cause was the presence of unresolved emotions of despair, grief, sorrow, anger and rage. The denial of these emotions led to apathy and disempowerment.
We may have intellectual understanding of our interconnectedness, but our culture, experiential deep ecologists like John Seed argue, robs us of emotional and visceral experience of that interconnectedness which we had as small children, but which has been socialised out of us by a highly anthropocentric alienating culture.
Through “Despair and Empowerment Work” and more recently “The Work that Reconnects”, Macy and others have been taking Experiential Deep Ecology into many countries including especially the USA, Europe (particularly Britain and Germany), Russia and Australia.

5.4 Philosophical basis

Arne Næss, who first wrote about the idea of deep ecology, from the early days of developing this outlook conceived Spinoza as a philosophical source.[10]
Others have followed Naess’ inquiry, including Eccy de Jonge, in Spinoza and Deep Ecology: Challenging Traditional Approaches to Environmentalism, and Brenden MacDonald, in Spinoza, Deep Ecology, and Human Diversity—Realization of Eco-Literacies
One of the topical centres of inquiry connecting Spinoza to Deep Ecology is “self-realization”. See Arne Naess in The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology movement and Spinoza and the Deep Ecology Movement for discussion on the role of Spinoza’s conception of self-realization and its link to deep ecology.

6 References

  1. ↑ Devall, Bill; Sessions, George (1985). Deep Ecology, p.70
  2. ↑ Næss (1973) ‘The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement.’ Inquiry 16: 95-100
  3. ↑ Harding, Stephan (2002), “What is Deep Ecology”
  4. ↑ Fox, Warwick, (1990) Towards a Transpersonal Ecology
  5. ↑ Quinn, Daniel (1995), Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
  6. ↑ Botkin, Daniel B. (1990). Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century
  7. The Shallow and the Deep, Long Range Ecology movements A summary by Arne Naess
  8. ↑ Devall, Bill; Sessions, George (1985). Deep Ecology
  9. ↑ Næss, Arne. (1989). Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. p. 187
  10. Spinoza and Deep Ecology
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