For day-to-day

For day to day, a lucid logic serves—
Analysis of fact be my best guide.
But when there’s more at stake, I’ve been misled,
And destiny was quick to vanquish pride.
It’s thus I’ve learned to doubt my brain’s own nerves,
And trust my body rather than my head.

— Josh Mitteldorf

body-intelligence

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Spite

In evolutionary theory, spite has a meaning not too distant from the everyday meaning of the word.  Classical evolutionary theory says that natural selection works only between individuals, only locally, only short-term.  The name of the game is to get more of your genes proportionately into the next generation, which means that keeping others in the same community from thriving is just as important as thriving yourself. Therefore, don’t just grab more than your share of the community resources, eat all that you can eat, and when you’re done stuffing yourself, destroy as much as you can of the remaining food so your neighbors don’t get it.  Cannibalism is a twofer.

This is the prediction of classical (neo-Darwinist) evolutionary theory, but it is not the way most animals behave in nature.  Spite and even cannibalism can be observed in nature, but far more common is wide-spread cooperation, altruism that goes across families and communities, even crossing species lines.

Among humans, sociopathic behaviors exist, and they have devastating effects for all of us, but most people—like most animals—behave generously.

In my opinion, the greatest danger to humans is not from this handful of sociopaths but from an ideology that grows out of Social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism of the invisible hand.  They tell us we should behave selfishly because everyone else is behaving selfishly, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  They tell us that universal selfishness is the foundation of the harmonious ecosystems that we find in nature, while, in fact, ecosystems are stable only to the extent that individual animals and animal species behave unselfishly.

Worst of all, they tell us that when corporations behave like sociopaths that this is normal, and that our collective prosperity is somehow supported by their rapacious greed.  They warn us not to interfere with ‘free markets’ lest we undermine our own prosperity, but we look around us and we ask, ‘What prosperity?’, and a little light goes on and we begin to ask ‘Who is served by this ideology of unrestrained greed?’

Milestone: the Psychology Establishment Acknowledges PSI

Since man has been on earth, there have been reports of paranormal events.  Since the scientific method was established, it has been applied to study telepathy, precognition, remote viewing, psychokinesis, and spiritualism.   On the one hand, evidence for all these phenomena has not been scarce; on the other hand, accepting their reality calls into question the reductionist framework on which modern science rests.  Is there an objective physical reality that unfolds mechanically according to laws that operate at the microscopic level?  (In this case, mind is an epiphenomenon that came into existence as brains evolved.)  Or is mind part of the fabric of reality, as fundamental or perhaps more fundamental than matter, space, and time?

Research in telepathy and other paranormal phenomena has proceeded outside the purview of the scientific establishment.  Researchers have realized the need to integrate a science of mind into the physical and biological sciences, and have adopted increasingly rigorous protocols and bulletproof statistical methodology in order to beat down the walls of censorship and earn a place in the scientific canon.  Finally, this may be happening.

Last month, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association published this review of experiments in many different fields of parapsychology.  The author concludes

The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which…is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them.

(Daryl Bem prepared the ground for this event 7 years ago.)

If you are interested in reading in more depth about experiments in parapsychology, I recommend Dean Radin’s books and videos. He is both a rigorous scientist and an engaging communicator. You might start with Supernormal or this on Youtube .

It may be so

XI

It may be so with us, that in the dark,
When we have done with Time and wander Space,
Some meeting of the blind may strike a spark,
And to Death’s empty mansion give a grace,
It may be, that the loosened soul may find
Some new delight of living without limbs,
Bodiless joy of flesh-untrammelled mind,
Peace like a sky where starlike spirit swims.
It may be, that the million cells of sense,
Loosed from their seventy years adhesion, pass
Each to some joy of changed experience,
Weight in the earth or glory in the grass.
It may be, that we cease; we cannot tell.
Even if we cease, life is a miracle.

— John Masefield

Let me remind you who you really

[Excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, by Rob Brezsny]

You’re an immortal freedom fighter who has adopted the mission to liberate all sentient creatures. You’re a fun-loving messiah who devoutly wants to help all of your fellow messiahs claim the ecstatic awareness that is their birthright.

Try to remember. You’re a vortex of fluid light that has temporarily taken assumed the form of a human being, suffering amnesia about your true origins. And why did you do forget? Because it was the best way to forge the identity that would make you an elemental force in our 14-billion-year campaign to bring heaven down to earth.

You are a mutant deity in disguise — of the same lineage as a Buddha or Christ, and conjured from the same fire. You have been around since the beginning of time and will be here after the end. You’re learning.  You’re getting better at playing the preposterously amusing master game we all dreamed up together before the Big Bang bloomed.

Lately, I must admit, our work has seemed almost comically impossible. Many of us have given in to the temptation to believe that everything is wrong wrong wrong. Ignorance and inertia, partially camouflaged as time-honored morality, seem to surround us. Pessimism is enshrined as a hallmark of worldliness. Compulsive skepticism masquerades as perceptiveness. Mean-spirited irony is chic. Stories about treachery and degradation provoke a visceral thrill in millions of people who think of themselves as reasonable and smart. Beautiful truths are suspect and ugly half-truths are readily believed.

So, at this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, it’s not easy to carry out our mission. We’ve got to be both wrathful insurrectionaries and exuberant lovers of life. We’ve got to cultivate cheerful buoyancy even as we resist the temptation to swallow thousands of delusions that have been carefully crafted and seductively packaged by those messiahs among us who bravely volunteered to play the role of know-it-all deceivers.

We have to learn how to stay in a good yet unruly mood as we overthrow the sour, puckered mass hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as “reality.”

Most importantly, we have to keep our imaginations wild and hungry and free, even as we are ferociously and single-mindedly dedicated to the cause of beauty and truth. We have to be both disciplined and rowdy.

What can we do to help each other in this work?

First, we can create safe houses to shelter everyone who’s devoted to the slow-motion awakening of humanity. These sanctuaries might take the form of temporary autonomous zones like festivals and parties and workshops, where we can ritually explore and potentiate the evolving mysteries of pronoia (the antidote to paranoia). Or they might be more enduring autonomous zones like homes and cafes and businesses where we can get regular practice in freeing ourselves from the slavery of hatred in all of its many guises.

We can conspire together to carry out the agenda that futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard names: to hospice what’s dying and midwife what’s being born. We need the trigger of each other’s rebel glee as we kill off every reflex within us that resonates in harmony with the putrefaction. We need each other’s dauntless cunning as we goad and foment the blooming life forces within us.

Here’s a third way we can collaborate: We can inspire each other to perpetrate healing mischief, friendly shocks, compassionate tricks, irreverent devotion, holy pranks, playful experiments, and crazy wisdom.

What do tricks and mischief and jokes have to do with our quest? Isn’t America in a permanent state of war? Isn’t the global biosphere in freefall collapse? Hasn’t the paranoia about terrorism decimated our civil liberties? Isn’t it our duty to grow more serious and weighty than ever before?

On the contrary: I say this is the perfect moment to take everything less seriously and less personally and less literally.

Permanent war and the loss of civil liberties are immediate dangers. But they are only symptoms of an even larger, long-term threat to the fate of the earth: the genocide of  imagination.

Elsewhere, on pages 184-186 of my book, I have identified pop-nihilist storytellers as the vanguard perpetrators of this genocide of the imagination. But there is another culprit as well: fundamentalism.

The fundamentalist takes everything way too seriously and way too personally and way too literally. He divides the world into two camps, those who agree with him and those who don’t. There is only one right way to interpret the world, and a million wrong ways. Correct belief is the only virtue.

To the fundamentalist, the liberated imagination is a sinful taboo. He not only enslaves his own imagination to his ideology, but wants to enslave our imaginations, too.

And who are the fundamentalists? Let’s not remain under the delusion that they are only the usual suspects — the religious fanatics of Islam and Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism.

There are many other kinds of fundamentalists, and some of them have gotten away with practicing their tragic magic in a stealth mode. Among the most successful are those who believe in what Robert Anton Wilson calls fundamentalist materialism. This is the faith-based dogma that swears physical matter is the only reality and that nothing exists unless it can be detected by our five senses or by technologies that humans have made.

Life has no transcendent meaning or purpose, the fundamentalist materialists proclaim. There is no such thing as a divine intelligence. The universe is a dumb accidental machine that grinds on endlessly out of blind necessity.

I see spread out before me in every direction a staggeringly sublime miracle lovingly crafted by a supernal consciousness that oversees the evolution of 500 billion galaxies, yet is also available as an intimate companion and daily advisor to every one of us. But to the fundamentalist materialists, my perceptions are indisputably wrong and idiotic.

Many other varieties of fundamentalism thrive and propagate. Every ideology, even some of the ones I like, has its share of true believers — fanatics who judge all other ideologies as inferior, flawed, and foolish.

I know astrologers who insist there’s only one way to do astrology right. I know Buddhists who adamantly decree that the inherent nature of life on Earth is suffering. I know progressive activists who sincerely believe that every single Republican is either stupid or evil or both. I know college administrators who would excommunicate any psychology professor who dared to discuss the teachings of Carl Jung, who was in my opinion one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I know pagans who refuse to consider any other version of Jesus Christ beyond the sick parody the Christian right has fabricated.

None of the true believers like to hear that there are at least three sides to every story. They don’t want to consider the hypothesis that everyone has a piece of the truth.

And here’s the really bad news: We all have our own share of the fundamentalist virus. Each of us is fanatical, rigid, and intolerant about products of the imagination that we don’t like. We wish that certain people would not imagine the things they do, and we allow ourselves to beam hateful, war-like thoughts in their direction.

We even wage war against our own imaginations, commanding ourselves, sometimes half-consciously, to ignore possibilities that don’t fit into our neatly constructed theories. Each of us sets aside certain precious beliefs and symbols that we give ourselves permission to take very seriously and personally and literally.

Our fundamentalism, yours and mine, may not be as dangerous to the collective welfare as, say, the fundamentalism of Islamic terrorists and right-wing Christian politicians. It may not be as destructive as that of the CEOs who worship financial profit as the supreme measure of value, and the scientists who ignore and deny every mystery that can’t be measured, and the journalists, filmmakers, novelists, musicians, and pundits who relentlessly generate rotten visions of the human condition.

But still: We are all infected, you and I. We are fueling the war against the imagination. What’s your version of the virus?

Try to remember. We are reverent insurgents … convulsive beautifiers … rowdy avatars. We have more mojo at our disposal than we realize. But if we hope to navigate our way through this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, we will have to summon previously untapped reserves of that mojo. We will have to keep our imaginations wild and hungry and free, and make sure that all of our fellow messiahs, even those who volunteered to play the roles of ignorant deceivers, have the chance to keep their imaginations wild and hungry and free.

How might we start curing ourselves of the fundamentalist virus and move in the direction of becoming more festive and relentless champions of the liberated imagination?

For starters, we can take everything less seriously and less personally and less literally.

We can laugh at ourselves at least as much as we laugh at other people. We can blaspheme our own gods and burn our own flags and mock our own hypocrisy and satirize our own fads and fixations.

And we can enjoy and share the tonic pleasures of healing mischief, friendly shocks, compassionate tricks, irreverent devotion, holy pranks, playful experiments, and crazy wisdom.

visit Rob Brezsny’s website

 

Evolving the Web of Life

Darwin's sketch of the tree of lifeDarwin was first to substantiate the idea of a tree of life.  Offspring an be different from their parents, and over generations the differences can accumulate in different directions until the cousins are identified as entirely different species.  THAT was the Origin of Species.

The idea stood up for 100 years, but we now see a story that is vastly more complicated.  At crucial points in the history of life, evolution proceeded via mergers and acquisitions.   Bacteria have been passing genes around for 2 billion years or more, shedding copies willy nilly, picking up other people’s genes and keeping whatever they find useful.  We worry what monstrosities are being created when Monsanto takes a bacterial insecticide gene and implants it in a patented strain of corn.  But nature has been performing such chimerical experiments for a long time, though it’s probable that the vast majority of these experiments are abandoned before they get very far.  The successes are few and far between, but they have had an inordinate impact on the history of life.

We know much less about evolution than we thought.  David Quammen has a new book.

It was 90 years ago today

We don’t have to dream.  All we have to do is enforce the law.  War is illegal by International Law, and war is illegal by United States law, and any president who sends troops abroad, any senator or congressman who votes to authorize fighting, has reneged on his oath of office.

David Swanson tells the story in a book.  The American people had been hoodwinked into joining World War I.  No one could even explain what the fighting was about, but by 1917, U.S. banks had lent so much money to France and Great Britain that the banks couldn’t afford to let them lose.  Can we, in 2018, imagine a time when the U.S. government was more influenced by what is good for the banks than what is good for the people?  Stretch your imagination.

The cost of the war was devastating.  Idealistic men were loaded onto boats for Europe, partying and singing songs, full of patriotic enthusiasm.  They came back shell-shocked, traumatized, permanently damaged with fear in their eyes and  cynicism in their hearts.   My grandfather was one of those who left America as a happy-go-lucky high school grad, and came back a nervous, obsessive zombie—which is how I remember him 40 years later.  Of course, 100,000 of our boys didn’t come back at all, and another 700,000 Americans died in the influenza pandemic that was carried around the world with the soldiers.

Americans were divided in their opinions about many things, but fully agreed on one thing: never again, would we sign on to someone else’s war.  If attacked, we would defend American soil, but never would we send troops overseas.  Not only was the Kellogg-Briand pact ratified by the American Senate, it was an American initiative from the start.  And it was a grass roots movement, imposed on our leaders by a people united in one voice.

The story I tell in my book is one of a divided and struggling peace movement that united and grew. The Europhiles and the isolationists had to come together. The prohibitionists and the drinkers had to join hands. The outlawrists had to develop a vision of a transformed world and convince people it was possible. The case had to be made to the public with moral passion and urgency. There had to be an endless stream of flyers and pamphlets and books and meetings and petitions and lobby visits. Women’s groups and men’s groups that had sold out during World War I and those that had not had to put their shoulders to the wheel together. Those who wanted a world court and those who didn’t, those who wanted a League of Nations and those who didn’t, and those who wanted to focus on disarmament, and even some of those who wanted to focus on condemning U.S. imperialism in Latin America had to decide that outlawing war was one useful and achievable step and pour everything into it for a year or two, forego sleep, and work literally in some cases to the point of heart attack.

Happy Kellogg-Briand day!