Category: Philosophy

Thematic Resonance in Civilizational Superstructure

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The human story, at its base, holds a fairly simple framework. An ape-ancestor, both a puzzle-solver and obsessed with time, stumbles over persistence hunting and ends up inventing both a great way to catch dinner and the curious social technology of telling a story. A few million years or so later, this results in a flowering of the human tree, one of the branches being homo sapiens. Homo sapiens uses this amazing tool to get into the heads of the landscape: both animals (its original purpose) and energetic flow patterns (winds, plants, landscape features). Somewhere along the line, they meet up with cousins from another continent, wolves, and the two co-evolve for a time, resulting in wolves around the planet and humans using pack technologies to form tribes.

This dynamic set up a repeating meme, where a group of lonely, curious or shunned humans would enter a new landscape and then completely adapt themselves to it, becoming pretty much literally an extension of the land itself. In turn, barring a major disaster (super-volcano explosion, meteor strike, invasions of Triffids from Beyond the Stars), the tribe could self-perpetuate its presence in the landscape in perpetuity.

Putting it in a slightly different light, seeds moved in and used behaviors to affect themselves physically between generations to fully become the People of the Land. Time would then begin, stories would flow. All would be well.

Seeds went out, adapted to the environment, became the world.

Civilization, on the other hand, was an upheaval of that story.

The foundation of civilization revolved around a traumatic break with the world, a mega-death that broke the idea that the culture was a part of the land. For Sumerians, that was unexpected seasonal flooding from both freshwater and seawater sources. For the Aztec, it was being chased from their homelands until they were deep into swampy territory next to a lake. From there, civilized cultures would start a hyper-specialized form of gardening–farming–where they would rip up everything so that the land would be forced to provide them and them alone with food. This created a war-mentality where one class would have to protect the food, one would have to grow and distribute the food, and one would have to make sure the constant input of manpower needed to make this work would keep on coming.

If you were to ask people about their deepest held spiritual beliefs before the coming of civilization, they’d probably look at you like you were crazy. Their beliefs came out of their interaction with the land; it formed quite naturally from that dialogue over generations. If you asked them specifics–like “Where do we come from?”; “Why are we here?”–they would have stories they could absolutely share with you. However, the frame was different. Life was a whole thing, not to be divided between ‘spirit’ and ‘not-spirit’ in a way that is generally understood now.

There’s a reason for that.

Civilization also faced similar questions: “Why are we here?” “Why are we putting so much effort into this crap?”. By all accounts, farming was a pretty shitty life.  Like, on the scale where you felt sick and had deformed kids level of “shitty.” And building cities, even worse. Especially the smell. The diseases. Faith–the ongoing dialogue between people and the greater world–was pretty much screaming “stop doing this!”

Someone, somewhere along the line, who really wanted to keep their job, came up with an idea. Faith used to be the comfort that you could take in knowing that a process much larger than you worked. Maybe, if you spent your entire life examining that process, but even if you didn’t that currently invisible mechanisms would still work fine. The new definition of faith by Mr. Go-Getter placed the emphasis on the invisible part of the mechanisms, arguing that (a) the invisible was more important than the visible and (b) if the invisible grew visible, it was no longer worthy of being called “faith.”

This boiled down to “we (the folks in charge) know you hate this life. But trust us: invisibly, this way of life is AWESOME!” As more people grew dissatisfied with this explanation, they had to come up with more and more invisible gifts to heap upon the deserving. You could serve in the afterlife (heck… sometimes that’s how you GOT an afterlife), it was a battle between good and evil and evil was all the lazies, a good afterlife only came to those who served well. Spirituality grew further and further away from perceived reality and gods dwindled from a multitude to handfuls per culture to finally two.  Even two wasn’t low enough. People were still miserable and trying to figure a way out.

This is where things get complicated.

Judaism comes in, in this world of divine kings and games of ‘our god is better than your god’ and awkward attempts at unification (“We’ve got to unify to fight the Bad God!” — Zoroaster). The common narrative is that the Jews responded to this polytheistic world by creating the idea of monotheism.

What if there is another way to look at this?

So here lies the context around Genesis. The Jews had battled their way out of generational slavery. They were a long ways away from their homeland, with not a lot of hope that they would successfully return. The kids were used to being forced to worship the gods of one (or more) of the same kingdoms who had enslaved them. How do you deal with that?

The Jews reacted by creating a clear pathway back to their land. An immediate-return religion.


YHVH — also known as the Tetragramaton, the name given to the Hebrew tribal deity. Loosely, it translates to “everything”.

Angel — taken from the Greek word “angelos” meaning messenger. Originally supposed to be “daimon”, which was a spiritual helper but the term was not used because it had both negative AND positive aspects. Applied to two different terms in the Bible: the Word of God, which encompasses emanations of YHVH so powerful it took physical form, and to the Elohim, which can be translated as ‘sons of god’


How do you explain to your kids that, even though they’ve spent their young lifetime watching Mom & Dad bow to a Golden Calf, that this is now wrong? How do you explain to them that the land they have never seen, never experienced, is so much better than where they were at? You tell them this:

“Look, my child. The universe loves us. It got us out of captivity. It protects and shelters and feeds us right now. And the gods in this universe? Well, if they rise up against us, the universe itself will shout out ‘I like these people! Leave them alone.’. So here’s some ground rules. There’s the Elohim and then there are foreign gods. You’re only going to truly know the Elohim once we return home. Until then, don’t bow down to these representations of gods. How is a single god more important than the favor of the universe? Don’t worship them. You’ve got enough to do! And once we get home. Once the home is ours again, we are in the hands of the Elohim once again.”

Obviously things didn’t work out as intended. I am secure in saying that if I laid this down at the feet of many Jews, they’d be scratching their head. But look at how absolutely utterly magnificent an attempt this is at trying to preserve a tribal legacy from the depredations of a foreign land and aid them in coherence in getting home. A way to preserve the embers of your spirituality so it can be fanned into the open flames of the heart, in an unknown future.

In that aspect, it worked. Jews, as a tribal people, have a resilient and coherent society even today, synagogues helping to cement that cohesion even while the only temple to the Elohim can exist in Jerusalem. It was an amazing, mostly successful attempt and I’m honestly in awe of it. It’s also sadly at the heart of the reason why they are persecuted (civilization really has a serious hatred for tribes, especially successful ones).

With that, I’m going to need to move on to where it all went awry.

About the time Yeshua was up to his/her hijinks (if you haven’t read this article, read it: [http://www.nthposition.com/jesusampalinsky.php](Jesus & Alinsky)), the Romans were trying out a new unity spiritual technology of their own: rebranding. They’d conquer a place, usher in some roads, and start lecturing on how their gods were pretty much identical to the local ones. So, if you wanted to continue your ways of worship, you simply had to call your gods by the Roman equivalents. And celebrate the Roman holidays too. And respect the Roman worship because, you know, your gods and the Romans were the same. Rebranding worked great for a time but like all the other attempts at explaining why our ‘world’ was crappy, it started to fall apart as the Empire slowly did.

Here’s where Saul of Tarsus steps into the picture. Saul’s a sad man. He’s a Roman but his Dad really talks about how cool it is to be a Jew. It gets so contentious, Saul finally ends up going out and hunting down Jewish apocalypse cults, like this Yeshua cult that says the Roman Empire sucks and it’s going to fall horribly because it’s filled with lechers and perverts and just generally terrible people. He gets a head injury and somewhere in the recovery period figures out his job was actually a bout of teen angst and decides to ‘become Jewish’ instead.

In context, consider how easy would it be for you, tomorrow, to become Maori or Saami or Tongva or Lakota.

Saul takes the Roman concept of rebranding to ridiculous heights, claims spiritual superiority, and takes the message of a tribal religion and applies it to the Empire. It probably would have stopped somewhere in there, except that Constantine spotted that it was a great way to unify his rapidly disintegrating empire.

“The Universe is OUR god. That means it’s so much bigger than your gods. And it likes us because Saul says so and Saul has talked to the Universe lately. Entry fee is: belief is Iesu. Thank you for playing.”


The above is likely not a direct quote from Constantine.


You really can’t get more detached from direct observation than saying ‘the universe loves ME more than it loves YOU’ and while this sham worked for a while, it ended up in the same division that claimed all the attempts to unify spirit. And as it did it gave birth to the ultimate twins of detachment.

Welcome to the spiritual technologies known as Science and Theosophy.

Science is the madness that results from faith being so long divorced from common practice. It looks at the last few thousand years of devastation and, instead of questioning the cultural wounds imposed on the people, says:

“There are forces in this universe but they are IMPERSONAL ones. They don’t care for us and they probably don’t even think or aren’t alive or aren’t of any importance.”

Tribal people from over forty thousand years of observation roll their eyes at its ignorance.

Theosophy is the rationalization that occurs when you are trying to fit all of those personal forces into a framework where they flat don’t fit. Theosophy appeared at the heart of the Spiritualist Movement in the late 19th Century and is best recognized today through both New Age and Waldorf movements. Theosophy wants to say:

“We are all part of a primitive space-time, the lowest of the low, and every ill we get, we deserve. In fact, we’ve asked for it. This is elementary school for gods. We (and the ongoing march of civilization as it progresses) are an “unfolding consciousness” (actual quote, btw) and once we’ve learned enough lessons, we will uplift from this precocious plane and enter the real Reality.”

And tribal people bang their head on the wall as theosophists try to sell dreamcatchers — summoning charms SPECIFICALLY made for the Spider God of a certain tribe — as special nightmare stoppers theosophists ‘made in their past lives as native american shamans’.

So what is the takeaway from this entire post? E pluribus unum? Infinite diversity, infinite combinations? Perhaps it’s something as simple as highlighting both a seductive but dangerous (and ultimately futile) spiritual technology meant to unify the planet AND an attempt by one tribe to preserve their identity long enough to return to its roots. Only one of these technologies is worthy of study

The other only exists to be discarded, except as a warning to future generations and a lesson of history.

Some concepts lifted from this article: http://discuss.rewild.com/t/the-trouble-with-one-long-post/2183 originally published on rewild.com January 2nd, 2017

The Reality of Being “Human”

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Every culture on the planet has an origin story, a way they describe how things came from not-being to being. In this, they often have a mythic narrative that also discusses how the first man and woman came into existence. Equally as often these progenitors are presumed to be just like us. If you were to transport the First Ones through time, they might be surprised by the use of modern tools or new cultural taboos but they would still fundamentally be recognizable to us and even, over time, become acceptable (even revered!) in our modern culture.
For almost 1,800 years, the dominant narrative has been of only two people—an Adam and an Eve—instead of a first tribe or a pair of couples or a set of hermaphrodites separated by the gods. This formed a very distinct starting point. Before Adam & Eve, there was nothing like them and after them, nothing different was ever conceived (at least by the gods).

A mere two-hundred years ago, Charles Darwin was wandering the world and observing things (and just as often meddling with them). In contrast to the prevailing thought at the time (”God made everything. Deal with it”), he discovered that life exists as a series of discrete relationships that can change slowly over time. It wasn’t the first time folks had noticed it, but its presentation was well-timed and shook up the world at the time.

Much to Darwin’s horror, a number of people (including members of his family), choose to focus on the ‘discrete’ instead of the ‘relationship’ part of his theory. From this particularly loathsome attention came the fields of eugenics and genetic determinism. Now, people had a ‘scientific’ way to justify prejudices. Poor people? Poor genes. Criminal tendencies? Must have passed from father to son. The god-blessed positions of royalty and their sycophants? Now blessed by Reason.

The absolute experts on this became the German Reich scientists, who produced outstanding work on the different genetic branches of mankind. Time and time again, they came up with clear definitions of how the blue-eyed, blond-haired ubermen of their homeland were definitely the end-result of Darwin’s evolutionary claims. All of their work was mad nonsense, of course; the results of overwhelming confirmation bias thanks to a horrific political climate and pressure to succeed under ridiculous circumstances.

Their work, idiotic and as cleverly worded as it was, leaked into modern day. A drive for which ‘race’ started where, for where the origin of ‘humanity’ came from. Scientists, in all seriousness, argued that their findings marked the humble beginnings of the species as here or there and that this was some sort of discovery or achievement.

In essence, the scientists were looking for a myth. So wrapped up in Christian theology, they were searching for an Adam and an Eve.

Do you remember how Darwin was studying discrete relationships? Once you start focusing on the relationships part instead of the discrete, a far more realistic pattern emerges. An astonishing ‘bush’ of life instead of a tree. Species that may appear different can successfully mate if they have the chance, or not. Time and distance do change things, sometimes on the surface, sometimes underneath. The ‘missing link’ that was ‘never to be found’ a mere century has been found over and over again. Suddenly, there are dozens of different types of Genus Homo, some of which we know, definitively, that we have bred with. Those branches that vanished didn’t just vanish; they just sexed their way into what was up and around at the time. What was new based on the environmental conditions that favored them.

You might think this is avoiding the question — where did humans come from? The answer, of course, is another question. What is a human? Is it when we started walking on two legs? Fire? Tools? That was all millions of years ago. Gathering in small tribal units (still millions)? Art? A million or so. Hunting? Gathering? Funerals?

We tend to think that Genus Homo from about 3/4 – 1/2 million years ago looked pretty much like us. But like us does not mean us. Were they still having sex with Homo Neanderthalis at that time? Or the Denisovans? Or something we haven’t found yet? Culture as we like to recognize it can into play around 250-50 thousand years ago but that just means there was a lot of it shared out there. Civilizations came in about 12-10 thousand years ago. Was that ‘human’?

Let’s take a step back. We know humans succeeded because they were persistence hunters, which is basically running down animals to death. To be a successful persistence hunter you have to have a strong sense of curiosity and time. You have to be able to assemble stories. This plus this plus this means that the deer ran through here.

What does it mean to be human?

Not our genetics, not our form. If this was our sole measure of success then we would have died out in places where persistence hunting failed. Instead, our success comes from being a storied people. Instead of a genetic shift over time, a storied people relies on memetic changes and the epigenetic changes that result from those memetics.

Epigenetics, which is a relatively new field, hypothesizes that a chunk of DNA is expressed only in relation to an environmental stress or benefit. Epigenetics speaks to the physical changes that occur that allow humans to adapt to an environment, causing variation in their appearance, though they are fundamentally the same. The same… well… the same kind of being that can choose to mate with their neighbors, to build relationships and nurture them.

What does it mean to be a storied people? A people who use culture to alter themselves?

It means there is no such thing as a human race. It means there is no such thing as an “Adam” and an “Eve”. A case in point, sometime before we ‘matured’ into homo sapiens sapiens, we started hanging out with wolves. Any biologist can point out the sudden shift in ‘human’ attitude and ‘wolf’ attitude that resulted in a co-evolutionary path. The two species couldn’t mate genetically, but epigenetically and memetically, they were on-fire.

Homo lupus gave way to tribes. Tribes gave birth to an impossible variety of humans. Homo Lakota. Homo Cymmru, Homo Taino, Homo Gunwinggu. Ultimately, the cancer that is Homo Civis. It’s that which is our strength. It’s also why the ‘origin of the species’ will consistently be wrong. It’s chasing after a myth which has never been the reality of our species.

We are all Adams and Eves.

On Appropriation

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1) I am not a fan of civilization. That might be apparent from me being on -rewilding- boards and transition movements.
2) Some folks have asked if it’s okay to appropriate arts, languages and traditions if it works towards some perceived greater benefit.
3) The answer is NO. Clearly no. Definitively no. Historically no.
4) If you are taking something from another culture without their permission, regardless of your intent, you are a thief and it is a destructive act.
5) If you are taking something from another culture without their permission while they are still under assault from genocide, then not only are you a thief, you’re a goddamned thief and may Odin shrivel your manhood and the fruit of your loins be poisonous.

Do you really think this is the first time this argument has been put forth? It is the core argument for slavery, for colonization, for civilization itself. There are -reams- of paperwork talking about it. They weren’t using it right; we can use it better.

So the answer is NO.

A Day in the Life of Midgard

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I’m in one of those thoughtful moods this morning.

Loki, son and heir to the line of Ymir, first power in the universe and the substance, was known as the god who shakes things up, the trickster.

One of his children was an apology to Odin for messing things up (long story short: he impulsively took a bad wager, almost lost everything for the gods and managed to fix things by getting a magic horse laid. Funny story). Loki gave Odin the ability to travel through the universe at top speeds, which likely enabled some of Odin’s greatest deeds (like discovering a universal language / writing).

Loki’s more infamous children are the Great Wolf, the World Serpent and the One who Watches the Dead. They’re the ones I’m thinking about.

His sons: Fenris, the threat to Asgard, who represented heavenly wrath and anger and righteous fury gone awry, only able to be stopped (temporarily) by sacrifice and the power of dreams. Later, only the master of poets could defeat him, but at the cost of the death of words.

Jormungandr, who represented the dangers of the material world. Consumption so profound that it spanned the world and could not be stopped. A monster familiar to those fighting the “black snake” in North Dakota today (sideline). Unlike Fenris, they couldn’t figure out a way to contain it so they ignored it. Only the power of the storm ultimately overcame it.
Then there’s the daughter. Never fully born. Half dead. Hel, in charge of those who lived half-a-life, who never fully embraced their spirit, their own individual fates. She took care of their anger at being judged, at wasting their time in the Middle World. She contained their memories and desires to be made whole. And when the time came, she released them to work their own kind of judgement on the world. She was never overcome. Then again, she was the gatekeeper.

In the wake of Loki’s critique of Odin’s world made flesh, the carefully constructed balance was shattered and then re-born. Another chance given. I’d like to think somewhere, the trickster loves the new world, out of his control, and those of Asgard, and has reconciled with his adopted father, still reeling from being eaten by a wolf.

I was talking with the kids a minute ago and reflecting on how Ymir had to die, for time and the universe to start. But that was also a horrible tragedy. Odin, whose name basically means “mad poet”, won by tricking Ymir into death, by naming Ymir out of existence. Ymir’s sons reflected Ymir’s power but only Loki, Ymir’s grandson, reflected Ymir’s death. He was in the form of Odin.

And in that form, he both honored his grandfather, avenging Ymir’s death, and his adopted father, by setting the stage for a different world from the last.

He’s the villain in the story because the skalds recognized that you can’t -encourage- that behavior because it will lead to disaster 9 times out of 10. But I think they preserved it, hidden there, for us to find it when we looked.

Wait… how powerful is writing?!?

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I’ve been pondering magic a bit at the moment and what fascinates me is the astonishing gap between ourselves and what our ancestors experienced. We can, with just a few squiggles and lines cause a hallucinatory explosion of emotional reactions. For example, which causes a greater feeling of fear:

The picture?

Oh look. A tiger!

or this:

Under 21 U.S.C.A. § 8821(a)(6), your assets, in full, are to be seized and placed under federal custody, to be remitted solely at the discretion of the courts. You are to be removed for these premises and placed into custody immediately.