Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Druid Perspective


John Michael Greer is a writer, philosopher, bookworm, mage, and Grand Archdruid.  He’s brainy, articulate, and a notorious outside-the-box thinker (see his interview on PeakMoment.TV).  On some issues, my conclusions are different from his, but he’s a stimulating lad.  I’m just going to jabber a bit about a few of the ideas presented on his blog.

For many years, I struggled to find a solution to the Earth Crisis.  I learned a lot along the way, but was never able to discover a silver bullet cure.  I failed because I didn’t comprehend the vital difference between problems and predicaments.  A problem is something that can be eliminated by a solution — if my bicycle falls over, the solution is to lift it back up — the problem ends.  A predicament is something that has no solution, like the Earth Crisis.  No matter what we do, we can’t make it go away.  All we can do is experiment with various responses, and some may be more helpful than others.

When I was a schoolboy, there was an imaginary line that divided the world.  On one side was capitalism (good), on the other was communism (evil).  Today, it’s democracy (good) and terrorism (evil).  Are you a liberal or a conservative?  Are you saved or damned?  Binary thinking limits perception to just two possible variables: A or B, where A is the opposite of B.  Devious creeps are famous for using binaries to confuse and manipulate the unclever.  “Gosh, if I’m not A, then I must be B.”  Whoa boy!  What about C, D, E, and F?  In his classes for druid cadets, Greer would have them find the numerous binaries in the daily paper and identify the options not mentioned.  Once you grasp this, binaries become easy to see and step around.

One of Greer’s job titles is mage (synonyms: conjurer, sorcerer, wizard, etc.).  It’s an art with old roots.  Magic cannot fix the Earth Crisis predicament, but it can influence how we think and behave — for better or worse.  Dion Fortune, a venerable magician, once defined magic as “the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.”  Will (desire) is essential.  Most consumers lack the will to abandon their quest for excess, so efforts to change their consciousness will fail.  According to Greer, magic “can be seen as the use of psychologically potent symbolism to influence consciousness and, through consciousness, the universe as we experience it.”

A popular tool for magical work is incantations.  For example, “drill, baby, drill!” encourages infantile fantasies.  Incantations can also be used for good.  During World War II, Rosie the Riveter posters had this incantation: “We can do it!  This empowered women to leave home and work in factories to help the cause.  Hitler was a master of dark incantations.  Magic without ethics is toxic.

“We are passing from an age of unparalleled abundance to an age of scarcity, economic contraction, and environmental payback,” says Greer.  This is a predicament, because neither magic nor science is capable of providing us with infinite quantities of cheap, environmentally harmless resources.  It is possible for magic to change our consciousness, but first we must wrap our heads around the notion that the sun is setting on the age of reckless excess.  We must be willing to hurl our illusions overboard, and open our minds to exploring new realms of thinking, but few are willing to do this.  No will, no magic.

Many are lost in a trance.  The myth of progress bombards us with a dodgy incantation: “the future will be better.”  Almost none of our ancestors lived in an era when they anticipated a brighter tomorrow.  They just played the cards that life dealt them, to the best of their ability, without daffy daydreams. 

Modern folks, suffering from vivid hallucinations of utopia just around the next corner, are hobbled by irrational expectations.  For protection against this incantation, Greer gives us the counter spell:  “There is no brighter future ahead.”  This spell provides grounding and strength to those having the will to resist the trance, but it’s meaningless to the legions of the lost. 

The collective imagination of a society shapes its culture, which is based on an assortment of narratives, or stories.  Most folks whine when he calls them myths, but that’s what they are.  The myths of our culture are like water to a fish.  Most of us have blind faith in the myth of progress, for example.  We are the greatest.  Better times are coming.  More is better.  In an era of calamitous change, the old myths are wheezing and sputtering, and the new ones remain embryonic.  This leads to confusion, and cripples our ability to reason.  Greer refers to this as cultural senility.

Greer has some issues with the activist community.  Folks who protest climate change “show no signs of accepting the limits that they hope to impose on others.”  They typically demand “that somebody else do something.”  Also, organizations tend to oppose the bad, rather than envision the good and pursue it.  Greer believes that the path to healing must include wrapping our minds around L.E.S.S. (less energy, stuff, and stimulation).

A powerful tool for transformation is mindful contemplation.  “What you contemplate, you imitate,” says Greer.  If I contemplate recreational shopping, and focus on all the cool stuff I want, I’m likely to wander away to the mall.  Or I could contemplate the satisfaction that would result from living less wastefully.  I could contemplate the vital difference between wants and needs, and redefine my priorities.  I could contemplate the responsibilities involved in living an honorable life.

Modern societies (“magician states”) manipulate the minds of the masses.  Popular culture conjures “mass thaumaturgy” (a powerful spell), which induces a trance state in many people, who seem to be sleepwalking.  The trance weakens their mental powers, making them easier to manipulate.  The air is always thick with trance-inducing incantations trying to penetrate your mind.  Remaining free of the trance requires clear thinking and a strong mind.  Find paths that distance you from the fog of dark incantations.  Deliberately reduce your exposure to them.

 (1) Completely disconnect from popular culture inputs, “your television will do you more good at the bottom of a dumpster than it will sitting in your living room.”  It’s a fire hose of garbage, and it hobbles the mind.  Stop this toxic habit right now, cold turkey, not gradually.  This will free up many hours for pursuits that enrich your journey.

(2) It’s very easy to receive popular culture incantations second hand, from people who live in the trance, whose minds seem to consist of little more than mass media sound bites.  You don’t need to live in a cave, but it is wise to be mindful about who you hang out with.  Don’t let the zombies bring you down.

(3) Replace the garbage inputs “with something worth reading, watching, hearing, or doing.”  Seek out living green oases in the desert of the collective consciousness.  Seek what helps you grow.

Stepping outside of the mass mind can provide a thrilling sense of liberation, like waking up from a nightmare.  It reveals new and better paths.  It’s good for you.

Techno-hint:  Google allows you to restrict a search to the contents of a single website.  For example, to search all of Greer’s blogs for “Apollo,” type this command in the Google search field: apollo:thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com

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