Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIV

William Irwin Thompson could have been an Andrew Cohen or a Ken Wilber, but like Glenn Morris, chose to dedicate himself to a scientific and artistic view of SBNR, and to eschew guruhood and religion in favour of co-operative collegiality, the pure SBNR “fellower not follower” spirituality.

It’s not that SBNR doesn’t produce charisma, of a different kind to that of religion, but still charisma:

… after a few lectures, something peculiar happened. I began to feel a different presence inside myself; actually, I began to feel a whole new sense of self. A larger kind of mind took over the field of my consciousness, and I would begin to say things I didn’t know, or didn’t realize I knew. I can remember the first time it happened, when I said to myself as I was lecturing, “Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that.”

Along with the shift in my sense of self, came a shift in the general feeling-tone of the audience. Restless students became listeners … Undoubtedly, the kriya yoga I was doing for three and a half hours each day aided this process of ego/Daimon restructuring…

MEMOIR – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part 2: A Community in Fishcove, Long Island

That is the power of a preacher. But Thompson wanted to synergise with people, not fascinate them. He didn’t go on Dick Cavett and become a celebrity when his book hit big in the NY Times. The big vistas he limned in print (and vistas don’t come much bigger) were the visions of a Europhile poet-prophet-historian who paints the world around the reader, illuminating its patterns rather than laying down a concrete highway through it. The kind of visions that leave it up to the reader what to do and who to be, in other words.

The story he ended up telling, couched in terms of systems theory conversations in the collegial atmosphere of Lindisfarne, describes much of the situation we are actually living in now (although few realise it.) This kind of thing, breaking through to a truth that makes sense of the world, is more powerful than big promises and destinies that never actually come off — and certainly much more powerful than the piddling little promises of The Secret, so soon broken. “Your own villa in the Seychelles, by the powerful methods of the Buddha!”

Advertisements

18 responses to “Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIV

  • martingifford

    Oh yes, Andrew Cohen is that preacher type. He often talks of the strange power and confidence that comes to him. He interprets that power and confidence as a sign of being on the right track. He thinks it’s pure God or the “Authentic Self”, but it’s just one type of energy.

    I also felt it once. I was talking about creating a better world to two German backpackers, and suddenly they gave me their total rapt attention. It was a bit spooky. I felt like I was feeding off that energy – like an alignment. I think it’s something like the leader/follower pattern. I felt like i could say, “Now, go slaughter all the evildoers, and they would have jumped to my command!” I reckon rock concerts can get like that as well – the audience feeding of the band and the band feeding off the audience.

    • Jason Wingate

      I felt like I was feeding off that energy – like an alignment.

      Yes it’s exactly that, combined with a kind of knowing in the moment. Can definitely be misused although as your musical example would indicate, it doesn’t have to be. All performance art has it ideally.

      Thompson still has it as you can see from the rapt expression at 0:59 in this vid. Always uses it to actualise the listener if he can.

  • Matt Rouge

    Enjoying the posts!

    To use a myth or a template: Piscean vs. Aquarian. The Age of Pisces seems to have been characterized by extreme duality: the fish moving in two opposite directions. Only *one* truth can be correct, and it’s mine of course. And you had religions and empires stomping all over the world for the sake of their truth.

    It was probably a necessary stage for us to go through. Arian polytheism had the virtue of flexibility while avoiding the vice of dogma, yet it lacked the kind of focus that the *one* truth could have, whether true or not.

    In the Age of Aquarius, we have a collaborative truth ideal. Mutual guruhood. No one owns it; all may participate in it.

    In the fading years of Pisces, the Adi Das and Cohens and Wilburs ought to have known better yet nevertheless fell into the trick bag of *the* truth, and an egoic truth at that. Almost as if it were still in the water and they couldn’t help but imbibe.

    This collaborative ideal is a core strength of SBNR. Seeing it in action makes Wilbur’s postulations seem outdated and unfashionable, however respectable in their own domain. Somewhat like an early Blackberry compared to a modern smartphone.

    By the way, a friend posted a Wilbur video on Facebook today, and that was the first time I saw him speak. He’s very good. I found it hard to square with the hard-politicking, wonky systematizing, and personality culting.

    • Jason Wingate

      Well it’s certainly true that rule-based ideocratic religion sprang up in multiple places simultaneously. It’s obvious that Christianity is its avatar par excellence and Christ was linked with Pisces in quite a bit of iconography.

      If wanting to link SBNR to Aquarius you’d have to go back to the 18th century and look at the revolutions as Aquarian — which I believe some astrologers do. OTOH some think Aquarius doesn’t hit for 6 centuries yet, and Rudolf Steiner put the date at 3573 CE!

      So I tend to find astrological thinking of that kind a bit too easy. Polytheism survived and survives, in all parts of the world right throughout this period, so how does that figure?

      I also can’t see any evidence whatever that empires are going to cease existing or stop behaving like empires, for that matter. I’ll touch on that towards the end here, but the history of empires is a lot more multiple and interesting than that too IMO.

      Is there any need for multiplicity to collaborate in order to be multiple? There is every sign that “dissensus” as Greer has called it, IOW people deliberately not collaborating, and developing different ways as a result, is a most ecologically sound approach. It’s as much a question of simply not minding difference, being able to communicate with difference, not seeing it as inherently bad.

      Where we do agree is that a new set of ways of being humanly spiritual in a cultural form has been built, and that the gurus who mistakenly try to plant their flag in it have in some sense “regressed” as soon as they do it… but the themes linking that set of ways are actually very hard to pin down! As for Wilber — wouldn’t he have had quite a tough job to build a personality cult if he couldn’t speak convincingly? I’ve heard him several times and was not particularly impressed, although he’s sharp of course! But post a link and let’s have a look…

  • Matt Rouge

    I agree with your comments. That’s why I started off with the caveat “myth/template.”

    I’d *like* to think we’re evolving spiritually as a species (i.e., there is *some* vector for us as a whole that is positive) and that we’ve learned from our mistakes somewhat. Perhaps replacing the approach to truth that gave us the Crusades, WWII, etc., with something that is more collaborative in the *macro.* I think such an approach must tolerate and encompass dissent; otherwise it’s going to be just a more benign version of “my way or the highway.” Some of the change may come down to the world being multipolar and people understanding this: China, India, and the “East” are no longer “over there” but more and more simply “right here.”

    As for Wilber (I might remember how to spell his name henceforth), I looked at some other videos beyond the first. He’s very charismatic and a good, confident speaker. But he started talking about “blue” and “turquoise” and totally lost me. I read a bit about his color system, and I must say I think it’s mostly dreck. Especially since the green (sensitive self), yellow (integrative), and turquoise (holistic) levels seem poorly distinguished (though I’m sure it’s all clear to our turquoise overlords :)).

    • Jason Wingate

      I would put in a word for the ecological view. It can sync up with spirituality without downplaying the impact of physical resources. In that sense evolution is just continuous adaptation, it doesn’t imply the positive or the destined.

      Is WWII the result of an “approach to truth”? Or is it a grab for resources? I suppose the Holocaust is where you get real evil, and I tend to think it comes from the mechanised worldview. And yet you can say all sorts of useful stuff about the world if you look at what eats what, which is what ecology often is. All animals have their way of life. Ours can vary because of technology but at the moment requires oil — and Iraq is explained. It’s really not an “approach to truth”, it’s more lifestyle and ability to project power. (Greer reckons the Nazis lost from lack of oil. They just ran out of gas.)

      The very same moves that built the US empire are being made by China right now.

      I think we are “getting somewhere”, don’t get me wrong! But very, very, very, very slowly. It’s something I’ll write about more in another context… I don’t necessarily like the developmental thing but when Thomas Campbell put the developmental age of most civilisations at around 2, I was nodding.

      You could see the multimythic nature of SBNR as a biodiversity of myths.

      I looked at some other videos beyond the first. He’s very charismatic and a good, confident speaker. But he started talking about “blue” and “turquoise” and totally lost me.

      Oh I know. Let’s not. He always loses me with that instantly. Right there is all that destined stuff, with me being out-evolved by someone of another colour… sheesh. That is his monomyth.

      I’d still be interested to see whatever vid it was you liked though. I mean no-one’s all bad.

  • Matt Rouge

    “Biodiversity of myths”–very nice.

    The ecological lens is no doubt of great importance. I think greed, ethnocentrism, and the desire to control others goes a long way to explaining Japan’s approach in WWII. A bit of fairly ordinary conflict with the US that spiraled out of control. Japan could and did portray itself as the savior of Asia from European domination–“coprosperity sphere” and all that. Nevertheless, underpinning this crass greed was the myth of Japanese superiority. It’s a myth that simply wouldn’t work in Japanese society today because, whether for reasons lofty or mundane, that society simply has a different approach to truth today. In some ways, it’s a society that has lost its mojo and doesn’t have *any* myth at all to perk itself up. It had been too reliant on the monomyth and, lacking that biodiversity, didn’t have the seeds in place to reforest, so to speak. The monomyth actually survived during the economic ascension of the 80s: “Hey, we’re still doing this, but in a different way!” But after that ended, you really have a society in the doldrums.

    But I don’t think a resource grab can explain Nazism well at all. Hitler wasted resources, human and material, all the time for the sake of his myth. He and his cohorts were not rational actors. In the case of Japan, one can see it as a more or less (but often less!) rational attempt to grab and control supported by myth. In the case of Nazi Germany, the grabbing seems to have been for the sake of the irrational myth after, say, Barbarosa. There was a point when he could have consolidated his fairly easily gotten gains and remained in a position of stable power and exploitation for decades. At that stage, one could say that the myth served the greed, but beyond that we are in irrational “exterminate!” Dalek territory.

    The good Wilber video was this one. I agree with just about everything he says. Looking at others, though, I thought, “Oh dear. ‘The Way that can be named,’ dear Ken”…

    • Jason Wingate

      I just wonder if there is a sense in which these myths of national superiority are built into the toddlerish nation state — I mean Egypt and Greece had ’em too heaven knows. Tantrums intended to get more pie. If so, when they run out of gas they just can’t continue. The oil is what builds the very entity with that attitude. Japan can’t afford to try and rule other nations now, they haven’t got the money or the juice. Cue “loss of mojo”. It’s a dynamic relationship. The myth appears when opportunity for conquest does. If there’s some spat with China over a few islands and Japan thinks it can pull something off, nationalism reappears.

      It’s definitely about short-termism, I mean the ecological approach assumes that, not rationality! It shows context that animals certainly don’t see. Animal populations routinely stick to their programmes of expansion and then crash out when their particular fuel runs out. Our problem is we don’t actually see the context either, when acting as 2-year-old nation states. Our problem also of course is that we’ve invented war!

      Knowing when to stop can really make the difference on a downslope. I think a lot of the future may depend on whether the US knows how to stop… Nationalist myths (and shocking waste of resources and life) of course played the same role in the formation of US and British empires, and in the new Chinese one as well. Can myths be modified to preserve dignity in defeat?

      One other thing resources usefully predict is the original rise of the Nazi party through shortages, something else worth looking out for now… a little post on that coming up too…

      Wilber vid seems competent and I agree with the “pain increasing” (or anyway sharpening awareness of and sensitivity thereto) but being able to be within it more clearly. That’s confirmed by Glenn’s writing too… but the existence of a “paradox” between two things here, or the idea of waking up to end suffering, the Christ/Buddha archetypal opposition or duality, I don’t identify with… Still it’s much more traditional! There’s no monomyth here, maybe that’s the good side of Ken.

  • Matt Rouge

    ||I just wonder if there is a sense in which these myths of national superiority are built into the toddlerish nation state — I mean Egypt and Greece had ‘em too heaven knows.||

    There has to be some such myth in order to “other” others and exploit them. Otherwise, ipso facto, there is no rule for determining who is stripped of pie and who eats it. Such a myth could exist, however, to aid social cohesiveness without being outwardly aggressive. It could still be inwardly aggressive and exploitative, however (castes, etc.).

    ||Tantrums intended to get more pie. If so, when they run out of gas they just can’t continue. The oil is what builds the very entity with that attitude. Japan can’t afford to try and rule other nations now, they haven’t got the money or the juice. Cue “loss of mojo”. It’s a dynamic relationship.||

    I agree that it’s dynamic. The resources that permit exploitation can tempt the society into manifesting a myth to justify it.

    Japan never had natural resources to begin with, so that’s why they grabbed in the 1930s and 40s. But they came up with the power to do that somehow, obviously. So the fact that they lost their mojo doesn’t have to do with a lack of resources. I think it’s that they got good and beat, first in war and then their own economic failure (for which there was no one to blame but themselves). Japan could still be a powerful and aggressive nation if they had the desire. It’s nice that they don’t, but it would be nicer if they had *some* type of vision at this point.

    ||The myth appears when opportunity for conquest does. If there’s some spat with China over a few islands and Japan thinks it can pull something off, nationalism reappears.||

    There is still a right wing segment in Japan. They are famous for sending vans around with bullhorns blasting patriotic songs and political rhetoric. They are marginal though, almost like a cult. But there is still a right wing segment of the more or less *normal* population, mostly old dudes, who think Japan was not wrong in WWII. To be sure, this is very much a minority opinion. But you can squeeze a bit of nationalism out of these deadenders when the proper crisis arises, and some politicians play with this a bit. I’m no expert in Japanese politics, though. Like 90% of the people there, I totally tuned it out. But this is what filtered in through the gauze.

    ||It’s definitely about short-termism, I mean the ecological approach assumes that, not rationality!||

    I don’t know. Exploitative systems can exist for centuries on a fairly stable basis. Look at Rome. Look at racism in the US. Look at castes in India.

    • Jason Wingate

      Japan never had natural resources to begin with, so that’s why they grabbed in the 1930s and 40s. But they came up with the power to do that somehow, obviously.

      Um,,, “somehow”? Surely they just copied the West and built a modern empire? :) They were an empire by the 30s from a megaquick industrial revolution in the meiji overseen by foreign experts. Standard development pattern. They allied with Britain and beat China and Russia off to establish their own lines of supply, making up for original lack of resources, modernising their military to do it exactly along Western lines…

      Yes they did get beaten ultimately, but (long story short) that’s why I brought up those islands. Not to be at cross purposes I mean the Senkaku chain. Happens to have a lot of gas. Surely relevant. Exactly the same situation as UK v Argentina in the Falklands, with oil the prize in the latter,

      So these islands start to get disputed and suddenly national feelings are inflamed. In Japan riot police were needed to control crowds outside the embassy, whilst in China they were trashing Japanese cars on the streets, I feel you’re seeing a direct linkage of resource threat with national pride myth.

  • Matt Rouge

    I said “somehow” in response to your comment, “If so, when they run out of gas they just can’t continue. The oil is what builds the very entity with that attitude. Japan can’t afford to try and rule other nations now, they haven’t got the money or the juice.” IOW, resources were not their original strength. They earned their power through hard work, lol, but yes, exactly as you say they did.

    I think China’s national pride myth is going to be many times stronger than Japan’s right now. I can’t comment about the politics surrounding the islands, but I think the voltage in Chinese people’s feelings about Japan is a lot higher than vice versa. Tokyo is a big city, however, and it doesn’t surprise me that the wingers would be crowding around the Chinese embassy in such a case.

    • Jason Wingate

      I agree the Chinese voltage is higher, in fact we both agree that Japan is licked — just interested in the relation to resources and “development”.

      They earned their power through hard work, lol, but yes, exactly as you say they did.

      Absolutely — hard work and tech stuff. With a dream and a combustion engine you can rule the world — for a while.

      But are you really saying Japan now could suddenly flip that switch and up the voltage again? How? You say is the mojo is gone — I agree, And presumably the voltage is the mojo, right?

      So I also link that to resources because when they got beat they lost access to resources, as well as just pride, and when their economy tanked the same occurred. (As to whose fault that was, it’s too big a question!) These are different ways to run out of gas, and in current economies that *means* mojo. So that’s how you explain Iraq. US wants mojo, US needs oil.

      How is Japan going to proceed if she wants to fight China just on the resources level? They’d need to out-develop China. One problem there is that Japan is already fully developed and reaped the benefits for that cycle.

      In a sense there’s no way to get rich unless you’re poor first. Japan still has better income per capita than the UK. China is way, way down — hundredth in the world. They don’t have to spend so much maintaining lifestyle. Japan has to maintain what it has and would struggle to develop more even if world growth continued.

      But that’s another factor — world growth has been broadly positive for a couple of centuries and that’s now coming to an end owing to peak oil. On average countries will decline in resources.

      If the standard of living tanks in Japan as a result, which it will, my sense is they know they can’t beat China long term and will become a client state of the new Chinese empire, assuming they survive and don’t do anything stupid. That ensures the supply of resources at a better rate than they could get themselves — but only because China is able to act aggressively on their behalf. It wouldn’t matter how grrrr they got. They may become the UK to China’s US IOW.

      Ah well… complex! But in terms of “approach to truth” where we began, have we got anywhere? For example, if we’ve defined that approach a little — resources here, mojo and pride there, etc. — do you see macro-collaboration out there still in the next period? How will that work out? Isn’t all this still “my way/highway” stuff?

      One thing I’ve realised in talking about this is that countries don’t have mothers. They may have strong emotional reactions but they don’t get fed by them the way individuals do. They have to feed themselves always which is why resource grabs can be linked to feelings of basic security I think.

  • Matt Rouge

    ||Absolutely — hard work and tech stuff. With a dream and a combustion engine you can rule the world — for a while.||

    Yes.

    ||But are you really saying Japan now could suddenly flip that switch and up the voltage again? How? You say is the mojo is gone — I agree, And presumably the voltage is the mojo, right?||

    With “voltage,” I was saying that China’s feelings about Japan (mostly negative) are much stronger than Japan’s feelings about China (a mixed bag). With “mojo,” I’m talking about Japan’s national mood and energy. I am not using the two terms in any technical sense, however. :)

    But yes, Japan *could* flip that switch do amazing things. It is like a depressed guy with a lot of talent sitting at home. Could he get out of the house and do amazing things again? Yes. Solving the depression itself is not trivial, however.

    Japan is uncoordinated. It has no vector. Young people have been shut out of the economy. Large numbers of young (and not so young) people called “freeters” just live with their parents and don’t work at all.

    Although Japan has less mojo than the US, I think the problems are similar when it comes to economics. If we could just organize our labor in a more effective way, we could do anything. It all comes down to a lack of vision.

    ||So I also link that to resources because when they got beat they lost access to resources, as well as just pride, and when their economy tanked the same occurred. (As to whose fault that was, it’s too big a question!) These are different ways to run out of gas, and in current economies that *means* mojo. So that’s how you explain Iraq. US wants mojo, US needs oil.||

    I don’t think the situations are comparable. Japan in WWII was clearly, as we agree, grabbing stuff from its Asian neighbors. When they got beat, they returned to selling their labor and technology for resources. They have done this very successfully since then–even after the bubble burst in 1989. But they are not nearly successful as they could, in theory, have been, and there is a terrible national malaise that nothing seems to fix.

    The US, on the other hand, is a nation with a big internal conflict and thus conflicting brands of mojo. The fascist right has lots of mojo; they feed off of their conflict with people who are actually trying to get things done. The Libs, in turn, have mojo against the fascists, but it’s often just wheel-spinning. Coke vs. Pepsi with no value-add. The current economic failure, however, is engendering a genuine malaise.

    I’ve never seen any concrete stats on how our adventure in Iraq has improved our access to oil. It *seems* on the surface that we went over there for oil, but it’s not as though we just started filling up tankers and shouting, “Free crude!” I think Bush went into Iraq because we wanted to beat someone up after 9/11 and Afghanistan wasn’t good enough, I guess.

    ||How is Japan going to proceed if she wants to fight China just on the resources level? They’d need to out-develop China. One problem there is that Japan is already fully developed and reaped the benefits for that cycle.

    In a sense there’s no way to get rich unless you’re poor first. Japan still has better income per capita than the UK. China is way, way down — hundredth in the world. They don’t have to spend so much maintaining lifestyle. Japan has to maintain what it has and would struggle to develop more even if world growth continued.||

    I don’t think any major conflict is brewing between China and Japan. As you say, Japan is fully developed, so it is just going to keep doing what it’s doing. China is the one that is worried about how to grow in an effective way.

    ||But that’s another factor — world growth has been broadly positive for a couple of centuries and that’s now coming to an end owing to peak oil. On average countries will decline in resources.||

    I am not worried about peak oil so much. I think we are going to adapt. I do think we are seeing the breakdown of capitalism, however, as the system requires a certain level of return on investment in order to sustain itself. Once countries develop and populations are stable (or declining, as in Japan), it is very difficult to grow year after year. Thus, a new economic system is necessary in order to break the malaise. That’s not the only component of the malaise, but it’s a big one.

    ||If the standard of living tanks in Japan as a result, which it will, my sense is they know they can’t beat China long term and will become a client state of the new Chinese empire, assuming they survive and don’t do anything stupid. That ensures the supply of resources at a better rate than they could get themselves — but only because China is able to act aggressively on their behalf. It wouldn’t matter how grrrr they got. They may become the UK to China’s US IOW.||

    I think Japan will opt to remain a vassal state of the US as long as possible. Who knows how that will play out in the ensuing decades. I think one place where we differ is that I don’t think we’re going to have a global struggle over resources–I mean, not any more than we do now. I don’t think Japan’s standard of living is going to go down. I think it’s either going to find a new economic system and new mojo, or it will continue on its current trend of depopulation, which will tend to spread the pie among fewer people.

    ||Ah well… complex! But in terms of “approach to truth” where we began, have we got anywhere? For example, if we’ve defined that approach a little — resources here, mojo and pride there, etc. — do you see macro-collaboration out there still in the next period? How will that work out? Isn’t all this still “my way/highway” stuff?||

    I think countries have learned that world wars to get stuff don’t work, and so I don’t think we’re going to have WWIII over oil. I think we’re going to unify more as a species and act in a more collaborative way. I think countries will treat each other with more respect. I think we’ve already come a long way in this regard. What Belgium did in the Congo–resources grab, dehumanization and exploitation of the local population, promotion of the myth of the superior European/Christian culture–is unthinkable now.

    I may be wrong. Before WWI, Europe seemed to be at the dawn of a new era of peace, technological advancement, international trade, etc. WWI and WWII really *should* never have happened. Maybe something will happen now despite the fact it should not.

    ||One thing I’ve realised in talking about this is that countries don’t have mothers. They may have strong emotional reactions but they don’t get fed by them the way individuals do. They have to feed themselves always which is why resource grabs can be linked to feelings of basic security I think.||

    Very good point!

  • Jason Wingate

    With “voltage,” I was saying that China’s feelings about Japan (mostly negative) are much stronger than Japan’s feelings about China (a mixed bag).

    But you don’t think China’s mojo is stronger? And that this contributes to Chinese voltage on Japan? And that China is attempting to build an empire? What happened to Greece when Rome built an empire?

    As to the rest of what you say, we’ll have to see how it goes down. But yes — I think the basic difference between our mindsets is that I don’t think we’ll in any sense “adapt to” peak oil in an easy way, nor continue business as usual. I think we are in for a decline period because no other technology will be found that can do what oil can do. That’s the ecological framework.

    Forgetting the question of a replacement for oil, one thing: the entirety of ecology rests on energetic relationships and to get any output from an economy you have to have energy input which makes economics ecological. In fact there is some work (controversial, true) that states the relationship is constant — energy in, economic growth out, on a straight line. Doesn’t this suggest that there is a limit to what the right mindset can do in terms of producing economic growth? That is, if you have had a period where higher energy is available, and then the source of that energy runs out, essentially you cannot maintain that economic level, no matter what. It doesn’t matter whether you think you can or not.

    This would play in to what you say in every area — for example, you think of Japan as “fully developed”, but simply treading water isn’t possible in a world with a finite energy resource base where some will make resources grabs. IOW with a high population density Japan is going to have a problem with the inevitable next big financial crash. Then the freeters will be fritters. :)

    My feeling is that such situations in turn relate to organisation levels of the country concerned. Organisation happens in tandem with energy, not independently of it. All complex systems tend to organise on more complex levels if they have more energy. If the energy isn’t available to maintain that level of complexity, the structures flap about a bit, then collapse, and simpler ones emerge. I’m not suggesting WWIII, but there’s plenty of aggression in the future I think.

    So that’s the background against which I’m speaking… still you’ve made a lot of good points! I can’t really agree that everyone has “learned better” about building empires. The US has been clever in preferring economic exploitation and bribery over outright military conquest where possible, but ultimately that’s still been a question of enrichment with 25% of world resources going to 5% of the population… I think others will try similar things. Phil Knight was just telling me over at his place that he thinks Korea is actually going to be the big one — makes a good case too. :)

    Part of my motivation here of course (and with all the elemental challenges) is to get SBNRs to have serious discussions about this that include at least the possibility of “bad stuff”, but bad stuff that is not insane paranoia. :) I know a lot more SBNRs who say the 2008 crash was a necessary thing with hindsight than had the foresight to predict it. The same kind of optimism that predicts constantly increasing human energy levels on a finite planet may link itself with the kind that makes a Princeton Ph.D. think there’s a pyramid on sale in Russia that can alter the structure of water. And ignore a million YouTube vids that showing how it’s done in an ordinary fridge-freezer and is nothing in any way unusual. Ya know? :)

  • Matt Rouge

    OK, I’m getting a clearer picture of your views on these matters now. :)

    ||But you don’t think China’s mojo is stronger? And that this contributes to Chinese voltage on Japan? And that China is attempting to build an empire? What happened to Greece when Rome built an empire?||

    I’m no expert on the Chinese zeitgeist, but I suspect it has more mojo than Japan right now. China is arcing up; Japan is not. China has had an empire now for thousands of years. Now they are catching up with the West in economic development. I don’t think they are going to start taking over other countries.

    ||I don’t think we’ll in any sense “adapt to” peak oil in an easy way, nor continue business as usual. I think we are in for a decline period because no other technology will be found that can do what oil can do. That’s the ecological framework.||

    We will adapt by using energy more efficiently, consuming less, developing new energy sources, etc. The species also has the option of reducing population, which could make per capita energy consumption as high as we wish to make it. In 1800 we were able to manage a 1 billion world population with no internal combustion engines, wind and animal power, and a little coal for heating.

    ||Forgetting the question of a replacement for oil, one thing: the entirety of ecology rests on energetic relationships and to get any output from an economy you have to have energy input which makes economics ecological. In fact there is some work (controversial, true) that states the relationship is constant — energy in, economic growth out, on a straight line. Doesn’t this suggest that there is a limit to what the right mindset can do in terms of producing economic growth? That is, if you have had a period where higher energy is available, and then the source of that energy runs out, essentially you cannot maintain that economic level, no matter what. It doesn’t matter whether you think you can or not.||

    I will definitely agree that if the world has less “free” (dig it out of the ground) energy, then ceteris paribus the world economy has fewer inputs and will therefore have fewer outputs. But it is never ceteris paribus. Look at the value the Internet provides, and it is run with very little energy per capita. That’s just one example.

    ||This would play in to what you say in every area — for example, you think of Japan as “fully developed”, but simply treading water isn’t possible in a world with a finite energy resource base where some will make resources grabs. IOW with a high population density Japan is going to have a problem with the inevitable next big financial crash. Then the freeters will be fritters. :)||

    The high population density is a *good* thing, isn’t it? More people using public transportation, less need for energy. I don’t think we’re going to have another financial crash; or if we have one, it will be like 2008 again where it’s bad but we survive. But I think we will continue to have malaise until we develop a new world economic system. So I am neither pessimistic or optimistic in this regard.

    ||My feeling is that such situations in turn relate to organisation levels of the country concerned. Organisation happens in tandem with energy, not independently of it. All complex systems tend to organise on more complex levels if they have more energy. If the energy isn’t available to maintain that level of complexity, the structures flap about a bit, then collapse, and simpler ones emerge. I’m not suggesting WWIII, but there’s plenty of aggression in the future I think.||

    I don’t think I agree. Email, the Internet, etc., have made possible greater levels of organization with fewer energy and time inputs. Imagine trying to have the equivalent of this blog in the 1970s. It would have involved letters, newsletters, magazines, conferences, etc., with plenty of resources being used.

    ||I can’t really agree that everyone has “learned better” about building empires. The US has been clever in preferring economic exploitation and bribery over outright military conquest where possible, but ultimately that’s still been a question of enrichment with 25% of world resources going to 5% of the population… I think others will try similar things. Phil Knight was just telling me over at his place that he thinks Korea is actually going to be the big one — makes a good case too. :)||

    I agree that not everyone has learned. I simply feel that *in the macro* we have learned and improved. We of course still have a long way to go.

    ||Part of my motivation here of course (and with all the elemental challenges) is to get SBNRs to have serious discussions about this that include at least the possibility of “bad stuff”, but bad stuff that is not insane paranoia. :) I know a lot more SBNRs who say the 2008 crash was a necessary thing with hindsight than had the foresight to predict it. The same kind of optimism that predicts constantly increasing human energy levels on a finite planet may link itself with the kind that makes a Princeton Ph.D. think there’s a pyramid on sale in Russia that can alter the structure of water. And ignore a million YouTube vids that showing how it’s done in an ordinary fridge-freezer and is nothing in any way unusual. Ya know? :)||

    Yes, quite so. SBNR needs to face the bad and not just Pollyannishly aver that everything will be A-OK no matter what.

    I think the big question is this: Can SBNR change the world in the aggregate, or can its individual members only change themselves? Perhaps mitigate the damage the elite and the masses cause?

    In order to remain an optimist and sane, I need to believe that we can change the world for the better; i.e., that we can attain new plateaus of stability in which the average person is doing better and the whole is doing better. I could be wrong, but believing I’m right aids me in doing my own part better.

  • Jason Wingate

    I don’t think they are going to start taking over other countries.

    Well they already are economically of course, in Africa for example. As Greer has pointed out they’re also putting in some naval moves that were used by the US as they turned imperial. And by Japan actually. I’ll spare you the details unless you’re interested though. We’ll see!

    The high population density is a *good* thing, isn’t it?

    Not if food supplies are interrupted (which in some places they already are being of course.) That population density needs maintenance by energy.

    Same with internet — you may have been listening to the wrong people here Matt! Server farms are massively polluting and draw huge amounts of power. Factor in the manufacturing costs of computer equipment and the energy investment is considerable, and of course there is no energy output in physical terms. It’s far from self-sustaining.

    As to the rest of what you say, I think another crash is definite mid term (10 years) or shorter, and some smart people are saying a year or two, but I’ve never suggested that we will all perish as a result! What I’m saying is hard times will kick in and they are… well, hard!

    You’ve got to factor in some of the effects even of your own thinking here. Consider what would be involved in a 200-year whittling of our race from 7 billion to 1 billion. That’s extreme — but it’s not impossible I suppose. And it would be a ratcheting of harder times with many local moments of real disaster and likely some nations getting very tetchy. I just want people to be prepared.

    Actually I think the die-off will be less than that but I also think a lot of our technology will have to change and that we will have less overall, and the handover will be far from smooth and pastoral-like.

    Now that, to me, doesn’t mean for a second that SBNR can’t make an aggregate difference! In fact as I’ll argue at the very end of this series, it may end up making a rather a big difference — one that is at present quite unexpected by most. But I also think that damage mitigation is in itself a huge contribution. Imagine if we have better health through alt health practices, even in a difficult situation, and then imagine without.

    It’s not that the whole isn’t doing better, either. It’s just that there is an up and down movement in history. William Irwin Thompson has been suspecting there would be a new dark age since 1970, and he points out that at every new stage reached by human culture there has always been a dark age — it really is a little like having a metal and a water phase! Currently he reckons a die-off of 2 billion is likely during the upcoming bottleneck. Even if that’s a few centuries, it’s a lot.

    In our wildly-swinging situation I think it’s stuff we have to look at because I don’t see how we can avoid a downswing to compensate for the over-inflatory upswing. That means steady decline of one kind or another for a while yet I think. All stabilities are temporary for the moment IMO.

    (And BTW I don’t blame anyone for all this, elites or masses or religions or whoever. I just want to be aware of it. But more on that later.)

  • Matt Rouge

    ||Well they already are economically of course, in Africa for example. As Greer has pointed out they’re also putting in some naval moves that were used by the US as they turned imperial. And by Japan actually. I’ll spare you the details unless you’re interested though. We’ll see!||

    Sure, they’re a big kid on the block now and will be flexing their muscle more and more. I don’t think they’re going to *invade* other countries.

    ||Not if food supplies are interrupted (which in some places they already are being of course.) That population density needs maintenance by energy.||

    The only other option is low population density, in which situation people would presumably be growing their own food? But people have long been lamenting the ‘burbs and wasteful car culture, which city living cures, presumably.

    ||Same with internet — you may have been listening to the wrong people here Matt! Server farms are massively polluting and draw huge amounts of power. Factor in the manufacturing costs of computer equipment and the energy investment is considerable, and of course there is no energy output in physical terms. It’s far from self-sustaining.||

    My only point is that the value the Internet provides is high versus its per capita cost. Of course, if that infrastructure is concentrated, it is going to use lots of energy and pollute.

    ||As to the rest of what you say, I think another crash is definite mid term (10 years) or shorter, and some smart people are saying a year or two, but I’ve never suggested that we will all perish as a result! What I’m saying is hard times will kick in and they are… well, hard!||

    That is entirely possible. As I said, we need a new economic system–now. But we don’t know how to create one, so we’ll keep hurting ourselves until we do.

    ||You’ve got to factor in some of the effects even of your own thinking here. Consider what would be involved in a 200-year whittling of our race from 7 billion to 1 billion. That’s extreme — but it’s not impossible I suppose. And it would be a ratcheting of harder times with many local moments of real disaster and likely some nations getting very tetchy. I just want people to be prepared.||

    It would be horrible, of course. I’m just saying that we can have as much energy per capita as we *want*. I also think we’ll be coming up with some new energy sources over the next 200 years. Surely workable fusion in that period.

    ||Now that, to me, doesn’t mean for a second that SBNR can’t make an aggregate difference! In fact as I’ll argue at the very end of this series, it may end up making a rather a big difference — one that is at present quite unexpected by most. But I also think that damage mitigation is in itself a huge contribution. Imagine if we have better health through alt health practices, even in a difficult situation, and then imagine without.||

    I’ll be looking forward to reading that!

    ||It’s not that the whole isn’t doing better, either. It’s just that there is an up and down movement in history. William Irwin Thompson has been suspecting there would be a new dark age since 1970, and he points out that at every new stage reached by human culture there has always been a dark age — it really is a little like having a metal and a water phase! Currently he reckons a die-off of 2 billion is likely during the upcoming bottleneck. Even if that’s a few centuries, it’s a lot.||

    Couldn’t our dark age have been 1914-1994, encompassing WWI, WWII, the famines and other killings of the USSR, the Cold War, the famines and killings of Maoist China, the Kmer Rouge genocide, the Rwandan genocide, etc.? I don’t know how we’re going to get much darker than that, and there was a huge dying off then, too.

    ||In our wildly-swinging situation I think it’s stuff we have to look at because I don’t see how we can avoid a downswing to compensate for the over-inflatory upswing. That means steady decline of one kind or another for a while yet I think. All stabilities are temporary for the moment IMO.||

    My guess is stable malaise due to the playing out of the capitalist model. So we disagree only in matter of degree. :)

  • Jason Wingate

    I don’t think they’re going to *invade* other countries.

    Well we shall see what effect the muscle-flexing has in the years ahead! On the “new economic system”, we should talk about that sometime, but of course, economics doesn’t actually create energy in and of itself. Neither does the internet, so if you measure its “value” in terms of energy (the way nature does) it gives none! That’s oversimplified but I think significant. I also don’t think we’ll ever have workable fusion… but let’s not. :)

    I think we may have done all we can here… although another conversation may be starting with someone else under the current post so feel free to join over there if you fancy… your thoughts have been very welcome! That’s for sure.

    But people have long been lamenting the ‘burbs and wasteful car culture, which city living cures, presumably.

    City living is with us foreseeably! It’s a question of how much ag land it has to support it and how close. If not enough not close enough the city will not disappear, but will suffer.

    Couldn’t our dark age have been 1914-1994

    Dark in the sense of emo dark, yes. Dark in the sense of declining culture, energy, human numbers and levels of civilisation — no. No shortage of die-offs, but population still increased overall monumentally… more of this later though… I need to do more on the nature of spiritual culture first. And all this should be approached as creatively as poss…

%d bloggers like this: