Monthly Archives: December 2012
Here’s my solstice gift for you: the notes I’ve been slaving over for the past 2 weeks on Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall, 2010. I’m also going to put these notes — and some more on anarchism in the coming days, 2012 solstice goddesses willing, up as pages under “Possibilities.” Enjoy! I think it makes a lot of sense.
The word “anarchy,” conjuring up as it does for many terrorist bombings or the collapse of law and order, has had a bad press. In fact, only a tiny minority of anarchists have used terror as a revolutionary strategy, mostly in the 1890s, when there was a string of spectacular bombings and political assassinations. Over the long haul, anarchism has been far less violent than other political creeds, and certainly less violent than the states it criticizes. Anarchists believe that states and governments, theoretically intended to prevent injustice, are actually the main forces perpetuating oppression by force. They think people can live together freely and peacefully without states or formal governments – that this is, in fact, our natural state.
The historic anarchist movement had its high points during two of the major revolutions of the 20th century – the Russian and the Spanish. In the Russian Revolution, anarchists tried to give real meaning to the slogan “All Power to the Soviets [workers’ councils],” and in many places, particularly in the Ukraine, they established free communes. These efforts were short-lived, however – the Bolsheviks, believing in the need for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” to take over the state before it could “wither away,” crushed the Russian anarchists in the early 1920s.
The greatest anarchist experiment took place in Spain in the 1930s. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, peasants, especially in Andalusia, Aragon, and Valencia, set up a network of collectives in thousands of villages. In Catalonia, the most highly developed industrial part of Spain, anarchists managed the industries through workers’ collectives based on the principles of self-management. But the intervention of fascist Italy and Germany on the side of the far-right leader Franco and his nationalist rebels, and the Soviet policy of funneling arms through the Spanish communists, doomed the experiment. Communists and anarchists fought each other in Barcelona in 1937, and Franco triumphed soon after, establishing a 36-year dictatorship. Millions of Spanish anarchists were killed or imprisoned, or went underground. The Second World War which followed shattered the international anarchist movement.
The ’60s saw a revival in a diffuse form, since many of the themes of the New Left – decentralization, workers’ control, and participatory democracy – were central anarchist concerns. The growth of a counterculture based on individuality, community, and joy also expressed an anarchist sensibility, if not self-conscious knowledge. It became possible, once again, to “demand the impossible.”
Every state is a despotism, be the despot one or many. Max Stirner
Though anarchism by its very nature is anti-dogmatic, anarchists share certain beliefs and concerns, including a particular view of human nature, a critique of the existing order, a vision of a free society, and ideas on how to achieve it. All anarchists reject the legitimacy of the state and external government, and condemn imposed political authority, hierarchy, and domination. They believe society can be decentralized and self-regulating, consisting of a federation of voluntary associations of free and equal individuals.
The anarchist sensibility can be seen in the Taoism of ancient China and in classical Greek thought, and was expressed in the great peasant revolts of the Middle Ages and by extreme left factions of the English Revolution. It emerged as a conscious ideology at the end of the 18th century in response to the rise of centralized states, nationalism, industrialization, and capitalism.
The 19th century witnessed a flood of anarchist theory and the development of an anarchist movement. The first person to call himself an anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon of France, who insisted that only a society without artificial government could restore natural order: “Just as man seeks justice in equality, society seeks order in anarchy.” He launched the great slogans “Anarchy is Order” and “Property is Theft.”
The Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin provided a charismatic example of anarchy in action, while his compatriot Peter Kropotkin developed anarchism into a systematic social philosophy based on scientific principles. Though he didn’t publicly identify as an anarchist because of the word’s association with violence, the novelist Leo Tolstoy also created an anarchist critique of the state and property based on the teachings of Christ.
The anarchist mainstream is occupied by social anarchists – mutualists, collectivists, communists, and syndicalists, differing mainly on the issue of economic organization. All of these could exist side by side in the same society.
Individualist anarchists worry that a collectivist society will lead to the tyranny of the group, while social anarchists try to achieve a maximum degree of personal freedom in community, believing that only in community can an individual realize his or her full potential.
Pacifist anarchists see the state and government as the ultimate expressions of organized violence, involving legalized aggression, war mass murder, conscription slavery, and the soldier as a hired assassin. They argue that it’s impossible to bring about a free and peaceful society by the use of violence, since means inevitably influence ends. Their preferred tactics are nonviolent direct action, passive resistance, and civil disobedience, and they engage in strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, and occupations.
The indispensable premise of mutualism is that society be organized, without the intervention of a state, by individuals able to make free contracts with each other, exchanging the necessities of life on the basis of labor value, and obtaining free credit from a people’s bank. Labor notes would be valued according to the average amount of time it took to make a product. Local communities would link up in a federalist system of workers’ associations and communes coordinated by councils at the local, regional, national, and international level. The members of the councils would be delegates, not representatives, without any executive authority and subject to instant recall, and the councils themselves would have no central authority.
Many revolutionaries in the Paris Commune of 1871 called themselves mutualists. Since it made no direct attack on the class system, mutualism tended to appeal to craftsmen, artisans, shopkeepers, and small farmers. Some mutualists developed into collectivists, a term used for the first time by Bakunin in 1868. Collectivists wish to restrict private property to the products of individual labor, arguing that there should be common ownership of the land and all other means of production. They look to a free federation of associations of producers and consumers to organize production and distribution, upholding the socialist principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to work done.” Nearly all the Spanish anarchists were collectivists.
After the demise of the First International in the 1870s, the European anarchist movement took a communist direction, though at first the distinction between communism and collectivism wasn’t always apparent. Communists felt that since it’s virtually impossible to calculate the exact value of any one person’s labor, the whole price and wage system should be done away with. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is their slogan.
Where collectivists see the workers’ collective as the basic unit of society, communists look to the commune – consumers as well as producers – as the fundamental association. They believe that in a communist system economic relations would express the natural human sympathies of solidarity and mutual aid, releasing spontaneous altruism and creating an abundant way of life for all. The proper relationship between people, they believe, isn’t self-interest, however enlightened, but sympathy.
Anarcho-syndicalism, according to Wikipedia, “is a branch of anarchism which views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as an appropriate vehicle for subjugated classes in capitalist society to regain control over the course of their own destiny. Syndicalism is viewed both as a strategy for facilitating worker self-activity and as being an alternative cooperative economic system upon which to base a democratic regime of production for the satisfaction of human need once the injustices understood to be inherent to capitalist society have been overcome.” Anarcho-syndicalists take the view that trade unions and labor syndicates should be concerned with more than improving workers’ conditions and wages. They should also teach socialism and establish institutions of self-management so that when the revolution comes through a general strike, the workers will be prepared to begin the necessary social transformation.
Many Spanish anarchists were anarcho-syndicalists, as were, in many ways, the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), founded in the US in 1905. The Wobblies, who believe in one international union, were powerful in the American labor movement and in politics until the Red Scare repression preceding and during World War II.
Pure anarchy in the sense of a society with no concentration of force and no social controls has probably never existed. Stateless and peasant societies employ sanctions of approval and disapproval, the offer of reciprocity and the threat of its withdrawal, as instruments of social control. But modern anthropology confirms that in “primitive” societies there is a limited and rarely imposed concentration of force. Anarchists wish to combine ancient patterns of cooperation and mutual aid with a more modern sense of individuality and personal autonomy.
In accordance with their beliefs about the state, anarchists have always preached abstention from conventional politics. Instead of paying taxes to a government, which then decides who is in need, anarchists prefer to help the disadvantaged directly by voluntary acts of giving or by participating in community organizations. They reject the claim made by democratic socialists that the state is the best means of redistributing wealth and providing welfare. They say that in practice the socialist state tends to spawn a vast bureaucracy that stifles the voluntary associations of community life, creates a new elite, and encourages dependency and conformity.
Rejecting the state, anarchists also reject its laws and coercive enforcement of them, pointing out that all human law is arbitrary. They seek to reduce the occasion for crime by eradicating its causes – government and accumulated property – and by educating people to think in terms of the general good rather than private interest. They admit that violent people might have to be restrained temporarily, but think they should be treated kindly and kept within the community if possible.
Most anarchists support national liberation movements as part of a wider struggle for freedom, but don’t believe people should give their loyalty to nation-states or serve as cannon fodder in nationalist wars.
Anarchists recognize that the freedom of all is the necessary condition for the freedom of each, and include freedom from want (in the sense of economic hardship) in this. The anarchist concept of freedom means freedom to do whatever one wants as long as it doesn’t interfere with the freedom of others or go against the common good. Such boundaries, however, are adopted voluntarily rather than being imposed by force by government or some other authority.
Taoism and Buddhism
The Chinese Taoists of the 6th century BC rejected government and believed that people could live in natural and spontaneous harmony. The Tao te Ching (“The Way and Its Power”), attributed to Lao Tzu and written in the 3rd century BC, celebrates the way of nature and describes how the wise person can follow it. The Taoist conception of nature is based on the ancient Chinese principles of yin and yang, opposite and complementary forces which together constitute the ch’i (matter-energy) of which all beings and phenomena are formed. Yin is the supreme feminine power, characterized by darkness, cold, and receptivity and associated with the moon; yang, masculine, bright, warm, and active, is identified with the sun. Both forces are at work within men and women and in all things.
The Tao, which can’t be defined – Lao Tzu likens it to a river flowing home to the sea or an uncarved block – follows what’s natural. It’s the way the universe works, the order of nature that gives all things their being, then changes them. The wise person contemplates and adopts its ways rather than trying to conquer or exploit it. For the Taoist, the art of living is to be found in simplicity, non-assertion, and spontaneity.
Central to Taoist teaching is the concept of wu-wei, the lack of wei. Wei is artificial, contrived activity that interferes with natural unfolding. From a political point of view, wei is authority imposed on natural order. Wu-wei is the creative and effective use of energy – work without effort, undertaken for its intrinsic value, that’s indistinguishable from play.
Favoring a form of agrarian collectivism, Taoists rejected all forms of imposed authority, government, and the state. The Tao te ching criticized of the bureaucratic, warlike, and commercial nature of the Chinese feudal system, and saw accumulated property as a form of robbery: “When the court is arrayed in splendor, the fields are full of weeds, and the granaries are bare.” Lao Tzu offers the social ideal of a decentralized classless society without government and patriarchy in which people live simply in harmony with nature, producing and sharing goods.
A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man,
They are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure.
They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.
The anarchistic tendency of the Taoists comes through even stronger in the writings of the philosopher Chuang Tzu, who lived about 369-286 BC. He wrote, “A mountain is high because of its individual particles. A river is large because of its individual drops. And he is a just man who regards all parts from the point of view of the whole.”
The disaffiliation, voluntary poverty, and nonviolence of practicing Buddhists continued the Taoist spirit. Zen Buddhism in particular attempts to reach truth and enlightenment without concepts, scriptures, and ritual. It developed in China in the 6th century AD, and reached Japan 500 years later. Zen is intended to bring the practitioner back to the original state of freedom he’s lost through ignorance. Anyone can become enlightened through direct and immediate experience, seeing into his or her own nature and realizing that it’s not separate from Nature as a whole. Zen monks live and work communally, with equal obligation and equal treatment, and, like all Mahayana Buddhists, are concerned with the welfare of the larger world and seek to be of service in it.
The Greek Cynics of the 4th century BC also rejected custom and law and wanted to live according to nature. They denied the competence of courts to judge actions, and argued that laws and hierarchies are without moral foundation. Antisthenes (c. 444-370 BC), a friend of Socrates, turned his back on his former aristocratic circle in order to pursue simple goodness among working people. He preached at open-air meetings that there should be no government, no private property, no marriage, and no established religion. His pupil, Diogenes, became even more famous. Condemning the artificial encumbrances of civilization, he aspired to live as simply as a dog. He was therefore called a “cynic,” which means “canine.” Diogenes not only rejected the institution of slavery, but declared his brotherhood with all beings, human and animal. He considered himself to be a “citizen of the world.”
The Stoics took up the doctrine of the Cynics, using nature as a guiding principle and developing the ideals of individualism, rationalism, equality, internationalism, and cosmopolitanism. Zeno (336-264 BC), called the founder of Stoicism, saw a social instinct that inclines people toward cooperation for the common good. In the fragments of Zeno’s Republic that have been preserved, there are no law courts, police, armies, temples, schools, money, or marriage. People live as a single “herd” without family or property, with no distinctions of race or rank, and no need for compulsion of any sort. A stateless society of complete equality and freedom spreads across the globe.
Christ’s voluntary poverty, his attacks on political authority and riches, and his sharing of food and other items inspired many early Christians to practice a form of communism. In the 4th century, Ambrose said, “Nature has poured forth all things for all men for common use. It has therefore produced a common right for all, but greed has made it right for a few. In accordance with the will of God and the union of nature, we ought to be of mutual help one to the other.” In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas recognized the right to property for personal use, but believed that anything extra should be distributed to those in need. The right to property is therefore only a right of administration or stewardship. Wealth is held in trust for the public good, and where death threatens or there is no other source of sustenance, it’s permissible to take what’s necessary.
At the beginning of the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi lived in ecstatic joy, delighting in nature and repudiating all notion of property, including items for personal use. His message implied that the established church and state were lost in ostentation and opulence, and that the poor were the only community capable of redemption.
The Diggers and Ranters, part of the radical republican wing in the English Revolution of the 17th century, rejected church, state, and all temporal law, feeling that they were in a state of grace and could commit no sin. They looked to the Second Coming of Christ and the immediate realization of heaven on earth in which people would live in perfect freedom and complete equality. The poet William Blake thought similarly at the end of the 18th century, believing that since human beings are made in the Divine Image they can govern themselves without law or government.
Inspired by Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers tried to set up a colony on a wasteland area in the spring of 1649. Hoping to “lay the foundation of making the earth a common treasury for all,” forty people planted beans, wheat, rye, parsnips, and carrots. Despite harassment by the local clergy, landlords, magistrates, and freeholders, who trampled on their seedlings, stole their tools, and pulled down their crude huts, they persevered for a year.
Winstanley believed God wasn’t a personal deity or Supreme Being, but a “spirit that dwells in all mankind.” He identified God with Reason and Reason with the law of the universe. A person subject to Reason became a Son of God, no longer ruled from without but from within, by their conscience, love, and reason. Winstanley wrote that the “ruling and teaching power without dams up the spirit of peace and liberty, first within the heart, by filling it with slavish fears of others; secondly, without, by giving the body of one to be imprisoned, punished, and oppressed by the outward power of another.” He believed private property to be the principal source of social conflict, “restraining other fellow creatures from seeking nourishment from their mother earth.” For these reasons, Winstanley attacked the social and political order and advocated an anarchist and communist form of society without the state, army, or law. Opposed to violence, including capital punishment, he didn’t call for mass insurrection or the seizure of the lands of the rich.
The Ranters, whom Winstanley despised, sought total emancipation from all laws and rules, and advocated free love. They attacked private property and called for its abolition, and rejected all forms of government, whether ecclesiastical or civil. The Ranters were often confused with Quakers, and many may have crossed over from one group to the other. Both believed there was an “indwelling spirit” or “inner light” in each individual soul and thought the power of love would be enough to bring about a new era of peace and freedom.
Tolstoy’s radical interpretation of the Gospels led him to the anarchist conclusion that since the Kingdom of God is within and we can be guided by the divine light of reason, governments are both unnecessary and harmful. If people would but understand that they are “sons of God,” Tolstoy wrote, “and can therefore be neither slaves nor enemies to one another, these insane, unnecessary, worn-out, pernicious organizations called governments, and all the sufferings, violations, humiliations, and crimes they occasion, would cease.” Tolstoy inspired a long tradition of anarchist pacifists, including Gandhi, who developed his doctrine of civil disobedience into a highly effective form of nonviolent direct action.
Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker organization in 1933, sought with the anarchist Peter Maurin to decentralize society and establish a community of families, with a combination of private and communal property. She stressed above all the need for love. Ammon Hennacy similarly preached “the one-man revolution within the heart,” based on voluntary poverty and pacifism. “When we take part in government by voting for legislative, judicial, and executive officials,” he wrote, “we make these men our arm by which we cast a stone [judge others] and deny the Sermon on the Mount.”
Classic Anarchist Thinkers
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first self-styled anarchist, published What Is Property? In 1840, and was an important influence on the developing French labor movement. Even though Proudhon answered his question “What is property?” with the bold paradox “Property is Theft,” he was wasn’t opposed to private property as such; in fact, he called communists who wanted to collectivize it “enemies of freedom.” He was principally opposed to large property-owners who appropriated the labor of others.
On the subject of government, he demonstrated that “anarchy is order” by showing that authoritarian government and the unequal distribution of wealth are the principal causes of disorder and chaos in society.
Marx tried to get Proudhon to join his international communist group, but the French printer was put off by Marx’s doctrinaire and dominating personality and by authoritarian communism. He wrote, “Simply because we are leaders of a movement let us not instigate a new intolerance. Let us not set ourselves up as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic or reason.” Marx called Proudhon a “petty-bourgeois idealist” who failed to recognize that human nature isn’t an unchanging essence but a product of history. This opposition marked the beginning of a split between libertarian and authoritarian socialists that later came to a head in the dispute between Marx and Bakunin in the First International.
Mikhail Bakunin was born into an aristocratic Russian family in 1814. At 22, he resigned from the army and went to Moscow to study and teach philosophy. He made his way to Paris in 1843, where he was impressed by Proudhon’s critique of government and property. He also met Marx, whom he described as “vain, morose, and devious…head to foot an authoritarian.”
Bakunin was arrested in Germany in 1849 for revolutionary activity. Deported to Russia, he spent the next eight years in solitary confinement. In 1855 his sentence was changed from life imprisonment to banishment in Siberia, and in 1861, he escaped, taking an American ship to San Francisco, then sailing to London.
In 1863 Bakunin went to Italy, where he wrote that “new organisms can only arise from immense destruction, and we will be fortunate to see even that.” He no longer believed in national liberation movements as a revolutionary force and began to advocate social revolution on an international scale. He praised Marx for having been the first to understand “that all the intellectual and political developments of society are nothing other than the expression of its material and economic developments.”
Bakunin was strongly influenced by the Italian anarchist leader Carlo Piscane, who defined property and government as the principal sources of slavery, poverty, and corruption, and called for a new Italy organized from the bottom up on the principle of free association. In the absence of a well-organized Italian workers’ movement, Bakunin created a secret society in Florence in 1864 and another in Naples in 1866. Although his secret societies were never influential, Bakunin hoped they would act as “invisible pilots in the thick of the poplar tempest, assisting the birth of the revolution by sowing seeds corresponding to the instincts of the masses, then channeling the revolutionary energy of the people.”
At this stage, Bakunin didn’t call for the direct and immediate expropriation of private industry, thinking that the abolition of the right of inheritance and the formation of cooperative workers’ associations would ensure the gradual disappearance of private ownership and economic inequality. He believed all property belonging to the state and to “reactionaries” should be confiscated, however. In place of existing nation states, society would be organized “from the base to the summit – from the circumference to the center – according to the principles of free association and federation.” The basic unit of society would be the autonomous commune, which would always have the right to secede from any federation. Decisions would be made by majority rule based on universal suffrage of both sexes. Every adult would be expected to fulfill three obligations: remaining free, living by his own labor, and respecting the freedom of others.
Bakunin recognized that this ideal society could only be put in place violently. He envisioned the revolution as a fight not against particular men, but against “antisocial institutions” that would not take long and would not degenerate into “cold, systematic terrorism.” In 1867 Bakunin acknowledged that the full realization of socialism “will no doubt be the work of centuries.” He also wrote that every human has a sense of justice deep in their conscience that translates itself into “simple equality.”
In 1868 in a speech at the Second Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom in Berne, Bakunin declared in no uncertain terms that all states are founded on “force, oppression, exploitation, and injustice, elevated into a system. They offer a double negation of humanity, internally by maintaining order by force and exploiting the people, and externally by waging aggressive war. By their very nature they represent the diametrical opposite of human justice, freedom, and morality.” He concluded that freedom and peace could only be achieved through the dissolution of all states and the creation of a universal federation of free associations, organized from the bottom up.
Later that year, Bakunin joined the Geneva branch of the International, and in 1869 acted as its delegate to the Fourth Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association in Basel. He soon found support among the watchmakers of the French-speaking Jura, who provided him with a base, and he went on to win over other workers, especially in France and Italy. Meanwhile, his Italian comrade Giuseppe Fanelli went to Spain and soon converted the Spanish Federation, the largest organization within the International, to Bakunin’s collectivist and federalist program. It was from these libertarian sections of the International that revolutionary syndicalism, or anarcho-syndicalism, developed.
Bakunin felt that the best way for workers to learn theory wasn’t through propaganda and education, but through practice: “emancipation through practical action.”
The differences between Bakunin and Marx came to a head at the Basel Congress of the International in September 1869 with a split between the former’s anti-authoritarian communists, communist federalists, and communist anarchists and authoritarian communists.
In September 1870 Bakunin went to Lyon, France to try to trigger an uprising he hoped would lead to a revolutionary federation of communes. The Lyon uprising was quickly crushed, but it marked the beginning of the revolutionary movement that would culminate in the Paris Commune the following spring. In a fragment on “The Program of the Alliance” written at this time, Bakunin rejected class collaboration and parliamentary politics. He also attacked union bureaucracy by means of which elected leaders often become “absolute masters of the rank-and-file, and replace popular assemblies by committees.”
On religion, Bakunin wrote that the idea of God implied “the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, both in theory and practice.” Bakunin considered God to be such a threat to human liberty and virtue that he reversed Voltaire’s famous phrase to say “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”
Bakunin was also concerned about the authoritarian dangers of a scientific elite, saying that it would be better for people to dispense with science altogether than be governed by technocrats, for “life, not science, creates life; the spontaneous action of the people themselves alone can create liberty.”
Bakunin saw representative government as an “immense fraud” resting on the fiction that executive and legislative bodies elected by universal suffrage represent the will of the people. Irrespective of their democratic sentiments, he said, all rulers are corrupted by their participation in government – political power means domination. Even workers put into power would the day after their election become “the most determined aristocrats, open or secret worshippers of the principle of authority, exploiters and oppressors.” Bakunin wrote that representative government is “a system of hypocrisy and perpetual falsehood whose success rests on the stupidity of the people and the corruption of the public mind…Freedom can be created only by freedom, by a total rebellion of the people from the bottom up.” A people’s state even in a transitional period is therefore a contradiction in terms. In one of his most famous maxims, Bakunin insisted that “freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice, and socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”
Bakunin abhorred the ancient Russian mir or peasant commune, because although the Russian peasants felt the land belonged to the community and were hostile to the state, they revered the tsar and were organized patriarchally. In contrast, the new commune in an emancipated society would consist of a voluntary association of free and equal individuals of both sexes. He believed individual freedom for Bakunin could only exist in the context of communal solidarity, and insisted that the basic principle of socialism was “that every human being should have the material and moral means to develop his humanity.”
Marx engineered Bakunin’s expulsion from the International at its Congress at the Hague in September 1872.
Bakunin considered the poorest and most oppressed and alienated to be the “flower of the proletariat,” while Marx dismissed this group, which he called the lumpenproletariat, as riffraff or rabble. Bakunin also felt that the peasants, whom Marx saw as “rural idiots,” were equally important in making the revolution. He hoped to see land being appropriated by agricultural associations and capital and the means of production by industrial associations. Marshall notes that Bakunin’s stress on the revolutionary potential of the peasantry has been confirmed by all the major revolutions of the 20th century – in Russia, Spain, China, Cuba, and Vietnam.
Bakunin died in Berne on July 1, 1876. His legacy was the spreading of anarchist ideas and the revolutionary spirit among 19th century workers, especially in France, Italy, Spain, and Latin America.
Peter Kropotkin, whom Marshall calls “the most systematic and profound anarchist thinker of the 19th century,” was born in 1842 into an aristocratic Russian family. As a military student, he became the personal page de chambre of Tsar Alexander II, whom he initially admired for liberating the serfs in 1861. The growing brutality of the regime eventually made Kropotkin distrust court politics and government in general, however. Later, his close observation of animals while serving as a military administrator in eastern Siberia led him to revise Darwin’s theory and insist that cooperation is the most important factor in evolution. Kropotkin’s contact with Siberian peasants and their communities also gave him a lasting faith in the solidarity and creative spontaneity of the people.
In 1871, having returned to St. Petersburg to study mathematics, Kropotkin was inspired by news of the Paris revolution, and the following year he visited western Europe. He became particularly friendly with Bakunin’s closest friend, James Guillaume, and absorbed his federalist ideas. Returning to Russia, Kropotkin became involved with the narodniks – young Russians who went to live with and educate the people (narod). Their goal was a new society based on a voluntary association of producers on the lines of the traditional Russian mir or village commune. The majority of these were for non-militant agitation, but Kropotkin advocated peasant uprisings and the seizure of land and property. He urged that society be organized by workers and peasants without government.
Arrested in March 1874, Kropotkin made a daring and dramatic escape from a prison hospital two years later. He left for England, determined to throw in his lot with the workers, and spent all his energy during the next five years in the anarchist cause. Arrested, he spent five years in a French prison, returning to London in 1886.
Kropotkin thought that small revolutionary groups should submerge themselves in workers’ organizations and act as catalysts to bring about a mass uprising and social revolution. He also recommended working through militant trade unions and was sympathetic to revolutionary syndicalism. Though associated with the doctrine of “propaganda by the deed,” Kropotkin was opposed to indiscriminate violence and believed that individual acts of violence were only justified as part of a revolutionary struggle with anarchist goals. He understood the despair that led to acts of terrorism, however, and refused to condemn anarchist terrorists outright, especially in view of the state’s mass terrorism.
Kropotkin maintained that man, like many other primates, is naturally adapted to live in society without artificial regulations. He noted that traditional people have always lived in clans and tribes in which customs and taboos ensure cooperation and mutual aid. People naturally engage in mutual aid out of an innate moral sense, and this voluntary cooperation hasn’t been eradicated by the appearance of coercive institutions and the modern state. The anarchist ideal, in other words, would bring people’s natural tendencies to the fore.
Kropotkin wrote that by its very nature the state can’t recognize a freely formed union operating within itself; it only recognizes subjects. “The State and its sister the Church arrogate to themselves alone the right to serve as the link between men.” In the history of human societies, the state has thus acted “to prevent direct association among men, to shackle the development of local and individual initiative, and to crush existing liberties in order to subject the masses to the will of minorities.” Kropotkin agreed with Marx that the political regime to which human societies are subjected is always the expression if the economic regime prevalent in that society. Even representative political systems, he believed, are by definition manipulated by those who control the economy.
Kropotkin criticized the revolutionary government advocated by state socialists as a transitional stage to a free society. Since a revolution is a growing and spontaneous movement, he wrote, any centralized political authority will check and crystallize its progress, and become a counterrevolutionary force resisting any development beyond itself. The immense and profound complexity of reorganizing society and elaborating new social forms can only be achieved by the collective suppleness of the mind of the whole people, not by an elected or dictatorial minority. Revolutionary groups should restrict their activity to awakening the consciousness of the people and reminding them of fundamental goals. On the morrow of the revolution, Kropotkin wrote, grievances and needs must be satisfied immediately so that the people can see that the situation has been transformed to their advantage and isn’t merely a change of persons and formulae. This necessitates the full expropriation of social goods and the means of production and the introduction of communism.
A free society for Kropotkin would be composed of a network of voluntary associations of equal individuals who are both consumers and producers. The network would include an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes – local, regional, national, and international, temporary and more or less permanent, formed for all possible purposes. The local commune would be the basic social unit and the center of life in town and country. Each group within the commune will be “drawn toward other similar groups in other communes,” and will federate with them “by links as solid as those which attach it to its fellow citizens,” constituting another “commune of interests whose members are scattered in a thousand towns and villages.”
In place of law, people would regulate their relationships by a combination of custom and free agreements, not enforced by any authority, but incentivized by common interest. With the eradication of private property and poverty, crime would be almost nonexistent, and the few disputes that arose could be easily settled by arbitrators.
When it came to organizing the economy, Kropotkin went beyond Proudhon’s mutualism and Bakunin’s collectivism to advocate a form of anarchist communism. Politically, this meant a society without government (anarchy); economically, it meant the complete negation of the wage system and the ownership of the means of production in common. Kropotkin felt that anarchist communism was the union of the two fundamental tendencies of society – toward political liberty and economic equality. The means of production would be owned by associations or communes of producers, organized on a voluntary basis and connected federally. Each person would do whatever work he could and receive from the common stock according to his needs, without money or exchange notes.
Kropotkin further advocated industrial decentralization, regional self-sufficiency, integration of town and country, and more intensive methods of food production. He was convinced that 5 hours of labor a day for 150 days a year would satisfy the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, with another 150 days to provide secondary goods. “After bread has been secured,” he wrote, “leisure is the supreme aim.”
All adults under a certain age – say, forty – would be expected to do some manual labor, but technology would reduce drudgery and toil and people could choose their work and vary it as they wished. The incentive to work would be the conscious satisfaction of the work itself and a sense of contributing to the general happiness.
Kropotkin returned to his homeland in 1917, but said after the Bolsheviks took power, “This buries the revolution. The method by which they seek to establish communism in a strongly centralized state makes success impossible and paralyzes the constructive work of the people.” In 1919, Kropotkin met with Lenin and complained about the persecution of the cooperatives and the bureaucratized local authorities. In December 1920 he wrote and complained about the hostage-taking practices of the Red Army during the civil war. The following year he wrote that the Bolsheviks were “perpetuating horrors” and ruining the country.
When Kropotkin died in February 1921, the Bolshevik government offered his family a state funeral, but they refused. His funeral proved to be the last great anarchist demonstration in Russia, for later that year the movement was crushed.
Feminist anarchist Emma Goldman was born in 1869 in a Jewish ghetto in Russia. At 15, her poverty-stricken family sent her to a half-sister in America. She decided to become a revolutionary in 1886, on the the Haymarket anarchists were hanged. Six years later, Goldman and her lover, Alexander Berkman, planned to assassinate Henry Clay Frick during the 1892 Homestead steel strike. Having wounded Frick, Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
In 1893, Goldman spent a year in prison for urging the unemployed to take bread by force. In 1906, Goldman and Berkman began publishing the monthly Mother Earth, which discussed anarchist ideas and featured writers like Thoreau, Nietzsche, and Wilde. Goldman also went on lecture tours, becoming one of the most magnetic and volatile orators in American history, despite the attempts of police and vigilante groups to silence her. She was imprisoned a second time for distributing birth control literature, but her longest sentence came from helping to set up No-Conscription Leagues and organizing rallies against the First World War. She and Berkman were arrested in 1917 for conspiracy to obstruct the draft and given two years in prison. Upon their release, they were stripped of their American citizenship and deported with other ‘Reds’ to Russia.
Goldman and Berkman were disappointed by the lack of free speech in the Soviet Union and the special privileges enjoyed by Communist Party members. Traveling throughout the country collecting documents for the revolutionary archives, they were horrified at the growing bureaucracy, political persecution, and forced labor they found. Their breaking point was reached when the Kronstadt rebellion was crushed by the Red Army. A series of workers’ strikes had taken place in March 1921 in Petrograd, supported by the Kronstadt sailors, calling for an equalization of rations, freedom of speech, and elections to the soviets. Goldman and Berkman obtained passports and left for Europe, convinced that the Revolution had been defeated.
Berkman settled in France, and Goldman in England, where she found herself almost alone in condemning the Bolsheviks so that her public lectures were poorly attended. On hearing that Goldman might be deported in 1925, another activist offered to marry her to give her British nationality, and she accepted his expression of solidarity. With a British passport, she was able to travel to France and Canada, and in 1934 was even allowed to return to the United States.
Depressed by the rise of fascism and by Berkman’s suicide in 1936, Goldman was greatly cheered to hear of the republican stand against Franco in Spain. In September 1936, at the age of 67, she went to Barcelona to join in the struggle. She worked with the anarchist CNT-FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo-Federación Anarquista Ibérica), and on one occasion 10,000 of their members turned out to hear her call them a “shining example to the rest of the world.” She edited the English language edition of the organization’s bulletin and was given the task of publicizing their cause in Britain.
Goldman disagreed with the participation of the CNT-FAI in the coalition government of 1937 and the concessions they made to the increasingly powerful communists for the sake of the war effort. Still, she stood by her comrades.
Despite her profound disappointment at Franco’s eventual triumph, Goldman refused to compromise her anarchist principles. She wrote just before her death in 1940, “I am against dictatorship and fascism as I am opposed to parliamentary regimes and so-called political democracy.” Having met leading French syndicalists, Goldman saw syndicalism, with its wish to overthrow the wage system and replace the centralized state with the “free, federated grouping of the workers,” as the “economic expression of anarchism.”
While living in America, Goldman advocated the use of collective violence to overthrow the state and capitalism, and endorsed class war, direct action, and industrial sabotage. But after her experience in Russia in 1920 and 1921, she recognized the inconsistency in using violent means to achieve libertarian ends. Social revolution, she now thought, should recognize the sanctity of human life and aim at a fundamental change in values. As she wrote to a friend in 1923, “The one thing I am convinced of as I have never been in my life is that the gun decides nothing at all.” Goldman now thought the most effective way of reconstructing society was through example and “free school” education.
As a feminist, Goldman wrote that true emancipation for women began neither at the polls nor in the courts, but in a “woman’s soul” as she “assert[ed] herself as a personality…refusing the right to anyone over her body, refusing to bear children unless she wants them; and refusing to be a servant to God, the state, society, or her and family.” Living a “simpler, deeper, and richer” life according to her own lights, such free women will be “a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire,” able to give life to free men and women. Finally, she emphasized the importance of joy, saying, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.”
After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Nestor Makhno, an anarcho-communist revolutionary, organized a 400-square-mile area of the Ukraine with a population of 7 million into an autonomous region. The factories were occupied, and collectives organized their production. Makhno had to fight Whites, Ukrainian nationalists, and the Germans and Austrians who were given control of the Ukraine under the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
By September 1918, Makhno’s partisan army had captured the regional capital of Gulyai-Polye from the Austrians. Even under war conditions, the social revolution continued, with communes or free-work soviets set up in areas under Makhno’s control. When they passed through a district, his partisans would put up posters announcing, “The freedom of the workers and the peasants is their own, and not subject to any restriction. It is up to the workers and peasants themselves to act, to organize themselves in all aspects of their lives, as they themselves see fit. The Makhnovists can do no more than give aid and counsel. In no circumstances can they, nor do they wish to, govern.” Wherever they went, Makkno’s partisans carried the black flag of anarchy at their head, embroidered with “Liberty or Death” and “The Land to the Peasants, the Factories to the Workers.”
Groups of producers were federated into districts, and districts into regions. Free assembly, free speech, and a free press were declared. In January, February, and April of 1919, a series of Regional Congresses of Peasants, Workers, and Insurgents were held to discuss economic and military matters and elect a Regional Military Revolutionary Council.
Alarmed by the growing influence of the Makhnovist movement, the Bolshevik government tried to reach an agreement with Makhno in 1920. He insisted that in the area in which the Makhnovist army was operating “the worker and peasant populations shall create their own free institutions for economic self-administration; these institutions shall be autonomous and linked federally by agreements with the governing organs of the Soviet Republics.” In April 1919, the Third Regional Council had met despite being banned by the Soviet authorities, inviting delegates from the Red Army. After Makhno’s army defeated the Whites in October 1920, the Bolsheviks ordered that it be absorbed into the Red Army under Trotsky’s command. When Makhno resisted the order, the officers of the Crimean Makhnovist army were arrested while attending a joint military council, and shot. Makhno managed to fight on against hopeless odds until August 1921. In the end, defeated, he went into exile, slandered as a bandit and pogromist by the Bolsheviks. He died 13 years later in Paris.
Makhno’s widow and daughter were deported to Germany for forced labor during World War II. At the end of the war, they were arrested by the Russian NKVD and sentenced to eight years of hard labor. They lived in Kazakhstan after their release in 1953.
The Sarvodaya Movement
Sarvodaya, a Gujarati word meaning the progress or welfare of all, was used by Gandhi to express his political philosophy. He believed that the good of the individual is contained in the good of all, that all work has the same value, and that a life of labor is the only life worth living. The Gandhian social ideal also included an equitable distribution of wealth, communal self-sufficiency and individual freedom.
After Gandhi’s death, his followers in India (notably, Vinoba Bhave) continued working to promote the kind of society he’d envisioned, and their efforts have come to be known as the Sarvodaya Movement. Sarvodaya workers undertook various projects aimed at encouraging popular self-organization during the 1950s and 1960s, and groups descended from these networks continue to function locally in India today, some of them encouraging the voluntary donation and redistribution of land.
Marshall says that under Vinoba’s guidance the Sarvodaya movement took an increasingly anarchistic direction, advocating common ownership of the land. Gandhi had maintained that any property one has, including one’s talents, should be used for the benefit of the whole. As in the family, so in society: property should be held in common, each giving according to his ability and taking according to his needs. Like Gandhi, the Sarvodaya movement was and is committed to a decentralized economy of combined fields and workshops. Also, like Gandhi, the movement has been deeply suspicious of centralized authority. Stressing the right of private judgment and the importance of the individual conscience, Vinoba rejected the legitimacy of the state’s claim to obedience. “It is one mark of swaraj [independence] not to allow any outside power to exercise control over oneself. And the second mark of swaraj is not to exercise power over any other. These two things together make swaraj – no submission and no exploitation.”
Like their Western anarchist counterparts, the Sarvodayites assert that those who attain political power are inevitably corrupted. They also reject the idea that majority rule can express public opinion and bring about welfare of all, and believe that political parties are divisive. Recognizing that revolutions are never achieved by power or party politics, the Sarvodaya movement sought to develop a new form of politics based on the direct action of the people themselves, with all decisions taken either unanimously or by consensus (no member actively disagreeing). The movement is nonviolent, ascetic, and gradualist. Vinoba’s threefold program of political development moves from national independence via a decentralized self-governing state, to pure anarchy. The last stage will only be reached when all people are self-reliant and self-governing. The state will wither away as people build an alternative society through the slow and thorough transformation of ideas and values. Part of this process involves a new politics of party-less democracy based on the consensus of all classes and groups.
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, a self-governance movement in Sri Lanka, provides development and conflict resolution programs to villages. Founded in 1958 by Dr A. T. Ariyaratne when he took forty high school students and twelve teachers from Nalanda College Colombo on an educational experiment to an outcaste village, it’s based on Buddhist and Gandhian principles, including sarvodaya and swaraj. The word “shramadana” means “a gift of labor.”
As of 2006, Sarvodaya staff and programs are active in some 15,000 (of 38,000) villages in Sri Lanka, involving 11 million people. The program begins with an invitation from a village for discussion of what is needed and how it can be done. It then creates a village council, builds a school and a clinic, and helps the village become economically self-sustaining. Sarvodaya also sponsors public meditations in which tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians meditate together on each other’s welfare.
“Neither Victims nor Executioners.” Albert Camus
During the 1960s, many members of the New Left espoused the traditional anarchist principles of mutual aid, direct action, and decentralization. Activists called for an end to hierarchy and domination, challenging corporate, state, and university authorities and criticizing the oppressive nature of contemporary culture, especially in the realm of sexuality and the family. They recognized the revolutionary potential of the marginal and declassé elements of society, realized that the organization of the movement foreshadowed the structure of the new society, and saw the need to create counter-institutions and build the new society from the bottom up.
The predominantly pacifist New Left largely existed outside strictly anarchist organizations, and saw feminism as a central issue. Where the main support for the old anarchist movement came from peasants and artisans, the new anarchists were principally disaffected middle-class intellectuals, especially teachers, social workers, and students. An anarchistic counterculture also developed, experimenting with mind-altering drugs and rejecting rationality and objectivity in favor of emotions, playfulness, and mysticism. The counterculture never offered a real threat to the status quo, however. Many of its fashions were taken up by the market, and most of its members were eventually co-opted by the dominant society and culture.
In France in May 1968, a student rebellion triggered the occupation of factories in one of the greatest general strikes in history. Graffiti on the walls in Paris declared: “Neither Gods Nor Masters;” “The More You Consume the Less You Live;” “All Power to the Imagination;” “It Is Forbidden to Forbid;” and “Be Realistic: Demand the Impossible.” But while the workers occupied the factories, they didn’t work in them and failed to turn their strike committees into administrative organs of self-management. After six weeks, a 10% pay raise was accepted by the reformist Confédération Générale du Travail. That and de Gaulle’s offer of new elections led to the collapse of the strike.
The riot following the Democratic Party convention in Chicago in 1968 was the high point of mass opposition to the state in the United States, and by the early ’70s the New Left had disintegrated as a coherent movement. The worldwide economic recession of 1973-4 checked post-scarcity utopianism, and the vast majority of rebellious youth put away their beads and tried to make it in straight society. Still, Proudhon’s maxim “Anarchy is Order,” commonly reduced to an encircled capital “A,” has become one of the most common graffiti in the urban landscape.
Anarchism today is no longer dismissed as the creed of bomb-throwers, but is increasingly recognized as one of thoughtful people asking important questions and proposing new ways of seeing and doing. Anarchy has been reinvented, and the new anti-capitalist, anti-war, and anti-globalization movements reflect its goals and decentralized and non-hierarchical ways of organizing.
Associated with “post-left anarchy” in the US, where the movement first emerged, are the journals Crimethinc, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Green Anarchy, and The Fifth Estate. Many primitivists are post-leftists, although John Zerzan, one of their most influential thinkers, likes to call himself “anti-leftist.” Primitivists reject modern technology and try to adopt a primitive lifestyle close to nature. They believe that technology, far from being “neutral,” as many think, has adverse mental, physical, emotional, and social effects on us. For the anarcho-primitivists, it isn’t the centralized and militarized state that’s the principal cause of social, political, and ecological crisis, as most anarchists maintain, but civilization itself. In their view, human society went wrong around 7,000 BC when it settled down to domesticate animals and grow crops. By contrast, according to David Watson, the hunter-gatherer world is “affluent because its needs are few, all its desires are easily met. Its tool kit is elegant and light…It is anarchic…a dancing society, a singing society, a celebrating society, a dreaming society.”
Like deep ecologists, anarcho-primitivists wish to have an unmediated experience of nature, and with Edward Abbey and the members of Earth First! they’re prepared to engage in eco-sabotage to defend ecosystems and non-human species.
Many of these primitivists, such as Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, and Derrick Jensen, would like to see the dismantling of urban civilization. They wish to go “feral,” and return to a condition of “wildness,” if not in the woods, deserts, or mountains, in the interstices of urban life, reclaiming abandoned buildings and vacant lots, and dumpster-diving. Rejecting wage labor, they try to become active agents rather than passive subjects – mere consumers.
Zerzan notes that the increasing trend of using symbolic representation, especially through language, cuts us off from each other and from the natural world. The experience of time as a linear process (clock and calendar time) also prevents us from living in the here and now. Jensen, who admires Zerzan’s work, advocates paralyzing the capitalist system by sabotaging commercial infrastructure and means of communication. As an older American anarchist, Noam Chomsky, has pointed out, however, this would cause mass suffering and many deaths. Which is the greater evil?
Marshall points out that, given the present human population, it would be impossible for all of us to abandon cities and live as hunter-gatherers. He says the only real wilderness left is “within ourselves. We were born to be wild and free; the great question for the new millennium is how to expand our freedom and preserve the remaining wilderness.”
Green anarchists, who share many of the primitivists’ beliefs, learn earth and survival skills, practice self-sufficiency, and try to simplify their lives while continuing to live in the city. They predict that the present form of industrial civilization, spreading across the world with global capital and political imperialism, will lead to a social and ecological catastrophe unless there is a major shift in values. While keeping a wider perspective, they stress the importance of local identity, rehabilitation of the land, and bioregionalism.
Syndicalists like Graham Purchase and Wobbly organizer Judi Bari have tried to develop a form of green syndicalism, in which unions committed to direct action and workers’ self-management take up ecological concerns. Anarchists have also been involved in the animal liberation and animal rights movements. Wild Greens and members of Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front defend the planet and its species with a wide variety of tactics carried out by autonomous groups and individuals. Another movement to emerge from green anarchy is freeganism, which advocates voluntary joblessness and living off the abandoned products of industrial society, such as the food thrown away by supermarkets.
Many green anarchists have been inspired by the poet and essayist Gary Snyder’s “Buddhist anarchism. He’s called for a return to a tribal way of life based on bioregions, truly dwelling in and caring for the land where we live. Synder reminds us that the most immediate and ordinary can be the most sacred, and that wildness isn’t just wild nature, but the wild culture of free peoples and the wild mind of creativity.
The science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin has introduced many people to anarchism (and Taoism), most notably through her utopian novel The Dispossessed (1974). As the hero Shevek makes clear, “You can’t make the Revolution; you can only be the Revolution. It’s in your spirit, or it’s nowhere.” In her great work of utopian fiction Always Coming Home (1985), Le Guin has created an ideal culture and its dystopian mirror image: the cooperative, egalitarian Kesh and the patriarchal, militaristic Condor people. Pagan anarchist and novelist Starhawk imagines a similar cultural dichotomy in her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing (1994).
Anarchists still reject political representation in favor of direct and participatory democracy, and have generally boycotted elections. John Clark has argued that in some circumstances tactical voting can be beneficial if candidates are trying to educate, rather than gain power, particularly in local elections. Today’s anarchists engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action, including squatting, sabotage, defacing ads, and reclaiming the streets. “Critical mass” actions by small groups try to trigger a sustained chain reaction among the wider populace. Carnival, festival, theater, and pranks are used to highlight the coercive and empty nature of the state and corporate culture and show a different way of doing things that’s decentralized, democratic, egalitarian, and fun.
Marshall says his own view is that “when there are enough people who want to be free, we’ll have a free society.” He adds that love can subvert the “mad rationality of the Panopticon and Pentagon.” Just as the notion of self-organization, partly inspired by cybernetics, became popular in the ’70s, the more organic image of the rhizome now represents the principles of connection and heterogeneity – an a-centered, non-hierarchical, non-signifying system without organizing memory or central automation. The metaphor describes the kind of grassroots, leaderless networks of groups and movements that have emerged in the international campaign against corporate globalization and war. Working within mainstream society, it’s possible to create a new culture, building relationships of trust, support, and cooperation in ever-widening and overlapping circles. These networks are often made up of affinity groups, convivial gatherings of like-minded individuals that are autonomous, fluid, flexible, and responsive, coming and going according to need and desire. They can form loose clusters and confederations, and where necessary send delegates or “spokes” to larger assemblies or “spokes councils” to coordinate their thinking and action through a process of consensus decision-making. Current “practical anarchy” also includes experiments in communal living, alternative economic systems, and community currencies.
The theory and tactics of the Zapatista movement in southern Mexico have caught the attention of anarchists, too. Named after the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and partly inspired by the anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up in 1994 in the state of Chiapas, demanding the right of the indigenous people of southern Mexico to be different and self-governing. Holding off the armed forces of the Mexican state, they’ve organized in autonomous municipalities with no fixed leadership, executive body, or headquarters. Their charismatic spokesman, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos – probably a missing professor of philosophy – playfully expresses left-libertarian views. He says he wears his mask as a “vaccine against caudillismo,” against the danger of becoming a boss.
Marshall concludes his book by saying, “It is still realistic to demand the impossible; indeed, it is more urgent than ever, if we are to survive the ecological crisis and reverse the growing injustice and inequality in the world. We need to imagine and realize an alternative future and social reality, one based on autonomy, individuality, community, solidarity, and a deep concern for the natural world…Like Malatesta, Reclus, and Voltairine de Cleyre more than a century ago, I advocate ‘anarchy without adjectives,’ anarchism which embraces rather than spurns, which encourages mutual tolerance between different strands and schools. It does not try to impose a common economic system: mutualism can evolve into collectivism, which in turn can develop into voluntary communism. As in republican Spain during the Civil War, land can be held in common while at the same time allowing some to work their own plots. Individualism can be supported by community…The organized warfare of modern states, the ruthless exploitation of transnational corporations, and the blind hatred of religious fundamentalists can be subverted by an ethos of universal love, justice, and reverence for all life. There is no need to despair or feel powerless, for as the ‘velvet revolutions’ in the former Soviet bloc, the self-managing citizens of Argentina, and the Zapatista peasants of Chiapas have shown, if enough people do not accept those in power, they cannot stay there for long.
In the meantime, we can form affinity groups, develop communities and cooperatives, and create permanent and temporary autonomous zones within the fissures of the authoritarian society. We can develop grassroots, participatory institutions. Depending on how it’s used, the internet can also create networks of like-minded people all over the world, sharing their experiences and knowledge and organizing protest and resistance.”
Well, here we are guys — on the eve of the long-awaited (or dreaded?) winter solstice 2012, the first-time end of a 26,000 year segment of the Mayan calendar. The Mayans didn’t intend or believe that to mean the end of the world in a physical sense, but it’s definitely significant, and, if Mayan astrology/astronomy was tied in with the natural world, as it must have been somehow, there might be some physical effects on us. Some have said, for example, that the earth’s magnetic poles could reverse, resulting in major changes in the way our technology works (or doesn’t). We’ll find out…
I admit to feeling a bit nervous about it, about on the scale of Y2K, which turned out to be a non-event. Fortunately for me, because the only thing I did to prepare for it (fill my tub with water) was a failure — the tub plug turned out not to work very well. I haven’t done anything on the material plane to prepare this time, other than having a few more food supplies (and extra toothbrushes and shampoo) around than usual. But I am thinking — and feeling — a spiritual significance.
I think that just as the winter solstice is always a natural time to let go of whatever’s not serving us and focus on what would serve us better, kind of a natural New Year’s, this must be the mother of all chances/winter solstice times to do that. Hence, my wish: that after 3:11 AM tomorrow morning (when the solstice actually occurs) we all focus on being more conscious, present, loving, and aware of our indissoluble connection. We stand or fall together, mes amis — not just us humans, but all of us living creatures. And it seems that the humans, by virtue of our vaunted intelligence, have more power than other species — at least, right now. I’m talking about the negative power to destroy much of creation, much of this beautiful life. I believe we also have the power to wake up and cease and desist all the crap going in that direction. Not that we’ll never make another mistake — we’re human, after all — but we can focus with all our puny might on a new intention: to accept, to love, to share ourselves, to honor and protect life…and the world we’ve known, the world of 9-11’s and Newtown, Connecticuts, the world of senseless wars and hatreds, will end. I think we have that power.
Just as it does after every winter solstice, the light will be returning. There will be more light every day from now until the summer solstice, June 21, 2013. That’s my wish: that on this apparently more-important-than-ever winter solstice the light will increase — our collective inner light.
So, here’s to the new age! Let your “little” light shine! I love you, us, everything. You do the same, and we’ll be good. See ya next year…
As indicated in my last post, many believe that 2012 — in particular the winter solstice, December 21st — offers an opportunity for positive, largely spiritual, change — an opportunity for us to shift, or for “Shift,” as David Ian Cowan puts it in his 2011 book Navigating the Collapse of Time: A Peaceful Path through the End of Illusions.
Below are my notes on the book, offered in my usual attitude of agnosticism. As a bumper sticker I saw once said, “Militant Agnosticism: I don’t know and you don’t either.” Cowan’s thoughts are interesting, even fascinating, and they might give us positive hints for our lives here in the nitty gritty trenches of Earth 2012, but nobody really knows. We’re just gonna hafta do the best we can.
I pored intently over the sections of this book presented below, and completely skipped others in the spirit of “take what you like and leave the rest.” The last few paragraphs I share with you seem a bit woo-woo to me, reminding me of the non-event of Y2K, but we’ll see…It doesn’t hurt to have a meditation practice and extra water on hand.
Navigating the Collapse of Time: A Peaceful Path through the End of Illusions by David Ian Cowan, 2011
The Great Year, the rotation of our solar system in a 26,000-year cycle, known to the ancient Vedic culture, Sumerians, Egyptians, Chinese, Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs, is responsible for the precession of the equinoxes – the gradual change in our alignment with the constellations. Each astrological “age” lasts about 2,160 years (times 12, the number of signs in the zodiac = 26,000). Most astronomers attribute this phenomenon to a “wobble” in Earth’s axis, but it’s more likely due to the fact that our sun is probably gravitationally bound to Alcyone, a fixed star, the central sun in the Pleiades. The Pleiades, in the galactic photon belt of the Milky Way, thus serve as our “galactic connection.” Our solar system passes through the galactic photon band twice in every 26,000-year cycle, a process that takes 1,000 years to complete. We “stood in front of” the entry gate to the photon band in 1986, and will go through it in 2012 (25 years later). The amount of light/awareness/information we receive increases as we move into the band, so more seems to happen in less time, and our consciousness, both as individuals and as a group, can evolve. We’ve been “pre-entry” for 500 years, we’ll spend 1,000 years in the band, and we experience 500 years of “decompression” post-exit.
The first dimension, comparable to the post of a child’s stacking toy, is the earth’s core, the source of gravity, which consists of intensely dense iron crystals. This dimension corresponds to the root chakra and the process of grounding or “earthing.” You can do this by feeling your body touching the earth.
The second dimension is the body of earth, the elemental biosphere. It extends miles within the earth and includes the physical elements, viruses, bacteria, and substances like petroleum that don’t belong on earth’s surface. Some people believe elemental nature spirits like gnomes, fairies, sylphs, and devas correspond to this dimension, which corresponds to the theta brain-wave state (a lower frequency than the beta waking state) experienced by children under the age of three, the elderly, and all of us upon falling asleep or awakening.
The third dimension is that of earth’s surface: linear space measured in height, width, depth, and time. This is the realm of opposites and polarity: hot-cold, up-down, right-left, north-south, day-night, joy-sorrow, health-illness, life-death, and good-evil. Navigating the pull of these seemingly endless opposites is challenging – a setup for both conflict and learning. Constantly choosing where to be on these axes, we eventually discover our true identity as One with the Divine Will (Love). Constantly shifting between two modes of seeing (dualistic and non-dualistic), we can transcend duality while living in 3-D by using our thoughts differently, essentially choosing non-dualistic thoughts to get over the idea that we need to make so many choices – or, perhaps, any at all. The test in 3-D is to balance polarities and unitize dualities, collapsing mental conflict and opening to Peace and our true identity as Spirit. Conflicts are always between two opposing perceptions, which are always in some way illusory. Bottom line: Living in 3-D can be a fast track to spiritual evolution.
The fourth dimension, also called the astral plane, is the world of myth, archetype, thought forms, and collective consciousness. It vibrates fast enough energetically to be the first non-physical dimension (at lower rates, energy appears to congeal into solid matter, even though it’s still mostly empty space). As thought experiencers, we’re non-material and non-local – unbound by the 3-D constraints of space and time. In 4-D, thought forms pre-exist prior to our experience of them. All minds are at least potentially joined on this level. Because of the attention/intention/observer effect, the thoughts you entertain attract more thoughts of the same quality. 4-D is between the duality of 3-D and the non-duality of 5-D. Perception is always dualistic, as it leaves out everything but the focus of attention, but we touch upon 5-D in thoughts of non-duality. Positive thoughts are upper 4-D and right-brain, and negative thoughts are lower 4-D and left-brain. Linear discrimination, cause-and-effect thinking, problem solving, and language-based intelligence are left-brain, while right-brain nonverbal intelligence includes appreciation of art and beauty, intuitive awareness of patterns, and nonverbal states of consciousness, including states of Oneness. Our planet has been imprisoned within the limitations of the lower 4-D thought field for so long it seems normal. More of us switching to upper 4-D thought will help us take advantage of the 2012 opportunity for Shift.
At the vibrational speed of the fifth dimension – that of a fast, powerful blender – duality can no longer be sustained. Another way of looking at it is that the body resonates with 3-D, the mind with 4-D, and the unconditionally loving heart with 5-D. The modern world of hierarchy and conflict reflects an inner division between 4-D brain intelligence (logic and “common sense”) and 5-D heart intelligence, but scientists are beginning to recognize that we’re actually more heart-centered than brain-centered (the heart actually has more “intelligent” cells than the brain – the gut has a lot of them, too). The mind perceives, judges, projects, and reasons; the heart accepts. Buddha, Lao-tse, and Jesus are examples of the few humans who’ve reached a state of 5-D Unity Consciousness while still in the body, and many of us are now poised to do the same. Your heart’s desire is the same as everyone else’s and the heart of the Creator – to be happy, to be at peace, to experience joy, and to create. No matter how someone’s behavior appears, it’s being driven by this urge – all behavior is either Love or a call for Love. Only Love is real. Thus, the only appropriate response to any behavior is Love/acceptance. There’s no need to forgive in a morally superior 4-D way. Love is Forgiveness.
If you start thinking like a 5-D human, you’ll quickly become one! Begin to process your experiences in your heart space instead of trying to “figure them out” in your head. Use the natural pull of the in-breath to focus your attention on your chest and belly, and use the out-breath to send out the Love that lies waiting there into each situation and relationship. Listen and speak from your heart.
The sixth dimension is that of sacred geometry – mathematical constants like the circle and the triangle, and universal energy templates/morphogenic fields. Forms in the “lower” dimensions are “informed” from the higher vibration. Duality returns in this dimension, as 6-D forms can be forces of creation or destruction. “Negative” examples: cancer-causing energy lines, black arts, and nuclear radiation. “Positive”: Hindu yantras (meditation mandalas), yoga postures, classical art and architecture (European cathedrals, labyrinths).
The seventh dimension is one of sound and light (there are octaves of light beyond the physical). 7-D sound can create 6-D sacred geometry, as when sand is vibrated on metal plates or chanting heals. This could be the medicine of the future. We can give ourselves respite from the sounds and energies of the mechanical world and the noises and ravings of the ego-dominated media and entertainment industry. We can “hear” the sound of 7-D in physical terms in silence, something we can cultivate mentally and physically. You can focus your attention on 7-D and pull some Divine Light into your 3-D experience, outdoors facing the sun or indoors facing in the sun’s direction. Put your forefingers and thumbs together to form a triangle and hold it over your heart space or forehead, saying, “I now receive the Light from beyond the light.” Repeat until you feel a sense of completion. You can also hold an image of the sun (or moon) pulling in and reflecting to you the light emanating from the galactic center.
The eighth dimension is the Mind of God, the primordial creative impulse, the inspiration of life. God didn’t create duality, suffering, time, death, ego, or any Fall from Grace – we did, via our own mental image of separation. The separation of All That Is (God) into dimensions of vibrating energy is similarly imaginary, but as an expression of our own Divine creative impulse, it has an 8-D flavor. The Divine Will expresses through us – it’s just colored or compromised by our desire to be separate egos. Earth is the world of all possibilities where we get to play out our fantasies of being other than what we are, and then – when we’ve had enough – to go home. While we’re still here in our bodies and time, we can receive directly from the Source via our 8-D connection, the closest we can get to God and still remain in the universe of form.
The ninth dimension is the source of the time waves that emanate locally via the black hole (the “dark rift”) in the center of the Milky Way, a transformational vortex. Remembering that time is an illusion, part of the dream of form, we can visualize the current time wave about to crash on the galactic shore. A new experience of time may then begin – a series of complete-in-themselves moments unfettered by a past or future (thus, the End of Time). This idea generates fear, because “running out of time” = the death of the ego, so think of it instead as the beginning of a new, less limiting interpretation of time (which readers of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now should be familiar with).
The tenth dimension is the totality of the previous nine (and there could easily be more). It’s Unity Consciousness/Bliss/samadhi. Say “I am One with All That Is” to touch upon it.
According to current understanding of Mayan cosmology, the nine-step Mayan pyramids represent nine underworlds supporting each other, periods of time, none of which will be complete until 12-21-2012. Each underworld accelerates time-wise over the previous one by a factor of 20.
Universal (260 days, 4-15-2012 to 12-21-2012): Conscious Co-creation
Galactic (12.8 years, 1999 to 2012): Ethics
Planetary (256 years, 1755-2012): Global Connections
National (5,125 years, 3115 BC-2012): Sovereign Nations, Laws
Regional (102,000 years): Agriculture, Religion, Art
Tribal (2,000,000 years): Homo Sapiens, Tools
Familial (41,000,000 years): Family Relationships
Mammalian (820,000,000 years): First live births
Cellular (16,400,000,000 years): First live cells
After the 2012 solstice time shift, systems or institutions based on the old paradigm of separate interests will need to be dismantled, and new ways of cooperating with each other and Nature implemented.
The ego is nothing but the collected thoughts we have about who we think we are – thought collections easily formed into habits, beliefs, and attitudes that seem so solid and real to us that we don’t question them. In non-duality, it isn’t necessary to ask who we are, as all existence is obviously One. A Course in Miracles begins with the non-dual declaration: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the Peace of God.” Whatever your path, it is perfect for you now. If and when you feel a Divine discontent with it, look within for your Divine Self, and it will guide you on the next step.
Practical Things to Do :
- Eat less (we’re getting more spiritual nourishment as we approach the transition).
- Drink more water.
- Avoid sugar, gluten, and dairy.
- Rest and sleep.
- Meditate for 10-20 minutes AM and PM and do yoga (mind still, heart open).
The Shift could douse all lights, even natural ones, and knock out electronics and communication systems for a period of three days. If it does, don’t panic – meditate and drink water set aside beforehand. Afterwards, there could be two Earths (one for those who are still 3-D), or 3-Ds might go to other planets. Either way, there could be the appearance of mass death. Pollution and filth (things that don’t belong on the surface of the earth) might also return spontaneously to 2-D.
Whatever happens, an attitude of gratitude and non-resistance to what is will get us through.
The mark of truth is the peace it brings. If your thoughts aren’t bringing you peace, exchange them for ones that do. May the peace within you be born into your awareness daily. May you awaken to who you already are.
Just a little over two weeks from today, on Friday, December 21st, we can celebrate a very special winter solstice. The winter solstice, as you may remember, is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. The next day, however imperceptibly, the days start getting longer and the nights shorter — till we get to the summer solstice, when the process reverses itself. This winter solstice, 2012, is also one of the most significant days in the ancient — and still current — Mayan calendar: the end of an extremely long segment of time, after which a new age begins. Many have publicized the idea that this could be the day the world ends, but that’s not what the Mayan prophecy says — unless by “the world” you mean the world we think we’ve been living in. It’s a rare opportunity, in other words, to get in sync with the natural movements of the universe the Mayans studied. A spiritual opportunity more than anything else.
Here’s what one man has written on the subject:
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck, 2006
On the winter solstice of December 21, 2012, the sun will rise within the dark rift at the center of our (Milky Way) galaxy, an event that occurs once every 25,800 years. Mayan hieroglyphs describe the center of this dark rift as a cosmic womb or “black hole” through which their wizard-kings entered other dimensions and accessed sacred knowledge. In September 2002, astronomers verified the existence of a massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
References to the solstice alignment of December 21, 2012 are encoded in numerous Mayan temples, structures, and ball courts. Some believe that this astronomical event, in which the solstice meridian crosses over the Galactic equator, might induce a “field-effect reversal,” just as magnetic forces operate in reverse form above and below the earth’s equator, causing tornadoes and toilets to swirl in the opposite direction. Some of the same people, and others, say that the moment we cross the Galactic equator, a new World Age could effect a transformation of consciousness in those who have prepared for it.
In The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Carl Johan Calleman says that the most important Mayan pyramids represent a model of time, from the origin of the universe to the upcoming phase-shift, in which each step, or “world” is twenty times more accelerated in linear time than the one preceding it. “The nine-story Mayan pyramids are telling us that consciousness is created in a hierarchical way and that each world stands on the foundation of another,” Callahan says. The initial level, he believes, beginning thirteen hablatuns or 16.4 billion years ago, starts with the inception of matter in the “Big Bang” and proceeds through the development of cellular life on earth. During the second step, beginning thirteen alautuns, or 820 million years, ago, animal life evolved. The third world, starting thirteen kinchiltuns or 41 million years ago, saw the evolution of primates and the first use of tools by our human ancestors. During the fourth world, beginning thirteen kalabtuns or 2 million years ago, tribal organization began among the ancestors of homo sapiens. During the next world, starting thirteen piktuns or 102,000 years ago, homo sapiens emerged and developed spoken language. The sixth world comprises the Great Cycle of thirteen baktuns, beginning 5,125 years before 2012, was when we created patriarchal civilization, law, and written language – Calleman calls this the “National Underworld.” The seventh step, dubbed the Planetary Underworld, thirteen katuns or 256 years, beginning in 1755 A.D., introduced industrialization, modern democracy, and the atom bomb. The eighth level – the Galactic Underworld – thirteen tuns or 12.8 years, began in 1999, with the development of the internet. The final step, thirteen uinals or 260 days, will lead, Calleman believes, to the attainment of “non-dual cosmic consciousness” across the earth. By the end of this Universal Underworld, humanity will have crossed the threshold of the abyss and confronted the shadow projections of the Apocalypse, becoming – at least potentially – conscious co-creators of reality.
According to Calleman’s thesis, each step on the pyramid “corresponds to a certain frequency of consciousness,” in which evolution operates twenty times faster than it did in the previous phase. For example, “in the Galactic Underworld, as much change must happen in a tun (360 days) as happened in a katun (19.7 years) during the Planetary Underworld.”
Pinchbeck believes that after this point in time “science will reintegrate with aboriginal wisdom, rights will meet lefts, the carapace of modern technology will crumble as new support systems self-organize, and there will be a momentous polar shift in human thought and values – from alienation to integration, from deformed and spatialized time to synchronic harmony, from either patriarchal or matriarchal dominance to true partnership, and from ego-based delusions to global telepathy. As a dialectical synthesis of Eastern enlightenment and Western curiosity, the Maya – voyagers overoceans of time – depart the dusty diorama of the past to await us up ahead, in a state of what Jean Gebser calls ‘time-freedom.'”
According to Calleman, there are cyclical pulsations of light and dark energies (which he calls “Days” and “Nights”) within each of the nine underworlds. Each underworld contains a pattern of seven days and six nights: thirteen stages, each represented by a different Mayan deity. The crucial forward step in the evolution of consciousness takes place on the “Fifth Day,” ruled by the energy of Quetzalcoatl, and the previous form of consciousness asserts itself through final acts of destruction during the Fifth Night that follows, ruled by the energy of Quetzalcoatl’s archenemy, Tezcatlipoca. The 256-year cycle of thirteen katuns that began with the industrial revolution, which Calleman dubs the Planetary Underworld, reached its darkest point during the Fifth Night of 1932 to 1952, the period of Nazism, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese cities, and the Korean War. In the 5,125-year National Cycle that preceded it, the Fifth Night of 434 to 829 A.D. corresponded to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the so-called Dark Ages. The cycle of thirteen tuns that began in November 1999 will reach its midnight hour during the year 2008 (or 2009, according to other sources), a year during which, as various studies on the imminent peak oil crisis point out, resources of energy, food, and water may become critically stressed. Calleman predicts that this period could see a global financial and ecological collapse, accompanied by nightmarish misuses of power on the part of the ruling elite. Such a time could also provide the opportunity to circulate a new vision of what the world could be, and disseminate the tools and principles to implement it.
We’re currently witnessing the shadow of the psyche projected into material form through systemic misuse of technology, biospheric destruction, and corrupt geopolitics based on entrenched egotism and greed. We’re tempted to give way to fear and despair, as negative events follow each other at breakneck pace, but positive developments are also increasing – if the shadows appear to be growing darker, Pinchbeck says, it’s because the light that casts them is getting brighter.
The shift to a higher form of consciousness won’t happen on its own – it requires personal work and direct, precise engagement with ecological, political, psychological, commercial, technological, and spiritual aspects of reality – the complete engagement of our will and higher faculties. We have to decondition ourselves from negative programming, and give up distractions, self-justifications, and egocentric goals in order to act for the greater good. A slight intervention might make all the difference as breakdown and breakthrough happen simultaneously.
Many believe that the ball games played in Mayan temple-cities represent this struggle, with the ball entering the goal ring symbolizing the sun passing through xibalba be, the “underworld road” at the end of the cycle. John Major Jenkins describes the game players “as heroic semi-human deities whose job was to keep the sun rolling towards its meeting with the dark rift.” Like them, we can be “cosmic midwives, or vision helpers, who facilitate the emergence of the next World Age, the rebirth of the solar deity (and all life).”
José Argüelles believes we need a new calendar for navigating the new age. “A new time,” he writes, “can only come about by the rejection of the instrument that holds in place the hallucination of the old time.” The old calendar, he says, should be replaced “with an instrument of such perfect harmony that it has no history, but is truly post-historical.”
Argüelles, Jenkins, and Calleman are the three main proponents of the concept that the Mayan calendar is, as Calleman puts it, “fundamentally a time-schedule for the evolution of consciousness.” Although Calleman absorbed many of Argüelles’s ideas, he and Jenkins go out of their way to dismiss Argüelles’s work, especially the channeled Dreamspell calendar, which borrows elements of the sacred calendar of the Maya and rephrases it. The truth may lie somewhere in between, or beyond any exact model we can create.
Pinchbeck’s book brings many other topics into this inquiry, including Britain’s mysterious crop circles (many of them near the sacred center of Avebury) and the seeking of healing and enlightenment through hallucinogenic drugs. He calls iboga, one of the drugs he’s taken personally, a “primordial wisdom teacher of humanity.” According to Wikipedia, “iboga is a perennial rainforest shrub and hallucinogen native to western Africa that stimulates the central nervous system when taken in small doses and induces visions in larger doses.” A shrub or small tree with small green leaves, white and pink flowers, and orange fruit, iboga’s “yellow-colored roots contain a number of indole alkaloids, most notably ibogaine.
The iboga tree is the central pillar of the Bwiti religion practiced in west-central Africa (Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo), which utilizes the alkaloid-containing roots of the plant in a number of ceremonies. Iboga is taken in massive doses by initiates when entering the religion, and on a more regular basis is eaten in smaller doses in connection with nighttime rituals and tribal dances. The Bwiti religion is practiced by the forest-dwelling Babongo and Mitsogo people of Gabon and the Fang people of Gabon and Cameroon. Modern Bwiti is syncretistic, incorporating animism, ancestor worship, and Christianity. Bwiti use the hallucinogenic rootbark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, specially cultivated for the religion, to induce spiritual enlightenment, stabilize community and family structure, and solve problems of a spiritual and/or medical nature. Iboga, used for hundreds of years as part of a Bwiti coming of age ceremony and other initiation rites and acts of healing, produces complex visions and insights considered valuable to the initiate and the community. Musicians playing drums and a traditional harp are central to the rites. Ceremonies usually begin at night and may last for days as the effects of the drug at the doses used are particularly long lasting. One of the best English language sources of information on the religion is James W. Fernandez’s book, Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa (1982).
Outside Africa, iboga extracts as well as the purified alkaloid ibogaine are used in treating opiate addiction. The therapy may last several days and upon completion the subject is generally no longer physically dependent. Evidence suggests that ibogaine may also help interrupt addiction to alcohol and nicotine. The pharmacological effects are undisputed, with hundreds of peer-reviewed papers in support.
Pinchbeck worked with an American female teacher, who, “citing an indigenous prophetic text, calls this ‘the time of Dreaming the World Awake.’” This reminded him of the story of Sleeping Beauty, in which a king invites twelve of the thirteen wise women of his land to a banquet to celebrate the birth of his daughter. He can’t invite the last one as he has only twelve golden plates. The uninvited thirteenth wise woman arrives in a fury and curses the kingdom, sending the court into a long sleep. The tale offers a prophetic warning, according to Pinchbeck, of what will happen when the feminine, lunar qualities of life are neglected. The number twelve, he says, symbolizes masculine solar rationality, while thirteen is connected with the moon, matriarchal matters, and the old Goddess religion.
The interplay between solar twelve and lunar thirteen is also indicated by the story of Jesus and his twelve disciples, King Arthur and his twelve knights, and Quetzalcoatl (Kulkucan), who led twelve other gods before his mysterious disappearance. The two numbers, juxtaposed whenever our culture seeks to identify a superhero figure, point to a cultural legacy that seems to be calendric in origin. The archetypal pattern always involves a thirteenth savior figure with twelve knights, disciples, or kings, who is sacrificed, then resurrected in order to save the culture.
In the Gospel of John, when the risen Christ instructs his disciples to cast their net over the right side of their boat, they retrieve 153 fish. The square root of this number is 12.369, the number of lunations in a year. The number 12.369 is also the hypotenuse of a triangle made with the proportions 5:12:13, a “lunation triangle” used in the ancient world as a tool for performing a range of astronomical tasks, including forecasting solar positions and lunar phases. The site of Stonehenge may have been chosen because it was part of an enormous lunation triangle, stretching to the Preseli islands in Wales, from which the monument’s boulders were removed, to the sacred island of Lundy, directly east of the monument.
Again and again, says Pinchbeck, these myths seem to suggest that the seemingly innocuous calendar is actually of fundamental importance, defining our relationship to reality, as Argüelles says. A calendar that doesn’t correspond to natural cycles and that fails to balance solar and lunar elements will lead to a “deformed” world. What our science understands abstractly about the evolutionary engine of the sun, moon, earth system, Neolithic man may have realized intuitively and instinctively, codifying the understanding in monumental works of stone.
Similarly, Pinchbeck believes the crop circles to be a teaching on the nature of reality, a subtle, multilayered initiation for the modern mind that offers cues on navigating the psychic nature of the new reality we’re transitioning into. “They seem to offer instruction,” he says, “in how to work with paradox by realizing that seemingly opposite sides can both be true. Paradox can thus be embraced as an operative principle.”
Pinchbeck’s teacher introduced him to the Santo Daime religion that originated in Brazil and has since spread throughout the world. He initially resisted, then accepted the hours of dancing and singing hymns under the influence of ayahuasca, a plant-based hallucinogenic drug, eventually experiencing a newfound feeling of integration, acceptance, and “the humility of devotional prayer.” Participating in the singing and dancing, he saw “the Mother of the Forest twirling over our heads with her arms outstretched, sheltering us beneath her vast umbrella. A fountain of light appeared to rise from the center of the room, a column of energy, pulsing with the harmonic mesh of the singing. I had never felt so close to the presence of the Sacred – not as an idea or a theory, but as something that filled my whole being.” Later that night, he received a “cosmic message”: “YOU GO DEEPER INTO THE PHYSICAL TO GET TO THE INFINITE.”
The Santo Daime religion originated in the visions of Raimundo Irineu Serra, a young Brazilian of African descent. While drinking ayahuasca with Amazon Indians in the 1920s, he was visited by the “Queen of the Forest,” who taught him hymns. He was told by this apparition – whom he believed to be a form of the Virgin Mary – that he had been given a sacred mission to begin a church that would “replant the doctrine of Jesus Christ on earth.” This doctrine wasn’t a set of rigid rules or orthodox ideas, but “a living matrix of consciousness. Jesus Christ planted a conscious seed in this world by his life and death, initiating a vast change in human consciousness that is now beginning to come to fruition.” The purpose of Santo Daime is to call “one by one, the many souls who are ready to awaken the seed, Christ Consciousness, in themselves.” Today, the Daime describes itself as a “spiritual and ecological movement,” seeking to create sustainable communities in the Brazilian jungle. The church grew in popularity across Brazil in the 1980s, taking root in many urban centers, and it’s developed internationally, with tens of thousands of members throughout South America, Europe, the US, and Japan.
Pinchbeck went to Brazil for a week-long initiation in the jungle that included helping to make the medicine. He says ayahuasca is brewed from two plants, combining the “force” of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, containing beta-carbolines, with the “light” of chacruna leaves, full of DMT. He notes that the Santo Daime cross modifies the Christian icon with a second, smaller horizontal line below the traditional crossbeam. His American teacher explained that the second line symbolizes the “Second Coming” of Christ – not as an individual being, but as a collective realization. “The Daime believe that the Second Coming occurs within our hearts.”
On the boat ride out of the jungle, the author says, he received and wrote down “the rest of the transmission announcing Quetzalcoatl’s return:
I am an avatar and messenger sent at the end of a kalpa, a world age, to bring a new dispensation for humanity – a new covenant, and a new consciousness.
I am the same spirit who appeared in the Mayan period as Quetzalcoatl and incarnated at various other points in human history. (Like Avalokiteshvara, the Tibetan Buddha of Compassion, Quetzalcoatl is an archetypal ‘god form’ that occasionally takes human rebirth to accomplish a specific mission.)
Soon there will be a great change in your world. The material reality that surrounds you is beginning to crack apart, and with it all of your illusions. The global capitalist system that is currently devouring your planetary resources will soon self-destruct, leaving many of you bereft. For those with open hearts and minds, there will be no problem whatsoever. What is false must die so what is true can be born. The shadows that crawl around you are the unintegrated aspects of your psyche, projected into material form. ‘Apocalypse’ means ‘uncovering,’ and in these last clock ticks of this world age, all must be revealed.
You have just a few years to prepare, so use them preciously. ‘Reality,’ as you currently experience it, is something like a waking dream. It’s a projection, or let us say an interface, disguising deeper and more intensified levels of being and knowing. For those who are ready and willing, the doors to those other levels now stand open.
What you are currently experiencing as the accelerated evolution of technology can now be recognized as a transition between two forms of consciousness and two planetary states. Consciousness is the only real or necessary technology, and unconditional love given freely maintains all. Surrender to the will of God (“the flow”). You have to anyway, so why not assent to it joyfully? Enter the Golden Age by freeing yourself from fear and attachment. The original matrix of the universe and this new world reality is the ecstatic limitlessness of your own being – not via transcendence, but immanence in the here and now. The unending task of human existence is to transform life on earth by reconciling spirit and matter. Go deeper into the physical to reach the infinite.”
As Frank Waters wrote in Book of the Hopi, “The coming of the Hopi’s lost white brother Pahana, the return of the Mayas’ bearded white god Kukulcan, the Toltecan and Aztecan Quetzalcoatl, is a myth of deep significance to all the Americas, an unconscious projection of an entire race’s dream of brotherhood with the races of all continents – the unfulfilled longing of humanity.”
According to the Hopi, we’re currently completing the cycle of the Fourth World and on the verge of transitioning, or emerging, into the Fifth World, with several more worlds to follow. In each of the previous three worlds, humans eventually went berserk, bringing ruin upon themselves through destructive practices, wars, misused technologies, and a loss of connection to the sacred. As the end of one cycle approaches, a small tunnel or interdimensional passage – the sipapu – appears, leading the Hopi and other “decent” people into the new world.
The Hopi believe we’ve received most of the signs, recounted in their prophecies, preceding the emergence into the Fifth World. These include “a gourd of ashes falling from the sky” and destroying a city, enacted in the atomic blasts obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a spider web across the earth, which they associate with our power grids and telephone lines. According to the accounts of the elders compiled by Waters, the Fourth World will end in a war that will be “a spiritual conflict” fought with material means, leading to the destruction of the United States, “land and people,” through radiation. Those who survive this conflict will institute a new united world without racial or ideological delusions, under one power, that of the Creator.
On a brief visit to the Hopi reservation, Pinchbeck met with a Hopi elder named Gasheseoma. When he first saw him, he was a “gnarled old man in the distance, hoeing his field under the scorching sun. He seemed an iconic figure, standing alone in the arid landscape, surrounded by tiny corn and bean plants. I called out, asking if he would like to talk to us. He put his hoe down and came to greet us in a manner that was friendly, unguarded, and without surprise. We sat together in a little shelter, and I asked him about the time ahead.
‘It goes like a movie now,’ he said. ‘Soon there is coming the time of purification. But this has all happened before.’ He believes the US government is building ‘machines’ for exterminating huge populations, which would be employed as resources dwindled as part of the ‘purification.’ His tone was stoic, serious, yet surprisingly matter-of-fact. I asked him about the treatment of the Hopi by the United States.
‘Everything has been done illegally,’ he said. ‘We didn’t want a tribal council. The majority voted against it, and it was forced on us. We didn’t want the highway either.’
‘What should be done with it then?’ I asked.
‘Smash it up,’ he replied, waving at it.
For Gasheseoma, there was an obvious distinction between ‘right-doing’ and ‘wrong-doing.’ He was quite clear about what should be done about persistent wrong-doers like the executives of the Peabody Corporation that mines coal unenvironmentally on Hopi land, without giving the tribe a fair share of the profits. ‘Cut off their heads,’ he said.
As we left him, he returned to his field – a tiny, indomitable presence in the vast desert, beneath the wide, scorching sky…I felt the wound that will only be healed when our culture forges a real relationship with the indigenous people of this continent – no longer prying into their secrets or imitating their ways, but expiating our dominator guilt by acting in solidarity with them…
I have proposed that the intensifying global crisis is the material expression of a psycho-spiritual process, forcing our transition to a new and more intensified state of awareness. If Calleman’s hypothesis is correct, telescoping of time will mean a high-speed replay of aspects of past historical epochs – echoes of the French Revolution, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and so on – before consciousness reaches the next twist of the spiral. As part of this transition, we’ll reintegrate the aboriginal and mythic worldviews, recognizing the essential importance of spiritual evolution, while understanding that it’s directly founded on our relationship to material and physical aspects of reality. The higher consciousness and conscience of our species will be forged through the process of putting the broken and intricate shards of our world back together, piece by piece.”
Calleman, Carl Johan. The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness. Bear & Company, 2004
Heath, Robin. Sun, Moon, and Stonehenge. Bluestone Press, 1998.
Jenkins, John Major. Galactic Alignment (2002), Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998), and (with Martin Matz) Pyramid of Fire (2004), all published by Bear & Company.
McKenna, Terence. The Archaic Revival (1991) and True Hallucinations (1994), both published by Harper Collins.
I’ve always been amazed that a lot of people think history is boring, since to me it’s a series of great stories – kind of like the longest-running soap opera ever, replete with apparent “heroes” and “villains.”
Fascinated by the wide variety of ways humans behave and perceive their world, I wanted to major in anthropology in college. My school was too small to have an anthropology department, though, so my next thought was English, awash in stories about people. Looking at the courses I’d have to take, I saw too many on such ancient treasures as Beowulf, so, finally, I chose history, thinking, “That’s about people.” It really is…
You have to be a bit finicky about who’s written the history you’re reading, and why – there’s always an ax of some kind being ground. That’s historiography – how history is written, a whole discipline in itself. But that’s just a matter of finding trusted sources, something you already do when reading the news. You want to get as close as you can to what really happened and why. That kind of history gives you a map of where you and others are, how it came to be that way, and where you might head next, given what you value. Another way of saying that is that it’s a lens through which you can view the past, the present, and the future.
History allows us to see what’s worked for people and what hasn’t. As the old saying goes, it allows us to avoid making the same mistake over and over, if we pay attention to it.
I write this to give a bit of background – or perspective – on the following announcement: There are now some world and American history pages on this website for you to read, under “Realities” at the top of the web page. I’ve taken my extensive notes on history and whittled them down into something I hope will be informative and interesting, food for thought on who we are as human beings and where we can go from here.
A lot of the world history is taken from A People’s History of the World by the British Marxist historian Chris Harman, and a lot of the American history from A People’s History of the United States by the late, and truly great, Howard Zinn. I heartily recommend that you look on YouTube or elsewhere for video or audio clips of Zinn speaking. He had a sense of humor and a timing to his speech that gave dimension and deeper meaning to what he had to say. You’ll love it – I guarantee.
I hope you’ll dip into these history notes as you have time. If you do, you’ll see that both Harman and Zinn – like Marx – emphasize issues of class and class struggles. They show that workers and peasants have often been successful temporarily in throwing off the masters’ yoke, but that nowhere have they kept the freedom and equality that’s rightfully theirs.
If we look carefully at the history of these ultimately failed efforts we can see how they faltered, perhaps allowing our current and future actions to succeed. For me, it boils down to sticking to original principles – never letting go of that initial vision. Also, staying united on a class basis and appealing to “upper” classes to join us on the basis of our shared humanity, rather than being tricked into joining them, thinking that they have our interests at heart. Or frightened by their possession of the instruments of violence, because, after all, as the title of this blog reminds us, “We have the numbers.”
Also just put up on the static pages are the history unit I wrote on the California missions (in “Realities,” American history) and a proposal for a history unit on the relevance of Marxism today (in “Possibilities,” Marxism).