Wednesday, November 27, 2013

At the Closing of an Age

Last week’s post here on The Archdruid Report suggested that the normal aftermath of an age of reason is a return to religion—in Spengler’s terms, a Second Religiosity—as the only effective  bulwark against the nihilistic spiral set in motion by the barbarism of reflection. Yes, I’m aware that that’s a controversial claim, not least because so many devout believers in the contemporary cult of progress insist so loudly on seeing all religions but theirs as so many outworn relics of the superstitious past.  This is’s a common sentiment among rationalists in every civilization, especially in the twilight years of ages of reason, and it tends to remain popular right up until the Second Religiosity goes mainstream and leaves the rationalists sitting in the dust wondering what happened.
I’d like to suggest that we’re on the brink of a similar transformation in the modern industrial world. The question that comes first to many minds when that suggestion gets made, though, is what religion or religions are most likely to provide the frame around which a contemporary Second Religiosity will take shape. It’s a reasonable question, but for several reasons it’s remarkably hard to answer.

The first and broadest reason for the difficulty is that the overall shape of a civilization’s history may be determined by laws of historical change, but the details are not. It was as certain as anything can be that some nation or other was going to replace Britain as global superpower when the British Empire ran itself into the ground in the early twentieth century.  That it turned out to be the United States, though, was the result of chains of happenstance and choices of individual people going back to the eighteenth century if not furthr.  If Britain had conciliated the American colonists before 1776, for example, as it later did in Australia and elsewhere, what is now the United States would have remained an agrarian colony dependent on British industry, there would have been no American industrial and military colossus to come to Britain’s rescue in 1917 and 1942, and we would all quite likely be speaking German today as we prepared to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Wilhelm VI.

In the same way, that some religion will become the focus of the Second Religiosity in any particular culture is a given; which religion it will be, though, is a matter of happenstance and the choices of individuals. It’s possible that an astute Roman with a sufficiently keen historical sense could have looked over the failing rationalisms of his world in the second century CE and guessed that one or another religion from what we call the Middle East would be most likely to replace the traditional cults of the Roman gods, but which one? Guessing that would, I think, have been beyond anyone’s powers; had the Emperor Julian lived long enough to complete his religious counterrevolution, for that matter, a resurgent Paganism might have become the vehicle for the Roman Second Religiosity, and Constantine might have had no more influence on later religious history than his predecessor Heliogabalus.

The sheer contingency of historical change forms one obstacle in the way of prediction, then. Another factor comes from a distinctive rhythm that shapes the history of popular religion in American culture. From colonial times on, American pop spiritualities have had a normal life cycle of between thirty and forty years. After a formative period of varying length, they grab the limelight, go through predictable changes over the standard three- to four-decade span, and then either crash and burn in some colorful manner or fade quietly away. What makes this particularly interesting is that there’s quite a bit of synchronization involved; in any given decade, that is, the pop spiritualities then in the public eye will all be going through a similar stage in their life cycles.

The late 1970s, for example, saw the simultaneous emergence of four popular movements of this kind: Protestant fundamentalism, Neopaganism, the New Age, and the evangelical atheist materialism of the so-called Sceptic movement. In 1970, none of those movements had any public presence worth noticing:  fundamentalism was widely dismissed as a has-been phenomenon that hadn’t shown any vitality since the 1920s, the term “Neopagan” was mostly used by literary critics talking about an assortment of dead British poets, the fusion of surviving fragments of 1920s New Thought and Theosophy with the UFO scene that would give rise  to the New Age was still out on the furthest edge of fringe culture, and the most popular and visible figures in the scientific communtiy were more interested in studying parapsychology and Asian mysticism than in denouncing them.

The pop spiritualities that were on their way out in 1970, in turn, had emerged together in the wake of the Great Depression, and replaced another set that came of age around 1900. That quasi-generational rhythm has to be kept in mind when making predictions about American pop religious movements, because very often, whatever’s biggest, strongest, and most enthusiastically claiming respectability at any given time will soon be heading back out to the fringes or plunging into oblivion. It may return after another three or four decades—Protestant fundamentalism had its first run from just before 1900 to the immediate aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, for example, and then returned for a second pass in the late 1970s—and a movement that survives a few such cycles may well be able to establish itself over the long term as a successful denomination. Even if it does accomplish this, though, it’s likely to find itself gaining and losing membership and influence over the same cycle thereafter.

The stage of the cycle we’re in right now, as suggested above, is the one in which established pop spiritualities head for the fringes or the compost heap, and new movements vie for the opportunity to take their places. Which movements are likely to replace fundamentalism, Neopaganism, the New Age and today’s “angry atheists” as they sunset out? Once again, that depends on happenstance and individual choices, and so is far from easy to predict in advance.  There are certain regularities:  for example, liberal and conservative Christian denominations take turns in the limelight, so it’s fairly likely that the next major wave of American Christianity will be aligned with liberal causes—though it’s anyone’s guess which denominations will take the lead here, and which will remain mired in the fashionable agnosticism and the entirely social and secular understanding of religion that’s made so many liberal churches so irrelevant to the religious needs of their potential congregations.

In much the same way, American scientific institutions alternate between openness to spirituality and violent rejection of it.  The era of the American Society for Psychical Research was followed by that of the war against the Spiritualists, that gave way to a postwar era in which physicists read Jung and the Tao Te Ching and physicians interested themselves in alternative medicine, and that was followed in turn by the era of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and today’s strident evangelical atheism; a turn back toward openness is thus probably likely in the decades ahead. Still, those are probabilities, not certainties, and many other aspects of American religious pop culture are a good deal less subject to repeating patterns of this kind.

All this puts up serious barriers to guessing the shape of the Second Religiosity as that takes shape in deindustrializing America, and I’m not even going to try to sort out the broader religious future of the rest of today’s industrial world—that would take a level of familiarity with local religious traditions, cultural cycles, and collective thinking that I simply don’t have. Here in the United States, it’s hard enough to see past the large but faltering pop spiritual movements of the current cycle, guess at what might replace them, and try to anticipate which of them might succeed in meeting the two requirements I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, which the core tradition or traditions of our approaching Second Religiosity must have: the capacity to make the transition from the religious sensibility of the past to the religious sensibility that’s replacing it, and a willingness to abandon the institutional support of the existing order of society and stand apart from the economic benefits as well as the values of a dying civilization.

Both of those are real challenges. The religious sensibility fading out around us has for its cornerstone the insistence that humanity stands apart from nature and deserves some better world than the one in which we find ourselves. The pervasive biophobia of that sensibility, its obsession with imagery of risingup from the earth's surface, and most of its other features unfold from a basic conviction that, to borrow a phrase from one currently popular denomination of progress worshippers, humanity is only temporarily “stuck on this rock”—the “rock” in question, of course, being the living Earth in all her beauty and grandeur—and will be heading for something bigger, better, and a good deal less biological just as soon as God or technology or some other allegedly beneficent power gets around to rescuing us.

This is exactly what the rising religious sensibility of our age rejects. More and more often these days, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I encounter people for whom “this rock” is not a prison, a place of exile, a cradle, or even a home, but the whole of which human beings are an inextricable part. These people aren’t looking for salvation, at least in the sense that word has been given in the religious sensibility of the last two millennia or so, and which was adopted from that sensibility by the theist and civil religions of the Western world during that time; they are not pounding on the doors of the human condition, trying to get out, or consoling themselves with the belief that sooner or later someone or something is going to rescue them from the supposedly horrible burden of having bodies that pass through the extraordinary journey of ripening toward death that we call life.

They are seeking, many of these people.  They are not satisfied with who they are or how they relate to the cosmos, and so they have needs that a religion can meet, but what they are seeking is wholeness within a greater whole, a sense of connection and community that embraces not only other people but the entire universe around them, and the creative power or powers that move through that universe and sustain its being and theirs. Many of them are comfortable with their own mortality and at ease with what Christian theologians call humanity’s “creaturely status,” the finite and dependent nature of our existence; what troubles them is not the inevitability of death or the reality of limits, but a lack of felt connection with the cosmos and with the whole systems that sustain their lives.

I suspect, to return to a metaphor I used in an earlier post here, that this rising sensibility is one of the factors that made the recent movie Gravity so wildly popular. The entire plot of the film centers on Sandra Bullock’s struggle to escape from the lifeless and lethal vacuum of space and find a way back to the one place in the solar system where human beings actually belong. To judge by the emails and letters I receive and the conversations I have, that’s a struggle with which many people in today’s industrial world can readily identify. The void scattered with sharp-edged debris they sense around them is more metaphorical than the one Bullock’s character has to face, but it’s no less real for that.

Can the traditions of the current religious mainstream or its established rivals speak to such people? Yes, though it’s going to take some significant rethinking of habitual language and practice to shake off the legacies of the old religious sensibility and find ways to address the needs and possibilities of the new one. It’s entirely possible that one or another denomination of Christianity might do that. It’s at least as possible that one or another denomination of Buddhism, the most solidly established of the current crop of imported faiths, could do it instead.  Still, the jury’s still out.

The second requirement for a successful response to the challenge of the Second Religiosity bears down with particular force against these and other established religious institutions. Most American denominations of Christianity and Buddhism alike, for example, have a great deal of expensive infrastructure to support—churches and related institutions in the case of Christianity; monasteries, temples, and retreat centers in the case of Buddhism—and most of the successful denominations of both faiths, in order to pay for these things, have by and large taken up the same strategy of pandering to the privileged classes of American society. That’s a highly successful approach in the short term, but the emergence of a Second Religiosity is not a short term phenomenon; those religious movements that tie themselves too tightly to middle or upper middle class audiences are likely to find, as the floodwaters of change rise, that they’ve lashed themselves to a stone and will sink along with it.

In an age of decline, religious institutions that have heavy financial commitments usually end up in deep trouble, and those that depend on support from the upper reaches of the social pyramid usually land in deeper trouble still. It’s those traditions that can handle poverty without blinking that are best able to maintain themselves in hard times, just as it’s usually those same traditions that an increasingly impoverished society finds most congenial and easiest to support. Christianity in the late Roman world was primarily a religion of the urban poor, with a modest sprinkling of downwardly mobile middle-class intellectuals in their midst; Christianity in the Dark Ages was typified by monastic establishments whose members were even poorer than the impoverished peasants around them. Buddhism was founded by a prince but very quickly learned that absolute non-attachment to material wealth was not only a spiritual virtue but a very effective practical strategy.

In both cases, though, that was a long time ago, and most American forms of both religions—and most others, for that matter—are heavily dependent on access to middle- and upper middle-class parishioners and their funds. If that continues, it’s likely to leave the field wide open to the religions of the poor, to new religious movements that grasp the necessity of shoestring budgets and very modest lifestyles, or to further imports from abroad that retain Third World attitudes toward wealth.

I’m often asked in this context about the possibility that Druidry, the faith tradition I practice, might end up filling a core role in the Second Religiosity of industrial civilization. It’s true that we embraced the new religious sensibility long before it was popular elsewhere, and equally true that shoestring budgets and unpaid clergy are pretty much universal in Druid practice. Still, the only way I can see Druidry becoming a major factor in the deindustrial age is if every other faith falls flat on its nose; we have a strike against us that most other religious movements don’t have.

No, I don’t mean the accelerating decline of today’s pop Neopaganism. Old-fashioned Druid orders such as AODA, the order I head, routinely get confused with the Neopagan scene these days, but we were around long before Neopaganism began to take shape in the late 1970s—AODA was chartered in 1912, and traces its roots back to the eighteenth century—and we expect to be around long after it has cycled back out of fashion. If anything, the volunteer staff who handles AODA’s correspondence will be grateful for fewer emails saying, “Hi, I want to know if you have a grove in my area I can circle with on the Sabbats—Blessed be!” and thus less need for return emails explaining that we aren’t Wiccans and don’t celebrate the Sabbats, and that our groves and study groups are there to provide support for our initiates, not to put on ceremonies for casual attendees.

That is to say, AODA is an initiatory order, not a church in the doors-wide-open sense of the word, and that’s the strike against us mentioned above. I suspect most of my readers will have little if any notion of the quiet subculture of initiatory orders in the modern industrial world. There are a great many of them, mostly quite small, offering instruction in meditation, ritual, and a range of other transformative practices to those  interested in such things.  Initiatory orders in the Western world have usually been independent of public religious institutions—this was also true in classical times, when the Dionysian and Orphic mysteries, the Pythagorean Brotherhood, and later on the Neoplatonists and Gnostic sects filled much the same role we do today—while those in Asian countries are usually affiliated with the religious mainstream. In traditional Japan, for example, people interested in the sort of thing initiatory orders do could readily find their way to esoteric schools  of Buddhism, such as the Shingon sect; this side of the Ganges, by contrast, attitudes of the religious mainstream toward such traditions have tended to veer from toleration through disapproval to violent persecution and back again.

Eccentric as it is, the world of initiatory orders has been my spiritual home since I got dissatisfied with the casual irreligion of my birth family and went looking for something that made more sense. A book I published last year tried to sum up some of what that world and its teachings have to say concerning the age of limits now upon us, and it had a modest success.  Still, one thing all of us in the initiatory orders learn early on is that our work is something that appeals only to the few. Self-unfoldment through disciplines of realization, to borrow a crisp definition from what was once a widely read book on the subject, involves a great deal of hard and unromantic work on the self. For those of us who are called to it, there’s nothing more rewarding—but not that many people are called to it.

Individuals and small communities can make their own kind of difference in helping to shape the future, and those of my readers who have suspected that this blog has something to do with that kind of difference are not mistaken. Still, as we stand here at the closing of an age, we are poised between a death and a difficult birth; I plan on saying something about the prospects for the birth later on, but first, there’s a death to witness. I’ll be talking about that more next week.


Ray Wharton said...
"Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the most dreadful sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!" Zarathustra's Prologue.

Thinking about the war on nature as well, I wonder if we have to deal with the death of Man. Not the human species, or the gender, but that hero you mentioned here a while ago. The one that did that most dreadful sin, and waged war against nature. Even though as adaptable a species as ours has a reasonably good chance of getting through the on going mass extinction, that mythic figure Man has pretty much dug himself a 6 foot hole.

11/27/13, 8:04 PM

BrightSpark said...
Yeah, I agree that it's anyone's guess as to what the new religious movements will be. Even though I don't really like this, my pick is a vastly greener Christianity, largely because during times of trouble and strife, I suspect people will seek refuge in traditions of the past, and then seek to remake them.

In "The Glass Bead Game", which you've referenced here before, Catholicism is still going strong some 3000 years after its birth, and the monastic tradition has been reborn to cope with the straightened times (outside of the province of Castalia of course). I also note recent steps by the new Pope Francis telling his clergy to get out onto the streets and do something!

NZ theologian Lloyd Geering's book, entitled the Greening of Christianity, is worth a read too. He was actually tried for heresy due to his ideas at one point. I don't support many of his ideas, but he did stand up and try.

11/27/13, 8:06 PM

casamurphy said...
what they are seeking is wholeness within a greater whole, a sense of connection and community that embraces not only other people but the entire universe around them, and the creative power or powers that move through that universe and sustain its being and theirs. [quote from this week's JMG article]

These kernels which so beautifully describe the human condition is what make me a regular reader. Thank you JMG!

I practice Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI and think if fits many of the requirements laid out for a new religiosity...BUT...when I try to share that thought with my fellow practitioners I often get the same blank stares that I get from non-Buddhist who because of our discussion maybe be grappling with their first challenge of the myth of progress as well. Often, SGI members then "shake it off" with comments like, "Let's not try to limit any one's's better to let people use the firewood of their OWN desires to reveal the light of their enlightenment instead of pushing theoretically attractive reasons to practice on them which are not directly related to their immediate and heartfelt desires. People's own dreams are usually their best guides. Let people chant for want they want and experience change based upon their own efforts to achieve their own goals."

11/27/13, 8:57 PM

Richard said...
Reading this makes me wonder about the survivability of Asatru. It doesn't seem to have many material requirements, and fosters a sense of community amongst its practitioners rather well. I am of course pushing for the survival of DOGD, and ADF, but still, the Heathens have a chance.

11/27/13, 9:06 PM

Justin Wade said...

What should someone interested in pursuing a discipline as an initiate do? I presume your marketing budget is not putting any leads on billboards.

I think this was a well considered article, the role of variables that cannot be predicted with certainties is going to ensure that through one channel of expression or another, certain changes in outlook are going to come about.

I don't know anything about that movie Gravity except what you have written on your blog, but from your description, I think the texture is a good deal closer than we are aware of. In any urban environment, we are moving through an incredibly intense, surreal landscape. A concrete, glowing, humming with traffic, electricity, buzzing, and all the other features of a cityscape are pretty intense as compared to natural environments, where sound and light moves in organic and non repetitive patterns rather than the steady hums of our electric landscapes. The surfaces are all hard edged, angled, and facing. Metal, rough rock, etc. We are constantly clamoring over rocky surfaces. Anyway, I have been noticing this lately and got a kick out of your metaphor. I can see why people relate to the Gravity story, it doesn't take much of a metaphor to map suburbia to a Mars terraform station.

11/27/13, 9:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Ray, excellent! Your crystal ball is firing on all cylinders tonight. Stay tuned for next week's post...

BrightSpark, that's a possibility, but it's by no means a certainty. I suspect that if a conversation like the one we're having had taken place in ancient Rome, a more resilient version of the worship of Jupiter et al. would have been most people's choice for most likely to succeed.

Casamurphy, thank you! I'm not surprised; one of the things that makes the emergence of a new religious sensibility so complex is that it cuts straight across ordinary religious boundaries, so that people in the same tradition can be on opposite sides of the distinction between sensibilities, while people in wholly different traditions can find themselves talking the same language. It makes for strange times!

Richard, the heathens have a very good chance, and if they turn out to be the wave of the religious future, I won't mourn. I find I get along well with most of the old-fashioned polytheist faiths.

Justin, even if the budget did cover billboards, we wouldn't use them. You might consider reading the book of mine I cited, which covers some of the things to look for (and run from) in assessing an initiatory order; then begin asking around. It's rarely hard to find either a local lodge or one of the groups, such as AODA, that does distance learning programs.

11/27/13, 9:58 PM

Mister Roboto said...
I've been told that Islam is the fastest growing imported religious tradition, but I don't know how true that remains in these post 9/11 days.

I guess I find myself straddling the neopagan and New Age philosophies, and that's probably because almost all the bookstores in towns such as Madison, Wisconsin that sell books about one of those traditions also sell plenty of books about the other. WRT to the world, I tend to think of this plane of existence as not our ultimate home but an important part of the journey nonetheless. I'm very dubious and skeptical, though, about the New Age idea of a mass ascension. Experience and study has taught me that things that sound like they might be rooted entirely in fantasy probably are and as such are bound to disappoint. :-)

11/27/13, 10:43 PM

Chris Travers said...
A couple of thoughts about failures and trajectories of the major candidates of religion in the US today.

One of the huge problems one faces is the fact that virtually all Christian groups spend a lot of money on outreach in developing nations. In essence rather than being centers of community, they try to be centers of the whole world. These groups cannot survive a world where religion must serve the needs close to home first.

The Neopagan groups typically divide into a number of different groups. There are the initiatory orders you talk about (I am a Master in the Rune Gild for example). There are also the highly Utopian groups. Then there are the groups who stress study of the past and trying to re-implement the social institutions from ages ago.

These groups change over time because of the interplay between all three, their own traditions, needs, and desires, and academic research. Frazer's Golden Bough gives way to Daniel Ogden's books on Greco-Roman necromancy. All sides are grappling with significant issues but missing the point.

For a religion to succeed in the new world, it can't be primarily about belief. That Hellenistic innovation that made belief a religious practice (which has been totally internalized in Christianity and Islam) does not work in a sceptical culture. Many of the people who can be reached today are not "believers" but "doers," "thinkers," and "contemplative types." To reach the reflective stage one has to accept that the trend towards nihilism is fine as a first step as long as the tradition can cope with it and help people forward.

There are some groups that are uniquely prepared for the coming crisis. These include both the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but also the more communitarian approaches to Neopaganism as well. There are few, if any. Protestant groups who stand a chance of doing much (the Quakers will probably do ok, as might the various Anabaptist groups).

But one mistake that people make is in assuming that we will see a religion spread the way we did with Rome. In Rome you had an explicit state religion with a lot of tolerance (until relatively late). In the US we have no explicit state religion and so there is a lot of room for pluralism that didn't exist in Rome.

The one prediction I would make is that instead of the Roman model of a religion succeeding the empire, I would suggest we will have a fracturing along with our political union and that we will not have a single religion that will take over, but rather a hodge-podge and a return to localism there.

11/27/13, 10:44 PM

Ken Breadner said...
Longtime reader here, and can I please state just how refreshing it is to read someone who believes wholeheartedly in his belief system, who applies his understanding of his belief system to his world, but who does not insist that his faith is the Only Way for anyone else, much less everyone else? Do you have any idea how rare that is in a shrill age like this?
Thank you so much for these posts, they are eagerly awaited every week.

11/27/13, 11:03 PM

Ray Wharton said...
I figure the way our media reaches across cultures, classes, and ideology it will play a big role in the spread of symbols that will find their way into the religions of the new sensibility. I wouldn't be totally surprised to see a religious sensibility latch on to a mass media series past, present, or future. I know several people who have taken alot of their... lets just say spirituality from a Media series. Myself I grew up with moral axioms from Star Trek: The Next Generation, though over the years about a third have been abandoned, and a third made derivative to other values. Heck, alot of the thinking that I was going through when I became aware of peak oil and started thinking on what that meant for my life was heavily influenced by a childrens cartoon, Avatar the Last Air Bender. And with even slightly less fanciful fair it is easy to see some old plots find their way in to having happened in mythological time.

Well, something like that happening is probably a long shot, but I think that the fact that our culture is so connected in such very complicated and multi layered ways makes is especially hard to guess our a signal from the static. The idea of a media series as religious seed means to me that there could be some pretty weird black swan and odd duck religions getting there shots during the process.

Unpredictable as it is which black swan will lay the golden tradition, I look forward to more thoughts on how to distinguish Black Swans from Red Herrings.

11/27/13, 11:12 PM

Renaissance Man said...
If anyone were to formalize the Religion of Progress, one of the leading apostles, the equivalent to Thomas Aquinas, would have to be John F Kennedy, whose inspiring "To The Moon" speech at Rice Stadium ( still manages to stir my chest and tingles my spine, despite the fact that, 50 years on, I know with absolute certainty of experience how most of the assumptions and declarations in that speech are as (un)true as the transubstantiation of the bread and wine.
Yet it still stirs my sense of adventure.
Tom Hanks' dramatic mini-series "From the Earth to the Moon' is a well-done explication of the entire space program, capturing the sense of optimism, the drive, the technophilia, and the huge complexity of the entire undertaking. Yet it also highlighted the social tensions and changing times and ultimately the self-absorption of the bored citizens whose leaders eventually abandoned a project that required a huge percentage of the industrial resources of the most technologically advanced nation on earth, swimming in fossil-energy, to create the machines that went only as far as the nearest celestial body. Now they can no longer even afford to go into near-earth orbit.
As we are to have a new religion for a new time, it might well become the Catholic Church, now that it is led by a man who has put the environment (biophilia) at the top of his agenda and seems to be turning the focus of the church from quality of afterlife and towards quality of life. However, as almost all the neopagans that I know are all rather poor and scraping to get by and more focused on the spiritual than the material, so it still might be a good candidate, pop culture and your experience at various festivals notwithstanding.
But the new religion and the changing religious sensibilty also needs inspiring words, that can keep people spiritually buoyed and motivated to carry on through the coming years of material hardship. Something more along the lines of Winston Churchill and his "Blood, Toil, Tears, & Sweat" speech ( His view was in months and years, of course, but his sentiment was not 'we are going to the stars because we choose to for the adventure because it is our destiny, &c.' but rather 'we face hard times and it will be tough and we will have a difficult struggle, but ultimately, because we have grit and determination and will and faith, we shall survive and eventually we will recover and become prosperous again.' Not so much the depressing bitterness of Hesiod. I suspect that was the genesis of biophobia and the shift to a religious sensibility that was all about leaving this harsh, brutal Earth for a glorious future in the heavens. Just as actually going to that stark, lifeless landscape probably has much to do with the popular awakening of a new sensibility, as exemplified in "Gravity" that life is down here and it is good. (As you have probably not seen it, the final scene has a nearly naked Sandra Bullock, devoid of all technological gadgets and dripping wet from her underwater escape, walking on a beach into a tropical paradise. The symbolism is almost painfully obvious.)

11/27/13, 11:18 PM

BeaverPuppet said...
Like BrightSpark, I also notice how the emergence of Pope Francis dovetails with your post. Francis is really focusing the church on the plight of the poor. Also, the Catholic Church is supposedly loaded, so they've got an edge there. As a Catholic, I'm fine if it winds up winning out. I love the moral teachings of Jesus and like the idea of a heaven. It provides hope when your life on earth stinks.

On the other hand, I definitely feel the strong spiritual connection to nature and the cosmos that are core to the Druid teachings, and there's nothing at all about that in the Bible. Because of this lack of nature veneration in the Bible, I've been unable to come up with a way to merge Christianity with Druidism in my mind without cognitive dissonance.

I live in a suburb where man has replaced nature with artifice at every opportunity. Even the nature is fake, as this place is really a desert but has been irrigated to appear as something else. I spend much of my days working in a grey cubicle, totally isolated from nature. This makes it hard to experience the 2nd religiosity in my daily life. However, the teachings of Jesus I use everyday, and when I'm down the hope of a better life in the hereafter brings comfort.

Great post again, thanks.

11/27/13, 11:46 PM

Chris Travers said...
Regarding the religion of progress, I may have recommended it before but I highly recommend Robbie Davis-Floyd's "Birth as an American Rite of Passage." While the book is a feminist critique on modern medicine, it places the religion of progress front and center.

Well, more specifically it isn't "progress" but rather something she calls "technocracy" (borrowing the label from Peter Reynolds' "Stealing Fire: Atomic Bomb as Symbolic Body." (Ok, I read too much...)

The book is remarkably clear and insightful, and full of data. While I don't agree with some discussions of gender in it (based on other works and arguments too lengthy to mention here), the book will make you think and change the way you look at the relationship between politics and technological progress.

11/28/13, 12:49 AM

Shakya Indrajala said...
"In an age of decline, religious institutions that have heavy financial commitments usually end up in deep trouble..."

This is as much true now as it was in the past. I actually did a bit of research into why Buddhism in India suddenly crashed in the 3rd century. The archaeological record actually demonstrates this as do the texts.

In a nutshell, it was a capital intensive institution in India tied in heavily with merchant interests. What happened in the 3rd century? Rome's economy was failing, the Han Dynasty collapsed and the Parthians were overthrown. The international trade based economy of India suddenly halted and Buddhism fell apart at the seams.

I wrote about this if you're interested:

As a modern day Buddhism monk, I'm increasingly concerned with the capital intensive nature of Buddhist operations. As you say, in the west they tend to cater to wealthy middle class types where retreats can easily cost $700 or more. Tibetan Buddhism here in Nepal and India build castles in the sky with money from Singapore and Hong Kong.

Looking back at history, I see how the Chan school survived the end of the Tang and even thrived, probably largely due to them being self-sufficient farmers not relying on state or aristocratic support. Tibetan lamas in the past also often integrated themselves into village communities and were basically agrarian peoples themselves with religious functions.

In the future I think Buddhist traditions will have to look seriously at both models. Depending on rich patrons is a bad idea given the coming years.

11/28/13, 2:06 AM

Jeff Gill said...
From the Evangelical Christian corner. The changing sensibility is noticeable here and there with Peter Rollins' popularisation of radical theology, Rob Bell's pop Christianity insistence that eternal life is about now, N.T. Wright's academic work on a future that is about earth not heaven, and even Rick Warren's talk about Christians' wider social responsibilities.

Perhaps more telling is how shouty the evangelicals like Mark Driscoll who worship an angry god who is itching to torch the planet are getting. I doubt they realise how scared and threatened they sound.

11/28/13, 3:54 AM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
The Society of Friends (which I belong to) has several attributes which may appeal to many during the Long Descent.

Some congregations follow the Old services - people gathered around in a circle, talking about what it means to live a Christian life. We meet upstairs on Sunday afternoons in a Methodist church. Others have pastors and meeting houses.

Quakers have an honorable history and a current mission. Plainness, which is expanding beyond clothing to both lifestyle and social interactions (seeing all people as brothers and sisters, rejecting social strata) may have greater appeal in the future. OTOH, it is a challenging religion that calls for much.

11/28/13, 5:27 AM

luna said...
I think "Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth" is one of my favourite books of yours. My impression was that it was intended as an antidote to "The Secret", and designed to appeal to the same target audience?

Regarding the longing for connection, I wonder if that is part of the emotional appeal of the whole "peak oil and the end of industrial civilisation" concept. That industrial civilisation is seen as the cause of the "disconnect", therefore its end would bring about spiritual fulfilment and sense of belonging.

That this scenario might not necessarily have that result, and might not be a bed of roses, is something that this blog has helped me see. However the appeal is still there for me.

I wonder, given that people tend to believe what they want to believe, that most "peak-oil aware" folks are driven by the same feelings. And that the desire for a swift collapse is as much a sense of "bring it on!", and not just "apocalypse as the flip side of progress"?

11/28/13, 5:55 AM

James Yamano said...
Hello Mr. Greer,

Regarding the future of religion in North America, I am curious of the role that religious syncretism may play in the societies of the future. Speaking from personal experience, I never found any conflict in simultaneously practicing Shinto, Buddhism, and Wicca. Is it possible that religions that can co-exist with multiple faiths will have a significant place in the future of America?

11/28/13, 6:05 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
JMG, I am and probably will remain an atheist for the rest of my life, but "Druid" is something that sounds cool to me. :)

But like I mendioned before, I'm not an atheist in the current evengelical sense, at least not anymore. I felt a widening distance towards the dominating religion of my country, from reasons varying from rejecting the notion of a "dictator in the sky", to the Orthodox church's recent obsession with building giant cathedrals everywere and not least, the fact that many of their more devout believers are quick to denounce the theory of evolution without even bothering to study what it actually implies.

There's a lot to say about what could take te lead in this Second Religiosity here and elsewhere. I noticed someone mentioning Islam here in the comments, and I can confirm from watching documentaries about the US prison system (many inmates converting to Islam) and listening to talented American hip hop artists (also many converted to Islam), that it does appear to have a considerably strong presence in the culture of the streets over there.

11/28/13, 6:25 AM

Rita Narayanan said...
I just heard a talk given by a highly respected,very well educated in the worldy and Hindu sense intellectual...tell young men & women about the tremendous potential for the future including space travel.He spoke about resorts, and holidays that they will be able to take like the normal vacation.

It was one of those times when I wondered whether i was going bonkers :)

this person is very much a part of the international interfaith and environmental talk circle.Very spiritually inclined.

11/28/13, 7:13 AM

Richard Larson said...
The future of religion is hard to discern, but it makes sense the odds are heavliy against those now dependant on industrial society.

There is one constant that could put a religion into the fore front and exsisting intil the end of human time; that is a religion that places the value of the forest ecology above all else.

11/28/13, 7:14 AM

Raymond Duckling said...
Beaver puppet>

Yeah, I know. But remember that life opens up ways where there were none...

Sometimes I feel the same way, and this song comes to mind. It makes me feel better, for some reason.

Like one that rides on the back
of a dark, gloomy mare,
through the city I wander.
Do not ask where I'm going!
I may look for an encounter
that lights up my day,
and I find nothing but doors
that deny what's hidden behind.

Chimneys release
their vomit of smoke
towards a sky every day
taller and further away.
Through the yellow walls
there's juice spread,
of that fruit of blood
grown out of the asphalt.

The fields should be green by now,
is it spring already?
In front of my gaze
crosses an endless train.
The neighborhood I dwell at
is no meadow for sure,
barren landscape
of anthennas and cables.

I live at number 7, Melancholy St.
I have wished for years
to move to Happiness' hood.
But every time I try,
the tram's already gone.
I sit by the stairway
to whistle my melody.

Like one who sails on board
of a driven-insane ship,
which comes from the night
and heads straight to nowhere.
That's how my feet walk down
the slope of oblivion,
so tired of so much walking
and not being able to find you.

Then I go back home
and light up a smoke.
I sort out my papers,
solve a crossword puzzle.
I get fed up with the shadows
that live down the corridor,
and hug tightly to the absence
that you've left in my bed.

I live at number 7, Melancoly St...

11/28/13, 7:22 AM

Alchemyguy said...
Justin, I'd second the recommendation of "Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth" as a good starter. JMG has given some good hints in this post, his response to you and in previous posts that would lead you to quality initiaic traditions. Once one is thinking and looking with the right mindset, mystery traditions start falling out of the woodwork, always there but invisible without the right perspective.

11/28/13, 7:35 AM

DaShui said...
I vote that the new religion to have a heavy martial component.
Saint Constantine wasn't no wus.
South of the border there are a lot of martial religions percolating :
Knights Templar
Santa Muerte
La Familia
So everybody gird your loins, and grab your sword!

11/28/13, 7:36 AM

latheChuck said...
Here's a report from the trenches of conventional, liberal, Protestantism. Our small congregation, faced with an aging building literally falling down in places on our heads, borrowed money to correct the problems and improve the design. That started, oh, about 14 years ago, when everyone was getting rich on the Tech Bubble. Since then, some of our generous, middle-class members have wandered away, relocated, or died; no one feels quite so prosperous, and (as readers of TADR know) the future is not so bright. Now, we have an annual budget of about $200,000, and an annual deficit of about $50,000.

This was enabled by a massive bequest, which is now nearly exhausted, and then What Will We Do? "The Rationalists" said that we could cut the Pastor's salary in half (accepting half-time service) and make a few other painful cuts, and balance next year's expenses with last year's income. "The Faithful" said that to cut back was simply a surrender to extinction, and that new initiatives for fund raising could support Business As Usual (as long as we all Do Our Part).

The Rationalists point out that many of the same plans and efforts had been enthusiastically announced at the start of the prior fiscal year, when disaster was yet far off. The Faithful respond that "this year, we are Serious, and more capable." (This is true, but whether or not it is enough remains to be seen.)

As for me, I turned over some idle sod near a south-facing wall of the church building a year ago, and planted a thriving garden of herbs and vegetables last Spring. It is of no economic significance. However, if someone living in an urban apartment needs to put their hands into the Earth to restore their Soul, this is a place where they can do that.

11/28/13, 7:54 AM

Raymond Duckling said...

I have wanted for long to ask your opinion on this question. Given the context of today post, I think the timing is good now.

I am thinking that the cult of Santa Muerte has strong possibilities, given your own criteria of fitness.

I am not a cultist myself, and have minimal awareness of it. However there is a very powerful fairy tale from my childhood that always comes to mind: The grandson of Death.

There was a farmer, looking for a godfather for his newborn son. The devil comes, but is dismissed on the grounds that whatever favor he gives, will eventually result in eternal damnation. Jesus also comes, but is also dismissed on the grounds of not doing anything to lighten the burdens of the people.

Then Death herself shows up, and the farmer accepts her as godmother since she is the fairest of all: she does not discriminate anyone and levels down the rich and the powerful.

Under Death's wing, the boy grows to become a man and a most respected medical doctor. She gives him the secrets to cure every illness, but he must abide by refusing to treat those that are already marked to die.

The young doctor of course does not abide, and makes his name by saving the lifes of the king first, and then his daughter, whose hand is given as a reward. Life is sweet, nothing could go wrong.

Except Death shows up again and takes the doctor to a field with multiple candles of varying lengths. She explains every human being gets granted a candle at birth, and when it is consumed, it's time to die.

She further explains that by his healing of people whose candle is no more, she has been forced to cut off a piece of his own candle to give to the others. A small piece for the old king, but a very sizable piece for the princess. Then she shows him his candle, barely a tiny, flickering light about to fade away.

The young doctor gets to live enough to realize that by pursuing his dreams of fame and fortune and being willing to toy with powers beyond his comprehension, he is going to die before having a chance to reap his ill-gotten reward. Then he dies of a hearth stroke.

On the other hand, Death ends up broken hearted from the premature demise of her child, and pledges never to be a godmother again.

11/28/13, 8:02 AM

YZSinthe510 said...
Been reading for a year or so, always enjoy the posts.

This may be a bit obscure, but the "religion" of the future may well be based on the spiritual and organizational principles found in 12 step groups. These are self organizing, have a very open door, are dedicated to both poverty and self support. In addition they offer hope to the most hopeless and manifest daily what I can only describe as miracles of human redemption by connecting with a living spirituality. I have often sat in a church basement drinking bad coffee and talking about a redemptive god and wondering if this is how Christians felt 60 years after Christ.

Anyhow, probably not a popular sentiment, but you can bank on aa meetings happening come what may for the industrial world.

Wishing you all a great thanksgiving and new year.


11/28/13, 8:05 AM

between-the-lines said...
I feel that the religion most follow today is that of the Self and that although the outward observances will change as rapidly as our surroundings are currently changing, the essential delusions and preoccupations that people and society labour under will stay the same. Unfortunately.

Most are asleep, are content to remain so, and will resist any and all attempts to awaken them.

11/28/13, 8:24 AM

Joseph Nemeth said...
Of course, this discussion group is on the fringe, taking a very abstract (and reflective) look at the end of an age. There's an element of passion involved in the widespread acceptance of a new religion, a non-rational immersion into emotion. We're all approaching this as post-Platonic philosophers watching the classical Pagan world lose steam.

I don't see any proselytes, here. Well, at least not for anything new. There's been a fair showing of proselytes for the old, and they're not making a lot of converts. :-)

There's another aspect to this.

In the late third century, Christianity was a minority religion, accounting for perhaps five percent of the Roman population from what I understand, mostly among the slave and poverty classes. By the end of the fourth century, Christianity was predominant in Rome, and the Christians were beginning to tear down the Pagan temples and smash the religious iconography.

What made for the huge and sudden swell in Christian popularity was apparently the overt government sponsorship that began under Constantine, and escalated with later emperors. This sponsorship included, among other things, tax and legal advantages conferred by conversion to the new faith.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that the US Government decided to throw out the Bill of Rights entirely -- it's already done a fair job of that, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch -- and decided to underwrite… oh, pick any religion. Baha'i, say. Let's say that it increased the tax rate to 30% at the lowest tax bracket, and 90% at the highest bracket, UNLESS you could demonstrate "good standing" as a member of the Congregation of the Prophet Baha'u'llah, in which case you'd get the current tax rates.

Assuming that the government survived the attempt, how long would it take for all the good Christians of the United States to convert? I'm guessing Bahaism would become a majority religion within a couple of years, and would drive every other religion underground within a generation. Assuming a slow government collapse over a few centuries, even the underground churches would die out, leaving Baha'i the clear successor to Christianity.

A similar thing happened in the Soviet Union. Both Communism and Atheism were religions imposed by the state, and everyone became both Communist and Atheist. It didn't take long.

There are a lot of flaws in both Communism and in Atheism as religions -- they're civil religions, among other things -- and the SU did not collapse slowly over the course of centuries. So from what I understand, traditional religions simply went underground in the Soviet Union and enjoyed considerable covert popularity, and when the government collapsed, they came back out of hiding. We might imagine the same would have happened to classical Paganism had the Roman government collapsed completely in the late fourth century.

I don't know how overt government support of religion worked in the other historical patterns you've cited. It's certainly beneficial to the spread of a religion. Does it seem to be necessary?

11/28/13, 8:58 AM

ando said...
JMG wrote:

"Self-unfoldment through disciplines of realization, to borrow a crisp definition from what was once a widely read book on the subject, involves a great deal of hard and unromantic work on the self. For those of us who are called to it, there’s nothing more rewarding—but not that many people are called to it."

Superb paragraph, JMG. I shall not celebrate genocide or consumerism, but I am grateful to have been called and to own Hall's book.



11/28/13, 9:22 AM

ridgedruid said...
JMG - Your description of "modern seekers" is a gift to be relished this brisk Thanksgiving morning. You have absolutely nailed many of the material and metaphysical aspects of the path that many of us
are trying to find. For the past five years I too have followed an initiatory Druid path (OBOD), and when people ask me what I believe in, or hope to learn, I really don't have an answer. Not because I don't know these things, but because I haven't been able to explain them in a way that makes sense to most people. Now I may tell them "read this,", it's the best general description I've found.

I would add to your observation that such a path "involves a great deal of hard and unromantic work on the self," that there is no guarantee that you will attain anything more than a working knowledge of the principles of your particular path. Whether you are able to internalize these principles and apply them in a way that bridges the gap between a spiritual life and the wasteland that is modern popular culture, and make your life more meaningful and rich, is up to you. My personal choice is that it is better to be a pilgrim on the road to somewhere actively seeking something than it is to just sit and watch the whole thing unravel, as it surely will.

11/28/13, 9:26 AM

k-dog said...
Part one of two of a long comment.

It is sad that sometimes we only become aware of the great ones when they pass on. Such is the case with Doris Lessing and myself. Doris Lessing died November 17th the age of 94. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times and winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature I feel a tinge of embarrassment that I did not know of her sooner. But dwelling with this emotion is foolish. Long gone are the times when one can know all the great ones or read their works. The world is a big place. I feel the germ of an essay by itself with this observation but right now that would be a diversion.

Finally knowing of Doris I learned she had given the 1985 CBC Massey Lecture series, "Prisons We Choose to Live Inside". I've downloaded these lectures and am now in the process of listening to them.

In the third lecture Doris mentions a researcher at a certain university who with brainwashing techniques brags they are able to take a true believer; say a flatlander and in succession turn this true believer over a period of days into: A Seventh Day Adventist, a Stalinist Communist, a Liberal, a Feminist, a Hard Line Atheist and then restore the true believer to their original beliefs.

It is interesting to contemplate which vegetable will rise to the top of the boiling cauldron of social angst as the result of intentional and unintentional manipulations. Mass media will play a role in injecting competing memes and state sponsored memes will be favored as the mysterious 'powers that be' push their preferred versions on an unsuspecting public. A new state sponsored religiosity may bubble to the top of the pot and dominate in the end or a backlash could happen and any state sponsored religiosity pushed on the public could be rejected, perhaps violently.

The public yearns for community and connection because they don't have it. Modern life has isolated everyone into bubbles of individual experience where social connections have degenerated into tenuous and impersonal electronic links. Those who control these links are in a unique position by which they can attempt to inject a new religiosity of their choice. They may be successful or they may not. I'm not trying to answer that question. I am only suggesting the possibility that we should pay attention to what is being pushed at us and why.

In the movie Gravity you say: "The entire plot of the film centers on Sandra Bullock’s struggle to escape from the lifeless and lethal vacuum of space and find a way back to the one place in the solar system where human beings actually belong."

At the end of the movie Sandra Bullock lands in a lake which I've learned was Lake Powell, Arizona (Wikipedia) but the movie itself shows greenery on the beach and in the movie the landscape surrounding the lake looked verdant. Lake Powell itself is surrounded by desert. I think special effects were at work and in the next paragraph I'm going to suggest a sinister interpretation of the movie. I don't claim to be right and if my interpretation has any merit and I don't claim it was intentionally done. I shall explain, but first the interpretation.

Space debris that results from a Russian missile destroying a defunct satellite produces a chain reaction of destruction that results in a storm of debris that periodically 'terrorizes' a space station where an American crew is at work. Using the fruits of technology Sandra Bullock escapes the destroyed space station and eventually is able to return to Earth. Technology saves Sandra and does so by conquering overwhelming odds. Physical laws are stretched and the true properties of space are ignored as needed so that technology can triumph in the end as it slays all dragons. The landing back on a warm and nurturing mother earth teaming with life is arrival in a promised land as if Sandra were a modern Moses leading her children out of a bleak and harsh wilderness using not tablets of stone but using technology.

11/28/13, 9:29 AM

k-dog said...
Part two of two of a long comment.

Technology is pushed hard as an answer to all problems and modern technology is controlled by corporations as is almost everything in modern life. A couple of years ago thorium reactors were pushed to mute the panic of Fukushima. Currently a ridiculous myth of Space Based Power Stations is being pushed to bolster the myth of 'Energy Independence'. The public is being lulled into a don't worry be happy attitude to obvious oil price rise. Don't worry everything will be all right. We have technology! That is the lie being pushed.

The contemporary cult of progress has prophets but these prophets are not standing before crowds screaming out their truth. The prophets of the cult of progress work deviously the behind the scenes and with money and power push an agenda of poison upon us.

Using your search engine of choice look for 'Space Based Power Stations'. Right now you will find many articles about them and I wonder how such a cluster of interest in the subject has suddenly been foisted upon us. Is it a spontaneous or planned phenomena. I think the question is worth asking. I'd prefer my future religiosity not be chosen for me by someone else.

11/28/13, 9:30 AM

My donkey said...
JMG, have you recently looked into the idea of syndicating your essays for publication in newspapers?

I think the general public sorely needs to read your weekly reports. However, Trippticket made a good point a while back: they're too long for most of today's "consumers" who have the attention span of a nervous squirrel. Shortening your usual essay into something that's pithy, punchy, and practical should do the trick. For example, your January 2013 essay here:
could be trimmed down to just the list of 7 practical suggestions for those "who are interested in being part of the solution"
...and you could add the point you made just a week earlier (turn your thermostat down 3 degrees) to provide an answer to all the folks who are forever whining "But what can *I* do?"

Your articles would reach a larger audience and would have a correspondingly greater influence on society if they appeared as weekly columns in newspapers & magazines. I think it's an idea that the "mainstream media" is ready for.

11/28/13, 10:07 AM

onething said...
Something I have been not only hoping for but actually expecting with confidence is a scientific opening of knowledge about the subtle realities, i.e., spirituality. And if it is true that today's scientific hard skepticism is a fad, so much the better. Many people make peace with the idea of nonoverlapping magisteria, but that is a stopgap measure. It's my understanding that reality is all of a piece - if there is spirituality then it has mechanism. If something exists so that we can in any way see an affect, then it in some sense is actually material.

In my opinion, if we would like to see a more nature loving, wholistic worldview emerge, then the above hoped for confluence of science with spirituality will certainly help, as we can dispense with the idea that our material existence and the spiritual things we long for are in different universes.

I am not rooting for Christianity, but it is not as devoid of nature respect as some say. The psalms have beautiful and poetic praises of nature, and old and new testaments use many nature metaphors that include the idea that nature and the animals participate in "being." The idea that animals do not have souls is actually rather new, and may be a result of the mechanistic revolution in science with the likes of Newton and Descartes.

11/28/13, 10:24 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Mister R., the notion of mass ascension is tempting for so many people precisely because it implies that you don't have to do the work yourself. That is to say, it's exactly the same logic that leads people to insist that there's some other way to evade the hard work of dealing with the age before us!

Chris, it's entirely possible that there will be a lot of religious diversity in the years ahead, whether that's distributed by regions or more generally. Still, if historical parallels are anything to go by, there'll also be a lot of integration -- that is, currently disparate religious traditions will find themselves sharing buildings, worshippers, ideas, and eventually either fusing or becoming parts of a larger religious system.

Ken, thank you!

Ray, a lot depends on how long modern mass media retains its hold on the collective imagination. It may be more brittle than most people expect. More on this as we proceed!

Renaissance, no argument there. Those are among the reasons that I think the game is way too early to call.

Beaver, you might have a look at some of the recent writings on an ecocentric Christianity -- one of the other commenters here has cited some authors. They apparently do a good job of finding justifications for a green spirituality within the Christian tradition.

Chris, thanks for the recommendation. I'll add it to the list of things to get to.

Shakya, that's utterly fascinating! Can you recommend a source or two on the economic roots of the Buddhist decline in 3rd century CE India? I'd like to include that in the footnotes when this series becomes a book.

Jeff, thanks for the references -- those will also be most useful. I'd noticed the increasingly shrill tone coming from the evangelical end of the apocalypse lobby, too.

Alan, I didn't realize you were a Friend as well as a friend! You've got company here -- sometimes I wonder if this blog has enough Quaker readers to hold a meeting. ;-) All jokes aside, yes, the Quaker tradition has already shown its capacity to weather rough times and persecution -- and the fact that a religion is challenging is actually a strength, not a weakness. Easy religions only flourish in easy times.

Luna, pretty much, yes. I field letters and emails fairly often from people who think The Secret is representative of the mystery schools, and it's very nearly the antithesis of what the initiatory orders actually teach -- if they're serious and honest, that is. As for "bring it on," hmm -- you may be right. That's an interesting possibility.

11/28/13, 11:36 AM

John Michael Greer said...
James, it's quite possible -- Buddhism and Shinto flourished jointly through Japan's post-Heian dark age, and that's only one of several examples. (The violent intolerance of the Abrahamic faiths is not shared by most other religious traditions.) If that happens, though, expect the same sort of syncretism that led to Ryobu Shinto back in the day -- the Wiccan Goddess, for example, being equated with Avalokitesvara or what have you.

Ursachi, I'm expecting Islam to be one of the new wave of popular religious movements in the US for the next thirty to forty years; it's got what I call the "shock your Mom" factor -- any really successful American pop religion has to upset and offend the older generation when it first emerges. Whether it lasts beyond that is another matter.

Rita, there's the line between the old and new religious sensibilities. It's possible to be very religious and very spiritual on both sides of that line...but the results are different.

Richard, only in regions where the forest ecosystem is dominant. In grasslands, a grassland-centered religion will do better -- and the Abrahamic faiths are desert religions, and show it.

DaShui, I'd vote for that -- and I'm pleased to note that whatever else happens, we've got a remarkably high number of martial artists in the Druid order I head.

LatheChuck, ouch. Well, I hope the Rationalists get their way before the church runs itself into the ground.

Raymond, that's a beautiful story! Many thanks for sharing it. As for Santissima Muerte, I was visiting Minneapolis a couple of years ago -- teaching a workshop there -- and made time to visit a botanica to pick up some products that are hard to find in a small Appalachian town. Votive supplies for the Pretty Girl were all over the place, and the botanica was obviously doing a steady business in them. So you may be right -- and of course the same culture of necrophilia that makes vampires and zombies so popular in America just now might also feed into that.

YZS, stranger things have happened.

Between, I'm far from sure you're right. It's hard to stay sound asleep when the bed collapses beneath you and lands you in a puddle of cold winter rain.

Joseph, my take on the historical examples is that government patronage is useful but not necessary, and not sufficient -- a religion can receive all sorts of support and still become an empty shell, the way most of the official national churches in Europe have become. (3% of people in Britain, if I recall correctly, bother to attend Anglican services these days.)

Ando, excellent! I was wondering if anybody would catch that reference. It was originally a correspondence course, meant to be worked through a month per chapter -- and well worth the time spent, by the way.

Ridgedruid, exactly. There are no guarantees, just a path leading away from the present mess toward distant hills.

11/28/13, 11:52 AM

John Michael Greer said...
K-dog, I interpret the space based power system hoopla in a somewhat different sense. To my mind, that's just another lullaby, something to soothe the fretful to sleep while the world gets colder and darker around them. The closer we get to really serious crisis, the more extravagant the claims and the more Utopian the rhetoric we can expect to see heaped up around the technological savior du jour. It's all wasted breath, because nobody's actually doing anything to make these things happen -- they're just murmuring "space based power systems" to themselves to soothe their fears as the night closes in.

Donkey, the problem is that I'm not just trying to communicate a list of things to do -- that way lies commodification and cooptation by the consumer economy. I'm trying to communicate a way of thinking. Newspaper syndication won't allow that. That said, I wouldn't turn down a regular column in a quarterly magazine or what have you -- that could work very well, and would be the form in which these reflections would probably see print if the internet hadn't been invented.

Onething, excellent -- it's always good to see somebody learning from history. You're quite right; in medieval times, plants were considered to have one soul, animals two, and humans three -- the vegetative soul which produced life and growth, the animal soul which produced perception and desire, and the rational soul which produced thought and self-consciousness. The early scientists who insisted that plants and animals have no soul at all were making a radical break from the past, and not a wise one, either.

11/28/13, 12:02 PM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

American Neopaganism came to popular attention in the late 1970s as you say. However, the groups that generated the movement were publicly active at least as early as the mid to late 1960s.

An initiatory witchcraft tradition called the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD for short) began leading public pagan rituals in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s. When I first encountered the NROOGD in 1973, their open sabbats were always attended by more than one hundred people. These sabbats were a meeting place between seekers and leaders of the whole local pagan community. Other groups active in that community in the mid-Seventies included the Anderson Feri Craft tradition, Dianic witches, the Reformed Druids of North America, the Church of All Worlds, a panpagan group called Nemeton, the OTO and a few heathens. A national witchcraft organization, The Covenant of the Goddess was founded in the SFBA in 1975.

This community, consisting of a few hundred people, was active, collegial, creative and influential within the wider movement; I'm told that Ronald Hutton has compared it to Periclean Athens. It was a heady experience for me as a young woman to be part of it.

The late Sixties and early 1970s were also the nascent period for the Women's Spirituality Movement, an outgrowth of Second Wave Feminism that draws from and overlaps with popular neopaganism. A community of feminists in Wolf Creek, Oregon were holding public rituals circa 1972 and published the quarterly Womanspirit from 1974 to 1983.

There were other publicly active neopagan groups from the mid 19760s onward in Southern California, New York and New England. No comprehensive history of American Neopaganism in the immediate postwar decades has yet been published. Aidan Kelly has a manuscript in the works that focuses on witches.

11/28/13, 12:05 PM

Glenn said...
Raymond Duckling said...

"there is a very powerful fairy tale from my childhood that always comes to mind: The grandson of Death."

I heard an almost identical story called "The Tinker of Tamloch" by the side of a campfire in the Canadian Rockies 42 years ago. The Tinker, not his son, remained the protagonist. And in the end, death had to turn him into a salmon in the river Liffey, because neither heaven nor hell would have him. It's stuck with me though, and I've re-told it a few times. It's best heard by an open fire under the stars though, preferably far from any mechanical noise and haste.


Marrowstone Island

11/28/13, 1:52 PM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
For me, it flows logically.

Humanity is involved with a number of exponential curves - population, resource use, environmental degradation, climate change.

A fundamental truism is that exponential expansion cannot continue indefinitely in a finite world. All such trends must ultimately end - the question is what next.

11/28/13, 2:05 PM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
My focus, for a number of decades, is on "buffering" the transition to some degree and "making things just a little bit better than they would otherwise be".

I see two extremes, with the future reality likely to be between those extremes.

One extreme is a fairly smooth transition from exponential change towards a more or less steady state, likely with a modest decline.

The other extreme is catastrophic collapse.

11/28/13, 2:15 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
I agree it's far too soon to foresee the roots of the coming second religiosity with any clarity, but I will venture a broad-brush prediction anyway.

A the world grows colder and darker, and life more precarious, more and more people will look for miracles (or, what is much the same, magic). Any religion that can actually work miracles or do effective magic (or at least can appear to do so) will have a huge advantage over religions that cannot, or do not, or will not work miracles (or magic).

One of the most useful ancient writers for understanding how and why Christianity caught on was a Pagan philosopher named Celsus, who seems to have lived in the 2nd century CE. His book against Christianity has survived only as brief extracts in a refutation penned an early Christian writer named Origen. Even in this form, it is clear that in Celsus' time, outsiders saw Christianity as a society run by miracle-workers (or magicians) who could lighten (or seem to lighten) the suffering and burden of the unwashed masses, and thereby win real power.

And precisely this was why, in Celsus' view, no self-respecting, educated, responsible person should ever become a Christian.

Either there was no such thing as miracles (or effective magic spells), and then Christianity was all just a hoax exploiting the superstitious beliefs of the masses; or, if some people actually could work miracles (or do magic and get results), they were a menace to the state and thus should be treated as criminals.

I think that whatever underlies our own coming second religiosity will be something that offers (or seems to offer) the desperate masses either effective magic or genuine miracle. As I survey the current religious landscape, the foremost contenders now seem to me to be such things as Hoodoo, the cult of Santissima Muerte, religions like Santeria and Vodou, and possibly some of the Pentecostal Churches.

This, obviously, shuts out everyone who places his or her faith in rationalism, science, technology, and so forth. It also shuts out anyone who thinks that such a thing as, say, Hoodoo, is beneath his dignity or notice, or is too heavily invested in the current intellectual order of our society.

And to those readers of the blog who firmly maintain that miracles cannot happen, and magic cannot work, except by deliberate fraud, I say, it's really not at all that simple. But discussing that right now would make this comment too long.

11/28/13, 2:19 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Deborah, of course -- that's the "formative period of varying length" I mentioned in the post. The thing I'd point out is that there were dozens of newborn spiritual movements of various kinds emerging around that same time,and many of them were at the center of equally lively, equally localized scenes. A few of them went on to make the big time, as Neopaganism did, and became significant forces in pop culture. The vast majority didn't. It's the pop-culture career of religious movements that I was talking about -- and that, again, is what I see ending for Neopaganism (as well as fundamentalism, the New Age, and evangelical atheism) just now.

Alan, good. At this stage in the game, I see the smooth transition and the sudden cataclysm as the kind of abstract endpoints that bracket a spectrum, not as realistic possibilities. The name of the spectrum is "Decline and Fall;" the question at this point is exactly where along that spectrum the current example will take place in any one location -- for it'll vary, of course, from place to place.

11/28/13, 2:25 PM

Unknown said...
One of my reasons for my atheism is that the various forms of mysticism offer me no way back to their own roots.

I have the strong feeling that all religions are based in some form of apparently, or actually, effective practise that enables the practitioner to survive in an inscrutable, unpredictable and often hostile world.

At some point those often sensible practises to do with food production, mnemonic practise to retain skills and processes in pre-literate societies became systematised, then encoded and finally captured by those who had converged into being the retainers of that knowledge.

Then, with the usual competition among humans, sects, schisms and divagations ensued. For example, Judaism giving rise to Christianity, Islam, Bahai and then those further dividing; with each step moving further and further away from the underlying connection with reality that engendered them.

The point being that, as the physical conditions under which we will have to survive undergo an increasingly rapid and remorseless transition to whatever is next, pretty much all of the existing religions will find themselves too disconnected from the reality to be of any value.

The first step will be that they will, and can already be seen to become, ever more embedded in the existing model, trying desperately to restore some status quo ante in which their relevance and authority functioned at some level. There will be a massive increase in religiosity for sure, but it will be backwards-looking and, for many, actually suicidal because it will provide no useful tools for feeding, housing and clothing its adherents.

Any new religion will have to start again with hard, practical, effective observation, experimetnal practise and, inevitably, a Darwinian sifting of the successful guess/calculation/inspiration from the unsuccessful.

And then the process of encoding, abstraction and ritualisation can begin again.

None of us will live to see that.

11/28/13, 2:43 PM

Phil Harris said...
Across the pond.

I am yet to be persuaded that we have experienced an age of reason. What I think I see is ad hoc creation of mass societies that not surprisingly have following the old patterns of imperialism; that is, followed patterns not uncommon during previous examples of expansion with their accompanying pressure on ‘carrying capacity’ and iterative competition for economic resources. In this case though, western imperialism has not then led to periods of extended stability or stasis; in fact the reverse, and has no prospect of doing so.

These mass societies have acquired a unique global reach and triggered even bigger collateral expansions, and developed possibly unique characteristics. In particular I see the massive expansion of what has been called “print-capitalism” morphing recently into electronic forms inhabiting our personal and collective nervous systems. This is the culture of persuaded shared imaginations – an ‘age of persuasion’ rather than reason, perhaps culminating in our present crescendo? A commentator I respect has said privately; “humanity as hive”.

I wonder, however, if the ‘pseudo-faith’ we think of as Progress will die so swiftly everywhere, even when cut-off from its fuel source? I can see it linger as a cut-down or re-interpreted credo for a good while yet in significant parts of the globe, and perhaps become incorporated in any ‘new’ widely distributed religious sensibility. These new sensibilities tend to hark back to lost antecedents?

Differently, I can imagine the attractions of rational thought continuing to have wide appeal across the globe as a means of rescuing sensibility from the suffocating limitations of dogmas, or of village life, much as even now it can be a relief in suburbia. I think of the continuing appeal across millennia and many cultures of Buddhism, with its often broader more equable place in collective imaginations –and a personal haven in our individual minds – not carrying the baggage of theisms. Once one knows these places are there, they are not so easily forgotten.

Who can know, as you rightly point out, where the tides of sensibility will wash up, but my guess FWIW is that the USA will not be the hub for any major successor sensibility, if the world does spring a major religion inheriting the aftermath of explosive industrialisation. Mine are wild guesses as to where the retreat could take us, as we spill out from the hive we are currently dreaming. I wonder what gifts from the wide-world might re-settle America? I have been occasionally visited at night by dreams that were something more than wishful thinking and reflected brief perceptions of paradise that had escaped my conscious daytime mind: and one of them was of America – though it had nothing to do with human material achievement or failure.

Thanksgiving is not a bad idea!


11/28/13, 2:51 PM

DeAnander said...
Speaking of "a death to witness" -- my heartfelt book recommendation for November is MacKinnon's "The Once and Future World." The final chapter says pretty much everything I myself think and feel about spirituality... anyway, a good read. An enlarging, at times sorrowful, humbling yet not despairing view of the ongoing story of life on earth and our (human) part in it.

11/28/13, 3:03 PM

My donkey said...
I think the people you describe as seeking
"wholeness within a greater whole, a sense of connection and community that embraces not only other people but the entire universe around them..."
certainly include some of the readers of this blog, but the masses that I interact with every day are not seeking this. All they apparently want -- day after day -- is to get through the day and then either relax or have fun.

Many of the people I deal with (in my job and within my very large extended family and small circle of friends) are not really interested in world events, don't care about politics or organized religion, are not active participants in their community, have very limited knowledge of the arts or sciences, know virtually nothing about their natural environment or local species, and are so unconcerned about either the past or the future that it's not even worth thinking about, let alone discussing.

Here's what these folks care about:

1. working at some job for the sake of earning money
2. attending to domestic responsibilities such as spouse, children, pets, shopping, preparing meals, and cleaning/maintaining/repairing/replacing belongings such as house, yard, vehicles, appliances, gadgets etc.
3. entertaining themselves by watching movies or TV, attending concerts or sports events, playing games, telling jokes & humorous anectdotes, or pursuing a hobby that usually involves collecting things
4. keeping "in the loop" with family and friends

That's all. If you try to converse with them on any topic other than their 4 specialties listed above, they either give you a cow-eyed stare or a nervous laugh because they have nothing to say. I'm not talking about a small group of people here; I think these folks represent either the majority or a very large fraction of the public in the developed world.

The many fossil-fueled luxuries of modern living have made them complacent and unconcerned with anything but themselves and their own little world of acquaintenances. I'm afraid this will also make them helpless and practically useless in a low-energy resource-scarce future, but should we just write these people off as the first group to go down when the first big wave hits? If not, how can they be reached?

11/28/13, 7:35 PM

Chris Travers said...
JMG, I think a lot of the integration you speak of (sharing resources and worshippers) is also a necessary consequence of the need to make religion something around which literal belief is somewhat optional (which has been the norm for most religions historically). There will be fewer resources and therefore there will need to be more pooling.

11/28/13, 7:52 PM

Shakya Indrajala said...
"Can you recommend a source or two on the economic roots of the Buddhist decline in 3rd century CE India?"

I learnt about this initially from the following work:

Giovanni Verardi, Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India (New Delhi, India: Manohar, 2011).


"There is little doubt that the closing down of the open society of the Buddhists and the resulting weakening of the religion of Dharma coincides with the fall in international trading activities, and in particular with the much decreased demand for Indian goods from Rome. Kuṣāṇa currency, circulating over a vast territory, had been linked to the Roman currency system. The collapse of the Han dynasty in China (AD 221) contributed to changing the picture in Central Asia. By that time, we observe a change in the Indian landscape, namely, a rapid process of de-urbanisation. It is every archaeologist's experience that even in the case of continuous human occupation, post-Kuṣāṇa levels display much poorer building techniques and reuse of earlier building material. A great number of small and large towns were abandoned in the third century, and in certain areas, as is shown by territorial surveys, the collapse of a whole network of roads and small settlements, which had been kept functioning by Buddhist monasteries, is observable. This process was probably aggravated by the collapse of the trading activity with the West that followed St Cyprian's plague of the years AD 251-66, which is an important component of the 'crisis of the third century' in the Roman Empire." (page 106)

I think Verardi's work would prove quite useful for your project. He explains at length how the agrarian Brahmans had the upper-hand in India against the Buddhists over the centuries largely because, unlike the Buddhists, they didn't rely so much on trade. Village Brahmans continued their traditions regardless of how trade was going, whereas Buddhists were always dependent on commerce to support their capital intensive operations. It also didn't help that Buddhists (and Jains) looked down on farming as a sinful profession (tilling kills beings).

Such was the undoing of Buddhists in India.

11/28/13, 7:59 PM

Bike Trog said...
My hope is the next religiosity will have fewer holidays. If we really need all of them, then we might as well make every Monday a holiday. Then I could remember when libraries and post offices will be closed.

11/28/13, 8:35 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Robert, I'm sure you're familiar with Valerie Flint's The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, which makes the same point from a different angle: the rapid spread of Christianity in Europe during the dark ages, she argues, was driven in part by the fact that Christian monks and priests had a better reputation as wizards than their pagan rivals. My hope, and it's something I'm working on myself right now, is that science can be taken up by religious and magical practitioners as an additional string to their bow, just as wizards in the early Middle Ages -- I'm thinking here of the list of required studies for aspiring wizards in Picatrix -- had to study such nonmagical subjects as agricultural science and economics.

Unknown, I'd like to suggest that if you take a less superficial look at what you've labeled "mysticism" -- a misuse of a good word, by the way -- you may just notice that there's a lot more diversity there than current atheist rhetoric likes to suggest, and that there are indeed some systems that allow fairly direct access to their own practical dimensions. Mind you, you may also be startled to discover that those practical dimensions have at least as much to do with the workings of individual and collective human thinking as with ecology, but I've discussed that at length in an earlier series of posts.

Phil, by "age of reason" I don't mean the utopian fantasy that our age of reason, like other examples of the species, has created around itself; I mean simply a historical period in which the prevailing forms of rationalist philosophy, rather than the older religious beliefs on which they're covertly based, provide the language around which the ordinary realities of power politics and economic inequality arrange themselves. Today's apologists for political and economic injustice present supposedly rational excuses for the status quo, rather than brandishing scripture; that's the difference I'm talking about.

DeAnander, thanks for the recommendation! I've been considering writing a biography of Gaia which will cover the whole lifespan of the planet, from what we know of her birth to what we can anticipate of her death; I haven't read MacKinnon's book but will consider it.

Donkey, you can't save those who refuse to be saved. I wish there was a way to make people listen to the fact that their actions are guaranteeing them and their descendans short and miserable lives in a harsh future, but there doesn't seem to be one. That's the subtext, or one of the subtexts, behind my focus on those people who are willing to listen and make the necessary changes in their own lives.

Chris, that's quite possible. "Belief" is also a much more subtle thing than modern habits of thought suggest; it's quite common for people to doubt something on an intellectual level, and cling to it with all their strength a quarter inch below the reasonable facade.

Shakya, excellent -- many thanks! I'll definitely chase that one down.

Trog, while I'm not usually an advocate of advanced technology, there's a hot new device only five thousand years old that I'd encourage you to check out. It's called a calendar; you hang it on the wall and glance at it each day, and it tells you whether there's a holiday or not. Slick, hmm? And it uses no electricity...

11/28/13, 10:17 PM

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...
I've been thinking about this in the context of Taiwan (where I currently live).

Taiwan's mainstream Buddhist sects are highly reliant on funding. For example, this week I visited the Chung Tai Chan Monastery - it's a great place to learn about Buddhist art history, and it was designed by the same architect responsible for Taipei 101 (the tallest building in Taiwan, and at one time the tallest building in the world), and overall the place costs a fortune. And Foguangshan (another mainstream sect) seems to be trying to be bigger and more expensive than Taiwan's Chan Buddhis (look up the 'Foguangshan Buddha Memorial Center' if you want an example).

In Taiwan, the religion which seems to be on the rise is the Matsu cult (this is partially due to political and social factors). It's estimated that about 1 million pilgrims and 4 million non-pilgrims participate in the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage every year, and Taiwan only has a population of 23 million people. However, the Matsu cult is also very resource intensive - the Matsu worshippers produced a full-length Disney-esque animated film about Lin Moniang (Matsu's mortal form) which there's that nice big statue at Magang (the place where Lin Moniang's dead body washed ashore). This is before we get into the hierarchy of Matsu mother-and-daughter temples, who compete with each other for resources and status.

Christianity has a foothold in Taiwan (about 5% of the population), but it's dependent on foreign funding. The exception would be the aboriginal Christian churches - they get foreign support too, but the aboriginal people have much fewer resources than the Han Taiwanese, so I can imagine some form of Christianity fused with aboriginal traditions surviving in a low-resource situation.

The mainstream Taiwanese religious practice which requires few resources is Earth God worship. Unlike Taiwan's other major deities, there are few big expensive temples dedicated to worshipping him. Earth God worship mostly happens at the zillion small shrines dedicated to him in rural areas - and those shrines can be set up and maintained with few resources.

Of course, a lot of Taiwanese religious worship is centered around home and family - many families have shrines at home honoring deities and ancestors, and while these would probably become much simpler in a low-resource future, I imagine it could continue to work just as well as it did back in the days when most Taiwanese people were poor.

11/28/13, 11:11 PM

Crow Hill said...
Dear John Michael:

Over the years I have regularly joined web forums that seemed promising, just to discover that discussions petered out without ever reaching anywhere. I now realize it must be because there was no captain on board.

Here it’s rather the opposite, I start writing down notes for comments, and by the time I’m ready to post, the ship has sailed on, I find ideas similar to mine already expressed by someone else!

So thank you for being that captain who keeps the ship sailing on the electronic ocean.

11/28/13, 11:56 PM

flute said...
Casamurphy: I can also see how Nichiren Buddhism of SGI or similar varieties can fit in. (Not that I practice it myself, but I know people who do and have been to a number of SGI meetings.)
This type of buddhism does not require any large costs for infrastructure, since people often meet up in each others' homes to chant and discuss.
However, some of the ways SGI is currently organised will not work. First of all, a lot seems to be sponsored by the Japanese branch of SGI, which also runs some highly successful businesses that seem to pay for a lot of the fancy magazines etc.
Also, SGI as it is now is far too intertwined with the civil religion of progress, which is clearly visible in their magazines.
My guess is that there might be some outbreaker organisations from SGI where they keep the useful sides (e.g. chanting meetups) but skip a lot of the fancy magazines etc. I already know of SGI spinoff organisations in both Sweden and Italy.

11/29/13, 2:03 AM

Hypnos said...
Sorry if this has already been mentioned, otherwise I find it is extremely poignant.

This is it. This is our Maya temple building moment. Our solution to an economic crisis driven by underlying environmental limits is to build bigger fake money that will somehow deliver us from the crisis by consuming even more of the resources we lack.

And the kicker is that, in the short term, it does work for the people getting the Bitcoins, just as it worked for the high priests getting bigger temples and palaces to live in.

In the short term. In the long run... well, we know that.

11/29/13, 3:47 AM

Alvin Leong said...
After the collapse of the Tibetan empire, monastic Buddhism, which was highly dependent on donations from wealthy patrons, collapsed as well and was only maintained near very end of the Tibetan plateau and places like Dunhuang, where there was still some trade going on although even there.

During that time was when the Mahayoga tantras, banned by imperial edict, spread amongst the populace. They spread among the monks even in Dunhuang too although this anonymous poem from Dunhuang shows what some people thought about the situation:

For every hundred students there are a thousand teachers,
And nobody listens to the divine dharma.
For every village there are ten masters,
And the number of tantric assistants is uncountable

It seems to me that magic is a much better survival strategy for religious practices than monasticism. Even in Bangladesh today, tantric practices apparently survive under Muslim terminology.

11/29/13, 7:02 AM

the Heretick said...
first off, if there had never been a 1917, there may well never have been a 1942, and a certain Austrian corporal may have remained forever in obscurity.

it is encouraging to see someone such as yourself addressing the current confusion surrounding spiritual matters, if indeed there is such a thing as spirit, and not just a collective unconscious.
i suspect that whatever arises to fulfill our need for some sort of collective or group identity will be focused more on the real than on the insubstantial.
my other sneaking suspicion that on the way down (or up, depending on your viewpoint), to the brave new powered down world, that humanity as a whole will gain a greater respect for life; which only makes sense since death may very well be a larger part of our uncertain future.

11/29/13, 7:46 AM

Raymond Duckling said...
Glen> thanks for sharing your version of the tale, I suppose this meme is much more widespread than what I had thought.

JMG> I am sure the necrofilia thing will play a big role in terms of Santissima Muerte cult spreading to a wider audience, specially in the US.

However, in my opinion there are 2 driving forces that makes it appealing in Mexico. One is the frustration with the lack of response from part of the Catholic Church (and by association, of Christ himself) to the mundane problems and ordeals of the people. This rejection shows up in the tale, since the poor but proud farmer would not have Jesus as compadre, even if the offer was on the table.

Somewhat related, but much more powerful, is the sense of guilt that Catholic Church cultivates amongst the faithful. This is a subject I have studied as a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, and what I have read states that Chinese culture do not have a very developed sense of "guilt". They feel bad if they misbehave, of course, but in that cultural context the emotion that is culturally cultivated is "shame".

There is a subtle difference between the two of them. Shame is always external, and requires a (social) context to be experienced. To feel shame, you need to do *something* shameful, probably in the context of social duties (this is very Confusian, I am not sure if the perspective is the same for Taoists or other religious/philosophical schools). On the other hand, while guilt can be felt in the same external way, it does not have to. Guilt is introyective, and it is pretty easy to develop a sense of guilt that is not pinned to any specific mischief from your part, but to a sense of personal dirtiness, or unfitness (if this does not scream "Original Sin", I do not know what does).

So, the prospective convert to Santa Muerte cult starts frustrated with non-response of religious institutions to social injustice, and with a profound sense of sinfulness that prevents him/her to pledge to God for help. I suspect these are the same forces that may push people to Satanism, but in this case the convert escapes of the apparent binary by pledging to a 3rd power. One that is perceived as fair, non-judging, and at the same time not Evil. Death being something that is indirectly experienced in everyday life (and guarantied to be experienced directly, eventually) also makes it much more tangible and familiar.

p.s. I am not sure if this is going to be a duplicate.

11/29/13, 8:43 AM

SLClaire said...
Since yesterday was Thanksgiving we spent the day with family members who have a tv and kept it on during the festivities. Dinner occurred during the ABC national news broadcast. During the second half of the broadcast, my husband and I watched a story with the headline Oil Boom, in which the reporter talked with an oil worker from a town in Oklahoma. The worker starts out with the line, "Did you know that there is more oil in the US than in Saudi Arabia?" He went on to state that there's an economic boom in Oklahoma from oil drilling. While he's talking, we see video of oil rigs on a treeless, rolling landscape. He talks about good jobs available for oil workers that start at $60K/year. He says the oil boom is good for the economy, resulting in lower prices for gasoline and consumer goods. At some point he told us the oil was being extracted by horizontal drilling or fracking. Then the video switched over to scenes of an anti-fracking rally. We saw earnest-looking young people with hand-drawn signs and could tell they were chanting. The oil worker's voice-over said that an anti-fracking stance is insane. I also think I remember the reporter saying that oil company execs also considered the protests insane. About here the story ended and whatever the next thing was came on.

I spent 15 minutes or more this morning looking at the ABC News website attempting to find the story, to no avail. I also tried a quick search for the town's name, again to no avail. The only witness I have to the story is my husband. We talked about it on the way home and agreed on the details above.

On one level I see how the story, aired at the beginning of the holiday shopping frenzy and by a network owned by the Disney company, is intended to soothe folks into buying as usual (elsewhere in the broadcast we learned that holiday spending is predicted to be up about 4% this year versus last). But it also might be another sign of the increasingly louder insistence that all is OK to distract us from the also increasing signs that all isn't OK.

11/29/13, 8:51 AM

latheChuck said...
"Christians were better wizards than the pagan wizards"? Did they have better calendars, perhaps? Eyeglasses? What else? (Christians have a doctrine of forgiveness for re-integrating straying members of the community, which might seem strange and wonderful, but I'm not sure that it would impress the casual observer (even if fully executed).)

11/29/13, 10:01 AM

Unknown said...
Another cheer for Mystery Teaching of the Living Earth. I head a non profit board that maintains an 80 acre piece of forest in Vermont's Green Mountains and 'interfaith nature paths.' It's called Spirit in Nature. ( A dozen or so faith groups have developed paths--trails--on the property with inspirational sayings on trees along the way. (I recently did a Druid Path). For the past few board meetings, I read one of the 'laws' and we discuss it.
I'm just finishing Charles Eisenstein's new book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. It relates strongly to this post. His major contention is that we are moving from an 'old story' of the world to a new one. The old is Separation with all the attendant beliefs that justify our war on nature to one he calls Interbeing. In the new story we're all related and related to everything else (ecology). All the chapters have one word titles and the final one is "Initiation."
ron slabaugh

11/29/13, 10:24 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
YZSinthe 510 beat me to the punch. I think the 12 Step principles could be the basis of a "new" religious/spiritual movement. I've often thought that as a way of living, even for "normies" (the un-adicted) it's a pretty bang up program.

Before "The Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous was published, the text was submitted to many religious leaders ... everything from Catholic archbishops to Zen Buddhist abbots in Japan. To see if there were any religious objections to the spiritual aspects of the program. No objections were raised.

Also, the "Big Book" is published in many foreign languages, including Arabic.

You have often wondered if there were enough Friends on this board to form a meeting. I have often wondered if there were enough 12 Step adherents for a meeting. Maybe over on Green Wizard...

11/29/13, 10:26 AM

Somewhatstunned said...
JMG said:
"Belief" is also a much more subtle thing than modern habits of thought suggest

Golly that is so true - yet people use the words "believe" and "belief" as if they referred to a simple, unitary, state of mind. (One of the reasons I'm started reading TAR was because you're such a sharp psychologist!)

11/29/13, 10:56 AM

latheChuck said...
Re: energy resources. A week or so ago, I heard Pres. Obama's weekly address to the nation. In it, he proclaimed the news, in a tone of voice that was at once both sober and exultant, that the United States of America, thanks to its innovative, hard-working people, had at last begun to "produce more oil than it imports".

"So what?" was my response. I mean, even if you think the fracking as fabulous and what's good for the oil industry is good for America (and hence, the Civilized World), what is the solemn significance of producing just over half of what you consume?

Yesterday, at our Thanksgiving gathering, I mentioned this speech to my father-in-law. "I heard that, too, but 'more than we import'? Not 'more than we consume'?", he asked. "I thought he said 'more than we consume'."

Thus, my fears were confirmed. The key word was "import", but the tone of voice, the phrasing, the pacing... it all said "this is something glorious", and so (some in) the audience heard a different claim.

You might hear that that the United States is now exporting petroleum. How could we export, if we didn't produce more than we consume? Without going into the details, I'll just point out that (as tabulated in the 2012 World Alamanac and Book of Facts), the USA has exported petroleum products every year since 1976, even though we've imported at least 4 million barrels per day more than we exported over that period. Through the '70s, '80s, and most of the '90s, we produced more than we imported. Now that consumption has dropped by about 10% from the 2005 peak, and production has doubled since then, we are again only half-way dependent on foreign sources for our high-hydrocarbon comfort.

11/29/13, 11:20 AM

latheChuck said...
Re: where's the oil? Again, based on somewhat dated figures from the 2012 World Almanac, the US had 21 billion barrels of oil, 272 trillion cu. ft. of NatGas, and 260 billion tons of coal reserves. Saudi Arabia had 263 billion barrels of oil, 276 trillion cu. ft. of gas, and no coal. I could believe that fracking allowed the US to exceed KSA in NatGas reserves, because we were already close, but OIL?

Well, maybe the oil man wasn't talking about the US of A, but North A (which includes Canada and Mexico, if I recall correctly...). Then "we" have 209 billion barrels of oil in reserves. 209 vs 262? Maybe fracking and tar-sands and such have tipped the balance to North America. I say "we" have, because isn't it natural to assume that "what Canada has is ours" and "what Mexico has is ours"?

11/29/13, 11:30 AM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
Economics are a non-magical subject !?!

May I respectfully suggest that you reflect on that categorization.

11/29/13, 12:54 PM

Carl said...
Dear JMG, In regards to last weeks and this weeks comments about a second religiosity coming out of the festival movement, I'd like to make a make a couple observations. I've never been to the largest festival of its kind -the Burning Man festival-,but I know people who have and I've seen pictures. It takes place every year in the middle of the Nevada desert, in middle of summer hundreds of miles from a big city (Salt Lake would be closest). A majority of the 75,000 participants come from the San Francisco Bay Area which is aprox 500 mi. away one way. These attendants do not seem to care or think too much about driving their cars, bus, and motor homes all this way with their ac blasting the whole way, over the 7000 ft. Donner Pass in the Sierras at 70 mph. (no train or bus service there).
When they get there, many of them sleep in ac motor homes with gas generators going 24/7 to keep it a comfy 70 degrees. At night (pics online) miles and miles of desert are lit up like San Francisco on a Friday night, you can't even see the stars in the middle of a black desert. All these lights are powered by more generators. Don't forget music blasting from every stage and moving "art" display.

This goes on for a week with all the food and water having to be trucked in.For the final night,many of the wood structures (reclaimed wood? I doubt it) are burnt to the ground,thus adding to the air pollution.
I don't see how this can be seriously considered a "earth loving" gathering with the incredible amount of waste and pollution involved (not to mention all the waste going to local landfills). How this can still be called a "loving earth" gathering is beyond me.
p.s. Northern CA is having its driest fall since records have been kept, 164 years - an inch and a half so far and no rain in the forecast.

11/29/13, 1:56 PM

Ruben said...
+1 on JB MacKinnon's The Once and Future World. It is truly a stunning and moving book, and leaves few sacred cows untipped.

Also +1 on the Quaker headcount. Our meeting is very accepting of nontheists and nature spiritualists alike.

11/29/13, 2:25 PM

Glenn said...
Given our host's idea of the defects of cornucopians, green and otherwise; and of the range of speculation I've read in these comments, I could not resist forwarding this quote:

"If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation."

-- Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, 1915


Marrowstone Island

11/29/13, 2:45 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Notes, household religious practices tend to be very durable indeed in hard times, while expensive temple complexes -- well, there's a reason archeologists get to dig up a lot of buried ruins of those. Which is to say that your assessment seems pretty plausible to me.

Crow Hill, thank you! I know it's hugely unfashionable to suggest this, but limits and standards actually do make a forum work better.

Hypnos, thank you also! This is an example of the blindness to whole systems that pervades geek culture: running computers costs real energy in the real world, but you won't find the cheerleaders of virtual whatever mentioning that.

Alvin, excellent. I'll add this to the list of things to look into. Can you recommend a good English language source on that period of Tibetan Buddhist history?

Heretick, of course the Austrian corporal would have lived and died in obscurity. If Germany had won in 1918 and conquered France and eastern Europe, the House of Hohenzollern would have remained securely on the imperial throne, and the ruler of Germany during the final showdown with Britain would have been the Kaiser Wilhelm III or something of the sort.

Raymond, oh, granted. Those will be the sources of its long-term survival and success; my thought is simply that the American cult of necrophilia might speed the adoption of Santissima Muerte among non-Hispanic Americans.

SLCLaire, do you recall my post a little while back on the rise of self-deception as a core theme of the collective American response to an unwelcome future? You've just watched it in action.

LatheChuck, no, they were better at causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will, if I may quote a traditional definition of magic!

Unknown Ron, glad to hear it.

Lewis, let's see. You've admitted that you're powerless to make industrial society sustainable, and your life has become unmanageable... ;-)

Stunned, thank you.

LatheChuck, most people want to believe that everything's going to be fine, and the more obvious it becomes that everything's not going to be fine, the more frantic the reassurances will get. It'll be colorful...

11/29/13, 3:49 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Alan, no self-respecting occultist would buy into the giddy nonsense that passes for thought in economics these days. They may believe in spells and spirits and the power of the stars, but extracting an infinite amount of petroleum from a finite planet? No, that's too much even for them!

Carl, yes, and of course that's a factor as well. It's easy to make loud noises about loving the earth, but what are people actually doing to demonstrate that?

Ruben, that's good to hear.

Glenn, excellent! I've considered calling that last sentence "Eddington's Law."

11/29/13, 3:55 PM

Alvin Leong said...
There is definitely not as much info on that period of Tibetan history compared to the period starting from the second wave of transmission of Buddhism from India, a lot of work is still being done based on Dunhuang manuscripts, archaeology, and older manuscript sources.

Some books that might be of interest are:
Samten Karmay's The Arrow and the Spindle
Sam van Schaik's Tibet: A History
Ronald Davidson's Tibetan Renaissance

Geoffrey Samuel's Civilized Shamans is more about Tibetan society than history but he does portray a fascinating picture of how "shamanistic" practices existed alongside more abstract forms of religion in a civilization.

Sam van Schaik also has a blog where he sometimes posts about his work on Dunhuang manuscripts:

11/29/13, 4:55 PM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
I can understand the envy of the other occultists, given the demonstrated abilities of economists.

Major public policy decisions are made, based on the recommendations of one school of economists - even though an equally reputable school recommends exactly the opposite public policies. Entire nations are enthralled by the divinations of economists - despite a record of predictions that would embarrass any reader of chicken entrails.

Economists have managed to convince most of the learned citizens of a series of impossibilities with charts, graphs and computer models. What puff of smoke can remotely rival that ?

There are several kernels of truth within economic theory, and many more kernels of half-truths.

IMO economists are clearly the most successful magicians, even if they are not the most effective.

11/29/13, 5:39 PM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
Although I think it unlikely, I can see some societies making an "acceptably" smooth transition towards a much more sustainable society while other societies collapse utterly.

If you have time, Google the 2007 Grenelle Environmental Agreement. France is implementing about 3/4ths of this very aggressive plan for 2020. The 2030 update includes doubling the Paris Metro and more.

*IF* France can continue such plans - and implement them - and accelerating them as the crisis deepens - then France can manage a smooth transition. Likewise Denmark and several other nations.

OTOH, collapse of complex societies is quite possible. More on that tomorrow.

11/29/13, 6:47 PM

onething said...
I also like the idea of the coexistence of faiths.

I have a great love for the Friends. I went to a few meetings some years ago. Oddly, it assuaged my loneliness for the Orthodox Church services. What appealed to me is the nonstructure of it. Silence punctuated by persons moved to speak. Even though the Orthodox services are highly structured, there are (or should be) no pews, so the arrangement and coming and going of the people is unobstructed and no two patterns are the same.

11/29/13, 7:36 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Alvin, many thanks for the sources. Those will be most helpful.

Alan, er, I should probably go over the house rules a bit. Comments here should stay on topic for the weekly post -- thus, in this week's case, the subject under discussion is the role of religion and the Second Religiosity in the twilight years of the industrial world. It's not a place to talk about anything and everything concerning peak oil and the end of the industrial age; that's part of what Crow Hill was talking about earlier in this week's comments. If you have something you want to talk about that isn't germane to that, please post it somewhere else and put a link here. Many thanks!

Onething, both the Society of Friends and the Orthodox Church have, I think, a definite shot at survival through the Long Descent, so your taste in spiritualities is clearly pretty sustainable! ;-)

11/29/13, 8:08 PM

Mark Rice said...
Today's apologists for political and economic injustice present supposedly rational excuses for the status quo, rather than brandishing scripture; that's the difference I'm talking about.

Recently on a blog or a podcast, I ran across the idea that Universities really have two economics departments.

There is business school for people who need to know how things really work so they can run a business.

Then there is the Economics department. The purpose of the Economics departments everywhere is to come up with a theoretical framework to support the idea that the present system is the most productive efficient and fair system possible. Economics systems fill this role regardless of what the present system is.

11/29/13, 8:15 PM

Anselmo said...
It is evident that Man needs the Religion. According with Le Bon (Psychology of Masses, 1878), the beliefs that determine the behavior of the masses are of two types; variable and permanent. The variable beliefs change throughout the years, the permanent ones throughout the centuries. " The beliefs are established in the masses with the condition of adopting always the religious form that puts them sheltered of discussion".

In consequence, we cannot say that the religion is in crisis, But we can say that the Christian Religion is in crisis and that there has been replaced, throughout different epochs, with new variants, as the revolutionary republicanism in the revolutionary France, the Communism, the Anarchism, the worship the democratic ideals. And with pagan religions as the nationalisms and the fascisms.
All these ideologies who try to substitute the christianity, present the common characteristic that they are constituted (according to García Trevijano) of a only and true idea, from the material world, and for a serie of ideas and secondary principles (logos) that develop it. In consequence, the ideologies tend explain the whole reality across them same, which he leads to the failure, since the reality cannot be defined from an alone idea. On the other hand (The menace of New Paganism, Toynbee), all these ideologies present the advantage of they prescribe to the individual the exact way of proceeding. This attenuates the distress that the Individual suffers when he must think about who really is himself (The fear of the freedom, Erich From), on the other hand they promise him a "Heaven" in the land. And, apart from the fact that this promise normally is a deception. An attainable heaven in this world, for very perfect that it will be, never be able to compete with the idea of significance and immortality provided by the promise of an eternal life beyond the death.

Both, the Christianity and the sustitutive religions, mentionated before, are in crisis. But they should have been replaced partially with the increasing or the appearance of other religions that , I think, are the following materialistic religions:

1. The Religion of the Wealth-Growth, that includes these cults: worship to the money, the worship to the progress, the consumerism, the worship to the body, etc.
2. And the environmental religion, product of the archaistic movement that was the Romanticism.

Trying to imagine how it would be the religion in the world of the "Long Descent" (no necessary to say that I am speculating) It´s evident that this one might not promise a paradise in the land, in view of the general impoverishment that will come. Therefore, the only candidate who stays is the christianity and, inside this one, all the branches based on the Calvinist idea of that the accumulation of the wealth is good, must disappear. On the another hand, in a world with scarce natural resources, the individual freedom also would be restricted, and therefore all the branches of the christianity that are based on the free interpretation of the Bible would lose raison d'être. Finally the shortage of energy would make unviable the existence of big organizations (Tainter), for what the catholicism; constructed over the obedience to the authority of the Pope will be no viable. The only alternative that seems to me to be viable, is some variant of the Catharism,because it will be based on the absolute indifference about material and on the nonexistence of a infrastructure of his Church.
With regard to the Druidism, which deserves all my respects, I must say the following things:

1 º) I consider the Druidism a product of the Romanticism, that is an archaistic movement that cannot contribute a solution to the problems of our civilization.

2 º) The fundamental ideas of the Western Civilization are of Christian base, for what It would be practically impossible the extension of the Druidism, because our fundamental beliefs are christian.

11/29/13, 11:08 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Yeah, responding to your reply last week, I suspect that you are correct. The shame arises because the work is considered low status and hence you are correct that they fear. They forget their professions roots though. It is sad, because in pursuing their self-interest, they are making themselves unaffordable. But this is a larger problem in society too.

On the other hand, being both cheap and happy to be at the coal face, I receive great support from the people who pay me.

The tide has turned here economically, because the capital investments in mining are coming to an end here (the mines are in the operational phase now, rather than the set up phase). The federal government is also pursuing a strategy of reduced expenditure in order to reduce the growing budget deficit.

Which gets me to your comment in this week’s blog about: "have a great deal of expensive infrastructure to support". This is also true for societies, businesses, governments and individuals. Lean and mean is the way to go! Jettisoning infrastructure is a really tough decision for all of those entities to come to. Most leave making a decision until it is too late. Both the federal and state governments here have been offloading public assets into private hands for the past two decades (interesting, huh?). That is the reason that government debt is so low in Australia.

As a general aside too, the initiation system has parallels to martial arts.

In case anyone was wondering too, the rats have not gone away. They are significantly diminished in numbers but are still a nuisance and constantly adapting. Their latest escapade in the past week, involved chewing some holes through the bird netting which covers the top half of the chook run (the bottom half is two layers of heavy duty chicken wire).

Now, this wouldn't generally be a problem, except that the local parrots (rosella) can now get into the chook enclosure and eat their yummy free range feed.

The bird netting is being replaced over the next few days by galvanised steel wire mesh (12.5mm x 12.5mm or 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch). That should put an end to such mischief.

Also the weather has turned more tropical this year as the Spring rains have not failed - unlike last year where I'd gone two months now without rain. I still have no idea what the outlook for Summer will be though.

Stumpy the wallaby is happily outside now in the full sun munching on some fresh greens.



11/30/13, 12:35 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Thanks for your consideration too.



11/30/13, 12:37 AM

Ursachi Alexandru said...
The Orthodox church does have a shot at surviving far into the future, but it needs to reconsider some its values. Like I said, here in my country it has mostly abandoned its traditional approach that involved humility and modesty, and it's more and more focused on grandeur and oppulence, probably from a feeling of inferiority towards bigger and more influential Orthodox churches, like the Russian and Greek. Construction has already begun on a giant "Cathedral of the People's Salvation" right next to Ceauşescu's "House of The People" which now serves as Romania's parliament. And in my hometown, there are three newly built 10-story high megachurches just in my post-communist grey neighborhood.

Most Romanians, unlike me, wouldn't even consider abandoning the Orthodox faith, so that alone guarantees its continuity. But I'm really curious how all this grandeur that the church has embraced will face up to the realities of the long descent, when poverty levels soar, population decline goes into overdrive, and you're sitting in your cold appartment during the winter, wearing four or five layers of clothes to keeep warm, and out the window a huge church's spire rises out above the grey landscape.

11/30/13, 3:22 AM

AlanfromBigEasy said...
Economists are, in many ways, the priests of the civil religion Progress.

When they were widely discredited circa 1932, there were two responses. One was a new denomination of economists, Keynesians, rose to prominence, with prescriptions almost exactly opposite that of the fallen priests.

The other was state dictated economic activity in the fascist nations. In the mid-1930's, fascism clearly gave better results.

I do not include communism, because the Soviet Union did not experience the Great Depression and they had another type of priest.

No doubt, new denominations of economists will arise - with prescriptions orthogonal to established economists - as progress stalls and then retreats.

However, at some point, the economics profession will be discarded and a few simple truths about economic activity will remain.

11/30/13, 4:20 AM

jld said...
Yeah! Great! Time for new religions, will solve all problems.
May I suggest something akin to the Aztec's, perfectly fits the "hard times ahead": Aztec Political Thought.

11/30/13, 5:01 AM

DaShui said...
It seems to me for a religion to be successful, funny hats are required.
On that link I saw you in your Druid garb, so I think druidry has a good chance!

11/30/13, 5:43 AM

Greg Belvedere said...
I might need to pick up your book that you cited. I have contemplated joining some kind of initiatory order and would appreciate a good primer on what to look for and avoid. From my experience with martial arts I know many schools will point to other practitioners of their art as lesser versions (to put it mildly). I have heard that this kind of thing occurs in some initiatory orders. Given what I know of human beings it does not surprise me, but I think it would turn me off. Anyone I would want to learn from would probably keep this to a minimum, or at least poke fun at themselves for doing so. I'm curious if the book addresses this point.

Although, right now I would like to find somewhere in the Poughkeepsie NY area to learn long form Yang family Tai Chi.

I find these posts very pertinent right now as I contemplate what religion to raise my son. I was raised Catholic and I have tremendous respect for the Marianist brothers who educated me, but my wife was raised protestant and as much as I like the new pope, the Catholic teachings on sexuality are stuck in the middle ages. While Christianity is still very central to my religious worldview, I draw a lot from other religions and from the Christian hermetic tradition. I would like to see a western religion that has a closer relationship between exoteric and esoteric streams.

While I don't see humans as separate from nature, I find it important to consider why so many see ourselves this way. I think our ability to abstract and create tools makes us unlike anything else in nature, but not separate. I think people confuse this and assume because we have these abilities that the rules don't apply to us. We have the ability to change parts of our environment more than any other creatures, but as you so often point out this has limits and consequences.

11/30/13, 8:11 AM

DeAnander said...
"to collapse in deepest humiliation" ... well, yes, that's kind of how empires meet their latter end, innit :-)

11/30/13, 9:09 AM

Isaac Hill said...
While on one hand I am part of an organization that is much closer to an initiatory tradition (It's called TAT, Truth And Transmission, started by Richard Rose in the 1970s to facilitate seekers to find Self-realization) I don't really see this as "religion." I think that the future will have less like what we consider religions (like the Abrahamic and Indian) and more like indigenous spirituality, where the "religion" is really just the culture and the spiritual practices are inseparable from the practices of living. So in this way, it's more what I'm doing with my fellow permaculturists and friends I made at Occupy that is going to turn into a "religion"- at this point it's about developing the religious sensibility, and let the spirit direct us from there.

11/30/13, 9:24 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
LOL. THAT was funny and I'll have to put some thought into it.

Not quit so powerless and not quit so unmanageable. I'm spending part of the week-end weatherstripping, putting plastic on the windows (old blankets already on the doors) and insulating and wrapping my only source of outside water. And while doing this I'll be very mindful and thankful of having the resources to do this.

As far as 12 Step programs perhaps becoming a major player in the Second Religiosity the groups are widespread, don't have a real hierarchy, no expensive overhead or edifices, widely circulated literature, etc.. Individual concepts of a Higher Power can be just about anything. I've heard of some people using trees ... :-).

I had a thought. I think, maybe, whatever the form of the Second Religiosity takes, may involve suppression, persecution and a few martyrs thrown in.

11/30/13, 10:23 AM

Steve W. said...
Fascinating discussion as always. If there's one thing I love after reading JMG's articles, it's the comments section, and seeing how so many people have so many thoughtful things to say...

JMG, I was just wondering, do you think it could also be possible that we might also see a rise in terms of "fundamentalist" or "cultic" groups in the years ahead as things slowly move downhill? Sometimes it's easier for people to attach themselves to "easy answers" or a highly charismatic figure when things seem to be falling apart around them. I remember reading about how a lot of hippies became disillusioned with their world after the 1960s, and quite a few of them eventually found themselves in the company of Jim Jones, the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, and quite a few other notably controversial groups.

11/30/13, 11:08 AM

Kris Ballard said...
I certainly don't know which religions will survive and thrive in the future. However, I wouldn't bet against the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths. Their demise has been predicted for centuries, but they keep chugging right along. I was raised as a Mormon, but six years ago I was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian. I have been happy in my new faith. The Episcopal Church however, seems to have trouble attracting young people. The Episcopal Church in the US is still small, but the Anglican branch in England is quite large. PS, on Thanksgiving I attended the movie: Gravity.

11/30/13, 12:13 PM

Glenn said...
Interestingly enough, Eddington was a Quaker, as well as an astrophysicist; and was responsible for popularizing Einstein's work in the English speaking world.


Marrowstone Island

11/30/13, 12:20 PM

Isaac Hill said...
Oh, I also forgot to mention that TAT has had many sessions using the 12 steps in the context of enlightenment, such as being addicted to thought, or addicted to a sense of separate identity.

11/30/13, 1:25 PM

Yupped said...
Personally, I can understand the attraction of a more nature-centric religion as the industrial world continues to come undone. But at the same time, I think people will tend to want to stick with what is already in place, assuming the infrastructure is sustainable without extensive funding and that the theology is flexible and adaptive to change.

Thinking about my northeastern town, with an array of mainline churches still operating around the town green, and a good handful of house churches, yoga centers and new agey community activities all functioning, I can see more people wanting to participate in these organizations as times get harder and more uncertain. The sheer pull of ready community could be quite attractive in an uncertain world. Plus these organizations have not exactly been rolling in money for the last few decade, so they are used to fairly modest infrastructure (at least relative to most mega-church areas). It might be that areas like the north east, with both old mainline and new agey religious institutions, could be set for some sort of multi-threaded religious revival, with a bunch of different religious communities building from what is already in place. Whereas areas with churches more reliant on industrial-scale infrastructure and dogmatic theology might of see less adaptation?

Generally, I would expect any new religious sensibility to be channeled evolve quite differently from area to area, with a lot of variety and options. At least until some future Constantine starts wanting to pick the winners.

11/30/13, 2:27 PM

Sean the Sorcerer said...
Very high quality post and discussion as always!

It seems to me that if a dark age is coming (or as I like to call it, the Age of Endarkenment), we should be looking at darker forms of religiosity suitable to such times. What sort of spirituality will warriors, warlords, monks, nomads, bandits and beleaguered villagers living in the toxic ruins of the Age of Progress be likely to embrace? Surely nothing resembling the watered-down, liberal religiosities of this age! People have already mentioned Santa Muerte and Voudon; some other candidates to consider from the darker realms of spirituality and occultism include Theistic Satanism, Dark Paganism, Gnosticism, Vampirism, Abrahamic fundamentalism and dark Eastern paths. I wouldn’t rule out a return of practices such as human sacrifice; there is already a group called Order of the Nine Angles whose memes are highly influential in certain circles that is promoting “culling” as a legitimate activity on metaphysical grounds in the new “Sinister Aeon”.

Such ideas sound abhorrent to most of us within this rather tame age, but in a world where people are struggling with 7+ billion other humans just to survive, who can say how dark their spirituality may get? Aldous Huxley wrote a novel where a science-hating Belial cult had come to power in California following a nuclear holocaust, and that doesn’t sound far-fetched to me. I’ve noticed that as mainstream religions have gotten lighter and more “Oprahfied”, groups on the margins are growing darker and more extreme. My sense is that darker forms of spirituality have tremendous growth potential in the years ahead if the whole current “light side” order comes crashing down.

11/30/13, 2:28 PM

Eric S. said...
I've been loving this series, and can't wait to see all of these ideas laid out and polished in book form. It's been playing perfectly into that part of me that obsesses about the future of religion. Personally, I think you're under-estimating paganism's chances, if for other reasons than the diversity of very different traditions that get lumped under that label. While the congregational new-age eclecticism that got started with the church of all worlds has it's days numbered, I imagine the various polytheistic traditionalist religions that are growing up (Celtic paganism, Asatru, Hellenism, Kemeticism, and groups like ADF) have the chance to grow into something a bit more resilient. I also don't see Wicca as a religion disappearing completely, it may change but it's only just beginning to really grow up and I don't think its story is over quite yet.

As for the next mainstream religion in the Americas, my money is on the Afro-Caribbean religious traditions, especially Santeria and Vodou. Looking at current migration trends, and the results of projected migration trends based on sea level rise, it just makes sense. Their syncretism gives them an ability to absorb and combine with whatever dominant religions and movements around them, (I've even seen Spanish language translations of some your own books popping up in Botanicas from time to time, which might be a sign of what communities may wind up absorbing our modern Western Occult traditions as we enter into the next era). Likewise, these traditions have a tendency to seep into other religions subtly. My mother works in bilingual education, and very often sees orisha altars in the homes of her students when she does home visits. Every time I go to the local flea market and see the assortment of ritual washes, amulets, seven-day candles, and magical and medicinal herbs and oils alongside fortune tellers reading cowry shells, I just get this overwhelming sense that I'm looking at the wave of the future.

Just my thoughts and observations,

-Eric S.

11/30/13, 3:31 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Mark, that would make quite a bit of sense.

Anselmo, by the same logic, it was impossible for Christianity to take over from the old pagan cults. That said, I've already noted that the only way Druidry is going to become the focus of the Second Religiosity in the industrial world is if every other religious tradition trips and falls on its backside.

Cherokee, I wish the US government had the brains to actually reduce its deficit spending, instead of making noise about doing so and then spinning the presses even faster to cover our gargantuan deficits. Glad to hear you're getting rain this year!

Ursachi, it's an interesting question. Most established religions have cycled back and forth many times between eras of extravagance and eras in which poverty is not merely glorified but practiced, so it's possible that the Orthodox church will get a clue in time; if not, it can and will be replaced by something else. There's a Mexican saying, "Nothing ever happens until it happens" -- that is, things can stay exactly the same for a very long time, confounding all those who expect immediate change, and then change hits suddenly and confounds all of those who believed the status quo was permanent.

Alan, if you want to call economists priests, I have no trouble with that. It's when you call them magicians that I bristle -- as a practitioner of magic, I refuse to be associated with those peddlers of rank fiscal superstitions! ;-)

JLD, Aztec religion focused, as pointed out in the article on the other side of your link, on the production of grand spectacular rites for huge audiences. In the years ahead, that won't be an option for most religions, and most cultures, so an Aztec approach is probably not an option.

DaShui, we're hardly the only people in the Funny Hat Contest, alas!

Greg, yes, you get a certain number of people in initiatory orders playing the same sort of one-upsmanship games -- human beings will be human beings, no matter how counterproductive some common human habits are. There are a fair number of initiatory orders that have a specifically Christian emphasis, by the way, and a little looking around should be able to find you something. As for t'ai chi in Poughkeepsie, though, there I can't help you!

DeAnander, good. I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a strictly thermodynamic theory of the decline and fall of empires.

Isaac, well, no doubt that's one possibility.

11/30/13, 3:53 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Lewis, it might be worth coming up with a complete 12-step program for those addicted to industrial society! As for persecution, though, sometimes that's a factor and sometimes it's not -- I hope we can avoid it this time around, as religions that are persecuted very often end up persecuting others.

Steve, certainly! I expect to see a great deal of that as we go. My hope is that there will also be some less destructive options.

Kris, the Episcopal Church needs to sit down and talk to some young people and find out what's keeping them away. My guess is that it won't be too hard to find out what the issues are; the question will be doing something about it.

Glenn, interesting. I didn't know that.

Yupped, well, remember we're still early in the day. In 300 CE, your average Roman city was crowded with the temples of many different deities and faiths, too.

Sean of the many labels, nah, that sort of fetishism of evil is purely a hobby of comfortable, civilized, decadent societies. When times are really hard, people remember again why those old ethical truisms really are a better idea.

Eric, oh, I don't think Wicca is going away for good -- it's got to get through three or four decades out of the public limelight, that's all. I think we've reached the end of the line for the pop Neopaganism that was basically invented by Margot Adler, Starhawk, and Scott Cunningham in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but that's another matter. As for the traditionalist polytheisms, the jury's still out -- some of them might thrive, others will almost certainly go under.

As for the religions of the African diaspora, though, I think you're very likely right on the money there. Those, Islam, and a revival of Marxism for the atheists among us strike me as the most likely candidates for pop religion in America over the next three or four decades -- though here again, those are simply guesses, and history seems to take a wry delight in making the improbable happen.

11/30/13, 4:03 PM

Bogatyr said...
Well, well - so many interesting things coming up in this week's conversation!

The whole concept of Saint Death was new to me. This BBC article was a good introduction, putting it in the context of a society where atrocity is a daily occurrence.

JMG and Eric: oddly, I had my radio on in the early hours this morning and, half-asleep, heard a report on the BBC world service about the favelas in Brazil. It seems the drug gangs have adopted evangelical Christianity, and are violently driving out the syncretist religions such as Macumba. I can't find a link, but there is a post on the same topic from a couple of years ago here. As JMG has written elsewhere, the Latino influence in the US is deep and growing, so perhaps it's a bit soon to be saying that the evangelicals are due to decline...

Mark Rice, I work in just such a divided school. When I arrived a few years ago, the economists were very much in the ascendant, holding most of the important posts, and almost embarrassed to be associated with us plebs on the business side. Their star has fallen mightily of late, and they may not even keep any separate identity, simply being folded into the Management School. Certainly the volume of student applications is now all about the hands-on side of business. Sic transit gloria oeconomicae...

Personally, in terms of belief I came to Korean Zen via Therevada. I suspect Buddhism makes sense for many Westerners coming out of the religion of progress because it doesn't require belief or disbelief in any gods: they may or may not exist, but they certainly don't get involved much, so the responsibility lies with our own individual effort...

12/1/13, 1:43 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Quote: "I refuse to be associated with those peddlers of rank fiscal superstitions! ;-)"

That was the funniest thing that I've read today. A tidy bit of work! hehe!

I still read their pronouncements because just like the elves they say both yes and no – always to their profit though. Oft times however, they fail to dissemble and it is always an advantage to know what is being considered in the halls of power.

Their latest announcement here concerns raising the age of retirement to 70. This reduces the unfunded liability of the pension which - just like expensive infrastructure - is a real problem for the immediate future here. Plus the stress of working to that age should finish quite a few people off. When I was young, people used to literally drop dead and no one knew why, or sought to find the cause as long as it didn't seem suspicious. Pneumonia used to be called the old man's friend, but now relatives seem to demand treatment for the condition, only to have that sufferer recover and then be subjected to far worse.

Please people, I expect no pension by the time I get to retirement age...

However, the facts on the ground are such that I have never seen a full time 70 year old brick layer or concreter. Hard work, they both are. I have laid a few brick walls in my time and even though I am youngish, I ached at the end of those days and then for days after. Hard work and I was glad when they were completed.

Is it just me or am I the only person here to think that it is vaguely amusing to ask an Archdruid what he thinks the second religiosity will look like? Even after the essay has explicitly explained to us in no uncertain terms his thoughts? hehe! Oh well.

You mentioned that it would be handy for initiates to understand other topics such as economics and agriculture. I could not agree more, as my gut feel tells me that those who are disconnected from the realities of the world also are doomed to fail at a later date. For did not then Zen master say, "before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water"?

Life is quite cyclical here. With the holes in the bird netting over the chook enclosure the naughty parrots (rosellas) have been getting in during the day to feed upon the free range chook food. It is a precarious gamble because the rosellas cannot settle on the ground for very long as the chooks would kill them. At night as well, the rats are still outsmarting me... I am slightly in awe of them...

This afternoon the new heavy duty galvanised steel wire mesh was mostly put in place.

However, my dogs are on the watch for those naughty rosellas and they have been giving them a very hard time. Quite a few of them are now resting in the worm farm to become soil food. From the worm farm, they turn into herbage which the rosellas are even now enjoying.

On a more positive note, an Echidna turned up this afternoon for a visit, a bit of a drink of water and a snuffle around the long herbage at the base of one of the lemon trees.

This time I had the video camera handy (they waddle pretty slowly) and will include it on the next update. However, in a strange insight into the future, my second hand video camera's battery charger packed it in so I can't shoot any more footage until the replacement arrives...

That is the future though, we'll be surrounded by some funky technology, but unless you know how to cobble it together to make it work, or find energy for it, it might as well not be there...

A good reason to learn more about biological systems! They seem to be to be the epitome of sustainability (subject to the second law of thermodynamics, of course).



12/1/13, 3:48 AM

Juhana said...
@ It's curious to observe how "closing of the age" begins from the most humble, grassroots level of society. High society - unholy merging of finance, politics and federal-level management of things - is looking bloated and strong. QE has send stocks and asset markets through the roof, and money comes to money. But at the municipal level things look rather bleak. Infrastructure is old, rotting and dysfunctional. There is no money or wealth to fix it, actually just running it on day-to-day basis is done with borrowed money. So giants are resting on the shoulders of starving and sick grassroots communities. It is more like death by thousand small cuts as taxes are raised and services lashed, and unfunded liabilities just keep mounting.

Now it seems that outside Ingsoc inner party circles of the West, where rule of omerta called political correctness is question of political life and death, new resistance is raising from native populations also.

12/1/13, 6:11 AM

Juhana said...

I just got book written by Markus Willinger (born 1992), Generation Identity and this excerpt from his manifesto sums up nicely thoughts of this prophet of the New Age:

"You want to know who we are? Where we come from? What moves us?
We'll tell you. We are the changing times; the rising wind; the new generation. We are the answer to you, for we are your children. You've thrown us into this world, uprooted and disoriented, without telling us where to go, or where our path lies. You've destroyed every means for us to orient ourselves. You've reduced the Church to rubble, so that now only a few of us still find refuge in the ruins of that community.

You've devalued the state, so that none of us wants to serve it anymore. You've split the family. Our domestic idyll has been plunged into divorce, conflict, and violence. You've subjected love to a reductionist deconstruction, and so instead of a deep bond, only the animal drive remains. You've ruined the economy, so we inherit mountains of debt.

You've questioned and criticised everything, so now we believe in nothing and no one.You've left us no values, yet you now accuse us of being amoral. But we are not.
We are the heirs of this utopia, and our reality looks very different.

You buy your peace through ever-mounting debt. Today we're watching your prosperity disappear throughout Europe. For us, your multicultural society means nothing but hatred and violence. In the name of your 'tolerance,' you hunt down all who criticise you, and you call those you hunt intolerant.

We've had enough! Your utopias have lost all legitimacy for us.
Realize at last that we don't live in a unified world or in a global village. Wars, the poor, and the oppressed will always be with us. This world will never be a heaven on Earth. Your delusions have only accomplished one thing: you have uprooted your children. We are the lost, the homeless. 'Who are we?' we ask ourselves. 'Where are we going?'

We've seen through your answers, and understood that they are lies. We aren't 'humanity,' and don't want your paradise. So we have come up with our own answers to these questions. We turn to what you have demonised. To ourselves. We search for our identity, and find it under the rubble of your destructive rage. We must dig deep to find ourselves again.

Our history, our homeland, and our culture give us what you have taken from us. We don't want to be citizens of the world. We are happier with our own countries.

We don't want the end of history, for our history doesn't give us cause to complain. We don't want a multicultural society, where our own culture is left to burn in the melting pot.

We are less demanding than you, yet we want so much more!

While you've chased utopias your entire lives, we want real values. What we demand actually exists; to possess it is our ancestral right. We desire nothing more than our inheritance, and won't tolerate your withholding it any longer.

We are the answer to you, and to the failure of your utopia.

For we are Generation Identity."

Powerful thinking indeed.

12/1/13, 6:11 AM

onething said...
Regarding the long term survival of Christianity, there may be a glitch, and that is the second coming. It's true that there have been a few serious expectations in the past, but other than the scriptural references indicating that Jesus would return shortly after the crucifixion, the signs were never really there - until now. The strongest one is that Israel would again become a nation, and that "this generation" would not die out before all comes to pass. The most time-generous interpretation would be that the generation is those born after 1948, so they are getting on toward 65 years of age now. Another sign was a great increase of knowledge. That one is harder to pinpoint in that knowledge usually increases, but certainly that could be a very apt description of these past few decades.

The reason why some Protestant groups were sure of the coming in the mid 1800s had to do with an interpretation of prophecy in the old testament having to do with time. It was actually a pretty astute interpretation, and the 7th Day Adventists still take it seriously, but have apparently decided that we are in some sort of undefined limbo in which the time is fulfilled and the last days are here.

It seems to me that unless Jesus shows up fairly soon, or we have a mass awakening of Christ Consciousness, Christianity might lose a good bit of its gloss and reason for existence.

The sensation that these are the end times is pretty much universal in various Christian groups. That sensation has been present and growing for quite a while.

12/1/13, 6:43 AM

Robert Mathiesen said...
@ Juhana: Thank you for the extract from Markus Willinger. It's a very powerful piece of writing, and it expresses rather well one point of view among the millenial generation on this side of the Atlantic also. This sort of thing is going on in the United States as well as in Europe.

12/1/13, 12:15 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Bogatyr, hmm! Thanks for the info. I didn't expect evangelical Christianity to be headed for history's compost, for what it's worth; give it thirty or forty years and it'll be back, once a new generation has grown up and no longer remembers the failure of the present movement -- that's exactly what happened in the 1970s, after all, when nobody remembered any more how fundamentalism crashed and burned in the 1930s. Still, I don't greatly fancy the thought of fundamentalist drug gangs...

Cherokee, you know, sometimes I think the entire continent of Australia was created and stocked with wildlife by a puckish deity who wanted to baffle biologists. The latest arrival is a great example -- a hedgehog-equivalent that lays eggs and has sensors in its snout that detect electricity? Still, glad to hear that the monotremes are out in force...;-)

Juhana, that bit by Willinger reminds me forcefully of Hermann Hesse's Demian -- have you read it? Might be worth a look if you haven't.

Onething, well, Christians have convinced themselves that Jesus was about to show up thousands of times already, and his failure to do so hasn't terminated the religion yet. I suppose it could happen this time, but I have my doubts.

12/1/13, 12:19 PM

MawKernewek said...
I saw Gravity yesterday, I couldn't help notice how orbital mechanics had been misrepresented for dramatic effect, just think you blow something up the size of a car, think how dense the debris cloud would be spread over all of low earth orbit space.

Actually, you could expect the debris to be a lot faster moving than those scenes showed them assuming a fairly divergent orbit between the shuttle and destroyed satellite.

What this turns the situation from near certain doom once every 90 minutes, to a situation where spending any length of time in space is a game of Russian roulette with unacceptable levels of risk.

The question comes, at what point is this just not worth it any more?

12/1/13, 3:36 PM

Ian Stewart said...
I am interested to see the discussion of tai chi and physical culture as a component of spirituality this week. I myself was seeking good tai chi/taiji training for a while (and I've often encountered the difference between Wade-Giles and Pinyin romanizations in the process). Ultimately, though, it was difficult to find training that wasn't all form and no fight.

Thus, I ended up getting turned on to the art of baguazhang by an author named Bruce Frantzis, who evidently now lives in Marin County and charges thousands of dollars for his seminars. Bagua is, apparently, derived from Taoist circle-walking meditation, and the various sub-styles of the art are usually designed according to the eight trigrams of the I Ching.

The thing with Frantzis was that he claimed his last master ended up training him through the process of "mind-to-mind chi transmissions," something which I will certainly only come to believe when I experience it for myself! I also can't help but think that what he was talking about was an incompletely translated cultural concept I simply don't have the context to interpret. I then found another style of bagua, the Yin Fu style, which was directly introduced to westerners by a skilled traditional Chinese doctor, and it is focused directly upon the physical aspects of the training, with very little discussion of chi or esoteric energy concepts. Additionally, bagua, at least the style I'm training, seems to focus on breaking out the various strikes and postures and training them individually, rather than tai chi, which seems to want you to perform a long form sequence.

At this point, I find myself relatively reluctant to take up the path of a Western initiatory order, as I have begun to accept the 8 trigrams as a framework of belief, and I'm worried that conflating concepts from two different systems will ultimately give me nothing in the end. However, I'm also aware that what I'm training right now is primarily a physical and not necessarily a spiritual practice. But I am approaching it with the goals of increasing my awareness of my own body and my mindfulness of the world around me. Am I off-base here?

I also can't say that this system might be the roots of some new religiosity, either. We typically train in a small group in a park, with larger formal training sessions once a year (and big overseas intensives if you have the experience and money). But the esoteric internal martial arts like tai chi and bagua have quite an uphill battle to prove themselves in the United States. The general attitude seems to be, "if I didn't see your crazy circle-walking stuff in a mixed martial arts octagon, it must be bogus!" And I'm quite fine with that...

12/1/13, 3:53 PM

onething said...
JMG, you say thousands of times, but I am not aware of many...perhaps here and there little groups did, but the majority of the churches did not. I think the feeling now is much more widespread. Then again, people find the interpretations they desire so if they want to continue, they will.

12/1/13, 4:29 PM

JB said...
A key element that needs to be taken in consideration in the 2013 International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO) is the key statement that the oil industry capital expenditure has risen by nearly 180% since 2000 but with the global oil supply (adjusted for energy content) rising only by 14%.

This is the clear sign of a rapidly declining Energy Return Over Energy Invested (EROEI)...

In other words oil economics have become completely dislocated from historic norms since 2000 (and especially since 2005) and the industry is now desperately investing at exponentially higher rates to gain increasingly smaller new amounts of net energy. One should recognize that this is a situation clearly unsustainable over a long period of time...

What is the impact of this situation on future economic growth, which most politicians are still expecting will save the day by reducing the relative size of the current high debt (in particular sovereign debt) with respect to GDP:

1) If the oil industry is now sucking from the available capital pool 180% more funds to produce only slightly more net energy than in 2000, the amount of capital available to fund other projects is considerably reduced;

2) If we have today only 14% more net energy available than in 2000 to power the world economy, there is no doubt that global growth is now hitting the "energy wall" because there is now only a very limited supply of available energy to power any potential new material economic activity... No wonder that most of the reported economic growth since 2000 was related to financial sector "paper" gains mostly derived from speculative activities, in particular on the OTC derivatives market (the largest casino on Earth)... With the currently high depletion rates needing to be constantly offset, there was simply almost no additional net energy available to power any potential new material project ! One wonders what will happen with the even higher tight oil & shale gas depletion rates when that unconventional production represents a significant part of the overall oil & gas production mix...

Of course this macroeconomic picture varies on a country by country basis and even on a region by region basis depending on the local net energy availability situation and on the local marginal cost of that energy.

Charles Hall's important work - as described in his seminal "Energy and the Wealth of Nations" - concludes that EROEI mathematics will make it very difficult for a complex high-tech society to survive when its average EROEI falls below 11/1...

Hence, given that the future survivability of a growing number of states is now at stake, tensions are therefore likely to rise rapidly. For example:

1) Scotland preparing to hold a referendum on independence in September 2014 and, if it wins, thereafter taking a very significant part of the North Sea oil & gas reserves with it...

2) China flexing its military muscle to attempt to bring the Senkaku islands and its potential oil & gas reserves within its exclusive jurisdiction...

3) China and Russia siding with Iran and forcing the US to "abdicate" a military option against Iran that would give the US exclusive control over the remaining Persian Gulf oil & gas reserves...


P.S: Drawing an EROEI & net energy map of our emerging "brave new world" would be an interesting exercise...

12/1/13, 4:52 PM

Iuval Clejan said...
It seems to me that at least in the US there is a big middle class, compared to the decline years of the Roman empire. Are there any religions that are not somewhat dependent on the support of the middle class (or wealthy elite)? The ability to survive economically depends not just on the ability to do with less, but the ability to produce more with less dependence on the empire. Of course the empire (mostly middle class liberals who whine about bad education, war and inequality, while promoting them with their lifestyle and inability to share land or be productive outside of empire) makes this hard with taxation, rents and land prices being exorbitant for poor people, but I think there is a precedent in the decline of the Roman empire, with Christians starting to form their own communities of production of basic goods and services, somewhat independently of the empire.

12/1/13, 5:44 PM

Dwig said...
k-dog, from seeing "Gravity", and from reading several reviews, I didn't get any sense of "technology as savior". Quite the contrary -- it was the careless use of technology that created the crisis, and a combination of luck and grim determination that got Bullock's character back to earth.

I saw a subtext in the movie; a sort of "hero's journey" on the part of Bullock's character. This review describes some aspects of it. As the review says, "Even before she wound up in space, Ryan was in a dark, cold place ... After her daughter died, she was hollowed out, empty on the inside". (I don't think it was coincidence that the screenwriters chose "Stone" for her surname.) It occurred to me that a good subtitle for the movie would be "Coming Back to Life", in multiple senses.

DaShui, John Michael: re the next religion having "a heavy martial component":
It's not just blood that violence spills;
It's energy, physical and spiritual.
Energy, which will become precious,
Needed for survival and re-creation, instead
Used to create chaos, to
Degrade and destroy resources, material and spiritual.
Everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned,
And the lore of the mages and sages trampled and and forgotten,
To give rise to what rough beast?
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,
And how many weary millenia must pass
Before some culture gropes out of the destruction
To a wiser way of living?
(Or will the wrath of Gaia multiplied by
The folly of a not-quite-fully-sapient species
Finally end the last species of genus Homo?)

I'd like to add an "amen" to the praise for "Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth". I've gotten much insight from it, and grist for the mill of furthing learning in that direction.

"I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a strictly thermodynamic theory of the decline and fall of empires." I think Howard Odum's pulsing paradigm might be a good place to start. He does propose an energetic basis for just about all phenomena, including money and religion. You might want something more specific to empires, though.

12/1/13, 10:41 PM

KL Cooke said...
"...the American cult of necrophilia might speed the adoption of Santissima Muerte among non-Hispanic Americans."

Add to that the further attraction of the White Lady not wanting anything from her devotees but candles, drinks and smokes. Fork over those goodies and she'll help you with whatever nefarious monkey business you may have in mind.

12/2/13, 12:17 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

hehe! Puckish... Like it!

It put me in mind of those early fairy tales, where the fairies themselves were just 100% pure trouble.

Those cheeky fairies would have created a monotreme, just to confuse everyone.

It would be just like John Lennon's comment to Peter Shotton upon completing the song: I Am the Walrus

I find it to be a bit sad that fairies have been watered down so much in current literature. They were never meant to be a boon, for trouble was the whole point of their existence... Oh well.

The echidna turned up again today too! Also, I thought I'd finished installing the new steel netting over the chook run, only to find four rosellas had got into a small hole that I'd forgotten. It was 34 degrees (93.2F) here today, so I was a bit over hot. It took a while and some riggers gloves to catch and evict them. They bite hard. A bee stung me today too, so my face looks like a puffer fish. They don’t like me, despite food, housing and water…

I opened the garden this evening to the local seed savers and also the local food producers group. It was a very pleasant evening and a good turnout. It is good making connections in the community and seeing what everyone is up to and getting good advice and free stuff.

Just for your interest as I reckon we are the canary in the coalmine (weatherwise):

Sydney records warmest spring on record


Inland Australia to benefit from tropical moisture

Climate weirding in action.



12/2/13, 3:25 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Juhana,

Everything old is new again. The youth look to the parents for someone to blame. Blah, blah, blah.

It is not new you know:

The Beatles played to the Royal Variety Performance in London (4 November 1963) attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret. John Lennon was quoted as saying: "For our last number, I'd like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry." Quote is from the wikiquote page for John Lennon.

Isn't it Sir Paul McCartney these days?

Society is structured to absorb your energy. Your current shift to the right is as as useful as your distaste for the left.

As a suggestion, why not look to the distant past for a guide? There is no answer to be had in politics.



12/2/13, 3:48 AM

Bret said...
I really enjoyed this talk by Alan Watts, which puts the two great existing world religious traditions into an interesting comparative perspective. Not sure that it adds very much to the specific course of discussion JMG's taking but I assume it's harmless at worst. Would be interested to hear JMG's or anyone else's reflections on what Watts says.

12/2/13, 8:53 AM

onething said...
Along with the thought that there might be quite a few disaffected and bewildered Christians if Jesus doesn't come and at the same time environmental and species destruction that they ignored because they either didn't take it seriously and/or expected the apocalypse anyway so didn't feel the need to take responsibility, coming to grips with all that should leave them quite ripe for a nature centered and humble new paradigm.

12/2/13, 9:43 AM

Bogatyr said...
DaShui noted that: "South of the border there are a lot of martial religions percolating"...

Again, there are very interesting issues being raised this week regarding initiation, martial arts, and the religion of the future... As I mentioned previously, the cult trends of the Americas are something I really don't know anything about. However, contrariwise, I know a bit more about Asian examples.

As I'm a visual thinker, I'll link to a YouTube clip put together from excerpts of Royston Tan's 2003 film, '15'. This began as a documentary about youth gangs in Singapore, and was later extended into a movie. It was banned by the government, because it contained genuine gang songs. Some of the actors are gang members (at least one of whom disappeared after the making of the film).

It's fascinating because some of the songs clearly refer to initiation rituals based on ancient Chinese myth. Though the gangs are now fragments of their past selves in Singapore itself, they're still strong just across the Causeway in Malaysia. They originated as resistance movements, formed by remnants of defeated Ming loyalists; hunted by the victorious Qing, initiation based on religious ritual would have bound them together. Over the centuries, the same ties helped migrant Chinese find brotherhood in alien lands. With all old certainties and relationships destroyed, seeking to find safety and support, it's quite a close analogy for a society in collapse.

Warning: the clip contains implied violence, implied drug use, and some rather bad language.

12/2/13, 11:50 AM

Janet D said...
@Chris - "Society is structured to absorb your energy...There is no answer to be had in politics." I see so much of that here in the States. If only the Right and Left could direct a tiny portion of the energy they spend in spitting at each other into actually dealing with some of the real problems that face us ....oh, how much we could accomplish.

I slept poorly last night. For some (un)fortunate reason, I recently decided to read two books on the issue of water. The first is older "Cadillac Desert: The American West & Its Disappearing Water". The second is recent, "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis". I ended up overwhelmed at the magnitude of this issue and all its different parts. And yet when was the last politician you heard even bring this issue up? Why are the things that will take us down not even being discussed? Both these books detail the dirty politics and "shove-it-under-the-rug" approach that have been pursued without abandon by pols on both sides of the ideological divide. Disturbing.

I kept thinking of the ramifications of the water crisis facing future generations, and thinking of this week's post, and trying to figure out how the religious sensiblity(ies) will change when the realities of aging dams and infrastructure, silted-up reservoirs, salted soils, and emptied aquifers finally can't be pushed into the future anymore. The magnitude of having limited access to water after being used to having unlimited access is a major worldview-shifter. Combine that with the other hockey-sticks coming their way and it's hard to even imagine what they will want to answer their larger questions.

I'm enjoying the posts, though...they definitely help with the larger picture.

12/2/13, 12:17 PM

DeAnander said...
" I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a strictly thermodynamic theory of the decline and fall of empires."

Hornborg, "The Power of the Machine"? Certainly pretty close.

12/2/13, 1:09 PM

Joseph Nemeth said...
"… I wish the US government had the brains to actually reduce its deficit spending, instead of making noise about doing so and then spinning the presses even faster to cover our gargantuan deficits."

I think we all do, but this wish reveals an interesting subtext.

It says there is still, at some stubborn level, hope -- however unreasonable.

It's similar to going through a divorce. There comes a day when you realize that the flaw in the relationship is unfixable, and intolerable. Your attention shifts. You stop thinking about making the bed, and start thinking about buying a new one. You stop "working on the relationship" -- you start mentally preparing to move on.

Or like the day you stop complaining about your workplace and start interviewing elsewhere.

I think one of the first, easiest steps toward true disengagement with the current system is to stop voting. It's easy, and painless, and entirely symbolic, but the symbolism is potent.

It's potent because the step after ceasing to vote, is ceasing to care what the government does. Your attention shifts. You've divorced your national identity, even if you never file the paperwork. The government is still a potential threat, but, like an illegal alien in the US, you avoid authorities, deal in cash, and don't get too settled. You watch the government, not with the intent to participate or even critique, but with the intent to avoid it whenever possible.

Every two years, our ballots come in the mail, and although I cannot state even one valid, objective reason to send the thing in, I keep doing it. The real reason is that I'm not really ready to disengage. I can talk up a storm of criticism of government and business and capitalism, but I simply cannot take this one simple step of throwing away my ballot.

It's a litmus test for me. I think I will live to see the day when I throw ballots on the fire. But not today.

12/2/13, 7:09 PM

John Michael Greer said...
MawKernewek, my understanding is that the plot gimmick wasn't a single explosion, but a Kessler syndrome event -- a chain reaction in which the debris from one destroyed satellite turns other satellites into flying debris, which do the same to other satellites, and so on until all of low earth orbit is full of fragments hurtling around at 20,000 mph at all kinds of angles and trajectories. Based on what I've read, it's at least possible that such an event could make it impossible to keep anything in working condition in low earth orbit at all -- and attempts to get past low earth orbit into less cluttered regions would be a matter of Russian roulette.

Ian, Frantzis is an odd duck, no question; I'm glad you found a good school. Those martial arts with a solid internal basis are the equivalent of an initiatory order -- at most, you'll have to find someone to teach you how to circulate the qi and do the other relevant forms of Taoist meditation if your teacher doesn't happen to do them. Some close study of the Book of Changes under an experienced teacher wouldn't hurt, either... ;-)

Onething, thousands of times, starting a couple of generations after the life of Jesus. There's a huge literature on the subject -- might be worth a read.

JB, good -- you're paying attention. Yes, I saw the report also, and drew the same conclusions you did. At this point, the soaring capital requirements for getting petroleum out of increasingly hard-to-produce deposits is becoming a lead weight on the entire global economy -- but it's a weight that can't be removed without bringing the economy to its knees. More on this in an upcoming post!

Iuval, the middle class is bigger in the US than in Roman times, since we have fossil fuels and so don't have to put so much of our labor force to work producing food and other basic necessities. Late Roman society had about as big of a middle class as was possible in an agricultural society, though. As for religions, of course -- in the US, look for the religions of the poor and nonwhite, and for those fringe religions that are rejected by the mainstream as just too kooky for words (cough, cough, Druidry, cough, cough).

Dwig, I know. I wish there was an alternative. Still, to borrow a line from Tolkien, "it needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, and those who have not swords can still die upon them." In the bitter years ahead, if the monks and pilgrims of whatever faith emerges out of the ruin of the industrial world can respond to violence with strength and skill of their own, things may not have to slide as far down the slope into chaos as otherwise might happen.

KL, true enough.

Cherokee, excellent! No argument there; whatever experiential reality lies behind faery lore, it's not to be messed with casually, or without cost.

Bret, thanks for the link.

Onething, maybe so -- but again, it hasn't slowed them down yet.

Bogatyr, Singapore street gangs still follow the old Three Harmonies Society traditions, "Fan Qing, Fu Ming" and the rest of it? Good heavens! I had no idea. Thanks for the link.

DeAnander, hmm. Possibly. I'd like to see more mathematics!

Joseph, wishing isn't the same thing as hoping. I wish that Barack Obama would show some least scrap of leadership one of these days; do I have any hope that he will do so? Of course not. To wish is to express a preference with no relationship to its likelihood. As for voting, I can certainly see a point to not voting in national elections, but local elections are quite another matter -- there are very often real issues and actual divergences between candidates, and that's always seemed worth the time to me. It's also possible to treat voting as a ritual affirmation of the values of democracy, whether or not those values still have any role in contemporary American politics...

12/2/13, 10:57 PM

Bogatyr said...
JMG, the Chinese diaspora in South-East Asia regarded itself as still a part of Imperial China; they kept their pigtails so that they could go back, for example. The British, in Malaya and Singapore, believed in allowing each racial group to effectively govern themselves, so ancient traditions continued to be practised unchanged. The Communists ended the traditions in the ancient homeland after 1949; migrants to the US and the West were largely assimilated; but in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, many beliefs and practices remain true to tradition. In Singapore, the folk religions are now very weak, as Evangelical Christianity has been adopted by the English-speaking Chinese elite as a sign of modernity, but there's still a lot to surprise in the backs streets and public housing blocks... If you can get hold of a copy, "The Impact of Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya", by Wilfred Blythe C.M.G. (1969) might interest you.

Ian, let me tell you a story... (if JMG will indulge me). I studied for a semester at at Tsinghua University, during which time I got to know a martial arts teacher who'd gone to Shaolin at age 5, and trained there all day every day for twenty years. I studied some Chen taiji with him, and became friends with him and his French wife. Later, on a meditation retreat in Thailand, I met a young British lad who was travelling around Asia; he really wanted to study martial arts, so I gave him my friend's contact details in Beijing. I went back to Singapore after that, but when I eventually caught up with my friend again, I asked him whether the Brit had shown up. He had - and had been appalled that my friend wanted to be paid! He had a romantic idea that teachings should be handed on free to those who sincerely wanted to learn... Every teacher I know thought that was hysterically funny. Their view was that they have dedicated their lives to learning these arts - should they not receive some recompense for passing it on? In the old days, a martial arts master would be supported in his old age by his disciples. In these times, that's no longer the case; how else will they live when they're old if they don't charge for teaching? And why shouldn't fly-by-night foreigners pay more than fellow Chinese who will still be nearby and connected by guanxi in the future?

All of which is by way of saying that Bruce Frantzis is in the same position. He spent years in Asia learning this material, and I doubt he was investing much in a pension scheme during that time. He's got the right to charge what he wants for passing that on. The question is: is it worth it?

Personally, I've studied taiji in Singapore with a school that retains a focus on qi practice. I've studied Cheng-style bagua in Beijing with disciples of Liu Jingru and Sun Zhijun, and for some months had the privilege of training privately with the latter. I'm pretty familiar with the context and the environment in which Bruce trained, and I must say: he's the real deal. I have some of his (very expensive) DVDs, and there is very, very good material in there.

Bagua is easy to learn badly. Taught well and in depth, it's a very profound art. Stick with it, and you'll learn a great deal about yourself and the universe. (The same is also true of taijiquan). I do tend to agree, now, with Bruce that it's a 'postgraduate' style, and I gave it up to work on another style that developed my basics, but I certainly hope to go back to it. Good luck with your training!

12/3/13, 1:12 AM

dltrammel said...
My Donkey said:

The many fossil-fueled luxuries of modern living have made them complacent and unconcerned with anything but themselves and their own little world of acquaintenances. I'm afraid this will also make them helpless and practically useless in a low-energy resource-scarce future, but should we just write these people off as the first group to go down when the first big wave hits? If not, how can they be reached?

I think you're still thinking fast collapse Donkey. Instead consider this made up situation:

The government announces due to (insert reason) that from now on January 1st of each year, there will be a Lottery which will select 3-5% of the entire US population. Everyone must participate, poor and rich alike.

Those selected immediately have 25% off all savings taken away and their pay is also cut by 25%. They get to keep their jobs and homes, but must make due on their new income.

First year it happens, everyone will be shocked and the media will cover it round the clock. Maybe someone you know will have been selected. And you'll see anger and the denial, but after a few weeks, something else pops up, and we'll all forget about it.

Except for those affected, who now have like with less. The poor will hurt, the middle class will bitch, and the rich will laugh it off.

Fast forward to the next January 1st and bam, next unlucky few. More anger, more denial, but yeap a few weeks and we're all back to wondering about the Superbowl or discussing Grand Thief Auto 25, lol.

Now take it to 5 years down the line. Probably 15% of the population is living on less. And its hitting home to everyone. We all would know someone who had been selected. They are the people at lunch at work who eat from a brown bag. Who drink water instead of soda. Who take the bus.

Now not going into the social aspects of such a two tiered society which would be pretty significant. Lets just look at your original question, the couch potatoes you wonder about are going to slow face the idea that its going to happen to them. Many will hide their heads in video game, tv, or such but a growing percentage, as the Lottery happens year after year, are going to start thinking, "What am I going to do when it happens to me?"

Many of them will turn to drugs, alcohol, other thing to try and forget the loaming cliff.

The smart ones, will think "How do I live now, like its already happened. And how do I learn to live on less."

(Cue commercial for Green

I hope the percentage of the first is low and the last high, we'll see cause the Lottery is already going on. Has been for several years, just most of us haven't noticed it.

Just like the famous quote "The prospect of a hanging, does wonders for focusing your attention."

I would para-phrase it as "The prospect of going hungry and sleeping cold in the back of my car, does wonders for focusing my attention on getting prepared."

Everyone here has a Lotto ticket with their name on it, the big question is when will they deliver it?

12/3/13, 1:48 AM

Cherokee Organics said...

Hmmm. You know, perhaps the world of Faery was an object lesson for people that advantages over nature always come with hidden and unexpected costs?

Fossil fuels definitely fall into this category. It will make a good tale in years to come.

I'm really trying hard to work with nature here and some of the results this season have been very encouraging. As an interesting aside, I noted today some self-seeded fruit trees (apricots and apples) and also herbage such as dandelion well within the drip lines of eucalypt trees. That was totally unexpected, but interesting all the same.

What I'm observing is how the system as a whole accelerates over time. The difficult thing for people, is that it requires so many years to get established. It is a novel eco-system after all.

Hi Janet,

It helps by thinking of them as wind bags. hehe!

The problem with water is an issue that has arisen out of the problem with soils. I live with limited water supplies, so have to follow strategies that puts every single drop of water into the ground water table or into storage for later use. People are often surprised that I don't have to irrigate the fruit trees here in high summer (which can get blisteringly hot).

You are correct to be concerned about water. However, with a lot of time and energy, the problem can be resolved, despite global warming.

One of the things that I respect about the permaculture people is that they take a holistic approach to setting up a farm. One of the big considerations is getting water into the ground.

They also walk the talk and have attempted these techniques in Jordan – of all places - at 400m below sea level. The median rainfall is something like 150mm (about 6 inches) at the site and the photos do them proud:

Greening the desert sequel site

It is not perfect - nothing ever is - but it is good. The time lapse photos are worth having a look at, if nothing else.

If you look carefully at the photos, you'll notice that the surrounding area has become considerably greener too. Whether it is locals replicating techniques, or more ground water available to the existing plant life, who is to know? Do the strategies work? Yes.

Can those strategies support 7 billion humans? Probably not.



12/3/13, 2:15 AM

Ray Wharton said...
Something disturbing has become a part of my life recently, I have been talking decline for a while, more openly than most folks do face to face, and changing whatever parts of my life I could (going intentionally slowly, like a mindful triage attendant, not operating on too many patients at a time). Changing my own life is more persuasive than any class of rhetoric! Someone once told me "the truth of modern physics is the nuclear bomb" well "the truth of decline is in compost piles". Well, too many folks have been speaking too kindly of me recently, thanking me for things I deserve little thanks for, and putting me on a pedestal for work done which is quite crude and not overly hard. I tried to improve myself so that people could see what it looks like to see decline with more than an idler's eyes, but now too many friends are overly inspired by my vision, instead of their own. I need to shut my mouth more and work and meditate more, or my precociousness may get me composted! In sum I have tried to have a local effect on who does what to make this area more ready for the next dogleg of decline, but I am starting to get responsibility and respect from groups of friends and acquaintances which I still feel to young and dumb for, I am not at all sure I like it. But with luck a Tool Library in the next year or too will grow where I planted a seed at a local fraternal order; a food and croppace forest on a piece of land abandoned in the area; a small community garden on what was once acres of a friends lawn; and a few green houses. Maybe my readings have made me far too sensitive.

Its been a good week, I have been rereading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which is the book I have most often read. Winter sets in and most of my outdoor projects are well mothballed against the changing season. So the time for study and reflection has started. In practical matters I have found the I Ching to be of the highest usefulness. A reading every Sunday has certainly inspired many a modification to my stance in life, mostly for the better it seems so far.

Each reading of Zarathustra become less a collection of speeches and sayings, and more a narrative, more essentially a narrative. Its one of those books where even though the narrative is subtle and hidden in the various smoke screens of bold speeches, it is the most interesting part. I remember college, students going on about when and where Zarathustra is set. It is not a matter of saying 'here it is' or 'there it is' it is not set in one place or time, but one kind of place and time, at the closing of an age. The most basic element of the shift of religious sensibilities talked about on this blog find an early expression in it, the rejection of salvation from life, in exchange for an affirmation of life here and now and into the long now. Though maybe such a religious sensibility will only sink its roots deeply in to the hearts of hermits and those in their likeness? I wonder what Zarathustra does over the years of the narrative, between speeches, if he were so rich, I wonder what he did to support himself?

12/3/13, 8:46 AM

LewisLucanBooks said...
Re: Santissima Muerte: National Geographic Magazine had a good article on this, May 2010 issue. Titled "Mexican Saints."

Re: Faery Lore: I've been watching a BBC series called "Edwardian Farm." Got it from the library. Worth a look. There was some copper mining in Devon and tin mining in Cornwall. They made Cornish Pasties for the miners to take down in the mines, for lunch. There was comment made that the miners had to leave some of the crust for the "Knockers." Faeries that inhabited the mines. Wonder if the old rhyme about Tommy Knockers, relates? Back to Google :-).

Well, in keeping with the sacred texts of "Green Wizardry", ;-) I've finished the weatherizing. Plastic and tape on the major windows, blankets on all the exterior doors. Not a day too soon. Major cold front moving in. The propane doesn't kick on as often, nor does it run as long.

12/3/13, 9:06 AM

Ray Wharton said...
Also in reference to my earlier post on the Media and its hold on the collective imagination some thoughts occur. I generally agree that the media's current level of influence in waining and likely to decline rapidly in the next few years, but if it is to have influence on future religiosity I think it would be from seeds already dormant in the soil. Specifically media types which indicate toward inner work practices, even if in the program itself there is just a theme park version. I know folks who put honest work into working the Force, if a couple of them figure on the Jedi mind trick they are suddenly in the runnings ;); or who seem to have a very basic tap on their Qi imitating Dragon Ball Z (which is almost as ridiculous as a program can be without the benefit of post structuralism) and even if shooting blasts of Qi at opponents can't happen, focusing and raising or hiding "power levels" has some potential; I personally dig ditches and rake leaves using movements from Avatar the Last Airbender, we can shot fire, or move water and stone and wind with our Qi outside of cartoons, at least not with out help from shovels, rakes, and buckets. I made the earlier comment thinking largely of recovering video game addicts who conceptualize real life skill development as 'leveling up'. And as silly and over the top as our media is, this is nothing new, Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Faust, Beowulf would blend in perfectly as a character in dozens of comic books, or cartoons.

I suspect comics will over take TV in importance during the next phase of the decline. Over all becoming a smaller influence, fewer issues, and fewer series, but enough to maintain influence on the imagination for a while.

Anyway, anything is a long shot at this point, but I just thought it was an interesting potential to plumb. Though having seen the comments in this thread on 12 step groups I would bet on them as having the best shot of anything mentioned yet. I went to meetings every week growing up (starting at 2 days old!) and it had a most positive effect I feel! The tradition has all the workings of a religion, tested for decades, and is a response to a most paradigmatic issue of our time the pattern of addiction. Any community project I work with I partially understand from the cues I learned at 12 step meetings with my folks.

12/3/13, 9:28 AM

Zach said...
re: onething's comment:

Along with the thought that there might be quite a few disaffected and bewildered Christians if Jesus doesn't come and at the same time environmental and species destruction that they ignored because they either didn't take it seriously and/or expected the apocalypse anyway so didn't feel the need to take responsibility...

If any reader has specific examples of Christians doing this (because Jesus Will Come Soon And It Won't Matter™) that they can share, I would greatly appreciate it. Published is best; personal anecdote is fine as long as you realize that this is fodder for a writing project. Please be clear about what can be shared publicly.

You can contact me through my email zach AT znfrey DOT com.


12/3/13, 11:08 AM

Zach said...

That Cornish tradition made it to the New World with the miners. I was told that very same thing (about leaving some crust from one's pasty) on a tour of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I occasionally wonder just how high the price of copper will need to go for those mines to be worked again.

Interesting, too, that the Keewenaw copper was worked for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. Supposedly, there are no examples of copper mines worked in modern times that do not have archaeological evidence of ancient mining. More evidence that "ancient" does not mean "stupid"!


12/3/13, 11:23 AM

Juhana said...
@Chris & JMG: No political ideology can contain complex variety of life, I agree in that. It only imitates the true society, kinship networks that are biologically programmed into human beings. Politics make mockery about true human loyalties. Unfortunately in the Western countries this biological, non-ideological foundation of very humanity has been crumbled by etatism and industrialism of the last centuries. Nowadays political ideologies shape the world around us, because decisions made by central state machinery (guided by political ideologies)have legislative power over us. Decisions made by indifferent bureaucracies have as much or more power over most of the population than their true, face-to-face peers. Unnatural state of things, but what can you do? So politics do matter.

I have many times wondered if people outside conditions similar to my own childhood can truly understand what I mean with this... For middle class person state bureaucracy shows it's soft face, except during tax collection. It is like benevolent but almost invisible despot, hiding somewhere in the background. For public housing kid growing up offers somewhat different experience... First of all, there is pervasive fear of violence. Many things are decided by fighting, and when you are just a kid, you better stay away from harm's way. State authorities are distant and cannot truly dictate what happens in your neighborhood. The area where you live just is not that safe place to be, even if it is not a war zone. Parents of more affluent families don't let their children go there, even if they downplay safety problems on public arenas, as long as they are contained to specific estates.

You are just this small kid, maybe ten or twelve years old, seeing things that don't happen if you believe authorities and TV news. It breaks something inside you, and after that moment nobody who has not been broken the same way as you cannot really understand the place where you live, even if you rise up to be one of "respected citizens".

It is like that even here in the Nordic countries, has been at least from 90's onwards, even if they desperately try to keep up the facade of "welfare" society in the upper echelons of the state machinery. There just are not that many "home boys" with the ability to write about their experiences with English language, or even with our native language. Only writer describing this phenomenon I try to describe with decent English that I am familiar with is Jack Donovan. Following article describes it, but he approaches this fact from very different angle compared to me. He glorifies something I do not glorify, I just think he is right. Sad but true, that's my opinion.

So, it is true that our beloved Earth is being depleted and left behind as barren landscape right now. It is true that our bloated population should turn away from very destructive habits and unite, work together to solve mounting crisis looming immediately ahead of us, maybe ten or fifteen years from now.
Nothing like that shall happen. Instead humans are going to play game of musical chairs, and one's most important duty is to ensure that his/her OWN PEOPLE have place to sit, when music fades away. Our brains, our biology, is that of tribal hunter-gatherers from Great Mammoth Plains of the last Ice Age. We as animal species among animal species are not ready to face complex dilemmas as truly rational creatures, which we are not. So it is going to be solved the old way. Through carnage, hunger, misery and disease. Through instincts.

And political games shall have very, very big role in that game of musical chairs waiting for us all. No homestead or hiding place is safe from political decisions and their influence. It is the way it has happened before, time after time after time. People from all colors, from all creeds and all cultural narratives have behaved the same way. Why should we be the one exception?

12/3/13, 12:46 PM

Crow Hill said...
Yupped said: Personally, I can understand the attraction of a more nature-centric religion … people will tend to want to stick with what is already in place, assuming … that the theology is flexible and adaptive to change.
I am presently reading two books that look into a new religiosity based on nature.
Bron Taylor’s (‎) "Dark Green Religion. Nature, Spirituality and the Planetary Future” is an academic survey of nature-centric spiritualities that are appearing in different parts of the world and among different groups.
Michael Dowd (, originally a pastor with the United Church of Christ has a hands-on practical approach and tours the USA to preach a sacred view of the universe, the earth and our place in it. He presents these ideas in his book, Evolution. How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World. He explains how this can enhance traditional religion.
Onething said: The idea that animals do not have souls is actually rather new, and may be a result of the mechanistic revolution in science with the likes of Newton and Descartes.
Here are two anecdotes confirming this and showing that animals were considered equal to human beings in that legal proceedings could be instituted against them, rather than simply exterminating them as would be the case today.
In 1451, the bishop of Bern, Switzerland, condemned leaches, under threat of excommunication, to leave a lake were they resided. In 1545, it was the animals who won the lawsuit: the weevils that fed on the French Médoc vineyards were given the right to continue to do so, in spite of local people’s complaints. It was explained during the trial that animals have a right equal to that of humans to feed themselves. (Luc Ferry, « Le Nouvel Ordre écologique », 1992 in Sabine Rabourdin, « Les sociétés traditionnelles au secours des sociétés modernes », 2005.)
This brings to mind concern for animal welfare expressed by a 10th Century Sufi group from Basra in their book,“The Case of Animal versus Man Before the King of the Jinn”, where domestic and wild animals demand a better treatment by humans.

12/3/13, 12:49 PM

Enrique said...
"Sean of the many labels". Is that anything like "Saruman of the Many Colors"? ;-)

The Archdruid's observation about the "Fetishism of Evil" poses an interesting counterpoint to that article about Aztec political theory, since of all of the historical civilizations that we know about, the Aztec Empire was probably the one that actually came closest to being based on the fetishization of evil. And we all saw how that turned out in the end. Probably the best observation from the comments section of that article was this little gem: "Seems like the Mexica lived under Cthulhu. I guess bloody Cortéz was indeed a sort of liberator, after all."

I remember that one of the themes of "Lord of the Rings" was the psychology and the self-defeating nature of evil. I also remember reading an essay about Nazi Germany which mentioned that despite the cunning, cleverness and high level of intelligence of many practitioners of evil, such people are also prone to making decisions that are unbelievably stupid, short-sighted and self-destructive. This seems to be true whether we are talking about Sauron and Saruman, the Sith from the Star Wars movies and novels or such real world examples as the Nazi leaders and many others throughout history.

One classic example from Nazi Germany was that the Nazis tied up thousands of trains shipping people to the concentration camps at a time when the Wehrmacht was suffering critical logistics problems and there were tens of thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles desperately needed by the Panzertruppen piling up at the factories and railheads. Another was Hitler’s decision to launch Operation Barbarossa and then constantly interfering in military operations. If he had allowed the generals to execute the original plan without interference, the Germans probably would have taken Moscow, St Petersburg and most of Ukraine before the infamous Russian winter set in and before Zhukov and Stalin could get their defenses organized. At that point, even if the Russians had decided to keep fighting, they would have done so at a serious disadvantage.

12/3/13, 1:49 PM

Unknown said...
(Deborah Bender)

Re offerings made by miners: I saw a documentary about Bolivian miners. They make shrinesto the Devil down in the mines on the basis that God won't help them down there. This is fairly sound theology from a pagan perspective, as the miners work in the realm of Hades/Pluto.

Re volunteer European plants growing under the drip line of the eucalyptus forest: I don't expect them to thrive. I got to visit a wildlife park in Australia a few years ago and saw a healthy eucalyptus forest for the first time and it's a fine thing. But eucalyptus trees are not very compatible with the flora of other bioregions.

More than a hundred years ago, Anglo settlers planted a species of eucalyptus throughout California in hopes that it would provide timber. It didn't (they planted the wrong species) but eucalyptus grows like crabgrass here and is about as useful. Australian understory plants were not imported and few California natives will grow under eucalyptus, nor will naturalized European plants (which do very well when competing with California natives). So there is little plant diversity or food for wildlife in a California eucalyptus forest. Stands of eucalyptus do offer shade and a windbreak. They sequester carbon until fire reaches them; then they burn very hot. The publicly managed lands are trying to eradicate eucalyptus and restore native habitat, difficult and expensive to do as the wood blunts saws.

12/3/13, 1:55 PM

Joseph Nemeth said...
"…the two requirements I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, which the core tradition or traditions of our approaching Second Religiosity must have: the capacity to make the transition from the religious sensibility of the past to the religious sensibility that’s replacing it, and a willingness to abandon the institutional support of the existing order of society and stand apart from the economic benefits as well as the values of a dying civilization."

This second requirement is what I'm comparing to divorce. It involves "moving on."

"Moving on" doesn't happen when you stop hoping for circumstances to change. It happens once you stop wishing for circumstances to change, and instead start making changes yourself.

I realize this was merely a figure of speech on your part, but its use even as an idiom represents engagement. One doesn't use the expression about strangers doing unknown things far away.

When the desert fathers retreated into monasteries, I don't think their mindset included wishing Diocletian ran his empire differently. They disengaged. I think that's the kind of thing you're referring to, here?

We're still embedded in a system that keeps writing Social Security checks and reminding us if we forget to pay our taxes, and our figures of speech acknowledge that….

12/3/13, 2:35 PM

Ian Stewart said...

I certainly don't begrudge Bruce Frantzis (or any other accomplished artist) making a comfortable living off his material, and I have gained insight and inspiration from his writings. You're also not the first person to tell me that he is the real deal and a very capable fighter. Ultimately, though, I felt that his method of putting culturally specific abstractions such as qi at the forefront was not for me. The Yin style I'm pursuing is a complete system, with martial, meditative, and medical components; but those all ended up in the hands of multiple students, as the lineage inheritor Dr. Xie Peiqi only had so much time left to teach once he opened the system up to Westerners.

The martial component I'm learning starts by grinding out repetitions of individual strikes, then building them up into combinations... very little discussion of qi so far, but that component will be there when I'm ready to think about it. I feel better building up from a relatively simple physical practice that gets more complex. And, for what it's worth, they were happy to onboard a complete beginner like me, without any previous experience in another system. Even if that's not the best way to go about it, I'm willing to beat my head against it for a while. Even after a year and a half of fairly lazy practice, I've gained improvements in posture and whole-body connectedness.

I do notice that Frantzis is marketing his tai chi more heavily these days. He did mention in his book that the Wu style of tai chi was integral in helping him heal his spine after a car accident, so perhaps he's aiming more at the health market these days. I'm still relatively young and vigorous, so I figure I might as well pursue the aggressive, directly martial stuff while I can!

12/3/13, 3:13 PM

Ian Stewart said...
I never expected to see Dragonball Z, of all things, referenced here! But I think Ray has a point. I have considered and rejected the idea of sacrificing myself on the altar of Los Angeles to try to gain a film career, and my thought process was this: It's surely not going to get any easier to enforce residual payments for film and television work, and especially for TV actors, that's probably a big chunk of their income after the show's over. Upfront patronage certainly makes more sense for an author or a comic-book artist, as you've got one person (or perhaps a small team) doing the work, and that gives a much greater certainty that the work will be completed. Meanwhile, industrial-grade film arts require coordination of huge teams, acquisition of location shooting permits, etc. Easy to pay for with a strong government in a time of relative peace and abundance, otherwise not so much.

Also, I can't help but notice that the rise of television paralleled the rise of consumer society. Why would one care so much about circuses if, in the future, one has to put more effort into getting bread? Cheap, high-margin reality TV shows that show off glamorous lifestyles will likely become objects of envy rather than aspiration (and to some degree, they already are).

I am beginning to believe that we should simply give up on broadcast television entirely, and the infrastructure and frequencies should be used to enable regional hubs for mesh wireless networking. But it's going to be a long, long time before I'll be able to advance that idea without getting laughed at.

12/3/13, 6:25 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Juhana,

Thank you for your reply. In light of your history, which is appreciated by the way, I will consider any response for a few days before responding. My thoughts are with you bro.



12/4/13, 1:40 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi Deborah,

You are probably correct in your assertion, and yet at the same time those cheeky little apples and apricots are poking their heads out of the ground. Self-seeded fruit trees often have root systems that massively exceed the grafted fruit trees which are usually selected for their small size and disease resistance. No one wants a 20m lemon tree! hehe! Well, maybe I’d be happy with one.

In the areas where apples evolved, there are actually apple tree forests.

As you quite rightly suggested your Californian eucalypt forests are devoid of our support species (ie. the under-storey).

Have a look at the photo: Eucalypt Regnans

That photo is in a slightly wetter area than here, but not that far away. In the photo I can spot, black wattles, black woods, blanket leafs, musk daisy bushes and an assortment of soft and hard tree ferns. All of those trees are support species and are probably completely missing in your forests.

The eucalypt trees were actually gifted by the Australian government at the time of Federation. It is something of a poisoned chalice.

In fact you should know that many exotic species grow quite happily within the drip line of eucalypts. It may well be that in California, they are just not up for further experimentation? I can suggest quite a few based on experience here. Modifying an existing forest environment is really hard work.

Quote: "They sequester carbon until fire reaches them; then they burn very hot."

Apologies, but you are incorrect in this assertion. The trees themselves rarely burn. They may be killed by fire, but in most cases they survive only to produce epicormic shoot growth within weeks of the fire.

The fires are driven by the ground fuels, dried elevated fuels and the green leaves. The trunks of trees are usually only damaged or killed during extreme wildfires. Mostly after a fire has gone through, the blackened trunks are left standing.

The authorities in the US are probably following a process of fire suppression. They are probably also not thinning the forests and reducing the ground fuels. Both of those actions contribute to extreme wild fires.

Quote: "difficult and expensive to do as the wood blunts saws"

But of course! Welcome to my world. That is perhaps why they do not manage the forest? Eucalypt forests evolved over a short period of time to be managed by humans. The early explorers used to be staggered by how much burning off was going on all of the time! The Aboriginals were experts with fire and for good reason.

You forgot to add that the timber does not burn green, but must season for more than 12 months but preferably 24 months.

Anyway, they need to stop complaining about them and buy a proper chainsaw and learn how to hand sharpen it, like we do Down Under. hehe!

Thanks for your thoughts, but I live with this stuff and some of them are 50m tall. I spent half of the day today helping my neighbour cut up a monster tree on their property which had fallen over for no apparent reason.

There is beauty in the eucalypt, but there is terror too. She is to be respected.



12/4/13, 2:24 AM

Ruben said...

I couldn't see the citation for the 180% increase in investment. Could you post a link and page number?

12/4/13, 11:39 AM

Frances Reed said...
Curious that in all the commentary about orthodox religiosity, there is no mention of Torah Judaism, which has much in common with the initiatory orders of which you write... not the least of which commonalities are its longevity and its strength among both the poor and the "downwardly mobile middle-class intellectuals.

12/4/13, 3:30 PM

AlanfromBigEasy said...

In my fan fiction "Stars Reach Scandinavia" I do mention a service at Temple Sinai in Antarctica circa 2420. There has been a fusion of services.

Three seating areas - men, women and mixed during the main service. And a later service with ten men quietly in one corner, and the rest women, including the rabbi.

The vast majority of Antarctic Jews are converts or descended from post-2075 converts. About 1/9th of the population are Jewish.

12/4/13, 6:30 PM

Marinhomelander said...

Wonderful food for thought as usual. My teenager reads your weekly with relish and is sharing it at his school.

One major defect in your website is the separation of your replies from comments.

You have to scroll up and down and try to find out what you are replying to. My standby is to copy the name you respond to and then search for it.

Is there some way to have your replies automatically be posted underneath that which you are replying to?

12/5/13, 9:29 AM

Marinhomelander said...

Wonderful food for thought as usual. My teenager reads your weekly with relish and is sharing it at his school with a tight inside group of deviants from the usual Facebook and junk thought crowd.

At a small geographical level, I think one potential locus for a religious revival is going to be Marin County California.

It's just north of and is the home for many influential people in San Francisco, which is the birthplace of many social movements, for better or worse, is the state's wealthiest, healthiest and most educated county.

It is the home of New Agism in the Seventies, much of the popular music scene of the 1960s and 70s and is an eco-centric place blessed with abundant nature, and was and is the home of the organic farming and shop local movement.

Nature is worshiped at already a spiritual level here with places like Muir Woods, Point Reyes and the other hidden details that tourists never find.

You once replied that you thought that some blighted rustbelt place in Indiana etc. would be the more likely birthplace of a >political< movement, but we're talking religion here.

One major defect in your website is the separation of your replies from comments.

You have to scroll up and down and try to find out what you are replying to. My standby is to copy the name you respond to and then search for it. Most awkward.

Is there some way to have your replies automatically be posted underneath that which you are replying to?

Thank you again for the illumination.

12/5/13, 10:23 AM