Wednesday, April 14, 2021

God is alive, but love is dying

When I was a child, the neighbors once left go on vacation and left their dog with us. The dog was very depressed and did not even eat for a day, until my mother figured out that if she said the name of his owner, his ears went up and he would cheer up a bit. Eventually, with enough repetition, he started eating. I suspect dogs brains are similar to people's brains who have insecure ambivalent attachment style (aka anxious preoccupied)*. Cats on the other hand are less needing of attachment. They are repulsed when someone needs connection from them. They are more going with the flow and seem to have a connection to an inner source. Their brains might be more similar to people with insecure avoidant attachment**. I’m more like the dog and I suffer similarly when I get abandoned in a romantic relationship.

The word attachment has negative connotations in modern western culture (and in some ancient eastern ones). Taken to an extreme, it connotes lack of freedom, an infantile mother projection, and an inability to function without the person one is attached to. We can think of attachment in less extreme forms. Though attachment does originate during infancy and childhood, we later as adults tend to pattern our relationship to our lovers after those early imprints. Forming secure attachments is the golden standard of mental health, and it just means enjoying our partners, caring about their well being, supporting, loving and being inspired (to function in and love the rest of the world) by them, feeling secure in the relationship.  The other attachment styles can lead to trouble, but they are workable if people understand each other, commit to the relationship, and follow certain protocols outlined in (for example, not limited to) Wired for Love, by Stan Tatkin. The problem with modern romantic relationship is not avoidant or anxious attachment styles, but ideology. Let me explain.

Rumi was a Persian Sufi mystic around the middle ages. He fell in love with another mystic by the name of Shams. At some point Shams left unexpectedly and could not be found again, and Rumi was devastated. The way he found to cope with this loss was to convince himself that what he loved about Shams can be found in himself, and what was in himself was the pure Essence of God.  I suspect Rumi had either a secure attachment style or an insecure ambivalent one*, because people with insecure avoidant attachment do not get devastated so much by abandonment. 

On the other hand, insecurely avoidants learned to deal with their initial abandonment by their caretakers by developing a tough exterior and not trusting people for romantic relationships. They are able to substitute other kinds of relationships, such as with pets or children (much less potential for abandonment by pets of children, at least until the children are grown up), or constantly find something to amuse, distract or consume so that they don’t have to face that primal human fear of being alone, and that primal human need of transcending one’s ego, which according to Erich Fromm, only mature love can fulfill. They might get into BDSM, they might transcend their ego with transcendental meditation, entheogens, or they might find anonymity in a crowd (none of which, in my opinion is a substitute for intimacy with a romantic partner, though they can help as coping strategy for dealing with abandonment trauma). They might even have a short erotic fling, but as soon as intimacy is asked of them, they run and abandon. The grief and abandonment trauma was just unbearable and the ideology that Rumi found and passed to future generations is a way forward for coping with abandonment.  Supposedly even people with secure attachment can experience abandonment trauma as adults, because of the sting of betrayal and sudden loss of security, so the strategy of believing that we can get all our security, love and belonging needs from an internal source helps everyone avoid having to deal with abandonment trauma, since the internal source will never abandon us, unlike real people, who can be flighty, unreliable and definitely mortal. Also, the strategy of surrender to the internal source might alleviate the burden of having to make hard choices, or choices that conflict with others' since Source or Spirit will do it for us. In addition, the ideology Rumi and other mystics developed sees it as unholy/blasphemous to not be whole within oneself, since God is whole and God is within, so not being whole in that view just means being disconnected from the inner God. And so looking to others to complete us and fill our holes is frowned upon. But wait, we’re not talking about character defects that need completing. We’re talking about complementarity and specialization so we emerge as a whole couple, family,  tribe or team that is more than the sum of the parts. Is that so terrible and worthy of scorn to the (ironically) non-dual yogini?


One of the greatest fears of humans is being alone. Given that humans (and other primates) evolved in tribes where interdependence meant survival and that humans (and other apes) are born needing adults to take care of them and form attachments to these adults in order to survive, that much of the neural circuitry of sexual bonding uses the same circuitry of infant mother bonding, and that evolution wants us to find mates in order to survive as a species, this fear of being alone makes sense. Given also that confidence is sexy and terror is not, it also makes sense then, that the strategy of finding peace (and abating the primal terror of being alone by showing the believer that he is not actually alone) and joy through a belief and an experience of an inner Source will spread far and wide. Also, such a belief would make the believer more apt to make wise choices in a mate, coming from a place of calm instead of terror. And also it makes sense from an attachment theory perspective that once one has a child, the fear of being alone can abate, if one can form a secure attachment with the child.


Perhaps many monks also have trouble making attachments to lovers and instead find it easier to latch onto buddhist  philosophy, where attachment to anything (except buddhist philosophy) is frowned upon. Well, except maybe most buddhists only think that attachment to stuff is a problem, because most people do make attachments to people, especially friends and family. So is Buddhism with its non-attachment to the world and striving towards the non-dual consciousnsess just a coping strategy, or is there some truth to it? And if there is some truth, how much and how far does one take non-attachment to the world, and communing with Source?


I don’t know the answer. I would love it if there were a benevolent ground of being that allowed us to transcend our egos, but it doesn’t seem like a way to live except for monks and nuns. The best solution we have found to alleviating our fear of being alone and our need to transcend our egos is love, whether romantic (and particular), for friends, for the earth, for children and for animals. 

The vision of both the eastern and western mystics is beautiful. To renounce all the superficiality, pretense, and violence of the world and find within a presence peaceful, vibrant, nourishing and deep. And from that inner place of peace and joy to reach outward again and love and inspire people. In this vision, we are like waves upon the loving ocean of consciousness, all connected underneath. Or like windows letting in the light of the sun (consciousness). The ocean/sun alone is permanent, the waves/windows are transient. It makes no sense to form attachments to one's wave/window or other people's waves/windows because this causes suffering when that attachment is inevitably severed with time. Instead, one focuses on the ocean and presumably this creates experiences of peace and joy, although the ultimate sustainable bliss of samadhi is something most can only strive for, or only get glimpses of.

Another metaphor expressing this vision is that we are like parts of one body, and hurting any one part hurts us in return. This is thus not only a personal vision, but a vision for a peaceful and harmonious society.

But how far does one take this? If we can be whole within ourselves by connecting with the Source, why should we join with others in couples, families, tribes, companies? Why bother if they are the same as us, whole within themselves, when we can connect directly to the source through meditation, yoga, and entheogens and skip the "middleman"? Why would ants and bees specialize and form colonies and hives? Why do we form symbiotic relationships with other species? Why would trees form symbiotic relationships with fungi and each other?  Why would our cells specialize to form our bodies? The mystics' can answer only the first question, and only transactionally: the lover is only useful as a mirror in the spiritual journey,  and the only love worth anything is the love of God. Perhaps some mystics might concede that this love of God can be experienced THROUGH the lover. Here again, extremism is not our friend. The word “hole” sounds terrible as applied to a person, connoting a disgusting deficiency. We might instead view holes as needs that can best be expressed with the help of a lover, a child, good work, a parent, or a friend, even though we might sometimes find weak substitutes to express these needs.


Try telling a woman whose clock is ticking in her fourties that she should be content to love her inner child or Source, rather than attempt to bear and love a child that she has created in her womb? But it’s OK to tell a heterosexual man that his evolved drive to want to express his power by loving a woman, by giving of himself fully to her, sometimes to the point of sacrificing his needs or even his life, is a pathlogy, and instead he should love his inner child or get in touch with his inner God/Essence/Presence/Source? No wonder so many men turn to war and other forms of violence. Or a few pretend like they are beyond all desire and need for a woman, like good boys, so they can fit into the ideological herd and be acceptable as a mate to the new ideologues of love. Poor Rumi had no idea what he was creating.

Why hasn’t this ideology taken off and become popular till now? I think it’s because it’s a perfect bedfellow for global capitalism, which selects for individuals who need it more than each other, thus ultimately destroying tribes, villages, and even families and romantic relationships. Profit is maximized if nobody shares and if everyone is utterly dependent on the global corporation. Talk about co-dependence***...

So there are psychological and social advantages to this philosophy, but there are also some ethical issues/contradictions and perhaps also some psychological disadvantages. Let's start with the ethical issues: Could the monks and nuns who can devote much of their time to meditation and inner work still do it if  they weren't being supported by people who produce much of what they need to live, and who do not seem to latch onto this philosophy? In modern times could the people who use money to pay for servants to provide for their basic needs while they meditate, do yoga and have mystical visions doing entheogens, still do these things without the servants or without the money? So in a twist of Animal Farm, we are all One, but some of us are more able to experience our Oneness (the ones with more money and power)

Hypocrisy is also an ethical disadvantage. Those with insecure avoidant attachment style are obsessed with setting boundaries, meaning having to constantly explain to other people what they need for them to do and not do in order for their needs to be satisfied (perhaps because their boundaries were violated at an early age), but are usually not willing to even in principle meet a lover's expressed needs because that would be "co-dependent"***, and the lover better learn how to go with the flow, and be one with the moment (but when the lover does something they don’t like, they are not willing to be in the flow and accept “what is”, they get triggered). Also, take away their kids or pets and see how enlightened and in the moment and one with the universe they remain.  


Another disadvantage happens when avoidant and ambivalent people get together as lovers and the avoidant people decide to abandon the relationship even if they committed to it. The avoidant lovers do not understand that for those with insecure ambivalent attachment there is nothing that can truly substitute for the lover, that the lover is not about providing everything, all the meaning and love and inspiration. That would truly be too much to expect from any human. No, the lover is providing some inspiration, some security and most of all an altar for one's love to be expressed in the flesh and in action. The lover (and work and nature and other friends) can be a gateway to the divine for the ambivalently or securely attached person, an all too human gateway, loved for being human and not perfect. The avoidant people do not realize the devastation they leave in their wake when they abandon the ambivalent or secure person because they have adopted an ideology where the only thing that matters is a connection to the divine and the middleman is superfluous and too much trouble. I wonder if the avoidant people had dealt with their childhood abandonment trauma (and other possible traumas) if they would have acted differently and not needed to establish their boundaries by abandoning their lovers. It is hard to imagine for me that a benevolent Source would leave a trail of devastation for some people who are trying to express love, due to their lovers needing to connect with Source, unless this source was vindictive and jealous.




 Ironically the mystics were all about dissolving the boundaries between all beings and connecting through the underlying ocean, but we need boundaries to form individuals, couples, families, tribes, teams. The boundaries are at the highest levels not just the individuals. The couple needs a boundary to function well as a couple, the family needs a boundary to function well as a family and so on. This how life happens. Connections between parts that form wholes happen because they allow parts to accomplish things that were previously impossible. New boundaries form around the new wholes, and the old boundaries of the parts become looser, while still keeping the integrity of the lower level parts. There is less internal competition (between parts) and new competition between the wholes.


Also ironically the avoidantly attached people who must constantly assert their boundaries do not know the deepest human bliss of connecting to another human being in a vulnerable and open way. They have thrown out the baby of deep human connection and attachment with the bathwater of deep human pain when getting attached to a lover whom one must ultimately lose (and disagree with, which apparently can be devastating for some). This is a fundamental difference also between east and west. The eastern mystics have thrown out all attachment, whereas the western mystics recognize that though there is suffering when attachment ends, there is also resurrection and bliss when attachments can form again. As Khalil Gibran said in The Prophet: But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.


How did we go from connecting to everyone with love, to not needing a romantic partner? Or believing that romantic love is but a pale shadow of the love of God? Is it a form of extremism? Between the two claims of "Romantic Love is a shadow of love of God", and "Love of God is a strategy for coping with loss of romantic love or fear of intimacy with an adult human" maybe the truth lies.

* Insecure avoidant attachment is something that happens to infants and sets the stage for adult patterns of relating to others. Their care providers as infants either were not available enough to take care of them, or did it in a way that was painful or unsafe.

** Insecure Ambivalent attachment supposedly happens when one's caretakers during infancy are sometimes present and sometimes absent, or sometimes able to meet needs, and sometimes not.

*** Co-dependence was initially about people who are not able to attend to their own needs and understand their own motivations and instead immerse themselves in a lover's needs. Especially when the lover seems to need rescuing because they are addicted to something. Expressing one's needs clearly to a lover and recognizing that those needs can only be met by the lover is a mark of self knowledge, the opposite of co-dependence. There is also a difference between expecting a lover to meet all of one's needs (for meaning, safety, pleasure, collaboration, etc)





Saturday, March 27, 2021

the socially distancing spirituality and its alternatives

Have you ever been in a beautiful natural place and experienced an ecstatic sense of belonging and power beyond your self?  Have you ever adored another person, not just qualities about them, but something essential about them? Or interacted with an animal or child in a way that felt vital? In those instances we are experiencing something other than our selves. It is possible to imagine the immensity of the ocean, its waves and spray,  or the majestic mountains with the clouds below us, but those are just pale copies in our imagination of the real thing and of communing with the real thing. It is possible to imagine the lover or friend, or dream about them, but the imaginings and dreams can not do justice to the person and the delight we find in witnessing their beauty or intimately conversing with them. These things are possible because we interact with something or someone other than ourselves.

And yet it has become fashionable in some spiritual New Age circles to pretend like we have everything we need within us, in our subconscious (Carl Jung, whom I mostly love, but disagree with here*), in our body as trauma we need to release from childhood (Gabor Mate), or as a lost part of ourselves (Esence or Presence or Source) that has some ontological existence that we can regain by revisiting past events (Almaas) or through mindfulness meditation (Eckart Tolle). Now it is fashionable to pretend that communing with a lover is a pale imitation of accessing some forgotten divine part of ourselves instead of the other way around.

New agey men and women (or masculine and feminine identified people) pretend like they don't need each other, like they are complete in themselves rather than complementary. It has become fashionable to try to fill one's own holes through solipsistic inner work, rather than find other people, or nature, to fill these holes. It's a variation on Pascal's "God-sized hole" theory, except now the claim is that God/Essence/Presence is internal or that there is a confusion of the mother or father with the lover, or there is a confusion of losing the mother's love with losing this essential part of ourselves and only Essence can fill the hole. The partial truth that these theories might be shadows of is that because the limbic part of our brains gets imprinted with our primary caretakers' qualities, and sexual attraction is happening in the limbic part of the brain, we are attracted to people who remind us of our parents in some ways. I emphatically disagree with the claim that a lover can't at least partially "fill our holes", based on many social science experiments showing that married people are healthier and happier on the average, and my own experience, which is that my life is better and I have more motivation for life in a loving, stable relationship. Also a tribe or community can fill some of our holes/needs, just like good work or nature can fill other needs/holes. Children and pets still fill holes for many women, though the new agey ones won't admit it. And women as lovers and wives fill these holes for men. It makes sense that when one is needy rather than joyful or confident one is usually less attractive as a romantic partner. And it also makes sense that one can avoid dealing with one's issues and understanding one's deep motivations by focusing instead on a partner (aka codependence). But it's a leap from here to being complete onto oneself, or being admonished for wanting to fill holes by falling in love with someone. Why can't it be that we love the other because they complement us, because there is something we lack that they have and we want or even need to experience that produces extreme pleasure and joy that we can't produce on our own? Why can't it be that we also love them for unselfish reasons, even if it hurts us to love them (as in the case of unrequited love)? In the New Age view, romantic love is only a tool towards Essence or Presence or spiritual growth. Contrast this with Khalil Gibran's vision of love and pleasure from The Prophet:

Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is 

the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,

But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.

For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,

And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,

And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

People of Orphalese, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.

Imagine if the bees or flowers heard of Almaas or Eckart Tolle and the flowers started withholding their nectar, and the bees started staying in their hives to do inner work.

and

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. 18To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

This would be cast as co-dependence or caretaking by our New Age relationship Gurus

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

This would be seen as having loose boundaries. Look, I'm not saying the mystics are wrong and there isn't some Godlike Ground of Being. But what if the way to experience that entity is through lovers and friends, nature and work? I think what makes the mystical view so appealing is that it frees people from having to make choices, except whether to align with God (Presence/Essence/Source) or with the devil (Ego or Personality). Being human is hard because one has to make choices instead of letting instincts make them. But now Source will make choices for us and relieve us of this burden.

The trend towards more individualism is also true in art, where it is no longer important to portray something about the world, but instead the prime directive is to express the self: https://www.ecosophia.net/this-flight-from-failure/ and https://www.ecosophia.net/what-is-art-for/. And now we have "social distancing", which is more aptly called anti-social solipsism, ostensibly as a defense against a virus, but I wonder if subconsciously it's the ideology of individualism run amok.

We become whole by admitting that we have holes, by filling our holes in a committed relationship with a good matching partner, in a community of inter-dependent people, doing work we love and that is appreciated by our community. Instead of throwing out the whole personality in favor of some elusive Essence, we could pursue characteristics like courage, commitment, responsibility, compassion, love, beauty and joy and integrate the characteristics of hatefulness, insecurity, fear, jealousy, etc so they don't control us. I am freaking out about this like Nietzsche freaked out about the supposed death of God in Christian Europe. It is a death blow to family and community which have already been under attack by global capitalism. We must resist this ideology.


* My disagreement with Jung is partial. Of course in order to really connect with the Other, one must also have some things in common. So an inner understanding of femininity, the Anima, is a reasonable thing to cultivate and integrate in a man if he wants to know a woman weill, and vice versa for women. Still, there will be some qualities in the other that one might only have in minute amounts or not at all, and those can be appreciated and delighted in.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Eckhart Tolle and romantic relationships

Eckart Tolle writes about how to become at peace and find joy. I think he has helped many people but I quibble with him on his views on relationships, which are also popular among other New Age thinkers.  Here is a quote from The Power of Now:

"As the egoic mode of consciousness and all the social, political, and economic structures that it created enter the final stage of collapse, the relationships between men and women reflect the deep state of crisis in which humanity now finds itself. As humans have become increasingly identified with their mind, most relationships are not rooted in Being and so turn into a source of pain and become dominated by problems and conflict.

Millions are now living alone or as single parents, unable to establish an intimate relationship or unwilling to repeat the insane drama of past relationships. Others go from one relationship to another, from one pleasure-and-pain cycle to another, in search of the elusive goal of fulfillment through union with the opposite energy polarity. Still others compromise and continue to be together in a dysfunctional relationship in which negativity prevails, for the sake of the children or security, through force of habit, fear of being alone, or some other mutually "beneficial" arrangement, or even through the unconscious addiction to the excitement of emotional drama and pain.


The irony here is that ET blames this dismal state of relationships on the "egoic mode of consciousness", whereas what is new here is the belief in individualism and the New Age philosophy that extols individualism. It's become a sin to look out and comfort/soothe one's partner. It's lumped under caretaking, loose boundaries and codependence. People used to be able to take care of each other AND themselves. Now it's all about "staying in one's lane", which not surprisingly leads to bad relationships.

On the one hand, mystics throughout the ages have had a goal to get beyond the ego/self/personality/individual (which is seen as an illusion, or sometimes as the devil, the source of all suffering), and find a larger Self/Presence/internal God with which to merge. On the other hand humans have a need which starts at infancy and develops further into adulthood, to be authentic to one's self and establish boundaries, i.e. to know one's particular needs and wants and assert them with other people. The human potential movement that started in the sixties extolled the virtues of the self and authenticity, but it  was more nuanced, it recognized other needs besides authenticity and transcendence, as exemplified by Maslow's pyramid. 

The global economy has capitalized on this need for authenticity in order to create more individual consumers and to eliminate competition from other ways that people can satisfy their needs, like families, tribes, and villages. These human organizations satisfy intermediate needs between these two opposing goals/needs of authenticity and communion with the divine. They satisfy the need for intimacy, for collaboration, for belonging to something larger than oneself.

The New Age movement has seemingly tossed out the intermediate needs and just focused on the two extremes of self and Self (what some have called Spiritual Bypass). It's ironic because mystics abhor the self, and capitalists think the Self is fictional (unless it can make them money). 

A new perspective is emerging in biological and social science (see DS Wilson's Atlas Hugged), and in relationship psychology and neuroscience (see Stan Tatkin's Wired fo Love). For each level of emergent human organization, different qualities are necessary. For romantic relationships, individuals have to care about the relationship, not just about themselves and the other, or themselves and some Presence. Sure it's important for each individual to know themselves well and not to project blame onto their partner or use their partner's trauma as a coverup for dealing with their own trauma, but that's not enough. They also have to study and know their partner. They have to put a boundary around the relationship. There has to be a way to resolve differences through rational conversation and a team attitude, not just each person for themselves and accepting WHAT IS, or being taken over by limbic parts of the brain when things get strained. Accepting WHAT IS (or being in the Now, to use Eckhart Tolle's words) works for hermits, or in a romantic relationship as long as both partners' needs are met with what the other person is saying or doing, but as soon as it's not working for one of them, the other needs to be willing to talk about ways of changing course, even if it's still working for them. Otherwise "accepting WHAT IS" is a double standard: You have to accept WHAT IS even if it is not meeting your needs, but I will get upset or dump you if WHAT IS that you are saying or doing doesn't work for me.

Eckart Tolle and a few others say that one should not need intimate relationships when one is enlightened, because then one is whole. In this view, intimate relationships are only a tool for enlightenment for people who are not yet enlightened. And yet all these same people are not able to exist without some intimate relationship, whether it is to their children, mates or pets. If that's the case, then it's not merely a tool but a necessity. The underlying psychological truth that they are getting at is that neediness is not as attractive as confidence and inner peace. There are ways to achieve more of these without a romantic relationship, yet it would be hypocritical to pretend that the needs for intimacy, sex, and collaboration are cancelled by yoga and meditation.

Eckart Tolle and a few others have made intimate relationships instrumental. A tool for the individual ego to obtain enlightenment (the Self does not need tools). Gone is love of another individual for its own sake--I only love you because you are useful to me. In the romantic view, there is a recognition that what we love about each other is unique, something that has to do with the soul of the other and we love them regardless of what they can do for us. The soul is capable of other lovable qualities besides transcendence and authenticity, such as courage, wisdom, kindness, critical thinking; but ET reduces everything to transcendence, and other simplistic New Agers reduce it all to transcendence and authenticity.There is no concept of soul in Eckhart Tolle's philosophy (in The Power of Now, the word "soul" appears only once in a quote attributed to Jesus). There is only ego/self/personality/individual and Source/Self/Presence/God. The mystical view has been that Source is like an ocean and egos are like waves, or Source is like the Sun, and egos are like windows for the sun's light to shine through, both metaphors are one way causation from Source to ego, with no room for emergence, where the causality goes both ways. A soul is like a window which also has its own source of light, not just a passive instrument for the sun's light. Or like a wave which can influence the state of the lake it is happening in, interacting with the air, the ground, and other waves. With a soul, there is the possibility that I love your soul for its own unique sake, regardless of its usefulness to filling my needs. Neither ego nor Presence offer that possibility. Ego is by definition unlovable, whereas Source is lovable independent of someone's ego/personality. A soul can be nuanced, it can have qualities that are lovable (courage, compassion, humility, humor, curiosity, freedom, etc), as well as qualities that are not lovable (greed, cowardice, hypocrisy, fear, etc), as opposed to ego which is all bad in the mystical view, and all good in the capitalist view. There is also a possibility that two souls recognize a connection to each other even without being aware of the qualities in each other that they love, perhaps from having met previous to this life.

Eckhart Tolle might be OK with instrumentality (aka transactional relationship), but not with a responsibility to fill needs for one's romantic partner. In order to fill a partner's needs one must not only be open to requests from ones's partner, but one must study them so one can even anticipate their needs. For all this we need to use all of our faculties including our minds. He feels like partners should fill their own needs by communing with Presence directly, and have no needs except to commune with Presence. The repulsion that some in the New Age movement feel about meeting a partner's needs might be a flash back to patriarchal wifely duty to satisfy the husbands sexual needs. There is a difference between being able to have sex on demand, regardless of one's state of arousal, vs being able to have intimate conversations and make eye contact, or hug one's partner. The former is largely out of conscious control (it is happening in the limbic part of the brain), whereas the latter involves conscious parts of the brain.

"If you stop investing it with "selfness," the mind loses its compulsive quality, which basically is the compulsion to judge, and so to resist what is, which creates conflict, drama, and new pain. In fact, the moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace. First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way. That immediately takes you beyond ego. All mind games and all addictive clinging are then over. There are no victims and no perpetrators anymore, no accuser and accused. This is also the end of all codependency, of being drawn into somebody else's unconscious pattern and thereby enabling it to continue. You will then either separate - in love - or move ever more deeply into the Now together - into Being. Can it be that simple? Yes, it is that simple."

No it isn't. While this expresses a beautiful idea when taken with moderation, it is not a useful thing never to judge. One can judge with love and thereby help one's partner meet their needs better or improve their soul. One needs to be able to disagree with one's partner at times in order to figure things out together better than could be figured out alone. Rejecting judgment is rejecting the mind. Better to combine the mind with the heart, judgement with love. ET is correct that judgement without love or self knowledge is harmful to a relationship.

"As you may have noticed, they (relationships) are not here to make you happy or fulfilled. If you continue to pursue the goal of salvation through a relationship, you will be disillusioned again and again. But if you accept that the relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then the relationship will offer you salvation, and you will be aligning yourself with the higher consciousness that wants to be born into this world"

Yes, a relationship is not just about happiness, but if we are wired for love after evolving in couple relationships and families and tribes for millions of years, then happiness is surely a part of it if it is done with love AND consciousness. It is not just about our happiness, but our partner's as well. 

"You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next." Actually you can as Stan Tatkin shows in Wired for Love. There are parts of the brain that have to do with survival and others that have to do with generosity, nurturing, respect, etc. Sexual love is however in the same part of the brain mostly as the survival parts (the amygdala). Other kinds of love can be expressed in other parts of the brain or even in the heart or vagus nerve.

"Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain." Partially, but not only. Addiction can also result from an inability to fill a basic need and a substitution of something that mimics the way to satisfy the need, with the same production of dopamine and other pleasure hormones, but only works for a short time and has a negative long term effect. It is also good to face pain and not try to distract oneself from it because it can help us improve our souls, to be more compassionate, more patient, more insightful. 


"Love is not selective, just as the light of the sun is not selective. It does not make one person special. It is not exclusive. Exclusivity is not the love of God but the "love" of ego."

Not if we can love souls instead of egos or vessels for Presence. Romantic love is selective, though for some people it does not have to be exclusive.

In the New Agey philosophy the causation goes: I love you because you can help me be in touch with Presence.

In the older spiritual philosophies, the causation goes like: I love your soul because of its qualities or because I knew it before this life. I want to meet your intimacy and collaboration needs as a result, and you might want to meet mine. Together we can create a relationship which will be a source of joy and safety for others, such as our children, our tribe and our village. The life  of an organism is about lack seeking wholeness outside of itself (see Incomplete Nature, by Simon Deacon). The New Agers have inverted this for seeking wholeness within. And yet they are only able to exist due to other people and nature supporting them from without both materially and emotionally.

"True salvation is a state of freedom - from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping, and clinging."

In other words, death, or dementia. Because life can sometimes be free from fear and suffering, but not always. And life is based on lack and insufficiency as well as fullness and abundance. Our basic needs can be filled by the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, but eventually we need a refill and sometimes it takes doing stuff we don't like in order to obtain food and water (so not total freedom). With air it is pretty quick. With water we can last longer before a refill, and with food even longer. Yet none of these things are cause for shame or condemnation, and neither are our basic need for intimate relationships, and of belonging to a tribe and land.


Love, courage and wisdom, not just peace and bliss. Ramana Maharshi's "who are you?" meditation is great as an exercise, not as a lifestyle. Neither RM, nor ET are qualified to teach us about how to be human. They have not birthed or raised children, had lifelong romantic relationships, been traumatized in war, famine, or child abuse and overcome these, composed inspiring music, poetry or literature, discovered mathematical structures or scientific mysteries, planted and harvested food.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

spirituality and global capitalism

For hundreds of thousands of years, our species has been based on tribes, then also families within villages. It has also been based on a deep interdependence with the natural world. Individuals didn't even exist as such for most tribal people, as each person could not be defined without a reference to the bonds that bind them to tribe, land, sky and water. Tribes, families, villages and the relationship with nature not only helped people survive, but met deep needs within individual humans so that they thrived. Hunter gatherer individuals do not need a God to fill a deep vacuum within them. Their needs are met from each other, from nature and from a sense of belonging to the tribe and the land. They might have stories about various spirits, who are rooted in the land or the sky or the oceans. But they would never dream of giving up the relationships with each other or the natural world for one of these spirits, or even all of them. The piraha are one example. And these spirits were external to them, though there might be resonance of certain spirits with certain  individuals.

Families within villages also provided deep belonging and interdependence with people and nature. If there was a God involved, there was usually not the idea or the possibility that this God would replace the relationships between people or between people and the land.


The idea of focusing one's life on a relationship with God arose in village culture within Judaism. I'm not sure how it arose, probably innocently from mystics like Jesus who were misfits and did not get their basic needs met from a family within a village. Maybe because sometimes their family and village were destroyed by an invading nation.

The idea also arose in India with similar environments among misfits. And in the middle ages in Europe and Persia with a few mystics who needed an outlet for their strong sexuality in a sexually repressive society. Listen to songs and read poems about mystical experiences, or take entheogens, and the presence of sexuality or a similar force that feels ecstatic and connective is hard to miss. You don't get pagans or native people or most villagers who are sex positive, advocating dropping everything and focusing on God. Perhaps this is not quite what "seek ye first the kingdom of God" means, maybe it means prioritizing this God, external in tribal and village cultures, internal for moderns. It seems to me that prioritizing is innocent for the external God, but with the internal God, in combination with seeing the global market as a source of economic goods and services, it leads to an extreme individualism and lack of genuine care for others. On the other hand, perhaps the external God is more prone to disagreements with other external Gods than the internal God, which is not about dogma but about inspiration and creativity.

Still, this idea of prioritizing God didn't take off and go viral till late stage global capitalism which encourages individuals to interact with (prioritize) a global market instead of with each other for their basic needs. The greatest profit comes from individuals; also villages and families get in the way of people's dependence on the market. If people can produce what they need for each other they don't need the global market. Conversely if they can get their basic needs from the global market, they at least superficially don't need each other. Sex becomes a commodity which they can get from porn or human trafficking instead of a sacrament that binds them to each other and makes them deeply care about each other. An ideology which tells them they don't need each other reinforces this dependence on the market and is selected for by capitalism. The end result is the destruction of tribes, villages and families.

Enter Ayn Rand and her poisonous ideology of objectivism (see here a satirical description of the irony of conservative christians adopting objectivism as an ideology). Now not only do people not need each other, but greed and selfishness become virtues. Ayn Rand was reacting to the brutality of the soviet regime, which took collectivism to an unhealthy extreme, allowing free riding in the form of Stalin and party apparachniks to take over. In the Marxist ideology, everything is a cause of social environment and large economic forces, and so there is no room for personal responsibility. The opposite of this is that personal responsibility is the sole cause of everything in human matters. Both ideas are terrible and lead to different forms of hell. People need each other on a personal and small collective level, and can't have much deep connection beyond the family level, with still some emotional connection possible at the village or tribe level (about 200 people max). 

The solution that evolved out of the medieval mystics that gets selected by global capitalism is a parallel story about how people can get their deepest emotional and spiritual needs met only from a God (similar to the global market), either an external God for conservatives or an internal source God for liberals (especially in the american yoga community). And that the relationships with each other and the land are either not necessary, or that they are only instrumental to a relationship with a God. 

There is no conspiracy of capitalists trying to get people to not need each other or the nature around them, or to destroy villages, tribes and families and the relationship between people and land. There is just a resonance between belief systems that encourage these sort of things, and an evolutionary selection pressure for these sort of belief systems within global capitalism.

Just like cells in a multicellular organism, people can survive alone for a while, but to thrive for a long time they need each other (and nature). There is nothing wrong with interdependence as long as the parts/cells/humans are healthy, and as long as the needs of the cells are resonant and not to far from the needs of the whole organism. But in global capitalism it is fashionable to believe that dependence on other people or the natural world is unhealthy and only a dependence on the global market is healthy. The spiritual equivalent is to believe that only a dependence on an internal source/God is healthy, and a dependence on other people or nature is unhealthy. 

How do I know that there is no internal God that can fill the deep vacuum left by global capitalism by destroying villages, tribes, families and our connection to nature? Because nobody has ever seen this God. Most believers feel creativity, intense belonging, peace, joy, intense energy, and euphoria induced by entheogens, by meditation, sex, ritual, music, prayer, dance or being in nature. Also, if there were such a God, it would have revealed itself to our tribal and village ancestors, not waited till now when it is suspiciously conducive to global capitalism.

What I am concerned with is a sort of psychopathic egotism that is unable to feel compassion, care and curiosity for other beings because it declares itself to be happy and godlike and only sees others as instruments for one's own needs and goals.

Still this does not rule out the possibility of a deep ontological interconnection between people (and other living organisms) that transcends face to face communication, perhaps through some sort of field, either a known long-range field such as gravity or electromagnetism, or a yet unknown one to science. It is also possible that this field is involved in creativity and mystical experiences and that most of what people consider their selves are representations of this field, not the field itself. This sort of interpretation of the inner source is then compatible with having real care, compassion and curiosity for another part of the field. A more mundane psychological interpretation of the internal source/God is that it is simply an individual's knowing of their own needs, a deep understanding of themselves that is essential for not only their health, but the health of their family, tribe or village. Without such an understanding, it is possible for an individual to become unhappy and become prey to people who use them for their own needs without contributing to the needs of the whole family or tribe or village (i.e. freeloaders). It is also possible for such an individual to become a free loader, using other people to compensate for their lack of understanding of themselves. This disease of the part(s) (e.g. individual) can lead to a disease of the whole (e.g. tribe). We might call it co-dependence, but health does not consist in pretending to not be dependent on the family, village or tribe, or pretending to be dependent on only the global market, internal or external God. Health comes from both an inner understanding of one's needs and the needs of others in the tribe, and of the needs of the tribe as a higher order entity. Health also comes in situations when those 3 needs can be made congruent and resonant with each other.

Perhaps tribal and village people did not individuate as much as modern people and did not have very complex individual needs that differed much from other members of their tribe or village. I wonder if a modern person could be happy living under such circumstances once they've tasted individuation. Perhaps out of tribal deep interdependence and modern extreme individuation we can synthesize a middle sweet spot...


Friday, November 20, 2020

Pros and cons of Libertarianism

I have much sympathy for libertarianism and libertarians because of course healthy humans love freedom and dislike stupid rules, incompetent or mean bosses (or slave owners) who wield power over us, senseless laws, exploitive rents and taxes, stupid burocrats who waste our time and wield petty power.  And we have seen the horrors of mobs and cults (but are often ignorant of their ecstasies). I agree that there is something sacred and important about human individuals, that freedom and happiness are the domain of the individual human, not of the cells inside a human body, nor of any higher level of organization of humans, such as a family, tribe, village, nation, the EU or United Nations. But individual happiness can sometimes be maximized by trading some individual freedom for the benefits that come from belonging to a family, a tribe or a village. 

Libertarians respond to this challenge in two ways, either ontologically or based on a different calculus of ethics (I'm not going to categorize them in economic or political ways). The ontological libertarians deny that there is any reality to organizations beyond individual humans, that they are not more than the sum of the individual humans, that the only real thing is individual humans interacting (and possibly a separate God).. The opposite view is embraced by deep ecologists, who think that individuals are an invention of late stage capitalism and have no ontological reality, that individuals are always inextricably embedded in a  family, tribe and ecosystem and can't exist without those. I disagree with both these views based on my understanding of emergence and evolutionary game theory (which I won't go into here),  and think they are complementary not exclusive of each other.  I understand how the both arise. The deep ecological view was the default before western civilization. The individualist view arises when people are so little dependent on others around them for goods and services, villages and tribes can't survive. Instead there is a dependence on abstract entities with a dubious independent (of us) ontological reality, like global markets and the military, money, an Abrahamic God, and large governments, all of whom supposedly bring goods and services from all corners of the globe to our local stores, giving an illusion of island individuals. Moreover these entities are more of a nuisance, convenience, protection, authority or a danger to us, than a source of joy and communion. The family, village and tribe provided a means for people to commune with each other (and the natural world), not just annoying transaction costs. They provided a set of traditions, values, boundaries (around the family, tribe or village, not around the individuals) where communion could be refined and concentrated. In such an environment libertarianism never arose. Instead there was the distributism of the Catholic church and village, the primitive communism of tribes and families, the mysticism and pantheism of individuals who know what it is to deeply belong to something bigger than their own individual selves.


Then there are the other kind of anarchist libertarians who love freedom and individualism above all else and won't trade it off for any amount of happiness, or maybe they just have never tasted the kind of happiness that can be had from deep communion with other people or nature in a supportive institutional environment. No social contract for them, except between individuals, no laws, but also no ecstasy or ego-transcendence. These folks acknowledge the reality of higher order entities/institutions than individuals, but see individual freedom as the highest value, never to be traded off with happiness, theirs or someone else's, and so these higher order institution seem evil to them, because they invariably impinge on individual freedom. Not only do they see the higher order institutions as evil (except the religious ones who don't see God as an entity to know and be part of but as an independent entity to fear, worship, obey), but the people who promote these institutions are sometimes seen as evil. They mistrust generosity or altruism or sacrifice of one's own (immediate) best interest for someone else's well being (except when Jesus does it). They are more interested in establishing boundaries than transcending them or allowing others through. They are more interested in taking personal responsibility than letting go of control. And they are correct in a limited, paradoxical way, and so are the collectivists, the cultists, the addicts (who long for ego-transcendence but can't achieve it within western individualist culture without their addiction), the artists, the great scientists, tribalists, deep ecologists, the co-dependents, the mystics, the distributists, the neo-primitivists, in that what they are all reaching for is part of the human experience, which is both individual and collective. They might even agree to a government that would be given (only) a policing and protecting power, as these would presumably maximize individual freedom. Happiness to them is an individual choice, despite much data that contradicts this claim, showing that happiness depends on community, family, stability, flow (aka grace), nature and other things not under direct control of individuals (see The Happiness Hypothesis by J. Haidt)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The problem with usury

Usury has two legs, an individual intentions leg and a systemic/societal leg. It can stand (shakily) without one or the other, but not without both.


Individual intentions

Usury comes from the same root as the verb "to use". A world in which individuals see each others as a means to their own ends, or more bluntly as Hobbes said "a war of all against all" leads to hell, and many traditional religions recognized this and forbade usury, at least within the tribe (aka intra-tribal).  We're talking mostly rent and lending at interest, but it generalizes beyond that. This has an easy "fix": if we see each other instead as manifestations of the sacred and try to make our relationships with each other based on that perception, we may have a taste of heaven on earth. From an evolutionary game theory perspective, forbidding usury and instilling the sacred intra-tribal relationships perspective is a way to reduce intra-tribal conflict and impose a cost (when the rule is broken) on "defectors" (aka free riders, landlords, money lenders, some politicians, etc), which gives a selective (inter-tribal) advantage at the group/tribe level compared to groups/tribes that don't use this strategy.

However, even the best of intentions, where we want to create a relationship based on the sacred within the people involved in an economic transaction, can lead to hell, in a system whose foundation is short term individual benefits with only long term individual costs, or externalized costs to others. Such a system (e.g. our current global economy, whether in capitalist or socialist form) inevitably goes towards massive inequality, which destroys communities and families, which ironically individuals need for optimal functioning. This is a systemic problem, not an individual one, and it's solution is also systemic (as in we need a different economic system).

Systemic dynamics

Here's how it plays out: some get wealthy just by having land or money, which they can leverage to make a much greater (money) / (labor spent) ratio than most people with less money. If we start with everyone having an equal amount of resources and add a tiny amount of random inequality of resources, or even random inequality in self-interest, it's an unstable equilibrium where the initially slightly richer (or slightly more self-interested, or even just slightly more entrepreneurial) get even richer and the initially slightly poorer (or less self-interested, etc), who have to pay the bulk of the interest and the rent to the rich, get poorer. Sometimes it's even indirect, where the rich rent to other rich people, who are using other poor people through rent or interest. The short term stable equilibrium is massive economic inequality, but that is also unstable in the long term as the poor revolt against the rich. And this can happen at any scale, even a small village, or a family. That is why stable families are mostly based on a gift economy, and long-lived villages do not have money lenders or landlords within the village. And that is why villages and families which adopt and mimic the current global economic system within themselves are not stable, also leading to individual unhappiness.

Possible solutions

One possible solution is to forbid usury (as some mainstream religions have done), but people are very clever about circumventing prohibitions and attempts to legislate morality. Things are not always black and white: I'm not really renting the house to these folks, it's a mutual gift....

Another possible solution (favored by conservatives, though they won't necessarily admit what is being done) is propaganda (this word does not necessarily entail deceit) campaigns by the government and the wealthy to make the poor either aspire to be rich or at least middle class (and sometimes succeed to various degrees) by playing the game, to look forward to a reward in an afterlife, or to identify with the rich or middle class through other shared "identity" traits (even though they are wealthier and have all these perks that we don't, we can identify with some of them who are white, black, women, men, american, pakistani, christian, jewish, muslim, gay, straight, entrepreneurial, hard-working, talented, coke-drinking, etc), and by identifying with them, resist the temptation to be murderous towards them (in sociological terms, they are no longer considered an out-group, they become part of our in-group). This is a containment solution that might succeed in preventing revolt for a while, but does not prevent the massive unhappiness of a large part of the population that is either not able to be of use to family and community (aka unemployment), is toiling under alienating conditions, and is often causing harm to nature or other people far away and in the future.

A third possible solution (favored by many liberals) to this systemic problem is the redistribution of wealth by a big government through taxation, or subsidies to the poor. It has the problems of creeping burocracy (with its own version of inequality and dampening of initiative) and disempowerment of poor people, which I don't want to get into here, suffice it to say that it is not a good long-term solution.

I don't know what a good solution is (can you help me figure it out?), but I can speculate based on my best understanding of the problem that it involves localizing the economy so that it is easier to see the effects of our actions on other people and even on ourselves, in a short enough time. This is the solution that was favored by tribal societies, families, rural villages before the industrial revolution, Gandhists, and catholic distributists.





Friday, October 23, 2020

old problems, old and new solutions

P=problem

S=proposed solution

Based on my study of how nature evolves higher levels of organization, (all the way from organic molecules (not just DNA) to networks of organic molecules, cells,  organs, organisms, families, villages, cities, companies, economies, nation/states, ecosystems, all the way to a whole planet earth), and my experience assisting, visiting and starting intentional communities, I propose that we have the following problems and the following possible solutions. I have in several previous posts discussed problems of intentional communities from the perspective of what we can learn from conservative intentional communities I , and IIsystems theory, mundane issues that arise in communities, and tragedies. This is yet another attempt to tackle problems from a practical yet radical perspective.


Do you agree that these problems are fundamental (for example some people think systemic racism is fundamental, but I think that is false) ? Do you have other proposed solutions? I'd love to hear from you.

1. P: We are yearning for an intermediate between family and nation/state

    S: community composed of pods/families, where the pods are economically and culturally inter-dependent, because of the structure and agreements about what we are and are not doing, what we call Community Supported Community (CSC)* in analogy and extension of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In contradistinction to capitalist and communist economics (where there is no intermediate of value between individuals and the global market or the state), or distributist economics (where there is no intermediate between the family and the global market or state), we value the nesting of individuals within families (or pods), and families within villages (or tribes).

2. P: Feedback loops are too big for learning to occur (e.g. global warming, peak oil, government and corporate corruption, (global) market failure to provide for needs, usury (usually exploitation of strangers through rent).

    S: Localization. All basic needs are produced locally, and most local production is for local use. For this we need hundreds of people to take advantage of diversity of talents, and efficiency of specialization. Also, externalization to nature (as in atmosphere and rivers or oceans), future generations and people far away is impossible with a local economy. If we screw up we get immediate feedback and have to make corrections. Both communism and capitalism could benefit from smaller scales (the family is already communistic, and the village can benefit from a small market economy)

3. P: a. Too much communalism on a scale larger than about 10 people leads to freeloading (it's a good breeding ground for that kind of behavior) and competition (diverse needs, finite resources), with resulting conflict, drama, and only the most assertive or strong people getting their needs met. Conflict resolution is an oft-touted solution, but how much time do people want to spend on conflict resolution vs just enjoying life? Of course conflict resolution is part of the solution once conflict arises, but we propose there are ways of reducing the potential for conflict (see below), similar to germline segregation in biology.

        b. Too much family in the context of a global economy (e.g. homesteads that barely interact with each other) leads to cultural anomie. Also, we have serious ecological and economic problems that can't be addressed in the context of families in a global economy.

    S: Separate pods of people who resonate with and deeply love each other and can share a domestic space. In such an environment (usually a sexually and genetically related family, but it doesn't have to be), competition is reduced, there is less diversity of needs, and it can be more simply negotiated than if there were more people. But unlike homesteads that are barely interacting with each other because they can interact with the global economy for their cultural and economic needs, we agree to a radical economic and cultural interdependence (CSC), where people need and can rely on each other for their diverse economic and cultural needs. There is less energy needed to devote to conflict resolution and meetings, and more energy for enjoying nature, work, contemplation, personal passions and relationships. For a functioning economy hundreds of people are necessary, whereas for a functioning family no more than about 10 people are needed or possible. We propose to encourage both levels of organization and nest the family within the community in a synergistic way. In disagreement with Confucius, who thought that the success of the nation depends on the success of the village, which depends on the success of the family all the way down to the health of the individual, I think that the success of each level of organization depends on the levels both above and below it, not just below it. Also, I disagree that everything depends on only individuals being healthy (the libertarian view), or individuals having a good relationship with a God or Spirit or some other foundational (lowest) or ultimate (highest) entity (the mystical view). If we can at least get the 3 lowest levels (starting with individuals, of course there are lower levels) healthy, and make the dependence on levels beyond the village mostly superfluous, we can create something good. 

5. P: We don't need each other, given our dependence on the impersonal global economy

    S: We agree to produce for each other and use each others goods and services (CSC, which includes cultural services). We also unite around sacred values**, have respect for competent authority in specific areas, and have good boundaries around community and agreemets, since these are the "secrets" of conservative communities that make them last longer and have smaller turnover than liberal communities.

6. P: We are destroying nature because we are not connected to her and our dependency is not apparent

    S: By getting our economic, cultural and spiritual needs met from the land around us, we are forced to deeply care for nature. It becomes concrete as opposed to the abstract way most people experience nature. At best most people are currently tourists/hikers/backpackers in nature. We propose to trade the comfort, convenience and removal from nature of the global economy for more immediate connection between us and nature

7. P: 85% of people hate their work, many are unemployed

    S: We trade off mechanization for craft production and practices (such as permaculture) that encourage individual autonomy and creativity and an appreciation by pod and community members for the fruits of one's labor.

8. P: overpopulation--meaning too much competition for resources (not necessarily overcrowding)

    S: we agree to no more than 1 kid per individual, though people can trade for the privilege of having more kids (like I'll give up my potential offspring so you can have an extra, maybe you can give me something in exchange). We can be lenient if accidents happen and people get pregnant unintentionally, but if it happens too often there has to be consequences. Humans should be able to control their population, unlike most other animals, because of the gift of foresight and choice.

9. P: Unhealthy or un-environmental food (even when it's organic)

    S: We produce our own food, each pod has their own food production, though pods also specialize in food production (and other production).

10.  P: Injustice (the haves exploiting the have nots)

       S: There will be less injustice because pods will have joint ownership of the land and just like families they will have love as an ointment to help reduce conflict due to diverse talents and needs. There could be differences between pods, but these will be based on pod focus and preference, not on one pod exploiting another. The community will have monitors (one of the Ostrom principles) to make sure this does not happen, and a coalition of people who can prevent any one pod from imposing its will on other pods. Also, we will try to encourage a spirituality based on communion rather than resource acquisition and control**.

11. P: No say in decisions regarding health, housing, and our immediate environment

      S: Pod governance, nested within community governance, nested within local county/town governance, ... Most really important decisions happen within community and pod, not higher levels, as it is now. Also, pods can send representatives if they want to community decision-making meetings.

12.  P: Loneliness

       S: Pods that are more stable than families in the mainstream, because the community and nature encourage their stability through a mutual interdependence.


13. P: Xenophobia 

      S: We need to inculcate a deep ecology or deep humanism view where people care about others and the earth outside of the village. We at some point might need to help create higher level entities to prevent any one community from getting too aggressive. This is an exception to localization. We need globalization of communication and information to continue to some extent, not to dominate our economic and cultural life.

14. P: Woundedness. Our culture has left many people not getting basic emotional needs met (due to industrial revolution destroying villages, good work and reducing effectiveness of family) resulting in scapegoating (shadow projection onto others), addictions, and cognitive deterioration.

      S: As a short-term transition, encouraging people to do inner work (meditation, contemplation, exercise, nature therapy, and therapist-assisted therapies of various modalities) and inter-personal work (NVC, Nakaima, Zegg Forum). Long-term, restoring the family and keeping it sustainable in the context of a village, and restoring good work.

15.  P: Insufficient attention by liberal intentional communities to the 6 values that help conservative communities last longer and have smaller turnover (but not so far go viral or provide a radical and resonant alternative to the mainstream). Also insufficient attention to the problems listed above, especially the distinction between family/pod and community, and the dependence on the global economy, instead of the among community families/pods. Eco-villages have the most potential to remedy these problems.

       S: First, like in addiction-recovery programs, admitting that there is a problem, and then implementing the 6 values and the solutions above.

16. P: Insufficient attention by the mainstream (even the fringes of the mainstream) to the problems of western civilization (some are listed above) since the industrial revolution.

      S: As the inevitable decline of western civilization continues, more and more people will be looking for alternatives. It would be nice for these to be created earlier than later, when resources are less available and cognitive decline increases.

17. P: People are afraid of the negative aspects of cults (such as loss of individuality, suicides, psychological boundary violations by leaders) to consider that the reason cults are successful so often is because they meet real human needs that are not met in the mainstream civilization, such as a sense of belonging and safety, communion with other people in the cult, and a shared reality around which to create meaning.

     S: Provide a sense of belonging to the family/pod and the community by encouraging some individuals to pursue a talent in designing activities which encourage communion (singing, dancing, ritual, plays, storytelling, deep discussions, group therapy, games, hot tubs, saunas, sweat lodges, etc), as well as encouraging economic interdependence through CSC. Also provide training on the negative aspects of cults in order to avoid those. Also Issac Bonnewits' ABCDEF.


*CSC Agreements (between pods, or between individuals? TBD):

1) Providing a good or service that at least 90% of the people in the community agree is needed.  Individuals can thus focus on developing skill, responsibility and expertise in an area that resonates with their soul, akin to majoring in a field of study at a university. For more resiliency of the CSC, individuals can also have “minors” in areas that are not their primary focus, but hopefully someone else’s focus; Individuals can thus focus on developing skill, responsibility and expertise in an area that resonates with their soul. 

2) Providing a 'market' for someone who's providing a good or service in the community, even if it's of lower quality or higher 'price' in some way, with mechanisms for improvement available, as discussed below;


3) The strategic closing of production loops, so that inputs and outputs of each producer are provided by and to other producers (including non human ones) in the village, or eventually in other similar villages; and

4) Communal practices and rituals that allow us to express grief and joy and encourage belonging and interdependence. Some people could even major in organizing or facilitating these.   

5) Ostrom Principles for monitoring people (within a pod) and pods (within the community) who get too aggressive against other people or pods, and the power to give proportional punishment or withholding of benefits from such people or pods, as well as clearly defined boundaries for pods and the community and any communally owned land.

A longer rationale for CSC:

We think the fundamental flaw in all mainstream economic and political systems is their large size/scale (the benefits of large scale are outweighed by the costs), whereas the fundamental flaw in all intentional communities is their over-dependence on the mainstream systems, and their neglect of the problems of too much sharing or equality (tragedy of the commons, freeloading, brain/talent drain). Intentional communities either have too much sharing/communalism or too much “homesteadization” whereby families have their own homesteads and jobs in the mainstreasm economy, with very little economic and cultural interaction with other homesteads. We proactively address these flaws in both the mainstream and intentional communities, from a holistic approach, integrating economics, psychology, governance and environmentalism. We propose a much smaller economic and cultural scale of a few hundred people, and an even smaller domestic scale of highly interdependent homesteads of between 2-10 people (aka "pods"). This has the advantage of much individual freedom at work, more love in the domestic sphere because it only involves highly resonant people, primary accountability to the group, personal care for and from other members of the domestic sphere, a radical dependence on the local nature and the local community for basic needs, and care about the outside world. The benefits and costs of these will all be discussed below. In presenting these, it's sometimes hard to not mix the economic, psychological, government, and environmental parts. Either  the benefits or costs can be more neatly subdivided, but not both (or maybe this can be done by someone?) :


Economic rationale

1. Individual freedom with work encourages initiative and innovation, which are good for individual productivity and group adaptability/fitness. However, we need to discourage big egos that can create jealousy and resentment. Also, especially in pioneering stages, work parties may be more efficient.

2. Accountability to the group (by CSC and Ostrom agreements and enforcement mechanisms) discourages free loading, one of the main problems of groups where there is much sharing. However, we need to discourage totalitarianism and give people domains of time and space where they can explore their creativity or relationship with other beings without being stifled by the group.

3. Personal care for and from others creates a safety net, an insurance against accidents to individuals. Contrast this with large impersonal institutions which usually fail to provide good personal care. I am not sure yet whether we also need to implement "high cost signaling" mechanisms which are common in both mainstream and many ICs (for example, you can't take more than a small amount of assets out if you leave) to create more loyalty and discourage people from leaving too easily.

4. A radical dependence on local nature (enforced through stories, rituals, and striving for almost no imports or exports), combined with foresight and group monitoring, reduces the occurrence of the tragedy(overexploitation) of the commons. It is easier to care about local nature than nature far away, the dependencies are more obvious. Also it is easier to monitor people locally, harder to hide nasty practices. Last, it encourages people to see themselves as part of nature, which besides the psychological benefits (to be discussed below) keeps most of their contributions inside the community. The costs are further discussed in #5 of the psychological rationale section.

5. Care about the outside world is insurance against accidents or threats to the whole community. Neighbors or other communities can help if bad luck befalls the community. The costs are dilution of the energy that goes into the community.


Psychological Rationale

1,2. Individual freedom and a craft-mentality (as opposed to a machine-operator mentality) with work encourages states of flow (especially when combined with group accountability), which contributes to happiness.

2. Economic accountability to to the group (based on CSC agreements) encourages a sense of belonging, which contributes to happiness (though it could also contribute to stress if one falls short of one's commitments). The accountability to the group can also be encouraged though giving credit for designing and participating in ritual, storytelling, art, teaching/learning workshops, group dance, music making (and listening to others in the group as opposed to electronic music), well-being meetings (probably at the pod/family level), as well as encouraging adults to take care of other people's children. All these activities provide "community glue", which contributes to trust and a sense of belonging and reduces the need of people to leave (brain/talent drain)

3. Personal care to and from others is one of the essential ingredients of good relationships, which also contribute to happiness. Also, it encourages trust and generosity, which discourage hoarding and excessive inequality, which contribute to social unrest, jealousy and violence. Personal care also makes it easier to give feedback, so people can improve their skills, both at work, psychologically and socially.

4. A radical dependence on local resources encourages a radical dependence on one's community members since one can't do everything, and one knows who provided ones goods and services, as well as whom one is producing these for. Beyond resources, a radical dependence on nature gives one a sense of belonging as part of nature (a factor in happiness).

5. Care about the outside world through encouraging of a humanist and deep ecological worldview, prevents the negative side of tribalism from creating the conditions for war with the outside world and encourages active peace with the outside world. It can be encouraged by a limited flow of information and even more of goods and services, since CSC intentionally limits flow of goods and services to and from the outside world, with the exception of similar communities (a tradeoff since this can also help care for the outside world). The limiting of resource exchange with the outside world needs to happen gradually as to avoid burnout. In addition, careful screening of prospective members based on both well-designed surveys and long trial periods will be implemented so as to avoid "negative selection" for freeloaders who are attracted to the benefits offered by the village, but may not be willing to pay costs, such as loyalty and accountability to the group, less availability of consumer goods than can be gotten in the global market, less convenience at times with less labor-saving devices, respect for agreements and enforcers of them (such as peacemakers and productivity monitors, this is not hard for more conservative people, but might be hard for more liberal ones).


Governance rationale

1,2,3,4. The first 4 practices provide community glue, and reduce the interpersonal conflict that arises when people do not like, trust or need each other (yet are forced by an economic system or proximity to interact with each other) thus reducing the need for large scale group governance (in particular, hierarchies and burocracies). Smaller governance groups such as families and pods are encouraged and make governance less complex and more manageable. Ostrom principles will be implemented to avoid the over-exploitation of common resources (by making public goods also have proportional private costs), monitor both productivity (of individuals and pods) and well-being of individuals (which in a community can also be partially looked at as common resources), as well as encourage both participatory governance(give people a real voice in things that affect them and others they care about) and nested governance (leave them alone or allow them to choose a pod-representative/peacemaker with things that they or others do that don't much affect others outside the family/pod, which has its own governance). It is possible that some people (e.g. peacemakers and productivity monitors) will have managerial roles, but not of everything, just specific areas, thus reducing the dangers of concentrated power. It is hoped that all the activities (besides purely economic) that encourage community glue, will also reduce the need for complex legal agreements, of which compliance is mostly based on fear of punishment.

5. Bigger governing bodies will need to be built (and initially existing ones tolerated or reformed from the outside world). This has already been covered in #5 for psychological rationale section.


Environmental rationale

4. A radical dependence on local nature encourages a deep ecological worldview, which sees one's community members, both human and other species as being intricately interdependent. With such a worldview, it is more difficult to want to hurt other people or beings (though sometimes it may be necessary). This radical dependence on local nature will be encouraged by relearning hunter-gatherer skills and pre-industrial skills (from known experts and experimentation), as well as encouraging innovation with permaculture ideas and appropriate technology.

5. A more global environmental consciousness, will also be encouraged though being more abstract, is harder to encourage. It can be done through travel and education (though we may not have much resources for long-distance travel, the young especially might need to do it). Also, as has been mentioned when the humanist worldview is not present, people can just move on and keep degrading nature, or steal from more peaceful tribes if they don't take care of the nature around them.


**Example of sacred values: individuals have a sacred core merely by existing, and they are valued for this core primarily, before their value as useful to anyone else. The purpose of life is to commune more than to control and in order to commune, we value these 4 relationships between individuals and :

1) their community; 2) their sacred creative source; 3) their ecosystem; and 4) their surrounding society