Reductionism and fundamentalism are the twin evils of our time. If, as William Blake puts it, “man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”, we owe a lot of that to secular reductionism and religious fundamentalism. Both are implicated in that problem that Gebser calls “the mental-rational structure of consciousness now functioning in deficient mode”, and they are correspondingly also implicated in Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”. That nihilism is equally reflected in Oscar Wilde’s definition of cynicism and the cynic as being someone “who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing”.
“Duplicity is the currency of the day”, Pope Francis recently stated. I understand what he means. I think we all do, which is why we are so invested in the issue of “integral consciousness” as a corrective. The problem of duplicity and the duplicitous (and the attendant problem of dualism) has been the principal question of former The Dark Age Blog and the present Chrysalis. And that question is this: how can a society so divided against itself in duplicity or self-contradiction actually endure?
I was reading a book review this morning in The Guardian about a book written by Tobias Jones entitled A Place of Refuge. Jones is also the author of a book entitled Utopian Dreams, described as a book “about communal living”. A Place of Refuge apparently documents his and his family’s efforts to found such an “intentional community” in England as “an antidote to the sadnesses and sorrows of modern life”. And I was reminded of this same question and issue put to The Chrysalis’s readership by Don Salmon in the comments section to my post on “The American Civil War”.
Reading the review, and recalling Don’s question about forming “intentional communities”, brought back to mind earlier times when I had given fairly extensive thought to this matter, for it is really a question about how we form a successful “we” and why this is difficult for us to accomplish, especially in the West.
The recent papal encyclical, Laudato Si, has brought the phrase “integral ecology” into the mainstream public discourse, and the route it has taken to get there is quite interesting and significant in itself. This represents an additional and quite important development in the direction of Jean Gebser’s “irruption of the integral consciousness” in our time.
The full understanding of this “integral ecology” is, nonetheless, not yet complete. As presently understood, it is the synchronic observation that human consciousness and activity cannot be considered isolated from the entire web of life, but is connected or embedded in that web of interdependency. In that sense the Papal understanding of “integral ecology” corresponds to the discovery of “Indra’s Net“. But there is more to it than that, even.
Some questions about the meaning of property and ownership arose in the comments section following my post on “The American Civil War”, in the course of which I drew attention to the German philosopher Max Stirner’s politically influential book “The Ego and Its Own“, and his teaching of “egoistic individualism”. A copy of Stirner’s book, in English translation, is available online for those interested.
So, here I want to try and address the ideas of property and ownership in what we might refer to as their “spiritual” aspect, rather than their material or physical aspect, as “private property” or “real estate” or “capital”, or just plain old “stuff”.