The Spice Must Flow
Last evening, I drove to the city to hear the now elderly but evidently still vigorous Canadian environmental activist (some say “shit-disturber”) Dr. David Suzuki deliver a talk as part of his cross-country Blue Dot Tour. The talk was surprisingly well-attended by some two or three thousand people who gave Suzuki what might be described as a “rock-star’s welcome”.
Dr. Suzuki has been characterised as both a “national treasure” by some, and by others (particularly in the present Conservative government) as public enemy number one — as both saint and sinner, as it were. Personalities who arouse such polarised judgements of adulation and revulsion always interest me, as they seem particularly representative of the times. They become symbols.
The “Blue Dot” name refers to the Earth as seen from space, and Suzuki did make reference to the “overview effect” which was discussed earlier in The Chrysalis in the post entitled “Gaia and ‘the Overview Effect’“. (If you aren’t familiar with what is called “the Overview Effect”, this video, “Some Strange Things are Happening to Astronauts Returning to Earth,” will help explain it). In effect, Suzuki’s Blue Dot Tour is the translation of the Overview Effect into conscious political action — an effort to give “Nature”, the Earth, or the planet, broadly speaking, entrenched constitutional standing, guarantees, and protection.
It is to envoice the Earth, in effect; to give to the Earth and the Earth’s creatures a political standing which has hitherto been absent in the forums and parliaments of men. And if corporations can be legal “persons”, why not also the Earth? Why not especially the Earth?
Bleibt der Erde treu!, wrote Nietzsche. “Be true to the Earth!” And it seems to me that Dr. Suzuki is simply the agent and representative of that Nietzschean imperative, among the first of a new breed — the “global souls”.
There were quite a few native people in the audience, too. And no doubt they would have taken note that Dr Suzuki wore a medallion and image of the Sacred Hoop around his neck, not without significance given the nature of his talk. The Sacred Hoop is a traditional native mandala of the fourfold world and the fourfold human, which is ubiquitous in aboriginal culture,
This was not insignificant because the pattern of Dr. Suzuki’s talk was in terms of the Sacred Hoop and the fourfold world even if he didn’t mention the Sacred Hoop directly in his talk.
Dr. Suzuki appealed to the audience to recognise themselves in the four classical elements — earth, air, fire, and water. We are earth. We are air. We are water. We are fire, too. Our life and the life of the Earth are inextricably entwined in a constant circulation and flow of energy in these forms as metabolic system, respiratory system, circulatory system, and nervous system of the body held in dynamic equilibrium or balance.
This conception is not just that of the Sacred Hoop, but also of the pre-Socratic philosophers, of course. Before Plato separated the logos and the mythos, there was no real separation of psyche and physis; mind or body, spirit or matter, subject and object. What is called “spirit” or “matter”, or psyche and physis, were simply polar states of one circulating energy, the energy called eros. Eros is energy, which we call “the spice of life”, and which Heraclitus identified with fire. Needless to say perhaps, earth, air, fire, and water are various forms and states of energy in flux, and the various metamorphoses and transformations of eros which figures so prominently in myth and mythical consciousness.
Suzuki didn’t really touch upon the deeper issue of this flow and circulation of energy-as-eros through-and-as the human form. Eros is what the Christians came to call “love”, of course. I have the sense he must have known something of the deeper psycho-spiritual import in the circulation of the four elements and of the Sacred Hoop, but he remained focussed on the unimpeded purity of the circulation and the unity of person and planet — our right to health in the form of clean air, clean water, clean soil. Health is the unhindered flux and circulation of energy, which is called “eros“, in all its forms and transforms, through the human form. This flow and circulation is called “vitality”. Suzuki, nonetheless, did come very close to naming the glue that maintains the equilibrium of things as eros.
“The spice must flow”. Maybe some of you are familiar with Frank Herbert’s Dune series? Prophetic works, in some respect. “Spice” was the fuel of empire. “Dune” was the name of the planet upon which “spice” was mined. Apart from being clearly a reference to oil, “spice” was energy, and energy must circulate. “The spice must flow” to me always meant the unimpeded circulation of energy through the human form, which could be considered a kind of empire of cells in its own right. It is, after all, why people practice yoga or Castaneda’s “magical passes”. The spice must flow. Illness occurs when the flow and flux is impeded.
There is nothing but the flow, the flux. “Impermanence” is the first principle of Buddhism. Heraclitus was profoundly right. The spice must flow. “The spice must flow” can also be said to be the whole meaning of Blake and of Castaneda, too.
What Dr. Suzuki may not have fully realised is that the Titans of air, earth, fire, and water are equally Blake’s Zoas, the transforms of a singular polymorphous energy in constant circulation. And that is a marvelous thing, indeed.