The Archaic One and Individuation

Reflecting further on Albert Schweitzer’s ethos of “reverence for life” has led me round to the contemplation of Jean Gebser’s “archaic consciousness structure” as the “ever-present origin” — the archaic One or Wholeness, which may also be named “the Primal One”. It is appropriate to visual the archaic One in terms of Nicholas of Cusa’s famous description of God as “a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”, a root principle of the Hermetic Philosophy and which is basically an attempt to give a sense of form or structure to the Infinite and the Eternal (or the spaceless and timeless Presence), for such is the nature of the archaic One as “ever-present origin”, which has never ceased to be presence.

And it is, furthermore, appropriate to reflect on the archaic One as the singular Origin (or Ursprung) which is ever-present as also being identical with Jill Bolte-Taylor’s experience of “the Life Force Power of the Universe”, which she tried to describe in her very moving TED talk on her “Stroke of Insight”. This “Life Force Power of the Universe”, which Schweitzer also senses as underlying his own “reverence for life” ethos, and which Nietzsche sensed as the “Dionysian” power of his own “Life Philosophy”, is the same “archaic structure of consciousness” addressed by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin. The expansive “oceanic feeling” that psychologists often attribute to the infant or the mystic is an intimation of Origin and the archaic One.

For William Blake, it was the time when “the Soul slept in beams of light” — a coincidentia oppositorum, therefore, of Light and Dark. It’s a state of non-dualism or non-differentiation, which only begins to emerge with the process of individuation or the incipience of the ego-consciousness. The “discovery of the soul”, which is a very odd phrase, is really a discovery of ego-consciousness, or Selfhood — and the mortal self as “I am” — as something grown distinct from, and emergent from, soul or the life-force. Blake seems to think of Primal One as a “Golden Age”, and the onset of Selfhood, which he calls “Satan”, as the Fall from Grace — the Fall into Time, death, and dualism. Blake’s complex mythology of the “four Zoas” traces the process of individuation of consciousness, much as the Greek “four ages of man” describe a descending arc, as it were, leading from Golden Age, to Silver Age, to Bronze Age, to Iron Age. These evidently correspond to the Yugas, or World Ages, of Oriental philosophy: The Satya Yuga, The Treta Yuga, The Dwapara Yuga, and the present Kali Yuga.

Jean Gebser’s four historically realised “structures of consciousness” as “civilisational types” follow this pattern: archaic structure, magical structure, mythical structure, and mental-rational structure. Gebser is loath to use the term “progression” to describe these various transforms of consciousness structure proceeding or emerging from the Archaic One, since “progression” for Gebser is also “distantiation” (or alienation) from Origin, Source or “vital centre” — that is to say, a “progressive” self-alienation from the same “Life Force Power of the Universe” in Bolte-Taylor’s terms.

For some, therefore, the principio individuationis the principle or process of individuation — is considered synonymous with this distantiation or alienation, however vaguely understood that might be. Gebser already sees that the process of individuation or intensification of the ego-consciousness has over-reached a limit and has become fragmentation and atomisation. Yeats’ ominous poem “The Second Coming” opens with what is also an objection to “progressive” individuation where it is instead seen as a disintegrative and destructive centrifugal force leading away further and further from the vital centre. The relationship between the Falcon and the Falconer, and their dissociation, corresponds to Iain McGilchrist’s neurodynamics of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. In Yeats’ poem, the Falconer is the “Master” (or “vital centre”) and the Falcon is the “Emissary”, or ego-consciousness now become estranged, alienated, rootless, or dissociated from its own life principle or source.

This estrangement of the ego-consciousness from its roots, Origin, “vital centre”, or the Life Force is the meaning of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Anyone who is baffled by what is called “religion” or why religion emerged, especially in the Axial Age, need only understand the meaning of the parable of the Prodigal Son as this process of estrangement or alienation of the ego-consciousness from its own roots, which is, essentially, the archaic One. There is great irony in the fact that, despite partisan and ideological divides, the conservative Emile Durkheim described this estrangement and alienation as “anomie“, the liberal Max Weber diagnosed it as “disenchantment” and “the iron cage”, and the socialist Karl Marx called it simply “alienation”. “Anomie“, “disenchantment of the world”, or “alienation” are altogether represented as Charles Taylor’s “malaise of modernity“. This malaise is not confined to the contemporary “West” either, as this article on the “malaise of Islam” by Nabil Echchaibi attests, or Ziaddun Sardar’s wonderfully engaging book Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Skeptical Muslim.

We are, on the whole, united in the tragi-comedy of our malaise, in our anomie, our disenchantment, our alienation. And if it were not so, someone like Albert Schweitzer would never have found it necessary to articulate an ethic of reverence for life, which would have, under other circumstances, have been proverbial “carrying coals to Newcastle”. But it’s hugely ironic that the conservative, the liberal, and the socialist, in our contemporary terms, and whether as “anomie”, “disenchantment of the world”, or “alienation”, these are all simply variations on the theme and parable of the Prodigal Son.

Does that not also bring to mind the parable of the five blind men and the elephant? (And just to clarify, the five blind men or scholars are the five senses, and the elephant is what ecologist Timothy Morton refers to as a “hyperobjects“).

But what do we make of the process of “individuation” or the principio individuationis? Well, it really describes the journey from the One to the Many — the individuation of the archaic One or “structure of consciousness” or, if you prefer, the individuation of the Life Force Power of the Universe we call “pluralism”. This diversification of the One not only facilitated physical survival, but greatly expanded the potentialities of consciousness and the varieties and richness of experience. Individuation of the One isn’t the problem. It is, in some ways, the very purpose of life. The problem is our forgetfulness. The price for the failure of re-membrance is dis-memberment, which is but another term for “dis-integration” or loss of integrity. Anomie, disenchantment, alienation, malaise, or Gebser’s “atomisation” are just so many terms for dis-memberment, which is now the post-modern condition. The hyper-partisan is also a symptom of dis-memberment.

This is what Schweitzer addresses and attempts to overcome with his teaching of the reverence for life — re-member-ance.

The universal will-to-live experiences itself in my personal will-to-live otherwise than it does in other phenomena. For here it enters on an individualization, which, so far as I am able to gather in trying to view it from the outside, struggles only to live itself out, and not at all to become one with will-to-live external to itself. The world is indeed the grisly drama of will-to-live at variance with itself. One existence survives at the expense of another of which it yet knows nothing. But in me the will-to-live has become cognizant of the existence of other will-to-live. There is in it a yearning for unity with itself, a longing to become universal. (“The Ethic of Reverence for Life“)

That “longing to become universal” is a reference to Gebser’s archaic, the Primordial One or ever-present origin. What Schweitzer is attempting here is a reconciliation of the old paradox of the One and the Many, which expresses itself, in consciousness terms, as the archaic One and the process of individuation of that One. This is, in fact, what lies behind the Zen koan “show me your face before you were born”. The real individual, which is so because truly indivisible, is the archaic One which is Bolte-Taylor’s “Life Force Power of the Universe”, and which Gebser calls “the Itself”. And while individuation is and has been, quite evidently, a process in time, Origin is not a process in time and it is for that reason that Origin is not the same as “beginning” but is the ever-present.

It’s pretty clear that Schweitzer’s ethics is wrestling with the paradox of the One and the Many, and in that sense also with Nicholas of Cusa’s description of “God” as a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. That is also a characterisation of the paradox of the One and the Many, or of the paradox of the Tao and the “Ten Thousand Things” (Myriad or Legion), as Taoism puts it. This isn’t idle musing, either. It’s essential to our perfection of democracy that we wrestle with, and come to terms with, the paradox of the One and the Many, and with the all-important fact for our time of the attempt to include Nature — or even animal life – into the meaning of “democracy” — the idea that living Nature, or the biosphere, also has “rights”.

It’s not so much about the “rewilding” of society — which could only result in barbarism — as it is about the democratisation of the life world by the extension of “rights” to Nature and to animals. The precedent for that, though, was St. Francis. And I have to add, that there’s quite a bit of St. Francis in Nietzsche too, which is almost always overlooked.

 

Advertisements

24 responses to “The Archaic One and Individuation”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being

    We’re getting there. Slowly but surely.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      “Because the Buddha Mind is present in each one of you, there is no question of my giving you the Buddha Mind. Listening closely to this sermon, realize the Buddha Mind that each of you has right within himself, and from today on you’re abiding in the Unborn Buddha Mind. Once you’ve affirmed the Buddha Mind that everyone has innately, you can all do just as you please: if you want to read the sutras, read the sutras; if you feel like doing zazen, do zazen; if you want to keep the precepts, take the precepts; even if it’s chanting the nembutsu or the daimoku, or simply performing your allotted tasks – whether as a samurai, a farmer, an artisan or a merchant – that becomes your samadhi. All I’m telling you is: “Realize the Buddha Mind that each of you has from your parents innately! What’s essential is to realize the Buddha Mind each of you has, and simply abide in it with faith..

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        Stated in the broadest possible terms, individuation seems to be the innate urge of life to realize itself consciously. The transpersonal life energy, in the process of self-unfolding, uses human consciousness, a product of itself, as an instrument for its own self-realization. A glimpse of this process gives one a new perspective on the vicissitudes of human life and makes one realize that:

        Though the mills of God grind slowly,
        Yet they grind exceedingly fine.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Indeed, “grant” is the wrong word for it. Remember and recognize, maybe.

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Individuation of the One isn’t the problem. It is, in some ways, the very purpose of life. The problem is our forgetfulness.

    Exceptionally well put.

    One of the most poignant points in Bolte-Taylor’s talk: ‘Which do you choose and when?”

  3. dadaharm says :

    Hi,

    The article Was Schweitzer a mystic after all? seems to complement this post very well.

    It explains that Schweitzer proposed a philosophy of ethical mysticism. Basically an ethics that is founded on the mystical idea that all life is one. The idea of reverence for life.

    In my opinion, it says more or less the same as your post, but using plain old fashioned mysticism instead of the ideas of Gebser.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’m taking more of an interest in Schweitzer after reading The Teaching of Reverence for Life and his essay on “the Ethic of Reverence for Life”. He’s not what hearsay and rumour led me to believe he was. Maybe I’ve got around to him just at the right time. I intend to do some more investigation of his thinking now.

  4. mikemackd says :

    I finished formatting and reading that extract from Mumford’s “The Transformation of Man” 1957 pp. 143-192. It was 20,000 words, not 10,000. Amongst them were the following, apropos to this post:

    QUOTE
    Now this change toward world culture parallels a change that seems also on the point of taking place within the human personality: a change in the direction of wholeness and balance. In the new constellation of the person, as we shall presently see, parts of the human organism long buried or removed from conscious control will be brought to light, recognised, accepted, revaluated, and redirected. The ability to face one’s whole self, and to direct every part of it toward a more unified development, is one of the promises held forth by the advance both of objective science and subjective understanding. Wholeness is impossible to achieve, in fact, without giving primacy to the integrative elements within the personality: love, reason, the impulse to perfection and transcendence.

    Without a concept of development, without a hierarchy of values, the mere lifting of unconscious repressions might simply produce, as it has often done in our day, a wholesale eruption of the libido, which would turn the mind itself into an instrument for slaying the higher impulses. Perhaps the greatest difficulty today, as a result of the general hostility to values brought in by seventeenth-century science, is the failure to recognise that wholeness demands imperatively that the highest elements in the human personality should be singled out, accepted and trusted, fortified and rewarded. The integration of the person begins at the top, with an idea, and works downward till it reaches the sympathetic nervous system, where organic integration in turn probably begins and works upward, till it emerges as an impulse of love or a vital image. In this replenishment of the whole self under a formative idea lies the promise of reducing the distortions, conflicts, isolationisms, infantilisms, and obsessions that have limited human growth (p. 144).
    UNQUOTE

    So this process of individuation can be integrative through love and disintegrated through hate. Hence the deeper meaning in Jesus’s “love thine enemies”. As Tweedy put it:

    QUOTE
    “Satan can no more escape “hell” than he can evade the psychological mechanisms binding him ever more securely and compulsively into egoic self-damnation. As Damon notes, in Milton’s poem Satan “is constantly tempted to pity, to repent, but he always hardens his heart. He loses his sense of truth, and becomes deceived by his own lies. At the end, he has lost semblance of the human form” (Damon, p. 357). This hardening process – or “damnation” as Milton calls it – is the central psychological process of Paradise Lost. Satan’s trajectory of “falling”, or degrading, is in part a counterpoint to the loss of paradise itself. As Satan falls, and hardens, so Eden is perceived as being further and further away. Eden gradually “literalises”, as Satanic or egoic rationalising perception within the brain increasingly materialises and hardens human perception. In its final “Dragon” form, the rationalising Selfhood is completely hardened or incrusted, “Coverd with precious stones”: slowly asphyxiating itself by the compulsive pursuit of the thing it craves (Blake’s Jerusalem 89:10, p. 248). Paradise Lost thereby depicts the gradual process of self-damnation in Milton’s most memorable and dramatic character, the state that Blake also refers to as “Satan”. (Tweedy 2013 , The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor and the Myth of Creation. London, Karnac Books. pp. 240-241).
    UNQUOTE

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Transformations of Man is a wonderful book. But I’ve not yet finished the concluding chapters. I’m saving it for a special occasion 🙂

      I’ld still like to get around to Tweedy’s God of the Left Hemisphere at some point. I’m sure it will be interesting to compare with McGilchrist’s The Master of His Emissary.

      • mikemackd says :

        “The Transformations of Man is a wonderful book“.

        I agree, Scott. I had forgotten that was the one you are reading. Sadly, it turns out I’m partly revealing how it ends. Still, it’s not a whodunnit; it’s more the journey than the ending.

        Close to that ending, he mentions the Nietzsche’s phrase you have often quoted here in the following:

        “Any doctrine of wholeness that does not begin with love itself as the symbol and agent of this organic wholeness can hardly hope to produce either a unified self or a united world; for it is not in the detached intellect alone that this transformation must be effected. This radical transvaluation of values is a necessary prelude to the next phase of man’s development” (p. 185).

        And “In the Name of Sanity”, he further emphasises that need:

        QUOTE
        And finally, there is one great realm of Prospero that must be redeemed from those who have usurped it, and opened up for those who are ready to cultivate it: the domain of love. The only final safeguard against the genocidal and suicidal impulses our weapons of extermination have encouraged, is the sedulous devotion to love in all its aspects, beginning with tenderness. Each of us, all of us, must cultivate tenderness within ourselves, and be as committed to nonviolence as Mahatma Gandhi, as loath to wipe out the life of the most insignificant fellow creature as a devout Jain, knowing that all life is precious … We will have lived to some purpose if we are tender enough to earn Caliban’s contemptuous characterization of us as the “hand-wringer” or the “bleeding heart.” Let our hearts bleed freely as long as a single human being suffers from preventable misery or rectifiable injustice. Yes, and let us stanch that blood by effective remedial action, whether the sufferer lies on our doorstep or waits for succor on the other side of the earth (pp. 237-238).
        UNQUOTE

        That reference to Caliban’s contemptuous characterization of people as “hand-wringers” or the “bleeding hearts” reminded of the reaction of that former CIA operative Duane McClarridge interviewed by John Pilger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKkunZ5K15w) that I linked here long ago. Whatever the rights or wrongs of that situation, if I had given the tut-tutting McClarridge gave to Pilger, it would be clear to me that it was my manifestation of what Tweedy was referring to. It’s up to McClarridge to make that call for himself, though: it’s not up to me, or Pilger.

        However, what is my responsibility as an Australian citizen is to take note of foreign interference in Australia’s democratic processes and vice versa, just as it is for Americans to do so now with Russia and with the USA in those processes of other countries, and Iranians, Chileans etc., and to rectify any such injustices, including apprehending and punishing the perpetrators either way.

        There is one whodunnit that still exercises the minds of many older Australians in that context. Pilger claims, but I do not know, that the CIA engineered the dismissal of Australia’s Prime Minister Whitlam in 1975. My position is pretty much like that expressed at:

        http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2017/01/19/us-interference-australian-1975-election/.

        However, it would be perfectly consistent with the attitude McClarridge displayed, which comes across to me as that of a servant of the megamachine. If it’s typical of the culture there – and I have precisely zero idea, never having knowingly met a spook in my life, though I must have met several – then I’d say the likelihood of such interference is very high. and not only for Australia, but also for similarly close allies.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Yes, I knew about that interference. I’ve actually met and talked to a former CIA “spooks” as it were — a whistleblower who didn’t get a lot of attention in his day. He stayed at my house in the city a while ago while he was on lecture tour.

          What goes ’round comes ’round, as is said. A little different and far less linear than the term “blowback” suggests, but it often amounts to the same thing.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    “When we help an insect out of a difficulty, we are only trying to compensate for man’s ever-renewed sins against other creatures. Wherever animals are impressed into the service of man, every one of us should be mindful of the toll we are exacting. We cannot stand idly by and see an animal subjected to unnecessary harshness or deliberate mistreatment. We cannot say it is not our business to interfere. On the contrary, it is our duty to intervene in the animal’s behalf.” (p. 49 of The Teaching of Reverence for Life).

    This does raise a conundrum actually… when is intervention actually interference? Schweitzer actually doesn’t seem to know when intervention may be interference.

    Once upon a time, Castaneda and his teacher don Juan went to town somewhere in Mexico. As they were walking along a sidewalk Castaneda noticed a snail on the sidewalk and moved it out of harm’s way. Don Juan, the shaman, got very angry with him for that. “Why are you always interfering? How do you know what that snail’s purpose was in crossing the sidewalk?”. As far as don Juan was concerned, Castaneda wasn’t intervening, but interfering.

    There is a similar story about the voyageurs and the natives of northern Canada. The voyageurs often complained that the Indians never put out their fires, which often caused destructive forest fires. The Indians didn’t understand the voyageurs’ beef with them about that. Fire was a living thing. To put out the fire would have been interference with the life of fire, not intervention for prevention — even if many trees and animals perished.

    Carl Jung also apparently got irate when anyone put out a match that was burning in an ashtray. He considered fire a living thing, and to put out a match was interference.

    Has Schweitzer not also created then an ethical dilemma and problem for himself?

    • mikemackd says :

      This is a question I have been mulling over for some time, including during my walk along the beach last night. We aren’t talking just insects here; we are talking of global concerns such as the Responsibility to Protect agreement: http://www.globalr2p.org/media/files/r2p-backgrounder.pdf

      One thing I know; despite his emphasis on love, Mumford was no pacifist. Before World War Two, his calling on the USA to take up arms against the Fascist countries was loud and persistent. That was but one branch of the megamachine he opposed. For his pains, he saw his son killed in action in the very war he called for, and his own country inhale several of the vilest practices of its foe.

      Similarly, the R2P so far appears to be a cloak for imperialist designs: how much has Mumford’s call to assist those who wait for succor on the other side of the earth been similarly Caliban-corrupted?.

      We must find a more developed answer that that given by Arjuna to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita – not because we have progressed: clearly, we aren’t even there yet, in the main – but because our track record since then hasn’t been all that flash.

      I need to mull over that question of yours more; and not just a Mumfordly mull. One thing’s pretty sure, though: beneath any definitional distinctions between interfering and intervening, there lurks a wicked problem. One can say that an intervention is for the flourishing of life, and an interference is towards its harm. But how is one to know which will turn out which, and by how much?

      As that is a wicked problem; the answer will be neither just simplex or simplax (the latter term being my own neologism for the axiological (valuational) equivalents of simplex. Similarly – complax, multiplax etc.). The examples you just gave seem pretty simplax responses. Simplex too: while all life has energy, does all energy have life?

      With wicked problems, per se, recipes and formulas simply will not work sustainably. Sure, simple interventions / interferences can “stanch” blood as Mumford said; a simple intervention like that can save a vastly complex being’s life: but where from there? Would Don Juan have drawn the same conclusion if he were in the snail’s situation? “Go away, Castenada”? Couldn’t he see that Castenda’s being there with his sentiments was just as much part of the process as whatever put him in the snail’s situation in the first place?

      I used to argue with simplex/simplax thinkers about the invasion of Iraq. They were sure that they would overthrow Saddam, set up a democracy, and be out of there in no time at all. Trying to persuade them that it might be otherwise was a waste of our time.

      The school I attended was called Sacred Heart. That was a bleeding heart, but the hearts I encountered there were cold. Perhaps a simplax start would be the Chinese saying that if the wrong person applies the right remedy, it becomes the wrong remedy. But if my blood needed stanching, I would not vet any volunteers as to their personal qualities to stanch my blood!

      My mulling will start from Mumford’s point that any doctrine of wholeness that does not begin with love itself as the symbol and agent of this organic wholeness can hardly hope to produce either a unified self or a united world. From there? Dunno yet. Any ideas?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      What you’re discussing here, gentlemen, is presently being referred to as “moral ambiguity” and is receiving a great deal of attention (and practice) in the “popular” sphere, at the moment. (Please, skip if you’re not in the mood for a distraction.)

      We were discussing recently the applications of “virtual reality” as a “rehearsal” space? Here’s one among many examples.

      This happens a lot on both small and grand scales in the better “virtual worlds” and “universes,” literary and otherwise. The choice is yours, but you have to make one to advance. It is occasionally astonishing how much can change — and how drastically events can change — over the course of a series of events in such “virtual worlds.”

      Are we creating an ethical dilemma for ourselves with every thought that crosses our mind? Schweitzer specified animal abuse at the hands of humans in this passage as posing a requirement for intervention. The “morally ambiguous” question arose from the first sentence.

      • mikemackd says :

        Ah, so! The Witcher is the Infinite Warrior! I see on Wikpedia it’s described as a “deep, immersive game that will ask you to think and make choices, not just hack and slash your way to glory”.

        > Are we creating an ethical dilemma for ourselves with every thought that crosses our mind?

        Someone I read recently effectively said we create a valuation dilemma for ourselves with every thought that crosses our mind. Or rather, that thoughts and values are intertwined, inter-relate, co-evolve: “we don’t see things as they are, but as we are”, and we think from that base. From that framing, ethics would often be a component of that valuation for those still with a functioning superego (in Mumford’s, rather than Freud’s, meaning of the word). Now, where was that definition …

        • mikemackd says :

          Of course: the Uprising of Caliban: “for Caliban, read the id, the primitive underworld self, and for Prospero the superego, even though I shall define that superego in more generous terms than Freud used. If, again, you prefer the symbols of theology, you will be equally near my meaning if you identify Caliban with the demonic and Prospero with the divine.”

        • Dwig says :

          “we don’t see things as they are, but as we are”

          Wallace Stevens struggled with that notion in The Man With The Blue Guitar.

  6. Dwig says :

    Fascinating discussion, that hits me in a variety of ways; here’s a stab at expressing some of my reactions:

    The word “individuation” in this context seems like a personal process of “becoming who you are”; no problem there, except the “individ-” part of it, which seems to express “undivided”. As I individuate, and you do it, and she/he/they do it, we definitely “divide” (maybe part of the Tao becoming the 10,000 things). It might better be called “dividuation” of “dividuals” that emerge from the “individual” ever-present origin.

    On reverence for life and the “rights” of dividual creatures, species, or Gaia: Several messages in this thread illustrate the issues and problems here. No other species (that we know of) have this problem, and they all frequently impinge on each other, causing various effects, including evolution.

    So, in what way does our emerging self-awareness, and our ability to language about it (using Maturana and Varela’s use of the word as a verb), create the issues and problems? Some thoughts on this:

    Don Juan’s take on the snail points directly to one aspect of it: we’re constantly dealing with local (and global) ecosystems that we only poorly understand. When we try to intervene in a non-selfish (or less selfish) way, we truly can’t foresee even most of the consequences.

    I remember reading that Buddhist monks understand this, and accept that they can’t help adversely affecting all life forms; they just do the best they can, and accept the consequences of the rest. (Joanna Macy tells of a monk who found a fly in his cup of tea. He gently lifted it out and placed it on a nearby windowsill and watched it. After several minutes, he said brightly “he’s feeling much better now”.)

    From what I’ve read, the indigenous nations of North America recognize their kinship with all life forms; when they speak of “all my relations”, they really mean all parts of the living earth. One consequence of this is the way they go about hunting and gathering. In effect, they ask permission before harvesting a plant or killing an animal for food. (I suspect that having a strong sense of humor helps as well.)

    I’m increasingly troubled by the concept of “rights” as an absolute concept. I’m still struggling to express it, but I think what I’ve written here gets at part of it. (Perhaps it might be better, rather than saying that X has a right, to say that those sentient beings who can affect X have an obligation with respect to X. This expresses the relational nature of the concept.)

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I’m increasingly troubled by the concept of “rights” as an absolute concept.

      I think it’s respons-ability we’re concerned with here. So sayeth Oren Lyons:, et al.

      • Dwig says :

        Of course — the old faith keeper nails it, as usual.

      • Dwig says :

        IW: By the way: in writing my thoughts, I used “obligation”, and you replied with respons-ability. I like the implication of the hyphen, but is there a useful distinction between “obligation” and “responsibility”?

        Thanks for the link and the prod…

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          I was referring specifically to the concept of “rights” as opposed to responsibility.

          As for a useful distinction between “obligation” and “responsibility….” Scott is our resident expert on useful distinctions, but “obligation” suggests “duty” in the modern sense of the word (i.e. something a person is required to do by law) and carries with it a strong whiff of coercion whereas responsibility suggests reciprocality. I tend to think of relationships in the latter terms as opposed to being based on “duties” and “obligations.” (Must be something to do with all the judgmentalism and guilt-trips we’re subjected to from birth to death.)

          But, then, I’m one of those crazy people who thinks we shouldn’t need laws to prevent ourselves from exploiting our relatives and spoiling our own nest when common sense (in Lyons’ sense of the term) should be enough.

          Alas, “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” (to quote Eisenstein) isn’t the one we’re actually living in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: