Henryk Skolimowski and Eco-Philosophy
When I was an undergraduate student at university, one of my professors tried to interest me in the work of the Polish eco-philosopher Henryk Skolimowski. While I found his approach intriguing, I was pursuing other matters and interests at the time and never followed up on that recommendation. It is perhaps time to rectify that, since I have come to appreciate eco-philosophy and eco-logic as the corrective to Mumford’s “Megamachine” and the threat of totalitarian capitalism.
So, the other day, I received in the mail a copy of Skolimowski’s book Let There Be Light: The Mysterious Journey of Cosmic Creativity, and it took me by surprise. Skolimowski, akin to other eco-philosophers like Rudolf Bahro, has moved from an eco-logical outlook to what can only be described perhaps as “mysticism”.
(Rudolf Bahro and I have an old relationship, in fact. Bahro was a dissident Marxist and a political prisoner in East Germany when I was a student in Germany. His “crime” was to try to reconcile Marxism with ecological thinking. I helped smuggle his books, which were drawing a lot of attention among young Germans in West Germany, back into East Germany. After I left Germany, Bahro was released to the West, where he co-founded what was probably the first Green Party. Bahro’s thinking also took a more mystical or spiritual turn later on).
I should perhaps qualify that notion when I suggest that Skolimowski and Bahro “moved” from a more eco-philosophical and eco-logical approach to a more “spiritual” approach, which seems to follow Jean Gebser’s anticipated trajectory of a “consciousness mutation”. That spiritual approach was already latent, tacit or incipient to eco-philosophy, but apparently not yet aware of itself as this prime mover (which I would refer to also as “return of the repressed”). Only gradually, by working with eco-philosophy as a kind of alchemical process, did the latent spiritual content of eco-logic emerge into consciousness in Skolimowski and Bahro’s cases as Gebser’s “diaphainon“. So, in those terms, they didn’t actually “move” from an eco-logical to a more spiritual emphasis and approach, since they were inseparable to begin with. It was, rather, a process of progressive unfolding or realisation of the implicit spiritual content within eco-logic that was attempting to make itself known and manifest, ie, the “Logos” proper.
This is what is intriguing about Skolimowski’s Let There Be Light. I’m unsure whether Skolimowski is aware of the work of Jean Gebser, but Let There Be Light might even be considered a manual for Enlightenment — for how to realise the tacit spiritual impetus that informs eco-logical thinking, that spiritual content being the Light-Energy entity — the “You of you” as Seth put it — that we are implicitly. That is Gebser’s “diaphainon“, and that is what Skolimowski is attempting to describe in Let There Be Light — not just to reveal the spiritual reality of Light-Energy implicit in ecological thinking, but to make it manifest as the true Self, as it were — the You of you. So, the book highlights a number of meditations that Skolimowski recommends for drawing out or facilitating the birth of this latent spiritual content which is Gebser’s “diaphainon“, and is the true “Logos” implicit in eco-logic.
I’m of two-minds about his meditations, which are really the form of guided visualisation. In some ways it’s nonsense. In some ways it’s not nonsense at all. Like the Buddha’s notion of the dharma as a “raft”, they might serve to carry one to the threshold of the diaphaneity, but they won’t bear you across the stream or carry you across the threshold. Only “letting go”, or achieving perfect inner silence will do that. Guided visualisation may be helpful to a point, but after that it just becomes another “mind-forg’d manacle” and a way for the “Emissary” to hold on to its grip on the awareness.
Eco-philosophy or eco-logic is certainly the new alchemy, the reconstitution of the Hermetic Philosophy. It seems clear that Skolimowski and Bahro traced it to its authentic roots, and discovered that its authentic roots lay in Gebser’s “ever-present origin” or “diaphainon“, which in Skolimowski is the latent reality of the “Light”, and the Light-Energy entity that we are implicitly. That is Gebser’s “vital centre” or core “self”, identical with the diaphainon. So, if you do read Let There Be Light, (which compares well with A.H. Almaas’s work, too), read it with Gebser in mind, and the seemingly nonsensical won’t seem so nonsensical at all.
I started The Dark Age Blog many years ago to warn about the dangers of a new Dark Age of decay, disintegration, and totalitarianism. Unfortunately, this danger has only intensified lately. I started the present Chrysalis to look for signs and tokens of the incipient “New Age” that Blake, Nietzsche, and Gebser foresaw also, and to highlight some of the correctives needed to overcome or outrun the annihilating and self-annihilating tendencies of the “Megamachine”. That has focussed mainly on the pressing need to discern between the Whole and the mere Totality. These are not synonyms for each other, as befits the meaning that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. One leads into Life, and the other into Death. It is legitimate to speak of a “totality” only when it never loses its implicit connection to the source — the Whole or ever-present, or which it is only an image in the mind.
And that’s the key to understanding also Iain McGilchrist’s important work on neurodynamics and the two modes of perception of the divided brain: The Master and His Emissary. That’s also key to understanding the distinction between Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth, otherwise called “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”.
It’s very subtle. It’s very paradoxical.
The best eco-philosophy and eco-logic already began with a presentiment or intuition about the Whole, and by following that presentiment or intuition through thinking — a kind of alchemical process in itself — they “arrived” at the Holy, or the spiritual. But the Whole (or McGilchrist’s “Master”) was already knocking on the door before they took up pen and paper to compose their thoughts on eco-philosophy. Any kind of ecological thinking or philosophy that begins with the bits and pieces and tries to assemble these into a Whole is just bad philosophy and bad ecology.
I wouldn’t despair of thinking, as many seem to do today. Thinking also is dharma. “Right thinking”, as one of the Buddha’s eightfold path, can indeed bear you to the threshold of the holy. It just can’t carry you across the threshold. That’s what the “leap of faith” does, or what is called “dropping it” or “letting go”. This is, apparently, the course that Skolimowski and Bahro took — they followed their nose, as it were, and it led them from the logical into the spiritual, even though there isn’t that great a separation in reality (the logical corresponding to the “Emissary” mode of consciousness and the spiritual correponding to the “Master” mode of consciousness, in McGilchrist’s terms). Dualistic thinking is quite inappropriate in understanding the relationship of the logical and the spiritual, which is also paradoxical.
What is so interesting about Bahro’s journey, or Skolimowski’s also, is how beautifully it illustrates one of Blake’s verses. It could be even taken as the “voice” of The Master…
I GIVE you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…