The starting point of this collection of essays from Paul Cudenec is that very future of our species and of planetary life is at threat from the unchecked growth of the industrial capitalist cancer and that there is a need for a powerful and coherent resistance.
He argues that there has been a general thought-paralysis which renders any authentic and holistic anti-capitalist philosophy difficult to conceive and communicate. Our intellectual immune system has been disabled.
As a result of this, anarchist and anti-capitalist thinking has to look deeper than the surface of what is usually regarded as the political realm and root itself in an intellectual soil completely outside of capitalism and all its assumptions.
What are we to make of an age that delivers pandemic levels of mental illness and a physical environment at the point of catastrophic collapse?
What is it that connects and infuses both modernity and psychiatry to make them seem like the only possible ways to organise our lives and aid our distress?
Could there be other options available? Other ways to explain and ameliorate our distress? What if mental distress is considered as much a matter of geography as it is of personal pathology?
These are some of the questions opened up for analysis in this radically ground-breaking investigation of mental distress in the spaces of the modern world. The philosophical legacies of Felix Guattari and John Zerzan are employed to take the reader on a profoundly challenging walk through Critical Theory, anarchy and decolonisation to create a route to sanity via a wild-schizoanalysis. Drawing upon a professional background in acute psychiatry and a personal immersion in radical environmentalism the author introduces us to the opening salvo of a wild and undomesticated way to think about the personal and global issues we face.
Perantulo is a wandering sage, spreading his mystic pagan wisdom from Khaluvia to Mesqa-Murro, from the chestnut forests of Sevennola to the rain-lashed archipelago of Prydina.
He is the fictional creation of il fachiro, an Eastern philosopher who arrived in Renaissance Florence in 1459 and challenged Cosimo di Medici and Marsilio Ficino’s Neoplatonist revival with his own empowering and anarchic metaphysics.
Paul is a writer visiting 21st century Italy who, while laying himself open to inspiration from the energies and art of the Florentine past, comes across an historical account of il fachiro and his fables. But he, too, resides inside a book – on one of the three layers of reality within The Fakir of Florence.
Forms of Freedom (2015)
In this important work, Paul Cudenec challenges layer upon layer of the assumptions that lie largely unchallenged beneath contemporary industrial capitalist society.
He rejects limited definitions of freedom as an absence of specific restraints in favour of a far deeper and more radical analysis which describes individual, collective, planetary and metaphysical levels of freedom.
A powerful and tightly-argued work inspired by a profoundly coherent anarchist vision, Forms of Freedom is a potential classic of 21st century revolutionary philosophy.
“How can the human race embrace freedom if it does not have a clear idea of what freedom is? How can we ever gain a clear idea of freedom if we do not even start looking for it in the right places? A collective delusion has taken over humanity, fogged its mind, rendered it incapable of understanding its own essential reality or the way in which it has become blinded to that reality and thus incapable of acting in its own real interests”.
In The Stifled Soul of Humankind, Paul Cudenec depicts a humanity dispossessed, a society in which freedom, autonomy, creativity, culture, and the spirit of collective solidarity have been deliberately suffocated by a ruthlessly violent and exploitative elite hiding behind the masks of Authority, Property, Law, Progress and God.
But he also identifies an underground current of heresy and resistance which resurfaces at key moments in history and which, he argues, has the primal strength to sweep away the prison walls of our diseased civilization and carry us forward to a future of vitality and renewal.
Cudenec writes: “We have to reintroduce ourselves to history, not as observers but as participants. The power that we can rediscover in ourselves is, among other things, the power to create the future. Prophecy brings hope, hope brings courage, courage brings action, action brings inspiration, inspiration brings more determination, renewed hope, deepened courage. Once this magical spiral of revolt has started spinning, it takes on a life of its own”.
Here, Paul Cudenec turns his back on contemporary trends of anarchism in a bid to reconnect with the primal force of its root ideology. Cudenec notes the significance of its refusal of the state and its judicial system, of land ownership and of the need to work for wages in order to live.
But he goes further in suggesting that anarchism represents a whole way of thinking that stands in direct opposition to the blinkered materialism of contemporary society and its soul-stifling positivist dogma. He writes: “The anarchist does not merely stray outside the framework of acceptable thinking as carefully assembled by the prevalent system – she smashes it to pieces and dances on the wreckage.”
Cudenec explores the fluidity and depth of thinking found in anarchism, in stark contrast to Marxism, and identifies, in particular, a love of apparent paradox that seems to appeal to the anarchist psyche. He also sees a connection between anarchism and esoteric forms of religion – such as Sufism, Taoism and hermeticism – whose inner light defies the crushing patriarchal conservatism and hierarchy of the exoteric institutions.
In making his case, Cudenec draws on the work of anarchists such as Gustav Landauer, Michael Bakunin and Herbert Read. But he also widens the field of enquiry to include the philosophy of René Guénon, Herbert Marcuse and Jean Baudrillard; the existentialism of Karl Jaspers and Colin Wilson; the vision of Carl Jung, Oswald Spengler and Idries Shah, and the environmental insight of Derrick Jensen and Paul Shepard.
The book is described by John Zerzan in Why Hope? The Stand Against Civilization as “the least pessimistic book I can recall reading… It brings anarchist resistance and the spirit together in a very wide-ranging and powerful contribution”.
A review by anarchist writer Gabriel Kuhn adds: “The book attempts no less than equipping contemporary anarchism with a footing that is often neglected: the transformation not only of society’s structures but also of people’s souls”.
This brings together a selection of work by Paul Cudenec in which he calls for a new deeper level of resistance to global capitalism – one which is rooted in the collective soul not just of humankind but of the living planet.
He leads us along the intertwining environmental and philosophical strands of Antibodies, through the passion of Anarchangels and The Task and on to a cutting analysis of Gladio, a state-terrorist branch of what he calls the “plutofascist” system. Also included, alongside short pieces on Taoism and Jungian psychology, is an interview with the author, in which he explains key aspects of his approach.
Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism and Nature’s Web: An Exploration of Ecological Thinking, has described Antibodies as “very readable and profoundly thoughtful… Many new insights on the destructive relationship between the greater part of humanity and the planet which tries to sustain them”.
Henry S. Salt
“He was a pagan, a pantheist, a worshipper of earth and sea, and of the great sun ‘burning in the heaven’; he yearned for a free, natural, fearless life of physical health and spiritual exaltation, and for a death in harmony with the life that preceded it”.
So is the writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) described by Henry S. Salt in this classic study first published in 1894. The book sparked some controversy at the time, as Salt – a campaigner for animal rights, vegetarianism and socialism – used it to claim Jefferies for one of his own, highlighting the social radicalism and nature-based spirituality that increasingly marked his subject’s later writing. With wit and erudition he demolishes the conservative Victorian presentation of Jefferies as a mere chronicler of traditional country life and reveals him as a flawed yet inspirational figure whose best works were “unsurpassed as prose poems by anything which the English language contains”. This new Winter Oak edition includes a preface by Paul Cudenec analysing the spiritual space shared by Salt and Jefferies, both of whom have been neglected by contemporary culture but have an urgent message to deliver to our times.
The Story of My Heart (2015)
“Sometimes on lying down on the sward I first looked up at the sky, gazing for a long time till I could see deep into the azure and my eyes were full of the colour; then I turned my face to the grass and thyme, placing my hands at each side of my face so as to shut out everything and hide myself. Having drunk deeply of the heaven above and felt the most glorious beauty of the day, and remembering the old, old, sea, which (as it seemed to me) was but just yonder at the edge, I now became lost, and absorbed into the being or existence of the universe. I felt down deep into the earth under, and high above into the sky, and farther still to the sun and stars. Still farther beyond the stars into the hollow of space, and losing thus my separateness of being came to seem like a part of the whole”.
Richard Jefferies’ masterpiece of prose-poetry expresses his sublime yearning not just for connection with nature but for spiritual transcendence. This new Winter Oak edition includes a preface by writer Paul Cudenec exploring the significance of Jefferies’ work against a backdrop of disillusionment with industrial civilization and a cultural urge for the regeneration of human society.
Most of the above Winter Oak titles are also available from Active Distribution