SSOH2019cover

“The attempt in these pages has been to provide a particular axis from which we can view the past and present of humankind, to reveal a seam in the rock of history which might tell us something about where we are. It has revealed 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”.

Paul Cudenec’s book The Stifled Soul of Humankind was first published in 2014, following on from Antibodies and The Anarchist Revelation.

To mark its fifth anniversary, we are now making it available for free as a pdf, which can be downloaded here.

For those who prefer a printed version, it can still be ordered online.

 

Chapter-by-chapter summary

Preface

The book takes a historical approach, exploring some of the paths through which humanity has reached the sorry state in which it finds itself in the early decades of the 21st century.

It attempts to strip away all the detailed distraction of contemporary politics and reveal the centuries-old foundations of the injustice which surrounds us. It is only by seeing and communicating this bigger picture that we can hope ever to change it.

“By falling into the trap of dealing with the symptoms of our social malaise, rather than the real root causes, we bolster the illusion that there is nothing essentially wrong with capitalist civilization and that a certain amount of tinkering would be enough to make it acceptable to one and all. The status quo is always keen to tell us that revolution is impossible and that the best we can hope for is reform – it thus encourages potential revolutionaries to instead follow a broadly liberal agenda. The message I aim to convey in this book, as elsewhere, is that there is an urgent need not to improve capitalist society – by making it nicer in some way – but to destroy it entirely, along with all the psychological and metaphysical assumptions on which it is built. On that possibility alone rests all the hope of both humankind and the planet”.

I. The Dispossessed

highland clearances
The Highland Clearances

The huge majority of human beings born today find themselves denied the natural right to live and breathe freely on the planet to which they belong. Indigenous Americans understood that land came from the Great Spirit and belonged to nobody. It is absurd to imagine that the surface of the Earth, which is billions of years old, could be “owned” by transient individuals of one particular species.

Yet this theft of the land itself by a tiny minority is largely accepted. Over the centuries, people forgot that the land once belonged to nobody – could belong to nobody – and accepted the twin lies that not only did it indeed belong to somebody, but also that the persons who “owned” the land did so fairly.

Britain was a world leader in land theft, initially with waves of land enclosures, which began in 1230 and peaked in the 1790s. There was resistance to these enclosures across England and groups like the 17th century Diggers challenged private land ownership. In Scotland, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Highland Clearances saw humans thrown off the land to make way for sheep, which were more profitable for the landlords.

The concept of “property” was key to these land thefts. The idea of there being any space, anywhere, that was not somebody’s “property” was regarded as unthinkable and dangerous and as threatening “absolute anarchy”.

The poor were socially cleansed from the countryside. Their way of life was made illegal and because they were no longer allowed to live off the land, they were forced into selling their labour for wages. This was necessary to provide a workforces for the factories of the industrial revolution.

The notion of property was rolled out to the rest of the world under the British empire. Indigenous peoples, living in harmony with nature, were regarded as “idle” time wasters. They and the land were both resources that could be exploited for profit.

Wage slavery, meaning dependency on the system for survival, went hand in hand with the presentation of “work”, for wages, as a good thing in itself. This, as William Morris pointed out in the 19th century, is “a convenient belief to those who live on the labour of others”.

The system based on property and work was imposed by violence. “Violence was used to force people off the land, whether in England, Scotland, North America, India or Africa. Violence is still being used for the same purposes all over the world. It is used to maintain exploitation and keep people in slave-labour conditions so the rich can continue to prosper at their expense. It is also constantly used to attack the slightest sign of any general mass resistance to the rule of a system which was created by theft and perpetuated by force”.

Often this violence amounts to a threat, permanently in place to deter any challenges to the system. This violence is termed “the law”. Rebellion against “property” and “law” are considered unthinkable within the mindset of the system. Submission to their rule is equated with moral goodness.

We are faced with a self-legitimising reality that seemingly can never be challenged, let alone changed. The culture tells us that this is how things have to be, always have been and always must be.

“The ruling classes build up a structure of power in which the violence at its core is hidden by an arrangement of mirrors, reflecting back to each other their unfounded claim to moral right. Property and Authority are legitimate in terms of Law. Law is established by Authority. Authority is built on and resourced by Property. Property is secured and protected by Law which, with the blessing of Authority, also threatens or deploys violence against anyone wicked and rebellious enough to challenge the whole scam. There is a name given to this tangled knotwork of theft and lies which protects and perpetuates the criminal behaviour of what is currently the ruling elite. We call it the State”.

Contemporary “democracy” is merely the extension of this construct, dressed up with the phoney symbolic mechanisms of so-called representation and used as further self-justification of the system and its use of repression to maintain its dictatorship.

II. Cultural Resistance

Rebecca riots.jpg

Land theft means people are not only materially, but also culturally, dispossessed – “strangers in their own land”, as E.P. Thompson put it.

Age-old popular customs and traditions also came under deliberate attack from a ruling class that despised and feared anything smacking of a sense of culture from below.

This natural organic bond unites individuals through a sense of belonging and common identity – with the land, with nature, with each other. In this shared community of “we” and “ours”, there is no need for the false order from above imposed by Authority.

The idea of a society held together by mutual aid and co-operation is essential to the anarchism put forward by the likes of Peter Kropotkin and, later, Herbert Read. Read argued that the internal communication of an organic community was its culture – “myth and ritual, poetry and drama, painting and sculpture”.

This culture of autonomous collective identity is entirely incompatible with the system of Property, Law, Authority and State and the two possible ways of living must inevitably find themselves in constant conflict.

“The essential contradiction between the two outlooks cannot be overstated. Customs had evolved to protect and enhance the community. Law, although it may have included elements of custom as a kind of cover, was designed to protect an elite from that community. The result is a dislocation between, on the one hand, our innate sense of right and wrong and, on the other, the judgements of the law”.

Popular traditional culture was therefore often rebellious in defence of custom when it was threatened by laws imposed from above.

As late as the 19th century, popular rebellions in Britain often involved ritualistic elements from folk culture, notably the “Rebecca Riots” in South Wales which used the ceffyl pren (“wooden horse”) tradition.

By presenting an alternative conception of tradition, of justice, of right and wrong, these grassroots uprisings challenged the ideological monopoly of the State. The mere existence of a communal entity born of custom, of a culture which arises from below and follows the demands of its own innate laws, is unacceptable to Authority.

The prevalent system always targets anything which acts as a barrier to its control and exploitation of humankind.

As James Loch, one of the main architects of the Highland Clearances, gloated: “The children of those who are removed from the hills will lose all recollection of the habits and customs of their fathers”.

As the European imperialists expanded their spheres of exploitation, it was the same story all over the globe, and countless “backwards” cultures with an “irrational” attachment to the land were wiped out in the name of Progress.

“Culture, custom, co-operation, autonomy and connection to the land are all anathema to the capitalist system and it has always been prepared to use all its violence to eradicate them and stamp out the collective freedom that they enshrine”.

III. Underground Freedom

John Ball
John Ball and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

Just as the dominant system cannot tolerate any culture of autonomy which might threaten its hegemony, so it cannot allow the free expression of ideas beyond its control.

For many centuries this role of policing the possibilities of human thought was carried out in Europe by the Roman Catholic Church, the theological remnant of the Roman Empire.

By the fourth century the Church had already begun a massive and bloody campaign to wipe out non-Christian pagan and folk tradition, forcing it underground as so-called “heresy”.

From the crushing of the medieval Scholastic movement to the horrors of the Inquisition, the Church demanded absolute spiritual authority. In 1277 it even declared unacceptable the very thought that there were falsehoods and errors in the Christian religion as in all others.

The Church worked hand in hand with worldly authorities, who appreciated the sense of obedience and subordination to a “greater authority” instilled by Christianity.

The old pantheistic conception of a sacredness in everything around us had been officially replaced by the idea of an authority-figure in the sky.

But the seeds of the old heresy kept sneaking back in to European thought through various routes and sending up green shoots of spiritual freedom.

For instance, there was considerable input from the esoteric Islamic tradition of Sufism. Robert Graves detects Sufi influence in the medieval troubadors, the legend of William Tell, the tales of Don Quixote, The Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism. He concludes that Sufi thought continued to be a secret force running parallel to orthodox Christianity.

The Sufis helped Europeans rediscover the idea of freedom, which the Church had attempted to wipe out. Humans were not bowed down with Christian guilt at their “original sin”, but empowered by the idea of a divine spark within each of us.

Whenever such “heresies” cropped up, they were attacked with the full force of the Church. The Albigensian Crusade in the first half of the 13th century saw 100,000 Cathars in Languedoc massacred on the orders of the Pope.

The Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Apostolici and other dissidents were cruelly repressed, leading proponents of the old spiritual path to become increasingly defiant. They transformed their theoretical rejection of Authority into a revolutionary assault on power, property and privilege.

These ideas inspired both an uprising in Florence in 1378 and the Peasants’ Revolt in the south of England in 1381, where a number of those involved had been linked with a previous outbreak of “heresy”, including John Ball.

In the 15th century, revolts broke out all across Europe. In 1476, in southern Germany, a young shepherd, Hans Böhm, announced the return to primitive equality – authority and private property would disappear and all things would be held in common.

He was, inevitably, burnt at the stake, but the spirit of revolt could not be crushed and rebels became more revolutionary in their attitude. Defence turned to attack.

“Here we clearly see the part played by repression in forging revolutionary attitudes. Even where the violence of Authority physically defeats rebellion, it has been forced to openly display that violence. Whatever the original causes of the revolt, they become merged with the defence of general freedom against this repression. The ruling system, for its part, becomes identified very strongly with the opposite principle, the denial of freedom. If Authority ignores the original signs of disobedience, it certainly risks losing the total control it always craves. But if it stamps down on them, this disobedience can harden into something that presents much more of a long-term challenge to its hegemony”.

In response to this dilemma, Authority gradually learnt to hide the truth by redefining “freedom” to describe its own systems of control. Today, the very idea of authentic freedom has been lost to our society, buried under layer upon layer of lies.

IV. Disenchanted Lives

witch hunt
Stamping out heresy

At the same time as it was putting down threats of heresy and revolt across its empire, the Christian Church was still trying to consolidate its spiritual monopoly on an everyday local level.

It tried to neutralise pagan folk traditions by taking over sacred sites and festivals and rebranding them as Christian.

But the Church took a different approach with anything that could be termed “magic”. Healing and alchemy were criminalised and the Europe-wide campaign against “witchcraft” led to an estimated 1,000 executions in England alone in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries.

Anyone representing any kind of alternative spirituality beyond the control of the Church, Catholic or Protestant, was regarded as being either in league with the Devil or a charlatan.

“The older traditions despised by the Church had arisen organically from human society and had not been imposed centrally from above. They thus represented nature and, by virtue of being an authentic expression of nature, they also represented the menace of freedom”.

While pagan traditions live on in reinvented forms, the separation of human beings from nature has been drastic. This is the deliberate result of the disenchantment and disempowerment that has been inflicted on us for hundreds of years.

A belief in a timeless hidden potential inside each individual and inside each community is quite simply dangerous for the authorities. Once the magical possibilities of life are released from the genie’s bottle there is no putting them back and that is why they must remain locked up and out of sight.

V. From Prophets to Profits

Camisards
The revolt of the Camisards

The suffocation of the human spirit has been a gradual process and there have been many moments in history where this has been openly resisted.

One such instance came in the 16th century with the Reformation and the challenge to the domination of the Church laid down by what became the protestant movement.

Sadly, this was not the standard-bearer for human liberty that it had promised to be. But the switch-over, in much of northern Europe, from one form of religious authority to another had opened a breach in the lie of official “reality” – always the main barrier to authentic self-expression and self-determination – that could not immediately be closed and this vital pent-up revolutionary spirit continued to pour out into the world via protestantism for the next 200 years or so.

The ideas expressed by the early protestant radicals, notably Anabaptists, were in fact a continuation of the rebellious spirituality previously voiced by the likes of the Brethren of the Free Spirit.

In 1534 the people of the northern German town of Münster successfully rose up and declared they would rather die than to return to the previous ways of “buying and selling, working for money, practising usury, eating and drinking the sweat of the poor”.

Although all such uprisings were crushed by the dominant system, the ideas spread and lived on in different forms.

At the start of the 18th century, the Protestant Camisards’ revolt against the Catholic French state ended in a full-scale guerrilla warfare in the Cévennes mountains.

The religious content of the struggle was combined with a deep hatred of authority and love of freedom. Prophecy played a key role. True prophets do not so much predict the future as try to force the hand of fate, to write history in advance, as they would like it to be written.

Credit is borrowed from the future to gamble on the present, with the conviction that if the attempt succeeds the cost will be more than repaid from the consequent spoils. And if it fails, well… so be it.

Inspired by the conviction of their own victory and unafraid of dying for their cause, the prophecy-fuelled Camisard rebels were initially more than a match for the mercenary state forces.

This magical thinking, based on a non-Christian pantheism, was also present in “protestant” English revolutionary movement of the 17th century. The Ranter Jacob Bauthumley, for instance, declared that all creatures of the world were “but one entire being” and saw the divine in “man and beast, fish and fowl, and every green thing, from the highest cedar to the ivy on the wall”.

A powerful revolutionary stance was emerging. There was no separate and remote God to give us orders. We obeyed our own hearts, our own consciences. No living creature was any more special than any other, so there was no reason for us to respect any claims to have the right to wield power over us.

When the potential of these beliefs is combined with the millenarianist factor – the belief that the established order is about to fall and that the arrival of a new age is imminent – we also have a sense of urgency and direction that leads to action.

Meanwhile, mainstream protestantism was taking a counter-revolutionary path. By 1525 we can already see protestantism as we know it today: craven in its obedience to worldly authority and eager to promote submission and slavery in the name of Christian pacifism. It also developed a flatness and dullness that rejected both freedom and spirituality, paving the way for the mechanistic thinking of the modern industrial age.

A disenchanted world is one which can readily be converted into money. No sentimental attachment to old ways, or places, could be allowed to get in the way of the new creed of material expansion.

VI. Creative Block

William Morris
William Morris

Although the spiritual self-realisation of both individual and community was often blocked by the monopolistic fervour of Church and State, there had always been alternative channels through which it could find expression, such as the arts and crafts.

But even these fell prey to the commercialisation of society. “For those who worship only money, the presence of beauty in any item is necessary solely to increase saleability. Any idea of inner value, unrelated to price, has no place on their balance sheet”.

Quantity was favoured above quality and people were increasingly dehumanised by the machines that facilitated the speeding-up and skilling-down of manufacture to increase profits for the wealthy elite.

The conversion of craft into mass production led to its separation from the sphere of art to which it naturally belonged, as William Morris pointed out. And alongside the relegation of the craftsman to slave status came the divorce of the artist from both people and culture.

The process added up to an attack on the essential meaning of society and the values that hold it together. The idea of life as organic, as rising up from below rather than being authorised and regulated from above, is incompatible with industrial capitalist society. Likewise, the interlaced values of beauty, naturalness and authenticity are completely denied by the soulless functionality of our machine age.

Morris, like Ananda Coomaraswamy and Herbert Read after him, explored the idea of art as a process by which nature, indeed the universe as a whole, can express itself in human terms through the skill of the artist.

The forms which come into the artist’s imagination can be seen as archetypes of what Carl Jung called humankind’s collective unconscious, its shared soul. True art, for Read, was a “crystallisation of instincts”.

Art today is often denatured and hollow, pointing us towards the debased state of contemporary society. But it can also perhaps act as a means of righting those wrongs.

If the spirit of the artist is indeed something that is innate, then it cannot be crushed for ever by external circumstance, only stifled and held down. It is born again with every new generation, as witnessed by the survival of authentic artistic impulse and sensibility even in the difficult circumstances of current times.

“When one day the flow of human vitality is once again running unimpeded, we can look forward to the reunification of art with craft and of both of them with the living energies of the universe which it is their role to make visible”.

VII. Romantic Revolutionaries

cogs-in-a-machine
The Machine

Positivism is the core philosophy of industrial capitalism, allowing people to regard the universe as a machine and the natural world as essentially inanimate.

Human communities are not seen as organic entities which develop and evolve naturally, like everything else on a living planet, but must necessarily be planned and regulated by Authority, otherwise only uncontrollable chaos could ensue.

“Its world view is enclosed and self-referential. Any ideas that do not fit in with the tenets of its own faith are denied any validity and, if acknowledged at all, must be dismissed as hopelessly backwards, symptoms of insanity or dangerous threats to the general well-being of an ordered and rational society”.

Positivism reduces all thinking to its own flat level. Real philosophy, for instance, has been replaced by the study of the history of philosophy. Everything is treated as “science”.

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a wave of intellectual resistance to positivism, with anti-industrialist and vitalist ideas welling up. Nature philosophers, particularly in Germany, rediscovered the ancient idea of the earth as a living organic entity.

Michael Löwy describes this “anti-capitalist Romanticism” as being the dominant force in cultural and academic life in Central Europe at that time. The same themes were explored in England by the likes of William Blake, William Wordsworth, William Morris and Richard Jefferies.

This anti-industrial feeling was so powerful that it might have led to a successful revolt against the nightmare of capitalism, but, as we know, that did not happen.

Why? Largely because of a flaw within the very movement that should have inspired this uprising – the radical current that was at the time loosely termed “socialism”. Instead of embracing the organic resistance to mechanistic positivism, it turned its back on it.

Karl Marx and his followers developed a socialist theory which accepted most of the positivist world-view, including the need for economic “progress”. They had little interest in the land or those who lived on it and certainly rejected any unscientific ideas of spiritual attachment to nature.

They categorised human beings in merely economic terms and insisted on the immediate necessity of a centralised state, having no trust in communities to organise their own lives.

For 70 years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, Marxism in its varied forms dominated revolutionary thinking across most of the world and its impact on 20th century radical ideology was a heavy and restrictive one.

The anarchist Gustav Landauer was an outspoken critic of the way in which positivist Marxist dogma had ruined the socialist movement with which he identified, declaring: “Spirit has been replaced by an eccentric and ludicrous scientific superstition”.

He also condemned contemporary Marxists for their lack of revolutionary will and their total inability to inspire the population and set in motion the resonance of revolt.

It was disaster enough that the main ideological force of opposition to capitalism in fact shared much of its philosophical outlook and was thus unable to join forces with the Romantic revolt against what was, theoretically, a common enemy.

Worse, though, was that, by turning their backs on nature-based ideology, the Marxists and their fellow travellers left it susceptible to be co-opted and corrupted by the reactionary forces of the Right, with dire consequences.

VIII. The World Soul

world soul

There was nothing intrinsically right-wing about the original völkisch movement. Its variations included pan-Slavism and early Zionism and even its pan-German branch was largely uncontaminated by the toxic racist creeds that were later to predominate. In fact, its roots are closely entwined with those of the anarchist movement.

Emma Goldman was clearly influenced by vitalism, the völkisch revival and the notion of a collective unconscious, as was Gustav Landauer, who regarded socialism and folk consciousness as essentially the same thing. Their ideas point towards a different tradition which could have developed from the early völkisch scene, if only the latter had not been estranged from the radical movement by Marxist industrial ideology.

Many of these Romantic anti-capitalists were from a mixed Jewish and Germanic cultural background and their sense of organic identity was not narrowly nationalistic, but based on a universal human perspective.

While they were inspired by elements of the past, they did not simply yearn for yesterday and rather than calling for a return to the past, they envisaged a detour via the past to a new future.

This was a very real cultural and political movement, now largely erased from history. Michael Löwy says that by always dividing the political terrain into left/centre/right, conservative/liberal/revolutionary or regression/status quo/progress, we have effectively ruled out the possibility of this particular position.

It could have developed into a powerful ideology drawing on the inherited holistic wisdom of the past, inspired by the revolutionary thirst for justice and freedom, deepened by an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between individual self-fulfilment and communal harmony.

A Romantic movement with a specifically anarchist, or genuine socialist, orientation, and fed by Jewish as well as Germanic cultural springs would have remained defiantly immune from the pollution of right-wing prejudices.

Spurned by the industrialist Marxists, völkisch ideas were exploited by the industrialist Nazis and the association has subsequently pushed them still further away from the radical mainstream.

Another largely forgotten intellectual current from the same period was perennialism. Inspired primarily by René Guénon, it rejected the unspiritual foundations of capitalism and the commercial materialism of its age.

While perennialism is profoundly anti-Western and anti-nationalist, and overlapped with the anarchist movement at the time, its reputation was to suffer from the enthusiasm expressed for Guénon by the Italian ultra-conservative Julius Evola.

Carl Jung has also been smeared with alleged association, or perhaps lack of disassociation, with the Nazi regime and with an apparent ideological connection via the völkisch movement of ideas.

But his belief in a “world soul”, humanity’s collective unconscious, was inspired by his conversations with black mental patients in the USA, with North American Indians, with Tunisians and with East African tribespeople and was thoroughly universalist.

IX. Total Rejection

Aldous Huxley smoking, circa 1946
Aldous Huxley

Whenever, over the centuries, the stifled collective soul resurfaces and again breathes the invigorating air of contemporary thinking, it does so in a form appropriate to that age. And so it was in the second half of the twentieth century, when lively minds again began to break free from the shackles of the society around them.

Again, there was a renewal of interest in matters of spirit and the holistic philosophies of Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse enthralled a new generation beyond the German-speaking world.

Aldous Huxley was influential in shaping this Zeitgeist. In his 1945 work The Perennial Philosophy he judged that that contemporary “wisdom” represented pretty much the opposite of all that is considered of value by the inherited wisdom of humankind.

He urged his readers to turn their backs on the empty folly of commercialised, industrialised modern life and reconnect with a tradition that would be our natural birthright, were it not hidden away from us by those who fear its force.

Huxley warned of a possible future in which “democracy” and “freedom” remained the catchwords of the status quo, but in which at the same time “the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained élite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit”.

Like all other heretics throughout history, Huxley came under attack, not least from Oxford University academic Professor Robin Zaehner. Zaehner insisted that only neurotic intellectuals like Huxley saw anything wrong with industrial society and that the “healthy-minded” majority were quite happy to live in a modern capitalist world.

He accused Huxley of nursing “a total rejection of everything that modern civilization stands for and a deep-seated aversion to historical Christianity which, though it may not have directly given birth to the modern world, at least condoned it when it was born”.

He claimed that nature mysticism was closely linked to “lunacy” and, in a display of patronising Christian supremacism, dismissed Sufi thinkers as “paranoiac” and the Hindu Upanishads as “the efforts of relatively primitive men”.

What seemed to offend him most in such ideas was that the sense of oneness with the universe did away with the need for humans to feel a “sense of nullity or of unworthiness” when confronted with divine Authority, as required by the Christian faith.

Zaehner added, on a personal note: “There comes a point in most lives when one tires of the ceaseless responsibility of having to act and choose, and one longs for a higher power to take over the direction of one’s life even if the higher power is only the army or a party organization”.

It will come as no surprise to learn that, before his academic career, Zaehner was a MI6 agent who, in 1949, helped train anti-Communist forces as part of a failed attempt to recover British and American control of Albania and who worked alongside the CIA to plan the coup which brought down the elected government of Iran in 1953, restoring the Shah and returning nationalised oil production to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later to be known as BP.

With his defence of industrial society, his craven love of authority, his imperialist contempt for non-Western culture and his fear of spiritual self-empowerment, Zaehner incarnated the dominant culture that has been stifling human freedom for so long.

X. A Crime Against Humanity

God_the_Father
Authority

It isn’t just the land from which we have been cut off, or its supply of free food, or even the culture and cohesion that comes with it, but the whole universe.

Under religions such as Christianity, we are not supposed to find any divinity in ourselves, our fellow human beings, other living creatures or our surroundings. Our only spiritual connection is supposed to be through the authorised channels of the religion in question, through its rituals and representatives.

This is disempowerment to a simply overwhelming degree and we can see echoes of it throughout all areas of life in this flattened-out, lifeless desert of a human culture we term our civilization.

Where there is an “above” occupied by God and Authority, there is also a “below” that the rest of us we are told we belong to, like it or not.

People are taught to be afraid of what would happen if there were no Authority any more, nobody to make and impose the rules, nobody to look up to and fear. The idea of people reaching decisions themselves on a communal level, without any interference, is regarded as absurd and alarming.

Rejecting the idea of divine and social Authority in favour of a universal belonging to the Whole will always be the ultimate heresy for the dominant system. It is afraid of that empowerment and has made an enormous effort, over many centuries, to stop it from spreading.

It will have to keep doing so, because the urge for freedom arises from the vital spirit of humankind and is born anew with each new generation.

Our collective task is simply to allow the love of freedom to blossom in our hearts and minds. The first step in this process must be to undo the profoundly damaging effects of the mental separation of divinity and nature by reaching not just an understanding but a knowledge, a gnosis, that we and everything around us are all part of one Whole.

“The result of this insight goes far beyond a theoretical comprehension of the reality of the world and our place in it and amounts to an emotional re-discovery of oneself and one’s potential, as if the sluice-gates of individuality had been opened and the great expansive force of the universe allowed to flood joyfully through one’s veins”.

How could we begin to estimate the impact such a revelation would have, if experienced not just by a handful of mystics, but by huge swathes of the population freed at last from the chains of restrictive thinking?

Our vision would no longer be blocked by the walls of hateful negativity that tell us we are depraved and corrupt sinners, born to be nothing but humble and obedient slaves. We would break through the illusion of a separate divinity contrasted with an unworthy humanity and know that we ourselves form part of the undivided glory of the living cosmos.

We would find, lying shattered into tiny shards, the insidious lie that Authority is anything other than a crime against life itself.

XI. The Spiral of Hope

spiral

Deep anxiety is a common personal reaction to the world stripped of meaning and authenticity in which we find ourselves today.

Living perpetually in the present tense of the News, we simply respond intuitively to the stimuli it offers, find ourselves carried along from one issue to the next. Attempts to reach a deeper long-term understanding of our collective predicament are made virtually impossible by the constant white noise generated by accounts of history serving the interests of the status quo.

Sometimes it’s merely the sheer amount of irrelevant detail that makes it difficult to make out any real shape to what’s been happening to humankind, but often these accounts are deliberately misleading.

“The attempt in these pages has been to provide a particular axis from which we can view the past and present of humankind, to reveal a seam in the rock of history which might tell us something about where we are. It has revealed 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”.

This enslavement should be enough to incite the desire for change, but there is, in addition to all this, the fact that capitalist industrial civilization is killing the planet. The situation could hardly be more urgent and yet our culture barely responds, shows no sign of changing.

Our so-called democracy is a sham, the people disempowered and cowed into submission by Authority and there is therefore no obvious way that the majority can influence the direction society takes, even on detailed points, let alone issues of fundamental importance.

But the sensation of powerlessness is all part of the psychological trickery used by the authorities to ensure our compliance.

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.

We have to create our own axis in time, our own narrative – the narrative of revolution. Like the prophesies of the English Revolutionaries or the Camisards, our narrative can become self-fulfilling. There is a self-feeding circular momentum that we need to get started.

The understanding of the need for revolution, the dream of revolution, the hope of revolution, the belief in the possibility of revolution – all of these must be fostered in turn before revolution can ever take place.

We need, as Peter Kropotkin insisted, “intrepid souls who know that is necessary to dare in order to succeed”. We won’t get them by sticking to dry dispassionate analysis of history, by being bogged down in detail, by being waylaid into dead ends of pointless abstraction or pedantry.

We won’t get them by shying away from the truth, by compromising with the system, by regarding passionate polemic as an embarrassment. We won’t get them by trying to regulate and repress the spirit of our own revolt, by pouring cold water on others’ attempts to bring about change, by sneering at hope itself.

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 and becomes a revolutionary whirlwind.

There is something much deeper behind the will to genuine revolution, to anarchy, than mere opinion. It rises from the depths of our collective soul and thus, by extension, from the natural world of which we are part.

It is the vehicle of an intangible organic need for things to be made right, for humankind and the planet it dominates to once again exist in harmony with the Tao. This restoration of the state of nature, of the Golden Age, is demanded by natural laws next to which our artificial human laws look feeble and ephemeral.

“Once unleashed, the mighty strength of a global uprising summoned by the life-force itself will have no difficulty in sweeping away for ever the violent machineries of a tyranny which has stifled humankind for far too long”.

Download The Stifled Soul of Humankind online edition.

SSOH2019cover

HOME