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Review of Sacred Demise

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17 comments, last: Apr-5-2009   Add a comment   Contributor:  chefurka (Mar-28-2009)    Play a Video
Category: Philosophical & Quality of Life

Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's CollapseThis is a brand new book by author and professor Carolyn Baker. I've been following her blog for more than a year now, and have found that her assessment of the crisis of civilization is virtually identical to my own. We have been informed by the same sources, have connected the same dots into identical patterns, and have come to the same conclusion: the multi-faceted crisis of civilization is a predicament without a solution, and the only reasonable response to it is personal spiritual transformation.

Along the way she has drawn on many sources that have also influenced me strongly over the last couple of years: Charles Eisenstein's remarkable book "The Ascent of Humanity", the writings of John Michael Greer, Derrick Jensen and James Howard Kunstler, the movie "What a Way to Go" by Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, Daniel Quinn's quirky but seminal book "Ishmael". The overlap in our thinking is virtually complete.

When all the snowballing evidence of the failure of industrial civilization has been digested and accepted, Carolyn comes to the conclusion that in this collapse we have been gifted with a singular opportunity to realize our purpose in the universe and the universe's purpose in us. If we have the courage to gaze unflinchingly both outward and inward at the same time, we have a chance to transcend many of the limits we previously believed were insurmountable. If we remain mindful and do the work, we may be able to achieve a union with ourselves, our families, our communities, the universe and perhaps with powers greater than we can imagine. In the introduction, Carolyn lays out her position:

This book has been written specifically for the purpose of providing a structure for choosing deliberation and introspection—not narcissistic navel-gazing, but deep, conscious contemplation of collapse and its emotional and spiritual implications for you, the reader.

Walking the spiritual path of collapse is a journey that beckons us far beyond mere survival and renders absurd any attempts to "fix" or prevent the end of the world as we have known it. This odyssey is about the transformation of human consciousness and the emergence of a new paradigm as a result discovering our purpose in the collapse process and thereby coming home to our ultimate place in the universe. Our willingness to embark on the journey with openness and uncertainty offers an opportunity for experiencing the quantum evolutionary leap with which collapse may be presenting us. In other words, the opportunity collapse offers is an extraordinary death/rebirth phenomenon which could be tragically aborted if we persist in denial, rationalization, or resistance to civilization's demise.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are walking the path of awareness regarding the unfolding human crisis, it needs to be part of your journey.

Related reading:
  Peak Oil: German Military Not Sticking Its Head ... (Sep-22-2010)
  Finding Peace Of Mind (Feb-15-2010)
  Transfiguration (Oct-22-2009)
  The Message of Overconsumption (Jun-14-2009)
  Jared Diamond: Why Societies Collapse (Mar-21-2009)
  Make Do and Mend (Mar-11-2009)
  Responding to the Crisis (Feb-20-2009)
  Is the Demise of Civilization Inevitable? (Feb-15-2009)
  Four Truths About Climate Change We Can't Ignore (Dec-13-2008)
  The New Normal: Formerly the Abnormal (Dec-5-2008)

Click one tag to see readings related specifically to that tag; click "Tags" to see all related readings
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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Apr-5-2009)   Web site
Wow, you are quick! :--)
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Apr-5-2009)   

Thanks, Dave. That was a very good response to a hot-headed rant....;-)
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Apr-5-2009)   Web site

The old error of mixing up the physical world with the world of ideas, emotions, and spirit, is the problem. I also "hate" the pandering to children, giving them an inflated sense of importance and entitlement. When religion tries to manage politics it is also a disaster. It is the inability to see the world of the Mind that leads to meddling and danger by applying a spiritual struggle onto a physical reality.

So, what I am saying is that there are shoots of "green" embedded deep in even the worst of our social realities. We must nurture that healthy aspect hidden in the encrusted, sick realities that many of our institutions appear to represent. Those are the "babies" that are the future for ALL of us.

Much more could be said on this topic, but that is enough for a comment... and maybe you have inspired a future article by me, AG!
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Apr-5-2009)   

"The babies are not dead, they are ill - we can save some of them, and they are the future."

'The chilllllldrrrennnn are our FYYOOOOOOCHER'.

GAWD I hate that philosophy. My wife is president of the local school board and the hassles that come from blind faith in catering to the chilllldrrennnnn is destroying our society.
The children are THEIR future, not ours. OUR future is over and gone. We built and bought a future of hummers, McMansions and factory schools and it is collapsing. The best we can do is stay out of the way and let the children do a "lord of the flies" on our butts and go mad.
All of our systems of systems to 'help' the children are what are making them ill in the first place (GMO grains for AFRICA?). They don't need 'help', they don't need schools and they don't need 'physical activities'. They need to live in communities where children are allowed to join adults in living and working. If we really cared about the future of our children, they would be apprenticed to adults instead of put in boxes full of other children(teachers?) and tested constantly for their compatibility with the hummer factories and education/war mongers (Bilderbergers).
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Apr-5-2009)   Web site

Thanks for the hint of slight moderation, AG :--)

Well, I agree with almost your entire comment (though I recuse myself from commenting on this Web site). What is the adjustment I would make? It is this: the babies are not dead, they are ill - we can save some of them, and they are the future.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Apr-1-2009)   

I agree with you on a lot of things, David. There are a lot of good things in government, and I think that of the choices we had, Obama was probably the most pragmatic.
Sick people can't build a nation, so we need healthy people. That doesn't mean we need more medical systems, though, since going to the hospital is one of the leading causes of death. It means people need to be allowed to eat properly and live properly without all of the toxins surrounding us from the corporate gas chambers that run 24/7, subsidized by the government, which uses the products of those death factories to fight wars 24/7.
I am so far right, I'm left. What that means is that when I logically follow through the liberal or conservative agendas, they lead to absurd imaginary worlds. By allowing ourselves to get caught up in debates between two bad choices, we end up with gridlock on a road we don't want to be on: consumption.
The best thing that can happen is for the government AND the corporations to simply take a year (or more) off from trying to 'help'. People could use some time to learn how to live without Systemic 'jobs' and perform community work that is needed.
Food, clothing, shelter: none of these comes from the government or from big corporations necessarily, only because we choose the lowest prices.
We have been conditioned to believe that money determines everything and we accept that. Competition for wages, competition for jobs, competition by farmers for the lowest price: all at the expense of the future because we can't see how wrong that civilization has become.
There are wonderful things going on, such as this website and the Buy Local movements, but I'm afraid that the tipping points in climate and economic collapse have beat us to the punch. That doesn't mean anyone should stop trying, but that we should be as radical or as cooperative as we need to be. You choose cooperative and I choose radical. I throw the baby out with the bathwater because the baby is dead and useless, Dave.
Don't worry, the Dingoes will clean it up.
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (Apr-1-2009)   Web site

David, while I appreciate humane and thoughtful government, I must admit to a general distrust of hierarchy. As a result I don't think most governments in the modern world actually serve their citizens. They tend to serve a small subset of power-holders, and wear a polite disguise to enlist the cooperation of the rest. The measure of a human government seems to be whether they allow the powerless to hire their own counsel for their trials. I know that sounds cynical, but watching developments in Canada as well as the post-election behaviour of the Obama regime south of the border has not bolstered my faith recently.

I believe that nation-states are simply too large for truly populist governments to retain power -- their resources are too much of a temptation for those who desire power for its own sake and are skilled at rhetorical obfuscation and emotional manipulation. We will see "good government" only when the span of control is much smaller. (Un)Fortunately, that day is probably closer than most realize.

Yours in anarchy,
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-31-2009)   Web site

It appears to me that you often support extremes without being open to the middle way, AG. Obama has changed some policies already (stem cell research, abortion information dissemination, torture policy) and is starting to tighten up on the auto companies. I would have liked him to take on a somewhat more activist approach, but I can not judge all the forces that he may need to weigh in order to succeed.

When you consistently throw the baby out with the bath water, AG, you end up without grown-ups. My sense, not based on as much information as I would like, is that Obama is one of the best choices we could have gotten elected, but that he is not fully informed enough, and not alarmed enough about the direction the environment and the economy are heading.

It is not necessary to throw out the entire government -- transitional learning is possible for individuals and governments -- but due to the limited time that many scientists, and you and I, feel that exists to make change, the very slow pace of the current change is alarming.

So, I think we agree on that last point. You may still want to correct me, but perhaps there is something with which you can agree?
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-31-2009)   

Yes, but respect is earned, not created. Once the government becomes tyrannical, it cannot become respected until an entirely new government is built from the bottom up. The problem with a System such as our current corporo-fascism is that it protects itself until it runs out of resources. Obama's only chance is totally open government at this point, and that should have been implemented immediately after taking office. By allowing 'business as usual' policies to lay in place, Obama has become merely a figurehead for the same corporations which controlled Bush. That's why we got the same Wall Street bailout package that would have been implemented no matter who was elected.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-31-2009)   Web site

Use of intellect for planning has been derided by popular culture for so long that it is taking a long time to get back to where intelligence, and government, are given their proper respect. A truly intelligent government that carefully forces the citizens into socially beneficial behaviors, is a government with which I would be happy.

Once we un-demonize government (the election of Obama in the US may be our first step in that direction, but by no means is sufficient) and choose government representatives based on true values not on sound bites, we may have one of the ways out -- carbon taxes, public education on major issues, and other "bully pulpit" methods used beneficially for the people.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-31-2009)   

We tend to look at Collapse as the problem when Growth is the problem that leads to Collapse. "Limits to Growth" looks at the end game of hitting a wall. The book "Limits to Growth" pointed out the feedback mechanisms, but the important people who should understand that part only look at ways to push back the limits, rather than implementing proper ones sooner.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-31-2009)   

I consider government to be developed from society in general, and societies arose from not eating each other. Missionaries were created to teach the natives not to eat the salesmen who inevitably follow them.
Bottom up or top down will be successful only with a closed loop feedback mechanism to moderate behaviors when they start (consumption tax at the point of purchase), rather than the open loop mechanisms which are susceptible to the rich exploiting the poor or the mob exploiting the productive.
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (Mar-31-2009)   Web site

Did we invent government to stop us from eating each other? There's a good case to be made that we invented government so the rich could eat the poor, but not vice versa (metaphorically speaking, of course). In other words it was from the beginning a power preservation-and-enhancement system that was dressed up post-facto with enough rationalizations to get the people who got the short straws to agree and buy in.

My position is that the situation we're in is only going to be addressed from the grass roots up. Any top-down "solution" is going to be corrupted into BAU by the existing power holders. My article at spells out why I think this way.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-31-2009)   

Agreed, Paul.
"Humans do stuff. They come up with reasons why they do stuff." In that order.
Self-awareness isn't all it's cracked up to be, and imagination/intelligence is just another evolved trait that succeeded at obtaining food and avoiding immediate dangers.
It's not much good for anything else unless we use our intelligence to devise mechanisms which DO help us moderate our behavior. We invented government to stop us from eating each other, so why not a consumption tax to stop us from eating the planet? We need to use our failing intelligence to work for us instead of allowing it to work against us.
I also agree that it is probably too late, but as long as we aren't doing anything during the collapse, we might as well try to stop it.
Comment by:  chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) (Mar-31-2009)   Web site

I assess human actions, inaction and decisions through a lens formed by three core aspects of biologically evolved human psychology.

1. Humanity suffers from a pervasive sense of separation: self/other, us/them, body/mind, matter/spirit, humans/resources. I have concluded that this sense of separation is the Faustian price we have paid for the self-awareness granted by our neocortex.

2. Our brains evolved to favour immediate threats over distant ones. Immediate, visible threats merit a strong, emotional response; distant, abstract threats are ignored. This discount function is a good survival strategy out on the African veldt, but less so in the modern industrial world with its abstract and unseen threats -- our cleverness has far outrun our inbuilt caution.

3. Humans are not rational creatures, they are rationalizing creatures. We have a tendency to make most of our decisions at an unconscious level and dress them up with socially acceptable rationalizations only post–facto, after they emerge into our awareness fully-formed.

As far as I can tell, these are universal human traits that spring directly from the physical structure of the brain.

When you combine those three characteristics, a rather cautionary picture emerges:

Humans appear to be creatures that will treat the entire world as a resource base for human activity. We will ignore the consequences of the resulting actions until we are directly and personally affected, and we will accomplish this by reframing our decisions and actions as being manifestly reasonable. Even worse, we will resist mightily any attempt to shift our beliefs through the application of reason or the presentation of facts.

In short, you get a sentient creature that is peculiarly unsuited to dealing with the results of its hypertrophied cleverness and is unable to respond preemptively to looming disaster.

These are general traits that we all share to a greater or lesser extent. Some of us are particularly fortunate to have escaped the constraints of our discount function. Only a few of us are aware of our sense of separation, and even fewer work to overcome it. Almost none of us escape the effects of our rationalizing thought patterns.

As a result, the box we now find ourselves in, whether it’s the box of population, pollution, resource depletion or hierarchic instability appears in large measure to have been biologically inevitable. This is why I have concluded that it’s pretty much a waste of energy to try and stop the onrushing trains.

Given the fact of our steep discount function, the mere fact that we can perceive the threats means it’s already too late.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-31-2009)   

Didn't we have this discussion on populations somewhere already?

It isn't the numbers, (though they are important), it's the consumption. Consumption can easily be regulated, but we don't have the political will to do so. Simply replace all income-based taxes, fees, and tariffs with one large sales tax that reflects the externalized costs (government, military, environmental, energy) at the point of purchase.
Humans are consumptive because it is profitable temporarily for a few people who manage to hide the real costs or shift them so that individuals pay the costs somewhere else or their children pay the costs (debt-based spending).
I am a devoted misanthrope, but I think that humans are not as stupid as we act. We are just easily deceived into acting against our own best interests by other humans. "Give everyone a gun and let them shoot anyone they choose. Everyone will either be a better neighbor or a better shot." Eventually, the guns will rust away.
Comment by: StevenSALMONY (Steven Earl SALMONY) (Mar-30-2009)   Web site

Nothing I can think of can be more vital to a good enough future for the children than a global flow of ideas regarding the population dynamics of the human species on Earth. A virtual mountain of scientific knowledge supports the near-universal understanding that a finite planet with the size, composition and frangible ecology of Earth cannot be expected to much longer support an endlessly growing number of human beings worldwide, many too many of whom appear to be willfully choosing to increase in an unbridled way their conspicuous per-capita consumption and unnecessary overproduction of stuff.

With the hope of promoting necessary discussion of the subject of global human population growth, I would like to share a recent email from one of our most respected colleagues, Dr. Gary Peters, a splendid contributor to the blogosphere.


"Steve has mentioned the work below but I'm not sure how many of you have actually been able to look at it. It is solid and worth your time, especially if you have an interest in population growth and any variation on the idea of sustainability.


P.S. For those who like such data, the world population now grows by close to 220,000 people per day."

end ---

If you will, please rigorously examine the presentation, World Food and Human Population Growth.

Usual objections to the research of Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D. and David Pimentel, Ph.D., have focused the human community's attention upon "Demographic Transition Theory." Although this theory is descriptive in character, the demographic transition theory has been widely shared, consensually validated and erroneously deployed, by many too many demographers and economists in particular, as a tool for effectively predicting the end of population growth soon and the automatic stabilization of the human population on Earth in the middle of Century XXI.

With remarkable clarity the research of human population dynamics by Hopfenberg and Pimentel shows us that, as a predictor of the increase or decrease of absolute global human population numbers, the theory of the demographic transition is fatally flawed and directly contradicted by more adequate scientific evidence.

While the theory of the demographic transition does offer a useful historical view of recent patterns of human population growth, its value as a tool to forecast the increase or decrease the population numbers of the human species worldwide can now be seen, in the light of new research, as fundamentally defective.

If the human family continues choosing to keep doing precisely what we are doing now as absolute global human population numbers skyrocket toward a projected 9+ billion people, can reason or common sense possibly support the idea that future outcomes regarding human population growth will be any different either from the results we are seeing now or the results which have been occurring throughout recorded history?

Perhaps someone will kindly explain what you think will happen that would effectively lead to the stabilization of population numbers of the human species in the year 2050, given the fully anticipated young age distribution of the global human population at that time?

At the midpoint of the twenty-first century, what do you suppose hundreds upon hundreds of millions of fertile young people, who are expected to be capable of reproducing, will be doing with their sexual drives and instincts other than what their ancestors did for thousands of years?

Psychologists have often commented about such circumstances in this manner: doing the same things over and over again while fully expecting that a new succession of events will somehow magically occur is an example of extreme foolishness.

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Member: chefurka (Bodhisantra (Paul) Chefurka) I am a Canadian ecologist with a passionate interest in outside the box responses to the converging crisis of industrial civilization.

The crisis of civilization is not simply a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems.  These are symptoms that are themselves being driven by a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown.  The disconnection goes by the name of Separation.

Our sense of separation is what allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in.  In this worldview the complex mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization:  there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.

The only way to keep this planet, our one and only home in the universe, from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change our worldview and heal our sense of separateness.  Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it.

My desire is to find ways to heal that sense of separation, with the goal of helping us prepare for ecological adulthood.

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