It has been pleasing to see the resonance that the elevation of animism as a potential descriptive model of Reality-with-a-capital R has achieved.
Some of the better comments and feedback around Pieces of Eight have been in this general area, as have many of the questions that get submitted to the weekly newsletter video Q&A.
I guess it seems like it is probably necessary to further emphasise what it is I am doing here, because it risks getting lost in all the excitement. It's lovely to see so many people describing their existing worldviews as animist as that means -from my perspective- there is a greater overlap of symbol sets in which to experiment with its descriptive potential.
And that's really what we are doing here. I have never been shy of chaos magic's fundamentally extractive position. I'm not interesting in 'promoting' animism because that just backslides us back into wishy-washy 70s Boomer neopaganism where old, beardy white men in turquoise jewellery tell us the tree teaches us about resilience or some shit. As mentioned in last week's podcast with Dr Reid, this is the fundamental problem with the 'new animism' of a few decades ago... it was a milquetoast exploration of eco-ethics based on unscientific fantasies about nature's 'delicate balance' or 'pristine state'... which themselves emerged from some pretty alarming eugenic political views and xenophobic suspicion of foreigners. (The founder of the WWF, Julian Huxley, was afraid the world would be overrun with 'stupid people' because 'stupid people' were outbreeding 'smart people'. What colours do you think these less intelligent people may have been? The next time you get stopped in the street by a kid with one of those buckets, ask him that.) Viewed over a longer timeline, 'new animism' was probably a necessary step -we may even call it a Recovery Species- but it is not for now. Succession happened.
Something else to underline: Animism does not get a free ride just because your pet is a person. I'm already down with that: As with any other spirit- it's a much better description of the available evidence than 'unaware collection of molecules'. Animism is still to be put through its paces. Chaos magic's Borg rules apply. As in: "We are chaos magic. Your model-describing and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own."
If it's real, it can take the pressure. If it can't, on we go.
And I bring this up now because some of the comments/questions/emails have gone round the houses a bit, so to speak, to the point that I can tell a number of core concepts haven't landed -particularly around how landscape features and physical life are constructed within these frameworks. (Something Dr Reid and I go into in the show.)
Some of it -most of it, even- is my fault. I attempted to describe it at breakneck speed in Campfire's Edge but there simply wasn't the time. For me, an understanding of the role of mycelium and general soil formation either is or isn't the smoking gun for a sort of 'animist interventionism'. And we need to kick it around a bit. So I've pulled a few videos together which you have to watch (or I will just tell you to go watch them when you ask a question that indicates you haven't) and you have to watch them in sequence.
Firstly, we begin with McKenna's description of what the mushroom told him about its origins and role. It's classic 'Terence messianism' which he pulled away from quite a bit in later years but -when you watch the video that follows it- you'll see why it is included.
I cued it up because it's very long and the rest of it -whilst interesting- is not mandatory. Just 'The Mushroom Speaks'. (If the cue doesn't work -which it isn't in post preview- it starts at 1h56m39s and goes for about five minutes.)
The next one is the content-rich but lazily branded Radical Mycology webinar -proving you can put 'radical' in front of everything now. It is this era's 'quality' or 'new and improved'. You can use it on laundry detergent and its sheer prevalence disproves its application.
Still, the content is good. The mandatory part is the first five minutes which attempts to describe how mycelium emerged on earth. I say 'attempts' because it covers off the 'wacky' idea that the spores came from space -and they can survive in space- and then goes into detail on the absurd materialist guesswork that is the 'accepted' view. Which looks like the flimsy Just-So Story it is, particularly when viewed immediately after Terence. (I'm not saying Terence was correct, but hold both perspectives in your head simultaneously and you'll see what I mean about animist interventionism.)
Moving along we do have one you need to watch all of. Dr Elaine Ingham could literally save the world and it would only cost around a billion dollars in training. She could reverse desertification and salination, improve polyculture farming yields by hundreds of percent to the point that may cities could feed themselves within their own footprint -thus eliminating what are key vectors in human sickness and war. If I ever find the spell that makes me galactic dictator, she will be my Darth Vader.
Watching this presentation is step 1 in the 'we are all dirt witches now' process as described in Pieces of Eight. The overwhelming majority of the earth's biomass is subsurface. It is humbling and fascinating to realise that everything this planet has ever done from dinosaurs to the Renaissance to Everybody Loves Raymond has been crawling around in the splattered shit of its true owners on a nominal or volume basis. And -if the model holds- I might mean that literally given the case for the offworld formation of key parts of the soil biome is currently stronger than the emergent/evolutionary nonsense described at the beginning of the Radical Mycology webinar.
There needs to be a baseline understanding of soil microbiology moving forward because it is the perfect example of how we conceive of 'chaos' in a 'chaos magic' sense... it is ecosystemic and impossible to reduce to constituent parts and grid onto a tree of life or write up in a Culpepper's. You also have the exact same thing going on with your own microbiome so -lucky you!- you're walking around with your own lab.
Finally a collection of old videos of Geoff Lawton talking about implementing best practice soil ideas. You should really watch Dr Ingham's video first because
- Its science is more up-to-date.
- You'll recognise some of her ideas filtering into permaculture.
When I have previously described permaculture as Australia's contribution to modern philosophy I mean that literally. Having watched all of these videos in succession and getting down to how these concepts -what 'weeds' really 'are', soil life, etc- can be applied at any scale, it feels to me like the closest/only modern expression of that hermetic idea that Man 'completes' and 'cocreates' Creation: There has never not been a time we were separated from it, and working within its expressions ensures their maximal fulfilment. There is no other way but working with expressions of the universe (witness my interest in Armstrong's Economics Confidence Model). All we have done with hydrocarbons is blow out the tail risk rather than learning repeated, smaller lessons of working with or against existing patterns. Think about what Taleb has to say about tail risk.
You will also see -as discussed with Gary Lachman earlier in the year- there is something very mysterious about our two-century detour through materialism. We have moved past it and picked up some -I say some- technological and scientific concepts that shield us from the fruity, milquetoast nonsense of 'new animism' (no cannibals, then?) that owes too much to the myth of the noble savage as well as childlike, fantasist notions of some sort of Disneyfied view of animals.
These, then, are the bits of model-describing distinctiveness to add to our own:
- Spirits on a mission: Ayahuasca is the common example, but really think about mycelium now. Think about it as a being that is two percent physical and ninety eight percent non-physical.
- The impossibility of fitting what is the majority of the planet's biomass into emanatory rays, sephirah or spreadsheets and what happens when you align with an ecosystemic view of it instead -particularly if you credit the participants in this process with agency.
- The role of space if -as I suspect- we have had repeated intervention episodes rather than a single one depositing life on this planet. (A supervirus, which I still think happened, obviously.)
- What happens when you blow past the Levi-Strauss 'metaphor' of plant/fungal spirits (for example) and start to think of them literally. Realise that the 'metaphor approach' credits materialism with an epistemological status that it simply doesn't deserve. We must move further back up the decision tree of western thought to get past it.
This is Borg Cubism.
Resistance is fertile.