Presenting a talk given at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco on May 3, 2012. A transcript of the talk follows.
(I realized later that I should also like to give thanks to visionary activist astrologer Caroline Casey for all she’s demonstrated to me about the trickster archetype and the importance of using language to “animate the desirable story.” Thank you, Caroline!)
There’s No Salvation from the Myth of Salvation
I entered the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness [graduate] program in search of a beautiful critique of our times, as expressed by the following sentiment which I carried with me into this program: “It strikes me that providing hospice to a dying modern world view is just as important to human evolution and survival, as is living the possibilities of a different way forward into being, and I would only hope to discover a language of reconciliation sufficient to the task.”
I must be clear here, when I say “beautiful,” for the beauty I speak of isn’t something nice or pretty or any of our domesticated ideas of life bound up in a cage. Life is beautiful, and so there is also terror. The beautiful critique I seek is one which doesn’t wallow in postmodern angst about the shadow of self-reflective consciousness, that self-satisfied embrace of misanthropy—that is, the fear and hatred of humanity—which is supposed to somehow keep us safe from ourselves. The beautiful critique isn’t afraid of the terror which accompanies beauty, it stares straight into the face of these strange days of death which doesn’t die…and smiles.
For our existence exhibits a great many qualities, and the aesthetic and emotional response to life involves ALL of those qualities—not just those which may be desirable or attractive. Life involves the perception of finitude, of death and loss—the ultimately mysterious nature of the universe, with all of the unknown, the unexpected— To attempt to eradicate the wild, the mysterious, the uncivilized is to fail to acknowledge beauty’s depths, and has invariably led to the truly ugly.
Misanthropy can hide in the strangest places, it’s not just that which resides in the pit of the stomach of the activist working for improvement of what seem like intractable situations: such as the Sixth Mass Extinction underway, the conflict in Palestine and Israel, the mockery of democracy in a world so riven by structurally-embedded inequalities. One of the more curious places where I detect the fear and hatred of humanity is in the idea of salvation, the millennial idea that there will come a time—and depending on who you consult, it involves different variables—when we are free from this horrendous, fallen state of being human. When finally, at last, we will have escaped our hideous condition of decay, death, and the problem of free will which seems to bring with it so much suffering.