In keeping with the new idea for utilizing both sites of the Not Two project, we will refrain from posting the full articles of the “Emergence of the Contemplative Shaman” here at Noesta Aqui. The main site is taking on the role of an archival showcase, with the eventual goal of building an anthology of the most essential writings about the Next Age and the Avant-God movement preparing us for it. I find it liberating to be able to write there with fullness and completion of the message in mind rather than internet-friendly brevity. But there is a value in the latter as well, and Metaphysical Gumbo will be the place for it.
So if you’ve read the Introduction and would prefer to go right to the beginning of Part One, you may do so here:
Here are some key points of the article if you’d prefer a taste of it first…
- To draw out a proper definition of hyperindividualism, I will (as I so often do) call upon the words of Alan Wilson Watts:
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
It sounds flippant at first, and for all I know in its original context it was. But in consideration of some of Watts’ other statements derived from the Eastern cosmologies –such as life being an elaborate game of hide-and-seek that God plays with himself– “for fun” might be shorthand for “in order to play a game” (which, as game theory tells us, can still have life or death consequences for the players). It may also borrow from another definition of “play” and mean “for the sake of drama” (which has consequences for fictional characters but not for the real actors). In either case, if life is not being lived for fun, Watts believed, chances are it is being taken too seriously.
- The distinction between money and wealth is analogous to that between a person’s ego identity and the natural self. In this context, the natural self is the simple “I” experience of perception as a living organism with a complex, self-aware nervous system, while the ego is the product of that self-awareness, the feeling of being something behind that experience perceiving the perceptions.
- Because of the concept of private ownership, money and property can be divided and separated into mutually exclusive units in a way that wealth cannot.
- Individualism, you could say, is the recognition of the property rights of the ego identity over the natural self…The natural self is more intimately connected to the mental perceptions and physical sensations of the organism, and thus a more direct connection to the wealth of your human experience, your actual “I” that, in reality, is inseparable from “Not I.” The social identity of names and numbers, all of the tags and labels you associate with yourself as a medium of information exchange for social purposes, is only loosely connected to this organism, just as money is a medium of exchange for the transfer of wealth, and is not the wealth itself.
- The modern Westerner has a cognitive bias that makes it difficult to grasp that individualism is not a given and in fact has not been predominant throughout the majority of human history…There are still plenty of traditional cultures where self-identity remains more fully rooted in a collective, and the demand for independence from the collective, if made at all, is ritualized in a way that keeps the individual harnessed to strict social norms that chafe modern American sensitivities. (It shouldn’t take any elaboration on that point to show that exoteric religion is one of the fundamental harnessing institutions utilized by all cultures.)But when we in the hyperindividualistic West talk wistfully now about wanting to feel that we are “a part of something bigger than ourselves,” we are essentially talking about returning to what 99 percent of human existence has been and largely still is.
Collectivism –in which the individual’s self-identity is either rooted or completely encased in a collective identity such as a family, a tribe, a nationality, a creed etc– is the predominant identity pattern in the animal kingdom. Consider the classic examples: the bee hive, the ant colony, the wolf pack etc. At the simplest levels of animal societies, individualism is non-existent, and organisms operative from a “hive mind,” dedicated solely to group survival.
- Generally speaking, the greater resemblance of an organism’s central nervous system to Homo sapiens, the more it will exhibit an individualistic sense of self, and chances are the zoology will show that social cohesion was the key to developing the consistency of survivability needed for that system to develop over many generations.
The human being has followed this pattern to the top of the food chain with relatively little physical prowess to thank for it. It shouldn’t be hard to see that the individual human, completely helpless at birth and immature for many years longer than its would-be competitors in the wild, owes all of its survivability to the novel skill of abstract thought and its cohesive self-identity with social collectives. Cognition, though, is no mere step in the progression, but a quantum leap forward, greatly enhancing the natural effect by which we humans observe the observer and know the knower (and in a spooky new way, of experiencing the self as a thing that has a body). When human individuality emerged as the driving evolutionary force of the species, it did so with guns ablazing, and verbal language was the trigger.
- But something happens on the way to this technocratic Shangri-La: another tipping point, in which the individual’s sense of self, lifted up on the shoulders of the collective that defines it (remember, the ego is a product of relativity and the web of interconnected social roles), is so convinced of its independent existence, so removed from the baseline of the natural self’s direct non-verbal perception of/connection with its environment, that it sees itself essentially as a society of one, and this is the point at which the problems of hyperindividualism arise. It is as if the individual says to the collective that is carrying him, “Thank you, I’ll take it from here,” and attempts to levitate. The resultant crash is only a matter of time.