Tag Archives: aboriginal culture

Witnessing The Process

nvcd2I’ve just returned from a planning session on how to resist the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion in the Vancouver area; typical of me, in my uncertainty as to how to contribute, I was mainly witnessing the process.

For those unfamiliar with the Kinder-Morgan project, it is a $7.4-billion construction project of pipeline expansion over a 1,100-kilometer route, and will increase pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. It will end at Burrard Inlet at the northern edge of Burnaby and Vancouver, and will require construction through both cities. The fuel will then be transported internationally via the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland (an environmentally sensitive area). It also represents a major addition to the fossil fuel load created by Canada, although that carbon source will then be transported to other Pacific countries, and thus does not appear as a direct load on Canada.

The pipeline passes through many indigenous lands (actually unceeded territories since for the most part no “treaties” have ever been signed) — many or all of which communities object to the project. The cities of Burnaby and Vancouver also object. To my knowledge, the federal and provincial governments have approved the projects despite these objections, and many court challenges are current. For my part, I was deeply disappointed by the duplicity of the Liberal government which initially promised major revision of the issues of global warming — as such there has been far more talk than action.

I believe that there is a huge need for non-violent civil disobedience in these kinds of issues, but I am also somewhat discouraged by this. For the most part, although we have advanced in many ways as to how we value human beings (feminism, racism, education, et cetera), most of the advances have only been on the surface — we have not done the deeper shift in maturity that will be necessary to overcome our latest challenge, that of world degradation as manifest by global warming, let alone the other issues. I have long been impressed by David Suzuki’s honesty in naming the fundamental failure of environmentalism, although I imagine others have written equally honestly about our other failures.

In my discouragement, I believe that much of non-violent civil disobedience merely serves to provide a mechanism to release the emotional tension felt by the oppressed. For the most part, the interplay between oppressed and oppressors simply becomes a game of chess as each party maneuvers to achieve advantage in a never-ending game of duplicity. Certainly on the part of the oppressed, there are many well-intentioned and intelligent persons, but I am not convinced that we achieve a great deal. Meanwhile the bulk of people stand back in apparent apathy. Sad.

Carlos Castaneda, a “cult” writer of the 70s, once presented a great concept (amongst others) for me: A warrior stands in the middle of the road, waiting. By that, I believe he meant that we each must do our personal best, and then let life do what it will. I’m learning to just trust that — in my language, if Creator wants me to do other than Witness, the opportunity will come. Despair, for me, then becomes a waste of energy, attempting to push the river – it flows by itself.

Some interesting links for the week:

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth (201710)

A comprehensive and important document from the only organization (to my knowledge) truly committed to cooperative mobilization on the scale necessary to resolve the issues of global warming.

U.S. climate report leaves little room for doubt (20171109)

As David Suzuki points out, the report did not receive much attention — presumably, simply another report as to the state of the disaster — a non-issue in the current political scene. Sad.

America is facing an epistemic crisis (20171002)

Initially this article is confusing, but it then presents a fascinating study of the question: “What if Mueller proves his case, and it doesn’t matter?” Another suggestion in support of the theme that civilization is about power, and who wields it.

100% renewable electricity in reach by 2050 (20171108)

We are capable of resolving the issues. Will we?

Paleo Politics (20171101)

An interesting link supporting the contention that “civilization” is fundamentally an issue of power dynamics, something I have written about in other posts.

The Struggle To Engage

The Spanish Conquest of the New World was simply one example of power dynamics.

I have not written in my blog now for over three months. For me, it has been a major struggle to engage, initially due to travel requirements but especially so after the American election. Since that time, I have been pondering my difficulty.

My struggle has not been acedia per se (see previous posts beginning 20160802), although that was my immediate concern (given my studies of acedia) — it is more that I have felt traumatized by the election of Donald Trump, and the likely consequences thereby. For myself in particular, I know that I am strongly introverted, and that most of my life, I have defined myself as a poustinik, a hermit who is available when asked. From the past year or so, I have been attempting to engage in climate activism, but have found it to be exhausting. I don’t engage well in groups, and especially I flounder when I do not have a designated task to give me focus. And I am very sensitive to the pain of others.

All that definitely is part of my personal pattern that predisposes me to acedia in response to climate change. I know for example that I have been avoiding writing (which often gives me clarity of my internal process). And I definitely experience a push-pull regarding global warming — more and more we are at risk of extinction as a species: I want to resolve it, and I want to avoid it. Yet, as noted, I am not at high risk of the profound avoidance that characterizes acedia.

Regarding the precepts that counteract acedia (wisdom, discipline, hope and playfulness), I have been aware that I do not have the wisdom to know what to do, other than ponder. I am very disciplined (with daily yoga, meditation, and attention to health, amongst other resources). However, given the immensity of the negative forces creating climate change, I have little to no hope that we will survive.

And I have difficulty being playful with the topic. If there is a God, I am quite willing to turn the issues over to him/her, but I find it difficult to be joyous or playful with this possibility. If there is no God, then humanity is clearly demonstrating its ineffectiveness as a species (and even if there is a God).

It is this latter possibility, the ineffectiveness of our species, that is my current focus of pondering, especially in light of again encountering some of the writings of E. Richard Sorenson, a cultural anthropologist who has studied numerous isolates of human culture in various domains. In his work, Sorenson distinguished between “preconquest” consciousness, characteristic of many indigenous cultures, and “postconquest,” characteristic of modern life (conquest referring to the Spanish invasion of the New World). In particular, this quote from his writings about the primitive societies he explored has struck me as vital:

For several years after I began contacting preconquest peoples like those described above, I considered their type of consciousness an oddity, a kind of naive primitive emotionality, one perhaps suitable only for small, isolated groups, but certainly for no one else. It took a long time for me to realize that they had evolved their own sophisticated type of cognition that was simply different from what I (or anyone I knew) was used to. And I came to realize that such mentality could not be considered primitively ignorant if only because it was so sensitively intelligent and beneficially responsive. It moved more facilely, more harmoniously, and more constructively than do the mentalities associated with today’s postconquest world. Furthermore, it provided for an astonishingly rewarding and zestful life [emphasis added].

Sorenson in particular identified that the encounter between preconquest consciousness and postconquest invariably led to devastation of the richness of preconquest life. What I would add to this is that this devastation is the same process of power that I gleaned from The Parable of The Tribes, written about in earlier posts. Unfortunately, our 10,000 years of civilization are based upon the power dynamics of conquest, and as such are not compatible with effective living as human beings. We must find a way to what I would call transconquest consciousness, combining the richness of preconquest with the technological advances of postconquest.

I first encountered Sorenson’s writings as a result of working with my PhD advisor Christian de Quincey, professor of consciousness studies at JFK University in California. Christian’s entire approach to living changed when he first encountered Sorenson’s work, realizing that his own conquistadorial approach was not compatible with effective living.

In retrospect, I now recognize that the distinctions drawn by Sorenson are those that have devastated my life in many ways, ranging from early childhood experience to the defense of my PhD dissertation. They are also fully consistent with all I have learned of human dynamics in my 25 years of being a therapist. They form the basis of the traumas that underlie the mechanisms of cultural acedia (as developed in my dissertation and book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of climate change). I feel fortunate that my intellect has allowed me to survive these traumas, although with considerable restrictions.

Unfortunately this gives me little satisfaction or hope that we will survive as a species. However, I will continue to engage in whatever way I can.

One of the ways I will do this is to post my email anger program to this blog. I have had good feedback, but limited sign-up. Rather than simply let the program die, I will post it for others to access if desired.


For the interested reader, I have included two references on Sorenson’s and de Quincey’s writings. I recommend both highly.

de Quincey, C. (2000). “Consciousness and Conquest.” From Maaber blog, http://www.maaber.org/sixth_issue/epistemology_2e.htm, accessed 2017 January 5th.

Sorenson, E. R. (1998). “Preconquest Consciousness.” From Ran Prieur blog, http://ranprieur.com/readings/preconquest.html, accessed 2017 January 5th.

Another Way, Needing Integration

Another way
Another way?

In the past few weeks, I have been traveling through beautiful country (New Mexico, Arizona, Grand Canyon, and Utah, amongst other areas), with stunning views. With such vistas, it is easy for me to connect to a sense of grandeur and mystery, of questioning as to how did this world became so beautiful, of what perhaps did God create.

It also then leads me to question why we are destroying it. My understanding is that the human species originated in the African continent, and migrated outwards, initially to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East (much less fertile now), and subsequently to other parts of the world, eventually to North and South America. I can speculate that those who remained in the Middle East had to develop empires so as to compete for limited resources, whereas for those who moved towards the Americas, the resources simply seemed limitless. Thus, perhaps the Eurasians became the People of the Ladder, the dominators, and the Native Americans became the People of the Wheel, those who remained with a sense of awe. Perhaps as well, all those peoples (the connectors) who remained connected to the land, and to spirit, have become the peoples of the wheel.

In the previous post, I described the People of the Ladder as empire builders, and dominators, with the extended consequences of incredible technology on the positive side, and dehumanization and global warming on the negative side. They learned the rules of power, and one of the principle rules became: Don’t talk about the rules. In contrast, as I became aware in reading Rupert Ross’ Dancing With A Ghost, the People of the Wheel developed a very different set of rules for living.

Here in this post, I will briefly describe the Peoples of the Wheel as those who retained a sense of mystery, of connectedness to the grandeur of the world. In describing my sense of the People of the Wheel, I do not mean to imply an either/or dichotomy; both cultures offer great values, and some limitations. However, what we need is integration, not polarization, although I personally prefer the values of the People of the Wheel.

For the most part, the People of the Wheel remained as hunter-gathers (although they knew the value of agriculture). They lived in small groups (tribes), somewhat isolated from each other, often with considerable exchange with other tribes. Their principle rule base was acceptance and non-interference; there was no sense of ownership, and there was extensive sharing; power was gained by prestige, not domination. They valued experiential learning, and education was principally by modeling. Wisdom and self-sufficiency were both highly valued. They sought connectedness, not conquest. A fundamental question was always how to restore harmony, especially the sanctity of all life.


They also had their limitations as a society. Overall, as small groups living within natural environments, they faced starvation when times were scarce. Thus, for the Inuit as an example, the elderly often voluntarily exited when times were tough, or were perhaps abandoned. In addition, such small societies often had to hide their emotional lives — the expression of anger, for example, could be of major danger to the survival of the group. Tribes fought with each other, not for the possibility of building empires, but likely as a way to contain the natural aggressiveness of our species.

Yet, we are now a global tribe, a global village, and we have not yet learned how to live in harmony. For the most part, our societies are still dominator societies. The challenge is now to blend these viewpoints, these worldviews, to find a balance of the positives, that minimize the negatives.


It does not yet appear who we shall be.