Q. How would you summarize what you have learnt from your forty years as an activist?
One of the conclusions of such retrospection as I have undertaken in the past few years is of understanding the deeds and the intolerant striving of my extremist decades as reprehensible. Another conclusion concerns my own reprehensible character. Yet another concerns my hubris, or perhaps more correctly my stupidity born of arrogance and fanaticism resulting in a failure, a refusal, to learn from our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos. For such a learning would have placed me and my extremism – me as a masculous talking-mammal – in a supra-personal context, providing a knowledge of those deeds and that striving as having the opposite effect of what I intended or arrogantly believed they would achieve, and of only inflicting, causing, more and more unnecessary suffering.
This supra-personal context is the Cosmic Perspective: of the reality of our individual selves as but one fragile mortal short-lived biological life-form on one planet orbiting one star in one galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of galaxies; of our nations, our national cultures – and everything we manufacture or bring-into-being or presence, from ideas to ideologies to religions to cities to industries to products to archetypes – being not only by their φύσις subject to change and transmutation but also having a certain limited life span, be such in terms of years, decades, centuries, or millennia; of how our pride in our achievements or in our presencings, individual or collective – and such achievements/presencings themselves – should be considered in the context of the possibility of sentient life, some probably more advanced than us, on other planets in our own galaxy and in the billions of galaxies in the Cosmos; of how all life on our own planet, just like ourselves, is fragile, changing, and subject to extinction; and of how what we, as individuals, do or do not do affects or can affect other living beings.
For the Cosmic Perspective is an empathic awareness of not only our place in the Cosmos but also of the affective and acausal connexions that bind all life, on this planet and elsewhere in the Cosmos, and be such life sentient or otherwise. And it is this empathic awareness which, according to my mutable understanding, can provide us with a personal appreciation of the numinous sans the abstractions, the theology, the cosmogony, the dogma, and sans the God/gods, of an organized religion.
My hubriatic error in those extremist decades was essentially two-fold: (i) to aspire to bring-into-being some-thing that would not and could not, in centennial terms (let alone in millennial or cosmic terms) endure; and (ii) to use violence and incite hatred, intolerance, and killing, in order to try and presence that causal some-thing. My perspective, for example, during my neo-nazi decades was very limited, sometimes egoistical. Egoistical in that I enjoyed the striving, the conflict, the incitement, the excitement, and even the violence. Limited, in that my foreseeing was of the next meeting, the next fight, the next demonstration, the next piece of propaganda to produce, my next speech, and of the victory I and others dreamed of or believed in; a victory that would be at most a decade or two ahead.
Of course, I believed that what we or others after us might bring-into-being would endure, most probably at the cost of further conflict; and endure for decades, possibly a century or more. But the reality always was of me and my kind striving to stop or somehow try to control, to shape, the natural flux of change; to preserve, whatever the cost, what we or others after us might bring-into-being.
For we believed we would or could do what no one in human history had been able to do: make our presencings immortal, or at least immune to the natural cycle of birth-life-decay-death. A natural cycle so evident in the rise, the flourishing, the decline, the decay, the death, of empire after empire; national culture after national culture; city after city; language after language; and of a people of a particular size and in a particular area naturally changing, moving, emigrating, immigrating, and thus naturally melding with others. In brief, we (with our simple causal-only perception) hubristically believed or felt that we could, and would, not only master and control Nature and the very forces of the Cosmos but also that our interventions would endure far beyond our own lives. In retrospection, this was fantasy, with the rise and fall and destruction of The Third Reich being just one of the many examples from reality that should have informed us about that fantasy.
In contrast, my understanding now is that the Cosmic Perspective reveals a particular truth not only about the Anthropocene (and thus about our φύσις as human beings) but also about how sustainable millennial change has occurred and can occur. Which change is via the progression, the evolution – the development of the faculties and the consciousness – of individuals individually. This is the interior, the a-causal, change of individuals wrought by a scholarly learning of and from our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos, by our own pathei-mathos, and by that personal appreciation of the numinous that both the Cosmic Perspective and the muliebral virtues incline us toward.
This aeonic change voids what we now describe by the terms politics and religion and direct social activism of the violent type. There is thus a shift from identifying with the communal, the collective – from identifying with a particular contemporary or a past society or some particular national culture or some particular causal form such as a State or nation or empire or some -ism or some -ology – toward that-which has endured over centuries and millennia: our human culture of pathei-mathos.
For the human culture of pathei-mathos records and transmits, in various ways, the pathei-mathos of individuals over thousands of years, manifest as this sustainable millennial culture is in literature, poetry, memoirs, aural stories, in non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and in the experiences – written, recorded, and aural – of those who over the centuries have appreciated the numinous, and those who endured suffering, conflict, disaster, tragedy, and war, and who were fundamentally, interiorly, changed by their experiences. And it is this shared human culture of pathei-mathos that extremists of what[ever] kind, and those who advocate -isms and -ologies, scorn and so often try to suppress when, for however short a time, they have political or social or religious power and control over the lives of others.
It is this human culture of pathei-mathos which – at least according to my experience, my musings, and my retrospection – reveals to us the genesis of wisdom: which is that it is the muliebral virtues which evolve us as conscious beings, which presence sustainable millennial change. Virtues such as empathy, compassion, humility, and that loyal shared personal love which humanizes those masculous talking-mammals of the Anthropocene, and which masculous talking-mammals have – thousand year following thousand year – caused so much suffering to, and killed, so many other living beings, human and otherwise.
Some Questions For DWM, 2014 (pdf)