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Rewilding: Towards a Neo Shamanic Phenomenological Consciousness A Thesis By Bradley Bryant Submitted to the Humanities Division in partial fulfillment of a Bachelors of Arts Degree, before a committee of Dr. Douglas Langston (Sponsor), Dr. John Newman, and Dr. Steven Graham Sarasota, Florida May, 2012
ii Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1: A Shamanic Phenomenology Chapter 2: Anarcho Primitivsm Chatper 3: An EarthSkills Gathering Chapter 4: Conclusion
iii Abstract Thesis analyzes the connections between domestication and its consequences in regards to the health of the human species. Rewilding, as I observe, is a neo shamanic holistic health practice which has been adopted, consciously as well as unconsciously, by anarcho primitivist intentional communities; more consciously as a strategy geared towards developing individual and communal autonomy via the dissolution of power relations, therefore as a philosophy of political resistance; more unconsciously as the experiential/phenomenal recovery of ancient shamanic preventative/curative heal mind, body, and spirit, rather than a singular aspect or relation. A method of treatment which conjoins the health of mind, body, and spirit to the forces of natu re may rightly be considered shamanic. In the context of modern western society, the practice of re it does not emerge from an unbroken lineage of preserved tradition, but is instead a recovery and a rediscovery, a s well as an amalgamation of the shamanic practices of indigenous cultures. Thesis will explore and analyze the healing phenomenology of shamanism, highlighting its the philosophical basis of the religions and spiri tual practices of modern civilization, and drawing meaningful comparisons between the practices of indigenous and modern cultures in regards to political/social structuring as well as approaches to gleaned from my observations of a neo shamanic, preventative/curative treatment against the disease of domestication, its praxis as a manifestation of politi cal/cultural resistance being a side effect resulting from the experience of holistic healing.
4 Introduction When a doctor is trying to cure a patient, there is always an initial first step that must occur: the patient must actually acknowledge that he is sick and accept treatment. No matter how much wisdom and skill a doctor has, he/she is of no benefit whatsoever to an ill person who refuses treatment. Western civilization currently stands in such a predicament: as a species, we are living an unhealthy lifestyle, and as a result we are sick and suffering. Whether or not we as individuals ch oose to acknowledge this and seek treatment is of critical importance, and a denial of the illness does nothing to help our species, which is suffering as a direct result of causing the earth to suffer. We are suffering because we are not distinct or apart from, but rather inextricably interconnected with, the suffering of the world which we have created and is indeed our own. A brief example to illustrate the point: At a certain moment in the development of modern western civilization, we as a species be gan the widespread implementation of the practice of indoor plumbing. It was then, and still is, touted as a nearly indispensable convenience and a triumph of technology / civilization over natural barbarism. Only within the last half century have scientis ts / environmentalists begun to recognize that our current method of waste disposal is sustainable neither for the environment nor for ourselves. On an intuitive level, it does not seem to make sense that someone would want to expel waste into a suppl y of fresh water, or that people would want to link together each other's waste water, thus creating large concentrations of non compostable, toxic sludge. Among the many recently realized dangers associated with centralized water supply systems is the p revalence of PCPs (personal care products) in drinking water. When people take a birth control pill or an anxiety pill, they excrete many of those chemicals back into the water supply, many of which are too minute to be removed by all but the most highly a dvanced (and expensive) water filtration
5 systems. As a result, human beings are being afflicted with new, previously non existent cancers and illnesses. In America, we hear a lot about the effort to end world hunger, yet everyday millions of dollars o f edible grocery store food gets thrown in the dumpster. The vast majority of corporate grocery chains enact dumpster lock policies, purchase compactors in order to prevent the hungry from having access /discarded food, or lobby their states to make dumpst er diving illegal. This kind of willful neglect could only occur in a society in which each individual has come to conceive of his or her pleasure / and suffering as separate from the pleasure or suffering of the surrounding community. Although we are inex tricably interconnected such that there is no "thing" which can distinguish your suffering from mine, due to an arbitrary identification of suffering, and as such, experience your experience of suffering, although I am having the experience of your suffering, I still consider the actual suffering to be something occurring separate from and outside of myself. Deep ecology presents a contemporary challenge to this con ly restricted to what R.D. Laing The belief in separateness is nothing more than ego consciousness, a way of misco mprehending oneself as an autonomous individual similar to the way in which one might see the sky's reflection in a puddle and conclude that some holes in the ground contain pieces of sky. To all given appearances, there is sky in the puddle. In order to understand why this is not
6 the case, one must go down and inspect the surface of the water, touch it, and discover its true substance. The same is true with the ego and concept of the individual self. To all ordinary appearance I seem to be one person, of so and so height, weight, etc. Yet upon closer inspection, what is my true substance? Am I separate from the air I breathe in, from the water I drink? At what point does the food I eat cease being something else and become me? In terms of substance, is the re anything of which I consist which is not found in everything else? Am I not made of the same elements as the rest of the entire universe? From an anarcho primitivist perspective, to choose to exist in modern society is to live as an over domesticat ed, willing participant in the destructive, debilitating, soul crushing imperialist monoculture, run on fossil fuel, ignorance, and greed. Anarcho primitivists believe that an autonomous, responsible individual knows how to survive (and thrive) in a wilde rness environment while actively working to maintain a harmonious, reciprocal relationship with the earth. They draw from an environmental term, that of a keystone species (a species which plays a key role in the stability of an ecosystem), referring to h umans as the keystone species. Human beings, by now, have destroyed enough of the earth to have effectively displayed our undisputed capacity to drastically alter the biosphere and destroy living elements of an ecosystem. Seeking a low impact, sustainable, non authoritarian lifestyle, anarcho primitivists look to indigenous cultures for skills and techniques relevant to being a truly autonomous person, in the sense that they are not obligated to enter into a series of dependency based power relations in ord er to survive. A concept which I eventually came to experience as fundamental to the anarcho primitivist lifestyle is that of rewilding. This is the belief that human beings are, by their nature, feral. Indigenous people, to a large extent, existed as feral people: immersed in, connected to, and in
7 constant dialogue with nature. Human beings, due principally to over domestication, have lost their sense of connectedness with nature, which is what makes an animal capable of surviving in the wild. If you' ve ever seen a domesticated bunny that has newly escaped its cage (or been released) into nature, it is a pitiful sight to see. It is fatter, slower, less aware of its surroundings, unable to feed itself. I could catch it with two hands. To wild rabbits, t his bunny must appear to be handicapped in some way. A domesticated animal has been trained into dependency, and so have we. The dog that has a similar wa y, many people are aware of the cruelties and injustices of our economic system and consumer waste culture, yet we get a job and "buy in" to that same system, mostly because we believe that we cannot survive without money. This belief is well justified, as most people do not know the basic skills necessary to live off of the land and gather one's own resources, and are therefore not yet capable of undermining the system of economic dependency. As such, the government actually has a vested interest (for the sake of job security) in keeping people as dependent as possible. Rewilding has to do with being out in nature for long periods of time, interacting with wildlife, observing nature, learning to identify / harvest edible / medicinal plant life, learni ng how to hunt / track, etc. Practicing primitive skills via rewilding re awakens the forgotten wild power that exists within us all, contained and as of yet unharnessed, within our genetic ancestry. In essence, rewilding is about re discovering, as a spec ies and as individuals, how to live in a state of natural ease, feeling "at home" in nature, which allows one to develop a kind of deep, calm awareness a form of mental clarity seldom achieved in daily domesticated life. Domestication has kept most peopl e alienated from nature, and as such nature appears to many
8 as a kind of unfamiliar, foreboding stranger. Yet we must recognize that this sense of strangeness is relatively new and self imposed, as for the vast majority of homosapien life people have lived nomadically, practically outdoors, in short term, temporary dwellings which were not intended to separate people from nature, rather to shelter them from the elements in a manner effective enough to ensure survival. Not until the erection of long term, se mi permanent dwellings were people kept away from the wilderness long enough to begin to conceive of two distinct spheres that of people / society and that of nature. The appeal of shamanism today, for those trying to create anti capitalist, autono mous geographies, is its functional success (its continued existence) as an alternative possibility to globalized capitalist modernism (GCM). Arguments related to the rational validity or ce of re wilding, are not directly relevant to the point that these are already existent experiential tactics, deeply embedded within Nature in Industrial Society 159). tradition al spiritual values for space within human psyches under the guise of exclusivity A r the modern man, to as a compelling alternative to belief in God or the spirits of nature. GCM exists because people cale which implies their active belief in its capacities at providing a fulfilling life. The three institutions common to the Western notion of civilization
9 are political, economic, and spiritual. Within GCM, these three forms become manifest as represen tative democracy, free Just as important a s critiquing the implicit (and often subtle) ideals and values promoted by GCM, is offering alternative ideals and values not because it is believed that these ideals will be fully realized, but because of a belief in the inherent value of the struggle t o achieve such an GCM mythology of technological progress. In fact, the shamanic cultures of South America have a term which could be usefully applied to m odern technology magic. Magic is the successful attempt at achieving a degree of manipulation over the natural environment that is both not characteristic of most people and highly impressive, as well as being achieved without the direct help of a god or spirit. When such celebrated, if the magic causes harm to people the shaman is generally shunned by the is impressive for multiple reasons From the perspective of a shamanic ethos, the answer is yes, GCM is harmful to the com munity of life on earth. Equally important to the fact that shamanic mythology incorporates human cares and concerns, is that the objective values of market rationality and the march of progress, science, and technology disregard them. Those wishing to dev elop autonomous
10 geographies as alternatives to the current GCM system, who wish to functionally incorporate human cares and concerns into the value system of such a space, could look to shamanism principally as a working model of a successful anti capit alist mythology complete with mythology can be utilized comparatively in order to shed new light on the critical assessment of its implicit values: efficiency, productivity, and alienation. Anarcho primitivists seek to regain the level of self sufficiency achieved by their indigenous predecessors and as such the parallels between traditional shamanic initiation training and the anarcho primitivist rewilding process speak volumes in regard to the enduring physical, psychological, and spiritual relationship between human beings and the earth. In section one, I will discuss the 'holistic' shamanic health practices of various in digenous cultures in relation to the spiritual / philosophical concepts which underlie the method and practice, drawing comparisons and pointing out important distinctions between traditional shamanic perspectives on the nature of illness, health, the body and the world, and modern scientific perspectives. In section two, I seek to describe the current day anarcho primitivist movement, as well as elaborate on its importance, drawing connections between anarcho primitivsm and shamanism. In section three I o bserve and analyze one of the central mechanisms for outreach, information sharing, and collaboration within the anarcho primitivist movement: primitive skills gatherings, and discuss the experience of rewilding. The discussion includes considerations of t he ways in which and frustrations which large scale gatherings pose to the anarcho primitivist community.
11 Chapter 1: A Shamanic Phenomenology The sh amanic phenomenology is a comprehensive perspective on the existential experience. In general, the shamans believe that the universe is made up of spirit/s, rather than mere material, and that all spirit is capable of communicating itself. The shamanic und erstanding of a "spirit" universe implies a sentient, living universe. One of the most distinguishing features of shamanism is that its adherents are embedded in biodiverse wilderness habitats one finds shamanism where one finds an abundance of nature an d natural wildlife; Although the latter can exist without the former, the former cannot exist without the latter. In this regard, Shamanism fully acknowledges and places special emphasis in regard to the dependency of the wellbeing of the community (and th erefore the individual) on the forces of nature. Shamanism hypostasizes these natural forces, or energies, into the 'whims' of the spirits, and then attempts, through ritual offerings, to mediate between the desires of the inhabitants of the spirit and mat erial worlds, respectively. The shamans do not ask, "What should I do with my life?", rather they ask, "In what way should I serve the spirit/s?" This is because, like many religions which would follow in its footsteps, a shamanic existential outlook precludes the existential conundrum a fully developed appreciation/understanding of humans' dependency on Nature/the Universe entails an obligatory sense of gratitude and debt. The shaman is grateful for the Universe's expressed intention of the life of his body and mind as a material gift to his spirit, maintained by Nature's daily gifts of sustenance. Living in and being a keen observer of natural bioregions, the shaman is instilled with a deep appreciation for the harmony and balance of living environ ments, and acknowledges this harmony to be the result of the natural tendency towards reciprocity in each organism within a balanced ecosystem. To the shaman, Nature is balance, and there is reciprocity; this is
12 experienced in all aspects of life. Fire pro vides warmth, consuming lumber in exchange. Likewise, lumber provides us with fuel, furniture, etc., yet it requires first an environment in which it is capable of producing itself soil, air, sunlight, water, etc. Yet shamans find themselves in a natural environment which provides them with all of the natural resources they need to live their lives. Based on a strong desire to exist in alignment with the observed reciprocity and abundance of the natural ecosystem, the shaman seeks to become an indi vidual organism individuated into the greater organism: a cell on the one living body. This kind of experience of the world requires a strong conscious awareness of the kinds of organisms within a specific bioregion. An acorn, for example, cannot pro vide proper sustenance if the ways in which it can be used are not properly understood. If the acorn cannot provide proper sustenance, then it will not be properly appreciated as a life giving benefactor. The shaman, however, spends his life in nature, obs erving natural processes. He sees how squirrels and other animals eat the acorns, and understands that the acorn has something to offer. Using the shamanic inference of like attracts like (in this case "if squirrels are eating, there is perhaps a way that I can eat it.") he recognizes it as a potential food source. The shaman takes some time to observe/inspect the tree and its characteristics, as well as those of the acorn. He observes how the squirrels are protected from the cold winter months by the nouri shment of the acorns, and how the inner flesh of the acorn is likewise protected by a strong outer shell. The shaman is impressed by the "protective" characteristics of the acorn shell could there be a way to transfer some of those protective qualities, or 'powers', to oneself? Experimenting a bit, the shaman boils down the crushed shells of a bundle of acorns while preparing the flesh into ground meal. As it turns out, when boiled, water leeches the tannic acids
13 out of the acorn shells, creating a d isinfecting mouth rinse which coats and protects the gums. The more the shaman observes a plant, the more he learns about it. This is referred to as making the plant your 'spirit ally'; for the shaman is attempting to form an alliance with the spirit of th e plant based on the offer of a potentially mutually beneficial relationship; The plant benefits the shaman by providing subsistence, medicine, protection, etc., and the person benefits the plant by singing it songs, writing poetry and/or making ritual off erings. Some may consider that offerings of songs, poetry, and small material items such as food, perfume, flowers, incense, alcohol, and jewelry, either could not be good enough for spirit beings, or else are not relevant to them. What could a human being have that the Lord of Fire, for example, could possibly desire? Again, it is hard for the Western mind to conceptualize the shamanic experience of offerings because we do not have a very strong conception of the universe as comprised of spirit manifesting itself on different levels, or dimensions, of existence. These dimensions are not separate, but exist on a continuum rather like the spectrum of visible light. Spirit beings exist on a level of incarnation that precedes the material but is not beyond or outside of it. They are right here, right now, everywhere, they simply are not present to us at this level of existence the level of existence at which material form is made manifest. The shaman, relying on observation and experience in order to develop an awareness of appropriate function, observes that, as a material body, we have the capacity to experience material delights. This capacity is unique to our material dimensional plane, and this puts the human being in a unique bargaining position with the spirit world. Because the distinguishing feature of the material world is material delight, shamans see this as the end to which the spirits
14 created material existence. In other words, the spirits created the material world so that materi al enjoyment could be experienced, yet material enjoyment may only be enjoyed materially and so humans were formed by the spirits as spirit/material beings capable of ritually transferring some material enjoyment back to the spirit world in exchange for the gift of material life. Human beings hold the keys to material abundance, and the spirits are the doorways to spiritual wealth; the offerings serving as that which unlocks them and holds them open, allowing for the passage between worlds which the shama n regularly traverses in order to negotiate with the spirits, petitioning for the welfare of his people in the material universe. While the function of shamanic practice is basically universal (seeking on some level the alignment of oneself with natur al forces in order to achieve benefits), it takes several common forms. These include, but are not limited to, plant dieting, the interpretation of dreams and visions, shamanic journeying, perfume off erings. However, these are the most commonly practiced and widely known forms of shamanic ritual. Daily shamanic practice will often include a combination of some (or all) of the various forms; For example, a shaman may engage in a certain kind of plant di et with the aim of stimulating his dreams, in order to produce a vision, which he/she then interprets as the spirit of a plant instructing him/her in a kind of ceremony that must be performed, and the specific offerings which must be made in a ceremonial c ontext, in order for the shaman to achieve his/her desired goal. Plant dieting is one of the cornerstones of shamanic practice. Shamanism requires a working knowledge of the various properties of a very large variety of plant life. In order to develo p a closer relationship with the plant spirits, the shaman adheres to a mostly vegetarian diet, largely absent of salt, oil, and spices. This rather bland sounding diet endows the practitioner with a
15 greater awareness of the often subtle and complex smells and tastes of plants vital indicators of their characteristics and potential functions. Plant diet, often inclu ding periods of fasting, one is able to clear oneself of distracting sensations in order to focus on, and gain a greater degree of awareness of, plant spirit allies. The more one is ion of entheogens is often preceded by plant diets / fasting for this reason. From a shamanic perspective, plant dieting is one of the most direct, powerful, and intimate spirit ally/ies. Like a lover, the s haman ingests the plant seeking to merge with it and enter into a state of physical and spiritual communion. This communion is strengthened and reinforced by consistent adherence to the shamanic plant diet, and the newly forged relationship with the plant the information which reveals their various healing properties. Shamanic visions are either spontaneous or intentionally induced. The most common method of achieving a n on spontaneous shamanic vision (other than entheogens, which will be discussed in greater detail later) is the practice of shamanic journeying. Often, in order to travel to the spirit worlds for the purpose of gaining allies, the shaman will self induce a meditative, trance like state. This is usually achieved by way of drumming (the shaman either drums, dances, or listens to the drums), although there are various methods. The shaman does not enter into the trance like state without first developing a stron g intention to travel to a specific spirit world in order to meet a spirit guide. These can be plant spirits, but also animal or human, elemental (such as the spirit of Air, Water, Fire, etc.), or even otherworldly beings that defy easy characterization.
16 hut, envisioning oneself (typically with eyes closed) in the place where one is at the moment. and out the front door, moving towards a pre selected wilderness environment. As soon as the shaman envisions oneself as a dimension. In order to access th e spirit world of another dimension, the shaman simply envisions oneself climbing up a massive tree, through the canopy and out into a completely different dimens ion. To access a lower dimension, one may envision entering into the mouth of a cave. For purposes of detail and accuracy, shamans usually commit to memory the mental images of various landmarks, to be used later, during a journey, as an inter dimensional geographic directionality and, interestingly, does not carry any positive or negative spiritual connotations. Before ending the journey, t earthly dimension and into his/her material body. Failure to do so, it is believed, could result in a premature return, wherein one can become seriously disoriented, potentially leaving a portion of strong alliance with the aromatic plant spirits. Because fragrances, despite their qualities, are invisible and ephemeral parts of the unseen world, shamans regard them as spirit beings, able to luck, as well as tangible and practical b enefits:
17 Anthropological evidence shows that from around 7000 4000 B.C.E., our ancestors were combining olive and sesame oils with plants and flowers to make the first ointments. Some anthropologists speculate that early hunters, having covered their bodies with the scent of fragrant plants to mask their smell and attract game, noticed the healing properties of the plants they used and their curative effects on wounds sustained in hunting, and this is what led to the formulation of ointments and balms Others believe it was the women who first began to explore the effects of different fragrances as they met them in the plants they gathered and worked with. Which of these ss in the use of fragrance. ( Plant Spirit Shamanism, 134 ). The healing methodology of the shaman stems from her phenomenology of the universe as a whole. In general, shamans perceive the universe as comprised of energy which is intelligently ordered parallels with modern string theory: tromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity) describe. The existence of physical matter and physical effects (and of the universe itself) therefore depends on energy ( Plant Spirit Shamanism 175). Heaven and Charing argue that the intell igent ordering of this energy is built into the premise of string theory, string theory at all, for the very name of this branch of science comes from the f act that the operations of the universe, within this scientific model, are conceived as vibrations on the string of a vast musical instrument. And every instrument must be played by someone or something ( Plant Spirit Shamanism 175). The human body is similarly perceived by the shaman as a field of intelligently ordered energy. This field of energy is further subdivided into four bands of light, each comprising a different part of the Self. The body we are all basically aware of is our physical body ; beginning at the outer limit of the physical body and spanning out around 12 inches is the mental body. through connection with the spirit body that shamans are able to perform such feats as mind
18 reading, entering anot energy body, which takes the basic shape of an egg encircling the individual. equates with t he bioplasmic body discovered by Kirlian scientists in plants and human usage from the work of Carlos Castaneda. As a consequence, it has been somewhat dismissed by those who suspect Castaneda of fabricating his encounters with the Yaqui shaman, Don Juan who supposedly invented the term. But in fact, this vision of the energy body predates Castaneda by centuries. In the European Romani traditions, the soul was also described as egg like. In Haitian Voudou and Cuban Santeria, eggs represent the soul, and even the Catholic Church likens the soul A common description of shamans is that they are a combination of priest, doctor, the rapist, and social engineer. This description helps to shed light on the holistic methodology of the shaman. Shamans believe (in general) that a healthy person is one in which there is a balanced flow of energy through all energy bodies when this is the case, the body maintains a healthy state of natural homeostasis. Illnesses are conceived of as intrusive external energies. The from the physical body, is the fi rst to be affected by such outside forces. If the shaman can locate this spiritual point of entry before the illness has worked its way into the physical body, then physical symptoms may be avoided altogether. Those who are sensitive in these areas and co mprehend reality in this way may recognize a spiritual intrusion during such instances as walking into a room and having a bad feeling without knowing why, or meeting a new person on. According to this phenomenology, after entering the spirit body, the illness works its way into the emotional body, where it is usually felt (the emotional organs being the most sensitive), but it is not until reaching the mental body that any particu lar type of disorder can be identified. Finally, the illness works its way into the physical body, and becomes what we in the West recognize as a physical illness.
19 While Western medicine tends to focus primarily on treatment of the symptoms of physic al illness, the shamanic method attempts to dislodge the illness in what some would consider a more comprehensive way, working with different aspects (physical / emotional / social / nvasive illness / energy. Shamans tend to believe that without locating the illnesses point of origin, which is almost always spiritual, a complete cure is improbable. This focus on working with different energy bodies, or comprehending of the healthy Sel f as a balanced flow of energy, is not restricted to shamanism. The modern alternative health practice of Reiki often employs a palm healing body of the patient. In traditional Chinese culture as well, the term Chi is used to define the active, forming principle of any living thing, and is often translated as life force, or energy flow. force, shamans typically emp loy the aid of plants: Plants are energy, but they are also intelligence. Jeremy Narby makes a study of plant sentience in his book, Intelligence in Nature, and concludes that they are, in fact, not so different from us: ion to one another using signals such as charged calcium atoms. Our neurons do the same. Plant cells also have their own particular signals, which tend to be relatively large and complicated proteins and RNA transcripts. These molecules swim around the pl ant providing information from cell to cell. Individual plant cells also appear to have a capacity to Plant Spirit Shamanism 167). It is interesting that, differing from complexity of these molecules renders them capable of storing vast amounts of information, Plant Spirit Shamanism 167). Shamans regard plants as the essential healers and sustainers of life on this planet. Plants take in the energy of the sun, the earth, and water, and create air, that which is essential for life. They
20 also provide us with vital nutrition and medicine. Knowledge of and connection with the transformative energy which healing plants contain is a necessity for any effective shaman. Thus, plants are often the central f eature of initiation and purification rituals. Because of their energetic powers, in Candomble (a Brazilian form of Vodou), easily capable of absorption b y the skin. Every botanical crystallizes a particular virtue such as fertility, peace, vigor, protection, longevity, courage, happiness, good fortune, and glory, and may also drive away illness, negativity, misery, and noxious fluids ( Plant Spirit Shamanis m 169). The message of the shamanic phenomenology is that plants essentially are our allies, they want to heal and help us, and when used with the proper knowledge and intention, are more than capable of doing so. Whether our culture chooses to list en to the message of the plant shaman, and align itself with the healing energy of plants, or to continue down a path which is destructive to nature, I believe will have a large and lasting impact on the health of the human species, and of the planet as a whole. However, there is a growing movement of people who respect the shamanic perspective, and seek to incorporate the practices and beliefs of indigenous cultures back into the daily lives of individuals as a means of strengthening and growing as a speci es. Chapter 2 : Anarcho Primitivism Anarcho primitivists critique modern society on the basis that it is over domesticated. Th ey conceptualize the hunter/gatherer nomadic lifestyle as one characterized by an ecologically sustainable carbon footprint, and many also ascribe to that lifestyle a greater degree of freedom, in the sense of there being no hierarchical, authoritarian pow er relations. In this section I will compare multiple academic perspectives regarding indigenous life and anarcho primitivism, in
21 order to elaborate on the historical cultural roots of many of our notions regarding indigenous life. A tracing out of the ge believe, will help to reveal the limitations of such modes of thought. For example, it is helpful to remember that none of the Western philosophers who wrote theories on indigenous life, (Ho bbes and Rousseau, for example) were experts in that subject: they had very little to no first hand experience of indigenous life, and thus they may not be the people to turn to when one has questions regarding that lifestyle. An ecological current w ithin the anarcho primitivist critique of modern society holds that the over domestication of its 'civilized' inhabitants is a consequence which has developed from the experience of separation from nature. "For although Man himself is a part of nature, the re seems to be a great difference in style between that which is produced by nature, and that which is produced by man" (Alan Watts, A Conversation with Myself). The essential "stylistic" difference between naturally self organizing systems, such as a tre e, and a production of man, for example a "Stop" sign, is the dynamism with which only the former is imbued. Self organizing systems are dynamic, or "wiggly" as Alan Watts describes them. The constructions of man, on the other hand, are often endowed with the appearance of permanence and stability. The effects of being experientially embedded within each respective surrounding have longstanding consequences in regard to human health and functionality. Consider that being experientially embedded within the dynamism of a wilderness environment, the increased movement of the surrounding environment actually demands a greater degree of awareness and attention to detail; a greater degree of reflexive responsiveness to the changing dynamics of the experience (i.e the shifting wind, temperature, and degree of light; movements of plants and animals, etc.).
22 In contrast, within the domain of the domesticated man the house is very still. Not much is moving because not much in the environment is actually living. Things appear rather permanent and stable, and thus require less attention. For the modern person, awareness has consequentially declined. What are we less aware of? We are less aware of both ourselves and our surroundings our inherent connection to natu re, and thus our feeling of being alienated from each other and separate from nature. This experience often manifests itself within individuals as feelings of alienation, and within society as a projection of those feelings as a social construct or 'world reality'. Our institutions, technology, economic systems, etc., are consolidated, structural manifestations reflecting our inner experience of alienation, because we as a society subconsciously project these experiences out into the structures we create in the world. Two authors and researchers in the fields of political philosophy and cultural anthropology, Peter Wilson ( The Domestication of the Human Species ) and Elman Service ( Origins of Civilization and the State ) have produced significant contribu tions toward an understanding of the social, psychological, and political features of the evolution of domestication society. Both authors contend that the assumptions of Western social and political theorists such as Locke, Montesquieu, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx Engels, and going back to Plato and Aristotle, have been undermined significantly by relatively recent developments in the field of cultural anthropology. Service writes, uated the state, as a means of creating social order, with society itself all before was anarchy. Individual men, acting rationally, came together to create law and government. As modern anthropologists we know this cannot be true, for an ordered socie ty long antedated such institutions. It is the actions of groups of people social classes, economic systems, primitive tribes, or societies of one sort or another that must concern us, not the actions of discrete individuals. A good many of the classical G reek and Roman philosophers therefore might be dismissed out of hand Plato and Aristotle, for example (Service, 267).
23 Service emphasizes that society is the product of effective group action, which far predates the development of the institution of the S tate. However, aforementioned philosophers tend to equate the development of society with that of the State, privileging the notion of its conception via the rational actions of individual men. In his conclusions, Service effectively lays the groundwork fo r an analysis of the development of social organization sans universalizing statements itive reinforcements sometimes with some kinds of coercive, negative sanctions. The relative proportions of these in the political mixture have varied, depending on the internal stresses and strains especially as related to the size of the society so t hat we must conclude not that Rousseau was more correct than Hobbes, or vice versa, but that human nature, a constant, is to be freed or constrained in particular ways depending on factors that lie beyond the natural propensities of individuals (Service, 2 68). Wilson places particular emphasis on the correspondence between culture and perception as human invariables there is a relationship between the way in whi ch human societies will outwardly alter their environment (a cultural production) and the worldview or perspective, of that society. On the issue of human nature, Wilson offers two profound insights, the first setting the precedent for a phenomenology of d omestication: I do want to point out that all emotions and all instincts depend for their working on the senses. Emotions and instincts are usually aroused, and arousal is a sensual activity whereby the organism integrates with the environment, especially with other organisms. So, in a way, the senses are found a social theory (Wilson, 2). and its potentially inherent, unforeseen consequences: I refer to the adoption of the practice of living in permanent homes and settlements, a practice that probably began in southwest Asia about fifteen thousand years ago and either spread throughout the to take up the implication that what I shall call domestication can be conceived of as an
24 independent innovation and even that the domestication of plants and ani mals follows the domestication of human beings and is inspired by it (Wilson, 3). It is at this point that Wilson introduces the crux of his thesis: The two theses, that human evolution and conduct is as much a sensory matter as a matter of the instincts and that domestication is a significant evolutionary event, come together as follows. I maintain that attention, particularly visual attention, is of primary importance to the operation of the drives, instincts, emotions, feelings, and bodily processes of human beings and thence to the survival and well environment that is, domestication the ability of people to pay attention to each other in the governance of their interaction and in their dealings with the environment is drastically modified. Without people necessarily knowing what has happened, as long as they choose to live in houses behind walls, they are beset by, and have to cope with, problems of attention (Wilson, 4). Before th exploration of the concepts of outside and inside, and the entailing exploration of the concepts of develop feelings and sensations of isolation, from others as well as nature. The erection of permanent or semi permanent structures also enabled the development of agriculture, which requires a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Wilson sees the semi permanent structure as the first made buffer between individuals and between individuals and nature. I believe that Wilson has established the basis for a healthy re evaluation of the constituent factors of cultural evolution. Such a dialo gue could, Wilson writes, to concentrate more on the productive and economi c aspects of domestication and to have overlooked the more general cultural, social, and psychological aspects. By intimating that a permanent built environment has not always been a feature of human life and is to this day not a necessary feature in all h uman societies, the revolutionary significance of architecture has been made more apparent, not just in a technological sense but for human psychology and social behavior (Wilson,184).
25 A comprehensive critical assessment of the anarcho primitivist critiqu e merits further metaphyics, and psychology in regard to the domesticated world view. An analysis of these interrelationships will help in understanding the social psychology of a domesticated culture, formation of self organizing structures, offer plausible, effective social responses to the perceived faults and problems associ ated with a domesticated lifestyle. The anarcho eftist and anarchist circles. Its call for the destruction or the dismantling of civilization is about as extreme and comprehensive a solution to Smith asserts that, unlike other critiques such as Marxism and feminism, which criticize aspects of civilization, anarcho primitivism is more comprehensive in that it takes civilization itself as the object of criticism. Smith believes that the force of the primitivist critique of technology lies contractual man was unique for its time ( and still is) due to the pervasiveness of the positive valuation of progress via civilization/s. Smith sees anarcho primitivists as the modern considering the anarcho primitivist critique of technology to be an ethico transform everything in the name of i mprovement. Yet as Smith points out, it is becoming
26 increasingly difficult to persist in the belief that our way of life is qualitatively superior to our ancestors, and in the face of our knowledge of our own destructive impact on the planet, it becomes in creasingly difficult not to question the sanity of continuing with such a way of life. Smith believes that, in valuating primitive life, anarcho primitivists provide an effective alternative to the current cultural ethos: The innocence and purity of the s tate of nature its amorality provides a clear contrast to the immorality of the culture of contamination. This is always and everywhere the role of innocence, to stand as a mythic contrast to the corrupting influence of work, money, and realpolitik. Wi thout innocence (amorality) then morality itself becomes meaningless as anything other than compliance with social norms (pg. 7). regarding primitive life (that it is nave and arrogantly speculative), is equally applicable to primitivists. Smith is speculating that the movement is based on a conceptions. Because Smith believes that primitivists are articulating a neo the state of nature is such a state is a straightforward mundane reality rather than a meaningful mythic account of the Smith cont pri mystifying pretensions modernity too relies upon its own myths to justify its existence, myths that arbitrarily counter pose progress and innocence, culture and nature (p.12). Smith makes an important point in articulating that there seem to be two competing mythologies, but he is incorrect in pronouncing that the primary point of distinction is between Hobbes and Rousseau. Hobbes and Rousseau were both part of the same culture, and whether
27 their version of the mythological story of the history of civilization was different in detail, it was the same in associating indigenous cultures with an irretrievable past, a past which they had the modern anarcho primitivist perspective really be (as Smith end that Smith has fallen into a Eurocentric trap of arbitrarily counter posing two theories which, although different, operate under the same broader mythological framewor k, and taken them to represent opposite ends of the mythological spectrum. In the novel Ishmael author Daniel Quinn articulates the distinction between the mythologies his planet for around 3 million years; Hunting, scavenging, foraging, planting, and operating within a mythological framework which provided them with a purposeful sense of existence, as well as the experience of meaningful interconnectedness with all othe r forms of life on the earth. The paradox in Humankind to a still greater increase in pop cultural forefathers, Mesopotamian Caucasian agriculturalists, began killing off Semitic pastoralists in order to cultivate land for their increasing population. Although this confrontation wa s playing itself out on many continents at the time, the only well preserved written documentation that I am aware of comes from the area of the fertile crescent, in the writings of the Hebrew Old Testament, with the myths of genesis being passed down to t he Hebrews from their cultural ancestors, the Semites, who experienced confrontation with Taker culture firsthand
28 and worked this encounter into their mythological framework, as evidenced in the Genesis story of Cain and Able, in which Able makes an offeri ng of meat (symbolizing the pastoral lifestyle) which is acceptable to God, and Cain makes an offering of grain (symbolizing the agricultural life) which God rejects: rejected Cain and his offering. This explains it. With this story, the Semites were telling their children, incomprehensible. It only begins to make sense when you realize that it originated among the this re volution, their own ways of explaining how these people from the Fertile Crescent came to be the way they were, but only one of these tales survived the one told by the Semites to their children about the Fall of Adam and then slaughter of Abel by his br other Cain. It survived because the Takers never managed to overrun the Semites, and the Semites refused to take up the agricultural life. Even their eventual Taker descendants, the Hebrews, who preserved the story work up any enthusiasm for the peasant life style. And this is how it happened that, with the spread of Christianity and the Old Testament, the Takers came to adopt as their own a story an enemy once told to denounce them (p.176). When understood metaphori cally, the story of the Fall of Adam may also be seen as having initially been created by the enemies of the Taker agriculturalists: One of the clearest indications that these two stories were not authored by your cultural ancestors is the fact that agriculture is not portrayed as a desirable choice, freely made, but rather as a curse. It was literally inconceivable to the authors of these stories that anyone would prefer to live by the sweat of his brow. So the question they asked themselves was not, people commit to deserve such a punishment? What have they done to make the gods withhold from them the bounty that enables the rest of us to live a carefree l ife? (p. 178) There are a few simple ways to distinguish between a Taker culture and Leaver cultures. inhabit, whereas Taker cultures do not feel closely tied to place. Leavers usually trace the ancestry of their culture back thousands of years, whereas Taker cultures are characterized by technology) is rubbish and ignorance to be discarded.
29 In short, the mythology of taker culture is as such: the earth was made for man, and man was made to rule over it, to establish order out of the chaos. But man has an inherent flaw. He is flawed in that he is incapable of certain k nowledge in regard to how he ought to live his life. Being incapable of knowing how he ought to live, he goes about making all kinds of grievous errors and mistakes: destroying ecosystems, completely wiping out species of life that had stood the evolutiona ry test of time he may even destroy the whole earth, and himself in the process, but if that is what happens, then that is what was meant to be, because the earth was made for man to rule over, and man will either win the battle to conquer the earth and subdue nature completely, finely establishing himself as self appointed Arbiter of Creation, or die in the process of trying to realize this megalomaniacal mythological narrative. A common argument, place atop the evolutionary chain of creation, is that man is the only being which is truly self conscious, in that he is aware of being able to choose whether or not to live a life subject to the laws of nature. As for the Leavers, living a life subj ect to the laws of nature means trusting in the will of the gods. Leavers do not plant crops because they trust that the gods will provide for them: to creatures in genera l who live in the h man evolved into early man because he was out there competing with all the rest. Pre man evolved into enough of living in the hands of the gods. No more
30 so as to make creation successor to chi mpanzees, no successor to orangutans, no successor to gorillas no successor to anything alive now. The whole thing is going to come to an end with us. In order to make their story come true, the Takers have to put an end to creation itself doing a damned good job of it (p. 239). The Leaver mythology is the opposite of the Takers: rather than the earth belonging to man, it is man who belongs to the earth. Both mythologies acknowledge that man is an exceptional creature, whose role on th e planet is important. The primary difference is that Takers believe that man is the only creature to achieve consciousness, and as such he is the culmination of evolution, free to do with his home as he sees fit. According to the Leaver mythology, man is not the only creature to achieve consciousness, merely the first. He is the trailblazer: his role is to be the first to understand that it is possible to act against the laws of nature, and if life on earth survives, it will be because man has made a consc ious decision not to destroy it: man is to serve as the role model of consciousness for the rest of creation as they evolve into self awareness. Anarcho primitivists, who attempt to look back to the traditions of indigenous cultures, draw largely upo n the work of ecological anthropologists. Their critique of modern life stems not from a revamped idealization of nature and the noble savage, the romantic nostalgia of Enlightenment Era Euroamerican Taker culture, but from an introspective and comprehensi ve reconstruction of the remaining vestiges of the lifestyle and mythos of the Leavers. Chapter 3: An EarthSkills Gathering The stories of the anarcho primitivists are being enacted as well. In the past two decades, Europe and North America have seen a growing number of communes, homesteads, and gatherings which employ anarcho primitivist practices. Earth skills gatherings (referred to
31 enact their story in a visible and accessible way, providing a location and period of time for hundreds of Takers from different walks of life to assemble and to learn some of the stories and skills of the Leavers. This is done in an attempt to prepare us, for both the new way of life we must create and the new story we must begin to enact, if we want life on this planet to continue. What is the current status of the anarcho primitivist movement? Where are its growing edges, and what frustrations is it experiencing? In early February of 2012, I attended the Florida Earthskills Gathering, in order to gain a deeper understanding, of both the purpose/s and function/s of the event in general, and more specifically regarding its relationship with anarcho pri mitivist concepts and practices. As their website describes, the Florida Earthskills Gathering ly began on Thursday, Feb 2nd, and ended on Sunday night, although Instructors and work traders were allowed to set up camp one week prior to the event, and attendees were encouraged to set up camp on Feb 1st. The event was held on a privately owned acrea the grid 20 acre homestead that along with permaculture happenings works on ecological restoration Earthskills g atherings typically consist of hundreds of people loosely categorized as Organizers/Facilitators, Workers, Instructors, Work Traders, and Attendees. Organizers and Facilitators are referred to as such because they do the bulk of preparation work which make s the event possible, often beginning plans for a gathering close to a year before it occurs. Their tasks
32 include providing or acquiring initial funding for the gathering, as well as a location. They also are generally in charge of figuring out logistics a nd corresponding with workers and work traders, as well as advertising the event to the public. Organizers typically receive a share of the net profit of the event, if a net profit is earned. This is not always the case, and Organizers /Facilitators often face the risk of losing money in order to hold a gathering. Some gatherings have become large enough that they have enlisted a group of individuals who are paid to work at the gathering. This group is almost always incredibly small, generally consis ting of just one or two individuals who work as kitchen staff. The kitchen is a uniquely crucial element of the gathering, as it provides two to three meals a day for the majority of people in attendance, who otherwise would not have enough food to stay o n site for four days. Because the amount of work required of individuals working as kitchen staff greatly impairs their ability to participate in much of the daily recreational and educational aspects of the gathering, they are compensated monetarily for t heir work. At the Florida Earthskills Gathering, the price of food was calculated into the attendance fee of the gathering (which was done on a sliding scale between $100 200, with camping included). This fee goes to paying for food, as well as paying Wor kers and Instructors. Instructors, who provide the primary attraction of the gathering, are also (in general) compensated monetarily for their participation. However, there is an informal hierarchy of instructors, such that those who are more experi enced and have developed a favorable reputation are compensated monetarily, and those instructors who are relatively inexperienced operate on a work trade basis. Instructors facilitate workshops, providing those who attend the gathering with the opportunit y to learn a variety of skills. The workshops featured at the Florida Earthskills gathering included:
33 Palm weaving/ grass thatching, Knitting/netting/knotting cordage, Friction fire starting and cooking, Plant and Mushroom walks, Herbal medicine and medic ine making, Pine and bark baskets, Natural earth construction, Music making (hand drumming workshop and didgeridoo making), Hide tanning, Humanure compost 101, Food preservation and fermentation, Permaculture principles, Carving wooden utensils, Net makin g, Flintknapping, Miso making, Florida Earthskills Gathering (from website) Work Traders are able to attend the gatherings and participate in workshops i n exchange for helping to set up, working during some of the events, and helping to clean up after the gathering ends. Often, work traders are given the option of choosing between these different time periods (before, during, or after) to focus their work. At some gatherings, work traders who go above and beyond the required amount of work are sometimes rewarded monetarily, if a net profit is earned, although this is not a formal practice. Facilitators, Organizers, Workers, and Work Traders also receive foo d and meals in exchange for their participation in the gathering. Attendees (also known as Participants) are those who are paying the attendance fee in order to participate in the gathering. Having a fairly large number of attendees is often highly d esired by organizers and facilitators of gatherings, as their attendance fees primarily reimburses those who expended the largest amount of time, effort, and money to initiate the event. (Instructor, Work Trader, etc.) skills gatherings. For example, as mentioned earlier, in some instances Work Traders are able to informally transition into a paid worker status. Instructors constantly attend the workshops of other instructors, acting as participant students along with attendees. All who attend the
34 gathering, regardless of their title, are encouraged to hold informal workshops if they have a skill they wish where anyone can write down a time and location for a class they wish to facilitate. As such, the atmosphere is typically non hierarchal and informal; In the evenings t he majority of those in attendance gather in a large circle around a fire for stories, music, drink and dance, and to socialize. Because those who attend gatherings tend to share common interests and goals, in general those who attend gatherings consider t California and New Mexico up to New York, and there are many Instructors and Work Traders going from one gathering to the next for a period of time. As such, there is very tight knit community consisting of those individuals and groups who frequent earthskills The gathering commenced on the morning of February 2nd, with breakfast followed by an general outline of how the gathering would work. Topics discussed included th e locations and times that workshops would occur, how and where to sign up for workshops, permissible introduced themselves and provided a description of the work shops they would be offering. The routine activities of the gathering consisted of breakfast and dinner meals and two daily by the gathering included re creational evening activities ( fireside story telling, drum circles, contra dancing, etc.), a trade circle, and opening and closing circles (meetings which formally begin and end the gathering, respectively). I participated in a variety of workshops offer ed: How
35 to stay warm and dry when its cold and wet, How to make fire do what you want, Chi Qong, Capoeira (informal), Native Nutrition, and the Role of Entheogens in Plant Consciousness. The ability to participate in workshops is in many ways the pr imary attraction of a primitive/earth skills gathering, and plays an important role in the rewilding process. The more experience one has in a certain practice, the more information that person will potentially be able to take in and teach to others. In t raditional cultures, those who have had many years worth of experience living in close connection to nature, and have therefore accumulated a vast knowledge base in re gard to their bioregion, including successful patterns of inter species interaction, ar e considered elders, not due directly to their age, but rather to the accumulation of their knowledge base, which was made possible by the amount of time that was spent experiencing and observing nature. So although elders are typically older, not everyone who is older has become an elder. A wild, adult bird teaches its young how to fly, and thus how to fully be a bird, once the time has come. However, a domesticated bird (that has had its wings clipped) cannot teach its offspring how to fly, and so in a w ay, they may be impaired from becoming, in a sense, fully a bird. Just as a bird is distinguished in its capacity for feathered flight, so are humans distinguished in their ability to cultivate fire, build and play musical instruments, and to tell st ories. These distinctions do not set humans (or birds) apart from the rest of the living world, but embed them more fully within it. Species are characterized by their characteristic features. If a bird were to decide not to fly, it would be making a choic e to live contrary to a way of life developed by birds over millions of years, a way of life deeply embedded in the evolutionary success of what we this characteristic defines not just one group of humans, but, as with the bird, a way of life deeply embedded in the
36 evolutionary success of what we know as the species human. Just as a bird that has not learned nected to Just as wild animals teach their you ng how to live in the wild, elders teach their young how to live in nature. In our culture, not many individuals have spent much of their lives learning how to live in harmony with their bioregions, and so there are hardly any elders who can be sought out. However, many of the instructors at earth skills gatherings have spent a significant portion of anarcho primitivist culture, passing on the wisdom which on ly comes through experience, that will enable younger generations to take up the activities that nurture and distinguish the human species. Aside from headlamps and a few flashlights, there is not much electricity present at a gathering. During my fo ur day observation, I noticed that it was rare to encounter individuals using or carrying their cell phones. Of the individuals I spoke with, most had left them at home or in a vehicle in the parking area. My own phone ran out of batteries by the morning o f the first day, so I experienced the gathering as the majority of participants appeared to me to be experiencing it: without having, on hand, a wireless electronic link to the outside world. It appeared that majority of people did not bathe during t he four days of the gathering. This has a variety of effects on individuals: they become more aware of the smell of their own body, as well as the way others smell. On multiple occasions, I came across individuals who were
37 conversing about the interrelatio One of the prominent the mes of the gathering is a deep respect and appreciation for nature, and the combined elements of groups of people who share common interests coming together to wildern ess environment makes for an atmosphere similar to that of a music festival. Of the individuals I spoke with and observed, there was an overriding tone of enthusiasm and excitement about the gathering. Most were excited about the ability to learn new life skills, and to network and establish connections with other participants. Networking also provides a large incentive for attending gatherings. Aside from learning earth skills, many individuals who participate in gatherings belong to specific communit ies or information about similar, upcoming events, and link up with other homesteaders and travelers, ips, and food, as well as access to the earthskills community in general. There are a few environmental features of the gathering which I feel help contribute to the overall ethos, or atmosphere, of the gathering. The term biophilia refers to the ten dency of humans to desire interaction with living things. Some scholars have argued that, when in the presence of a something living (e.g. a flower), individuals tend to be calmer (lowered heart rate), more alert, and in a better mood. In short, individua ls are psychologically healthier when
38 embedded in a living environment. From a wholistic point of view, what is healthy for the Paul Shephard reaches similar conc lusions regarding the value of rewilding in his book Coming Home to the Pleistocene, in which he discusses (among other things) the development of the human genome, pointing out that the scavenging/foraging hunter/gatherer lifestyle is that out of which m odern humans have evolved; Not in the sense that we have outgrown this lifestyle, but that it was through interacting with the environment in such a fashion which allowed for homo erectus to become homo sapiens, and for homo sapiens to become homo sapiens sapiens. Shephard utilizes the concept of the genome to argue that humans are biologically adapted for living a Pleistocene lifestyle: The human genome came into existence along with social patterns and skills. And these were followed, over hundreds of th ousands of years, by different human cultures, each unique and yet appropriate to the human niche. In a broad sense there was a Pleistocene way of life that encompassed the many human primal cultures, all of which were consistent in certain ways and are sh ared even today among recent hunter/gatherers. We are free to create culture as we wish, but the prototype to which the genome is accustomed is Pleistocene society. As a culture we may choose or invent any language or set of gods we like. But that we must make up a language and choose gods is what it means to be human (p. 37 38). In arguing that humans are genetically inclined towards a Pleistocene life style, Shephard establishes a powerful biologically based imperative for the utilization of rewildi ng practices. It is literally good for you to climb trees, to run on soft terrain, or to scan over vast landscapes with your eyes, Shephard says, because your body has evolved to thrive in such situations. The same principle can be applied to dieting As one instructor emphasized during a person was pointing out that when we look at the practices of indigenous cultures, we find that there are certain practices that have allowed people to survive and evolve over millions of years.
39 These practices include scavenging, foraging, hunting, gathering, and other indigenous ski lls. If our culture manages to destroy the remaining vestiges of these lifestyles, it does so at the risk of disconnecting humanity from time tested, life sustaining practices and entering into a Brave New World of unknown dangers and foreseeable consequen ces. such practices any more that we can disconnect from our need to drink water. It is simply that the less water we drink, the less healthy we will be or, as Shephard phrases it, Human societies vary greatly in their structure, but the differences, however crucial they seem to us, are variations on the species theme whose human traits are Paleolithic. The health of a society is a measure of its freedom from s tress, individual suffering, psychopathology, tyranny, and ecological dysfunction as a result of straying from that basic ancestral form. The greater the degree to which a person or society conforms to our Paleolithic progenitors and their environmental co ntext the healthier he, they, and it will be (p. 40). primitivst movement; they provide the possibility for the strengthening and cultivation of community, resistance, and earthskills practic es through interaction and dialogue with others. The amount of effort taken to effectively to the public sphere and engage first time attendees has helped maintain a steady growth in the size scope, and attendance level of gatherings over the years. Chapter 4: Conclusion What is the current status of the anarcho primitivist movement? Where are its growing edges, and what frustrations is it experiencing? As the movement continues to expand and work collaboratively with other resistance cu ltures (D.I.Y, Anarchist, Queer, Green, etc.) there have been some tensions that have and will continue to arise, as different subcultures tend to give priority to different agendas. Subcultures can tend to privilege the pursuit of their own goals over th e goals of others in a way that fosters resentment or other disconcerting emotions. This
40 negativity, if left unaddressed and unalleviated, can also lead to less positive feelings about the gathering in general. In a similar vein, tensions and resentments c an develop between organizers and work traders. This can happen, for example, if it is felt that someone is not doing their/his fair share, or if someone feels that too much is being asked of them/him. Work traders, instructors, or participants may also de velop the sentiment that certain individuals have assumed more control over the event than they are entitled to. Because one of the goals of a gathering is to foster an open, loving community, it is important to consider possible methods for diminishing in ter group hostilities. Another important challenge faced by those attempting to spread the anarcho primitivist movement via earthskills gatherings is the task of making a lasting impression on individuals, or inspiring long term change. Learning how t but realizing that you should use a fire instead of a microwave (even when one is available), is equally important when the goal is instilling real daily change. As such, a discussion of possible practic es for helping to maintain the lifestyle changes initiated at gatherings would be beneficial for those seeking to effectively progress both the anarcho primitivist movement specifically, and the concepts and practices of rewilding in general. The prac tical frustrations posed by large scale primitive skills gatherings present interesting challenges and opportunities for the current anarcho primitivist movement. The frustrations include a lack of social cohesion, which has been catalyzed by an influx of alternative/resistance culture identified participants, as well as the temporality of the event its experiential isolation in time and space, which can serve to impair the inspiration of long term change. In searching for practical solutions to these c hallenges, I look back to the time tested practices of indigenous
41 cultures, seeking out potential healing practices, methods for revitalizing communities and for invoking life transforming individual change. Many indigenous societies have developed te chniques and practices for healing/restoring the community and resolving group tensions. Social cohesion is a crucial element of all aspects of hunter gatherer life: it maintains the group dynamic, a network which itself helps to secure the lives of each i ndividual member. For hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years, hunter gatherers have traveled in relatively small (approximately 10 60 people) communities. Forged out of this multi generational experience of living constantly in intimate connecti on with a small group of people, came the necessity of strategies for resolving inner group conflicts. As a holistic healing method, many of these strategies are inextricable from the spiritual phenomenology in which they have been formulated. While I was at the gathering discussing possible strategies for community healing and restoration with a small group, an instructor informed me about a certain practice of the indigenous Aloha culture of Hawaii which would occur at the end of each day. If there w as an individual in your community with whom you had experienced any kind of unpleasantness left cheek, and their left hand on their right shoulder, and ta ke turns saying (paraphrased) not seem like much to us, due to the fact that our world view does not emphasize the correspondence between the actions that occur in our waking consciousness and those which occur in our dreams. Many indigenous cultures, however, experience the world within a shamanic phenomenology in which
42 experiences forged from dreams and those of daily life. Individuals operating within this social ex Because the dream world is generally perceived as the realm of the spirits, dream experiences are typically accorded a degree of significance not familiar to our own culture. A separate instructor informed me of a certain Iroquois peace practice which was also utilized by the Kalahari Bushmen of Africa (independently conceived). If individuals are experiencing mply listens to their troubles and holds a calm space for them. Once the troubles have been expressed, the listener then encourages and reminds (as necessary) the individual to go address the one with whom the tension has occurred before the day has ended. The listener is thus responsible for initiating the process of resolution. Trance/possession is a practice common to many indigenous, shamanic cultures. In Haitian Voudou, individuals can become possessed spontaneously or, more commonly, during ritua l ceremonies. The purpose of the possession varies depending on the intention of the ritual: there continued survival of the community of life (land, sky, water, plants, and animals). Many rituals incorporate multiple themes, but every ritual for restoring community harmony is, at its core, a healing practice. in a Haitian immigrant community in New York. She describes in great detail many of the functional roles that spirit possession has within the community. Brown discusses a certain group
43 of older female spirits, known as the Ezili, who tend not to speak during possessions, typically communicating instead through facial expressions, individually directed silence, and gestures. Brown describes a particular ceremony in New York that she participated in, during which time an Ezili spirit possessed the godmother of a particular woman in attendance. Brown describes how this woman was well known within the community, and had in fact been the subject of gossip amongst the women for a few months. This was, Brown claims, due to the fact that her children were noticeab ly thinner than the rest of the children of the community. However, it is a kind of informal taboo within the community to directly reprimand another woman for her style of parenting. This unresolved group tension came to a head during the ritual ceremony: with the group forming a circle around her, she went up to the woman, and after staring at her in silence, began pointing back and forth from the thin, emaciated bellies of her own children to the healthier sized bellies of the other children. When the spirit left the body of the godmother, the godmother had no memory of the event. tual ended and the other women of the community approached her and began discussing cheap, nutritious recipes. This form of possession incorporates tactics of public shaming, a common community regulatory strategy. Functionally, spiritual possession is ab le to serve as a safeguard against the development of interpersonal hostilities or resentments (it was not the godmother One strategy distinctive of shamanic cultures is that of the shamanic journey; an i ndividual
44 outside of his/her own body, and guided by his/her in tentions, sets off with a certain goal/destination in mind. This strategy can be utilized by the participants of earthskills gatherings who felt particularly inspired at the gathering itself, but have had difficulty maintaining an enduring enthusiasm in pr acticing the lifestyle. Through visualization, individuals can journey back to a time place they have already experienced in order to re experience the emotions and sensations that being in that place had originally invoked. While at the gathering, fo r example, I took the time to go find an area that about 20 minutes, climbing it, smelling it, and trying to ingrain it and its surrounding environment in my m ind. Now, months later, if I wish to, I can sit and imagine traveling back to the spot: the look, smell and feel of the tree, and the happiness that I felt when I was there. Stimulating these memories and feelings helps to daily revive and revitalize a sen se of enthusiasm for practicing the skills and maintaining a lifestyle that is often met with social and institutional resistance. Before teaching us the actual postures and movements of Chi Qong, the instructor at the earthskills gathering took the t ime to actually explain what it meant and why it is important. This was because, he explained, intention affects actions. What he meant by this is that if you go through the movements of Chi Qong with the intention of harmonizing yourself with the divine h armony of nature, than/then you are open to the reception of that kind of experience. If you approach Chi Qong with the intention of physical fitness, then this is what you will experience you cannot experience the divine harmony if your intention is not for that to occur. The meaning, as well as its importance, is self created and self realized by each individual. One can
45 look for scientific studies that co realized, and how important such a realization seems. Similarly, the meaning and importance o f earthskills gatherings is being self created and self realized by each person who chooses to participate in, or even form an opinion on, what is occurring. From the perspective of global capitalist modernism, earthskills gatherings are a radical, trivial concept. Yet, when embedded in a shamanic phenomenology which experiences nature as ic alignment with the life and community sustaining traditions of our hunter gatherer ancestors. For this reason, I have advocated the exploration and utilization of shamanic healing practices within the anarcho primitivist movement, particularly at earthskills gatherings. These techniques could easily be introduced into gatherings via instructors and workshops, and to a certain extent this is already taking place. Instructors such as Tom Brown Jr., a renowned tracker, teacher, and author, and Ken Kr auss, who lectures on the role of entheogens in green consciousness, incorporate the philosophies of indigenous cultures into their workshops in order to provide a Tracke to just have good survival skills, but to strive for a more rounded combination of philosophy and skills. That is why each of my courses covers equally the three m ajor categories of survival: ( Grandfather Awakening Spirits ) which elaborate on the spirituality of indigenous life. Other
46 books which I believe are helping to tease o ut the connections between indigenous spirituality, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowle dge and Daniel For those who are interested in learning about indigenous spirituality in relation to the health of modern day humans and the earth, these books are a good starting point. I have suggested certain shamanic practices which I believe could easily be incorporated into earthskills gatherings for the purpose of healing and strengthening community and group bonds. Because earthskills gatherings are the central mechanism through which the culture o f the anarcho primitivist movement expands and coalesces, I believe that earthskills gatherings are the juncture at which shamanic practices will most easily be assimilated into the anarcho primitivist movement. Other facets of the movement (Do It Yourself conventions, Freeschools, etc.) which place less emphasis on the environment and living closely with the earth, are not as well suited for the introduction of shamanic perspectives in that regard, earthskills gatherings offer a uniquely appropriate venu e. Many practices within the anarcho primitivist movement are acknowledged as transitional; they are dependent on the existing system and will no longer be available if/when the system collapses. Such practices include dumpster diving and foraging roadkill The earthskills facet of the anarcho primitivist movement represents the hope for a a permanent solution to the problems of modern culture. Earthskills gatherings are therefore the most logical juncture for the introduction of the shamanic perspective, the necessity for the acquisition of primitive skills being the inevitable future of the AP movement. However, because the amount of people actively interested in the movement represents such a small portion of
47 Western society, it is critical to find ways of spreading and teaching shamanic phenomenological consciousness outside of the context of earthskills gatherings and the AP movement. The ingestion of entheoge ns is a practical way to aid in the practice of attaining a shamanic phenomenological consciousness (SPC). Entheogens can supplement a variety of diverse practices aimed at achieving transcendence, healing, and revelation, including: meditation, artistic e ndeavors, and psychedelic therapy. The meanings of the term entheogen were formally defined by Ruck et al.: In a strict sense, only those vision producing drugs that can be shown to have figured in shamanic or religious rites would be designated enthe ogens, but in a looser sense, the term could also be applied to other drugs, both natural and artificial, that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional entheogens (p. 53). For personal spiritu al development, entheogens are used as tools (or "plant teachers") to augment the mind. Their use in human cultures is prevalent throughout recorded history. Naturally occurring entheogens such as psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT (in th e preparation ayahuasca, a south american shamanic hallucinogen), were, for the most part, discovered and used by older cultures as part of their spiritual and religious life; they were seen as agents and respected, or in some cases revered for generations The use of entheogens is likely a tradition that predates all modern religions as a sort of proto religious rite. Although research has been substantially limited due to widespread drug prohibition, seminal studies such as the Marsh Chapel Experimen t have documented reports of spiritual experiences from participants who were administered psychoactive substances in controlled trials. Taken in a ritual context, with the supervision of an experienced curandera, entheogens are a powerful tool for awakeni ng SPC.
48 In attempting to spread awareness of the validity, necessity, and existence of a shamanic phenomenological consciousness, it is important to find pragmatic ways to transmit that message to large numbers of people. Almost every person in the US consumes some form of media via social media platforms. Ironically, a familiarity with these technologies and how to use them is A viral video is one that rapidly becomes popular thro ugh the process of internet sharing, typically via video sharing websites such as YouTube. As such, the visibility of these videos is derived from their popularity: the more people like the video, the more they share it with others, etc. These viral videos are circulated throughout a vast network of millions of internet users. It is conceivable that, if introduced properly into mainstream culture, SPC could disseminate at a principle of harm reduction, striving to teach others about responsible drug use, with video titles such as 0 subscribed, and well over 11,000,000 video views. based around t he ritual ingestion of entheogens (along with creating a complementary F acebook group page and/or Twitter account in order to be as accessible as possible), while uploading instructive videos which teach others about the properties and uses of various heal ing plants. Such collectives often produce annual or semi order to disseminate information and opinions to others.
49 A shamanic understanding of consciousness is still conceived of as radical in modern West ern society, in that it is not concurrent with the mainstream perspective. In order to have a radical mental health collective which successfully promotes a shamanic phenomenological understanding of consciousness, it is necessary for its members to famili arize themselves with the perennial practice and world view. A book which I have relied on heavily throughout this work, Plant Spirit Shamanism by Ross Heaven and Howard G. Charing, is immensely helpful in this regard, owing in part to its inclusion of ex tensive interviews with indigenous shamans or curanderos of South America. A combination reading of Plant Spirit Shamanism and Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpel's Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families will essentially equip one with the knowledge, tools, and techniques to begin working directly with plants (as well as consciousness) with the intention to cure illnesses. Once an affinity group / collective has been established, there are multitudes of ways for outreach, publicity, and growth to occur. Taking part in critical mass actions, such as the Occupy Wall Street protests, is crucial in drawing attention to the values of the collective, as well as tangible aims and goals, and the issues that surround them (i.e., ecological restoration, fluoride free wate r, etc.). At anti capitalist or environmentally minded protests, marches, rallies, film festivals, etc., handing out zines and setting up a literature table are two highly effective ways of raising awareness and interest in your group and the issues you ar e promoting. The feelings, emotions, intuitions, and beliefs embedded within SPC overlap and intersect with the sentiments and interests of religious and environmental, as well as other organizations. Owing to their tendency towards inclusion and inte gration liberal religious groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Church would be particularly receptive to listening to what such a perspective has to offer; many such groups already host spiritual leaders for guest lectures.
50 Anthropology, history, and environmental studies courses are also open on occasion to guest lecturers at certain institutions within the world of academia. These groups share common those mo st willing to engage in a discussion of the merits of that lifestyle. The value of having an 8 books) available cannot be over emphasized. I would recommend the in clusion of Plant Spirit Shamanism as well as Botany in a Day at any book stand, as well as the literature mentioned mail addresses, so keeping a registratio n sheet around where people can sign up and put down their contact information is also essential. Groups that would be interested in receiving such literature, or are open to collaboration, include: the Wildroots Earthskills Homestead (can be contacted at http://www.wildroots.org/techno.php) and the Anahata Bio Community (address and contact information is 811 Dobbins Farm Rd, Floyd VA 24091, (540/745 5811)), and Freeskool Asheville (firstname.lastname@example.org). For those who have been to primitive s kills gatherings and are in any way involved in their primitive skills instructors who are attempting to teach a shamanic phenomenological consciousness is a great wa y to expand and assimilate the AP movement into mainstream Western society. It is the responsibility of those hoping to spread SPC to others to seek out interesting, educational, and/or entertaining ways of engaging larger communities. Although throug hout this work I have advocated the dissemination of SPC as a viable alternative to the lifestyle implicitly promoted by modern society, my perspective is that it is a means to an end (a holistically happier, healthier life), and not the end itself. Animis m precedes
51 shamanism, the development of which correlates with the beginnings of agriculture. The shaman world of nature and the world of culture. Learning from a sh aman is equivalent to building that bridge in your own self and crossing it. As such, the role of the shaman is transitional he/she inspires others to return to that world from which they have buffered themselves off against with culture the living wor ld of the wild. Killing a deer with a bow and arrow can be a trivial or a sacred act; what that act means and how important it is depends on the story that your culture tells, and the story you tell yourself. By embracing and pragmatically appropriating th e spiritual phenomenologies of indigenous Leaver cultures, we are able to begin telling ourselves a story with a meaning and degree of importance proportionate to the task at hand: the story of our own rewilding, taken up in order to renew the world.
52 Works Cited A Conversation with Myself. Watts, Alan. 1971. Television. Carl A. P. Ruck; Jeremy Bigwood; Danny Staples; Jonathan Ott; R. Gordon Wasson (Jan Jun, 1979). "Entheogens". Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 11 (1 2): 145 146. Evernden, Neil. "Nature in Industrial Society." Environmental Ethics Divergence and Convergence. Eds. Susan J. Armstrong and Richard G. Botzler. 3rd ed.McGraw Hill, 2003. 191. Print. Heaven, Ross, and Howar d G. Charing. Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Destiny Books, 2006. Print. Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Bantam, 1995. Print. Service, Elman. The Origins of Civilization and the S tate. 1st ed. W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1975. Print. Shephard, Paul. Coming Home to the Pleistocene. 1st ed. Island Press, 2004. Print. Smith, M. "The State of Nature: The Political Philosophy of Primitivism and the Culture of Contamination." 1 1.4 (2002): 407 25. Print. Wilson, Peter J. The Domestication of the Human Species. Yale University Press, 1991. Print.