Guido Dalla Casa
E-book - Edit by Mario Spinetti
Spend half an hour a day thinking about the opposite of how your colleagues are thinking.
Like the winds and sunsets, wild life was considered safe until the so-called progress began to take it away. Now we are faced with the problem of whether an even higher "standard of life" is worth its frightening cost in all that is natural, free and wild.
Do you know the trees speak? Yes, they talk to each other and talk to you, if you listen to them. But white men do not listen. They never thought it would be worth listening to us Indians, and I fear they will not even listen to the other voices of Nature. I myself learned a lot from trees: sometimes something about time, sometimes something about animals, sometimes something about the Great Spirit.
A person should never walk so hard to leave such deep tracks that the wind can not erase them.
(from a teaching by the Piedineri Indians)
The most current idea that is evoked in public opinion when it comes to "green" or "green" action, is that this essentially consists in keeping watch to ensure that "natural progress of humanity" occurs without pollution and without modifying too much the environment, which is considered beautiful and therefore "to be saved". In essence, what is called environmental action is the "protection of the environment": do not pollute, keep the landscape clean, install filters and purifiers and store here and there some islands of nature where to go for recreational purposes, the "Parks".
The thought component mentioned above is quite present today in the public opinion and its maximum diffusion is certainly useful.
All this is not enough, because the ecological problem arises from the attitude of the dominant culture, from the basic thought of industrial civilization, from its collective unconscious. It is a philosophical problem, much more than a practical or technical problem. If the vision of the world is not profoundly modified, only transient results are obtained, effects of displacement over time, even if very useful, of insoluble problems.
In order to change a vision of the world, that is a culture, we usually require times of the order of a couple of centuries. But Mother Earth will not be saved without such an overturning, ie without the end of industrial civilization, which is the current expression of Western culture and the practical application of materialism. Instead, once the Western worldview has disappeared or changed profoundly, the ecological problem will no longer exist.
Human cultures with a vision of the world that involves an ecological way of living do not know what ecology is, and this confirms that what we breathe from birth appears obvious to us, which means that it does not appear to us at all.
Industrial civilization is itself a non-ecological culture; Furthermore:
- considers itself a destination longed for by all traditional civilizations, sees its own prejudices as the fruit of human nature and its own scale of values as a point of arrival for all of humanity;
- it destroys other cultures by engulfing them and imposing its own basic conceptions, that is, assimilating to itself every cultural variety;
- it is essentially the process that is devouring the Earth: only its end can solve the ecological drama.
Although the schematizations are always reductive, for the sole purpose of understanding more easily, I will adopt the distinction of the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, dividing the ecological thought into two categories:
- the surface ecology , which has as its purpose the reduction of pollution and the salvation of natural environments without affecting the vision of the world of Western culture;
- the profound ecology , in which the dominant philosophical conceptions of the West are radically changed: in this form of thought a metaphysical importance is given to Nature, overcoming the restrictive and misleading concept of "human environment". In a sense there is no longer any need for the concept of ecology, as happens in traditional civilizations.
One of the objections that is raised to deep ecology is that it would not involve concrete actions: it is good to underline again that cultural changes do not seem to be concrete just because they take place over long periods of time. But they are much deeper and more radical.
Probably the Copernican revolution and the evolutionist conception seemed very little "concrete" to the effects of practical life. Yet they have caused changes of attitude that are affected for centuries and from which derive whole series of discoveries-inventions too "real". Descartes certainly could not imagine what practical consequences the spread of his thought would have had after a few centuries.
There is always talk of the various types of "crisis" in which the current world is debated, but very rarely it shows that it is a single global and cultural crisis: it is our civilization that reveals its failure.
It is not possible to think of saving the world from ecological catastrophe without analyzing the concept of development and without remembering that this concept is the product of a single human culture at a given moment in its history : Nature is destroyed by the "demon of doing" that devours the West and its eagerness to "change the world".
The West, prey to the demons of having and doing, has forgotten living, knowing and being.
It is necessary to have the courage to forget "progress" and to retard economic growth, encouraged by the fact that this growth brings with it clear signs of profound social and psychological discomfort: the advancement of economic indices involves the reduction of "vital" indices "(Variety of species and ecosystems) and mental serenity (drugs, suicides, delinquency), even if these facts are not usually highlighted.
For all these reasons, even considering the actions proposed in practice from the surface ecology to be fully valid, in the following chapters I will propose some questions:
- Why was the ecological drama born in Western culture?
- Why do we consider Western civilization and its myths as "true"?
- What are development and well-being?
- Is the concept of progress universal and obvious?
- What position does our species have in the Universe?
- What do other human cultures think about it?
However I will try to highlight the troubles of the West just because it is the dominant culture and to highlight many ideas that are not talked about only because they are considered obvious. But I do not intend to show that the West is a culture "worse" than the others: it is a culture like the many others that appeared on Earth.
As a sign of hope, I will then go on to a quick examination of some thought tendencies born in the twentieth century, which resemble many underlying ideas of other cultures.
If a new paradigm (1) becomes the background of current thought, one would have the end of materialism and therefore of this civilization. We also keep alive the hope that cultural diversity will be saved.
Ultimately, since the destruction of natural balances is the work of industrial civilization and its tumultuous expansion, to achieve some global and permanent improvement in this field it is necessary:
- to undermine the conceptions that made it born;
- questioning his vision of the world.
Notes to chapter 1
(1) The term "paradigm" has been introduced in this sense by the contemporary philosopher Thomas Kuhn and means more or less "framework of thought in which facts and theories are inserted", or "set of rules or ways in which we see the world". The paradigm is the mental scheme through which all events are viewed and interpreted.
2 - SURFACE ECOLOGY
The West is a sinking ship, whose flaw is ignored by everyone. But everyone goes to great lengths to make the journey more comfortable.
Perpetual growth is the belief of the cancerous cell.
Industrial ideology is on the ropes. The ecological tragedy has defeated it.
We condense the history of the Earth four billion years in six days.
Our planet was born Monday at zero.
Life begins at midnight on Wednesday and evolves in all its beauty in the following three days.
On Saturday at 4:00 pm large reptiles appear extinct five hours later, at nine o'clock in the evening.
Man appears only on Saturday evening at midnight, less than three minutes.
The birth of Christ occurs a quarter of a second before midnight.
A fortieth of a second is missing when the industrial revolution begins.
Now it's Saturday night, midnight, and we're surrounded by people who believe that what they do for a fortieth of a second can last forever.
(free translation from David Brower, Le Nouvel Observateur)
The period of rapid growth of the population and industry prevailing in the last centuries, instead of being considered as a natural condition and capable of lasting indefinitely, will appear as one of the most abnormal phases in the history of humanity.
Adriano Buzzati Traverso
In this chapter I will briefly describe the type of "ecology" usually referred to and which is accepted by a still small but rapidly growing number of people. I will use for this purpose the language that is most frequently used by the media when dealing with the ecological problem.
According to this ecology, in which the distinction between "man" and "the environment" is maintained, the Earth must be kept clean and pleasant because it is "the only one we have", it is "our home", it is a planet done for us. It is necessary to "defend the environment" so that humanity can live better: the changes must be made "on a human scale".
In essence, the global conceptions of the West are never undermined, the dominant paradigm remains the same. Both the ecology born from the problem of the "limits of development". Both the one that tries to keep the environment "beautiful" and habitable the Earth do it above all for the wellbeing of man, whose central and particular position is not in the least shaken.
Even the idea of preserving the Earth in a good state for future generations gives value to Nature only as a function of our species: anthropocentrism is not questioned.
The limits of development
The kind of ecological thinking I will mention now was born in the early seventies with the publication of the famous report of the Club of Rome "The limits of development", a title in which the setting of the study is already evident: development must be stopped slowly because it has physical, objective limits. So we can not help but stop it: we must stop for the man, even if with great displeasure.
It does not affect any principle of the West, indeed the world is considered an extraordinarily complex mechanical system: the mechanistic conception is not in the least questioned. The push to global balance is a physical necessity, the Earth must be respected because otherwise it will not allow the life of man.
The relationship was set by simplifying the world system with five dimensions: natural resources, human population, food, pollution and industrial production. The types of interaction between these quantities on a world scale were then outlined and future trends were studied, extrapolating the trends that occurred since the beginning of the industrial era.
As known, the result of the study was that the system would collapse around the years 2020-2030, of course if the trends and interactions, ie the way of life , had not changed . Around 2030, when the five diagrams of the study "go crazy", the Earth will have intolerable levels of degradation: but this fact was not taken into account as a disaster "in itself".
To those who no longer care about that relationship because nothing has happened so far, even though the previous trend of the quantities in question has been continued, it is worth remembering that there is still a gap of thirty or forty years before something macroscopic should be noticed. On the contrary, the indexes examined are proceeding according to the output curves then from the computer.
The scientist Paul Ehrlich has proposed a parable in this regard which seems to me very informative. Suppose, writes Ehrlich, to find us to get on a plane and see that there is a person who is quietly snapping the rivets, which are a special kind of nails that hold the sheets of the wing together. Naturally, we are alarmed to cry out to the man to stop: but he replies to be calm because it is not the first time he does it (he sells them to a company) and nothing has ever happened; indeed he is about to leave on the same flight, there is nothing to worry about. Obviously, the man does not realize that he will come to remove the bolt that marks the maximum resistance threshold of the private wing of the bolts, and at that point the catastrophe will happen. The same thing happens for our planet: we continue with the greatest unconsciousness to eliminate one species after another, and apparently nothing happens in the global ecosystem. But at some point it will jump everything.
Recall also the comparison of Bateson with the frog boiled in a pot with cold water: if you slowly increase the water temperature, the poor frog will not be able to notice when it is time for her to jump out and end up boiled.
The relationship of the Club of Rome had basically three big advantages:
- to introduce the problem with a scientific-mathematical language, which is usually quite accepted by official circles, even if only as a method;
- to highlight the idea of exponential growth, that is to invite to meditation on what the phenomena that have a similar trend over time mean;
- to draw attention to the gravity of the demographic problem: if the current explosion of the world population does not stop, every other measure becomes useless; today humanity increases by one million individuals every four days .
In this regard it is good to remember that the most overpopulated area of the world - even if it does not grow any more - is Europe, with high density and with very high impact, given the unsustainable level of per capita consumption of its inhabitants.
I think it useful to recall with a couple of examples what the exponential trend means, which is the way of proceeding of industrial civilization.
The first example is an anecdote:
An Indian Maragià, to pay a debt of gratitude to one of his wise subjects, promised to satisfy his desire.
The sage asked for a certain quantity of wheat: what is obtained by putting a grain on the first square of the board, two grains on the second, then four, eight, sixteen, and so on doubling. The maragià was amazed by the modesty of that request and ordered that a chessboard and a sack of wheat be brought. The person in charge of depositing the beans soon became aware, already in the second row of boxes, that trouble was being prepared and that the bag would not have been enough, even if the first row had gone away with very modest quantities of wheat.
To have the total number of grains, it is enough to multiply two by itself sixty-four times; try and you'll have fun: with the calculator on the market you'll do very soon, but the number will be out soon from the digits viewer. The resulting number on the last box on the board has about twenty zeros and corresponds to the world wheat crop for two thousand years! According to the anecdote, the maragià was in the alternative of not keeping his word or cutting off the old wise man's head. (2)
Another classic example can better illustrate the type of rapidity over time of the phenomena that progress with the "doubling" trend, which is equivalent to increasing the already achieved value by a constant annual percentage.
Suppose that an exponentially growing microorganism with daily doubling "kills" the surface of a lake and takes sixty days to do it all out. If a group of experts, noting the multiplication of the microorganism, went to visit the lake on the 56th day, ie four days after the total death, would see only one sixteenth of the lake already "dead" and all the rest nice quiet: probably if it would only propose some mild corrective and hurl itself against the "alarmists" who considered urgent a remedy.
It is perhaps instructive to follow the trend of this phenomenon (the values are rounded):
If the microorganism has a surface of one square micron (3) and the total surface of the lake is one square Km, one has:
- initially the area covered by the microorganism is one square micron;
- after 20 days the microbe has infected a square millimeter of surface, ie after one third of the total time the phenomenon is not yet perceptible;
- after 40 days, ie two thirds of the total time, the surface covered is one square meter, that is, the phenomenon can only be detected with great difficulty; however no one would give importance to the thing;
- after 56 days, as we have said, a sixteenth of the total is covered, that is, the phenomenon is visible but for many "not yet worrying".
After four more days it's all over.
In light of this exponential trend of the phenomenon "industrial civilization", it seems perfectly logical that for a couple of centuries the true destructive nature of this civilization has not been noticed. In fact, its real effects on Life can not be highlighted if not a very short time before its end: returning to the example of the microorganism in the lake, who could actually notice a polluted square meter if it is spread over a square kilometer surface, ie a million times bigger? Yet at that moment the phenomenon has already "worked" for two thirds of the total time at its disposal.
So the persistence of the current model for two centuries, fact on which the idea of continuation of the ever-growing industrial civilization rests, is instead a further proof of its imminent end: as we have seen, the model can exist without manifesting its true nature for a time almost equal to that of its total existence.
It is useful, however, to remember that the approach to the ecological problem given by the "limits of development" has not been substantially challenged on the scientific level, it has only been ignored by the official world, unable to stop a push that has lasted for two or three centuries. because you can not change the way of life without changing philosophical thought.
At this point one wonders what sense has a cultural model that can not last indefinitely, that is, has in itself the certainty of its own end.
According to the growth priests, "something" will happen that will allow it to always grow. Except that you do not understand what it may be, one wonders why these economists do not immediately bring into the bank a thousand lire and leave it on an account at seven per cent of interest, since - for the exponential phenomenon mentioned above - after about five centuries the sum deposited will become a million billion lire that will make some direct descendant happy, not too far. The beauty is that - according to the same priests, who adore growth as a deity - if one hundred thousand people do the same operation, they all find their million billion after five centuries. Yet only a few more years, and the amount of money of those "bank accounts" exceeds the volume of a sphere that encompasses the entire solar system.
They can not notice this absurdity precisely because growth is considered untouchable, that is, a deity.
It is instructive to report the conclusion of the update of the famous Club of Rome report performed twenty years later:
We have repeated many times that the world is not facing a preordained future, but a choice. The alternative is between models. One states that this finite world has, for all practical purposes, no limits. Choosing this model will take us further beyond the limits and, we believe, to collapse.
Another model states that the limits are real and close, that there is not enough time, and that human beings can not be moderate, responsible or supportive. This model is such as to confirm itself: if the world chooses to believe it, it will make it look right, and again the result will be collapse.
A third model states that the limits are real and close, that there is exactly the time it takes but there is no time to waste. There are exactly the energy, the materials, the money, the environmental elasticity and the human virtue that are sufficient to complete the revolution towards a better world.
The latter model could be wrong. But all the testimonies we could consider, from world data to global computer models, indicate that it could be corrected. There is no way to make sure, if not by putting it to the test. (4)
It is however evident that the third model involves a profound and radical modification of the current values of Western culture, that is a very different life system.
The natural parks
One of the policies of surface ecology is to keep some natural areas of the planet isolated, saving them from the invasion of so-called progress. This practice, while not undermining the foundations that cause the ecological drama and sometimes leaving the suspicion that any kind of exploitation is allowed outside these areas, is in any case to be supported. In fact it is one of the concrete ways in a short time to save species and ecosystems otherwise destined to extinction: they will be able to recover in the suitable areas of the Planet when the dominant paradigms will be changed.
Often the publicity purpose for the Parks is rather anthropocentric, that is they would be created for the "enjoyment of man", but this is the only way - given the premises of the dominant culture - for such Parks to be accepted.
Let's take a few examples:
A swamp must be saved because it is the lungs in the floods, because it is rich in life and therefore provides us with a good sustenance (taking as long as it does not affect the balance of the ecosystem), because we can recreate it by seeing it, and so on.
The forest must be saved because it gives us oxygen, because we still have so many things to learn about it, because many species can one day give us new agricultural crops, for new medicines and for recreational and knowledge purposes.
Already the reasons to save large areas of desert appear less evident. However, some deserts are needed to study the species that have adapted and why this environment can serve as a gym for our daring, seen as a significant "sporting" value.
Ultimately the central and very special position of the "man" is not questioned.
The ethical question and the problem of "rights"
If we bring the problem into legal terms, in the surface ecology nature must be protected because it is "res communitatis" and it is not "res nullius". It remains however always "res", it is a matter of property, of common heritage , something to be safeguarded, but that can and must be used or enjoyed by someone or everyone. Man is always at the center, he is the reference of everything, living or non-living.
Ecosystems, animals, plants are not moral or legal subjects, but have value only in human function (owners, groups, communities, etc.): the animal or the ecosystem are evidently considered "unconscious" or " non-sentient ". It is not clear just how the border is established, or what is the characteristic that gives the title of "moral subject" or "subject of law". If it were any form of "intellect" or intelligent faculty - apart from the usual difficulty of establishing the "threshold quantity" - one would not understand exactly how precise rights are assigned (as subjects ) to a fistful of cells or to the impaired or severe brain injury, or people in a coma, as long as they are exclusively human .
The biblical and Cartesian derivation of these attitudes is evident: the distinction arises from a metaphysical prejudice, which will be discussed later.
The religious ethic of the West has reserved little attention to non-human beings, excluding them from any moral consideration, or simply humanitarian, and relegating them, as they have no soul, in the sphere of means at the service of man. The rise of the philosophy of technological scientism, which degrades everything to an object, has further worsened the collective attitude.
Instead there is nothing to prevent being a moral subject and endowed with rights not only to an animal, but also to a river, a mountain, a swamp.
Today, however, we know from ethology - but also from common sense - that at least the animals experience pleasure and pain and have preferential interests: in short, there are no significant differences between humans and other animals. Neurobiology studies also do not reveal qualitative differences between human and other animal structures. So there are no plausible reasons for excluding them from ethical considerations.
Moreover, since it is not possible to establish borders between animals and plants, or between individuals and the "surrounding environment" and in any case with the holistic and systemic view we will see, there is no reason to exclude any natural entity from being an ethical and juridical subject.
Also for surface ecology, let's start to see what "environmental ethics" means. It has been defined as the set of principles that regulate the relationship between man and the environment: principles that determine specific duties to man. By natural world we mean "the whole complex of the natural ecosystems of our planet, together with all the animal and vegetable populations that make up the biotic communities of the individual ecosystems". It is therefore clear that when talking about the protection of endangered species, it is also necessary to talk about the conservation of the environment in general; also because unfortunately the threatened species are not few, do not limit themselves to some exotic bird, some big carnivore or to animals with particularly valuable fur or to other sporadic cases of the kind. There is now talk of thousands of animal and plant species that have disappeared over the last few years, and tens of thousands in immediate danger of extinction. One arrives to hypothesize their disappearance in the immediate future at the rate of one per hour. It is difficult to quantify precisely, but it is clear that we are dealing with a phenomenon of dimensions such as to ultimately coincide with the disappearance of the natural world itself.
The illusion of the two systems
Our western world is almost always split in two in all fields, given its premises. Let us take a few examples, pointing to the substantial equality of attitude towards Nature of certain currents of thought that are believed to be "opposite", but actually hide the same basic conceptions.
Both the metaphysical believer-atheist dualism and the economic capitalism-collectivism are not relevant to the effects of the ecological problem. All parties say they "defend nature" and accuse the "opposite" pole of being the cause of evil. Until a few years ago, a slice of the West has flaunted the illusion that the ecological drama was due to profit, despite having materialism and progress even as absolute and metaphysical values.
To bring a practical example, the disastrous environmental situation of the former socialist countries is known: the drying up of Lake Aral and its dramatic consequences, the pollution of Lake Baikal, the crazy plans of planetary alteration programmed for the Siberian rivers.
Western culture holders in the West have exterminated the Amerindians, in the East they have destroyed all Asian and Arctic cultures. The West has shown the same face to the East and West, to Nature as well as to other human cultures.
It is not clear what difference implies - even on a theoretical level - the fact of pursuing "development" to obtain profit or to achieve the expected results in the five-year plan.
In both cases, the primary objective is economic expansion, which inevitably brings with it the destruction of nature. The problem arises from the foundations of industrial civilization and not from the details of the economic system.
For example, it is very simplistic to think that the destruction of the Amazon forest or the Siberian taiga is due to "the multinationals" or the Brazilian or Russian governments. The reality of the phenomena is that it is a continuation of the process by which the West devours the Earth and destroys traditional civilizations for some centuries.
We can not get by giving "blame" to someone.
The cause is the very concept of economic expansion, the pillar on which our current civilization rests.
Even the believer-atheist opposition has no substantial differences, as we will see more extensively in the following chapters.
Every ecologic movement that derives from Marxist, Catholic or Protestant conceptions falls within the category of surface ecology. These positions are daughters of the West, they give great value to man and "history" and have "progress" as their myth.
As a metaphysical background, these conceptions believe that the universal (that is, the "matter" or the "physical world") is a kind of clock that man, the only different being, can and must modify to his advantage.
The fact of believing that there is a Watchmaker (the God of the Old Testament) or that does not exist (materialism) causes differences that are not very relevant. With both positions one behaves towards Nature almost in the same way. On the one hand it is believed that the right-duty to change the world comes from God, on the other from a sort of "selective merit" that has made us, in essence, the only "spirit" holders; but the effects are practically the same.
Both positions are inspired by the philosophical conceptions of the seventeenth-century French thinker René Descartes, commonly known as Descartes, as well as the exasperated idea of man's dominion over Nature, typical of the English philosopher Bacon, just to give some examples .
In the imagination of the West, the Universe is a huge, complicated machine that can be dismantled, with the option of the Great Engineer.
Almost all the ecological movements existing today, being children of Western culture and its conception of the world, are inspired by the principles mentioned here: after all, if not, they would probably have a smaller numerical sequence.
This position is quite similar to the idea of an organism seen as the "environment" of nerve cells or of any organ considered as central (man): this organ, or group of cells, would have the right to modify the body, keeping it alive, to take advantage of it, that is, to achieve its balanced expansion and development.
Since surface ecology is part of the general thinking of the West, the idea that the logical aspiration of every individual and every community is "affirmation" or "success" is not questioned. Basically, everything can continue as before, installing filters and purifiers and saving some island of nature around the world.
From the surface ecology comes the illusion of "sustainable development", a term that sounds like "climb downhill" or "dry rain", having in itself a contradiction of terms.
The only clear conclusion but that is not said because it is intolerable to Western civilization (not wanting to change its premises) is that development is not sustainable, it is an impossible phenomenon on Earth, it is incompatible with the global biological system.
Cradling yourself in the illusion that we are about to discover the path of sustainable development can be dangerous. On the other hand, it is perfectly legitimate to speak of "sustainable society", meaning itself as a system in dynamic equilibrium, ie without any permanent material growth.
Finally, even this thought, of Amerindian origin, is part of the surface ecology:
When the last tree has been knocked down, the last poisoned river and the last fish caught, you will find that you can not eat the money deposited in your Banks. (5)
Some notes from the imaginary
If we read some fictional or cinematic anticipation, we notice a greater degree of anguish in the stories set in a world imagined as extrapolation of current trends compared to those in which the world has collapsed that has arrested the phenomena of today, and therefore finds itself in the "Day after" of a traumatic event.
In the former there are expanses of deserts instead of forests, the heat is suffocating, water is rare and hoarded by the rich, the species are few, there is resignation and there is "mandatory" consumption.
In the latter you can count on the rebirth of a changed world, there is at least hope. Life can recover, even if it takes a long time.
Even in the imagination, the optimists are those who foresee the end of industrial civilization, or a radical change of the paradigms of thought and therefore of the ways of living.
Finally, a note from the anthropologist:
Perhaps we must seek in nature, around us, the explanation of the destiny of the West and also the forebodings for our future.
The Lemmings are small rodents North Europe and Asia similar to our voles. In certain periods they leave the Scandinavian Alps in large groups, as guided by a mysterious flute player, and head towards the North Sea or the Gulf of Bothnia. Along this journey, which is their sense of history, they suffer the attacks of carnivores or predatory birds that destroy them by the thousands. In spite of everything, they continue on their way and, having reached their destination, they throw themselves into the sea and drown them.
The locusts also have a similar sense of history. Many species, including migratory locust , live in nature without committing damage: individuals are lonely and scattered. At a certain moment, for a reason still unknown, these species are swarming; the young grasshoppers that are born and grow in thick populations have different color and shape: they are larger and lighter in color, often of a beautiful green.
The naturalists have made it a different species: the gregarious locust . They gather in large groups and, when they are adults, they all fly together, forming the clouds of grasshoppers that Mediterranean farmers fear very much; they advance in huge leaps, in the same inexorable direction for many days. They can devastate every vegetation in a few hours, or fall on a steppe to rot in heaps in the sun or rush to clouds in the sea.
What could lemmings say if they could write the story of one of their migrations? "We are marching towards a happy tomorrow, our highly structured nation grows from hour to hour, and despite various attacks, we are progressing in the same direction, preserving our organization which, alone, allows the individual to march towards that progress that we already see , all blue, at the foot of the mountains ".
The locusts would sing a song of triumph: "We proceed forward. The universe will be able to nourish us for a century, since we are heading towards the "planetization" of our species ".
History makes sense for locusts, for lemmings and for Western civilization: it results in a collective suicide, before the "planetization" of a species. However, every individual sees in this last moment a march towards a better situation. The more the lemmings move away from the starting point, the naturalists say, the more excited they are; nothing can stop them; in front of an obstacle they hiss and grind their teeth for anger.
We too, far from our origins, deeply feel that nothing must hinder our march towards what we call Progress.
In fact, we men of the West do nothing but run towards the sea, towards death, in tight rows. With each war, the vortex in which we are gripped sinks more and more, increasing our material progress, diminishing our last spiritual values, annihilating humanity to the heart of man.
Pride makes us see in this fall the desired fulfillment of our earthly existence. Like the Prince of this World, the West attracts all humanity to itself, promising material goods and knowledge of techniques but chaining it forever, replacing every thought with eternal desire, to better drag it with it.
The scene of temptation is renewed every time the West meets a traditional civilization. Every time men become aware of their own nudity, of their own material underdevelopment. With their flanks bound with cotonine, they must work to the limit of their strength and, when the sweat of the forehead is no longer enough, they must give the balance of their soul and all the harmony of the world. Then the West drags a new damn into its fall, while the doors of a paradise, lost once more, are closed.
If the Western civilization disappeared, humanity would not be affected, since it has not been in solidarity with it for a long time: an empire will have ended up existing, adding to its ruins those of its own pride. Our monuments will be enigmas for the archaeologists of the future, because it will seem strange that men have made constructions for the sole purpose of massively amassing the materials, without trying to lock them, with the key of their thought, the numbers of the universe.
The peoples who will replace us will perhaps speak of divine punishment, without imagining that we have been the judges and the executioners of ourselves, writing each of the letters of our condemnation with the consequences of each of our acts. (6)
Notes to chapter 2
(2) -The reported anecdote is found, with some variant details, in many texts of mathematics and population dynamics (see those of P. and A. Ehrlich) as an informative example of exponential trend.
(3) thousandth of a millimeter
(4) D. and D. Meadows - Beyond the limits of development - Ed. Il Saggiatore, 1993.
(5) This expression of an Amerindian native was published in the magazine "Il Panda" of the Italian WWF and is also reported in a periodical "Verdi News".
(6) Jean Servier - Man and the Invisible - Ed. Rusconi, 1973
3 - DEEP ECOLOGY
The alleged lack of rights in animals, the illusion that our actions towards them are unimportant or there are no duties towards animals, is a revolting crudity and barbarity of the West.
If you can not even get in touch with your spirit, how can you hope to get in touch with the spirit of a tree?
In contrast to the Cartesian mechanistic conception of the world, the world view that emerges from modern physics can be characterized by words like organic, holistic and ecological. It could also be designated as a systemic vision, in the sense of the general theory of systems. The universe is no longer seen as a machine made up of a multitude of objects, but must be represented as an indivisible, dynamic whole, whose parts are essentially interconnected and can only be understood as structures of a cosmic process.
To relate all value judgments to humanity is a form of philosophically indefensible anthropocentrism.
This world is really a living being furnished with soul and intelligence ... a single visible living, containing all the other living beings, all of them by nature are congeners ...
God sleeps in the stone,
dream in the flower,
awakens in the animal,
he knows he is awake in the man.
In this chapter I will try, as far as possible, to get out of the general conceptions of our culture: I will therefore use verbal expressions a bit different from the current ones. We must not underestimate the subtle power of the word in transmitting and perpetuating concepts. (7)
However, this chapter is an extension of the previous one, with which it is not in contrast, because the reasons mentioned there remain valid. More will be added, which are framed in a different vision of the world, in which the ecological attitudes assume a metaphysical connotation, which goes far beyond simple considerations of utility, opportunity and aesthetics.
Foundations of deep ecology
In the thought setting of deep ecology, our species is not particularly privileged. Living beings and ecosystems, like all elements of the Cosmos, have a value in themselves. All of Nature has an intrinsic and unitary value, just as it has a value in itself every component, formed in a billions of years process. The human species is one of these components, one of the branches of the tree of Life.
So instead of talking about "environment" as if Nature were a stage for human actions, we will use expressions like "the Living Complex":
- "environmental impact" will become "alteration made to the Complex of the Living";
- the "environmental advocates" will become "people worried about the health, harmony and psycho-physical balance of the Complesso dei Viventi".
The natural world is not "the heritage of all", but it is much more: it is billions of years before our species. If one really wants to speak of belonging, it is humanity that belongs to Nature and not vice versa.
Instead of ambition, success, personal affirmation (or group or species), knowledge, mental serenity, ego attenuation and perception will be considered values: ultimately a sort of identification with the Universal Mind, of tune with the cosmic vital rhythm.
In this context, the western-biblical idea of the human position appears more or less like a curious delirium of greatness.
While in the ecology of the surface the Earth must be respected because it is of all present and future generations, in the deep ecology the human species is neither depositary nor owner of anything. This idea recalls Red Cloud's response to European invaders who wanted to buy the best part of Lakota and Oglala territory: "The earth is of the Great Spirit; you can not sell or buy ". It is a pity not to know the Amerindian languages, because probably the real meaning was "the earth is the Great Spirit". Naturally the whites occupied those lands with violence.
Even the idea of "progress" implies a certain cultural conception and a certain vision of history that are not shared by all of humanity. Much of human culture is experienced in Nature without worrying about progress and history. Even if nothing is static, everything is dynamic and fluctuating, this does not mean that the concepts of progress and regression are necessary: the improvement or the deterioration refer only to parameters and values of a particular model and have no universal meaning.
The concept of progress is an invention of the West to destroy other human cultures and remain the only culture of the planet: it only makes sense if we take as reference a particular scale of values, which is always relative and arbitrary.
The term "development" actually means the degree of overwhelming our species over other species and industrial civilization over other human cultures.
In contrast, there is no privileged model in deep ecology. The global balance and the variety and complexity of living species, ecosystems and cultures are values "in themselves". The terms "growth" and "decrease" are complementary, in dynamic equilibrium, without positive or negative connotations.
Consequently, the concepts of resources and waste are not necessary: they presuppose the idea that processes or modifications are carried out that take something fixed - the resources - and download something else - the waste, which means non-functioning. cyclical, incompatible with the equilibrium condition.
With these premises the so-called "production" is - ultimately - a waste production. The same term "civilization" is useless and dangerous, because it implies a merit judgment based on a particular scale of values, considered obvious.
In fact, "Civil" today means "conforming to the principles of the West" and nothing more. There is no reason to consider Western civilization as the best of the Yanomami, Papua, Eskimos, Dogon, or a thousand other cultures on Earth. In the same way in deep ecology it makes no sense to speak of "useful", "harmful" or "harmless" species, since anything in Nature has its justification in itself and in the Complex it belongs to. It does not have to serve someone or something.
Basically in the deep ecology the concept of "environment" is overcome to make room for the perception of being part of a much wider psychophysical Entity, that is of Nature, which manifests itself in the greatest variety and harmony, in the greatest dynamic balance of species ; it is a self-correcting system with Mind.
To use the words of Fritjof Capra:
The new vision of reality is an ecological vision in a sense that goes far beyond the immediate concerns of environmental protection. To underline this deeper meaning of ecology, philosophers and scientists have begun to make a distinction between "deep ecology" and "superficial environmentalism". While superficial environmentalism is interested in more efficient control and management of the natural environment for the benefit of "man", the movement of deep ecology recognizes that ecological balance requires profound changes in our perception of the role of beings human beings in the planetary ecosystem. In short, it will require a new philosophical and religious basis. (8)
Some aspects of the current crisis
In deep ecology it is not a question of "combining development and the environment" but of realizing that ecological drama originated in industrial civilization and invaded the world following the tumultuous expansion of this model. The myth of industrialization arose in Western culture only two or three centuries ago.
The problem is not only practical, but above all philosophical. In fact, just as an example, the fundamental practical discoveries to "start" the technology were already known in Chinese culture for several centuries. But in China they did not give birth to the process of industrialization, which was imported only in very recent times, returning from the West. Evidently the background of Chinese thought - largely inspired by the philosophies of Tao and Buddhism - could not direct those knowledge on the path then followed in Europe: the motivations were therefore essentially cultural. The official explanation that the Europeans were "ahead" is just a turn of words. Even the Indian culture three thousand years ago had probably more refined concepts than the European one in the fifteenth century: in India at that time there was certainly no lack of ability to make certain discoveries, but there was the precise perception that it was impossible and inappropriate to follow a certain path.
In fact, with the conception of a world made up of complementary and equivalent polarities (Taoism) or of a world devoid of any individual or collective "ego" (Buddhism) it would have made no sense to "dominate" something, as we will see in Chapter 6.
On the other hand, the inspirational foundation of Western or Jewish-Christian culture is the Old Testament, and here one of the causes of our attitude towards Nature must be sought. We'll talk about it in the next chapter.
But there have been other successive evolutions, above all the extension in the general thought of the philosophy of Descartes and of Newton's physics, precisely in the centuries that immediately preceded the birth of industrial civilization.
In the fifth chapter we will mention the influence of these ideas which, grafted on the conceptions of the Old Testament, have provoked the current massive aggression against Nature, but they are consolidated ideas and concretized in the nineteenth century and not really modern: c 'there is always a remarkable inertia between the nascent thought and the mass conceptions, those that determine the collective orientation and action.
All our "nineteenth century" culture of today is permeated by the antithesis, by the contrast with nature: life is seen as "struggle against the forces of nature". In other philosophies this would mean "struggle against the organism to which we belong", which is meaningless and causes neurosis and conflict. Not for nothing where the environment is more degraded there is also more human crisis, with high rates of crime, psychopathies, suicides. The division between "man" and "the environment" is artificial and fictitious.
If the cancer cells could express themselves, they would probably have an idea of "development" very similar to that of industrial civilization, which invades, making them uniform, the other species and other human cultures, with a similar trend to that of tumors that progress to expenses of the other cells of the organism, whose behavior is based not on permanent growth, but on dynamic equilibrium.
There are many examples of petty life that highlight the collective unconscious of the current industrial civilization.
Many people, if they move away from the cities, are especially concerned with things such as vipers and landslides, but they are quietly put on the highway. We do not need too many statistics to realize that the car is thousands of times more dangerous than any natural event: not enough sixty thousand deaths per year and one million injured in road accidents, only in Europe, to perceive this fact.
How many would enter the Amazon forest? Yet it is clear that it is much more dangerous to go through some neighborhood of New York or Sao Paulo at night. Our unconscious conceptions, that is cultural, push us to fear natural events much more than those due to machines or our like, against any numerical evidence.
This is a technological, non-scientific civilization: the desire to know, but to manipulate, does not prevail.
Moreover, everything that touches the foundations of our culture can not even be studied: it is simply denied or set aside and left without investigation of any kind. For example, any study on the possibility of "reincarnation" or "rebirth", or anyway on psychic phenomena in the vicinity of death, or on interference or spirit-matter identity is in fact rejected a priori by the official world.
The so-called "movements for life" consider it obvious to be concerned only with human life, but they are not concerned at all with the torture inflicted on many forms of life and the state of health of the Complex of the Living.
In our culture happen the most hallucinatory genetic manipulations on all living species, with the creation of hybrids and strange beings: very few worry about it. Instead, at the only distant hint of giving birth to a chimpanzee-man (apart from its impossibility), there was the disdainful revolt of official scientists. Any manipulation of that kind is an absurdity. But at least the chimpanzee-man, if left free in some surviving forest or savannah of this poor planet, would have reminded us that we are of the same, identical nature of other living beings.
The basics of Western culture on this subject are extremely fragile. Beings such as the Australopithecus or the Homo erectus have become extinct for a few hundred thousand years, an insignificant time in the overall scale of Life. The fact that these hominids are extinct is completely contingent. If they were alive, our culture, depending on the opinion of some institution, would take one of the following attitudes:
- consider hunting these beings as a sport;
- close the hominids in the cages of the zoos;
- restore slavery;
- consider the killing of a hominid as a voluntary homicide punishable by life imprisonment.
It is perhaps because of this that there is always a subtle "fear" of finding some Yeti alive on the slopes of the Himalayas. All to continue to oppose "man" to "animal": so we lose sight of the spirituality of life.
But even if we limit ourselves to the species now living, we can see that: the more our knowledge about primate behavior increases, the more the differences between human and non-human primates diminish. For example, the difference in genetic information between our species and the chimpanzee is one or two percent.
From an expert's article:
Our closest relatives are chimpanzees. The genetic difference is only about one percent. We are more closely similar to chimpanzees than two frogs are likely to meet each other. ( 9 )
In other words, the Judeo-Christian culture has not yet managed to conceive an ethics of life and remains anchored to a morality that is exclusively concerned with the human species.
The idea of man, in the thought of the West, is constructed in opposition to the idea of an animal: humanity and animality appear as antithetical terms, both in the biblical conception and in the scientific idea of Baconian derivation. But this is a largely mythical and scientifically unsustainable contrast.
Ethics and law in deep ecology
The studies of an ethic not only limited to our species and a jurisprudence that does not see humans as the only subjects of law have just been born in recent years, apart from isolated exceptions of precursors.
Among these we can certainly remember Aldo Leopold who, in his A Sand County Almanac stated that "one thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity and beauty of the biotic community as a whole (by biotic community we mean the complex of all beings living and their habitat). One thing is wrong when it shows the opposite tendency ". Leopold's concept is holistic , since Nature is understood as a whole, having its own life and value.
If we feel that we use terms such as soul , dignity , rights , and moral domains for elements of Nature , we must not think that we are speaking in an analogical or poetic sense, or that we are dealing with daring combinations. As well as more respect, we could have a more complete spiritual enrichment in Nature.
"The spirit of the tree, of the mountain, of the river" are not hazardous analogies, but reflect the soul of the world, which was well recognized by those human cultures that spent most of their time on magic and the sacred.
Furthermore, by comparison with the concepts of surface ecology, we recall that respecting the natural non-human only to the extent that it is similar to us is a very poor conception of respect, which should instead be based on a philosophy that recognizes the rights of non-human as entities that are worthy of it.
Even respecting the Amazon forest because "belongs to the Indians" is already a concept of surface ecology and is very simplistic, because it reiterates that - for the West - Nature is worth something as it belongs to someone. Probably the statement would rather amaze local native cultures, for which it is clear that they are "to belong" to the forest, as a larger whole. The forest must exist intact because it has an ethical right, as it has a value in itself.
The famous response of the Indian chief Seattle to the President of the United States (1854)
How can you buy or sell the sky?
the heat of the earth?
The idea for us is strange.
If we do not have the freshness of the air,
the glitter of water,
how can we buy them?
Every part of this land is sacred to my people.
Each pine needle that shines, every sandy beach,
every vapor in the dark forests,
every insect clearing and buzzing
it is sacred in the memory and in the experience of my people.
The sap that flows through the trees
brings the memories of men ...
We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
Our fragrant flowers are our sisters;
the deer, the horse, the big eagle,
these are our brothers.
The rocky peaks, the sap of the meadows,
the warm body of the horse, and the man:
everything belongs to the same family ...
The rivers are our brothers, and they quench our thirst.
The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children.
If we were to sell our land,
you should remember and teach your children
that the rivers are our brothers, and yours;
and you should from now on give the rivers kindness
that you should give to every brother ...
there is no peaceful place in the cities of the white man.
There is no place
to hear the unfolding of the leaves in spring,
or the rustling of an insect's wings.
But maybe there is, because I am a savage and I do not understand.
Only the noise seems an insult to hearing.
And what it is to live
if a man can not hear the whimper of a caprimulgo
or the conversations of frogs around a pond at night?
I am an Indian and I do not understand.
The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind
that vibrates on the surface of the pond,
and the smell of the wind, clean from a midday rain,
or perfumed by the smell of pine.
The air is precious for the Indian,
for all things have the same breath;
the animal, the tree, the man,
share the same breath together.
The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes.
Like a dying man,
for many days, it is insensitive to the stench.
But if we were to sell our land,
you should remember that the air is precious to us,
that the air shares its spirit with every life it supports.
The wind that was given to our grandfather at his first breath
he also welcomed his last breath.
And if we sold our land,
you should keep it apart in a sacred place,
as a place where even the white man can go
to feel the wind softened by the flowers of the meadow.
Under these conditions we will consider your offer
to buy our land.
If we decide to accept, I would put a condition:
that the white man must treat the animals of this land
like his brothers ...
What is the man without the animals?
If all the animals went away,
man would die for the great solitude of the spirit.
Because anything happens to animals,
it soon happens to man.
All things are connected.
You could teach your children
That the earth beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandparents.
For them to respect the earth,
tell your children
that the earth is rich in the lives of our friends.
Teach your children
what we have taught our own,
that the earth is our mother.
Whatever happens to the earth, it happens to the children of the earth.
If men spit on the earth, they spit on themselves.
We know this: the earth does not belong to man;
man belongs to the earth.
This we know.
All things are connected
like the blood that unites a family.
All things are connected.
Whatever happens to the earth, it happens to the children of the earth.
Man has not woven the fabric of life:
he is simply a thread of it.
Whatever he does to the fabric, he does it to himself ...
We can be brothers, after all. We'll see.
There is one thing we know,
and that the white man will one day discover:
our God is the same.
You can think now that your "He" like you
you wish to own our land; but it is not possible.
He is the God of man and His compassion is the same
both for the redskin and for the white man.
This land is precious to him,
and to damage the earth is to despise its Creator.
Even the white man will pass.
But in your descent you will shine brightly,
inflamed by the power of God who brought you to this earth
and for some special purpose
he has given you dominion over this earth and over the red man.
This destiny is a mystery to us,
because we do not understand when the buffaloes
they are completely slaughtered,
wild horses are domesticated,
the secret corners of the forest are burdened
with the smell of many men
and the view of the hills in bloom
ruined by the wires of the telegraph.
Where is the grove? He has gone.
Where's the eagle? She's gone.
The end of life is the beginning of survival. ( 10 )
To recall the difference between surface ecology and deep ecology we take up, for example, the problem of forests:
- the surface ecology wants to save the forests because without them humanity can not live and the Earth's atmosphere remains altered;
- the deep ecology wants to save the forests, as well as for the previous reason, because they are sacred , they are a mind : the forest is above all a spiritual entity.
Some Amazonian cultures had the cosmic tree, around which the universe was organized, both physical and metaphysical.
Today, westernized humanity is increasingly closed in itself: anthropocentrism can no longer see, outside man, other than objects. Once upon a time, nature had a meaning that everyone perceived in his intimate, in his unconscious. Lost this perception, man destroys nature and thereby condemns himself.
Naturally, deep ecology thoughts are also produced in our culture, such as those written by the incomparable Ceronetti pen:
There are heroes, heroes will continue to be there, someone who goes to cover himself with sores to pour sand on the Chernobyl reactor, or the impressive Gulf firefighters who in a year managed to turn off the wells thrown by Saddam to the attack of biosphere, or the Chico Mendès killed by the branches of condemned forests that turn into killer guns, or those of Greenpeace that defy radiation, hatred and beatings to document the environmental crimes of the governments: but all these heroes are children of disasters, their number will increase only in proportion to disasters, a heroic vocation calls only from pain and fire ...
The others are authors or accomplices of the disasters, we are a few billion on this scale, and we have all left to do, indeed we are still somehow all active earth-mother exterminators, Cybele's deicides, even if we gobble up consumption that are nails planted in the flesh of life ... It is enough to hint at reducing them because they are frightened by panic: Bags with a heart attack, mad crowds, the empty wall of blind protests.
... The ethical and mental devastations produced by dollars-machines-medicine in the obscure human substantia , are much more to consider than any stagnation of an economy that carries in itself, in its fatal idolatry of percentage and expansion, the whole genius , virgin, of destruction. ( 11 )
However, we remember that deep ecology - as a philosophy of life - was not born in the Seventies from the ideas of Arne Naess or some minority movement of today: three thousand years in India, and even longer in many animist cultures, ideas that were different from those that shaped Western civilization had spread through the collective mind, as demonstrated by these ancient Indian texts: "Every soul must be respected and soul means every order, every vitality that the substance can take: the wind is a soul that imprints itself in the air, the river a soul that takes the water, the torch a soul in the fire, all this must not be disturbed ". In one of the sutras one praises those who do not hurt the wind because they show they know the pain of living things and it is added that to harm the earth is like striking and mutilating a living being.
Even in our classical world there have been rumors in this sense, like Pythagoras, but the mainstream of the West has led to the current anthropocentric and materialistic mentality, has brought today's industrial civilization, and with it pollution, deforestation , the population explosion, undernourishment, drug addiction and crime.
Our society is unable, for numerous reasons, to solve these problems.
The first reason depends on our fragmented knowledge in water-based disciplines and compartments and the reductionist methodology of official science, both factors that contribute to making us see our problems isolated from each other.
Another reason is to consider problems in light of the very brief experience of our industrial civilization, a small fraction of the overall human experience on our planet.
But perhaps the main reason is that we should face the unacceptable conclusion that our problems are inevitable concomitant factors of what we are accustomed to call "progress", and that therefore can only be resolved by reversing this type of development: "putting progress on opposition".
Therefore, our political-economic system must be transformed and, in order to apply real solutions, it is then necessary to identify the main characteristics of the traditional societies of the past which proved capable, for thousands of years, of avoiding the terrible problems that now we are facing.
Postulating an ideal society for which there are no precedents in human experience, as many of our political theorists have done, is very similar to postulating an alternative biology without reference to the biological structures of the kind that have so far proved to be vital.
We do not want to sterile try to repeat the past, but to identify the indispensable characteristics of stable societies able to solve current problems we must draw inspiration from the traditional societies of the past.
From a living being far from us
When a bee finds a source of nectar, it returns to the beehive and communicates its discovery to the other bees by explaining where the food source is located, through the so-called "dance", ie forming a figure composed of a circle in flight. its diameter. In this dance:
- the angle formed by the diameter traveled with the direction of the sun is a function of the direction of the flowers;
- the value of the radius of the circumference is proportional to the distance of the flowers.
In other words, the bee gives its companions the position of the flowers in polar coordinates. After this communication, the other bees are able, on their own, to easily find the flowers and therefore the nectar.
Any consideration on the meaning of this fact remains open: that is, if bees are able to "measure" distances and angles, also in relation to our concept of measurement. Probably this observation, given also its geometric aspects, would have made Pythagoras happy.
But perhaps we could understand something more if we had a systemic concept of the mind, as we will mention in chapter 7 reporting some thoughts of Bateson.
Notes to Chapter 3
(7) We will avoid the expression "man" to indicate the human species in general, because the same word is also used to indicate the male. There are infinite ways in which the will unconsciously insinuates the will to exclude the woman from that total parity of participation and activity that should be obvious to any thinking being.
(8) Fritjof Capra - The turning point - Ed. Feltrinelli, 1984.
(9) From an answer by Dr. Milford Wolpoff reported in the article The Search for Modern Humans by J. Putman - National Geographic , October 1988.
(10) This is the speech given by the Indian Chief Seath, better known as Chief Seattle, during the tribal assembly of 1854, in preparation of treaties between the federal government and the Indian tribes of Oregon and the state of Washington, where federal authorities promised a reserve, revenues and services in exchange for land transfers. Chief Seattle always spoke in his native Duvamish language, and Dr. Smith, who took note of his speech, insisted very much that his English was inadequate to render the beauty of Seattle's thought and imagination in translation. In fact, every language is able to fully express only the vision of the world of culture that produced it.
The Seattle speech is reported in many publications about ecology or native populations. This translation has been published in the periodical Paramita n. 42, April-June 1992, with the title This land is sacred .
(11) Guido Ceronetti - Clinton, so you will not save the Terra Madre , published in the Corriere della Sera of November 23, 1992.
4 - THE MYTH OF ORIGINS
When we Indians kill, the meat we eat it all. When we extract the roots we make small holes: when we build houses we make small holes in the ground. We do not cut down trees: we only use already dead wood. But this other race of man is plowing the land, cutting down the trees, killing all the animals. The tree says, "Do not do it. You hurt me. Do not hurt me". But the white man breaks it down and cuts it into pieces. How can the Spirit of the Earth love this man? Wherever he touched, the Earth was hurt.
A Wintu Indian
Your Voice I hear in the winds. Your Breath is life in all things. Listen to me! I am a tiny and weak creature. I need your strength and your wisdom. Let me walk in beauty. Allow me to observe, to the end, the purple red of the sunset.
Make me wise, so that I can fully understand the teachings you have left to my people.
Give me the humility necessary to learn the messages you have entrusted to the winds, the leaves, the rocks.
Let me always be ready, at any moment, to reach you with clean hands and eyes that do not look down.
When my life, like the light of sunset, vanishes, let my spirit fly towards You without shadows or shame.
The white man thinks that the trees, the river, the animals are all "things" without a soul, which he can dispose of. We Indians, on the other hand, think that they have a soul, a spiritual life that is full of meaning. This is the difference.
An old Lakota
About five thousand different cultures have existed on Earth: one of these is the West, that is ours.
Almost all cultures have a mythical account of their origins, which usually deeply influence their behavior: each culture keeps its own myth alive and "puts it into practice".
Some human cultures are ethnocentric, that is, they consider as "people of men" only those who live according to their own scheme. The West is one of these and also claims to be universal.
I will speak of "cultures" and "visions of the world", not of religions, trying to avoid opinions on the religious dimension, even if culture and religion are fields that can not be separated.
The myth of the origins often serves to give "reality" to the daily actions and rituals of a culture. For a conception that is often found in traditional civilizations, an act becomes real only to the extent that it imitates or repeats an archetype, that is, reality is acquired by virtue of repetition and participation. To the extent that an act acquires reality through the repetition of symbolic gestures, there is the abolition of what we call "history"; who reproduces the exemplary gesture is transported in the mythical epoch of revelation: here the person is truly himself, in the moment of rituals, in "being". The rest of life flows in profane time, in "becoming".
However, the attitude of the various cultures towards the rest of Nature, that is, of other species and ecosystems, depends largely on their vision of the world, or their metaphysical conceptions, often inspired by the myth of the origins.
But let's see some examples, drawn here and there from different continents.
I Dogon (Africa)
The Dogon are a population lived with their own culture until a few decades ago, in West Africa south of the Sahara (now Mali), around the cliffs of Bandiagara.
They took refuge a few centuries ago on that rocky plateau included in the arch of Niger to save their culture from Islamic invasion.
What we know of the complex cosmogony of the Dogon comes especially from the twenty years of studies on the spot of the French anthropologist Marcel Griaule who described in his book God of Water all the secrets of the thought of that people, explained by the blind hunter Ogotemmeli during thirty-three days of daily meetings. Ogotemmeli's story fills a book with hundreds of pages: we do not understand what is inferior to any "fundamental" text of our culture.
It is interesting to note that from the cosmogonic story, complex and full of details, follows the whole life of the Dogon villages, even if the people do not know the secrets and the complicated network of symbolism of Ogotemmeli.
The plant of the village and even the designs of the blankets find their raison d'etre in the original myth of the people, known to the initiates. The orientation of the houses and the common spaces are never arranged by chance; even the granaries meticulously reproduce the system of the world.
In Dogon life everything refers to that mythical tale of creation-manifestation of the god Amma, at the origin of the system: social life, the numerical value of the fingers, every human and natural condition in the smallest detail reflect the mythical tale. The drums, the frames, the equipment, the pottery of the Dogons have meaning because all the forms reproduce the archetype, they are connected to the fundamental myth.
The Asmat (New Guinea)
The Asmat live in today's Western Irian, or Indonesian New Guinea, in the swamps near the coast of the Arafura Sea.
They are the "headhunters" of nineteenth-century memory, described as truci and savages: in reality the "headhunting" is a ritual that is performed in certain seasons and circumstances.
The meaning of these rites is the cultural background of the Asmat, without which society tends to disintegrate and the individuals who constitute it lose every reason to keep alive.
But let's see the myth of the origins of the Asmat:
The first headhunter was a divine ancestor, as was the first victim. They were also the first men to populate the earth, and they were brothers.
Of the two divine brothers the one is wounded, weak and is the eldest. The other is a young and talented hunter. (...)
The younger brother has hunted a wild pig and prepares its head for the initiation rite. But the elder stops him: how can a young man receive the strength that will make him a man from the head of a wild pig? The alternative is tremendous but it is the old man who offers it by offering his head spontaneously so that the ritual can be fulfilled. The younger brother would not want to accept the proposal at any cost, but the firmness of the major accompanies him to overcome the instinctive repulsion: the sacrifice is necessary.
This need is a mystery. It goes back to the archaic traditions of the Asmat people; for countless generations he has constituted the vital core of his temperament, of his education, of his unmistakable style of existence, of his exuberant and very original "art", the inspiring nucleus of the whole social life. This is a fact that can not be denied or softened with extenuating circumstances of any kind, let alone "explain". ( 12 )
For this myth, the Asmat periodically need clashes between the groups that cease only after obtaining "the head", which becomes the object of veneration and of special rituals and which restores force to the tribes of both the cutter and the dead (in reality there are often more "cutters" and more dead).
The killer is then adopted by the killing family, as a necessity of the world: this shows that it is a ritual war, a way of being, even if it may seem absurd to us.
Today headhunting has been banned by government authorities which, as such, are of western derivation.
The Asmat are extinguishing no longer finding any meaning in life.
I Bororo (South America)
The description of Levy-Strauss is of this people.
They are in the middle of a clearing, limited on one side by the river and all the others by strips of forest that hide the gardens, and they allow to see among the trees a background of hills with steep slopes of red sandstone. All around are arranged huts - 26 exactly - similar to mine and arranged in a circle, on a single row. At the center, a hut about twenty meters long and eight wide, so much bigger than the others: it is the baitemmannageo , home of men, where the celibates sleep and where the male population spends the day when it is not occupied by fishing or hunting, or in some public ceremony on the dance floor, an oval space bounded by pegs, on the west side of the men's home. The access of the latter is strictly forbidden to women; these occupy the most remote houses and their husbands make the shuttle several times a day between their club and the marital home, along the path that connects them to each other through the thicket of the clearing. Viewed from the top of a tree or a roof, the bororo village is similar to a cartwheel of which the family houses draw the circle, the paths the rays; and at the center of which the house of men is the hub.
The circular disposition of the huts around the house of men is of such importance as regards the social life and the practice of worship, that the Salesian missionaries of the Rio das Garcas region immediately understood that the safest way to convert the Bororo , consisted in letting them leave the village for another where the houses were arranged in parallel ranks.
Disoriented in relation to the cardinal points, deprived of the plan on which their notions were based, the natives quickly lose the sense of traditions, as if their social and religious systems were too complicated to be able to do without the scheme made evident by the plant of the village, whose physiognomy is perpetually vivified by their daily actions.
The circular village of Kejara is tangent to the left bank of the Rio Vermelho. This flows approximately in an east-west direction. A diameter of the village, theoretically parallel to the river, divides the population into two groups: to the north the Cera, to the south the Tugarè. It seems that the first term means "weak" and the second "strong". However, division is essential for two reasons: first, an individual always belongs to the same half of his mother; secondly, he can not marry that one member of the other half. If my mother is Cera, I am too and my wife will be Tugarè.
Women live and inherit the house where they were born. At the moment of his marriage, a native male crosses the clearing, overcomes the ideal diameter that separates the two halves, and goes to settle on the other side. The house of men tempers this separation because its position extends over the territory of the two halves. But the rules of residence explain that the door that gives in Tugarè territory is called Porta Cera. In fact, their use is reserved for men and all those who reside in one sector are native to the other and inversely.
The half principle does not only regulate marriage, but also other aspects of social life. Whenever a member of a half is exercising or performing a duty, this is done by profit or with the help of the other half. Thus, the funeral of a Wax is borne by the Tugarè and reciprocally. The two halves of the village are therefore companions in the same game, and all the social and religious acts imply the assistance of the other side which plays the complementary role to that sustained by it. This collaboration does not exclude rivalry: there is a pride of the half to which one belongs and there are mutual jealousies.
So let us imagine a social life based on the example of two football teams that, instead of trying to counteract their respective strategies, would apply to serve each other and measure the advantage of the degree of perfection and generosity that each they could reach.
Now let's move on to a new aspect: a second diameter, perpendicular to the previous one, still cuts half according to a north-south axis. All the population born to the east of this axis is called "upstream", and that born in the west is called "downstream". Instead of two halves we have therefore four sections, the Cera, the Tugarè belonging to the same title half to a part and half to the other.
Furthermore, the population is grouped into clans. They are groups of families who consider themselves relatives by women, starting from a common ancestor of mythological nature.
As if things were not complicated enough, each clan includes hereditary subgroups, always in the female line. So there are in every clan of the "red" and other "black" families. Beyond that, it seems that once each clan was divided into three degrees: upper, middle and lower.
Few people are as profoundly religious as the Boros, and few have such elaborate metaphysical systems.
But their spiritual beliefs and everyday habits mingle intimately, and it does not seem that the natives are aware of the transition from one system to another.
For the Bororo, a man is not an individual, but a person.
He is part of a sociological universe: the village, which exists from eternity, alongside the physical universe, itself composed of other animated systems such as celestial bodies or meteorological phenomena. All this, in spite of the temporary nature of the concrete villages, which (as a consequence of the exhaustion of the arable land) rarely resist in the same place for more than thirty years. What constitutes the village is therefore neither its land nor its huts; but a specific structure that I have already described and that the whole village reproduces, It is understandable therefore, because, by altering the traditional arrangement of the villages, the missionaries destroy everything.
The Bororo society gives a lesson to the moralist; listen to the indigenous informants: they will describe the ballet in which the two halves of the village teach themselves how to live and breathe for each other, one by the other; exchanging women, goods and services in a fervent commitment to reciprocity; marrying their children together; burying their dead mutually; assuring each other that life is eternal, the world succorable and the right society. To testify to these truths and to support these convictions, their essays have elaborated a grandiose cosmology and expressed it in their village plan and in the distribution of dwellings. (13)
I Lakota (North America)
It is largely the people that the Europeans called Sioux Indians and who lived in the area of the great grasslands of the current United States.
Here is the myth of the Lakota origins:
There was, there is and there will always be Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery.
He is one, and yet he is many, He is the Head God, the Great Spirit, the Creator and the Executor. He is the good gods and the evil gods, he is the visible and the invisible, the physical and the immaterial, because it is all in one.
Immediately below Wakan Tanka is the group of the Higher Gods: the Rock, the Earth, the Sky, the Sun, to which the four basic colors correspond: yellow, green, blue, red.
Each of them had a responsibility with respect to the universe. The Rock was the ancestor of all things and the patron of the arts. The Earth was the mother of all the living. Heaven, the source of all power, was the supreme judge. The Sun was the Great God with all the powers, patron of the four virtues: courage, fortitude, generosity, fidelity.
The added Gods were associated with them: the Winged, the Beauty, the Wind, the Moon.
Related to them and their children were the subordinate Gods: the Bison, the Bear, the Four Winds, the Turbine.
And lastly in the hierarchical scale the Lower Gods: the Spirit, the Soul, the Similar-to-Spirit, the Power.
All these gods were benign.
The evil gods were many and were children of the benign gods, but having disobeyed the order of the universe had been punished and downgraded. They were therefore not united in a hierarchy, but each was independent of the other.
Once upon a time men lived underground, while the only beings who lived on the surface of the earth were some deities: the Briccon, the Old, His wife, the Witch, and their daughter, the Bifront Woman, who had a double aspect: a half was beautiful and the other half was horrifying.
These deities, because they had rebelled, were confined to punishment on earth, where they wandered alone.
But the Bifront Woman wished to reunite with the people who lived underground. Then, with the help of a wolf, they had a bundle of gifts to Tokahe ("the First"), a strong and courageous young man who lived with his wife and the rest of the people in the subsoil.
The bundle contained tasty meat and beautiful clothes.
It was then decided that Tokahe along with three other brave young men went to find out where those good things came from.
The four men led by the wolf came to earth to the place where the Two-faced Woman lived in her tent. All around was beautiful and lush, and full of game. She showed them her best appearance and appeared as a beautiful woman. While the Briccone showed himself as an affable and likeable young man. The woman gave the young tasty meat and donated food and clothing for their people. Moreover, the gods said that they were actually very old but that feeding on the food of the earth remained young and attractive.
The four young men, returned underground, described what they had seen. A discussion broke out in the people. Some wanted to get on the earth, while others, the wisest, warned them. The leader warned them that those who climbed would never be able to return.
Nonetheless, Tokahe together with six other men with wives and children abandoned the underworld and ascended the earth. But the earth had changed, it seemed strange. It was very cold. They got lost, suffered hunger and cold and fell into despair. The Two-faced Woman ran to their aid, but she forgot to cover herself with her cloak and so they saw her terrible face and ran away terrified. Even the Briccon appeared as he really was and laughed at their misfortunes. Tokahe felt a great shame.
But here the Old and the Witch appeared in mercy and tenderness, bringing food and water to those desperate men. They led the small group to the land of the pines, showed them how to hunt, how to make their clothes and tents, and to live like men do now. So Tokahe and his followers were the first inhabitants of the earth. The progenitors of the Lakota. (14)
In the tents and in the ground dwellings of the Lakota, a hole (the sipapu ) is still marked in memory of the passage from the underworld to the outside world.
Tahiti (Polynesia) and Australia
Here is the myth of Tahitian origins:
He appeared - Taaroa was his name.
Around him it was empty:
Nowhere, nowhere, no sky,
nowhere sea, nowhere men.
Call Taaroa without echo -
Then in his loneliness he transformed himself into the world.
These roots - these are Taaroa.
The rocks - it's him.
Taaroa: the sand of the sea!
Taaroa: the germ.
Taaroa: the subsoil.
Taaroa: the imperishable.
Taaroa: the powerful.
The great and sacred universe,
the shell of Taaroa. (15)
A hint also deserves the thought of the Aboriginal people of Australia, who see the world interwoven by a network of "streets made of songs" that make it vital. Singing in certain ways leads to the reality of the corresponding paths that connect in a universal plot.
Perhaps it is worth recalling that there was a period, at the end of the nineteenth century, in which not only the killing of the Aboriginals by the European invaders was perfectly legal, but the physical elimination of the natives was even encouraged by the official authorities.
I also remember that there were at least a hundred human cultures that never made wars and were not even able to conceive of a war.
It is our culture, which in this period is imposing itself on the whole world with material and psychological violence, because it has obtained - due to its presuppositions of thought - a material power never achieved by others and because it has among its foundations the idea of expansion.
It was born from the ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures and was then established for centuries in the European and surrounding lands. It is also called Jewish-Christian culture.
Its myth of origins is the Genesis of the Old Testament, which begins as follows:
In the beginning God created heaven and earth. But the earth was unadorned and deserted, there was darkness on the surface of the abyss and the spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters. God said: "There is light!" And there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day and called the darkness night. And it was evening, and it was morning: the first day.
God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters and separate the waters from the waters." And so it happened: God made the firmament and separated the waters that are under the firmament from the waters that are above the firmament. God called heaven the firmament. God saw that this was good. And it was evening, and it was morning: the second day.
God said: "The waters, which are under the heavens, gather in one mass and the dry appears". And so it happened: the waters, which are under the sky, massed in their masses and the dry appeared. And God called the earth dry and called the sea the mass of water. And God saw that this was good.
God said: "The earth is green with verdure, with grasses that produce seeds and fruit trees, that make on the earth, each according to its species, a fruit containing the seed". And so it happened: the earth brought forth greenery, grasses that produce seeds, each according to their own species, and trees that each make a fruit containing the seed according to their own species. And God saw that this was good. And it was evening, and it was morning: the third day.
God said: "There are luminaries in the firmament of heaven to separate the day from the night and become signs for the feasts, for the days and for the years, and become luminaries in the firmament of heaven to shed light on the earth". And so it happened: God made the two greater luminaries, the great luminary for the government of the day and the small luminary for the government of the night and the stars. And God placed them in the firmament of heaven to shed light on the earth and to govern the day and the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that this was good. And it was evening, and it was morning: the fourth day.
God said: "The waters teem with living and volatile beings flying above the earth, against the backdrop of the sky firmament". And so it happened: God created the great cetaceans and all living darting beings whose waters swarmed, according to their kind, and all the winged birds according to their kind. And God saw that this was good. And God blessed them saying: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas; the birds then multiply on the earth ".
And it was evening, and it was morning: the fifth day.
God said: "The earth produces living beings according to their species: livestock and reptiles and beasts of the earth according to their kind". And so it happened: God made the beasts of the earth according to their kind and the cattle according to his kind and all the reptiles of the ground according to their kind. And God saw that this was good.
God said: "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, on the cattle, on all the beasts of the earth and on all the reptiles that crawl on the earth".
God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and God said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, on the cattle and on all the beasts that creep on the earth".
Then God said, "Behold, I give you all sorts of grasses producing seeds, which are on the surface of the whole earth, and also all sorts of trees in which there are fruits bearing seed: they will make up your nourishment. But to all the beasts of the earth, to all the birds of the air and to all the beings that crawl on the earth and in which it is the breath of life, I give the green herbs as nourishment ". And so it happened. And God saw everything he had done and, well, it was very good. And it was evening, and it was morning: the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their army were finished.
Then God, on the seventh day, concluded the work he had done and ceased from all work.
God blessed the seventh day and consecrated it. (16)
This story of the origins is also a background to the culture of the Muslim world, especially that of the most ancient Islamization.
The West, like other cultural models, has set life on its own myth of origins.
In fact, the following characteristics of the modern world derive from that story:
- the relationship of overwhelming to all other living beings and to Nature in general, seen exclusively in human function, then to our service ( anthropocentrism );
- the relationship of overwhelm with regard to other human cultures, which are swallowed up and destroyed: this derives from the presence in the story of a "chosen people", privileged compared to all the others;
- the sharp division between duty-work and leisure-entertainment, which is almost never found in other human cultures, where every act has a sacred meaning in itself, without the need for separations;
- the universal presence of the weekly cycle that now marks every activity: work, weekends, road traffic, etc .;
- the permanent exaltation of growth, development, expansion, from which the West's claim of being universal also descends, making the other cultures disappear because "wrong, backward, primitive": according to the West we need to help them to know "The truth" and to live better.
Speaking of the weekly trend of all organized social life, it is interesting to report a printed page, probably as a paid advertisement, in the newspaper La Notte of 20 November 1990.
MR. HEAD OF GOVERNMENT!
TO DECONTRATE TRAFFIC VIABILISTICO
AND ELIMINATE INFLATION, DRUGS, DISAGILS, DISEASES, STRESS, UNEMPLOYMENT, POLLUTIONS, ENERGY EXPERIENCES, DELICIOUSNESS, UNBEARNESS AND ROAD ACCIDENTS, THERE ARE ONLY ONE WAY:
WE MUST STOP
IT IS TO DO THAT NOT TO DO THE SAME THINGS TOGETHER ALL, TOGETHER TO WORK AND NOT TO WORK ALL IN THE SAME TIMES AND IN THE EARLY DAYS; THEN
WE MUST ABOLISH
SUMMER HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS AND WEEKS AND ORGANIZE OUR WORK AT SHOWS OR MONTHLY PHYSIOLOGICAL ROTATIONS (P.ES. 20 DAYS + 10) AND EVERYDAY (P. EX 6 HOURS + 18): THE WHEEL WHEEL IN CONTINUATION, EVERY CHANGE EVERY MONTH AND EVERY DAY AND NOT EVERY SEVEN DAYS! - THE ROTATIONS AND THE INTELLIGENT ALTERNATIONS ARE ABSOLUTELY PHYSIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS, BOTH COSMIC, SOCIAL AND INDIVIDUAL. - ABOLISH SUNDAYS DOES NOT MEAN ELIMINATE SOCCER MATCHES! - THEREFORE
WE MUST LEARN
TO USE A FEW MACHINES AND PLANTS, A FEW LOCAL AND UNINTERRUPTLY ANTIQUE SERVICES 'TO USE AND EXPLOIT EVEN BUT AT ALTERNATE PERIODS OR DISCONTINUES, ANTI-KNOW, STRESSANTS AND CARRIERS OF CAOS. - MR. HEAD OF THE GOVERNMENT FAVORISCA TO PROVIDE!
THE HUMAN BEING WITH ITS PLANET IS NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, BUT A MOST COLD SPHERE OF THE FORMER SOLAR ENERGY THAT TURNS AROUND THE SUN AND DESTINED TO MEET AND REFER TO IT WITH THE PURPOSE THAT WE WILL NOT DEVAST HUMANITY , DERUBEREMO AND WE WILL SQUILIFY WITH CRIMINAL FOLLY; IN ANY CASE (FOR ALTERATION OF THE MASS OF THE GLOBE) WE WILL FIND THEM FROM THE SOLE AND EXPULSED FROM ITS IRRIMEDIABILDLY DAMNED FOR THE ETERNITY TO ROTATE SLIGHTLY AND UNBALANCED IN THE SIDERAL OR INTERGALACTIC SPACES, OR EXPLODED AND THEN INGOED BY A BLACK HOLE.
- DIE IN THE SUN BUT IT IS JUST DIEING?
This page is imbued with a positivist and rationalist faith and has a prophetic and metaphysical tone, in addition to the claim to distribute "certainties". The illusion of eliminating drugs and delinquency only with a provision of this kind is self-explanatory. It recalls the nineteenth century belief that the thefts and criminality would disappear with the advent of public lighting.
However, if the West were rational as it claims to be and not inspired by a myth like other human cultures, it would really be a shift in human activity, rather than the current weekly cycle: it is indeed evident that with the turns would use any structure better.
It is hardly necessary to remember that the West occasionally performs the questionable "rites" with consequent sacrifices: one very large - around the middle of the twentieth century - has resulted in over fifty million deaths.
Summary and conclusions
If we limit ourselves to the more recent and more widespread cultures, we note that the most serious destruction and degradation of ecosystems come from models that refer to the Jewish-Christian and Muslim lines, that is to those cultures that are inspired, in a more or less less evident, to the Old Testament.
It will be good to clarify right away that with the expression "Jewish-Christian culture" we intend to indicate the tradition that has developed in the last fifteen centuries giving rise to Western civilization, without absolutely validating the idea that this culture was inspired by the teaching of Christ. On the contrary, the teaching of Christ profoundly and radically challenged the conceptions of the Old Testament: the most evident proof is that He was condemned to death precisely for this reason. Having made Jesus' words appear as a kind of continuation of the previous tradition of those Middle-Eastern lands was a particular interpretation of the following centuries.
The teaching of Christ is very similar to the philosophies of Eastern derivation, with which he has in common fundamental ideas, such as acceptance, detachment from the things of the world, universal love, the uselessness of institutions, the extinction of desire. , and so on. (17) Even its outward appearance, which has come down to us from tradition, is very reminiscent of an Indian. In particular, equality among persons (abolition of caste and uselessness of every hierarchy), as well as the abolition of sacrifices, reminiscent of Buddhism. Moreover - as stated above - the Old Testament is the myth of a particular ethnics (the "chosen people"), while the teaching of Christ is a-ethnic and universal, like that of the Buddha.
Something still transpires of His natural philosophy, such as in the expression: Look how the lilies of the field grow: they do not work and do not spin. Yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was never dressed like one of them. (18) This is a serene acceptance of Nature and an observation of the absurdity of wanting to "modify" the world. There is an evident contrast between the search for inner serenity preached by Christ and the Buddha and the biblical-Jewish substratum on which Western culture was founded.
In a Buddhist view, Christ would be considered a bodhisattva , ie a Buddha who, despite having reached the nirvanic condition, chooses to remain in the world for the sake of all sentient beings, who are not only humans and other animals, but also the trees, the grass and the land itself.
The phrase "Son of God" is probably the translation into a Semitic language of the Sanskrit word "Buddha" (Illuminated).
Even the expression "the last will be the first" does not mean that the last ones in this life will be the first in the other, but more simply that the concepts of "first" and "last" are meaningless. Or, if you like it, you can reread the image of the lemmings reported in the second chapter, since they are the last animals of that crazy migration that are saved by realizing in time where they end up "the first". Those who come back alive upstream of the fjord are the last ones in the race, or those who remain at the edge of the suicide migration.
It is clear that all this puts into crisis some concepts entered into Western formation, such as those of:
- a personal God who governs the world;
- a soul united to the body at birth or at conception;
- a single Savior, incarnated in one place in space and in one moment of time.
Another particular interpretation is the distinction between the "monotheistic" religions, which would be the three of the Middle Eastern strand, and the others defined as "polytheistic". As it turns out, there is no truly "polytheist" thought, even if for non-biblical strands it would be better to speak of "monism" rather than monotheism. On the contrary, the cultures that are inspired by these metaphysics normally know very well the Unity of Everything and the impossibility of separating the phenomena by breaking up the Universal. Rather, even to the effects of practical consequences or attitude, a distinction can be made between the traditions that spread the idea of an external Deity that acts on the world (creating a dualism) and those that consider the Divine immanent to Nature, or anyway they overcome every distinction between immanence and transcendence.
As for the many deities of the so-called polytheists, they are simply the unconscious, archetypal psychic forces, or as they are called.
If you put God outside and place him before his creation, and you have the idea of having been created in his image, you will naturally and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things that surround you. And at the moment when you will arrog the whole mind, the whole world will appear to you without mind and therefore without the right to moral consideration or ethics. The environment will seem to be exploited to your advantage. Your survival unit will be you and your people or the individuals of your species in antithesis with the environment formed by other social units, other races, other animals and plants.
If this is the opinion you have about your relationship with nature and if you have an advanced technique , the probability you have of surviving will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die because of the toxic by-products of your own hatred or, simply, for the overpopulation and the exaggerated exploitation of resources. (19)
For over a thousand years the conception of Genesis has been consolidated, which wants our species "lady and mistress of Creation", which would even be "made for us"! From today "Grow and multiply" the present obsessive mania of expansion was born, which in a culture with other foundations would appear as a pathological growth in an organism.
Thus, from the ever-repeated biblical idea of "chosen people", from that narrative that clearly favors an ethnic group, the Western concept of "being civilization" has developed, of possessing "truth" and "well-being" and of impose them on all the others, in short, the immense pride of the West was born, which manifests itself in very similar ways in the two parts, so-called "believer" and "atea", in which today it is apparently divided.
We only expected to "possess a technical power" to kick off the destruction of the natural balance.
It may be useful to note that the conceptions born from the Genesis were then developed above all in geographical areas where the other species of monkeys were very scarce or absent, so the most immediate finding of the existence of beings very similar to us was missing. In particular, the other great Primates were absent, such as gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees, which would have made evident the lack of discontinuity between us and all the other species.
For example, the simplest reason for a largely vegetarian diet should be to compare the diet of the other Primal Mammals, that is, of the other monkeys, whose body is very similar to ours.
We return to the progress of our activities over time.
All of Life is marked by the eternal cycles of Nature. Our culture has detached itself from it and follows its own periods, such as the weekly rhythm of work and free time, which comes from the story of Genesis. Instead of operating according to this artificial rhythm and celebrating battles, republics and saints, we could follow the moon phases, celebrate at the beginning or end of the seasons, follow the Sun, the Moon and the stars.
There would be more serenity. And they would be parties that unite humanity, while the current ones divide it: in the battles there are those who win and there are those who lose. Instead the Sun is at the Zenit of Equator for all.
But even in our culture, fanatically linked to "history", there are still traces of Nature, so much so that the major holiday had to be fixed on December 25, because in the depths of the unconscious there is still the distant memory of when At our latitudes, it was a big party, realizing that the night had stopped advancing on the day and the light had begun its ascent. It took just three or four days after the winter solstice to be certain.
Even the New Year's night has no cosmic reference, but derives from a completely conventional calendar, which has the same value as any other you would like to invent.
Notes to Chapter 4
(12) P. Grossi - Asmat. Killing to be - Ed. Pesce d'Oro, 1987.
(13) Claude Levy-Strauss - Sad Tropics - Ed. Il Saggiatore, 1994.
(14) Summary from: Royal B. Hassrick - I Sioux - Ed. Mursia, 1987.
(15) E. von Sydow - Poetry of primitive peoples - Ed. Guanda, 1951.
(16) Genesis, 1-31. The Holy Bible, Ed. Marietti, 1970.
(17) This is how Schroedinger expresses himself: " The spark of the ancient Indian wisdom that the marvelous rabbi of the Jordan had rekindled to new ardor , and which had come down to us through the late night of the Middle Ages, slowed and unobserved. also the ray of the reborn sun of the Greeks, to which the fruits we enjoy today had matured "(the italics are added). (Erwin Schroedinger - My vision of the world - Ed. Garzanti, 1987).
(18) Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter VI - 28-29.
(19) Gregory Bateson - Towards an ecology of the mind - Ed. Adelphi, 1976.
5 - MATERIALISM AND DEVELOPMENT
The ancient Chinese mentality contemplates the Universe in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who can not deny that his model of the Universe is a decidedly psychophysical structure.
Carl Gustav Jung
This desire to acquire material goods brings to the West a strange social ideal, unknown to the rest of humanity: the competitive, aggressive, "hard in business" man, that is, without scruple or compassion, the only one capable of "succeeding" in a prey civilization.
The West, responsible for this social ideal, considers itself isolated, the ultimate term in all fields. For the western world, humanity is nothing but a jumble of "underdeveloped peoples" or "developing countries", that is, the distant hope of equaling the prestigious white man one day.
When the great Tao is lost, then benevolence and rectitude appear.
When wisdom and sagacity appear, then there is great hypocrisy.
When family relationships are no longer harmonious, then we have pious children and devoted parents.
When a nation is prey to disorder, then patriots are recognized.
Where there is the Tao, there is balance. When the Tao is lost, then all differences arise.
I do not think that the current way of life of peoples of Western culture was born above all from "practical" decisions: rather it was the affirmation of a way of thinking that caused the emergence of a way of life.
Descartes - Bacon - Locke
The dominant conceptual framework in European culture until the seventeenth century had all the conditions to start a systematic destruction of nature, but something was still missing: technical power.
The decisive push to get hold of this power came from the spread of the thought of Descartes, Bacon, Locke and some others and from the arrangement of the physical sciences by Newton. The main cause was the ideas of Descartes.
When the conceptions of the French thinker, perhaps even on the wave of some happy mathematical intuitions, have made their way into the minds of the West, here is forming the most expansive and destructive cultural model ever appeared on the Planet: industrial civilization. And with it the ecological drama broke out.
As is well known, in Cartesian thought there is a clear distinction between "spirit" and "matter": man is the only being endowed with spirit. All the rest, living or non-living, is only brute matter, therefore manipulable without consequences and without moral problems. So the physics of Newton could turn to settle the world of matter that became a kind of gigantic machine, governed by strict mechanical laws.
Mechanicism, born in this way, has guided official science until the twentieth century and is the basis of current current thinking of the people of Western culture: from this background came industrial civilization.
Note that in Newton's most famous mathematical relation, that is, the formulation of the second principle of dynamics ( F = m. A ), it is cartesian that the mass (matter) is inert and that the force that makes it move comes from the outside , implicitly causing the end of all immanence.
Among the numerous reasons for joining the Cartesian theory, the consideration of the advantages that would derive from faith and theology was certainly not irrelevant. The philosophy of Descartes, with its radical separation of spirit and matter, of soul and body, relegated the "brutes" in the realm of extended matter, devoid of "soul", of consciousness and sensitivity, geometrically quantifiable and explicable, in each its manifestation, with the exclusive use of mechanical laws. (20)
As for the thought of Locke, it is sufficient to quote this passage:
To this must be added that those who appropriated their earthly work do not diminish but increase the common provisions of humanity: in fact, the goods suitable for the sustenance of human life which are produced by an acre of land fenced and cultivated are, to say the least, ten times those provided by an acre of land equally rich but left uncultivated and common. So it can truly be said that he who fences a land, and from ten acres, draws more of the means of subsistence than he could draw from a hundred left in the natural state, gives ninety acres to humanity. (21)
As we see, no consideration for all the life that is destroyed, nor for the beauty of the world. Furthermore, every form of perception of the global equilibrium and of the complex of relationships that bind all living organisms is lacking.
Unfortunately we went on that road and still today the economic-industrial world thinks it substantially that way. In the opinion of Rifkin:
Rereading Locke today, he gets the unpleasant feeling that he would not be satisfied until he saw every river of Earth barred by dams, every wonder of nature covered with advertising signs and every mountain smashed to produce oil shales. (22)
Locke despised the natives of North America because he could not understand how - with so many natural resources available - they lived "worse than an English laborer". He could not see any other measure than the strictly economic-monetary one: he therefore considered "happier" the English wage earners of the first assembly lines (!) Than the Lakota serene who enjoyed the nature of the great prairies. He was incapable of conceiving scales of values that were not based on income and property.
From similar ideas are derived the primacy of the economic and the economic vision of life that characterize the industrial civilization.
As far as Bacon is concerned, the foundation of his thought is known, which indicated the sole purpose of dominating nature, seen as opposing and hostile force, which was bent to human wills. By now, after Descartes, nature was seen as inert and manipulable matter.
It is in this period that the concept of progress begins to take shape as a "natural" thrust of humanity, considered in a continuous march towards an ever better future.
Even if now someone begins to be wary of these conceptions, in practice they are still fully and enthusiastically followed, with well-known results.
Different opinions of the 17th and 18th centuries
There has been no lack of - even in those centuries - forms of thought that are very different from those mentioned, but they have remained minority ideas and have not spread to the masses, they have not influenced the collective way of life.
A notable example of such minority conceptions is given by Leibniz, according to which creation is the result of a mental operation with which God, considering all possible worlds, would have chosen the one with the greatest number of goods and the least amount of ills. For the philosopher, in fact, every particular event is inserted into a concatenation of facts, where the positive and the negative intertwine, being among them consequential and interdependent. In judging creation we must not only look at our particular interest, for God, having regard to the general good, has created the best of all possible worlds.
Consciously critical of the "modern" and of the rampant geometric-quantitative interpretation of nature, Leibniz conceives force as the very essence of the body res , the source of movement, extension, and corporeity. The notion of "force", as a principle internal to bodies, shatters the homogeneity of Cartesian matter, giving rise to a much more dynamic intuition. The universe is thus populated with inextended and immaterial points, teleological principles of development and activity. Thought and extension, spirit and nature, which for Descartes are radically distinct, find, in these metaphysical principles immanent to the physical world, their own line of communication.
I believe ... that the same mechanical principles and the general laws of nature originate from higher principles, can not be explained by the quantity alone or the consideration of geometrical truths and that in them is rather something of metaphysics ... to refer to a substance lacking extension. Since, beyond the extension and variations, a force or power of action is inherent in matter, which constitutes the passage from metaphysics to nature, from material things to immaterial things. (23)
To Cartesian automatisms, devoid of life and subjectivity, Leibniz opposes an organic universe in all its parts, littered with psychic and vital principles.
Against the Cartesian reduction of nature to intelligible terms, Leibniz claims the inexhaustible depth of every living individuality, but his philosophy is of such magnitude that, as we have seen, it goes far beyond the criticism of the Descartes system. (24)
The difference between Leibniz and Descartes is that between the world-organism and the world-machine, between the world of complexity and the world of schematization, between quality and quantity, between beauty-form-life and a formless world, opaque, inert.
There was no lack of heavy objections to Descartes - on this point - even in the century of the Enlightenment, as Voltaire's criticisms of the idea of animal-automata demonstrate and as can be deduced from the following passage by Diderot:
See this egg? Thanks to him you can overthrow all the schools of theology and all the temples of the Earth. What is this egg? An insensitive mass before the germ has been introduced ... How will this mass move on to another organization, to sensitivity, to life? With the heat. But who will produce the heat? The bike? What will be the subsequent effects of this bike? Instead of answering me, sit down, and let's follow them moment by moment with our eyes.
At first there is a point that oscillates, a thread that extends and becomes colored; it forms the flesh, a beak, the tip of the wings, eyes, paws that begin to appear; a yellowish matter that divides and produces intestines; it is an animal ... It walks, it flies, it irritates, it flees, it approaches, it complains, it suffers, it loves, it desires, it rejoices; it has all your characteristics; perform all your actions.
Would you like, with Descartes, that it is a pure imitative machine? But the children will make fun of you and the philosophers will reply to you that if that is a car, you are another one. If you confess that, between you and the animal, there are only differences of organization, you will show good sense and reasonableness, you will be in good faith; but it will be possible to conclude against you that, with an inert matter, disposed in a certain way, impregnated with another inert matter, with a little heat and movement, one obtains sensitivity, life, memory, consciousness, passions, thoughts ... Listen and you will have mercy on yourself; you will understand that, in order not to admit a simple supposition that explains everything, the sensibility, general property of the subject, or product of the organization, renounces the common sense and you sink into an abyss of mysteries, contradictions, absurdities. (25)
Among the other "minority" opinions of those centuries, we will mention that of Giordano Bruno who, with the expression Mens insita rebus, meant that Mind is in all processes, it is all-pervading: everything is endowed with Mind. Every being participates in the universal Soul according to the formation of the body (snake, bird, fish, man): all the natural bodies participate in the same Soul.
The position of Spinoza is also known, which with the expression sive Deus sive Natura indicated that the Universal Entity could be called indifferently God or Nature.
Moreover, as early as the sixteenth century, Montaigne wrote:
There is nothing "barbarous or savage" in the Indians. Instead, there is that: "Everyone calls barbarity what is not in its uses; it seems that we have no other point of reference for the truth and the reason that the example and the idea of the opinions and uses of the country in which we are. There is always the perfect religion, the perfect government, the perfect and complete use of everything ". Therefore: "They are the savages in the same way that we call wild the fruits that nature has produced by itself in its natural development: where, in truth, are those that in our artifice we have altered and distorted by the general order that we should rather call wild ".
"When I toy with my cat, who knows that she does not make me her own pastime any more than I do with her?" And further on: "We do not understand them any more than they understand us. For this reason they can consider us beasts as we consider them. We must observe the parity that exists between us. We understand approximately their feelings, so our beasts, about the same size, they flatter us, threaten us, they seek us; and we them ". (26)
From the Cartesian cultural background the modern concept of development was born, of which we will review some characteristics:
1 - Destruction of other species of living beings
Development causes extinction of large-scale species and ecosystems. The objection that there have always been extinctions in nature is not relevant because the entity and scale of the times are completely different. The change in ecosystems and extinctions due to natural causes generally take place over a period of one million years. Even the theories on the extinction of dinosaurs, apart from the "sudden" of the clash with an asteroid, require at least a million years as a time of transition from the Cretaceous to the Cenozoic. Even the modalities are completely different, because natural extinctions are not accompanied by other related phenomena.
It is today - for the first time - a process of global depletion of life, because in natural extinctions the relational complexity of the living has always increased, ie there has been an increase in the systemic variety and therefore in the "spiritualization" of life.
In the current case of massive extinctions due to industrial civilization, the living variety is in sharp decline, the ecosystems disappear and are reduced to very few types. Systemic relational complexity tends to disappear.
In fact, after three billion years of evolution, Life showed a variety, a balance and a marvelous harmony with millions of species; every ecological niche was full of life. Variety, variability and relationships were the sign of the vital spirit, which reached the maximum in the equatorial forest, but it was also very remarkable even in the marshes, in the aquatic environments, in the sub-Arctic forest.
All this until the nineteenth century: now the unstoppable tendency of so-called progress is to turn everything into a rigid and disharmonious structure in which few species are represented: the human, some of its "companions" rendered neurotic, some animal species reared and degenerate, some plant species extended to monoculture.
2 - Destruction of human cultures
We have already mentioned the fact that the West, with the pretension of universality, imposes its scale of values and its way of life to all of humanity. The industrial scheme puts at the top the indefinite increase of material goods, seen as a contributor to happiness. But the end of cultural variety also means the end of numerous possibilities of different life, the disappearance of treasures of knowledge and thought.
Moreover, the extension to all of humanity of the Western model is simply impossible because the Earth can not bear billions of people living with the perennial mirage of consumption . In words, every fundamentalism is denied, but then the consumerist desire is considered evident, obvious and true, by not accepting any way of life outside of it.
3 - Destruction of beauty and variety of the world
A natural ecosystem is a source of inspiration and is religiously beautiful. On the other hand, a disharmonic and uniform expanse of a few species (monocultures, serial breeding, dense humanity) puts anguish.
It seems that the aesthetic-religious sense is related to the ecological health of the system, probably due to mental effects, which we will mention later.
The unique species of monocultures and farms have also degenerated and deprived of all dignity and spirituality. They do not constitute an ecosystem.
Moreover, in Nature there are not two identical individuals in any species. Nature never acts in series: this is a characteristic of industrial civilization.
In a Kmq of rainforest there are thousands and thousands of different species, a harmonic complex of life-death that keeps itself in dynamic equilibrium beyond time. In a Kmq of area "rebuilt" by our civilization there are either an expanse of aggregates, or an exaggerated human density producing anxiety, or a multitude of repeated specimens of a single species kept alive with foreign substances, which have also degraded the world somewhere else.
If the current trends should continue and the spontaneous nature should almost disappear or be anthropized, the differences between the various areas of the world would be reduced more and more.
Already today this happens for the built human environment: the outskirts of the big cities of the world are all the same, the big hotels are everywhere the same, the airports all look alike. The air conditioning also makes the climate uniform. But then, what good is it to go around the world in a few days to find everywhere the same uniformity and the same boredom?
One wonders where the "magnificent and progressive sorts" of humanity have ended up, so celebrated in the nineteenth century.
4 - Introduction of the concepts of resources and waste
Nature is characterized by closed cycles, at the end of which the initial conditions are reproduced, so that the processes can last indefinitely. At least if astronomical times are not considered, Nature feeds on an incessant dynamic flow of energy in a complex and systemic world. This flow also constitutes the minds or the mind of the natural system. The conditions are restored - or almost - at the end of each cycle. Ancient agricultural culture and traditional civilizations also functioned this way.
Instead, industrial processes operate in an "open" way, that is, they take something fixed and irreplaceable (the so-called resources ) and download products ( waste ) into environments that are considered by definition as "infinite". It is from such processes that pollution comes: any provision that maintains this way of functioning is only a palliative that postpones the problem over time and moves pollution from one environment to another (from water to air or to the earth, or vice versa): it can not solve the problem permanently.
There must be neither resources nor waste: in natural and traditional cycles, those that may seem like waste are resources for something else. The two concepts are not necessary.
5 - Decrease of physical work
There Our civilization has spread the idea that one of the natural purposes of the human person is to completely avoid physical work: then it is filled with gyms, gymnastic paths and various tools to make us spend "leisure time" doing hard work. In this way consumption is maximized, which are the real purpose of this society.
Who is struggling to bring a basket of hay on his shoulders is considered a "poor" reduced to make "that hard life", who passes by him with a bag on his shoulders to climb a mountain is considered - or wants to be considered - an "arduous" .
The same applies to the psychological background that accompanies physical work in comparison to the fatigue of those who go to sweat in the gyms for a fee.
On the other hand, physical and intellectual works are complementary components, both necessary for the completeness of life. The concepts of superior and inferior are an invention of the West.
6 - Substitution of inert matter with living substance
The transformation of a natural ecosystem in an industrialized area consists in replacing aggregates of aggregates (cement, metals, factories, plants, etc.) to a living complex, replacing the inorganic with the organic.
Machines, plants, roads, instead of forests, swamps, savannahs.
7 - Increase in average human life
Development generally leads to an increase in the average life span of human life, largely achieved by a reduction in infant mortality: in fact, the life expectancy of a child who has already reached five years of age is not very different in the various human cultures.
If the decrease in mortality is not accompanied by a corresponding decline in the birth rate, there is an unsustainable imbalance and the lengthening becomes illusory over long periods: the rescued children will correspond, in another part of the world or in successive generations, as many children condemned to death due to the numerical excess, in addition to the degradation of the complex of living beings.
Even the so-called "aging" of the population that occurs when births fall is a transitory phenomenon: it is clear that, past that couple of generations in which the excess of the elderly is due to the fact that there were too many births sixty or seventy years first, the relationship between the age groups is re-established; one returns to a dynamic equilibrium in which the population fluctuates around stable values, the only condition that can last indefinitely if the density is not excessive.
According to a study by the Cornell Institute of Ecology (USA), the overall human population that is permanently sustainable by the Earth's ecosystem is about two billion people.
Summing up, one can say that when the concept of economic development arrives, the balance of the soul and the harmony of the world disappear.
In reality, the material growth of something is always accompanied by the degradation of something else in space or time. The term "balanced development" is only a contradiction of terms, or is meaningless, being conceptually different from the expression "dynamic equilibrium", which denotes situations in which the economic parameters continuously fluctuate around stable values. After all, the advantages of a stationary economy had already been highlighted by John Stuart Mill in 1858, but such beauty struck only rare isolated spirits, while the West was now launched into the religion of growth.
As already mentioned in a previous chapter, the term "sustainable development" should be replaced by the term "sustainable system", ie a variable system, but always in equilibrium, or rather stationary .
When you then hear about the contrast between the needs of the economy and those of ecology, do not forget that:
- the so-called "needs of the economy" do not exist, because they depend exclusively on the scale of values of each cultural model. Economics is a human and socially controllable fact: nothing requires that it should be "growing";
- the "needs of ecology" are fundamental physical and biological laws well above those that may be the passions of our species.
Therefore, even beyond moral and aesthetic considerations, it is essential that the economic system be compatible with the functioning of the Complex of the Living for an indefinite time.
It is then useful a brief reflection on the concept of well-being, which is essentially a mental state and not a pile of objects. To obtain something in this sense, a preliminary study of the nature of the mind would be logical, rather than the frantic spiral of the eternal desire imposed by the current model.
As for the future, the most catastrophic hypothesis that can be done is that development continues to the bitter end, because in this case we would arrive at an extremely degraded world. However, the phenomenon could not continue due to the impossibility of the persistence of the vital processes.
As alternatives, the utopias must also be taken into consideration.
Bases of industrialism
Let us now look at what philosophical or thoughtful currents are based on industrial society (the various points, distinct only for clarity, are interconnected and partially overlapped):
- positivism , in which every metaphysics is denied; on the contrary, it is claimed to cancel the need in the human being, under the pretext of sticking only to "real" and "positive" things, as if they were not also creations of the mind. He believes that what is perceived to be "true" and "indisputable". According to positivism, there are "the facts" and we must stick to those only;
- materialism , for which the only goals of life are of a material nature, that is, they are reduced to a search for objects and individual satisfactions on the physical plane. In practice, every spiritual need is denied as an annoying addition that distracts from the "true" purpose, the technological-economic-productive one;
- Mechanism , which considers the world and any part of it, even living, as a kind of removable clock, a mechanism that works on the basis of rigid laws existing in itself and independent of thought, reduced to a kind of cerebral secretion. A mechanistic metaphysics poses problems of functioning and not of moral responsibility towards the living world;
- reductionism , according to which the properties of a complex system are understood by studying the behavior of its component parts. The sciences are essentially reportable to particle physics, everything is due to a pattern of many individuals interacting with each other: matter is made of atoms, atoms are made of smaller particles, society is made up of individuals; any effect due to complexity and the network of relationships is denied. Everything would be divisible and schematized;
- determinism , that is, the assumption according to which events are determined completely by other previous events. It has the consequence that the state of the world at a certain moment is sufficient to establish its state at a later time.
The statement by Laplace that at the beginning of the nineteenth century considered determinism almost as a religion is known:
An intelligence that knew, in every given moment of time, all the forces acting in nature, in addition to the momentary positions of all the things that make up the universe, would be able to understand in a single formula the motions of the larger bodies of the world and those of the smaller atoms, provided it was powerful enough to submit all the data to analysis; for it nothing would be uncertain, and both the future and the past would be present before his eyes. (27)
- Cartesianism , which has already been mentioned several times and on which I will then make some comments: it affirms the absolute primacy of reason and the drastic separation between spirit and matter. For example, the abuse that is normally made of the term "more rational" in the meaning of "better" is evident.
It is assumed that the "rational" is an overcoming of the "instinctive" and the "emotional", without analyzing the content and the meaning of the terms. It can be said that Cartesianism is the philosophical basis of current Western civilization. It is evident what enormous consequences the medicine-mind separation has had, for example, in medicine, which has led to considering the body as a machine with a life of its own. Only very recently was born a slightly different medicine, barely tolerated, baptized as "psychosomatic", a term still quite reassuring for the reason.
As a first observation to the points listed above, we recall that Bateson calls "reductionist madness" the idea that one can describe with nature ontological fullness, which is much richer in meaning than it is possible to represent. The physical-spiritual complexity of the natural world is infinite: only with intuitive perception can there be a faint idea.
The paradigm of simplification is based on what has been called the "schizophrenic Cartesian dichotomy", the dualism between the subjective cogito and the objective res extensa . Western science was founded (until the first half of the twentieth century) on the elimination of the subject, in the illusory conviction that objects, existing independently of the subject, can be studied as such.
Some pieces of Ceronetti on development
Here is a thought of Konrad Lorenz: "the only legitimate energy take-up of our planet is solar radiation, and any economic growth that consumes more energy than we receive from the sun, enmeshes the world economy in a debt spiral, that will deliver us to a ruthless creditor .... "
The Ruthless Creditor, summoned by Lorenz, is not a ghost of the future. It presents itself every day, and every appearance of it is a robbery: it takes away living life, but it will leave development to the end.
Governments can govern - they are left to do - as long as they do not oppose development, it means that they are all, from the most powerful to the last of strength, prisoners and servants. The great metaphysical question: is man free? you can also throw it here, talking about governments that everyone, no one excluded, can only proceed in one direction, without being given a choice. If I were pope or American president or Russian president, I would take pleasure in replying that man can only decide what has already been decided. And this irrepressible development was in the secret of time, in the tragic mystery of human destiny, but what gives me a scandal, what makes me suffer more, is that "you love it", that you talk incessantly about "recovery" of work of this killer as something desirable, not as an ineluctable necessity, as a progressive fall in unhappiness.
I would like a head of government or company that would precede from a unfortunately the usual phrases: "we have to increase production", "the recovery is imminent" ... Not even this freedom is given to him. They are also forced to flatter it, the Evil One: if they add an unfortunately, they scare them down like skittles. This is no longer having a power, much less corresponds to someone of the profound senses of command . The enslavement to the economy of development, without even a hint of dismay, tells the impoverishment, the loss of essence and of the center, of politics. If the only end is development, politics is judged by its skill (which is pure passivity) in pushing it forward at any cost ....
There is no political idea behind, above or below: there is the God of industrial economy jealous of his monotheistic cult. Nothing is too much for this greedy idolized Beast.
A contemporary urban hell is made up of many things. Among the most obvious, there is the excess of circulation of cars, cars and motorcycles. Against smog and paralysis, palliatives of all kinds are aired, but only by breaking down car production could we give back to the cities a little post-deluge. Immediately on the squares freed from the tangles of cars, thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of thousands of drumming drums would gather to protest their breath: they do not want treatment, but sickness in all its ruthlessness ... the chemists who produce poisons for agriculture: to forbid them, even for the sake of their own children, would provoke anger. But will it be the anger of the chemists, or of the poisons in them? Who says that they do not have a soul, the poisons we produce? ... The single, concordant, universal voice, above and below, shouts that no industry stops or closes, anything that produces , even if very useless or very deadly, even if destined to remain unsold: the only concordant voice invokes the opening of construction sites on yards and that finances are invested in new industrial projects: at the cost of any pollution and ugliness, even at the cost of make to rush, for the immediate moral retaliation that strikes those who welcome similar projects, the furies of an intensified violence. And if you must, on the sea of the voices all the same, glide a reassuring promise, it is always the same: there will be the "recovery", you will have a triple of this stuff ... (28)
Notes on the fundamental points of the Cartesian philosophy
ï The spirit-matter dualism is denied by modern physics (as we shall see) and in particular by the interpretation of Bohr-Heisenberg which denies the existence of an external objective reality, that is of an energy-material world independent of the psyche. Spirit and matter are inseparable.
ï The primacy of reason over emotion and feeling is denied by psychoanalysis. The reference to the unconscious largely vanishes the idea that behavior is a consequence of reasoning. According to the most "extreme" psychoanalytic currents, everything is guided by the unconscious that reasonings are constructed as apparent justifications.
ï The " Cogito. Ergo sum "is an illusory proposition. Already in the premise ( I think ) the conclusion is implicit ( So I am ).
In fact, a thinking "I" is not evident, but only a variable thought. Its condensation in a distinct and autonomous ego is an arbitrary passage, because in reality it is not found the existence of a permanent entity called "I", but only a flow of thoughts in constant change, an incessant succession of mental states in continuous variation. In other words, from the flow of thought (in becoming), Descartes makes an arbitrary passage to a stable entity (in being).
Thinking is a process. Being is a state. When I think, my mental state changes over time. How can the ego referred to remain the same?
From the idea of an individual, autonomous and permanent ego, the concept of society was born as the sum of many interacting individualities.
Observations to the current idea of progress
What is automatically called progress, that is, an increase in technology, does not always correspond to an improvement: it is seen as such only on the basis of a preconceived and arbitrary scale of values.
In particular, following the so-called progress:
- the places are getting uglier: just review a place after years to realize it;
- it is not true that the so-called "free time" has increased: tribal people, or traditional civilizations, spend most of their time devoting themselves to the spiritual-magical aspect of life and not to "slog" for survival;
- increase psychopathies, crime, drugs, suicides, depressions: this means that mental serenity definitely worsens; after all it is not held in any account in the scale of values of industrial civilization;
- a sort of cultural racism necessarily manifests itself, given that Western civilization is considered "better" than the others, because its scale of values and
his way of life is imposed on all humanity.
Even the idea that cultures where writing is known are better than cultures handed down orally is not so evident: oral and written modalities are complementary aspects of equal dignity. Where the writing has been completely internalized, the "modalities" and perceptions of oral transmission have been lost.
It is a matter of balancing the two aspects, not of "progressing" from one to the other. Even the idea of "history" is part of a particular cultural heritage: often the so-called "peoples left out of history" are simply those who have never done wars.
I also report this thought of Plato:
Anyone who thinks they can hand down an art with writing, and those who receive it convinced that from those written signs can draw something clear and firm, it should be full of great ingenuity. (29)
There is therefore no parameter to evaluate a better or "more advanced" culture than another. The concept of progress is an invention of some model, not an obvious fact.
However, even in Western culture, there are some signs that indicate the beginning of a slow decline in the concept of progress.
We summarize the origins of the concept of development and therefore of the ecological crisis:
- The biblical idea of separation between our species, protagonist, and the world, a stage made for us. With the conception of a "God distinct from the world" it was easy to get rid of the Divinity (materialism-Marxism) and replace the "divine right" with the "selective merit". So nothing has changed: the same hand destroys the Amazon forest and the Siberian taiga.
- Only our species "has the soul". The concept was aggravated by the Cartesian philosophy, according to which there is a clear and incurable distinction between spirit and matter, which do not meet and do not interfere: man would also be "spirit" (as well as body), while the other living beings would be only "matter", that is machines. The French thinker was so convinced of it that he apparently threw a cat out of the window to prove his certainty that he "could not suffer".
Thus humanity, the only one to be also spirit, could do what it wanted of nature, which would have been matter: this idea has exacerbated the pre-existing "divine right". With materialism, the last child of the West, it changes very little: matter against matter, the strongest wins, which at its pleasure can preserve pieces of "original nature" to brighten up life: this is surface ecology.
Notes to Chapter 5
(20) Vilma Baricalla - Do animals have a soul? from The Dark Mirror - Ed. Satyagraha, 1993
(21) The quote of Locke is taken from the book: Jeremy Rifkin - Entropia - Ed. Mondadori, 1980.
(22) Jeremy Rifkin - Entropia - Ed. Mondadori, 1980.
(23) William Leibniz - Philosophical writings - Ed. D. Bianca, Turin, 1968
(24) Vilma Baricalla - Do animals have a soul? from The Dark Mirror - Ed. Satyagraha, 1993.
(25) The quotation from Diderot is from the book: Prigogine-Stengers- The New Alliance-Einaudi , 1981
(26) Montaigne - Apology and Essays - ed. various.
(27) This thought of Laplace is reported in many texts of philosophy, mathematics and dissemination. In particular it is found in the book of G. and S. Arcidiacono - Entropia, Sintropia, Information , Ed. De Renzo, and in the article The chaos of various authors, published in the journal Le Scienze of February 1987. It is also mentioned in the book by R. Sheldrake - The Rebirth of Nature - Ed. Corbaccio, 1994.
(28) Guido Ceronetti - Worse than exterminated: unhappy , article published in the newspaper La Stampa of March 9, 1993
(29) Giovanni Reale - Here is the unwritten Plato , Sunday Supplement of Il Sole - 24 hours of 12 February 1995.
6 - WEST - EAST - ANIMISM
We believe that God is in all things: in the rivers, in the grass, in the bark of the trees, in the clouds and in the mountains.
(expression of an African culture)
In Ani Yonwiyah, the language of my people, there is a word to indicate the ground: Eloheh. This same word also means history, culture and religion. The reason for this lies in the fact that we Cherokee Indians can not separate our place on earth from our lives or even our vision and our meaning as a people. We have learned since childhood that animals, trees and plants, with which we share the place on earth, are our brothers and sisters.
So when we talk about soil, we do not talk about land ownership, a place or even the piece of land on which our houses stand and where our crops grow. Instead, let's talk about something truly sacred.
J. Durham, Indian Cherokee
You can visit the whole earth, but you will not find the true religion anywhere; it does not exist in your heart.
By doing nothing, there is nothing that is not done.
It is the story of all of life that is holy and good to tell and of us that we share with the quadrupeds and the winged of the air and all the green things: because they are all children of the same mother and their father is a only Spirit. Perhaps the sky is not a father and the Earth a mother and are not all living beings with feet, with wings and with roots their children?
Many ways of thinking, or guiding ideas, widespread in current thinking, are perceived as obvious and natural premises or as tendencies proper to human nature: they are rather often only conceptual frames of Western culture, that is, prejudices.
Common sense (or common sense) designates the complex of prejudices of the culture in which we have been raised. Here the word "prejudices" has no negative meaning but it is that complex of ideas in which we frame every event: it is however a variable and relative background, not an evident truth.
For the sole purpose of greater clarity, I will divide human cultures into three groups:
- Western-type cultures , those whose origins are the Genesis of the Old Testament, that is, in practice the Jewish-Christian and Islamic cultures, originally flowered in Europe and the Middle East. They have in common:
* the idea of expansion: in fact they want to convert the whole world to their cultural background;
* an attitude of overpowering the rest of Nature, considered at the service of our species;
* a linear perception of time;
* the belief that there is only one truth.
- oriental cultures , mainly flowered in Asia, with three main strands: Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. They are characterized by:
* the idea of Being as cosmic immanence, except in Buddhism where one arrives at the overcoming of every dichotomy, including those of immanence-transcendence and Being-Nothing;
* the fundamental importance attributed to the idea of both inner and cosmic-natural balance;
* the pursuit of mental serenity as an essential goal;
* a cyclic perception of time.
- animist cultures , flourished all over the world for tens of millennia. They were generally characterized by a complete integration in the natural and climatic environment in which they lived and of which they felt an inseparable part: they elaborated complex metaphysics linked to the natural world. We have also called them traditional civilizations. For animist culture the world is a flow of psychic forces: the human life cycle must integrate itself into the greatest life-death of the Universe.
Attitudes towards deep ecology
Because the foundations of deep ecology can make their way into the human soul, it is necessary to criticize the conceptions derived from the biblical account of Genesis and which have become "evident" for Western culture, that is to reverse the attitude of aggression towards Nature and of indifference to the beauty of the world.
It is evident that there are many Westerners with different worldviews, at least at the intellectual and conscious level, but the modes of thought and the unconscious attitude can differ greatly from what follows from the reasoning.
However, I do not intend to talk about individual thought here.
To give a little glance to the second group of cultures, we quote this passage taken from an inspiring text of Hindu culture:
The rivers, or dear, flow eastwards to the east, westerners to the west. Coming from the celestial ocean, they return to the ocean and become one with the ocean. As soon as they come they do not remember to be this or that other river, just like that, or dear, the living, who have come out of Being, do not know that they come from Being. Whatever they are here on Earth - man, tiger, lion, wolf, boar, worm, butterfly - they continue their existence as Tat ( 30 ). Whatever this subtle essence is, the whole universe is constituted of it, it is the true reality, it is the Atman . It is you, or Svetaketu. ( 31 ).
The profound difference in conception with respect to Genesis is clear.
In these metaphysical conceptions the dualistic relationship is missing, nor is it that contrast between man and nature proper to the West. Instead of three distinct levels as God-man-nature (in the materialism remain the last two, but always opposed), we find the God-Nature omnipresent and indistinguishable from the universal.
Very simple then it is the first indication of the Buddhist ethics: "Do not damage any sentient being". With the term "sentient" one can also indicate a species, an ecosystem, or an entity of that type, as having a form of mind.
Only some Eastern philosophies recommend becoming quasi-vegetarians; but in general they ask to respect Life in all its components. On the other hand, the morals of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions, in accordance with the positions expressed in Genesis, deal exclusively with values and relationships within our species, as if everything else was just a stage, or "the environment".
As for the various forms of animism that have been present in humanity a little everywhere, it is quite evident that in these worldviews we are not the only beings endowed with "spirit": a dichotomy of this kind would probably be unthinkable for who lived in contact with the orangutans or the gorillas. But it should also be inconceivable for those who know the nature of the vital phenomena and the unitary picture provided by biological evolution.
However, even among us, we can see that animism is spontaneous in children: it is the cultural conditioning that erase it.
Let's still have some examples:
The Lapps consider the bear king of animals, perhaps because he can stand up on his hind legs taking almost human attitudes, but also because in the ancient tradition of the people, the bear looks like a species of distant ancestor. It is said of the bear in Lapland that in some parts of Africa it is said of the gorilla, that is, that they are men; the same happens in the islands of the Oranghi Probe and in Guinea for the bonobo chimpanzees.
The "application for questions"
A cultural background does not appear so much in the answers that are given to the questions considered fundamental, but above all from how the questions are formulated. The answers are always relative and changing: it is mainly the questions that make the questions interesting.
That considered basic, also called "the question of the questions" is "God exists?". But this formulation recalls a figure of God as a personal Being and distinct from the world (ie the God of the Old Testament) and presupposes that the concept of existence is clear.
We will see in a next chapter that the idea of existence is anything but evident. In the way of formulating the questions all the biases of a culture are implicit.
The "question of the questions" already presupposes a binary answer (YES-NO), that implies the conceptions of the West, in which the people are divided into two categories (believers-atheists). This split has very little meaning in other cultural models. Moreover, as we have seen, the division is less profound than is believed, at least as far as the behavior towards the rest of Nature is concerned.
In the question a basic dualism of the West (God-the world) is already taken for granted. However, our current culture has other kinds of deities, a qualification that can be attributed to some abstract concepts to which much is sacrificed, such as freedom, democracy, efficiency, productivity, without talking about money, to which a magical power is attributed. These are always abstract concepts, scarcely expressible in non-Western languages.
If we change the philosophical premises and take us to Eastern cultures, the superdomanda can be divided into two:
- Can the Universal be divided into autonomous and independent parts?
- Does the Universal have, or is it , a psychism (ie a global psychophysical structure)?
If the Universal can not in any way be subdivided, then it is unique and to this Totality we give the name of God, which can also mean Cosmic Balance ( Tao ). It is clear that we ourselves can not be separated from it and that - on the metaphysical level - the concept of "individual" is superseded.
For example, the Western proposition "leaves no leaf that God forbid" becomes the affirmation that all the forces of the universe participate in every process, or phenomenon, a fact confirmed - as we shall see - also by some currents of modern science.
In Buddhism then the relationship with the metaphysical takes on even more general aspects since the Being-Nothing or Emptiness (in Sanskrit sunyata ) overcomes even the idea of immanence, trying to merge the immanent-transcendent into a sort of empty-full button and permanently creative.
In Buddhism, however, the idea of karuna or universal compassion towards all beings (not just human beings), whose purpose is to overcome all tribulations in becoming ( samsara ) to achieve total serenity outside of all dualism ( nirvana ) is essential .
As far as animist cultures are concerned, in them the physical is not separated from the metaphysical: we often find the idea of the Great Spirit immanent in the world (or Great Mystery): the idea of an "external" environment is almost incomprehensible. That then of "hostile" environment is a typical concept of cultures inspired by the West. The Bushmen and the Eskimos, according to European conceptions, live in hostile environments, but this does not make sense to them, who do not distinguish themselves from the world around them: the Bushmen are the Kalahari, the Eskimos are the Arctic.
Still as an example, among the Algonquins the sign that was used to denote the Great Spirit was also the sign for the word "world": in this way God and the world were identified.
The Algonquins certainly did not have a God as remote from the world of material things as Allah or the Lord of the Old Testament, but the Great Spirit could certainly be identified with the world. For the Algonquins the world was a sign of the Great Spirit, just as the circle was divided into four parts. It was not in the world that they addressed their prayers, but to the Great Spirit.
In an Amazonian language the term which means the highest level of Mind also means "everything" in the current language.
Intermediaries with the metaphysician
Western and Islamic cultures generally have institutions that proclaim themselves as intermediaries with the divine; even in some Eastern cultures, institutions of this kind have been formed.
Since the metaphysical conceptions of each cultural model are different and there is no "objective" or "absolute" value, we do not understand the necessity of intermediation. The only one that could make sense seems to be that of predisposed people who place themselves in an expanded state of consciousness, or in any case different from the state of ordinary vigil, that is, in a condition of mystical contact with Nature. It is basically shamanism, widespread in many animist cultures, where other animals and Nature itself are an important part of mystical visions. It is often a semi-unaware intermediary, a state of consciousness extended beyond the boundaries of the ego, far from being an institution and above all without any hierarchy. The shaman or the shaman (current Korea) takes to another level of perception. In the traditional society, expression of a complex and unitary way of understanding life, the activity of the shaman included that of so many specialists of the West: priests, doctors, poets, scholars, etc. The cosmic vitality manifested itself in him or her with exceptional paranormal powers.
As an example of the attitude of different cultures, we also mention the following episode:
During an inter-religious meeting, while the representatives of the three theist religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) had recited prayers to the Personal God, a Buddhist monk had prepared a "prayer to the Nulla".
If we consider Being, we can not avoid considering the Nothing as a complementary and necessary pole. Totality also contemplates the overcoming of the Being-Nothing dualism: prayer at Nothing has meaning like the others and is also imprinted in the collective unconscious.
It is not clear how it is possible to draw a figure without the background: the two modes are interchangeable. (32).
In the West everything is seen as "fighting something", and this proves once again that no value is given to mental serenity. Even institutions with the noblest purposes like to present their actions as a struggle against negative forces. Western medicine presents itself as a fight against diseases, naturally objectified and personified as an "enemy". Not so in many other cultures, especially in the East.
The competition, propagated by the West as a sort of spring of progress and highlighted in all fields, but especially in the economic-industrial, is not naturally present in the human soul but is a way of life of some cultural model.
Likewise, our civilization considers the struggle of man against the forces of nature as "conquered" in the last centuries.
The animist cultures never considered themselves in a struggle against Nature, but in an interconnected network of "spirits", that is, in a widespread spirituality that sometimes concentrates in apparently single entities, but in reality linked in the Total Entity, called precisely the Great Spirit or the Great Mystery.
For Western-type cultures the search for truth is considered a noble purpose: once found, the truth must be explained and imposed on all others. Thus science has generally continued, at least until the middle of the twentieth century. All this presupposes above all the existence of a truth, something real and objective; otherwise the truth becomes a dangerous concept, a source of fanaticism.
As we shall see, currents of thought - even minorities - have recently arisen in science, calling into question this paradigm of "truth" and they no longer believe that they discover something real and external which, once proved, would be acquired "definitively" to human knowledge.
Many cultures believe the truth to be something relative, a creation of the mind: therefore no struggles are born to affirm it.
An anecdote tells the story of a conversation between a Western scholar, a Judeo-Christian culture, and an oriental scholar of Buddhist culture about the events that could be expected after death.
The first claimed that he would see St. Peter, or the devil, who would assign him his destination. The second would meet Cenresig, or the Amithaba Buddha, or some "terrifying" deity. The former considered it obvious that both would have done the same kind of encounter, the "true" one, but after some explanation he was able to understand that for the oriental everyone would have met "his" deities.
For the Oriental, the focus was not on which of the two versions was the true one, but on the fact that both were mind creations and devoid of reality, therefore related to the experimenting subject. His advice was just to keep in mind that it was about the creations of the mind - whatever image they were - and to fix the attention on the "colorless light at the center", which means the absence of mental impurities. That is, the essential thing was not to fixate on the "truth" but to free oneself from the conditioning.
The difference was therefore the conception of reality or truth and not of knowing which "deities" would meet, that is, who was "in the right".
For the westerner, on the other hand, the problem was to find out what the truth was, and whether the figure of Saint Peter or the figure of the Buddha presented themselves to the two subjects were "objectively existing". The difference was of philosophical conception and not of religious belief.
Let us now examine the attitude of the three groups of cultures with regard to hunting:
- In Western-style civilizations there is the phenomenon "kill for fun": often the killing is even considered a "merit" by the hunter. The phenomenon, seriously present, however, involves a minority, even if rather intrusive; the only way to limit it now consists in strict prohibitions. In the West there are those who spend money to kill, which is even the opposite of "getting food" essential to the idea of hunting in many other models.
- In many animist cultures the capture of the prey was seen as the gift of a god, which can be interpreted as "the genius of the species": the capture was lawful only if it was followed by the complete use of all the parts of the gift, to primarily a food and survival purpose. Often the most hunted animal was also considered a totem, had its own sacredness. The possible killing made "for fun" or "without purpose" was an offense to the god: therefore it was experienced as a crime and placed the hunter in the position of those who await the punishment of the god, which we could also call "consequence of the complex guilt ": usually this punishment arrived punctually, through the mysterious paths of the unconscious and the indissoluble bonds between mind and body.
Animist cultures rarely provoked species extinction or the destruction of ecosystems: for many thousands of years the natives of America lived in symbiosis with millions of bison and all the other species in harmonious and dynamic balance; it took only two or three centuries of European civilization to destroy everything.
- In general, the cultures of the East considered the other beings or in a cycle of deaths and rebirths ( samsara ) or anyway worthy of the greatest benevolence: all the living beings were part of a cosmic equilibrium. This gave rise to morals such as "Do not harm any sentient being". Even here the possibility of having fun killing was experienced as a serious crime.
In the Eastern conceptions the other living species are composed of beings who live our own adventure in different ways, with full right to a free and independent life. Instead, in our world, the so-called "movements for life" consider it obvious to deal only with human life, without even the need to specify it. Of the balance and the state of health of Life, that is, of the Complex of the Living, they do not care at all.
Basically, in order for the "hunting" phenomenon to really end, even though prohibitions are very useful, a new ethical and cultural basis is indispensable.
However, it is necessary to pay attention to the "traditional hunting" permits granted by some governments, and therefore from the West, to tribal cultures under the pretext of keeping them alive, because this hunting often results in a massacre with firearms to sell furs to big commercial companies and so have the money to buy the TV. The Eskimos or the Siberians hunting by helicopter have nothing traditional: when they take up a gun they are already the West. Traditional civilizations no longer exist from the moment a firearm arrives and the values of the original culture are lost.
The West is contagious and easily seduces with its new myths. With this fighter we obtain only a further degradation of Nature and a "western" massacre even if performed by former members of other human cultures.
There is a great confusion between race and culture: an Eskimo who kills the seal with a rifle or in any case with the purpose of selling the skin to a commercial company is not an Eskimo, but it is the West.
Integrated hunting in animist cultures is something quite different from commercial or industrial hunting, even if carried out by people or communities of non-European ethnic groups. The substance is given by intention, purpose and manner, not by the hunter's ethnic origin.
The West spreads the idea that everything is composed of units that interact with each other, each with a distinct individual and egoic character. Religious traditions sometimes try to soften the sense of ego, considering however the non-ego as "the next", "the others", the social, thus limiting the attention to the individual or collective components of our species.
Instead in the Eastern and animist traditions the non-ego is a totality that includes all living beings, mountains, rivers, trees. The other-from-self is worthy of respect, admiration and veneration.
Even a certain idea of immortality is affected by this conception. In the West we are looking for a form of "immortality" exalting the ego, with great individual works, "going to history" and the like. The streets carry names of people, even the mountains remind people.
Instead the names of rivers and mountains of the East and of the traditional civilizations recall the nature of the place or some "divinity" that dwells there, that is, they recall a natural sacredness. Immortality is sought by identifying with Nature and nullifying the mortal ego, increasing the perception and harmony with the vital rhythm of the cosmos, overcoming the life-death dualism, seen as a repetition of cycles feeding each other.
The West wants to persist the ego of the works, trying to make them permanent, together with their authors, exalted as individuals. On the other hand, it is symptomatic of a Buddhist feast, where a splendid mandala (33) , created with very fine sands of multiple colors and the result of a month's work of attentive monks, is immediately dispersed in the wind as a symbol of universal impermanence: its existence has the same value as its non-existence.
But today science also tells us that everything is destined, however, to dissolve and to recreate itself in an incessant flow. There is no stable entity in the Universe.
So, rather than trying to leave a trace in history, which is destined to fail, it would be better "never leave such deep footprints that the wind can not erase them".
The concept of progress is a way of interpreting the flow of events, it is the paradigm of the modern West, it is not at all an "objective" observation of how events take place. It comes only from considering the scale of values of industrial civilization as obvious and proper to all of humanity.
Let's see it in the three groups of cultures:
- In Western culture it is seen as an indefinite increase in material goods and a decrease in physical labor. This is made possible by the idea that we must "manipulate the world" given the absolute supremacy of our species; that is why the West is dominated by the demon of doing, which sacrifices living and being.
Each generation sets itself the goal of leaving a "better" world of how it has received it. Of course he can not do it at all.
- In oriental cultures progress consists in increasing perception and mental serenity, it is interpreted as an advancement on the path of non-ego and serenity ( nirvana ).
- In animist cultures there is no need of the idea of progress: manipulating Nature means altering the sacred and oneself and losing the harmony of the world.
In traditional civilizations, each generation sets itself the goal of leaving the world as equal as possible to how it was received, because the Soul of the world is not and can not be changed.
These cultures are not at all taken by the problems of material survival, which they do not devote more than a few hours a day. All the rest of the time is dedicated to the magical-spiritual aspect of life, to give meaning to existence. Modern civilization has not given us "free time".
Tribal peoples depend on their land like no other. In fact, they draw from them food, medicines, building materials and spiritual and cultural contents. Invading the fragile Amazonian forest means preventing the Indians from experiencing traditional hunting and harvesting and forcing them, at best, to work for the invaders as unskilled workers.
Opening a mine in one of the sacred lands of Australia is like sticking a knife in the heart of the cultural heritage of an Aboriginal population and cutting the roots, forty thousand years old, that feed its soul.
We compare the life of the Indians of the Amazon with that of the poor living in cities, on the edge of the so-called civilization: the Indians live serenely in comfortable homes, in communities where solitude is unknown, and have a varied and healthy diet. They provide for all their needs by working only three or four hours a day, thus managing to devote much time to children, philosophy, religion and rituals.
By contrast, the Third World's poor, who should benefit from "civilization", become poorer every day in spite of the huge sums spent on aid. Death and illness, drug and alcohol abuse are customary for them. And this is because the development, the construction of dams, the mining industry, etc. they do not bring benefits to the tribal peoples, whose lands are destroyed instead, with all the nature living in them.
Finally, here is how some of the Amerindian cultures poetically marked the quasi-monthly rhythm:
- the moon when the ducks come back and hide (February);
- the moon when the grass appears (April);
- the moon when the red lilies bloom (June);
- the moon when the deer lose their horns (August);
- the moon of the colored trees (October);
and so on (34) .
Notes to Chapter 6
(30) Sanskrit term which literally means "That". It is used to indicate the primordial substance, immanent in all things, which can manifest itself as a psyche, matter, energy.
(31) Chandogya Upanishad , 10th khanda, from Upanishad , Ed. UTET, 1976.
(32) News taken from some newspapers and from the periodical Paramita - Notebooks of Buddhism.
(33) Universal symbolic representation in a very fine and complicated colored drawing, full of details full of meaning.
(34) These expressions are taken from the volume: Dee Brown - Bury my heart to Wounded Knee - Ed. Mondadori, 1972.
7 - CURRENT TRENDS TRENDS
1- Biology - Psychoanalysis - Anthropology
The idea that man has been the pre-established goal of every natural evolution since the beginning of time seems to me to be the paradigm of the blind pride that precedes the fall. If I had to believe that an omnipotent God intentionally created the present man as represented by the average exponent of our species, then I would doubt the existence of God.
Our science needs an immaterial biology.
Psychic forces certainly have nothing to do with consciousness; however much we like to play with the thought that consciousness and psyche are identical, ours is nothing but a presumption of the intellect. Our mania to explain everything rationally finds a sufficient basis in metaphysical fear, because Enlightenment and metaphysics have always been two hostile brothers. The "psychic forces" have rather to do with the unconscious soul; that is why all that is suddenly brought to man by coming out of that obscure region is considered either as coming from outside and therefore real, or as a hallucination and therefore not real. But the possibility that there are real things that do not come from the outside has so far barely glimpsed the mind of the man of our time.
Carl Gustav Jung
No truth seems to me more evident than that animals are endowed with thought and reason like men. The arguments are so clear in this regard, that they do not escape even the stupid and ignorant.
In the next two chapters, I will review some of the trends that have taken place in various fields of science in the twentieth century. These are minority ideas, but they are decidedly different from the mainstream of thought affirmed in the West especially in the nineteenth century and which constitutes the matrix of industrial civilization.
This chapter is dedicated to the general premises and fields of biology, psychoanalysis and anthropology, while the next chapter is devoted essentially to physics.
I will leave for some centuries ago, that is, from Copernicus. It should be premised that, when we talk about the various authors, we are not referring to their personal vision of the world, but to interpretations born in the light of successive passages and expansions, that is to extensions later, also by fusion with the thought of others. In fact very often the novelties of thought then seem to spread almost in contrast with the conscious intentions of some of their greatest initiators.
As a sign of hope, it can be seen that, precisely in the period in which the mechanistic conceptions born from the Old Testament and the philosophy of Descartes are spreading as "modern" on the wave of the material power of the West, they are subjected to criticism more and more numerous and close by the same Western scholars, to the point of being able to say that, in the light of current knowledge, they are almost unsustainable.
But for a profound change of the basic philosophy of large layers of people, it takes a few centuries, after the first signs of change. Unfortunately, today we do not have even a few decades to avoid that the demographic and economic-industrial expansion leads the world towards the catastrophe for the breaking of every vital equilibrium: the species and the destroyed ecosystems are not reproducible.
According to Fritjof Capra, the metaphysics of an era derives from the physics of the previous era: it is a matter of speeding up the "turning point" as much as possible.
With the Copernican revolution, the center of the Universe passes from the Earth to the Sun: it is the first step to question the relationship between man and nature, of a first shift from the central position, even if it takes centuries to perceive its real extent. However, the spiritual exclusivity of our species is not yet minimally affected.
In the nineteenth century the Cartesian thought had already been affirmed, to which we have already mentioned. The main current of biology considered animals and the human body itself as machines, automata to be cut into smaller and smaller parts, sort of clocks to be dismantled piece by piece to understand how they work. Spiritual and emotional phenomena were considered prerogative of the human being and completely separated from the body.
The damage - still visible today - brought about by the Cartesian vision of medicine is known, which considers the body as a dismountable automaton endowed with its own functioning.
Only recently have many doubts arose that have given rise to minority currents that attempt a unitary view of health. This approach was initially indicated reductively with the name "psychosomatic medicine" and now tends to take the name of "holistic medicine".
Let's see, for example, Servier's opinion comparing western medicine with traditional medicines from other human cultures:
In traditional civilizations the human body is conceived as a bundle of principles: the disorder of one brings imbalance into the other. Illness is a disorder of the body linked to the evil of the soul. After a long time we also came to admit this principle, and we covered it with the name of psychosomatic medicine, which is more reassuring for the reason. Only the West believes that the body has a life of its own and that its diseases do not depend also on the immaterial principles of the human person. In the other civilizations that surround us, on the contrary, man has thought that every illness of the body comes from a disorder of the soul, which must be healed before treating the body.
The man of traditional civilizations struck by the disease will try to find out in what has offended the Invisible. If the cause of his illness is not metaphysical - psychosomatic, if you want - he will try to get the best material remedies, including those of the white man. The western first uses all the material remedies he knows, and then ends up in the hands of the healers, repeating again: "You never know". But he never seeks in himself the cause of his evil. (35)
But let's go back to nineteenth century biology.
The biological evolution, expressed in complete form above all by the work of Charles Darwin, decisively undermined the idea that humanity was "special", "the fruit of separate creation", something "detached from Nature".
However, when Darwin's thought appeared, one missed an excellent opportunity for a real cultural turning point: instead of highlighting the essential fact, that is the belonging of our species to Nature and therefore the necessity to follow the great cyclic laws, evolution was framed in full in the prevailing mechanicism: it was highlighted above all the idea of "natural selection and survival of the fittest" with all sorts of arbitrary extension.
Evolution could supplant the previous conception much more deeply: but this did not happen, or perhaps not yet. On the contrary, some of the superficial aspects of Darwin's theory have been assimilated immediately and exploited in order to further legitimize the mechanistic view of the world. Its deep implications have never really been explored, at least until very recently.
In fact, the prevailing climate of thought in the nineteenth century produced an idea of biological evolution in which above all the emphasis was placed, as mentioned above, on natural selection based on the struggle for life and survival of the fittest.
These ideas, immediately received and exported to other fields (where they sometimes gave rise to expressions such as "survival of the best") because they were born in a specific cultural-social climate, were even taken as the main foundation of biological evolution , to the point of overpowering the idea of "belonging of the human species to Nature" that was to be the essential perception.
Today's economic-industrial world is based above all on those conceptions born in the nineteenth century.
As an example of some sign of transition to another vision in that field, I will mention the biologist Laborit who writes:
... Each cell, involving itself in the functions of an organ, relies on those of other organs of the organism to ensure those functions which it no longer has to perform. Its existence becomes dependent on the whole and the existence of the whole becomes dependent on the work of each of them. Here is another stage of the evolution that does not seem to have been remembered either by Darwin, nor by his "new" epigones, during which they are not the competition, nor the survival of the strongest to have been the main objectives, but, at the contrary, precisely the agreement, mutual support, cooperation. ...
At the beginning of the century PAKrapotkin had already advanced the idea that evolution was due more to mutual support than to competitive struggle. (36).
In essence, evolution, rather than being seen as the essential fact that we are Nature , has been seen in its development over time as "progress" only because this point of view was very useful for the nascent industrial society. Competition and selection were not the essential points, they were only the expression of a human culture.
As an exponent of the twentieth century of biological mechanistic thought, we can mention Jacques Monod, founder of molecular biology, who in the Sixties thus concluded his thought:
The ancient covenant is broken. Man finally knows that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the Universe, from which he emerged by chance. His duty and destiny are not written anywhere. (37)
Here we are at the height of metaphysical anguish, just attenuated by a form of ethics of knowledge. Nothing makes sense.
Why are we here, so extremely unlikely events?
By pure chance, even if the "case" does not have a completely clear meaning. According to Monod, we are here because "our number came out on the wheel of Monte Carlo".
For this kind of materialism, life is reduced to falling into a Universe not made to welcome it, to cling to a grain of sand until death dissolves us, to strut us for a very short time on a very small theater, knowing full well that what we do or think is condemned to a final check and that everything will perish with our species or our solar system, leaving the Universe as if we had never existed. It is absolutely vain to look for a purpose or a continuity in history: when the Sun, following its stellar evolution, will become a red giant star extending its volume to the orbit of Mars, nothing will remain of anything that has happened on Earth .
But already François Jacob, a colleague of Monod, speaks of "logic of the living". (38)
The living has its own logic, there is a form of immanence.
As we will see in the next chapter, at the school in Brussels, the group led by Ilya Prigogine, studying the "dissipative structures" or far from equilibrium, as are the living systems, speaks of a tendency to structure, self-organize. (39) Here too there is an inner push, an immanent "desire" to create structures.
In biological determinism one does not take into account the creativity of chaos, the creative indeterminacy of dissipative structures, the fact that there is a sort of free will, or proto-intelligence, in energy-matter. DNA is also inherently indeterminate, just as all environmental influences are never identical, because an infinitely small difference is enough to cause macroscopic divergences after finite times. Instability is creative and generates differences.
The concept of environment must then be reviewed. In fact, according to Bateson:
Now we begin to see some of the epistemological errors of Western civilization. In harmony with the climate of thought that predominated in the mid-nineteenth century in England, Darwin formulated a theory of natural selection and evolution in which the survival unit was either the family or the species or the subspecies or something of the kind. But today it is undisputed that this is not the survival unit of the real biological world: the unity of survival is the complex "organism plus environment" (ie it is not a unit that can be delimited). We are learning on our skin that the organism that destroys its environment destroys itself. (40)
Later we read that the evolutionary survival unit coincides with the mental unit.
But if one chooses the wrong unity, one ends up by contrasting one species with another that surrounds it or the environment in which it lives: man against Nature.
Recalling a moral teaching already mentioned ("Do not damage any sentient being"), it is clear that one can understand this "mental unity" as a "sentient being". Instead of the term mind , perhaps it would be better to use, with Jung, the word psyche to remember clearly that it is not only the conscious part, but above all of "unconscious plus consciousness", in which the former is preponderant. In short, we do not mean the restrictive concept of the current thinking of the modern West. Thus, even with the conceptions of Bateson, an ecosystem, a species, a collectivity of living beings linked by reciprocal relations or multiple symbiosis are endowed with "mind" or "psychism".
For a comparison with the Eastern conceptions, the mental unity coincides with the subject entity of karma (41) : it is not only a matter of the individual in a physical or mechanistic sense. The Living Complexes constitute, with their interrelations, phenomena and mental subjects.
So the invitation to "Do not damage any sentient being" can be understood as a highly ecological prescription and not as a simple invitation to become vegetarians; apart from that naturally also plants and plant and animal complexes are to be understood as "sentient", even if the degree of consciousness of all these entities can be considerably different.
Watch Fritjof Capra:
According to Bateson, the mind is a necessary and unavoidable consequence of a certain complexity, which begins long before living organisms develop a brain and a higher nervous system. He also emphasized that mental characteristics are manifest not only in individual organisms, but also in social systems and ecosystems, that the mind is immanent not only in the body but also in the pathways and messages outside the body. A mind without a nervous system? Would the mind manifest itself in all systems that meet certain criteria? Would the mind be immanent in ways and messages outside the body? These ideas were so new to me that, at first, I could not make sense of them. The notion of Bateson's mind did not seem to have anything to do with the things I associate with the word "mind". (42).
Among the different forms of thought emerging in these years is also worthy of the conception of James Lovelock, who with his theory of the living Earth, or Gaia, highlights that individuals - or species - do not evolve in the environment (by contrast or adaptation), but that organisms and environment form a unique complex in continuous evolution: note the analogy, on this point, with the vision of Bateson. In this context the "struggle for life" loses much of its meaning.
Lovelock's Gaia is also a metaphysical entity, it is a "divinity": the limitation on the boundaries of the Planet is due only to the fact that there is no hypothesis of a connection with the rest of the Universe.
But with the conception of the English astronomer Fred Hoyle, life travels largely through interstellar spaces. In this way we find again the idea of the Divine Universal, not only centered on life in the biological sense. Naturally also the earth, the rocks, the torrents are Gaia.
At this point it is useful to bring back some of Rupert Sheldrake, naturalist and philosopher:
For some centuries, a cultured minority of the West believes that our planet is dead, a simple nebulous sphere of inanimate stones that revolves around the Sun according to mechanical laws. This is a very risky opinion, when we consider it in a broader human context. In the course of history almost all of humanity felt that the Earth was alive.
The hypothesis of Gaia is undoubtedly a considerable step forward towards a new animism; precisely for this reason it is so discussed. On the other hand it arouses great interest because it links us to the thought patterns of pre-mechanismism and pre-humanism.
If Gaia is in some way animated, then she must possess something like a soul, an organizing principle with its own goals and objectives. But we must not suppose that the Earth is conscious only because it seems alive and provided with intentionality. He could be conscious, but if he were, his conscience would probably be incredibly different from ours, which is inevitably influenced by the culture and language of men. On the other hand it could also be completely unconscious. Or, like us, it could be a creature with unconscious habits, sometimes with a certain amount of consciousness. This question must remain open.
What changes if we consider living nature rather than inanimate? First, we put into crisis the humanist hypotheses on which modern civilization is based. Secondly, we establish a different relationship with the natural world and we acquire a different perspective of human nature. Third, a new sacralization of nature becomes possible. (43).
We will mention the modern field of ethology: here too the qualitative non-distinctiveness between our species and other animal species has been highlighted. We recall above all the thought of Konrad Lorenz, as it appears in a short article by Anacleto Verrecchia published in the La Stampa newspaper of 8 September 1986. Here are some of the following:
Einstein said that it is easier to break an atom than a common place. Who will ever be able to break the cliché that denies the animals not only the intelligence, but also the ability to suffer or love? In front of the moving episode of the gorilla that caresses the child who has fallen into his cage, we can not help but speak of instinct, as if the apes were automatisms for the protection of the careless boys. And if an adult had fallen into the cage, such as a theologian or a philosopher of instinct, would the gorilla behave as kindly?
I spent a lot of time talking about these topics with Konrad Lorenz, father of modern ethology. When asked whether the animals are aware, with the passionate and fascinating tone that distinguishes it, he replies: " No serious person should doubt this. I am fully convinced, I say fully, that animals have a conscience. Man is not the only one to have a subjective inner life " . And he adds that man is too presumptuous, too self-absorbed. Of course, says the great scientist, the fact that animals have a conscience "raises problems" . Perhaps man is afraid to take other steps in this logic: recognizing an inner life to animals, he would be forced to horrify by the way he treats them.
Lorenz also spoke to me of the infallibility with which animals immediately know the intentions of those in front of them. But there is no need to bother such authority, to comment on the episode of the gorilla in question. Only a rough mind or sick with dogmatism could doubt the good intentions of the animal. And the dogs of Vienna, including those of Lorenz, are never threatening by instinct or because they understand that people love them and would never hurt them?
After all, ethology is confirming what Giordano Bruno had guessed with his philosophical genius, namely that all living things are different phenomena of a single universal substance. They draw from the same metaphysical root and their difference is quantitative non-qualitative or, to use Kant's language, non-noumenical phenomenology. The intellect, which serves to intuit the relationship of things between them, is common, albeit proportionate to needs, to all living beings. This is taught by great thinkers, starting with Schopenhauer, and this ultimately supports Lorenz.
It would be pure blindness to consider man as something completely divorced from the rest of the animal kingdom. The discovery that animals lie - for example the alpine and coral choughs, but Lorenz also spoke to me about other animals - and therefore they are capable of abstraction has even drove down the dogma that only man had the ability to reflect in abstracto .
Western philosophy is too impregnated with theology. Even Nietzsche recognized this, even though he spoke and preached like an upside-down priest. Evil is already at the beginning: " Grow and multiply, and populate the earth, and subjugate it, and master the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and all the animals that move on the earth. "Master, that is, oppress, torment and kill all other living beings: do you speak like this, a God? And could he not even spare himself these words, after having created an evil being like man? Lorenz, even after an examination of a historical nature, defines such a commandment as " satanic ".
What a painful contrast to the sublime words that Buddha addressed to his horse when he left him free: "Go! You too are destined for nirvana one day ".
This episode made Schopenhauer and Wagner tremble with emotion, but it does not at all impress the cerebral cortex of our philosophers-theologians. Descartes, who considered animals as simple machines, is more congenial to them.
Near Lorenz you can breathe better both scientifically and morally. Precisely because it has probed the inner life of animals like no one else, it also knows what moral responsibility this entails .... (44)
From an interview with the monthly Natur of November 1988, three months before his death, we quote these words of Lorenz:
Once she said she was afraid of a new type of man surrounded only by ugly and technological things. Thus we arrive at the question of cultural formation.
"Yes, I do not see how it is possible that a person born and raised in New York can understand the beauty of a water flea or a spotted salamander. The most beautiful thing he saw is a Cadillac; so he wants a Cadillac. And he does not know that there are things that inspire respect. We need to put young people in the condition to be able to show respect ....
If I see a living being or even a variety of living things - for example a daphnia, a leptodora and other types of water fleas - I sense they are members of a single family tree, incorporating a becoming. In this way I can get an insight into the past millions of years. And this is a fact that inspires in me the most profound respect ".
Respect for what?
"For the good God, if you want"
But then you are a believer ...
"In a sense, we are pantheists by nature. The periodic system of elements is constituted in such a way that life was to be born. But I do not believe in "good God" and even less in the "Father of Heaven", I do not want to be part of a Church ... " (45)
We come to psychoanalysis. After Copernicus and Darwin, the human species is no longer detached from Nature, nor at the center of the Universe; at least so it had to be. But after the revolution of thought initiated by Freud, man is no longer the master of himself. There are forces, impulses, drives in us that we are not aware of. Everything that happens to us or we do is affected by events that we do not remember in the least.
However, the founder of psychoanalysis always spoke only of the human person as an autonomous and defined individual. He thought that the unconscious was individual and began to "form" at birth or conception.
Only with the most profound change made especially by Carl Gustav Jung is the beginning of manifesting, even in Western culture, the idea of the collective unconscious, of something that links inwardly the various individualities.
The more we go deeper, the more the psyche expands, the more it becomes collective and generalized, ancestral or "archetypical"; it includes ever larger communities, ever larger animal classifications, all of Life, probably the Universal Totality.
Jung, while using the conceptual categories of the West, had a profound knowledge of Eastern philosophies. We begin to talk about non-causal synchronous phenomena and to consider other dimensions that are not only the rational and conscious sphere. The concept of an autonomous person who acts on the world is increasingly faltering. Whatever we do, we also manipulate ourselves: there is no "external world".
Moreover, the idea that the "conscious self" is an autonomous and permanent entity is only a prejudice. Our ego has no more power over the universal complex than a seagull fleeing to influence winds and storms. This does not mean that we are like twigs in the whirlwind. The seagull can fly according to the wind and not against it: it can take refuge in the cavities of the rocks and do not get slammed against the coast. We are neither "predestined" nor lords of ourselves. We can support or not the universal flow, which has a life of its own.
As for some recent studies of transpersonal psychology, I quote as an example a passage by Stanislav Grof:
The existence of transpersonal experiences violates some of the most basic presuppositions and principles of mechanistic science. They imply seemingly absurd concepts, such as the arbitrary and relative nature of all physical barriers, non-spatial connections of the universe, communication through unknown media and channels, memory without material substrate, non-linearity of time, or consciousness associated with all life forms (including unicellular organisms and plants) and even inorganic matter. (46)
The mainstream of the ethnological studies that emerged in the last centuries saw other cultures as "primitive", waiting to reach the level of Western civilization through progress, an unstoppable and evident phenomenon for the whole of humanity. All human cultures were destined to progress and therefore to become "Westerners": for this purpose it was necessary to help them, to teach them how to live well.
Even current thinking is generally on these positions. The nineteenth-century concept of the "civil" European that goes to study the "savages" and to help "the primitives" has not yet been overcome.
Among the ideas of minority, born in the last decades and in the phase of ascent, in addition to mentioning the thought of Levy-Strauss, of which we have already had occasion to bring back some pieces and that has not spared criticism of the cultural pride of the West, I will indicate the current of Marcel Griaule and Jean Servier, in which the framework of equality between human cultural models acquires an even more defined connotation, as can be seen from some concluding pages of a book by Servier (year 1967):
The 18th century was the Century of Enlightenment, in which thinkers of good will made plans to improve the destiny of humanity, believing that it was enough to educate "those there" to lead them to a better condition.
The 19th century followed him and the heirs of those thinkers wanted to improve the condition of the peoples who still escaped to the West, without asking their opinion, renewing the attempts, however always voted unsuccessful, of enlightened despots.
As Madame de Genlis said, "in order to civilize the savages we must always begin by dominating them, as we must begin by governing the children in a despotic manner".
Every century has had its own Encyclopedists; ours has economists. They bent seriously on these countries considered underdeveloped, offering their consultations with the sententious tone of a doctor called to the bedside of a patient. Then came the last missionary: the Intellectual, who wants to bring the "underdeveloped countries" into history, without ever wondering, in his silly pride, what place the West occupies in the history of the Bambara, the Moi or the Eskimos . Even the Intellectual wants to civilize the savages, that is, make them similar to themselves; he too tries to dominate them, as he can. After all, he despises the peoples of the "Third World" as they are: he accepts them only to the extent that they submit and capitulate once more to Western thought more intransigent than ever.
None of these "civilizing heroes", naive or hateful, has wondered whether it is not ridiculous to propose Western civilization as the only one possible, if this is not as absurd as offering the hermit of Mount Athos a place in a factory and two rooms more services, for a more "rational", "progressive" and "civil" existence.
None of these professionals of thought can admit that the machine, like our system of production and consumption, is an exclusive criterion of Western civilization in a given moment of its existence: a relative criterion, like the wheel, the potter's wheel , the boomerang or the game of cards, which are never the undeniable index of a point of arrival of human thought.
There is also the "Fourth World", which no one cares about, as well as to the General States the lords of the Third State did not care about the interests of the peasants who worked their lands. There are the tattooed, the feathered, the naked, put on the edge of humanity, exploited by everyone, even from the "Third World"; peoples whose names appear only in museums of ethnography. These have no choice but to die: they gradually extinguish relentlessly, in the face of Western civilization, as certain animals without defense or too ornate have disappeared.
Thus the West cuts out humanity according to its structure, cutting off civilizations in bloom, deliberately throwing away treasures of knowledge and thought. We have never understood that this stubborn underdevelopment of entire continents or even of European regions is actually the big safety valve of humanity, a valve that protects the only men capable of surviving when the lifts are blocked and the bakeries are closed.
Many cases of our civilization should make us measure the pride of the West, which admits only material underdevelopment.
I wonder which sociologist would agree to study the intellectual and moral underdevelopment of Western civilization in this late twentieth century. Would we be willing to accept that ocean, African or Asian philosophers were concerned about the increase in mental illness and crime in the West or that they proposed a methodical plan that would tend to make us "developing" populations?
We have decided to ignore our enormous liabilities, to propose ourselves as a model to the rest of the world, partly by vanity, but above all by interest. We are the "affluent" and for this we have all the rights on the rest of humanity. We have deliberately distorted the economic and human balance of traditional civilizations and have dragged the rest of humanity behind us, in our endless struggle to conquer the goods of this world.
No moralist has ever posed the problem of the responsibility of the West in this creation of artificial needs, which we mask under the name of "civilization" or "standard of life", which has the sole purpose of making our factories work.
On the human level we set ourselves as an example to the rest of the world. Colonization has always been only the will to deliberately provoke intellectual mutants under the label of moral progress: it continues its work inexorably, long after the weapons have been laid ...
The Grand Council of Onondaga no longer succeeded in imposing its authority and the traditional structures sank, undermined by the gold of the white man. In 1666 Jesuit missionaries complain that the Iroquois travel up to eight hundred kilometers to get a "fire-water" bin. The villages are abandoned, the fields remain uncultivated. The war in the service of the white man has become a profession in which a whole population is lost.
Elsewhere, it was the charity of the white man to be mortal.
"White provides everything and responds to everything. Distributes already made products. The men, pressed into increasingly repulsive huts, die waiting for the next distribution. What remains of the group is nothing but death and sickness, what remains of hope is all turned to the outside ".
Added to this is the desire to equalize the Westerners, which forces work and humiliation (increasingly less felt over time) of distributions, gifts, free maintenance.
"Finding it easier to ask than to seek, they gradually degrade to the condition of beggars". This attitude, badly tolerated at the beginning, has become a habit and then a policy.
Are the spirit of conquest, the will to power, the measure of any success?
If the oceanists had a similar ambition to ours, no one would have prevented them from disembarking in Europe like some new Vikings on their rock-fishing pirogues. What renaissance could have resisted the arrows dipped in the curaro, launched with blow-bys coming from the Amazon?
Our civilization would have retreated in front of the hidden threat in the forests of Europe inhabited by strange populations capable of living there. Our high walls would not protect us for a long time against naked, silent, agile and hungry men.
Classical history has preserved the memory of periods during which a sovereign was able to impose his domination thanks to a homogeneous warlike caste. This domain has generally quickly reached its limits in space and time.
The empires of Nineveh, of Assur, of Mycenae or of Egypt have fluctuated around the same center of geographical gravity, covering more or less long periods.
The Persian empires and the empire of Alexander seem to be the first to be released from their areas of civilization and to have lived only a few years, sometimes, like the empire of Alexander, the space of a human life.
All were already prefigurations of Western civilization for their desire for hegemony, and also for their deep awareness of being points of arrival, to possess all the techniques, all the refinements, all the "civilization" of an era.
Each time, these realms of matter have dragged with them a weakening of spiritual values, giving man the conquest of the goods of this world as the sole purpose of earthly life.
In this the West of the twentieth century is but a climax, not a new phenomenon. It went farther than all the other empires, enslaving the whole of humanity, dominating the material world, perpetuating itself in time, realizing the most insane and cruel dreams of power dormant in man and hitherto repressed.
The memory of mass massacres perpetrated in the West and the West in this twentieth century is still in every memory; it is useless to remember the facts.
No technically backward people, no naked, tattooed "savages" have ever conceived of trampling human dignity to the point of reaching the abomination of gas chambers, concentration camps, human bodies turned into fertilizer or soap.
The West has been dragged by war into the deepest abyss, towards the fulfillment of the descending spiral, the bottom of matter. It is difficult to support the theories according to which Western civilization marks a chronological evolution towards the good or towards a more morally effective realization of the human person.
Thinking back to this drama, whose traces are still sensitive in our memory, it is difficult to state that Western civilization is the supreme good of humanity, its logical point of arrival, material and metaphysical. It is unthinkable to make the war wanted by man the agent of any improvement, unless you see the world upside down and consider the fall as an ascent ....
Imagine that tomorrow our scientists disembark on the moon, they sail from one planet to another, realize the synthesis of life and discover, simultaneously with the elixir of youth, a remedy against all diseases: what would we gain? Men who are unable to place a surplus of potatoes as they will use the surplus of human life that will be offered to them? (47)
Perhaps these pages of Servier are excessively harsh towards Western civilization, which must be considered a cultural model on a par with others and not something different, superior or inferior. But you can still make some considerations.
As we have seen, there are no "primitives" but only different models: there are no "savages" who spend their days thinking only about getting food and making love, but cultures dedicated above all to the perception of the "invisible", ie of spiritual unity with Life and with all of Nature. The European conceptions of the last centuries, derived from the Greeks, the Romans and the Jewish world, are only the expression of the pride of the West, following its overwhelming material power, obtained at the price of extreme poverty of cosmic perception and cause of neurosis and anguish.
In essence, the cause of our troubles is the psychophysical detachment from Nature, to which we belong.
Even the current racial problem is usually seen with a view that can not lead to any result. In fact, racism and anti-racism essentially have the same matrix, that is, the basic idea that they are different races that can, or can not, coexist in the "modern" world.
But if we look at the phenomenon under a wider angle and over a period of a few centuries, the arrival of "different races" appears as the backlash of disbanded individuals whose original cultures have been destroyed.
That is, the residues of unbalanced clashes between models of life: the West has destroyed the original cultures in Asia, Africa and the Americas; the children of these westernized ex-cultures seek to satisfy the new "needs", or the new non-values, on the edge of the model imposed on them.
The West has brought a dreadful excess of human population on the ashes of other cultures, and this surplus of people, westernized, is poured where it can. An African with a series-built cigarette lighter in his hand or a machine gun coming out of an assembly line is no longer a Bantu or a Bambara, it is the West.
Even the Nations and Governments of the so-called Third World are already the West, being institutions typical of this culture: it is also so that the West destroys what remains of the traditional civilizations of those lands.
The so-called racial problem would not exist if the diversity and geographical and environmental distribution of human cultures were preserved and there had not been the worldwide expansion of a single hegemonic culture.
In the so-called Third World the degradation that we see is not due, as we want to make believe, "to underdevelopment and poverty", which are exclusive concepts of Western civilization, but is caused by the destruction of the original cultures.
All this naturally must not make us think that there is necessarily intentional and conscious "blame" on the part of anyone, but only an incessant flow of events due to the prevailing or not of certain schools of thought.
Notes to Chapter 7
(35) Jean Servier - Man and the Invisible - Ed. Rusconi, 1973.
(36) Henry Laborit - God does not play dice - Ed. Eleuthera, 1989.
(37) Jacques Monod - Case and necessity - Ed. Mondadori, 1970.
(38) François Jacob - The Logic of the Living - Ed. Einaudi, 1971.
(39) I.Prigogine and I.Stengers - The New Alliance - Ed. Einaudi, 1981.
(40) Gregory Bateson - Towards an ecology of the mind - Ed. Adelphi, 1976.
(41) Sanskrit term untranslatable, which means "the action" or "the consequence of the actions". It is a kind of "destiny" but due to actions done previously and not imposed from the outside. The karma is a natural force, essentially unconscious and unplanned. The model and nature of any complex would depend on the collective karma of sentient beings and their relationships. The Karma can be defined as the causal process that links every action in previous cases and results that must be derived from them .
(42) Fritjof Capra - Towards a new wisdom - Ed. Feltrinelli, 1988.
(43) Rupert Sheldrake - The Rebirth of Nature - Ed. Corbaccio, 1994.
(44) Anacleto Verrecchia - Lorenz: even the beasts have a soul - an article published in the La Stampa newspaper of 8 September 1986.
(45) Translation from the periodical Natur , November 1988.
(46) Stanislav Grof - Beyond the Brain - Ed. Cittadella, Assisi, 1988.
(47) Jean Servier - Man and the Invisible - Ed. Rusconi, 1973.
8 - CURRENT TRENDS TRENDS
2 - Physics - Cosmology
Whatever I say, I beg you to interpret it as a question.
It is not the universe made according to our logic. We are made according to the logic of the Universe.
I am not sure that the individuality we feel as a person, as an individual, is real, that it is not an illusion. It is in any case an idea spread in the East, with the masters of the Upanishads , that it is an illusion that we are not really spiritual individuals, but "part" of the same Entity.
I believe there is an Intelligence in the Universe. Bad, I said in the Universe. The Judeo-Christian idea is that of a God who, from the outside, manufactures the Universe as one manufactures an object in an establishment. It is an idea that does not attract me. I think Intelligence is in the Universe. What is the Universe.
Before relativity, if you took away the matter, time and space remained, after relativity if you take away the material, time and space also go away.
According to the currently dominant world view, consolidated especially in the nineteenth century, all the sciences that study the so-called objective or real world are attributable to physics, that is, to the examination of the behavior of some "elementary" or "fundamental brick" component.
According to this paradigm, the changes of thought that concern the physics are those that will have more influence also on the future evolution. So I will dedicate an entire chapter to some ideas that arose in physics in the twentieth century.
The initial phase of physics, more or less in the times of Galileo and Newton, mainly concerned mechanics: as already mentioned, the Newtonian "force", cause of the movement, was something external to the material point on which it acted, which was quantified as "mass" and considered as inert.
According to the official science of the 19th century, everything is attributable to mechanics, whose equations are symmetrical with respect to time, ie they do not recognize any "preferential arrow of time".
The first hints of less mechanical ideas came with thermodynamics, where the second principle introduces a direction of time, which leads to maximum entropy. (48) However, thermodynamics remained a science interpreted in Newtonian way because irreversibility was considered the statistical result of a sum of many elementary mechanical processes, that is the movement of atoms and molecules: also the phenomena related to gas and heat was due to shocks and movements of many "balls".
Later the idea of the field was introduced; however, the objection that could be done without the concept of the field was born, only making the mathematical description much more complicated.
In reality, only with the theory of propagation of electromagnetic waves ( Maxwell equations ) we began to see something non-mechanical in the material world, even if said propagation was later interpreted as "movement of photons".
In spite of these small shadows on the model, the dominant idea was that the world was essentially mechanically comprehensible: the maximum of mechanicism, derived from Newton's conception for which the Universe is like a gigantic Clock and all its parts of the " mechanisms "separable into smaller and smaller pieces, it was reached at the end of the nineteenth century, when the conviction of" getting closer to the truth "also prevailed. In fact the Cartesian dualism was never doubted, according to which something real, real, external was being studied.
Even living beings were considered as extraordinarily complicated "machines".
There were the 92 atoms, especially indivisible balls, which constituted the whole physical reality, in which the fields also acted. Space and time were absolute realities and all processes took place in them . Spiritual phenomena were kept completely separate or considered "imaginary" and denied.
Current thinking is still generally based on these positions.
It is worth seeing, with a simplified description, how these ideas radically changed during the twentieth century, at least in some currents, which could one day also influence the general thought, still dominated by the Cartesian-Newtonian vision.
Special relativity (or restricted)
The first doubt about the indivisibility of atoms came with the discovery of radioactivity by Becquerel in the late nineteenth century.
Soon the Rutherford model was established, in which the atom appeared as a miniature solar system, ie it was made of even smaller "balls". The conception still remained that of Democritus: the elementary particles and the void existed, through which the forces that bound them were propagated.
With special or restricted relativity, enunciated by Einstein in 1905, mechanistic or classical physics began to waver: space and time have lost any absolute connotation, matter and energy have become the same thing.
The observation of the invariance of the speed of light in the void has led to a revision of the concepts of space and time, which are now no longer absolute. The fact that space and time are relative pushed to find a way to describe phenomena independent of the reference system and this led to define the continuous space-time.
It is worth mentioning a small classic example.
Consider the following ideal experiment:
A mobile environment, limited by the walls A and B, is moving with a uniform velocity v with respect to a reference system considered to be fixed. A light source S is placed at the center of the moving environment. Let's compare the point of view of an observer placed inside the room with that of a "fixed" observer.
1. For the observer in the room, the light must travel two equal distances to reach the two walls: then it arrives on A and on B at the same time.
2. For the observer considered fixed, the light must travel towards B a greater distance, since, during the light travel from S to B, the wall has moved away. Similarly, the wall A has approached and therefore the light has to travel a smaller distance to get on A.
In case 2):
- According to the patterns of classical physics:
The speed of light between S and B is greater than that between S and A (because it is affected by the speed of S) and the difference between the two speeds compensates for the difference between the two distances to be covered. Therefore the two events "light that touches the wall A" and "light that touches the wall B" are still contemporary. In fact, classical physics postulates the existence of an absolute time, independent of the observer: therefore the two events must be contemporary for all observers.
But the light has a constant speed that does not depend on the speed of the source or the reference system (experimental data).
So the reasoning of classical physics is no longer possible.
According to special relativity:
Since the speed of light is constant, for the so-called fixed observer the two events "light touching wall A" and "light touching wall B" are no longer simultaneous, but wall A is reached before wall B. Instead for the observer placed in the room the two events are still contemporary (equal distances).
To be able to describe the phenomena, we must renounce the concept of time independent of the observer: every reference system has its own time and its own succession of events (sooner or later) and therefore a "its" sequence of causes- effects.
The description of the phenomena becomes possible only in a four-dimensional space-time where time is a variable coordinate like the three spatial coordinates. In this way a conceptual scheme was reconstituted in which it is possible to describe the phenomena for all observers in uniform rectilinear motion.
Relativity (special) is a way of describing phenomena independently of the reference system (observer): the classical description only applies to a given system, because space and time are relative, that is, variable.
On an inner plane, relativity can mean the need to recover a concept of time that is not the one-way forward arrow that characterized classical physics.
With the general relativity, formulated by Einstein in 1916, gravity, seen by Newton and followers as a "field", becomes the "geometry of space-time".
Let's look at a small, very simplified example.
It is a matter of extending the problem of special relativity to all the reference systems in motion, also accelerated with respect to the other, that is, with variable relative speed and not only uniform.
Consider the following ideal experiment.
1. - A spaceship in a gravitational field, for example on Earth. The mass m falls to the ground, that is on the wall A, with the acceleration of gravity.
2 - Spaceship moving with an acceleration equal to that of gravity (accelerating in direction from A to m ) outside of any gravitational field, that is in empty space at infinite distance. In this case the bottom wall A moves towards m with an acceleration equal to that of case 1, where m went towards A.
An observer placed inside the spacecraft has no way to establish whether he is in situation 1) or in situation 2).
So the two situations are equivalent, which means that you can renounce the concept of gravitational field, replacing it with something that includes both the "gravity" situation and the "accelerated motion" situation.
The description becomes possible again, for all reference systems in any relative motion (uniform and accelerated) if it is assumed that the spacetime quoted in special relativity is "curved", where the curvature is due to the presence of masses and replaces the old "field" gravitational ".
According to Einstein's words, matter tells space-time how it should bend and space-time tells matter how it should move .
This conceptual scheme also overcomes the problem of the necessity of asking oneself respect "to what" one moves.
It is interesting to note that, in the theoretical construction of relativity, there exists a mathematical operator (called i , ie the square root of -1) which seems to have the property of "transforming" time into space. This leads us to consider that it is in any case of mental creations, like the operator i .
All that has been hitherto hitherto, far enough from the so-called "common sense", has never affected the fundamental Cartesian principle of a clear separation between an observer ( spirit , or mind ) and an observed ( matter , or matter-energy ). On the contrary, with general relativity it was thought to have succeeded in obtaining a mathematical formulation capable of describing the "objective reality" in a valid way for all observers in reciprocal, uniform and accelerated movement.
The uncertainty principle
Already in the early twentieth century Max Planck had to introduce the concept of "how much" to justify an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon: the electron, being rotating and electrically charged, would have to radiate in the vacuum, lose energy and then precipitate rapidly on the nucleus of the 'atom.
Following the quantum description, it was subsequently necessary to introduce the uncertainty principle , first formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927.
The Copenhagen interpretation of this principle, supported above all by Niels Bohr and confirmed in the following decades, denies the idea of "objective reality" and the possibility of separating, even if only conceptually, the phenomenon from its observation. We'll talk about it later.
In other words, it is impossible to distinguish the spirit from matter. That is, without a "mental" form, one can not speak of anything, except as a phantom wave of probability. With a bold but concise extension, this means that the psychism must be universal. Otherwise, what are the systems with the status of "observer"?
As known, the first formulation of the uncertainty principle concerned the imprecision with which two quantities relative to a particle can be defined, such as position and momentum (for clarity, we will say speed).
More precisely, as a consequence of the fact that the "constituents of matter" behave now as waves, now as particles (ie, they are "not" anything definite) it results that the product of the indeterminacy of two quantities (eg position and velocity , as above) is always higher than a fixed and calculable quantity. From a conceptual point of view it does not matter that this quantity is very small, even if this fact makes the macroscopic world possible.
Moreover, if one of the two inaccuracies tends to zero (ie we look for the exact position ), the other imprecision tends to infinity: we can not know anything about speed, indeed it can not be defined in any way. Only observation (ie the mental aspect) can establish one of the two quantities, but not both simultaneously: the other is indeterminate.
After 1927 the physicists were broadly divided into two currents of thought (apart from those who did not take an interest in the matter):
- a current (49) claimed that the above is due to the "inborn" inaccuracy of our instruments and our senses, and only for this we can not grasp the objective reality, however considered existing. Einstein's exclamation is known: "God could not have played dice with the Universe".
- the other current (50), with very subtle and subsequently confirmed reasoning, held that indeterminacy is intrinsic in the nature of things, that is, the particle-wave does not have a position and a velocity, indeed it is not anything that can be defined a priori .
A famous congress, at the end of the twenties, ended with a certain "demonstration" of the second hypothesis, called since then "Copenhagen interpretation". All subsequent experiments, usually very sophisticated, have confirmed the Copenhagen interpretation.
The very fact that there were two "deployments" makes one think of what inner resistances could arise in those who discovered in themselves and in the world such a conceptual revolution: some supporters of the first hypothesis had been even the involuntary initiators of the second.
It is clear that the above said signifies the end of the idea that the material world is made up of "particles" and "emptiness", a concept that was essentially still that of Democritus. In its place is an idea of empty-full eternally and "simultaneously" pulsating, a kind of creative vacuity, which recalls what was written in a sutra 2500 years ago:
This immaterial and formless substance contains innumerable functions like the sands of the Ganges, functions that infallibly correspond to circumstances, so that it is described as non-empty. (51)
So too, in the Heart Sutra :
O Sariputra, form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness. Whatever form is, that is emptiness; whatever is emptiness, that is form. (52)
The contrast between empty and full loses meaning.
As a fun example of the new quantum physics, we mention a famous mental experiment.
In a box are placed:
- a small sample of radio, chosen in such a way that there is a 50% probability that a decay occurs in the time of one hour;
- a detector that signals each decay of the radio cores;
- a circuit that closes when a decay occurs, putting into operation a mechanism that breaks a vial containing a liquid that releases deadly vapors;
- a cat.
Close the lid and allow an hour to pass.
Then the observer opens the box and looks at the detector and the cat.
Only then will the system enter a particular state (live or dead cat), since it is the observation that determines whether the decay has occurred or not.
At that time the cat was in an undetermined living-dead situation.
This is the story of Schroedinger's happy-unhappy cat.
The quantum vacuum and the concept of existence
Among the pairs of quantities subject to the uncertainty principle there is, for example, the energy-time pair which, for the known relativistic relation (E = mc 2 ), can be interpreted as mass-time torque. That is, the product of the indeterminations of energy and time is greater than a constant and calculable quantity:
^ E. ^ t> k
This means that, with very precise times (very small durations), the uncertainty of E (or m ) is very large, that is, for example the order of the mass of a given particle. So it makes no sense to say that a particle "exists" or "does not exist" below a certain length of time. If we assume a precise instant (indetermination of the null time ), the so-called particle has no mass-energy definable in any way: the indeterminacy of the mass is infinite. So the concept of "existing" is meaningless.
This means that the so-called "emptiness" is "full" of myriads of particles that are born and die continuously, living less than the maximum time granted to them.
This vacuum-non-empty energy button gives the name of quantum vacuum : starting from considerations of this type, the statement that "the Universe could have been born from a quantum fluctuation of nothingness" appeared in cosmology, where words go meditate, as often permeated with a "classic" meaning. Some have used the term " spontaneous fluctuation of the vacuum".
Whatever phenomenon occurs in the quantum vacuum, it is possible to "borrow" energy from the vacuum as long as the loan has a short duration: the larger the energy (or mass) is temporarily "born out of nothing", the smaller the duration of the loan loan and urgently his "return" to the void. Thus it is also possible to "wipe out" a mass-energy in the void in order to make it reappear before the expiry of the assigned time (or indetermination of time).
Everything leads back to the quantum vacuum, that is to a wonderful dance of energies that continually arise in being and vanish into nothingness.
All this means that it is not possible to define the state of something in a "steady" time or to see the world as a succession of "states", but that only the variation makes sense: it is a passage from being to becoming. The world does not have "existence" in a certain "instant".
These considerations have brought down the concept of existing objects to make way for a network of processes without any autonomy.
In essence, the impossibility of reasoning "for opposites" also extends to the contraposition of existence / non-existence.
Local realistic theories
There are some hypotheses that are considered "evident" not only from classical science, but also from relativistic physics; they are:
- that an experiment is exactly repeatable, at least on an ideal plane, that is, that the result achieves unequivocally from the "objective" conditions of the experiment;
- that there exists an "external" objective reality, which we gradually discover (as already mentioned);
- that there can not be instantaneous influences at a distance, that no "signal" can exceed the speed of light (relativity).
Theories that are based on these hypotheses are called "local realistic theories". All science - until very recently - considered them "acquired".
There are several indications to say that today, in some avant-garde thought, the three hypotheses have failed. With the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics and the subsequent sophisticated experiments, despite the strong resistance of the official and scientific world, it is no longer possible to give the three hypotheses mentioned.
In fact, according to a current of current thought:
- repeatability disappears, given that the "psychism" of which each experiment is soaked modifies the result;
- external objective reality has lost meaning with the Copenhagen interpretation;
- the particles-waves that separate from a single point remain inextricably linked, given that the "observation" of even one of them instantly influences the behavior of the others, at whatever distance they are.
As an example, I will mention an ideal experiment of "instant" information: if in a microphysical process, a wave particle is "hit" and broken into two, the two outgoing "particles" move away and "have" certain characteristics that are function one of the other. For example, if the spin of one has a certain value, the spin of the other is defined.
But the spin, like any other characteristic, has a value defined only at the time of observation , otherwise it is in an indeterminate state. Thus, by "observing" one of the two outgoing particles, the spin of the other is instantly determined, whatever distance it is. Naturally the characteristic of the second particle is also determined at an observation, but is always connected to the observation of the first.
This leads to the consideration that nothing is separable in the Universe and any process (or "object") has influence on any other, on a psychophysical level, since the intervention of the mental aspect is necessary.
One of the most noteworthy practical consequences of the "quantum" view of the idea of "reality" may be the sunset of opposing concepts such as reason-wrong, right-wrong, truth-error, and so on. This should progressively remove every logical-rational basis from the quarrel and the contraposition and bring to the end the "rationalized" forms of competition and therefore the foundations of today's industrial civilization.
Moreover, the indistinguishability between subject and object, between the "external" world and myself, should lead to the end of the aggression of our species towards Nature. Manipulating the world means manipulating ourselves.
To replace the mechanistic image that considered matter as constituted of "fundamental bricks", an attempt is being made to describe the phenomena in terms not of "elementary particles", but of processes, examining only the "internal coherence" of each process and eliminating the concept of stable or fundamental entities.
In this theoretical elaboration the Universe is seen as a dynamic network of interconnected events: no property of a part of the network is fundamental, but each derives from the properties of the other parts and the coherence of the mutual connections determines the structure of the network.
A mathematical formalism with which the theory has developed is that of the "S matrix" (or scattering ), where the so-called particles are no longer there, replaced by mathematical entities, which highlight their mental content.
Moreover, an "S matrix" should be unlimited, otherwise an approximation is introduced: we still find ourselves unable to break up the universal.
In a completion of the bootstrap hypothesis it is emphasized that consciousness is necessary for the internal coherence of the whole, since the structure of the S matrix depends on the observation attitude.
Let's state a few definitions:
Cosmological principle : the Universe presents itself in the same way (on large extensions) at any point of it we find ourselves, even if not at any moment: that is, there may be variation in time but not in space.
Perfect cosmological principle : the Universe presents itself in the same way (on large extensions) at any point of it we find ourselves and at any moment of time forever and forever. It is without origin and without end.
In the twentieth century the most accredited cosmological hypotheses were (neglecting the so-called "Electric Universe"):
1. The hypothesis of the "steady state", also called "continuous creation", which respects the perfect cosmological principle, ie the Universe is always dynamically the same. The expansion is compensated by the continuous appearance of new hydrogen atoms (it takes about two or three per Kmc each year). In other words, the output of galaxies at the speed of light and the appearance of hydrogen atoms to compensate for it.
He lost credit after the "discovery" of the background radiation at 3 ° K (54)
With this hypothesis it is clear that:
ï The density of matter is constant;
ï The point of origin of time is useless;
ï There is no beginning or end.
2. The Big Bang hypothesis , which presupposes the origin in a singularity (55) which took place about fifteen billion years ago, followed by a phase of expansion to date. The hypothesis is supported by the presence of residual radiation ( Penzies and Wilson , 1965), completely isotropic (56) and corresponding to a black body radiation at 3 ° K today.
The expansive phase may not continue forever, being the current Universe under the action of two complementary tendencies:
ï the initial expansion
ï the gravitational contraction.
The Big Bang hypothesis was then subdivided into other hypotheses:
a) Open universe:
gravitation will never be able to compensate for the expansion that will continue forever, leaving the Universe less dense and more "empty".
b) Flat Universe:
gravitation will exactly compensate for the expansion and the Universe will tend asymptotically (57) to a stable dimension.
c) Closed universe:
gravitation will eventually prevail over expansion; in this case, the expansive phase will follow a contraction phase until it returns to extremely small dimensions ( Big Crunch ), ie the Universe will return to a quasi-singular point.
This last hypothesis has been subdivided into further variants, of which the most notable is the one that provides for infinite all-equal cycles of Big Bang and Big Crunch .
In this case, even if the perfect cosmological principle is not completely respected, the origin-point loses its meaning and there is a pulsating oscillation that has always been and forever. Again there is no beginning or end.
Whatever hypothesis is adopted for the origin, only very light elements may have been created in the early days after the initial singularity. Stars and galaxies must have formed for medium and heavy elements. In fact, only in the next course of stellar evolution can we reach the temperatures and durations necessary to obtain the heaviest elements.
Stars that have a mass within certain values evolve towards a state of explosion ( supernovae ): the heavy elements are thus projected into space; then they can collect, by gravity, to form planetary systems, the only ones where life can arise, which requires elements like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc.
So we, like the trees and the rivers, the insects and the mountains, are all stardust.
The anthropic principle
The evolution of the Universe as it appears and that has allowed the formation of atoms, molecules, galaxies, stars and planets depends very closely on the value of some universal constants, such as - for example - the gravitational constant, the velocity of light, Planck's constant, the constant of strong interaction, and so on.
From a classical point of view, each of these constants could have been different: it was not necessarily linked to other quantities.
It would have sufficed the variation of one or two percent in one of them in order not to allow life: therefore the Universe of today might seem an extremely "improbable" event.
This extreme improbability of the Universe as we know it has given rise to many considerations, including quite interesting the anthropic principle (which has different formulations) and that perhaps would be better called the observational principle .
According to this principle, it is perfectly logical - indeed, necessary - that we find "those" constant: it could not be otherwise because, since we are here, we can only find ourselves in a universe that allows our existence. (58)
According to John Archibald Wheeler, theoretical physicist, "quantum physics has led us to seriously consider and explore the view that the observer is just as essential for the creation of the Universe as the Universe is for the creation of the observer".
There is also the "many worlds" version that supposes the existence of infinite Universes, of which we can observe only what allows our existence: therefore "must" have those constants. Or it is the observation (or the mental aspect) that gives that particular Universe the prerogative of being "real".
We have reported these tendencies only to realize how far we are moving away from the classical vision, even if it appears evident that in certain interpretations both anthropocentrism and some forms of finalism reappear, but care must be taken not to consider time in Newtonian fashion especially when events close to singularity are examined. Having resurrected an "anthropic principle" denotes a certain nostalgia of bringing man back "to the center": in fact the consideration of the improbability of universal constants is valid not only for man, but also for spruce, marmot , a mountain or a stream. Everyone sees the universe as "made for itself". We will see later that, for some currents, we do not need a human observer, but we are dealing with self-organizing phenomena of the universal substance. Thus the Soul of the world reappears and the megalomania of the man-observer disappears.
However, the fact that the universal constants have remained unchanged in time and space - everywhere and always - is a pure act of faith .
Only as a further example of estrangement from mechanistic thought, we also remember the researches on the so-called tachyon , ever-faster particles of light, theoretically studied for about twenty years, and waiting to be "discovered". (59)
According to these studies, a tachyon:
- it does not bring energy if it is at infinite speed;
- it is in no way localizable, even on a purely ideal plane; then it invades all the space and can interact with remote sources.
These properties of tachyons involve an "instantaneous" influence on the whole of the universal. Moreover, the behavior of tachyons with respect to time is, in a certain way, reversed. There is no longer the unidirectional time of our current thought.
What do these scientific novelties match, even if not yet received by official science, on an emotional level?
Perhaps to a requirement of universality and non-separability and to an unconscious hope to abandon the conception of time as a "one-way" flow of the Western culture.
Perhaps there is an emotional-unconscious need to rediscover cyclical and non-linear time and not "separate" from the world. There may also be a need-desire for "magic" to mitigate the excesses of the rational sphere of the last two centuries.
In essence, the tachyons would contribute to that tendency of "new" thinking to move away from the conceptions that underlie industrial civilization: manipulation of the external world, idea of material progress as advancing indefinitely over time.
If these trends are strengthened, it is very likely that tachyons will sooner or later be "discovered" and thus become "existing".
The laws of chaos
According to classical physics, the Universe evolves from order to disorder, from variety to uniformity: it is destined to thermal death, that is to a "definitive" state due to the achievement of the maximum of entropy. (60)
This follows from the fact of considering the Universe as a closed system, as it includes everything, but the reasoning is valid only if the Universe is static.
The expanding Universe, on the other hand, is a system that is always open , where the increase in entropy can be continually moved towards infinity.
In recent decades, especially at the school in Brussels by the group led by Ilya Prigogine, the study of "dissipative structures" or far from equilibrium has shown that in this situation of non-equilibrium there is an immanent "desire" to "create structures ", a push for diversification and creation.
Living systems are a particularly lively case of dissipative structures, but even in the so-called "inert" substance these structures are creative.
The classical study was based on a succession of states of equilibrium and considered the conditions that diverged almost like a sort of disorder to be eliminated. A series of static conditions was studied, avoiding the study of dynamism itself. For classical vision, stable systems were the rule and unstable systems of exceptions, while here this perspective is reversed.
Also from the quantum point of view, this recent current of studies leads to a vision of the world in which phenomena can be described without the need of the man-observer, only starting from a different approach: that of bifurcations and instability.
The Schroedinger quantum description is made in terms of the wave function and the "collapse of the state vector" by the observer: instead the description in terms of instability has in itself its psychism and its arrow of time.
With this approach, we start from the observation that the phenomena are almost always "non-linear" and therefore completely indeterminate in their evolution: an infinitely small variation, even in a mathematical sense, makes the process completely different. That is, the system can "choose" one way instead of another ( bifurcation ) and have a completely different evolution. These phenomena are intrinsically random and admit what are called "strange attractors", geometrically fractal . Note that in the fractal drawings, very similar to the structures found in the natural world, straight lines never appear.
The fact of talking about chance and randomness when the system takes one path instead of another at the time of a bifurcation-instability and talk about choice or will when there is a human being is due exclusively to the current cultural background: how phenomenon, there is no difference between the two cases and one can say very well that the system chooses its path among the various possible, thus attributing an immanent psychism to all processes. That is, the system chooses among all its types of possible future. Creation has no longer occurred in a remote moment of the past, but it is a continuous process .
At one time the laws of nature were associated with irreversibility over time, whereas now for unstable systems they become probabilistic and express what is possible and not what is "safe". They always contain a certain degree of freedom or, if you want, a certain "free will" or mental aspect.
We repeat these hints in another way.
The behavior of a system is said to be chaotic if the trajectories born from infinitely close points move away from each other in an exponential way. In other words, an infinitely small shift causes macroscopic and divergent changes in the process: there is always a time horizon beyond which the behavior of the system is absolutely indefinable. To use an example taken from meteorology: "The beating of wings of a butterfly in the English countryside can cause a cyclone in the Caribbean", hence the name of the butterfly effect given to the consequence of a bifurcation in this type of process.
It is not a question of our inability or impossibility to know all the variables, but of the intrinsic nature of the phenomena. These considerations make the idea of cause lose all cognitive capacity. Probabilistic, chaotic, and non-local influences take the place of the determinism of classical science.
It is said that these considerations disorient and make "lack the ground underfoot". On the contrary, I find that the lack of certainties is not at all worrying or pessimistic: indeed, a world governed by universal indeterminacy, by the butterfly effect and by the "chaotic attractors" seems far more interesting than a deterministic and causal world.
If an analogy is allowed, the desire to lean on "fixed points" resembles the attempt of a swimmer to cling to the water in which he is swimming.
Even if he has nothing to hold onto, the swimmer - if he realizes his position - will find himself much better without trying to squeeze the water as a "support", but simply by moving and synchronizing the movements.
Time is the result of instability.
The universal laws are those of chaos, where irreversibility and resonances create structures. The megalomania of the observer has disappeared.
Non-equilibrium and irreversibility are no longer negative annoyances as in the classical view, but they have an unpredictable creative function, they are the origin of variety and multiplicity.
From a previously mentioned book by Laborit, we quote the following passage:
This state of non-equilibrium referred to by Prigogine, which characterizes the organization of matter in a living organism, this fragile non-equilibrium thus maintains its original characteristics only through what we call thought. (61)
The antennas of matter
The current view on the structure of matter (on an atomic and non- nuclear scale ) refers to particles held together by electrostatic forces ( coulombs ) which, similarly to gravity, rapidly decrease with distance. The Coulomb formula is formally analogous to that of Newton, which regulates gravitational attractions in classical physics and therefore the motion of the planets. The Coulomb forces hold the rotating electrons around the atomic nucleus. This is how matter is made in the collective imagination of the West.
But if we consider that a charge in movement radiates , that is, it transmits energy at various frequencies, we can see matter as a network of electrodynamic forces of irradiation-transmission: a matter made of "antennas". With this approach one can imagine that coherent energies are transferred at great distances: one should primarily explore the electrodynamic interaction , even within the condensed matter, "governed" not only by the Coulomb formula, but above all by Maxwell's equations.
Energy affinity is no longer due to spatial proximity, but to the tuning or quasi-identity of frequencies. In this framework it is possible to create resonances and then activate transfers of energetic structures that are amplified: in other words, they self-organize. In this way, rather than seeing individual particles , we see structured collectivities of energy. Through the mentioned electrodynamic approach, energy can be made coherent by structural analogies of field, even at distances of quite other orders of magnitude with respect to initial values. The phenomena also become essentially non-local here. The psyche, which was seen as the contribution of the human-observer in the first version of the Copenhagen interpretation, is now in matter-energy, making it a trinity entity.
Instead of a static nucleus and many "balls" that revolve around it, there is a dynamic set of relationships that constitutes matter, as well as a forest, a stream or a living species. The "patterns of tuning" are called among themselves, they do not obey an "external" command.
The evolution of the thought we have touched upon by choosing a certain sequence of ideas has led us to move away ever more from the Cartesian conception, hence from the very heart of the West of the last three centuries: and all this originated from the scientific method, which is the most accepted by the West itself.
The removal sequence can be identified in the sequence: relativity-quantum physics and indeterminacy-laws of chaos.
The world is not a clock, but a great thought in which instability, non-equilibrium, bifurcations and the butterfly effect dominate. Any body or process has its degree of freedom. The world is creative, unpredictable, indeterminate, like the Great Spirit.
It is not possible to know whether in the coming decades or centuries these tendencies will extend into current thinking causing the end of industrial civilization and its development, or they will remain in some libraries as minorities. We have brought them back as a sign of hope.
The conception that all of Nature is also Mind, which recalls the pantheist-animist ideas of many human cultures, is in fact incompatible with the current industrial civilization, which requires the manipulation of a material that no longer exists. Even if nothing "returns" in the strict sense, those conceptions of thinkers like Bruno, Leibniz and Spinoza that did not spread a few centuries ago and did not have practical consequences on the next life would come to light again.
Let's go back for a moment to the physics of the thirties.
We often hear that quantum physics goes against common sense. But the so-called "common sense" (or "common sense") is simply formed by the conceptual paradigms and frames - that is, by prejudices - of the culture in which we were born and which we have therefore always breathed.
In the opinion of a well-known twentieth century scientist:
Today there is a very broad concordance of views - which among physicists reaches almost unanimity - on the fact that the current of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality: the Universe begins to resemble a great Thought rather than a big car. (62)
It is symptomatic that the same results on the physical-mathematical plane have been interpreted differently on the philosophical level:
- Einstein, of Jewish cultural formation, was unable to renounce the concept of "external objective reality" and was never completely convinced of quantum physics; in substance, even if at the intellectual level he declared himself in favor of the "God of Spinoza", he could never renounce his "western" position in relation to the physical world;
- Schroedinger, a profound connoisseur of Vedic philosophy, did not accept that the "real" world was unknowable because he believed that the human mind was a reflection, a "hologram" of the Universal Mind, and therefore had to know all the way;
- Bohr, who also knew the Tao, fully accepted the consequences of Heisenberg's physical and mathematical formulations and of Schroedinger himself, renouncing without trauma to the concept of "objective reality" and considering the apparently contradictory aspects (wave-corpuscle type) as complementary and necessary; extended the concept of complementarity to other "opposites".
As we have seen, even in physics there have been interpretations, by some of the founders themselves, tending to keep the new conceptions in an anthropocentric vision, confirming the tendency to frame new ideas in old patterns, at least for a few decades .
But the setting of the Brussels school no longer has the risk of anthropocentrism.
But official science remains on traditional positions, as it has always done. What emerges from the dominant paradigm is not taken into consideration: only the repeatable and frameable phenomena in the scheme of official thought are recognized, the others are discarded, denied.
Thus we can not touch the field of parapsychological phenomena, or of macroscopic indistinguishability between psyche and matter, that is, of those phenomena which the official Cartesian science is forced to set aside or deny in order not to see its premises undermined.
Faced with a phenomenon that calls into question the current conceptual framework, nothing remains but negation, a typical reaction of the psyche to unwelcome news. For example, the observation that thought or emotion affects the development of a plant is "forgotten", or at most interpreted as the intervention of an "external" force that "acts" on the plant itself.
Likewise, if the French scientist Benveniste discovers the "memory of water" that is, he realizes that the water "has changed" if he has had with him a substance of which the last molecule has been removed, the thing is set aside , the scientist is mocked, no further investigation is made. So much is the strength of the dominant paradigm: if there is no longer any molecule, the last "ball" has been removed, the substance is gone, the water returns that of the first; therefore homeopathic medicine can not exist, even when it works.
Instead, I believe that we are actually approaching "wild" thinking, in whose symbols the metaphor of an independent science is probably hidden.
I remember that in the last developments of physics the assumptions of the already mentioned "local realistic theories" have been questioned, that is, the pillars on which not only classical physics but also prequantistic relativity rest, which we report again:
- the existence of a real and material objective world (Cartesian-Newtonian hypothesis);
- the repeatability of the phenomena, according to which the same effects are obtained from the same causes and with the same premises. But if an infinitely small change is sufficient to make the phenomenon evolve in completely different directions, then the concept of "self" disappears;
- the impossibility of remote instantaneous actions, ie the need for any "message" to travel at a speed lower than or equal to that of light.
Any action, or modification, or phenomenon has instantaneous effects on the whole of the universal. You can not isolate any phenomenon, or separate anything.
Therefore, with the fall of local realistic theories and the distinction between mind and matter, it becomes possible to explore fields of knowledge such as astrology and parapsychology (precognition, clairvoyance, remote actions), with a remarkable rapprochement with magical thought.
Following the studies and theories of the Brussels school, some commentators spoke of proto-intelligence of the subject: even if the definition is fascinating, we must bear in mind that the word "matter" is charged with Cartesian meaning and evokes the idea of something inert. It would be better to change the term.
Immersion in becoming offers unpredictable variability: a triune entity, the mind-energy-matter, evolves without fixed schemes: it is Nature itself. Not only does the quantum vacuum pulsate with vitality, but time has become a creative force.
Finally, it is interesting to note that many metaphysical and religious traditions place emphasis on aspects of the universal that we also find in physics. In particular:
- the unitary aspect (total instantaneous connection) is more or less present in all traditions;
- the binary aspect of complementarity of opposites (Bohr physics) is found in Taoism and Shinto;
- the trinary aspect (mind-energy-matter) is very present in the Christian and Hindu religions;
- the aspect of the multiplicity of manifestations of the One is present in general in animist religions, as well as in some Hindu traditions;
- Emptiness (quantum vacuum) or sunyata is essential in the Buddhist tradition, with the overcoming of the Being-Nothing dualism and the impermanence of any entity.
Notes to Chapter 8
(48) The term entropy indicates a physical quantity which gives a measure of the degree of "disorder" or "uniformity" in which a system is found.
(49) Einstein, De Broglie, Planck, Schroedinger.
(50) Bohr, Heisenberg, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli.
(51) John Blofeld - The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai - Ed. Ubaldini, 1977.
(52) Edward Conze - Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra - Ed. Ubaldini, 1976.
(53) The meaning of the term bootstrap is to "stand up to the straps of their boots" or "boot that stands on its own rods", that is, has in itself the reasons for its existence.
(54) 3 degrees Kelvin is a temperature that corresponds to 270 degrees below zero according to the Celsius scale.
(55) A situation of zero volume and infinite density, ie Point-like Universe, is called mathematically a singularity . The singularity is "covered" and made indeterminate by quantum phenomena.
(56) Isotropa means equal in all directions of space.
(57) Asymptotic is said to be the trend of a greatness that comes closer and closer to a finite value without ever reaching it.
(58) Similarly, some millennia ago, to an Egyptian Pharaoh who had asked "Why does the Nile exist?" Was answered "Because the Nile makes the life of Egypt possible". The non-existence of the Nile was inherently unobservable .
(59) About the tachyons, one of the first to hypothesize them was the Indian physicist Sudarshan, who thus outlined his remarks: "Suppose that a demographer, who studies the peoples of India, comes up with the naive affirmation that there is no one north of the Himalayas, since no one has ever been able to cross such mountains. This would be an absurd conclusion. The peoples of Central Asia are born and live beyond the Himalayas: they did not need to be born in India and then climb over the mountains. Similarly for the fastest particles of light ". Several articles have been published on the tachyons in the magazines Le Scienze , Scientia and on the Bulletin of the Italian Physical Society, above all by the Italian physicist Erasmo Recami. I quote in particular: E. Recami - M.Fracastoro Decker - The tachyons - The New Assayer, May-June 1986.
(60) The term entropy indicates a physical quantity that gives a measure of the degree of "disorder" or "uniformity" in which a system is found.
(61) Henry Laborit - God does not play dice - Ed. Eleuthera, 1989.
(62) James Jeans - The new horizons of science - Ed. Sansoni.
A similar statement was also expressed by the English physicist Arthur Stanley Eddington and is reported in numerous publications.
9 - HOLISTIC VISION OF THE WORLD
I abandon myself to the confident belief that my knowledge is a small part of a broader integrated knowledge that holds together the entire biosphere.
Anyone who refrains from mistreating every sentient being, even more will refrain from harming his fellows. The greater his friendship for the animal genre will be, the greater the justice that will lead to mankind.
Porphyry of Tire (270 AD)
Buddha, meditating on the way to liberate humanity from the oppression of pain, came to this truth: that when man achieves his highest end, dissolving in the universal all that which is individual, frees himself from the servitude of pain. .
In the new paradigm the relationship between the parts and the whole is reversed. The properties of the parts can be understood only in light of the dynamics of the whole. Ultimately, the parties do not exist. What we call part is just a configuration in an inseparable network of relationships.
God is infinite in the infinite, everywhere in all things, not above or beyond them, but to them absolutely intimate.
I believe in the God of Spinoza, who manifests himself in the harmony of all things, not in a God who is interested in the destiny and actions of men.
When we talk about ecology and the protection of nature, dealing with "worldviews" seems like a more abstract, or less practical, than giving advice on waste disposal or forest conservation, but it's only because we talk about "visions of the world" world "has effects to a much longer duration. However, these are aspects that touch behavior and attitudes much more in depth, compared to the most immediate practical suggestions of petty ecology.
Let us summarize some foundation of current knowledge incompatible with the Jewish-Christian cultural background and with Descartes dualism:
- Neither the Earth, nor the Sun, nor anything else are at the center of something: the stars are all equally grains in the sea of Infinity. There is no center of any kind.
- Humanity is an animal species appearing on one of the many planets only three million years ago, against the three or four billion years of life on Earth and the fifteen or twenty billion years since the presumed birth of the Universe, assuming that the Everything is not something that has always been cyclically pulsed. So the alleged "King of Creation" would arrive a little late, while his so-called "kingdom" was waiting for him with little impatience.
Moreover, it takes a good presumption to think of "improving" what took four billion years to become what it is. Humanity is part of everything in all of Nature. The vital phenomena are the same in all species.
- Western culture is only two or three thousand years old, industrial civilization is two hundred years old: these are completely insignificant times. Even the concept of progress has a very short life, no more than two or three centuries; obviously we can live even without this fixed idea.
The division between prehistory and history is only a mental scheme of our culture, which serves to nurture a certain vision of the world. There is no reason, nor any scale of privileged values, to consider a culture better or worse than another. Note then that it is used to call "history" what has happened in the last five thousand years to Western civilization and the entire life of the Earth, ie four billion years and five thousand human cultures, is liquidated with the only "prehistory" label.
- Essential mental functioning, behavior, are essentially similar in all animal species close to us. Most of these are non-conscious phenomena.
- Quantum physics has demonstrated the intrinsic impossibility of describing material or energetic phenomena without considering observation; this means that, without the mind, matter-energy is meaningless, it is in no way describable, it is "devoid of reality", it is only a kind of wave of probability. Newton's mechanistic physics remains only the practical function, even if in our basic schools there is no trace of the profound change that has taken place.
From this picture a very ancient and widespread conception is born: animism. A form of "mind" must be everywhere, it is inherent in the universal, if we want to avoid the paradox of the "observer" that determines the so-called reality. The distinction between spirit and matter falls completely. The Great Spirit and the spirit of the tree, of the Earth, of the river, of the bison return to the memory.
There is another legend to be debunked, that of the so-called neutrality of science, or the independence of science from metaphysical conceptions. The official science often resorts to real intellectual acrobatics while not leaving the Cartesian paradigm, which it considers "obvious" and "acquired". Thus it finds itself in way without exit, and sometimes it is forced to deny or not to consider the facts not framed in that conceptual scheme, in order not to question the premises: and then it must make whole categories of phenomena of macroscopic interference disappear, or non-distinction, between spirit and matter, with the excuse that they would not be "repeatable".
The serious difficulties of physics come from the desperate insistence in wanting to frame modern knowledge in the Cartesian paradigm.
Yet even today, to appear "modern", many people love to call themselves "Cartesian" or "rational", not knowing how to defend the thought of the nineteenth century. The ideas of the French philosopher are accepted by the great majority of people simply because what we breathe from birth appears obvious to us, which means that it does not appear to us at all. But the primacy of the rational on the emotional and on the intuitive is only a prejudice of today's western culture.
Western culture sees everything split in two: this is already a source of anxiety; not only, but he considers the two parts "opposite" and he lives them in a schizophrenic way, he does not consider them two indivisible poles, two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the same thing.
He thinks that a "pole" is better and he wants to make the other pole disappear.
Some scientists are even desperately searching for the magnetic "monopole", that is, they want to "discover" a north pole without the south pole, which has been impossible until now. But perhaps even the monopoly will be a creation of the mind. Even in magnetism it seems that someone considers the north pole "a little more beautiful" than the south pole.
If we want to use the terminology of Taoism, the West wants a Yang-only universe: the Yin must be abolished; as if this made sense. However, in this way only anguish is caused. The West wants the serene without the rain, the one-way time and not the cyclic one, it wants the competition, the supremacy, the affirmation of the ego, the progress towards the future like a semirect. He wants life without death, Being without the Nothing, activity without passivity, doing without meditating, growth without diminishing.
Journalists of the economic world do not even mention the decrease, they want to exorcise it by calling it "bending", which is another thing. As if it were possible to have the mountains without the valleys.
This view of the world as a complementarity of Yin and Yang and not as a pursuit of a single pole is basically the philosophy for which it was very difficult for technological progress and industrial civilization to be born a thousand years before in the West.
As for death, let's see how it came.
Two or three billion years ago, the Earth was populated with microorganisms that reproduced dividing into two: so they did not die.
There was a genetic heritage available that could be renewed only very slowly through some mutation. It was very difficult to create new organisms.
To allow the emergence of variety, beauty and spirituality in life you had to have many new forms and organisms: then mix everything in a much quicker and more creative way.
So Nature - which you can also call God - invented sex and death.
That is why, since then, death has become useful and necessary to allow Life. Death is just the other side of life.
Today the images born of the computer prevail, which some greet as non-mechanical, as holistic. But even if they introduce non-mechanical ideas of information and relationship, they are based - on an elementary level - on a binary logic, still on a SI-NO or full-empty dualism, then on a contrast. They also perpetuate the Cartesian division, renamed hardware and software .
A vision of this kind can hardly be a starting point for merging or integrating the so-called two cultures, or an approach to integrate opposites.
Quantum physics, on the other hand, admits a logic "YES and at the same time NO", "empty and at the same time full", and can accept non-quantitative and non-mechanical positions. With the universal indeterminacy one can integrate opposites by seeing them as complementary and co-present. This is not a trinary logic YES-NO-I DO NOT but of an indeterminate multiple possibility. Even distinctions as real-imaginary, discovery-invention, and so on, lose meaning. With the new approach we could emerge from the tangle of innumerable particles that are gradually "discovered": otherwise we will end up finding everything we are looking for, in order to find it in a certain way, that is, we can invent-discover who knows how many others " particles "in an endless sequence. By now all these "entities" have a mental content barely concealed by mathematical language.
With a possible non-Cartesian conceptual refoundation, there would no longer be just a "physics" in the materialistic or prequantistic sense, but something more, making the distinction between physics and metaphysics, between "material" and "spiritual" knowledge even more evanescent. . Above all, in this sense, the new physics can be the bridge to connect the so-called "two cultures" and lead to a progressive disappearance of their distinction.
Visions of the world
Among the many "visions of the world" present in humanity is absurd that there is the "true" or "right" because this would be an inexplicable asymmetry.
Therefore the idea of "truth" is a characteristic that derives from the Cartesian view of the "objective" or "real" world that "is" in a certain way.
The visions of the world are all equivalent and real as such and as manifested in some system of thought. There can not be the "true" or "right" one of the others. Otherwise, how could so many different visions occur and also continuously vary in time?
Even religions (essential components of the world view) are all equally true or untrue. They constitute our relationship with the Invisible .
We have already mentioned the concept of truth. The questions are very stimulating, so-called "definitive" answers only bring trouble. It is not a matter of asking oneself "Will not the other be right?" Because this presupposes that there is a "reason". Nor is it a matter of "always being in doubt" because this presupposes something certain and real on which to doubt, it means that one is in doubt about some "truth".
The concept of doubt presupposes that of truth. It is different to abolish the true-false antithesis, considering the two terms as complementary and co-present. Thus the distinction between "the facts" and "the opinions" is illusory, because what are called "objective facts" are only the opinions of a human cultural model: in our world the opinions of Western culture are called real facts. In every culture a truth is formed, which however is as valid as any other.
However, the concept of "absolute truth" and the consequent need to "discover it" can be assimilated to a cage, to an oppression.
The universal appears as a spirit or a subject, depending on what is sought. As the physicist finds particles or waves depending on what he is looking for, so materialist cultures find matter, animist cultures find spirits.
Any dispute over what is "right" interpretation is meaningless: it is this dualism, created by us, which gives rise to the problem, otherwise non-existent.
Only in the absence of the concept of truth can one see something absolute, or non-differentiated. Truth is changeable and elusive, while variability is universal and incessant.
Descartes condemned us to the truth, but already four centuries ago Montaigne had written: The concept of certainty is the most solemn stupidity invented by the human being .
Moreover, these are not even news, if you think of ancient statements, such as:
- "The Tao that can be explained is not the true Tao" ( Lao-Tse );
- "What I have to teach can not be taught" ( Buddha );
- Finally, to Pilate's question: "What is the truth?", Christ answered with silence.
With regard to the integration of opposites such as "one who acts" and "the matter on which one acts", note that the same European languages prevent us from thinking of a process that occurs spontaneously, that has in itself its reason d'etre.
We always think of "someone" acting, something "external" that causes events. We are not psychically equipped to conceive immanence; likewise we translate the term Taoist wu-wei , which means " spontaneous action according to the nature of things ", as non-action .
Every verb must have a pronoun by subject, an agent: so we are used to thinking that something is not in its place if there is not someone or something that assigns it to that place, if there is not a manager. The idea of a process that happens totally by itself almost frightens us: it seems to us that there is no authority. The idea of the God of the Old Testament and Cartesian dualism reappear everywhere.
Stability and movement
The ancient metaphysical divergence between Heraclitus and Parmenides, that is, the contrast between becoming and being, is also a matter of complementary visions. Apparently, with the perennial and unpredictable flow, with the becoming and the laws of chaos, the dispute seems "resolved" in favor of Heraclitus, after 2500 years. The universe appears an incessant flow if we keep time as an autonomous variable.
By adopting a four-dimensional approach, that is, by understanding time as a variable interconnected with spatial ones, we find ourselves in a different framework, which appears "immobile". In a Minkowsky universe - the mathematicians would say - the world seems parmenide, "immutable".
But this is not about right or wrong vision.
The dilemma is insoluble because it is inherently non-existent. These are complementary modalities that attract each other, not opposing positions.
In one of the fragments of the same Heraclitus, it is written that the incessant change presupposes a motionless background without which movement could not be appreciated.
Let's try to sketch some conclusions.
There is a reductionist approach aimed at studying the primary elementary causes of a phenomenon, which always assumes decomposable into simpler parts, and there is a holistic approach, which starts from the global properties of a system, which can not be reduced to the whole of its elements.
The physicist constantly refers to the elementary particles, the DNA biologist, the sociologist to the individual, hoping to reduce the complex to the simple, and this is done for ecosystems.
But the recent notion of complexity is different. Everything is worth more than the sum of the parts, because there are mutual correlations. Not only that, the way of choosing the components (which individually have no autonomous reality) is arbitrary, because it presupposes a preconceived conceptual framework, a prejudice.
Reductionism arises from the dominant paradigm of the West, that is, from the idea that it is possible to break down anything, or event, into separate parts.
The reductionist approach has been that followed above all in the last centuries and that has brought to the vision of the world and to the current way of life of the people of Western culture, or that have absorbed the values of this culture. The holistic approach is difficult for those born with the fundamentals of the first and is just beginning to manifest itself today in individual form or little more.
So for now we can also consider ourselves free to imagine, or to hope. The passage necessary to implement and make habitual a new way of thinking is very difficult, even for those who were intellectually convinced . Each one can imagine in his own way the consequences that may derive from a possible statement on a general scale of the holistic approach.
As an exercise, let's try to imagine a world in which:
- the opposites are only complementary aspects of the same thing;
- death is simply the other side of life: Nature is made of both as inseparable aspects of the same phenomenon;
- there is nothing to fight, nothing to prove, no competition to win or lose, there is no need for rankings or records. The very concepts of victory, defeat and challenge are useless;
- there is nothing to conquer, manipulate, alter;
- the concepts of reason and wrong, merit and guilt, are only dangerous superstructures of the mind, which excite violence and extinguish the smile;
- there is no distinction between spirit and matter, between humanity and nature, between God and the world. The mind is widespread, universal, indivisible. We are not anything special or central.
Since the idea of "objective reality" has disappeared, the concepts of truth and certainty become useless: with everything in continuous dynamism, the concept of truth tends to coincide with that of Nature and therefore, in a pantheistic vision, with the idea of divinity.
It is good to clarify that this is not a static vision, a world in which the absence of the concept of "progress" involves an unchanging way of life, always equal to itself, or "waiting". In a sense, it can be compared to a river: it seems similar to itself, but instead flows, maybe even quickly.
In the torrent there are never two moments in which the same water passes, which is continuously moving. The stones are there in the middle: they are not attacked or split, but left where they are. The water bypasses them, passes equally and descends towards the plain and the sea.
It is not a matter of "not doing", but of acting according to the natural course of things, according to Nature. Thus one can continue to swing a pendulum by hitting it rhythmically, as long as the blows are synchronous with its frequency.
Moreover, today in our world there is an obsessive invasion of terms such as struggle, battle, supremacy, competition, race, challenge, victory, defeat and the like: just read a newspaper to realize how many facts are interpreted with this scheme.
In the new vision, we try instead to favor the cooperative and universalizing aspect towards the competitive and self-assertive one, today exalted in an abnormal way by Western culture; with another language, it is about recovering the "feminine" aspect of the world.
We also try to let loose some animal "symbol", let's stop to exalt those who imitate the eagle, the lion, the tiger for their symbolic aggression. The world is full of rodents, not eagles that, poor things, are about to die out due to the mad human expansion. To curb the prevailing craze a little, it is time to praise the rabbit, the eulogy of escape, in an emotional and psychological sense. (63)
There is no need for "battles", but above all we need to understand, accept and smile. The "struggle for peace" is an ambiguous expression, because peace is a condition of non-struggle: it is an attitude. It is about making it universal. I repeat, this does not mean "doing nothing" or "letting go": the most useful action is perhaps that of spreading ideas, that is to oppose preconceived current ideas, perhaps with a smile. To actively contribute to making the idea of non-struggle universal is in any case an action.
The world is not something to be conquered, but it is the whole of which we are a part. If we then have to try to "grow" something, let's try to improve our perceptual qualities to achieve a better harmony with the vital rhythm of the Cosmos. It is not that in a world of this kind there is "nothing to do" or "nothing to think about": you can admire the flowers and the trees, watch the moon and the stars, watch the birds fly and feel in tune with them , and above all to think, to participate in the universal symbiosis.
If we abandon the mania of success and enjoy the pleasure of non-competition we will reborn the taste for life.
In the conception that sees mind and matter as the only indivisible expression of Nature, we are certainly quite far from the idea of "brute matter" moved by something "external", from the idea of a world made for us and manipulated to our advantage (! ) and liking. The reality of today, due to the affirmation of a particular way of thinking in a human culture, the Western one, shows that the disasters caused by our species to the Global Equilibrium are of infinitely greater severity than those eventually caused by other living beings, but it is not just ethical considerations, because if the cultural premises do not change, the already enormous disasters will become irreversible. Even if Nature manages to restore a balance (as it does with other species, but on a much smaller scale), it will result in a much "poorer" situation of Life and Mind.
The fact of not considering ourselves "special beings" or "in a central position" should not induce pessimism; on the contrary, it is a reason for happy serenity.
Instead of the God-Person distinct from the world and judge of human actions, we find the immanent God-Nature in all things, and therefore also in ourselves, that we participate in it. Divinity observes itself even through the eyes of a marmot, or an ant, or the fascinating and mysterious sensitivity of a tree.
Notes to Chapter 9
(63) Henry Laborit - Praise of the Escape - Ed. Mondadori, 1982.
10 - WHAT TO DO NOW
In 1953 I realized that the straight line leads to the fall of humanity. But the straight line has become a total tyranny! It is a line drawn by a peaceable hand, with the ruler, without reflection or feeling: a line that does not exist in nature. And that line constitutes the corrupt foundation of our damned civilization. Although it has been observed from many sides that it is rapidly bringing us to hell, its course continues to be designed ... Every work created with straight lines is born without life. Today we are witness to the triumph of rationalist culture, yet we are faced with a void. And it is an aesthetic emptiness, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power. The creativity itself is prefabricated. We have become impotent, unable to create. This is our true ignorance.
Progressively breaking away from existence is the traditional teaching of India, the frenetic immersion in life is the unstoppable disease of the West. We have exported our miasma everywhere, exciter of violence, smothering extinguishers.
The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology.
Incorporating both the natural and the spiritual world should be based on a religious sense that springs from the experience of everything, both natural and spiritual, as a unity full of meaning.
Deep ecology is a system of thought: it does not require drastic or violent actions or plateaus demonstrations. A movement is inspired by a profound ecology , followed by the radical nature of thought and at the root of the current cultural foundations, not if it makes fanatical or breaking actions. However, one can not forget that to change the philosophical background of general thought and therefore the attitude towards Nature takes a long time.
Almost all the ecological movements present today in Italy, and perhaps in the world, are based on the concepts of surface ecology.
It is probable that the set ecological action without modification of the general thought will bring only advantages limited in time and will not succeed in avoiding a subsequent collapse of the Planet. However, in this world dominated by the industrial-technological religion, even the "surface" position is very useful, above all to save at least islands of nature and to save time, thus giving some possibility of diffusion to deeper natural philosophies.
In our schools there is practically no trace of the tendencies of modern thought mentioned in the text. The Cartesian-Newtonian background is always present and is never questioned. We want to get technicians and specialists, not to offer an overview of the different visions of the world. Thus the current aggression to Nature is perpetuated.
However, in the nods of comparison between different conceptions, a little schematized for expository simplicity, I did not intend to give any value judgment nor wanted to consider some of it "better" than someone else. I have only tried to point out that the guiding ideas of industrial civilization are neither unique nor "true" nor better than many others. Among the various global conceptions, the "non-ecological" ones, like the one spread today in our culture, are substantially impossible, over long periods, because they are incompatible with the terrestrial biological system, that is the vital functioning of the Earth.
One could repeat the premise of Bateson at the courses of an American university:
It is a question of obsolescence . While much of what the University teaches today is new and up to date, the assumptions or premises of thought upon which all our teaching is based are outdated and, in my opinion, outdated.
I refer to concepts such as:
- The Cartesian dualism that separates the "mind" from "matter".
- The strange physicalism of the metaphors that we use to describe and explain mental phenomena: "power", "tension", "energy", "social forces", etc .;
- Our anti-aesthetic assumption, derived from the importance that Bacon, Locke and Newton once attributed to the physical sciences; that all phenomena (including mental ones) can and must be studied and evaluated in quantitative terms.
The vision of the world - that is, the latent and partly unconscious epistemology - generated by all these ideas is overcome by three different points of view:
- From a pragmatic point of view it is clear that these premises and their corollaries lead to greed, a monstrous excess of growth, war, tyranny and pollution. In this sense, our premises prove to be false every day, and for this the students partially realize.
- From an intellectual point of view , these premises are obsolete because the systems theory, cybernetics, holistic medicine, ecology and Gestalt psychology offer manifestly better ways of understanding the world of biology and behavior.
- As a basis for religion, the premises I mentioned became clearly intolerable and therefore obsolete about a century ago.
Every aspect of our civilization is necessarily split into two. In the field of economics we are faced with two exaggerated caricatures of life - the capitalist and the communist - and we are told that we must stand for one or the other of these two monstrous ideologies in struggle. In the sphere of thought, we are torn between various extreme forms of denial of feelings and the strong current of anti-intellectual fanaticism. (64)
To the attitudes, the mental schemes and the despotic behaviors of which the capitalist or socialist economic systems are interwoven, to their reductionist and mechanistic culture, the new culture proposes to replace the idea of symbiotic cooperation with nature, a systemic vision of life, the recognition of the rights of other animals, a holistic conception of the health of body and mind.
For a sector of the social sciences that at the end of the twentieth century appears to be growing, although still minor, the new sensitivity to the problems of survival and adaptation should result in original measures of quality of life.
Up to now, living standards have been based exclusively on economic indicators. But, although disaggregated and weighted, the economic indicators have a very poor correlation with physical and psychological well-being; and in some cases, indeed, they present an inverse relationship, as shown by those indicators of malaise which are the rates of crime, suicide, drug addiction and mental illnesses characteristic of industrial civilization.
You are here, in the midst of a technological and polluted world. Cars run everywhere. This is today's reality.
You can not leave everything, also because you are part of what is around you.
You can try to do something different, or normal, but with new attitudes. Take a bag on your shoulder and turn to the mountains: the Alps lend themselves well. From one valley to the other, sleeping where it happens: shelters, or huts, or barns. Remember the attitude: do not compete with anyone and with nothing, neither before nor after anything. There is no time to respect.
If it rains or there is fog, enjoy them: they too have their magical beauty. Even the rain has its beauty, and the clouds are wonderful.
The weather is sometimes beautiful, and sometimes not.
The mental attitude will be of non-competition, never of conquest. You do not have to prove anything to anyone, not even to yourself; you do not have to compete with the weather, the mountain, or anything else. The experience will be reassuring, of perception of Totality, feeling part of Nature, in a position of non-contrast, of non-duality. The slow and rhythmic walking of the ascent will reconcile this integration. Deep breathing and slow rhythm will be friends. You will not need to "tell" or "prove" anything. Do not worry about fatigue: nothing awaits you, nothing is in a hurry. The body will not tire, if in harmony with the deep.
You can stop when you want, talk about the Being, or the last little plant encountered. But do not take it away, do not collect it. You can take a mushroom if you eat it that evening; or strawberries and blueberries. Otherwise leave the Manifestation alone, you too are That.
You could even go to the plains, but in Europe this possibility is lost. On the mountains you can still. Keep away from the valley floor invaded by cars; stay away from cableways as much as possible. You can also think of nothing, or nothing. Stop whenever you want, wherever you want. It is an experience not of mountaineering, but above all of integration in Alpine nature.
You must not conquer or prove anything, not even yourself. There is no need to struggle with the mountain or conquer it: it makes no sense. The ego must attenuate, not exalt itself. Only contemplation, rhythm, and perception. Or nothing.
Even if you are materialistic, it will be an edifying experience: it will rest you. Leave the car at home, go far from where you left. To go to the departure and to return later, use the train, or the courier.
Then you will detoxify yourself from pollution: in the mountains there are the last places with air and water as well.
If you are not a materialist, you will feel more a part of the Universal Mind, of Nature, and this will contribute to the loosening of the ego. Savor the pleasure of non-competition. If you jump in mind to climb a peak, it is not to conquer it, but to integrate you with a nature of greater share. Or not at all, for no other purpose.
You may find that, after maybe trying to make travel by train, car, plane, bus and ship, the most beautiful and complete means to spend a few weeks turning is traveling on foot. It is the least dangerous and most satisfying means. Who followed the caravans at the pace of the yak or camel also lived during the trip, without worrying about the speed, which is already too much sacrifice during the working time.
Try to forget speed, this strange value of our age and our civilization.
I think the best thing is to live normally, but aware that our behavior depends on the fact that we are born in a specific human culture and that we can do little on this point.
But, in addition to any training mentioned above or similar, we can follow the dictates of surface ecology, which do not cause any cultural trauma.
Moreover it is certainly useful:
- speak, write, spread the ideas of deep ecology as much as possible, or at least highlight what conceptual frameworks have generated current ideas, which are particular to a human culture - however powerful - and not natural and evident tendencies of the whole humanity;
- highlight that the commonly accepted scale of values is not better than any other;
- remove these basic issues from narrow circles of scholars to make them the object of dissemination and debate;
- try to influence some political force or didactic authority especially for the purpose of modifying basic education or, in other words, school programs, to understand the foundations of other human cultures, with oriental and animist backgrounds. Now organized political forces do not even suspect such instances exist.
Then events will follow their course and Western culture will change, even if it is difficult for a cultural model to conceive its own end. We hope it will change in time and so thoroughly that it will be compatible with Life on Earth.
Notes to Chapter 10
(64) Gregory Bateson - Mind and Nature - Ed. Adelphi, 1984