re9: Returning to the Garden, mythologies, the movement, etc.


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors.

Date: Mon, 02 Apr 2001 23:57:33 -0400
To: •••@••.•••
From: Jay Fenello <•••@••.•••>
Subject: A New Mythology
Cc: •••@••.•••

    someone said > In my opinion, without commonly accepted
    moral and spiritual values and a universal ideology going
    beyond harmonization, a positive movement for radical
    socio-economic transformation will not get very far

What's really needed is a new mythology,
one that helps people understand where 
they are, and where they are going.



Dear Jay,

Joseph Campbell talked about this. He said our myths are out
of date with our culture, leaving us mythless and
rudderless.  I believed him at the time, and was a bit
dismayed.  A society cannot simply ~adopt~ a mythology, and
pure rationality - as a 'way of understanding the world' -
seemed not very promising.  The Age of Reason, after all,
was one of the main contributors to our current mess.  So
what was to be done??

Quinn's big contribution, I believe, is reminding us that WE
rudderless at all!  That mythology is called 'go forth and
conquer the world'. It is perfectly in synch with our
culture, and it tells us where we are going: WE ARE
drummed into us in school and by all of our religions
(including Humanism) as we grew up.  Capitalism embraces it
wholeheartedly as have nearly all reformers, including
radicals like Marx - who wanted to change which 'class' was 
at the helm of conquest.  Even many of today's radicals
emphasize 'redistribution' under 'sustainable growth', which
again perpetuates the myth.

For myself, learning that our culture ~does~ have an active
mythology had a deep significance. When I became conscious
of the myth, I could consciously abandon it - and I found
that added an emotional, mythological depth to the
conclusions I had reached by other means.  Quinn helped me
understand that there is a mainstream human cultural
tradition that seeks harmony with the world.  Reconnecting
to this mainstream provides all the roots we need - it tells
us who we are and where we are going.  We are part of the
Earth; we are blessed by existence itself; and our role is
to behave responsibly as part of the community of life.

I don't think we need any new mythologies. One of the main
functions served by mythologies has been to tell people what
the universe is, and how we came to be in it. With what we
now know about cosmology and evolution, we don't need myths
to answer those questions. And for those who want to
believe in a creator being, there are already more than
enough myths around.


To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••
Cc: •••@••.•••
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 23:44:02 -0700
Subject: Re: A New Mythology
From: •••@••.•••

I read this essay by Thomas Berry [below] over and over 
again. There are so many forces that seem to be opposed to
restoring the earth and living sustainably -- it's all about
selfishness and lack of concern in so many places; or its
about just economic gain. There are so many times when
I want to give up -- walk away from it all because it seems
so hopeless.  I have to have something to hold on to and
these words help.

I've posted parts of this message before, but I don't think
I've posted the entire piece.



Jed Swift

    "We will go into the future as a single sacred 
     community, or we will all perish in the desert."


For most cultures, generally, their creation story of the
universe and the human role in the universe is the primary
source of intelligibility and value. Only through this story
of how the universe came to be in the beginning does a
person come to appreciate the meaning of life or to derive
the psychic energy needed to deal effectively with those
crises moments that occur in the life of the individual and
society. Such stories are the basis of ritual initiations
throughout the world. They communicate the most sacred of

We are in-between stories now. We are lacking an Origin
story, even though we [do] have a Genesis story. We need a
story which offers badly needed images of hope. Is it the
emerging scientific paradigm, coupled with deepening human
spirituality that will help us create a new story of the

The human is the being in whom the Earth has become
spiritually aware, has awakened into consciousness, has
become self-aware and self-reflective. We are the Earth
reflecting upon itself. Or, as Teilhard de Chardin said,
"the human person is 15 billion years of unbroken evolution
now thinking about itself.

How I think effects the whole: the earth thinks as you
think. The Earth thinks as all of us think. And the Earth is
in a process of coming out of its adolescent fixation with
itself and its powers, into a whole new level of maturity.
And to the degree that you and I make that jump, the Earth
makes that jump. It's as simple and profound as that.

The universe is not a collection of objects--it's a
communion of subjects. The Earth is primary and humans are
derivative. The well-being of the Earth is paramount. Human
well-being is secondary. This primacy applies to every mode
of human activity: economics, education, law, medicine,
religion. The human, in its every aspect, is a sub-system of
the Earth system: we prosper or we decline together. Can we
have healthy people in a sick enviroment?

The Earth is a one time endowment. This planet will never
again function as it has in its ancient past; we must do
what we can to accept, recover, protect, and heal all that
is present with us. A mutually enhancing human presence is
needed now on Earth. Celebration is the single best
expression for the universe. Our own special role is to
enable this entire community to reflect on and to celebrate
itself and its deepest mystery in a special mode of
conscious self-awareness.

The universe is the primary revelatory experience, how the
divine comes to the human and how we meet it. The
destruction of our outer world has come with a corresponding
loss to the inner world of humans -- we have lost our
poetry, our souls.


Jed Swift, who reproduced this as an article entitled:
"Contemplating the Eco-Cosmology of Father Thomas Berry" for
the Spring/Summer Issue of "The Shavano Letter" published by
the Shavano Institute in Boulder, Colorado, offers insight
into how this effects us. He writes:

According to Berry, understanding this new cosmology causes
us to do three things. First is to come home. We literally
are stars thinking about themselves. "How will we baptise
our children with toxic water and tell them about God?"
Second, we've got ourselves organized into some 150 odd
nations states. We must face what this competition is doing.
We need a new revelation and sense of our destiny. Third, we
must change our lives so that we live in alignment with the
greater message and meaning of the universe.

For information on the Shavano Institute see:  

Marguerite Hampton
Executive Director - Turtle Island Institute


Dear Marguerite,

Thanks for forwarding a very inspiring article. 

I cannot tell if the words are meant to be Berry's own, or
whether they are paraphrases by Jed Swift.  I do think it is
off the mark to refer to the ideas as being ~Berry's~
Eco-Cosmology, because they are in fact the "emerging
scientific paradigm". What Berry seems to be doing is
articulating those ideas poetically, and wrapping them up so
as to appeal to Christian-oriented audiences.  That's a very
worthwhile objective, and hopefully will help build bridges
between the religious, spiritual, and humanist communities.

He says 
    > We are in-between stories now. We are lacking an Origin
    story, even though we [do] have a Genesis story. We need a
    story which offers badly needed images of hope.

I believe this statement has a different meaning for Jews
and Christians than it has for others. For the believers,
Berry seems to be seeking a gap in scripture which will
create an opening for these new scientific understandings.
For non-believers, such a gap is unnecessary - they can
embrace the new understanding without creating a conflict in
their beliefs.  And while believers may be unwilling to
reject the Genesis story altogether, the others don't have
that problem.

all the best,

Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 21:08:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jessica Markland <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Harmonization
To: •••@••.•••
Cc: •••@••.•••

I hadn't consciously realized the word "harmonization" was
giving me a problem until I read what others wrote in
returning to the garden 5.

Perhaps this will help? Think of harmonization as in a
symphony. All the instruments play different tunes, and come
in and out at different times, but they are all heading in
the same direction with the purpose of creating a
'harmonious' performance. And usually they end up in the
same place at the same time.

I think we have all had similar experiences of a lot of
small groups trying to do similar things (like save the
environment) but never being able to combine their strengths
and resources.

I believe the ISPO concept is the closest I have seen, yet,
to achieving a way of "harmonizing' our efforts and reaping
the enormous benefit of numbers, without limiting or
confining people into one ideology.  []

It also makes sense, as our numbers grow, to organize
ourselves in the same geographic areas as political ridings.
That way, we can influence the parties to adopt ISPO, and be
able to prove how many people in that riding believe in it.


Dear Jessica,

Yes, the harmonization metaphor comes from music, and the
blending of voices. But I would be careful of the word
'symphony', since a symphony orchestra is under the
direction of a conductor and follows a written score. A
conductor is like a 'central authority' and the score is a
like a 'fixed ideology'.  The kind of harmonization we need
is more like jazz improv.  The 'harmonization
initiative' is the idea that we should be making music
together - but it must be an evolving music of our own

I'm glad you mentioned ISPO, because I would like our
readers to be reminded of that initiative.  I put the web
address above in your message, so people can check it out. 
The basic idea behind ISPO is expressed in a
soon-to-be-published book by John Bunzl, "The Simultaneous
Policy".  He argues that no government can escape from the
out-of-control global economy by itself - all must do so
together at one time.

In order to build pressure on governments to move in this
direction, ISPO seeks to enlist millions of 'adopters' of
the SP (Simultaneous Policy) vision.  These adopters would
pledge to vote for any candidate that promises to support
the SP policies, thus supplying 'pressure from below' on
governments to get on board the SP bandwagon.  By the way,
John will sometimes send a free pre-publication copy of
the book to those who express interest -

What I find lacking in the ISPO philosophy is a proper
understanding of ISPO's relationship to the larger movement.
I think it is unrealistic to think that the 'millions of
adopters' strategy can work. That's the strategy that the
Sierra Club and many other organizations have used.  They
publish voting records of politicians to their members, and
presumably the members take that into account when voting.
This has indeed given such organizations some clout, but it
hasn't been nearly enough to make any real difference in the
long run.  Given its current approach, ISPO is likely to
become just one more lobby group, trading on its membership
numbers.  Is John's book compelling enough to make ISPO
significantly more successful than the Sierra Club has been?
I doubt it, even though it's a good book, with many good

As I've said before, history shows us that the kind of
pressure we need today can only come from a mass movement,
and a mass movement is not a matter of gathering signatures.
The anti-globalization movement is not quite the movement
we need - yet.  It is a very promising sprout, but it has
yet to blossom into full movement-hood.  I believe it will
do that, and if it doesn't we are in deep trouble.

One way to help the movement forward is for each of us, in
our separate efforts, to ~align ourselves~ with movement
success.  I believe Nader had that spirit, in his
Presidential campaign.  He knew he was unlikely to win the
election, but that in no way deterred him.  He was using
that campaign to build connections between people, to build
a sense of empowerment, and to encourage people to think
positively about 'making a real difference'.  In that way
his efforts (and those of his supporters!) became a
successful contribution to movement building, rather than a
failure in electioneering.

In the case of ISPO, what might 'aligning with the movement'
look like?  I believe it would start with an acknowledgement
that a mass movement will be needed to generate the
necessary grass-roots constituency for radical change. 
Next, would be an acknowledgement that ISPO, with its
adoption campaign, is not going to be the center-point of
that mass movement. The movement finds its roots in many
struggles, with many centers, around a variety of visions. 
This is its strength and its promise.

I think the adoption campaign does make sense, ~if~ the
objective is framed less ambitiously.  By having a large
(but not necessarily HUGE) number of adopters, that gives
ISPO standing as an NGO.  It can then participate with other
NGOs on an equal footing at the UN and in international
conferences.  I believe that the wisest strategy for ISPO
would be to focus its campaign in the NGO community.  There
is already sympathy there for the kinds of objectives SP has
in mind, and there is already an understanding of the nature
of the out-of-control economy.

Within the NGO community, ISPO could act as a facilitator
for building a general NGO consensus around a package of
radical reform policies. ISPO would be promoting a
harmonization culture within the NGO community, like that
which is emerging in the movement generally.  Indeed, the
objective would be to help turn the NGOs into a real
'community', rather than a 'pseudo community',  as those
terms are defined in John's book.

By this strategy, ISPO would be aligning itself with the
larger movement. It would in fact be carrying the movement
process to the NGO community, and helping that community
prepare itself for the day when the larger movement begins
developing a mass constituency for change.

I wish ISPO every success, and these are my two cents.

best regards,

Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 14:36:58 -0400
To: •••@••.•••
From: Bruce Buchanan <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: harmonization etc.

rkm writes (2 April):
  > I think we need to look to the roots that have brought
    about our current circumstances.  If we prune some of the
    bad branches, but leave the roots intact, then the same
    problems will come back to haunt our grandchildren.  What
    those 'roots' are is of course open to discussion, and that
    is one of the things the movement needs to seek greater
    shared understanding about.

  > My own investigations have led me to the conclusion that
    these 'roots' include:
      > * hierarchical political and economic structures
        * societal factionalism
        * capitalism
        * the Taker paradigm of 'go forth and multiply' and
          'dominate the world and its creatures'

While not disagreeing with the above, even more fundamental
may be psychological factors which motivate individual
attitudes and behaviors from which these structures are in
part derived and on which they depend. Such individual
factors are also sustained by the (societal) Taker paradigm.
But they reflect psychological development arrested at an
adolescent stage of competitive self-aggrandizement which
cannot see beyond itself. A society will reflect a
preponderance of such elements in the structures which are

Many so-called "leaders" might be more accurately described
as opportunists who exploit for their personal advantage
whatever situation they find themselves in, to this end
preserving the appearances of team players. Such people
(personal Takers) have regularly subverted and destroyed
social movements, communities and societies throughout
history. (Aldous Huxley has described this history even at
the level of small religious communities in some detail in
"Tomorrow and Tomorrow"; the sheep are very slow to
recognize the reality of wolves among them.)

Without some mechanisms to identify and neutralize such
internal and external threats (comparable to that of the
living body as it rejects foreign invaders threatening to
take over metabolic processes) it is difficult to see how an
unprotected harmonization could actually work. An organism
(or a society) only remains healthy as long as its defenses
(detectors of danger and feedback/response) are prompt and

Now, as in the human body, inappropriate and over-response
may be more dangerous than the perceived threat. A root
problem may be: How to distinguish genuine threats from
creative innovations! For this we may need more
discriminating criteria than mere personal impressions. 
(But that is another big subject !)


Bruce B
Toronto, Ontario


Dear Bruce,

You raise many interesting issues.  

Let's consider the relationship between culture and

People are born with a basic psychological makeup, and their
culture then attempts to mold that psychology around the
values and ethics of the culture.  Some cultures have values
and ethics which don't fit very well with people's basic
psychologies, and those cultures must employ punishment and
coercion to force people into the desired mold.  Our culture
is so blatantly contrary to human nature that the culture -
in order to survive - must imprison children in force-fed
'education' systems until they are 18 or so, and then
bombard them for the rest of their lives with a hundred
channels of propaganda.  And with all that, the culture
still needs massive police forces and numerous prisons to
keep control.

From an early age we are taught to push ourselves ahead as
individuals, and to live in fear of poverty if we don't
succeed.  Thus our culture arrests our development in a
certain warped kind of insecure and dependent adolescence,
as you point out.  Despite all this intensive cultural
programming, we remain round organic pegs in square economic
holes, and the fit is a very bad one.  As a result, millions
of people experience high degrees of stress, and seek relief
in all kinds of ways - including drugs, soap operas,
workaholism, fundamentalist religions, new age distractions,
Internet conversations, and the analyst's couch.

I think it is a fundamental error to blame people's
psychology for the effects of cultural programming.  This
reverses the cart and horse.  What we know about psychology
is that it is extremely flexible and moldable.  The same
baby could be placed in a family in any society in the
world, at any point in recorded history, and it would grow
up a full-fledged member of that culture.  (Assuming that
the baby has no major physical characteristics that might be
rejected by the society, such as the 'wrong' skin color.)

This flexibility gives us great hope and optimism.  It means
that we are only one generation away from having a world
population whose psychology is in tune with their society
and with the world.  When we build a culture of
inclusiveness, consensus, sustainability, and empowerment,
then the rest will follow.  The movement is starting out
that way, and that is why I see it as a very promising
sprout.  Not only a 'movement' sprout, but a 'new society'


Now lets' consider power-seeking leaders and the movement's
immune system.

Partly out of fear of infiltration, and partly out of past
experience with harmful leaders and organizations, the
sprouting movement is following a paradigm of affinity
groups, consensus, and decentralized decision making.
Self-aggrandizing leaders are not encouraged in this kind of
culture, and they are not given a perch from which to
exercise power. If they have good ideas to offer, they can
do so, and they are appreciated, but there is no
hierarchical power-ladder for them to climb up and dominate.

I see this as a very healthy immune system, and one grounded
in common sense.