VOLUME 1 NUMBER 1
The Evolution of
William Irwin Thompson
I can’t remember the exact date of the phone call nor the time it came, but it must have been evening for my friend James and I both had jobs. When I look over my journals, I’m shocked to realize that the year was 1992. The previous spring James and I had met at the Ragdale Foundation, a writers’ colony in Lake Forest, Illinois, and had become friends.
James had worked as a translator in Berlin’s East Zone before the wall fell, and had finally moved to New York where by a stroke of good fortune, or good karma, as he might say, he discovered the Lindisfarne Symposium, led by cultural historian William Irwin Thompson at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on the Upper West Side of New York.
“Just get here,” James said. “You’ve never heard anyone synthesize ideas and concepts like Bill Thompson.”
The title of the symposium was a lofty one: “Literature and the Evolution of Consciousness.” Blood raced through my veins. Hadn’t James and I danced around this topic during late night conversations at Ragdale?
I made arrangements to drive to New York. By seven a.m. on Saturday morning, I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike over the Meadowlands and through the Midtown tunnel to 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
About fifty people would gather in the Parish House of the Cathedral. Over the course of two years we read and discussed such works as: The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Upanishads, The Rg Veda, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, even Stanislav Lem’s science fiction gem, Solaris. And then Bill would begin his riff, mind jazz he called it. Mind jazz it was.
Thompson’s talks at the Cathedral are refined in his book Coming Into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness.
In the last chapter, he says:
Throughout this study of literature and the evolution of consciousness, I have used the metaphor of the catastrophe of bifurcation and said that humanity is experiencing a catastrophe bifurcation in the emergence of the new global civilization. “Catastrophe” is a word that English has taken from Greek; it means, “to turn over.” When we turn over material in a compost heap, we create a catastrophe for the anaerobic bacteria in the rotting garbage as we suddenly flood them with oxygen and sunlight. The chaos dynamists say that there are three kinds of catastrophes: subtle, explosive, and “out of the blue.” The mathematicians’ use of these poetic metaphors makes me feel as if it is quite all right for me to return the favor and use their idea of a catastrophe bifurcation as a poetic metaphor for a cultural transformation of history. Since I have been arguing all along that literature and mathematics have been inseparably linked throughout history in the arithmetic, geometric, dynamical, and now chaos dynamic mentalities, this collaboration between metaphor and math is quite appropriate. Since I am a cultural historian and not a prophet, I have no idea whether this catastrophe will be subtle, explosive or out of the blue. I tend to think that our process of global cultural transformation is so complex a dynamic that it will be all three at once. The economic shift is subtle, the cultural shift is explosive, and the spiritual one is out of the blue.
And he ends his chapter with this admonition:
All the ancient texts that I have used to explore our modern world are once and future poems of possibility. Once they are seen all together in the imagination of the reader, then they can become a hypertext description of our contemporary evolution of consciousness…The new culture involves the recovery of the feminine; the deconstruction of the patriarchy; and the deconstruction of the capital-intensive economies of scale run by the military-athletic-entertainment-industrial complexes with their shadow economies of drugs, arms, traffic, and crime…Over two thousand years ago, humanity chose the militaristic and hierarchical path at the fork in the road. Now here we are again, and I, of course, hope that the road not taken 2,000 years ago will be the road we take this time for the axial shift of the year 2000.
This past fall I had the opportunity to sit down with Bill at a booth in Café Fiorella across from Lincoln Center in New York City. While a man behind us spoke sotto vocce into his cell phone about how Robin Williams was in and that they were all meeting at the Hamptons the following week, Bill talked about his life and work.
I’m interested in your early years. What led you to the path you’ve followed as a scholar, writer, and gifted teacher who has moved beyond the walls of the Academy?
Well, I was born in 1938 in Chicago where my mother was also born, but her mother was born in Ireland. There was a sense even in my own family that I, the youngest, was the most intellectual of the three sons. There was a national movement after the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when the working class moved into the middle class and started living in homes away from their extended families. My mother was of that generation, which, back then, they called “Lace Curtain Irish.” Her father had been a state senator and was very much involved in the community. But because he wasn’t part of the party machine, he lost one election and got beaten by another Irishman who was more corrupt and part of the democratic party machine in Chicago.
My mother used to tell me stories of people coming to the house chanting and booing. Her father was extremely divided. He was a staunch Catholic and she had a lot of respect for him because he refused to be corrupted. (I never knew my grandfather, as he died before I was born.)
My father came to Chicago from the Plains. He was Presbyterian, an antidote of sorts to my mother’s Catholic upbringing. She was in her thirties when I was born and all I can say about my father is that he was this irresponsible hail-fellow-well-met. In Ireland they would call him a “Street Angel and a House Devil.” He would spend all his money on drink before he got home. Once I saw my father punch my mother in the mouth. He was the drunken Protestant Irish classic American farm boy from Indiana going to Chicago during the Al Capone era.
My mother, on the other hand, was a more self-consciously refined middle class American-Irish woman one generation removed from her homeland the kind of Irish who tried to make it into the American middle class by being extremely proper and correct.
When I was small, my father developed scleroderma (a disease that causes hardening of the skin and internal organs) and so we moved to Los Angeles for his health. My mother was separated from her familial support group. But she was also a great myth teller who added an Irish lilt to her American English. And so she told me a story from her family chart that gave meaning to her life with my father. She said that in her family there was a Lady Dawson from County Cork who had fallen in love with a Catholic manager of the estate, sort of like Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Lady Dawson disgraced the family and married that Catholic manager. So my mother had this wonderful story of a woman of aristocratic lineage fallen into the lower class, all for love. To me, it was a story of a Paradise Lost. And while we lived within our working class means, the Irish-American working class intelligentsia still respected books. We had Milton in the corner and copies of classic books my brothers bought. Learning was respected and I started reading early on. There was never any attempt to make fun of that.
Years ago, in La Jolla, California, where I was giving a lecture at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute – really a business think tank and not so much behavioral science – a woman who was from Europe came up to me and said, “You must be Irish. There’s a rhythm when you’re talking and you’re talking very fast, and only the Irish can do that.”
I think my mother had an influence on me because she romanticized and sentimentalized Ireland. I think that’s maybe because my grandmother died when my mother was an infant so my mother never knew her maternal Irish mother. Ireland was always the lost kingdom. My mother brought me up with a kind of nostalgia. We would walk around Chicago and she would tell me stories about the Irish and so I had this awe of Ireland and always wanted to go there and as soon as I got a literary fellowship in Grad School, I went to Dublin and didn’t like it.
Ireland in the sixties was one of the poorest countries in Europe. It was dominated by the Catholic Church. You couldn’t have a chair in University College unless your brother was a priest and your sister was a nun. Women couldn’t be seen on the streets when pregnant because pregnancy was considered “confinement” and their large bellies were considered embarrassing if not disgusting. Men didn’t marry until they were 38 and sex was for reproduction and nothing else. Yeats and Joyce were long gone. So I just said ‘Okay, I’ll skip the socializing in the pubs and just write my dissertation.’ So I did my work and got out and came back. I’ve been back to Scotland a lot but I haven’t been back to Ireland. I want to go actually.
Still, I’ve always been drawn to the scholarly aspect of the Catholic Church, but it’s a pathological institution. I remember the first time I went to church in Chicago and I’m looking up at this mangled, tortured statue of Jesus hanging on a cross above the altar. Why would anyone want to do that, I was just terrified and then the priests were always berating the parishioners for money. I remember the priest, Father Quinn, screaming ‘You’re not giving enough money to the Church.’
I asked my mother why was this man yelling from the pulpit? Here’s this maniac screaming at you in front of this mangled creature on the altar and I thought if this is religion get me out of here.
And then my mother and older brothers took me to see the Walt Disney movie Fantasia. And here I was in the dark seeing the evolution of the universe and the dinosaurs and the story of life and I thought this is more like it. My brothers were listening to Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, which were fun, but I had no idea that classical music existed until my parents took me to see Fantasia. At the age of four and a half or five I came home and thought, “Wow.” And I turned the dial on this gothic looking radio and found the classic station and lay down on the couch and for the first time went into Samadhi and I was gone for hours.
My mother knew that the best way to baby-sit me was to turn on classical music. I would go into a trance and then I became aware that I had a body of a five year old but that I wasn’t a five year old. The classical music to me was much more important than the Catholic Church which was pain and agony and I began to wonder why this was so.
When I was seven I was put in a Catholic military school run by a shell-shocked Major. And I remember the nuns telling me the story about frying Saint Lawrence, on a griddle, and that Saint Lawrence said ‘I’m done on this side, flip me over.’ And I was thinking, damn, I could never be a saint. And I wanted to be a saint. I made a vow to myself saying, “If it means I’ll get out of this god-awful place, I’ll be really good.” So sainthood was at the top of the recommended list. I said, “Okay, I’ll go for that.”
But then I realized, well, I’m screwed. I can’t become a saint. I know I could not let someone fry me on a griddle. If this culture recommends that level of piety and this is what it means to bow to God’s will, I know I can’t do it.
I knew I was absolutely caught in Catch 22 and there was no way out. One day in the library in the Military School I was left alone and I found the Book of Knowledge and I turned the page and there was a picture of the Universe and our Galaxy. And at eight I thought, yes, that’s the world I want, a world of knowledge, the world that I saw in Fantasia. I don’t want the world of Catholicism. The title alone, The Book of Knowledge, was like a magical key, a way to escape. So from then on I started reading in a different way with intensity and commitment to what was on the page.
Speaking of Samadhi, you spent many years in Tantric Study, even traveling to Auroville, the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo and his consort The Mother. What are your thoughts about Tantra?
Tantra is interesting from a woman’s point of view even though classical Tantra came from a patriarchal Vedic society. It’s the man working with the Shakti, feminine energy.
The Western tradition hasn’t bothered to understand Tantra’s true esoteric meaning. Actually Tantra isn’t a form of sexual appetite satisfaction, it’s revving up the unconscious. My metaphor for this would be a speeding car that slams on the brakes so that everything in the back seat hits the windshield. Everything that’s unconscious is rapidly precipitated into consciousness including your birth experience: what your first thought was and how you were actually imprinted with consciousness at birth. I don’t know if I’d recommend Tantra as the easiest path to spirituality to take.
I had also been initiated into the tradition of Kriya yoga. This is an old path, difficult for anybody in the modern world. It’s t is not to be recommended lightly. I stil practice kriya yoga. And in choosing that path, I probably made things more difficult than I intended to. When I started Kriya yoga I wasn’t aware of how difficult a path it was and how destabilizing an impact it could have on my life.
In 1972, I went to India to stay at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where I had Darshan  with The Mother.
The mother didn’t talk. There are various kinds of telepathic communications, so I’ve met yogis who have come to me in their minds. I had a very clear transmission that way from Swami Muktananda, but he didn’t speak English anyway. When I saw the Mother, I was kind of shocked. She was very old and decrepit physically but there was this shock of the physical just seeing her. I was turned off by the religion surrounding the people in the ashram with their flowing gowns. The only way they could communicate was by saying, “But the Mother said this, the Mother said that.” I basically think that religion is over and that we have to create a higher spirituality.
Yogananda called it a self-realization fellowship. He was trying years ago to create the next step so I was studying Kriya yoga through his ashram. I got this transmission from the Mother that said, “Oh it’s you, I’ve been waiting for you.”
I was traveling with a woman friend and we arrived at Auroville, and a man got out of a car and said, “The two Americans. The two Americans. The mother wants to see them.”
And so I was summoned by the Mother. But to be realistic I was also interviewed in Time Magazine  that week and there was a manager who was a very manipulative unspiritual shadow by the light kind of guy. And he had other interests. They may have read the article, but I didn’t yet know it was there. I was in Madras and went to a kiosk and a little voice in my head said, “Buy the magazine.” I turned the pages and there I was. I didn’t think anything would come of that interview. Time was afraid to publish it at first because they knew it would be so wild.
There was going to be a dinner in San Diego before I left the country and I was invited. So they set up a dinner and got all these professors to come and show me that I was an idiot. The whole purpose was to relieve Time Magazine from the burden of having to publish the interview. And so they sigged all these guys to make mincemeat out of me. I had no idea. And so I walked into the place and in those days I had been practicing yoga and had a lot of vital energy so they tried to attack me. I was not going to be nice. And I figured we were going to have a slugfest until the last man was standing and I was last man standing. So they decided let’s go for it.
They had me to lunch at the Time Magazine offices in Rockefeller Center where I met Henry Gruenwald, the editor. They were all sort of sniffing me out saying, “Who is this guy?” And they were all interested, saying to themselves, “Is this the next new thing? Is this hot? Or is this guy a fraud?” And then they got this Dean of Sciences at University of California, San Diego, to try to debunk me.
So I forgot about it and bought the magazine in Madras, and there I was. It was me running off at the mouth. The manager of the Ashram who was later fired for doing shady stuff might have seen that and told the Mother she should meet these people.
At any rate, I had this dramatic experience where I met the Mother for the first time and experienced the shock of her body and we lined up in Darshan in the typical way with all the Indians elbowing forward pushing everyone else out of the way. It was all ego and so I moved to the end of the line quoting “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” I was in no hurry to get in. And while I was willing to deck everybody in San Diego I was not willing to elbow the Indians out of their own home turf if they wanted to see the Mother first.
So I went in last and then I had this mental imagination that she was speaking to me in telegraphic transmission saying, “Oh it’s you, I’ve been waiting for you a long time.” And so I kneeled at her feet and she gave me this little packet of Darshan flowers and then I moved on.
And you make of it whatever your creative imagination makes of it. Still she was one of the first to be a female leader in the tradition.
You created an extraordinary community at the Cathedral. How did that relationship develop in context of the Lindisfarne Fellowship?
Well I enjoyed that Cathedral group better than any group around the world because it was a really interested collection of artists, poets, filmmakers, composers and there was a quality of intelligence and creativity missing in other places. The venue ended when the Dean, James Parks Morton , left.
I worked with the Dean for twenty-five years and introduced him to Margulies and Lovelock and Varela. The Dean had been trained in working with poverty and inner city issues and civil rights, the conventional 1950s church synthesis: work for justice, work for poverty issues, and so he knew nothing about yoga and the other esoteric traditions. Lindisfarne for him was also an introduction into a much larger world.
Lindisfarne had its roots in my first years of teaching. I had always wanted to create an alternative college. Even when I was a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) I felt that the roots of the ecological crisis were in the miseducation of engineers, teaching them to treat nature like an object and a machine.
MIT during the Vietnam War was not open to innovation or any of those things so I quit in frustration because my department had been taken over by a push between Maoism and Materialism. There was no third way. I loved my little art college, Pomona College, in the fifties and sixties. So I went up to Toronto to get out of the American Empire. I always kept thinking that someday, in a sixties way, I would get back to the land and set up a new approach to creating a new kind of institution.
So when I wrote my second book, At the Edge of History, it got rave reviews in the New York Times and the critic Christopher Lehman Haupt stopped in the middle of another review to say that he couldn’t get my book out of his mind.
My publisher, Harper and Row took out an ad in the New York Times. And then an ad executive in New York read it and was inspired. And he said, “Who is this Thompson? I’ll have to fly up to Toronto and attend his lectures.”
So, twice a week I was lecturing to my freshmen, two hundred students in a provincial university, which in Canada is like a state university. And the ad exec sat in and thought, wow. With the influence of Kriya yoga and other practices I had been doing, I was channeling when I was lecturing, and I would go into an altered state. Students would come and sit in on it and smoke dope in the back and say, “That William Thompson, he’s really wailing today!”
So this ad exec would sit in and to my surprise he would show up every week. Finally he asked if he could have coffee with me and I said, ‘Sure and so he said that he was going through a life change and had some money and wanted to do something with it. I had heard Ivan Illich’s  lecture on Counter Culture, and I started talking about my dream of wanting to create a counter culture institution.
He got interested and decided to hitchhike on this dream of mine. He became a business manager and helped me raise money and talked me into looking in New York and Connecticut even though I was thinking of rural Ontario. And so we looked in Connecticut around Litchfield, and then we found an old inn in the Hamptons with 25 cottages.
In New York we met with foundation executives and one of these meetings included dinner with the newly installed Dean at the Cathedral, Reverend James Parks Morton and his wife Pamela. He became very interested. I incorporated in 1972 and quit my professorship in ‘73 and moved to Southampton in August of ‘73.
I traveled around the world looking at alternative places to help me create my model for the Fellowship. I went to Carlos Castaneda at UCLA; I went to see the architect Paolo Soleri in Arizona. I went to the Hopi reservation to see White Bear Frederick who authored The Book of the Hopi.
I give credit to the sixties for this inspiration. The sixties constituted a magical moment. When I left graduate school at Cornell in ‘64, it was the Gulf of Tonkin. When I came back to Cambridge from Ireland in the spring of ‘65, America had become a different country. I would go to these faculty parties and I remember listening to Bob Dylan and these incredible lyrics and the whole country was just ignited out of the Eisenhower era.
You know it’s funny. A few years ago, my wife took me to this spiritual healer in Switzerland who actually works with animals and people transmitting angelic knowledge. He’s a charming sort of down-to-earth kind of guy, very physical and not ethereal. He gets you in touch with your guardian angel.
Now, one has to put this in the cultural context. And here, angels are meant to represent energetic presences. Now this is all taking place in German. He said that the angel “wants you to write one more book.”
I said, “Why?”
And he said, “Now look, you’ve written all these books for the intelligentsia and you’re really very good at synthesis and bringing all kinds of things together. You should write something simple for everybody.”
I’ve been consulting and working with children at the Ross School  on Long Island. I’m getting to know school teachers and not just university professors, so this work requires a different kind of narrative. The title of this book is Transforming History at the Ross School.
I was thinking, yeah, this is the kind of thing I could write for the larger audience: the common steps of the evolution of consciousness, and the transformation of the human culture. You see, human cultures are now pathologically using consciousness as weapons against one another: Islam has been turned into a weapon against capitalist modernization. And with the Neocons, the Protestant Enlightenment has been corrupted and turned into a weapon against the social democracy FDR initiated. So I thought, perhaps something along these lines is possible now.
This year I’ve written three books: Canticum Turicum and Still Travels as one poetry book this is a contemplative poem about dream yoga. And as well as Transforming History at the Ross School, I have also written an intellectual history of Lindisfarne Thinking Together at the Edge of History: The Story of The Lindisfarne Association. This book tells the story of Lindisfarne and all the things I did with Bateson, Varela, Lovelock, Margulis, and all the whole gang. So I’ve done a lot of writing last winter.
I also finished a history of Lindisfarne, Thinking Together at the Edge of History: The Story of The Lindisfarne Association, which tells the story of Lindisfarne and all the things I did with Lovelock, Margulies and all the gang. So I’ve done a lot of writing last winter.
Our conversation concluded almost three hours later. Bill was catching a flight to Crestone, Colorado where he was moving from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He now lives at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center near the Lindisfarne House designed by environmental architect, Sim Van der Ryn.
He recently sent me an update:
Greetings from the mountaintop where I can see 100 miles to the south to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico and 100 miles to the north to Mount Princeton. I have moved from the shadow of Harvard in Cambridge to the fourteeners of Colorado on the slopes of Mounts Crestone and Kit Karson.
I will be editing the book on the Ross School, writing poetry, and giving a few talks in Santa Fe and Boulder. In the summer I will give a workshop/retreat on the subject of the Evolution of Consciousness here at Lindisfarne Fellows House at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center similar to the Lindisfarne Symposium at the Cathedral. As always I will examine this from my Celtic Animist perspective: the contract between race and the elemental spirits of the earth.
The organizations of mind in stone and star that were here before animals evolved and served to midwife our birth with magnetic field and out-gassing of atmosphere and ocean, has expired and is now under renegotiation. The coastline and the very shape, form, and idea of the United States is undergoing profound transformation, but because it is not happening at 24 frames per second, most people can’t see it or simply choose to ignore its intuitive register as it is too disturbing to the immediate needs of a personal ego.
By living here, I am trying to step back in a Taoist sort of way and get a feeling for the big picture.
The Daley Machine The Machine was the Democratic Organization of Cook County, Ill., run by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley who retained full control of its actions. Social strata, education level, and a willingness to work within the bureaucracy governed party loyalty. However, the Democratic Party’s voters came from the ward’s poorest populations and were unlikely to become part of the Machine. If an elected official was not absolutely loyal, he would be ostracized.
Shaktism Shaktism is the worship of the Supreme Power in the form of Mother, who creates, sustains and ends the universe, from cycle to cycle. Shankara in his Saundaryalahari declares: “Shiva is able to function when united with Shakti; otherwise he is inert.”
Shiva is the unchanging consciousness, and Shakti its changing power, appearing as mind and matter. The
Rig-Veda describes Shakti as the embodiment of power and the upholder of the universe. Shakti is represented
as the sister of Krishna and the wife of Shiva. She is worshipped as Devi, who is one with Brahman. Shiva
is the subject as well as the object, the experiencer as well as the experienced. As the consciousness on
which all this resultant world is established, whence it issues, is free in its nature, it cannot be
restricted anywhere. As it moves in the differentiated states of waking, sleeping, etc., identifying itself
with them, it never falls from its true nature as the knower.”
Kriya Yoga The Sanskrit word kriya means “action.” Yoga can mean the practice of procedures to facilitate overall well-being and spiritual growth, or it can mean wholeness: the final result of spiritual practice. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a two thousand year old treatise on superconscious meditation, Kriya yoga is defined as disciplined regulation of mental and sensory impulses, self analysis, study of metaphysics, meditation, and surrender of self consciousness (egoism) in favor of God-realization.
Kriya yoga is a concentrated approach to self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment: awakening to full knowledge of the Infinite and of cosmic processes. It includes the most effective processes of all systems of yoga, with emphasis on wholesome, constructive living and superconscious meditation practice. Superconscious states are clear, refined states of consciousness superior to ordinary waking states and subconscious and unconscious states. The purpose of Kriya yoga practice is to restore the practitioner’s awareness to wholeness. This is accomplished by acquiring knowledge of one’s true nature as a spiritual being; cultivating rational thinking, emotional balance, and physical health; purposeful living; and meditation.
To facilitate the unfoldment of innate qualities and elicit superconscious states, specific meditation techniques are taught and practiced. Beginning meditators are usually taught how to pray effectively and how to use a simple word or sound (mantra) to focus attention. After a period of preparatory study and practice, initiation into advanced meditation processes can be requested.
Although Kriya yoga has been known and practiced for centuries, it was Roy Eugene Davis’ guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, who first taught it in the West. Yogananda traveled from India to America in 1920 and lectured, wrote, and trained disciples for 32 years before his passing in 1952. His best-known book, Autobiography of a Yogi, is now published in 17 languages around the world.
Center for Spiritual Awareness offers instruction in Kriya yoga philosophy and lifestyle regimens and initiation into its meditation practices. Mr. Davis’ basic book on this subject is The Path of Light, with a commentary on the Yoga Sutras.
Darshan Darshan means Seeing, derived from the root drsh to see (compare Greek derkomai), to see with reverence and devotion. The term is used specifically for beholding highly revered people with the intention of inwardly contacting and receiving their grace and blessings. By doing darshan properly a devotee develops affection for God, and God develops affection for that devotee.
Swami Muktananda Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) began the life of a sadhu, a wandering mendicant in search of spiritual fulfillment at an unusually early age. Though as a young man Muktananda gained recognition for his yogic attainments, Swami Muktananda often said that his spiritual journey didn’t truly begin until he received shaktipat, spiritual initiation, from the holy man Bhagawan Nityananda. It was then that Muktananda’s spiritual energy, kundalini, was awakened, and he was drawn into profound states of meditation. Nine years later Muktananda attained the state of God-realization.
In the 1970s, on his Guru’s behalf, Swami Muktananda brought the venerable tradition of his master’s lineage to the West, giving the previously little-known shaktipat initiation to untold thousands of spiritual seekers. Muktananda established Gurudev Siddha Peeth as a public trust in India to administer the work there, and founded the SYDA Foundation in the United States to administer the global work of Siddha Yoga meditation.
“I am frightened by the political implications of leading people into the promised land, moving them away from politics to political management, from being citizens to becoming subjects. Futurism, I think, is ideological camouflage, and should be very, very suspect.
Yet nobody talks about the end of the citizen. In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler writes about participatory democracy and the future of it, and yet everything in the new technology is antidemocratic. If you’ve got computers, you don’t have to share information with the bureaucracy; you just give the elite access to instant information. All the information coming in from different sides—economic, political, religious, social—has one common thing and that is that it is antidemocratic, which is one reason why the kids keep talking about participation democracy. Because when something is about to go, it has its sunset. It has its most beautiful, passionate colors and then disappears. When the railroads are coming in, people write poems to trees. When people are talking about sexual automation and the elimination of motherhood, that’s when you have a sexual explosion. Now that democracy is going, every naive kid says “participatory democracy,” and it’s an absolute fantasy.
What's a nonpolluting culture, a non-growth, a non-Faustian Western culture going to be like? The people who have really been doing the research and development on that kind of culture have obviously been in the counterculture. The non-growth culture is closer to the Hopi Indian way of life than it is to that of the jet-setting industrialist’s. Frank Waters’ Book of the Hopi is the most directly relevant book to something like The Limits to Growth. It’s very clear that if you are going to humanize technology, you’re not going to be able to do it within the limited terms of books and civilization and the other older containers. You've got to go very far out. In this sense, the people who really understand electronic technology, bio feedback, new forms of consciousness where you don’t have to keep up by reading 36,000 books a year are the mystics. Seemingly you move away from culture and technology and become a world-denying mystic. But in reality—in a spiral—you are coming back into the heart of the post-technological culture.”
Ivan Illich Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926. He studied theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a PhD in history at the University of Salzburg. He came to the United States in 1951, where he served as assistant pastor in an Irish-Puerto Rican parish in New York City. From 1956 to 1960 he was assigned as vice-rector to the Catholic university of Puerto Rico, where he organized an intensive training center for American priests in Latin American culture. Illich was co-founder of the widely known and controversial Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and since 1964 he has directed research seminars on Institutional Alternatives in a Technological Society, with special focus on Latin America.
The Ross School Ross School prepares
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