Alan Watts (1915-1973): What’s Wrong With Our Culture

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Alan Watts: What’s Wrong With Our Culture

“Why is it that we don’t seem to be able to adjust ourselves to the physical environment without destroying it?

Why is it that in a way this culture represents in a unique fashion the law of diminishing returns? That our success is a failure.

That we are building up an enormous technological civilization which seems to promise the fulfillment of every wish almost at the touch of a button. And yet as in so many fairy tales when the wish is finally materialized, they are like fairy gold, they are not really material at all.

In other words, so many of our products, our cars, our homes, our clothing, our food, It looks as if it were really the instant creation of pure thought; that is to say it’s thoroughly insubstantial, lacking in what the connoisseur of wine calls body.

And in so many other ways, the riches that we produce are ephemeral. and as the result of that we are frustrated, we are terribly frustrated. We feel that the only thing is to go on and getting more and more.

And as a result of that the whole landscape begins to look like the nursery of a spoiled child who’s got too many toys and is bored with them and throws them away as fast as he gets them, plays them for a few minutes.

Also we are dedicated to a tremendous war on the basic material dimensions of time and space. We want to obliterate their limitations. We want to get everything done as fast as possible. We want to convert the rhythms and the skills of work into cash, which indeed you can buy something with but you can’t eat it.

And then rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves. You know, for the vast majority of American families what seems to be the real point of life, what you rush home to get to is to watch

an electronic reproduction of life. You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste.

You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or an orgy of love-making or a riot of music and dancing; But nothing of the kind.

It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen. You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.

And so we don’t get with each other except for public expressions or getting rid of our hostility like football or prize-fighting.

And even in the spectacles one sees on this television it’s perfectly proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other but oh dear no, not people loving each other, except in a rather restrained way.

One can only draw the conclusion that the assumption underlying this is that expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption is basically crazy and devoted – unintentionally indeed but nevertheless in-fact devoted not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.”

ALAN WATTS

1YOU MIGHT ALSO DELIGHT IN ALAN WATTS’ ARTICLE:

Psychedelics and Religious Experience
by Alan Watts

“The experiences resulting from the use of psychedelic drugs are often described in religious terms. They are therefore of interest to those like myself who, in the tradition of William James, are concerned with the psychology of religion. For more than thirty years I have been studying the causes, the consequences, and the conditions of those peculiar states of consciousness in which the individual discovers himself to be one continuous process with God, with the Universe, with the Ground of Being, or whatever name he may use by cultural conditioning or personal preference for the ultimate and eternal reality. We have no satisfactory and definitive name for experiences of this kind. The terms “religious experience,” “mystical experience,” and “cosmic consciousness” are all too vague and comprehensive to denote that specific mode of consciousness which, to those who have known it, is as real and overwhelming as falling in love. This article describes such states of consciousness induced by psychedelic drugs, although they are virtually indistinguishable from genuine mystical experience. The article then discusses objections to the use of psychedelic drugs that arise mainly from the opposition between mystical values and the traditional religious and secular values of Western society.”

FULL ARTICLE

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Carl G. Jung: The Trouble With Self-Knowledge

Carl-Jung

jung“Most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. Anyone who has any egoconsciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body with its physiological and anatomical structure, of which the average person knows very little too. Although he lives in it and with it, most of it is totally unknown to the layman, and special scientific knowledge is needed to acquaint consciousness with what is known of the body…

In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with all dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know what is attacking us, and how, where and when the attack will come. Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to know the individual facts, theories help very little in this respect. For the more a theory lays claim to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts. Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean.

The statistical method shows the facts in the light of the ideal average but does not give us a picture of their empirical reality. While reflecting an indisputable aspect of reality, it can falsify the actual truth in a most misleading way. This is particularly true of theories which are based on statistics. The distinctive thing about real facts, however, is their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, one could say that the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule, and that, in consequence, absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity.

These considerations must be borne in mind whenever there is talk of a theory serving as a guide to self-knowledge. There is and can be no self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. Hence it is not the universal and the regular that characterize the individual, but rather the unique. He is not to be understood as a recurrent unit but as something unique and singular which in the last analysis can neither be known nor compared with anything else.

carl-jung2If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude. I can only approach the task of understanding with a free and open mind, whereas knowledge of man, or insight into human character, presupposes all sorts of knowledge about mankind in general.

Now whether it is a question of understanding a fellow human being or of self-knowledge, I must in both cases leave all theoretical assumptions behind me. Since scientific knowledge not only enjoys universal esteem but, in the eyes of modern man, counts as the only intellectual and spiritual authority, understanding the individual obliges me to commit lèse majesté, so to speak, to turn a blind eye to scientific knowledge. This is a sacrifice not lightly made, for the scientific attitude cannot rid itself so easily of its sense of responsibility. And if the psychologist happens to be a doctor who wants not only to classify his patient scientifically but also to understand him as a human being, he is threatened with a conflict of duties between the two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive attitudes of knowledge, on the one hand, and understanding, on the other. This conflict cannot be solved by an either-or but only by a kind of two-way thinking: doing one thing while not losing sight of the other.”

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

The Undiscovered Self

[download e-book in PDF]

Mead

Quite an unique quote, by Margaret Mead (1901-1988)

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I’m currently working on an original article about Jung’s seminar, from 1934 to 1939, about Nietzsche’s ZarathustraStay tuned… i’ll publish it here soon. He’s a taste of what’s to come: 

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“Nietzsche was in a sort of fighting position against the whole contemporary world and it gave him a peculiar feeling of inefficiency that his words reached nowhere – no echo anywhere. That really was the case; nobody cared, his was the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, and so naturally he would increase his voice instead of lowering it. (…) He needed strong language in order to overthrow that small fellow who was so overwhelmed by tradition.” (JUNG, Seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, 9 May 1934)

WEB LIBRARY: Great books for download… sharing the knowledge! (Marx, Vaneigem, Bakunin, Sahlins…)

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Karl Marx
, “Dispatches for the New York Tribune: selected journalism of Karl Marx”

Karl Marx is arguably the most famous political philosopher of all time, but he was also one of the great foreign correspondents of the nineteenth century. Drawing on his eleven-year tenure at the New York Tribune (which began in 1852), this completely new collection presents Marx’s writings on an abundance of topics, from issues of class and state to world affairs. Particularly moving pieces highlight social inequality and starvation in Britain, while others explore his groundbreaking views on the slave and opium trades. Throughout, Marx’s fresh perspective on nineteenth-century events reveals a social consciousness that remains inspiring to this day.

DOWNLOAD E-BOOK (6 MB)

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SahlinsMarshall Sahlins, “Stone Age Economics”

Stone Age Economics is a classic study of anthropological economics, first published in 1974. As Marshall Sahlinsstated in the first edition, “It has been inspired by the possibility of ‘anthropological economics,’ a perspective indebted rather to the nature of the primitive economies than to the categories of a bourgeois science.” Ambitiously tackling the nature of economic life and how to study it comparatively, the book includes six studies which reflect the author’s ideas on revising traditional views of the hunter-gatherer and so-called primitive societies, revealing them to be the original affluent society. The book examines notions of production, distribution and exchange in early communities and examines the link between economics and cultural and social factors. It consists of a set of detailed and closely related studies of tribal economies, of domestic production for livelihood, and of the submission of domestic production to the material and political demands of society at large.

DOWNLOAD E-BOOK (9,6 mb)

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Bakunin
Michael Bakunin, “Selected Writings”

A collection of writings from the champion of Anarchism, Mikhail Bakunin. Includes “God and the State”, “Marxism, Freedom and the State”, “The Policy of the International”, and “The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State”. Preface gives a brief biography. Qualitatively the best collection of Bakunin’s writings that currently exists, this selection presents the reader with some of Bakunin’s most important writings, and illustrates his development from being a close follower of Hegel to becoming the great adversary of Marx and Marxist socialism.

DOWNLOAD E-BOOK (7,5 mb)

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VANEIGEM

Raoul Vaneigem, “The revolution of everyday life”

Raoul Vaneigem was one of the most important thinkers within the Situationist International as well as frequent editor of their journal Internationale Situationniste. The Revolution of Everyday Life, written in Vaneigem’s typically poetic style, is one of the most important of the Situationist texts, attacking the alienation of capitalist life not only at work but also in our ‘free’ time.

DOWNLOAD E-BOOK

Recommended Documentary: “Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden” (A film by Carol Black)

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“You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination…. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be.”  – Doris Lessing, 2007 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”– Albert Einstein

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SYNOPSIS

If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for indigenous children.

But is this true? What really happens when we replace a traditional culture’s way of learning and understanding the world with our own? SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures.

Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank.

The film examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children “escape” to a “better life” – despite mounting evidence of the environmental, social, and mental health costs of our own modern consumer lifestyles, from epidemic rates of childhood depression and substance abuse to pollution and climate change.

It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty – here in the United States as well as in the so-called “developing” world.

And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of elders and ancient spiritual traditions.

Finally, SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia.

SCHOOLING THE WORLD – THE WHITE MAN’S LART BURDEN [FULL DOC]

With Wade Davis, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Masnish Jain and Dolma Tsering.

http://schoolingtheworld.org/

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You might also like:

Claude Lévi-Strauss Par Lui-Même (Watch full doc with english subs)

LEvi Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss Par Lui-Même
 (Pierre-Andre Boutang, 2008) 

“No doubt we take comfort in the dream that equality and fraternity will one day reign among men, without compromising their diversity.” – Lévi-Strauss, Race and Culture

SYNOPSIS: This film recounts the extraordinary career path of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the father of structural anthropology, whose theories made an impact also on linguistics, mythology, and even pop culture studies. Author of “Tristes Tropiques” and “The Savage Mind”, Lévi-Strauss is a man curious about the nature of all men, a confirmed ecologist, and a fierce defender of the diversity of cultures and people. A profound intellectual with the temperament of an artist and poet, Lévi-Strauss still dominates the landscape of Western thinking. Consisting of selected interviews, this film “Lévi-Strauss Par Lui-Meme” offers an intimate, inside view of the anthropologist’s life and times. Directed and edited by Pierre-Andre Boutang and Annie Chevallay. With the participation of Vincent De Baene and Frederick Keck. Produced by Arte France, Films du Bouloi and INA. France / 2008 / Color / 93 mins / Subtitles in english.

P.S. This is intended for non-profit commentary and educational purposes. No copyright infringement intended. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


FULL FILM – English Subs.
http://youtu.be/5tuwJmWAWco

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Some of Lévi-Strauss major works (e-books in english):

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You might also like:

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett on the similarities between God and Santa Claus (a bright provocation…)

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“Few forces in the world are as potent, as influential, as religion. As we struggle to resolve the terrible economical and social inequities that currently disfigure our planet, and minimize the violence and degradation we see, we have to recognize that if we have a blind spot about religion our efforts will almost certainly fail, and may make matters much worse… If we don’t subject religion to such scrutiny now, and work out together whatever revisions and reforms are called for, we will pass on a legacy of ever more toxic forms of religion to our descendants.

Religion plays its most important role in supporting morality, many think, by giving people an unbeatable reason to do good: the promise of an infinite reward in heaven, and (depending on tastes) the threat of an infinite punishment in hell if they don’t. Without the divine carrot and stick, goes this reasoning, people would loll about aimlessly or indulge their basest desires, break their promises, cheat on their spouses, neglect their duties, and so on. There are two well-known problems with this reasoning: (1) it doesn’t seem to be true, which is good news, since (2) it is such a demeaning view of human nature.

Everybody already knows the evidence for the countervailing hypothesis that the belief in a reward in heaven can sometimes motivate acts of monstruous evil. (…) This can be seen as an infantile concept of God in the first place, pandering to immaturity instead of encouraging genuine moral commitment. As Mitchell Silver notes, the God who rewards goodness in heaven beats a striking resemblance to the hero of the popular song ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’…”

DANIEL DENNETT
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
(Pgs. 38-39 & 279-280)
Available at the Toronto Public Library.

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“Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it…” – Chief Seattle

Campbell

“All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life,
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
He does to himself.”

― Chief Seattle


From Joseph Campbell’s The Power Of Myth