“After spending the best part of my life in the study of the liberal arts and sciences, and in the company of wise men and judicious scholars, I was compelled, as the result of my observation of mankind, to arrive at the melancholy conclusion that the hearts of most persons are set either on ambitious and vainglorious projects, on sensual pleasures, or on the accumulation of wealth by all and any means; and that few care either for God or for virtue.” – from A Subtle Allegory by Michael Maier (Frankfurt, 1617)
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It’s Time to Wake Up…Again
Advanced communication brings cultures into crashing union, we are seeing a time of monumental change. The old orders, societies and traditions are more open than ever before. Proliferating groups, attendant philosophies, half thought heresies and individual revelations are signs of the times.
What we are seeing today has happened many times before, but our ability for action has never been so profound. The ravaging wars of the Middle Ages may have raised civilizations, destroyed tribal boundaries and reordered the world, but they could not attend to the environmental terror that even our daily existence creates today.
What incredible insights were rediscovered in the Renaissance are available to any child with access to the internet. Secret keys once transmitted in code are openly revealed and each person is given all of the necessary guides to initiation into the mysteries if it be their will to look. Who is looking?
A Dead Letter Dawn
When the sun rises the stars disappear, and as we approach the challenges of the future we are faced with the need to move beyond allegorical lessons and into living truth. There is a certain baroque naiveté in our traditions, orders and societies. These truths transmitted through story, seeds sent forward through time in search of fertile soil, are in need of planting. The innocence of the past that allowed for speculation and artifice must become mature in this critical state of culture.
As John Michael Greer points out in his book The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age the skills that are needed today are practical skills for sustaining and renewing our culture. There is much talk of personal development, but personal development without a presence in the world, and a deep ecological identity, is worth nothing. Transmitted knowledge that once attended the lives of saints and magi are today treated as merely a more esoteric form of psychoactive drug. We are dosing ourselves with the Stone of Sages as if the Philosophers of Nature were nothing more than antecedent psychiatrists.
We are in need of a true re-veiling, a renewal of these traditions to fit with a permacultural vision. The wheel of the world still spins; we should not try to lock ourselves into a dead letter dawn. Our existence is a living system; our goal should be to shed false identifiers for a naked baptism in the fire of life.
The idea of the Masonic Lodge arose from the itinerant lifestyle of the operative masons. Where ever they traveled to build, there was a need for housing and support , and so the lodge system was developed, wherein every center of civilization had the means to attend to the traveling craftsmen. Is it any different today?
Permaculture calls for communal and personal responsibility. In order to attune ourselves to a living system our civilized structures must be built on standards of self reliance and community integrity. This is not isolationism, the same need for mutual support still exists, but all too often we build silos instead of organic units. Leadership must not be made a handmaid to arrogance.
The Masonic Lodges exist on the ideal of mutual respect for ones equals. The four Masonic virtues, the trowel that cuts the first line in the soil of the apprentice, are as applicable today as they were to past craftsman. Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice would be well adapted to the practice of permaculture.
The alchemical diagrams are incredible works of art, and in this instance the full meaning of art is meant. They are gateways, lessons, entire books unto themselves, but what greater book do we have than nature?
Therese of Avila was a powerful woman, her faith was outstanding and in time she would mature to become a saint. As she grew in her wisdom she let go of social attachments, dropping dogma and ritual for the living light of truth, but still she held one thing as a reminder, a tiny cross she had made herself, a physical sign of her faith. In a simple moment of profound importance John de la Cruz took this precious object from her hands and broke it. What she had thought bound her to the truth was actually binding her to her own ideas, and in an act that would otherwise seem most uncouth, John took away that final block, the fire in Catherine’s heart could no longer be contained.
All of our books will one day rot, but their truths remain around us. The potency of the Emerald Tablet was such that it spawned an entire tradition, spanning centuries of learning and new revelation, but to reveal is to re-veil, and a re-veiling through iconography and image does nothing to lead the seeker into the fire of the living world. We could all easily memorize the Tablet. If we taught Ars Memoria rather than Ars Technica our minds and memory would attune themselves to reality beyond the artifice of our cultural accretion.
It is time to step back from our scribbling and look out to the true tree, beyond our diagrams lies the world we seek to model, already perfected, already supreme and potent. Our codification of the true fire has lead down a dangerous path, the same words and images that allow one person to ascend into the highest order provide to the puffers a means to create monsters. This is justice, but in knowing this we must begin to put down our milk for the meat, our toys for tools, the crisis of our indiscretions has come to pass.
Stately Scholars and Woolen Brains
The cloud think of academia has become a noxious gas. Look around at the world our knowledge has given us. It’s time to get our hands into the dirt, to push past the clouded reason that benights our days, to see the sun rise and the seeds sprout pure and strong.
Permaculture is not desk work, it is not a nose in a book, it’s our hands touching the real and living systems around us. Permaculture is participatory, egalitarian, free and self renewing. Are we voyeurs or lovers? What place has study when conversation and communion bring so much more to the table. We’ve been staring at intellectual pornography too long and our vital essence is being wasted.
It’s time to court the truth as a lover, to return our passions to nature rather than to the assumptions of academics and arrogant mental meanderings of sexless charlatans. We talk of Tantra and reject our lover, our masturbatory scholasticism can never give us over to the ecstasy of union.
How much more talk do we need until we feel comfortable picking up the task? It seems we’re in a perpetual planning meeting that never gets down to the grit and grime of actual work. We’re just so many strangled executives with pursed lips sitting around a conference table salivating over Power Point slides.
Take off the chains, put some fire in your heart and step sideways. This is no time for chatter, there’s work to be done and the longer we wait the more we face fragmented and fallow fields. With love go forth, receive nature as a teacher, as a lodge, as a key, a gate and a lover. Days pass, all things change, and as our thoughts and intentions manifest in the pregnant matrix of creation our children will pay for our lack of action and purity for generations to come.