After understanding Bill Mollison’s book “ Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual” from articles and bloggers for many months, I found a copy of the book to critique the section of most interest to me, namely his Preface thru Chapter 1: Permaculture Design Philosophy.
The author writes: “A person of courage today is a person of peace. The courage we need is to refuse authority and to accept only personally responsible decisions. Like war, growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children’s world which is being destroyed. It is therefore our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems, and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation.” (p.1)
To get a deeper flavor of his challenge, stir these catalytic vision fragments from Mollison’s vision:
“Positivistic, integrated and global outreach…”
“Everybody is free to act as an individual, to form a small group…”
‘Individually-driven at base, but envisioned to work collaboratively, communally…’
“… a sustainable earth care system.”
“… a million villages to replace the nation-states is the only safe future for the preservation of the biosphere.”
“Interdependence and personal responsibility be our aims.” (p. ix)
To me, permaculture is more than design principles like those in sun angles, crop selection, drainage patterns or roof top grasses, and must include a spiritual connection so I journeyed to discover how the Mollison’s ideas juxtapose with the my work in the new alchemy, new Nature-based myths and the search for the sacred. One can quickly ascertain the deep connection to Nature and peace-making within the Society of Friends (Quakers) canon and a similar vibe in Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual.
Mollison’s Ethics for Natural Systems is a start at a new sacred way:
- Prohibit development in natural forests
- Rehabilitation of damaged natural systems
- Crop design that uses the minimum amount of land
- Refuges for endangered plants & animals (p. 7)
Here is a rich opportunity here to expand Mollison’s vision and incorporate new myths and alchemies in an active Nature-based reverence. Consider my model, called “inner & outer system of the sacred” (version 2.0):
Questions for Soul Searching Permaculturists
1. How does Mollison’s permaculture help support the creation of a new Nature-based mythology?
Mollison’s key foundation for permaculture is The Gaia Hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or principle. This philosophy proposes that all living organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life in the planet. He devised permaculture through a:
“… philosophy close to Taoism … working with Nature; observation first then action; protecting all systems & their evolution.” (p. 3)
While the Gaia Principle here can be seen as more ecological (scientific) than mythic, Mollison also writes about a critical need for a Nature-centric ethic for wilderness conservation (p. 7) and an undefined call for population control.
To Mollison, it appears that the stories of permaculturists will remain more quantitative in theme: stories of crop yields, endangered plants and animals, the annual harvest festival? There seem to be few folk singers from our permaculture era.
2. Is alchemy a force in Mollison’s permaculture?
There are many new types of alchemy ready to support our global leap in consciousness now under way:
Imaginative: This alchemy excites and creates our ideas, conflicts and even prayers in our brains.
Eco: Seeds, soil, plants and animals living, birthing and dying in a inter-related system pulsed by eco alchemy.
Shamanic: This is alchemy transmutates healing through ceremonies and rituals lead by a trained spiritual leader.
Sound or Sonic: The ancient alchemic power of song from cave rants to classical music and rock’n’roll.
Digital: Electronic learning and feeling working with computers including chat text, email and documents.
Community: People working with people: transforming attitudes, sharing ideas and making plans.
Earth: Planetary consciousness building and human evolution on a universal scale.
Mollison doesn’t use the word alchemy in the opening section of his book, but similar energy within shaman, eco, community and Earth alchemies are evident in his whole-system view. (p. 6)
3. How does he define / activate a modern sacred life?
Interestedly, Mollison alludes to the sacred when he states that (members of) “all religions can conspire in admiration of, and reverence for, this earth.” (p. 9) Reverence is a profound or deep respect for something unknown or superior. This could be a working definition of sacred in the model above.
Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual introduces an important theme for us surrounding tribal belief systems, that we should “adopt sophisticated aboriginal belief systems and respect for all life…” (p. 2). Perhaps Mollison’s idea of scared is promoted through his wish for a Tribal or communal reverence (p. 6)
No one in my network has suggested that Mollison’s book is a “new Nature Bible.” But is carries much weight for the advancing permaculture community. And not everyone wants to incorporate the “new sacred” in their soil moving, as pointed out to me by Maddy Harland from Permaculture Magazine in our recent conversation via skype video.
But you must ask: Isn’t Nature inherently sacred to many? Is sacred in Nature a lens that we use to protect her? Obviously Nature is not sacred at all in many traditional religions – she is just a collection of raw materials to use up before the planet blows up and God call some of us to go to Heaven!
Mollison sings out for “philosopher-gardeners, or farmer poets, (who) are distinguished by their sense of wonder and real feeling for the environment through a “respect for all life forms (that) is basic to permaculture.” (p.9)
We need new tools that Mollison did not invent. By bringing new alchemies into the mix, we can describe and propel anew our love and protection for Gaia. New symbols for permaculture can help us build the new sustainable tribe network that Mollison envisions in his book. And new myths can re-kindle Campbell’s power of myth and soul of the storytellers, joining with the new alchemies as a connectors and transmutational forces to build a common reservoir of love and entertainment to our children in the twitter tee pee.
Is the spirit and wisdom of Bill Mollison producing new community, alchemies or sacred myths? If so, it must actively created, tested and implemented to have effect.
Craft your own model of the sacred and share it with us at the openmythsource.com – reservoir