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Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
I.4 | Contents | I.6

I.5. The River and the Cataract

The considerations in the preceding section bring to my mind the metaphorical image for the course of civilization as a river, broad and deep, curving its way through formidable canyons and impenetrable jungles – and headed over a cataract of bottomless depth; sort of like the pit Gandalf fell into in the Mines of Moria, if you happened to have watched The Fellowship of the Ring recently, or read the book. That is where civilization is headed – although above the cataract, the river is broad and smooth, and supports much coming and going by the many civilized people who navigate the "mainstream."

In considering these matters, Daniel Quinn has compared the many good-hearted measures aimed at solving the human predicament, such as lobbying for more ecologically sound practices, with "placing sticks in the stream bed" in a vain attempt to obstruct its flow over the cataract; and he has expressed the ambition of diverting the river altogether, so it takes a different and less catastrophic course. Quinn's metaphorical river embraces the entire human destiny upon planet Earth, while the river of which I am writing here represents the course only of contemporary civilization. So I am not disagreeing with Quinn when I say that I do not believe the river can be diverted from its course. Civilization – not necessarily the entire human destiny – is headed over the cataract, no matter what anyone, or all of us together, think or wish about it – simply because civilization doesn't work, and cannot be repaired, or made to work.

The only solution, therefore, is for anyone with the vision and the will, to get out of the "mainstream" before it sweeps us all to oblivion! This is not easily done, for the "mainstream" is hedged in by jungles and canyons which are at best difficult, and maybe impossible to negotiate; not to mention the many and various "fences" artificially erected for the deliberate purpose of keeping civilized people hemmed into the "mainstream." Possibly the most difficult of these to deal with is the simple fact that we all share civilized mythologies here, because we have never been exposed to anything else; and all civilized mythologies lead back to civilization, not away from it. It is far, far easier, therefore, and far more inviting, to continue navigating the broad, smooth waters of the "mainstream" – above the cataract – and to keep our familiar mythologies. And so, this is exactly what most people are most likely to continue to do, until the "bitter end." Nevertheless, like it or not, the choices for individual humans are two, and only two: a) Get out of the "mainstream" of civilization, and head for higher ground; or b) Stay with the "mainstream" of civilization, and be swept, sooner or later, to oblivion.

Myself, I have "gotten out of the mainstream" and am now working my way along the bank, seeking a possible route to higher ground. I still feel exposed, though, to high peril, as the "mainstream" may flood at any moment, sweeping away all upon or near it. It is essential to head for higher ground, and this is not easy, and may not even be possible for everyone who attempts it. The canyons are steep, and the jungles are dense, and every step forward requires enormous effort, and entails significant risk. It is often very tempting to return to the "mainstream," where one can at least navigate easily across the broad expanses of the still-accommodating waters. But the thunder of the cataract is clearly audible, and the quiet current sweeps all inexorably downstream to doom and oblivion. The "mainstream" is no longer a viable choice – at least for me.

Further, I do not believe that a single individual, or a traditional "nuclear family," is likely to find a way unaided to higher ground. It must be possible to unite one's efforts with others who have likewise discovered the futility, and the catastrophic destiny, of the "mainstream." Those who remain in the river, no matter how gracefully and effortlessly they are able to navigate now, and no matter how lavish and well-appointed their yachts and floating palaces, will sooner or later be swept over the cataract. Yet the alternative of breaking a path through trackless jungle, or over precipitous cliffs, is a formidable challenge. It is not an attractive prospect, and few there seem to be who are able even to entertain it as a concept – never mind actually undertaking it with determined persistence.

So, where does one begin? In my view, the perils of trackless jungles and overhanging canyons notwithstanding, the most difficult and formidable obstacle facing any would-be contemporary diversity generator is reaching the decision to desert the "mainstream," and face the hazards of seeking higher ground. Is civilization really such a hopeless and irredeemable mess as I have portrayed it to be? This is a question each individual must answer for her or himself, and choose accordingly.

For myself, I think Spooner, writing in the aftermath of the Civil War1 in America, summed up the prospects for civilization when he described "government" – the active agent by which civilizations have always advanced their agendas – like this:

It is with government, as Caesar said it was in war, that money and soldiers mutually supported each other; that with money he could hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. So these villains, who call themselves governments, well understand that their power rests primarily upon money. With money they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. And, when their authority is denied, the first use they always make of money, is to hire soldiers to kill or subdue all who refuse them more money.2

Is it not so? With the civil conformity enforcers in the driver's seat, and apoptosis in "fast forward," what destiny but the Abyss for civilization? Such, anyway, is my analysis, and it's ho! for higher ground, no matter what obstacles or hazards bar the way. If I perish in the attempt, so be it; I already know my destiny, if I remain in or near the "mainstream."

Higher Ground
A moment ago, I observed that "the perils of trackless jungles and overhanging canyons notwithstanding, the most difficult and formidable obstacle facing any would-be contemporary diversity generator is reaching the decision to desert the 'main-stream,' and face the hazards of seeking higher ground."

Reaching the decision really is a formidable obstacle, for consider: everyone reading this, including its Author – and practically everyone not reading it – has been born and raised in the thick of civilization, with an unbroken heritage, generation upon generation, for the past five thousand years. We have all imbibed from birth the unquestioned mantras of civilization:

All these things we have believed, without question or doubt, and in most cases, without even conscious awareness. Is it any wonder that anyone nay-saying any of these presumed "axiomatic truths" should appear to most civilized people as a madman? I certainly will not complain if any reading these pages should think me so; for I, who have been raised more or less like my peers, know intimately the long path I have taken on the way to the conclusions I have so far reached, and cannot "blame" anyone who has not taken a similar path, nor reached similar conclusions. Therefore, if I seem to "bash civilization" in what may seem to some an "extreme manner," you may be sure I do so "in a purely Pickwickian sense." Which is to say, without malice toward anyone – including even "the secret band of robbers and murders" of which Lysander Spooner3 wrote so passionately over a century ago.

Nevertheless, it remains a stubbornly immovable fact (I believe) that civilization doesn't work, and all who remain tangled in its coils are swiftly approaching the Abyss from which there is no further escape.4 Those of us who can see our peril must desert the "mainstream," and transplant ourselves on higher ground – or perish in the attempt, for we shall surely perish otherwise; or worse, live as slaves.5

We are not the first civilized people to have faced the prospect of abandoning our civilization. Quinn cites numerous examples, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, which have done exactly this.6 Ours is the unique privilege (so far as we "know") of having to abandon a global civilization. In the past there has always been a frontier, beyond which the tentacles of civilization had not yet reached. There was always a jungle, or a trackless desert, or an unexplored continent into which those peoples for whom civilization had lost its luster could vanish. Today, civilization is the jungle; so our predicament takes a somewhat different form.

Although in terms of "space" and "time," there is "nowhere to go" on Earth that has not already been preempted by civilization, there is "somewhere to go" in terms of alternatives to the patterns offered by civilization. These alternatives are patterns of the tribe, and of the "prehistoric" partnership civilizations which evolved from Neolithic roots,7 which have a proven track record stretching back millions of years into the human past – with the caveat, already mentioned, that pre-civilized and contemporary tribes haven't performed very well when confronted by dominator civilizations.8

So how does a post-civilized tribe deal effectively with any manifestation of dominator civilization? This we must learn, or perish; and having learned, must never forget. We are advantageously situated right now in the very midst of the last days of global civilization run amok – so we have to deal with it, or die trying. If any of us succeed, we will have accomplished something monumental for the follow-on generations of all humanity. If none of us succeed... humanity may as well never have set foot upon the Earth. These are the stakes in the game we are playing. As the dwarf Gimli cheerfully remarked in the recent film version of The Return of the King, "Small chance of success; large probability of getting killed: what are we waiting for?" (Or words to that effect.)

If we're waiting for anything, I believe it must be for the emergence of a mythology that will transport us reliably away from the "mainstream" and toward a post-civilized social pattern that we can effectively implement beyond civilization. And I believe it is incumbent upon us to invent or discover such a mythology, and to put it into effect in our individual lives.


1. I have often in the past mused over this term, "Civil War," wondering how war could possibly be linked with anything remotely civil. I have since concluded that the term is more appropriate than I could ever have imagined, for to be civil is, explicitly and uncompromisingly, to be at war with one's fellows, with all Life, with metaconsciousness, and with the very gods.

2. Spooner, 1869, III.

3. See Spooner, 1869, III.

4. Well, that is from the perspective of we particular individuals living our particular and local lives here on Earth. The myth of metaconsciousness, however, assures us that "we" are really One, without beginning or end, and hence are ultimately invulnerable to such "trivial" matters as the potential destruction of humanity, along, possibly, with all life on the planet. However, it is precisely from the perspective of an individual human and Earthly inhabitant that I speak; and I don't mind saying, from my limited perspective, that the Abyss is an eventuality I for one would passionately like to evade; for I see much richer potentials for our "little lives," provided we are able to escape this looming peril.

5. It may be of some solace to know that, when it comes to "living as slaves," we may rest assured that the condition will abide for only "a little while longer;" for it remains an irreducible fact (I believe) that the existing slave-state, civilization, is inherently and irredeemably unsustainable, and therefore shall not be sustained for very much longer on planet Earth. There; is that any comfort to you?

6. Quinn, 1999.

7. See Dominator and Partnership Civilizations in section I.8; and II.2. Myth of a Golden Age.

8. See The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber in section II.7 for mention of the possible error of casting our eyes "backward" into our "prehistoric past," rather than deliberately toward higher evolutionary levels of consciousness.

Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
I.4 | Contents | I.6