Sanctuary for All Life & land emancipation

I’m re-reading Jim Corbett’s Sanctuary for All Life.  I don’t know how to express how powerfully deep this book is.  For me it both opens doors and provides a foundation for a post-civilized world for humanity.

Here’s are some extended quotes, because I think the book speaks for itself:

I think the integration of humanity into life on earth requires that capitalism’s drive for ecosystem dominance be succeeded by a way of life beyond capitalism, and I see this from the viewpoint of the wildland pastoralist whose way of life has really never been integrated into civilization’s orienting viewpoint (that we must live by a command economy that reconstructs life on earth to fit us).  Here’s how a latter-day Whig Manifesto might put it:

1. The richest, most efficient, dynamically stable, “no-waste” economies evolve naturally, as spontaneous orders unmanaged by human beings (for example, the Amazonian rainforest).

2. A highly developed economy of this kind grows through the emergence of new symbioses that strengthen its ability to support life and harmonize diversity.

3. Founded on the  premise that the earth belongs to humankind, civilized economies are degenerative, growing primarily from the impoverishment of the more inclusive natural economy that the city-centered economy invades, plunders, and relentlessly tries to subjugate.

4. “Sustainability” concerns the stabilization of the human economy’s degenerative relation to the natural economy at a level that the natural economy can support without further degradation.

5. “Symbiotic naturalization” concerns the integration of a human economy into the natural economy in ways that strengthen the natural economy’s ability to support life and harmonize diversity.

6. Unlike sustainability, symbiotic naturalization requires the transformation of civilization, to establish the institutional base for human beings to become good citizens of the land’s whole, untamed community, enabled to live by supporting rather than degrading the life of the land.

7. In our deliberations about right livelihood, the need to transform civilization means that we seek to be superseded, but not by a new humanity of ecosaintly Uebermenschen; rather, by an unviolated land community that includes us, freed to evolve into richer harmonies.

8. The integration of humanity into the natural economy necessarily evolves as a spontaneous order in which our stewardship role is just to clear the way, not to impose a plan.

9. The invisible hand that guides the natural economy’s evolution reveals that our best choices are transitional, our best intentions are disoriented, our personal moralities are peripheral, and the covenant community’s guidelines are inconclusive; but universal liberty is fundamental:  The land’s liberation remains focal.


…the problem with civilized humanity’s exploitation of nature goes beyond our treating it as a commons that is just there for the taking.  The problem is rooted in the managerial delusion that the land belongs to us either inclusively, as a commons, or exclusively, as property, to use, degrade, or destroy however we like.  The land is actually a living community to which we belong.  …  The tragedies of the commons and of appropriation will end only when the land community’s enslavement ends–when the land is given back to the land.


Proponents of state control see the solution to the tragedy of the commons as a relinquishment of individual freedom to the state, which must take command in order to save us from ourselves.  Yet, the local, daily, on-the-land, community practice that weaves earth rights into the social fabric is beneath the reach of the state, while the commons really at issue is the earth ecosystem, which is beyond the reach of any state but within the reach of a border-bridging community movement.  A basic society of friends can join to establish earth rights where the cumulative efforts of individuals are fruitless and action by the state is counterproductive.  Even if the state didn’t give its primary allegiance to Money, it couldn’t do what’s needed to give the land back to the land because what’s needed is the societal cohesion that grows from communion rather than coercion, and the state is firmly founded on organized violence.  Locally as well as globally, land redemption is a task for those who gather as “church” (a voluntary society based on communion) rather than “state” (an involuntary society or organization based on coercion).

At the core of his work, Corbett is trying to open a way-of-life in which we can realize that we belong to the land, rather than pretend that it belongs to us.  He is trying to open doors to world in which rather than the command & control relationship we currently have as the land’s enslavers, that we might move to a co-creative one as a people symbiotically re-naturalized.

This means that Land Emancipation must happen.  That possibility is thrilling.

The Economics of Innocent Fraud, John Kenneth Galbraith, 2004

You can read this short book in an hour, but you’ll be thinking about it for much longer. Galbraith, a man of impeccable credentials, points out some of the unspoken (by mainstream culture) truths of our times:

  1. “The free-market system” is the meaningless replacement term for what capitalism has become, and what should truthfully be called the “corporate system.”
  2. We hide a deep social injustice by referring to two entirely separate things with same word: “work.” Work is used for both the painful life-sapping labor for bare necessities, as well as for the meaningful effort of pursuing ones calling.
  3. It is not the shareholders nor the directors of corporations that control them, it is their management. The consequences of this fact is far-reaching, a small example of which is simply that management gets to set it’s own rate of compensation which amounts to massive legalized theft.
  4. There is no longer such thing as the public and private sectors. What was the public sector is almost entirely controlled by private interests for private benefit.
  5. The idea that the Federal Reserve prevents inflation and helps the economy out of recession by raising or lowering interest rates is and has always been, entirely a fiction.
  6. Foreign policy is dictated by the pecuniary desires of the military industrial complex.

Whether you agree his analysis or not, I’d recommend reading the book. The sad thing is that he says absolutely nothing about how to fix this mess, except by hinting at regulation of some sort, some how, but this after having just explained how the regulators themselves are in on the game.

In Galbraith’s 1975 book Money, whence it came, where it went, he describes perfectly our modern monetary system. Unlike most people, he fully understood money as a human invention. So it would seem surprising that he wouldn’t understand the underlying pattern of all thetruths that he so clearly does see. It’s simply money. None of these patterns will be fixed until we evolve the money itself that is the driving force behind each of those six truths. Check out for more on how and why.

Recent Reading List

A while back I thought I would take on the discipline of posting a short essay on each book I read. I haven’t done that, but here is a list of my recent reading, with one or two sentences for each.

Goatwalking, Jim Corbett: Astounding analysis of the relationship of people to society and how to go free. Plus much about the sanctuary movement.

Seeing Nature, Paul Krafel: Hugely powerful; tools for seeing and thinking about the universe in new ways, simply told, but profound. I read twice.

Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch: Life changing book. Triggered many understandings for how to actually grow up.

Agile Web Development with Rails & Programming Ruby, Dave Thomas: Two very well written coding books to feed my latest programming need.

Discipline & Punish, Michel Foucault: Deep insight into why and how society is structured around and needs prisons and criminals.

When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön: Essays on Buddhism in the tradition of Trungpa.

Shambhala; The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa: A Tibetan Buddhist’s approach cast for western appeal. Insightful and inspiring, but often it feels like he uses many words and phrases that would have more power if I knew Tibetan culture.

The Barn at the End of the World, Mary Rose O’Reilley: A Quaker Buddhists spiritual path which includes much about sheep. Funny and delightful to read.

The Diamond Cutter, Micheal Roach: An approach to Buddhist practice aimed at business men. Some powerful methodologies and explanations of Buddhism especially about the concept of karma, though he mentions the word only once. Roach is also a trained Buddhist monk.

Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson: I read this book and then read it again immediately it was so good. It’s a deeply synthetic presentation of what mind is and where it comes from, with lots of other goodies thrown in, like fantastic definitions of addiction, explanation, and more.

Towards and Epistemology of the Sacred, Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson: posthumous completion of Bateson’s last work by his brilliant daughter.

The Laws of Form, G. Spencer Brown: Almost impossible to understand presentation of a fundamental mathematics starting from the fundament of making a distinction. I will be reading this one again too.

Only Two Can Play This Game, James Keyes (G. Spencer Brown): Supposedly exactly the same as The Laws of Form but in prose. Some dated phrasings making it odd to read, but fun to read. Basically it’s a love story and the initial distinction is maleness and femaleness.

The City of Ember, by Jeanne Duprau (2003)

The City of Ember is a young adult novel that is a fantastic allegory for spiritual awakening, though I have no idea if it was intended as such. The story is of a girl who lives in an underground and completely self-contained city created by the “Builders.” The population of the city knows of nothing outside the city, in fact, though they speak English many of the words in it like “sky” are not understood in any terms but metaphorically. The problem is that the city is falling apart, the lights are going out, the vast stores of supplies of light bulbs, canned food, and vitamins are running out. The reader is in on a worse calamity, namely, that a secret message in a timed lock box that was left by the Builders, which was meant to be handed down from mayor to mayor and that would open just in time to explain to the city dwellers how to get out of the city, was lost many generations back. Well, being a young adult novel it’s pretty predictable in that the box is in our hero’s closet, but a nice turn of events it is found by our hero’s baby sister who chews on it for a while before our hero gets her hands on it leaving the message is only partially legible. So the bulk of the story is the deciphering of the message, followed by the experience of trying to communicate its contents to the adults, who of course don’t accept the message (where else is there but here?) which is the equivalent of all prophets experiences of rejection by the status-quo. And finally, there is the adventure of eventual escape.
This book reworks the universal theme of Plato’s cave, and of all mysticism. What we think of as the whole universe is but shadow, and further, that to enter that “kingdom of heaven” you must be like a child. The insight that this version of that universal story led me to is part of the answer to why childishness is a necessary component of the transformation. Children haven’t yet become someone. Which means who they are is not yet at stake. For some reason our culture has this question “what are you going to be when you grow up?” Think about the hidden structures and assumptions in that question. Who are you? Have you figured it out yet? Is what you do, who you are? Is what you believe who you are? Is who you associate with who you are? I write these questions myself in shadow not in the condition of childishness, and with all of this, as Quaker’s say, “a notion,” i.e. not something that I have experienced, but rather something I think. But this thing that is mostly a notion for me, that the distinction between notional and experiential living is key to awakening, I am begining in small ways to actually experience.

Of Wheat & Gold, by Christopher Houghton Budd (1988)

This little book is very interesting in that it is a sandwich of extremely cogent and clear understanding of the relationship of money and economics to spirituality and human values, with a filling of a very problematic practical solution. He gets right the fact that our current money system is one design out of many possible, and that it’s based on scarcity, and what that means for our world. And he has some very surprising and insightfull things to say about surplus, i.e. more than just the usual “our whole economy is based our ability to produce surpluses and then redistribute them”, but onto what surplus is spiritually, and who should own surplus. He questions if surplus comes from human effort, or is bestowed on us by nature. He examines when surpluses have, historically, been at all time highs, and claims that it is when individual conciousness is expanding most quickly (i.e. the renesaince, and right now).

But in between all this good stuff, is a practical suggestion that we establish a basket commodity currency backed simultaneously by both wheat and gold (because they both represent two different aspects of money, the wheat=agriculture=credit =spiritual and gold=land=value=matter. And that the currency be governed by a centralized non-governmental world body. Well, I don’t buy this. It’s not a solution comensurate problems it purports to solve. For one, how can a backed currency ever be sufficient? Also, one of the clear goals that he points out of a currency, that of matching the economic activity in the economy, is just not possible in any centrally managed currency where the matching is being doing by people trying to observe the economy. Currencies should do this by internal design, not by an external process. It also means that the locus of control of the currency has simply been moved from one central agency to another, which does not solve the fundamental requirement of making money truly democratic. The high level transnational economic organizations that exist at the behest of national governments (IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc) don’t appear to be very democratic to me, nor do they seem to serve the interests of the people to me.

What’s a better solution? Open money of course.

[tags]money,Christopher Houghton-Budd,wheat,gold,currency,community currency[/tags]

Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, the Spirit of Evolution, Second Edtion, by Ken Wilber (2000)

This sprawling work requiresmuch more than a small description here, which I will do some time (probably as so many others have), but I’ve gotta gripe about it. I wish Mr. Wilber were a better writer, or he would let an editor fix his incredibly repetitious prose. Many people have told me that Wilber is dense and hard to get through, but it’s not really that dense. The book is indeed a brilliant synthesis of a whole bucket load of ideas, but the each section is so over belabored that it gets tiresome. Well that’s the gripe, the things I like best about it are: holons, a synthetic world view which includes a social and individual component of the interior as well as exterior (the four quadrants), ascenders vs. descenders, Plotinus, and the necessary interrelatedness of macrocosmic and microcosmic evolution.

The big problem with this book, is that he states, but does not satisfactorily demonstrate, the claim that the interior/subjective and the exterior/objective are on the same footing. I believe this, but I’m still looking for someone who can really demonstrate it.

Bone, Complete one volume edition, by Jeff Smith (1991-2004)

I have a real soft spot for a good graphic novel now and again, and this one really hit the spot. The story is interesting, the characters are amazingly engaging, and the art is just fantastic. What’s most amazing about Bone, is that it doesn’t takes an unusual position of litterary self-awarenes. It doesn’t take itself completely seriously, like so many of them do, but it’s also not all silly. So while the monsters are at some points just clearly silly and out of character, i.e. discussing whether to eat their next victims raw or in the form of a quiche, or calling eachother fat, they are also downright monster scary. It’s tough to pull this off, but I, for one, was willing to suspend disbelief and really get into the story, not despite the silliness, but because of it.