I strongly suspect that a spiritual mass movement away from a ‘Divine Capitalism’ might be a necessary prerequisite if a revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class by the working class is to succeed. For most of our productive civilisation – let’s say the Holocene period about 10,000 years, a ruling class has held the working class in a kind of spiritual headlock. I use the word ‘headlock’ deliberately because ultimately it is the story going on between our ears that has the biggest influence on our personal and social circumstances; a fact Rosa Luxemburg knew all too well –
“Parallel to this the clergy, helping the capitalists and serving their own needs enchain the mind of the people, hold it down in crass ignorance, for they well understand that education would put an end to their power. Well, the clergy falsifying the early teaching of Christianity, which had as its object the earthly happiness of the lowly, tries today to persuade the toilers that the suffering and the degradation which they endure come not from a defective social structure, but from heaven, from the will of “Providence”. Thus the Church kills in the workers the strength, the hope, and the will for a better future, kills their faith in themselves and their self-respect. The priests of today, with their false and poisonous teachings, continually maintain the ignorance and degradation of the people.”
(‘Socialism & The Churches’ – Rosa Luxemburg 1905).
Evidently prior to and during earlier periods of the Holocene there was little or no class distinction, it was a time in our human story when communal ways of knowing, being and production of people’s daily needs amounted to an early form of communism or better still communalism. It was a time when our material culture and spiritual culture were kept in better balance, when people maintained a closer relationship with their environment, a time when the most significant human inventions took place, a time when our lineage was determined via our biological mothers, a time when the deity was still female, a time when as children we all sat in the lap of the Goddess.
“Ancient women oriented groupings were the original communism. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx recognized this. Engels especially refers to the Mother-right concepts of J.J. Bachofen and both men based their analyses of social development on the primary existence of ancient matriarchies – ie; communal matrifocal systems.”
( ‘The Great Cosmic Mother – Marx and the Matriarchy’ – Barbara Mor 1987).
Throughout the Holocene there has been no shortage of great thinkers and story-tellers coming from both the material and spiritual perspective who have inspired, taught, advised and led the majority of us. Unfortunately it is also true that for most of this period such relatively gifted individuals came together to form groups that have been allowed, even encouraged by the majority of us to morph into roles of leadership whereby they then almost inevitably want to increase their power, privilege and control over the rest of us. Allowing a small minority of our fellow human beings to have power and control over the majority of us has proven to be a fundamental and for many, painful mistake.
As indicated in the above reference to early matriarchal societies, evidence that such centralised community control is not necessary for human survival, let alone our material and spiritual well-being, can be found among most traditional indigenous cultures. I personally know this to be so from my own experience of living among the Anangu of Central Australia (1990-98), who had cultivated Lore (the Tjukurpa) that among other things deliberately avoided the emergence of a relatively small centralised group for the purpose of having power and control over the majority of their kin.
Thanks to the science of Anthropology we now have plenty of evidence that the majority of us humans have been more than capable of producing our daily needs and looking after ourselves for most of the past ten thousand years. During the Holocene period our material and spiritual well-being has benefited from communal cooperation over land, resources and the means of production, most of which was held in common. So, what if any were the benefits of allowing a small minority of our kin to have power and take control over the majority of us? The only reason that comes to my mind is that it enabled a better defence of the community and its resources against attack or threats from outside the group, village, town or city. No doubt there are many valid ways of storying why and how such threats and subsequent centralised control came into being, for example – growing population, settlement, diminishing territory and resources etc: Nowadays similar stories and reasoning continue and are being fully exploited by a post industrial age ruling class through their nation-state and capitalist systems of governance.
This is where the cunning of the ruling class comes into being, be it originating from among the shaman, warrior, spiritual leader/healer, elder, war-lord, emperor, king, queen, prime minister, president or simply from clever more attractive story-tellers. Unfortunately, as they increasingly enjoy having power, privilege and control over their fellow kin they simultaneously decrease their cooperation and reciprocity toward them. Once they find themselves in such centralised positions of power and control, it is only a matter of time before these so-called leaders start making up stories that instil fear and insecurity into the hearts and minds of the majority, the most effective of which are those that exploit our spiritual vulnerability.
It is our spiritual culture, our sense that there is more to this world than what meets our five main senses that makes us human. We are unique among the animal world because this greater sense of things enabled us to become creatively productive, invent tools, verbal and written language, numeracy, agriculture, weaving, pottery, metallurgy, the technology to further our understanding and celebration of a creative cosmos and not least, our ability to care for each other – including the other than human. However, becoming planet Earth’s one and only spiritual story telling species obviously comes at a cost, such story telling is so powerful an invention that it has made the majority of us vulnerable to a minority ruling class that has long since learned how to use this spiritual mind altering tool to their own advantage, at the expense of a working class majority.
“Instead of comforting the people, who are full of cares and wearied by their hard lives, who go to church with faith in Christianity, the priests fulminate against the workers who are on strike, and against the opponents of the government; further, they exhort them to bear poverty and oppression with humility and patience. They turn the church and the pulpit into a place of political propaganda…
The clergy and the parasitic capitalists hate the organised working-class, conscious of its rights, which fights for the conquest of its liberties. For the abolition of capitalist mix-rule and the establishment of equality between men would strike a mortal blow especially at the clergy which exists only thanks to exploitation and poverty. But above all, Socialism aims at assuring to humanity an honest and solid happiness here below, to give to the people the greatest possible education and the first place in Society. It is precisely this happiness here on earth which the servants of the Church fear like the plague.
(ibid – Rosa Luxemburg 1905)
So where can we now find both contemporary spiritual and secular stories that not only re-story a balance between our material and spiritual culture, but even more urgently, inspire a working class revolutionary overthrow of a domineering, repressive ruling class? From my PaGaian perspective such empowering stories must place our spiritual, ecological and social needs squarely into a global context, for example –
“In this world, at this point, no political revolution is sustainable if it is not also a spiritual revolution – a complete ontological birth of new beings out of old. Equally, no spiritual activity deserves respect if it is not at the same time a politically responsible, i.e; responsive, activity… The only meaningful political direction left now is synonymous with the only meaningful spiritual direction left now: towards the conscious re-fusion of the spirit and the flesh… This time it will be a global consciousness of our global oneness, and it will realize itself on a very sophisticated technological stage; with perhaps a total merger of psychic and electronic activity.”
(ibid – Barbara Mor 1987).
Nowadays my primary day-to-day source of political information is the World Socialist Website – WSWS.org and the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), where I find honest journalism and a political story that emphasises socialist internationalism and human equality, which for me is a prerequisite for the proper governance of all society. For this particular story/blog I have also been inspired by a recently published article in the independent socialist magazine Monthly Review entitled ‘Marx and the Rift in the Universal Metabolism of Nature’ by John Bellamy Foster, Vol. 65 Dec 2013. And from two books entitled ‘PaGaian Cosmology’ written by my partner Glenys Livingstone PhD, and ‘The Great Cosmic Mother’ written by Barbara Mor, both of whom express profound story and poetry of how all of Leon Trotsky’s “toilers and exploited” might yet achieve their “full material and spiritual liberation”.
“Spiritual culture is just as contradictory as material culture. And just as from the arsenals and warehouses of material culture we put into circulation not the bow and arrow, not stone tools or bronze age tools, but we take the best possible tools of the latest technology, – we must approach spiritual culture in just the same way”.
(‘Socialism & Culture’ – Leon Trotsky 1927)
Given the all-pervasive Judeo Christian religions of Europe during the epochs of our greatest political thinkers ie Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, it is not surprising that they and those of us who have since been influenced by them have found it difficult, nigh impossible to “take the best possible tools of the latest technology” with respect to the production of spiritual culture and why so many of us have felt the need for “thoroughly sweeping aside religion and all its surrogates” (ibid – Leon Trotsky 1927).
During the decades since the deaths of our leading socialist thinkers, science has continued to reveal an abundance of new information about the Universe, the planet’s biosphere and human biology in particular. So much so, that the oppressive Judeo Christian religious influence on the spiritual culture of their respective epochs – so rightly condemned by them, has now been even more thoroughly exposed as the inert and increasingly dangerous illusion that it always was and still is. Throughout their human story – lets say since the Neolithic about 5000 years, theocratic patriarchal religions combined with divisive nation-state systems, racism, chauvinism and their belief in a so-called after life, have served only to maintain the power, privilege and control of the ruling class over the working class – mostly over peasants and slaves. Nothing serves the need of the ruling class to constantly divide and conquer the working class better than theocratic religions. We can now see evidence of this live every day on our TV and computer screens.
If indeed the earlier matriarchal period of human culture can be described as a period of ‘Goddess Communalism’, why do we then arrive at a so-called period of ‘Godless Communism’? Unfortunately, there was and probably still is a perceived repudiation of spirituality by Marx, Engels et al; which I believe is incorrect but nevertheless has albeit inadvertently, contributed to the ruling class being able to maintain – even tighten, its spiritual headlock on the working class. Be this as it may, how and why could it happen? Here is a plausible answer –
“They rightly wanted to save humanity from religious exploitation; but in their narrowing of focus, their economic and class reductiveness, they split the human being into two conflicting parts: material existence versus spiritual existence… this split reinforced the same “alienation” of the human condition that Marx had wanted to resolve… It has given fuel to the propaganda engines of the reactionary systems in all countries, so that the world is ripped apart in a false dichotomy between “Godless communism” and “divine capitalism.” For if communism is atheistic, its opponents can claim to be mandated by God. However phony this clam might be… Finally, it has turned away untold millions of oppressed human beings who need the economic and social analysis of Marxism to clarify and change their situations, but who fear they are being asked to buy this analysis at the price of their living souls… This perception of Marxism has helped to fuel the equally fanatic revivals of fundamentalist religions throughout the world today.”
(ibid – Barbara Mor 1987)
If Barbara Mor is only partially correct, those of us working class who want to contribute to a successful revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class need to carefully analyse what she is saying. Marx was obviously not repudiating spirituality as such, at worst and given his European epoch, it can and is being suggested that he was confusing the main stream Judeo Christian religion of his epoch with spirituality. Be that as it may, I agree with B. Mor that Marx was a compassionate man and that he is here revealing the difference between his own spirituality and main stream religion, with these often misquoted words –
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people… Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.
(Hegel’s Philosophy of Right – Karl Marx 1843)
With the benefit of decades of scientific storying and the gift of a poetic ritual practice, my partner Glenys Livingstone is able to echo the environment and words of Karl Marx –
“Yet it seems to me that most of what has passed for theology has ended up actually a description of a dead butterfly pinned in a glass case, not one that is alive and flitting about the garden…”.
(‘PaGaian Cosmology’ – Glenys Livingstone 2005)
Toward the end of the 15th century Feudalism had passed its use by date and people replaced it with Capitalism, six centuries later, Capitalism has past its use by date and a growing number of us believe there is now an urgent need to replace this out of date economic system with its emphasis on private profit – only ever being enjoyed by a small minority, with a Socialism that can provide a decent and sustainable standard of living for most if not all of the planet’s population.
Thanks to science we know that they existed long before there were human fingers to pick or eyes to observe them, so how might we juxtapose Marx’s living flower and Livingstone’s flitting butterfly with their opposites ie; the inert imagined flowers on the chain and the dead butterfly pinned in a glass case? Being able to physically pick the ‘living flower’ and observe the ‘flitting butterfly’ is to be able to deliberately participate in a pre-existing planetary relationship identified by Marx as the ‘universal metabolism of nature’, a relationship that was eventually entered into by a productive, material and spiritual culture making human. Marx was evidently concerned about the change in the nature of the metabolism between the human and the rest of the ecosystem (including other species) that is at the heart of the life threatening problems we now face. It is a relationship that is being rifted apart by “Capitalist production” and about which he wrote in Capital Volume 1. 637-38 –
“Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the technique and the degree of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the worker”.
Not only was Karl Marx a great scholar of socio economics he also had an environmental awareness that was well ahead of his time. Some of our most eminent contemporary scientists now argue that Marx’s ‘metabolic rift’ between the human and the rest of nature well represents a major threat to our survival.
“It is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on the best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free”.
(‘An Old Story But Useful Lessons’ – James Hansen 2013)
The only memory I have of getting out of a tight headlock was during one of my boyhood school yard scraps when I grabbed my assailant’s ankles and upended him. Now that has me thinking, rather than trying to overthrow the ruling class, maybe we can somehow just upend them? Either way I agree with Barbara Mor that –
We need a new, global spirituality – an organic spirituality that belongs innately to all of us, as the children of the earth… We are living in a world that practices the politics of death… The political art of living. The spiritual art of being alive. For, from now on out (from now on in), genuine, global spiritual awareness will be the vanguard of all successful human revolution.”
(ibid – Barbara Mor 1987)
Southern Summer 2014.