[permaculture] Spirituality that bounced

George Monacelli bungo_bean at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 2 21:36:02 EST 2007

Thanks to Gene & Scott for saying what I was trying to say in my last post on the topic of  Permaculture & spirituality.  Since mine elicited 0 response, I’ll try again: 
  I think we spend so much energy trying to defend and justify our beliefs that we completely miss out on what matters. We learn (real learning) through observation and interaction with nature, then bookmark this learning through words and images - it’s a very useful device. We get into trouble when the bookmarks become the ends in themselves. We glimpse some truth, identify with it, then parade “our truth” around to show everyone how smart, hip, slick, and cool we are. We preach about (and even crusade against) world hunger without knowing what it feels like to be hungry (so hungry and dehydrated that puking up your own bile becomes a refreshing repast). 
  In the years I spent “amongst the New-agers” I saw a lot of well intentioned individuals waving feathers about, playing with crystals, and taking up the Chanunpa like it were a new hobby.  They were attaching themselves to the outward manifestations without taking the time to know the energy that lay beneath the crest of the wave. 
  I see the value of the philosophy of Permaculture as a clarifying lens through which to organize the world.  I don’t worship it any more than I worship my reading glasses, though it is indespensible. The practice of Permaculture builds on this, and becomes a reinforcing reality through which I can interact with the natural world in some meaningful way. There is no substitute for observation without agenda. 
  I think a lot of people are looking for someone or something to worship or attach themselves to though; and I see the same forces at work in the circles of people who identify with Permaculture and Peak Oil. Though I do believe that our sick way of life is in for a series of serious shocks, I don’t feel that half-cocked, knee-jerk reactions are any more helpful then the fallout shelters of the 50’s & 60’s were for our “ultimate survival”.  I believe that Permaculture holds a solution for our collective survival, though everyone and their descendents will all die eventually in their turn. So much of what motivates us all is fear and avoidance, which seems to me, ultimately unconstructive. 
  I am re-reading an excellent book on survival that I feel holds a lot of lessons for those in our community, and highly recommend it: Deep Survival  by Lawrence Gonzales. It reinforces what Tom Brown told us in the class I was lucky enough to take when he was still teaching them himself: Its not what’s in your pack that makes the difference, or even what’s in your mind
 its what’s in your heart.
  I would like others thoughts on the topic, and if I am totally off-base please e-mail me privately and tell me to shut the hell up and I will passively read other’s ravings without comment.
PS: I agree that zone 5 holds the ultimate in opportunities for spiritual interaction, though have found that quiet observation in my zone 1 backyard hold as many lessons, though not quite as awesome.  

Gene Monaco <efmonaco at comcast.net> wrote:  I gotta agree with Scott on most of this, and I was going to write something
to the same effect: A good friend of mine in BC (Canada) mentioned recently
exactly the fact that the more one spends in the wild (call it Zone 5) the
more one learns of the ways of the Spirit world, particularly that which is
known as the Spirit that Moves in and Through All Things; aka The Force
(Luke). You don't have to believe in this world to experience it; in fact,
believing in it doesn't necessarily help one experience it (but it probably
helps). In this world, the essence of life opens up and the fog (or veils)
that tend to block inter-communication with all things is lifted. Folks
that experience this naturally in the modern world are made to feel like
freaks or crazy. Yet every indigenous culture has this as a baseline
paradigm, which is why they knew so much about permaculture. How the Takers
lost it is still a mystery to me, but I think it has to do with selfishness,
the love of money, and the overexpression of the ego, which separates me
from you; us from them.
This communication with the rest of the world is strong in nature, and if
you go out in the bush, you will--after a while--start to communicate with
the trees and the flowers, which is how herbal medicine is learned (not
hardly from books, particularly when it comes to mixtures, preparation
methods and dosages). You will start to communicate with the hawks and the
bees. Quoting Tom Brown here: No, a tree doesn't grow lips and say, "Have a
nice day", but they do communicate through visionary language. 
Many Spirits communicate the same way, particularly those not rooted in the
physical world. 
If you doubt this is true, spend more time in Zone 5 (a lot more) and you
will begin to rediscover these lost worlds. They are your birthright to
know, and you are a part of it once you let go of the ego.

-Gene Monaco

"There is no church or temple we need to seek peace, for ours are the
temples of the wilderness. There are no spiritual leaders, for our hearts
and the Creator are our only leaders. Our numbers are scattered; few speak
our language or understand the things that we live. Thus we walk this path
alone, for each Vision, each Quest, is unique unto the individual. But we
must walk within society or our Vision dies, for a man not living his Vision
is living death."
-- The Quest

>For me the Permaculture Ethics say all that is necessary in terms of a
spiritual comment. Beyond that and one gets sucked into different dogmas
that not only contradict the pc ethics and encourage a homocentric view of

If I were to choose a religion it would be Animism which accepts all of
creation as holy, including people, but doesn't have a bunch of judgments
and consequences tied to a list of patriarchal laws of do's and don'ts.

Spirituality as reflected by most of the main stream religions has been the
leading edge of colonialism, imperialism, and creating a culture of self
loathing among those who are resistant to the "call". It has been in the
name of spirituality that indigenous people are taught to be ashamed of
their bodies, to come to believe that they are stupid, and forced to abandon
the sustainable practices that have guaranteed their survival for centuries.

So any "organized" spirituality group makes me shudder. Ones personal
relationship with spirit and the spirit world is another thing and should be
shared or not shared among the willing. My own spiritual beliefs are as
private to me as are my intimate relationships with other humans.

Their has always been a tacit understanding that one cannot spend much time
in zone five without being affected in a deep and abiding way by the
experience. This is the biophilia that is necessary if we are to heal
ourselves and the world. Permaculture is very explicit about biologos and
implicitly allows each of us to arrive at biophilia on our own.


Scott Pittman
Permaculture Institute

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