Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review — The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein

I have just come from reading on line The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein. The online version I read was completed in 2006, therefore before the fiscal crisis of 2007 and much of what was to follow. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Eisenstein will have made in the final published version due out in February, available from Amazon.

The book is big both in scope and size — 600 pages. It is uneven but perhaps it could not have been otherwise given the vast landscape the author attempts to cover, and the destination he has in his sights — namely a new and enlightened world and humanity, but only after the old order collapses.

Charles Eisenstein
We have been living, says Eisenstein, since the dawn of agriculture in a linear world of cause and effect; of separation of from ourselves, each other and nature; of yours and mine; and marching to the drumbeat of a technological view of the world. Much has been achieved, but at great cost and ultimate peril to the planet and to ourselves.

Lost, he argues, is the instinctive recognition that all is sacred. That life is a holy web. And that we are, in our finest moments, all connected — not pawns in a dog-eat-dog capitalist/Darwinian jungle struggling for survival.

How do we get out of the mess we are in and onto higher ground?

Eisenstein gives no guarantees but argues it will happen. The foundations on which the industrial/ technological worlds have been built–material, economic, social and political–are unsustainable and failing. From the ashes of the old will arise the new. This is a big leap, an act of courage as much as an act of faith.

He points to small but important green shoots, of ecology, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, spiritual searching, not as answers themselves to our plight but as pointers to what my lie ahead and grow — a new world of beauty and plenty when we cease its destruction and share in its bounty.

There is defiant optimism afoot here. Rewarding insights into many of our foibles. And some fresh thinking.

"The process (of our confusion and separation from the world) started eons ago with the development of symbolic culture, which mediated direct perception of reality with an abstract map of reality. Since then," says the author, "the fall from wholeness has accelerated."

In other words, says Eisenstein, when we put a label on a tree and call it a tree we no longer see it as a unique and sacred thing. We have defined it, labeled it, and now can clear cut a forest without remorse.

Violence is at the heart of  a world we try to control. "From the weeding of a strawberry bed to the coercion of a child to the elimination of enemies in the name of national security, the cultivation and control of the world inherently requires violence," he writes.

We need not control the world or ourselves. We need to see it whole again and ourselves not separate from it or each other.

It is a book that when you put it down you wish the author were there so that you might ask: "Well, Charles, all well and good, but how do we bring 7 billion souls and thousands of years of history around to a new way of seeing things?"


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