Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy; an embrace of myth and ritual as eco-technologies. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Tribute to Terence

“Chaos is what we've lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”

-Terence McKenna

I love you man. Rest in chaos. ;)

I agree with him, mainly in that I think we've lost respect for it (chaos, that is). (Sidenote: I don't always agree with demonizing the ego, that's one reason I don't like a lot of New Age rhetoric, because it can sometimes be just as chastising as the religious systems it seeks to escape from, though I don't necessarily think that's what Terence is doing here... but that's a whole other post...)

Anyway, I do indeed think about chaos a lot, and the relationship between chaos and order, because I think in that transition zone there is something ineffable that is only captured through an attitude of simultaneous reverence and curiosity, and definitely a whole lot of humility. Some ancients called this attitude "apophasis," which means "to mention without mentioning" and is a way of (not) talking about God.

Sometimes I think that the dark stuff needs liturgy just as much as the light stuff does, or if not a liturgy then at least more literary/mythic representation. Why? Not because we 'like' destruction per se. It's not a question of like or dislike. But because it's powerful and we need to figure out how to deal with it. Period, end of story. I've always felt that Hindu philosophy had a really good grasp of this, and Taoism. It's really too bad that chaos/trickery has gotten a bad rap in some views, namely that it is sometimes associated with 'the dark arts.'

I mean I'm not saying we all have to go eat an 8th of mushrooms or be black block anarchists or anything. Terence McKenna is associated with "drugs" and Timothy Leary is associated with "drugs". But we've got to stop that association. Terence was interested in the psychedelic experience which is not "drugs" and does not require "drugs." Hallucinogens can be a shortcut to a raw, face to face experience with the destructive force, and it's uncontrolled in our society because no one knows how to deal with vision quests or asceticism. Thus with one hand our society wages the war on drugs and with the other hand it punishes the people it didn't give any options to to begin with. But in other cultures and times, there were social and cultural structures for that kind of thing. Psychedelic is a new word, as in the 20th century. What it describes has a long legacy and could be said to be at the literary core of many religions. The fact that Terence describes some of the exact SAME imagery as you find in 2000 year old Jewish and Christian apocalypses (narratives of a holy person, rabbi, or sage's ascent through heavenly realms to the throne/glory/vision of God) is really interesting to me.

His description of the "self-transforming machine elves" that he experiences while under the influence of DMT has a striking similarity to an account I just came across in a text called The Apocalypse of Abraham that dates from the 1st to the 3rd century C.E., probably from Palestine. This is one of those texts that blurs the lines between "Christian" and "Jewish", and it has as its protagonist the patriarch Abraham well known from the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, Abraham is taken to the 7th heaven by an angel, up toward a heavenly site of "fiery flames." There, he encountered angelic beings speaking an unintelligible language. The text then describes the beings: "They were all changing in aspect and shape, running and changing form and prostrating themselves and crying aloud words in a language I did not know."

The aspect of these beings (who are similar to the "Watchers" described in the pseudepigraphical books of Enoch) as continually shape-shifting is not the only commonality between Terence and this ancient mystical text. Angelic or divine language was also a topic of interest to many ancient mystics, often present in some form in apocalyptic or mystical texts like the one cited above. There is a great deal of theological language-theory also in rabbinic literature, although there it is more common to view Hebrew as the Adamic language—the language of creation spoken by the angels. Many cultures the world over have divine language theories. Whether they are about an esoteric non-human language, or about a human language that is superior to all others, all these theories rest on the notion of a non-arbitrary language. Deconstructionist language theory is all about how language is an arbitrary system of signs -- in other words, that there is no rhyme or reason to the sign's connection to its referent. But divine language theories (and yes, they do deserve to be called theories, because ancient peeps were wicked smaaht) instead posit that there is a non-random connection between a spoken tongue and the world. This is partially why you get theories in religious systems of language creating the world or having magical/theurgic power.

Terence deals with linguistics a lot actually, he's kind of a fan of glossolalia. The self-transforming machine elves that he describes as intrinsic parts of the DMT visionary realm have a 'maintenance' function similar to the liturgical function of the Watchers or Seraphim of apocalyptic literature, who are seen as always engaging in the celestial liturgy of praising God. But Terence's elves are more like the little gremlins in the boiler room of the Universe, because unlike Angels who are often kind of serious and somber (at least the way we've culturally received them), the elves are tricksters, and they couldn't do what they do without being tricksters. Terence often describes them as being literally made of language. For Terence, the world is indeed made of language, and it would only be right if the entities that took care of the world did so by possessing a sort of sympathetic essence with the chaotic/evolving/self-immolating essence of the universe. Also note that Watchers/Seraphim are often called "the fiery ones" and holy fire is a huge part of this entire milieu of religion in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, of which we have inherited a stunted form (one that over-emphasises fire as a metaphor for damnation). What we forget is that fire is one of the central images of Christian apotheosis and also an attribute or effect of the presence of God in the Hebrew Bible. It is so potent a symbol because it is simultaneously destructive and purifying—and its effect on the terrestrial realm changes depending on context. But I can't help seeing it as just a fundemntal homily to Chaos, right there in the center of our Western traditions...

Back to the part about language... I interpret Terence's "world is made of language" proposition in a biosemiotic way myself—I.e. the world as the living and process-based entity that we apprehend is made of a system of signs and referents that far exceed the realm of human linguistics and semiotics. I am not compelled to interpret "the world is made of language" to be equivalent to the platitude of "language creates your reality" or even to mean that human language  has any special kind of power. Indeed, I'm not disagreeing with the latter two ideas, but just trying to say that what Terence is saying—I think—goes way beyond those, and definitely encompasses them/takes them for granted.

There needs to be a comparative study of theophanic imagery in Terence's work. Maybe there's some crazy English professor out there who has done this? To me, him and Philip K Dick are right up there with Ezekiel and Enoch. Prophets of the age of techno-science.

Yet, I wouldn't call Terence a religious man. Would you? It's an open question.

But in the meantime I quite fancy thinking of Terence as the Bizarro Jesus. I mean you have to admit, they have a lot in common.


A final loving word on chaos. Every great mentor I've had in my life, whether it was a peer, someone I worked for, someone who taught me, for a day or for longer, farmers, hunters, and naturalists, my mother -- at the core of all their great teachings is that if you befriend the dynamic, chaotic, ever-evolving forces around you, if you gain an intuitive aptitude about how things work, there won't ever be a clear distinction between bad and good forces, there will only be adaptation—survival. But that doesn't mean coldness, that there is no emotion, no suffering or joy—no, it is more profound when all things flow and adapt. In fact to be able to adapt you need to know how to love, and you need to love fiercely. Mostly you need to love life, (and as Neal Stephenson says in the beginning of Cryptonomicon), you need to salute every living thing as a badass just for having evolved, just for having been born, just for existing. "Love everyone" is misinterpreted too much and it doesn't mean you should like everyone or be obsequiously friendly to everyone or not be on guard or not trust your intuition or not eat animals or not defend yourself. It just means that you recognize that the universe is f*cking badass and it is "non-simultaneously apprehended" (as Bucky says), so basically that translates to "you have to be humble because you don't have all the strategic information." I've heard a definition of God as "the being that possesses all the strategic information." But see, the modus operandi of humility and love aren't only justified if you beleive in God, because the natural state of the universe is to kick the asses of all living things (lovingly or violently depending on how you want to interpret it), and if we ever aren't reverent it's because we are in a temporary state of technologically/industrially-induced amnesia with respect to that. Thus, for me, teachings about "darkness" and about "light" both come back to Love. So I really don't see what's so bad about embracing the Dark Mother. All my heroes did. Big shout out to Hermann Hesse on that!!


Joyce J. said...

Beautiful crafting of words.
A juxtapose of crass and bad-ass with the light of the erudite

the faun said...

Thank you so very much Joyce!