Great Scott Dougald! Just finished listening to the Rune Soup conversation, it was spot on. Damit kann mann nichts machen, seems changed into now is the time. For me reading Jung’s Red Book made me realise how Christianity is in my fabric as well as in our whole society. He wanted to leave it behind but found that wasn’t possible. We must deal with that heritage.

Loved also the insight of not having the time to listen to each single individual sitting in the big circle. In stead we need collective ritual, ways to adres this that bypass the intellectual, the analytical, the endless talks. My journey of the last five years has been about gatherings and their primal function. I had a story idea for a novel about festivals. The research lead me deeper and deeper into the history and the function of celebrations and now I am publishing the results as a serial here on Substack. I believe it to be very timely.

I think the term shaman/philosopher could apply to my role. I am a non-academic and not an intellectual. I am what McGilchrist would call right hemisphere dominant. So, I do not have arguments for what I can clearly see. I only have story to convey the clarity.

Here is why I tell you this. The story is written except for the ending. I would love for you to play a role in that ending. A role in shaping it. In helping me to reach just that little further. How? By taking a bit of time to listen and reflect on my vision for this tale. I am asking several others to do the same during the coming year and my dream is that it will work as a ‘live’ event, as a gathering in its own right, and as a ritual of creation.

It can be in the form of a one on one Zoom conversation. No preparations needed.

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Hi Bertus! Well, you've got me intrigued, and yes, I'm up for a conversation. Drop me an email - dougald@aschoolcalledhome.org

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While my newly painted forest floor right shoe dries I just read your piece. So many good things, and congrats on your successful year here. BTW, Theresa was actually on Alone Season 8, rather than Grizzly Mountain, although she did have bears...

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Can't wait to have you two here! We have so much catching up to do. And we've got folks travelling hundreds of miles to come to your session on Sunday... (No pressure, eh? ;-)

Anyway, I haven't watched it, but according to Wikipedia, Season 8 is also known as Alone: Grizzly Mountain... Or, as I think of it, Alone: Brave, Highly Skilled & Possibly Mad! Which is why they don't ask me to title TV programmes.

Safe travels and see you soon! x

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Ahah! Well that makes sense and seeing as the only two episodes of Alone I eve saw were with Theresa in my flat or at hide tanning camp when they were first aired. TV is another world... see you Saturday. Yorkshire Tea is packed.

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Oct 26, 2023Liked by Dougald Hine

Monotheism/animism Well, one of the titles of God in the Bible is “The Living God” so all of creation as bearing his impress would be alive in varied ways and responsive to human knowing and contact and care. In fact enhanced life of the created comes from that knowing and contact. I experienced this in my rural Midwest upbringing and my parents were unknowingly animistic in their relationship with plants, animals, soil, weather. A revered Native American leader I know teaches that for nature to be at her best, most alive state, she needs the human touch. He speaks also of the Creator and the abilities of his immediate ancestors to be in communion with animals. Apparently a version of this knowledge was in medieval Christianity, before the reign of modernism drove it out. C.S. Lewis plays with this in his science fiction trilogy. He even has a character say we need to get back to it.

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Thanks, Jeff. That observation about an "unknowingly animistic" relationship with the world is really good. I seem to be surrounded by people who are navigating in the territory where animism and monotheism overlap, which is what makes it bemusing when I encounter people for whom it's axiomatic that the two form an antagonistic binary. Here's another example:


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I read some of the text here and then flipped over to watching and listening to the videos, in the reverse order they arrived in. I'll get around to reading all of the text in proper order, from the beginning, when the darkness has settled a little bit and I can find rest for it. I'm a bit giddy in the deepening darkness. And the bright which accompanies it, as always -- if only nearby.

Something happened in my dreamy and hypnogogic spaces during the night. I needed to go deeper into the exploration of an idea which has me. The idea I call "disabstraction". It's not a word in common usage--yet--and so I have an opportunity to help shape the way it emerges into being a word in our world. It means just what it says. "Dis-" (a prefix meaning "not" or "opposite of") and abstract (not existing -- or quite existing -- in time and space). So to disabstract something is to return it from its highly abstracted form/s to its more concrete presence in time and space.

Most of what appeals to me in philosophy these days is just that -- disabstraction, disabstracting. And I can't help wondering how much Ivan Illich was attempting to do just the same in relation to some of the things modernity made increasingly abstract -- e.g., economy and technology... and institutions. Wasn't Illich meaning, in large part, to return us to our senses?

Ah, but I'm asking about this matter of our senses in a way which presumes that our senses are nothing more or less than our direct appreciation of things as they are, in the only way we can as humans. And so there are feelings associated with sensing ... or feeling associated with sensing. And various other faculties of knowing. They are not abstracted from one another --- feeling, sensing, intuiting, imagining, thinking.... We lift the tea cup and sip, and these are not abstracted off and away from one another in the experience. They appear as a whole.

But something happened with and to the collective us through the history of modernity which abstracted these faculties for knowing and experiencing, and in this process the knowing heart became lost. (Heart being a symbol for some convergence of a whole.) Ethics and Aesthetics became abstracted from one another. Thinking became abstracted from feeling. The world comes to us through abstracted notions -- senses not attuned to "the whole". We literally lost our senses!

I've yet to read much Illich, but I want to. I especially want to read Illich in relation to what he had to say about the transition from a culture in which food and shelter and water and soil and air and labor... had not yet been abstracted, and thus broken away from livelihood. I want to disabstract that history, to get in close and smell and taste and feel all of its particular textures, so I can know what the hell has happened to us. I'm told Illich explains this better than, say, Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation.

I want to understand what livelihood means ... what it really means, before the Great Abstraction.

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"Wasn't Illich meaning, in large part, to return us to our senses?"

That's certainly a thread in the weave of his work. There are some late essays on the history of the senses which you will find as PDFs on David Tinapple's invaluable site. The history part is important, mind you, because Illich wants to draw our attention to how historically and culturally embedded our experience of the senses is.

If you travel carefully with this, you may find that the challenge is not to reject abstraction, but to bring it down to size and back into relation. A rhythm or a dance between the sensual and the abstract (in the terms you're using) might be part of what we humans bring to the table, but this need not conflict with your sense that abstraction has run destructively out of control. As I said in the conversation with Gordon, one of the basic Illichian moves - which I've been practicing like tai chi or aikido for twenty years - is to shift from good/bad evaluation to looking for the threshold of counterproductivity, and this would apply to abstraction too.

If you want some extra homework (!), you might try looking at Henry Corbin's text on the Mundus Imaginalis. I'm only just getting into this stuff myself, but one of the things that lit up for me is that in the Sufi traditions he's drawing on, the Imaginal sits between the spheres of the senses and the spheres of the intellect. What happens when we introduce a third term, a third way of knowing, a third kind of world that we inhabit?

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PS -

I found the Tinapple site. https://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/ Which essays did you have in mind here?

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Dip into the pieces dated from 1989 onwards and you'll find many of them touch on the history of the senses.

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"Reclaiming the Senses: Ivan Illich and the History of Perception" — Lecture Audio


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"If you travel carefully with this, you may find that the challenge is not to reject abstraction, but to bring it down to size and back into relation."

Yes! That's what I've been intuiting exactly, especially the "back into relation" aspect.

As I re-read what I wrote above it occurred to me that the word "abstract," as I was intending to use it there, has everything to do with relationality. Things are present and real -- and best understood -- in their depth of relation (deliberately drawing upon your "into the deep" theme). So ... at least here in the States, our culture is set up to maintain everything as if it were askance relation, adrift from its depth of relation. At least in the dominant culture here, that's how it seems and feels to me.

I Imagine you've probably read Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. I'm thinking just now of how that prose begins to correct this abstraction tendency, as I remember it. (It's been a very long time since I read it last.) The book kept weaving the relation between the material world and the world of thought and feeling.

And right after I said those words ... bang! I suddenly understood what it is I'm wanting to do. It's a slippery insight! Hard to catch in a net like a freshly caught trout. I've been exploring how thought and feeling are tied up -- entangled -- with action, with doing. And how this is entangled with what we call "agency". This interests me mainly because I'm trying to think, feel, sense, imagine, intuit... what's awry with our politics here. Collectively we behave as if we have no agency, and so we're trapped in a weird kind of political stasis when we need to be moving.

But the old, familiar notion of "agency" doesn't work. It's quite obsolete, as for example folks like Bayo Akomolafe have been trying to convey. But that agency has to be understood in a deep (that word again!) relational sense, rather than in a narrowly individualistic sense, is an altogether different kind of understanding than the one which is so prevalent here -- the sense and belief that we simply have no agency at all. What we need is a new paradigm of agency in which we can move. In which we are not trapped in stasis.

I'll look into the Mundus Imaginalis stuff. What you said about it reminded me of this.https://theheronhouse.substack.com/p/palimpsest

I didn't really quite know what I was saying in that letter poem. It was like a message sent to me from a future which hasn't arrived yet. Even those last few words from me are from that future.

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"We possess, according to Illich, inner as well as outer senses, and the heart is where these inner perceptions register and assemble."

- from

Guarding our Senses in the Age of the Show:

Against the Burning Out of Hearts

by David Cayley


Indeed! And often the heart needs to be attuned to gentle breezes and whispers, not a blast furnace of overwhelm.

I don't know how long I've been dwelling in a blast furnace of overwhelm, but it's becoming increasingly clear that I need far more whispers and gentle breezes.

When I was in college, long ago, some dumbass decided to run a double feature of A Clockwork Orange and Blue Velvet in his dorm room. A bunch of us gethered, like so many fools. We were drinking ... and I had to barf in the popcorn bowl! Oddly, folks were more offended by my barf in the popcorn than in the film selections.

-- from the same essay -

"Illich had no thought of reviving antique or outmoded

practices. He believed that the study of history could shed light

on how we reached our present impasse, that a serious encounter with the past, free of the present’s typical condescension,

could unsettle contemporary certainties by revealing truly different ways of understanding the world, and that past practice

could inform and guide the present; but he insisted that any

contemporary practice of askesis would have to be “profoundly different from any[thing] previously known."


Just wow.

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Oct 25, 2023·edited Oct 25, 2023Liked by Dougald Hine

I have just finished listening to that episode of Rune Soup, and am now off to explore the essay by Patrick Curry. Similarly to what I suspect your position might be, I don’t see a necessary opposition between monotheism and animism; if I were feeling bold I might even say that certain monotheistic religions have retained or expressed an animist understanding of the world at various points in their existence (cf. your Rune Soup discussion and the beautiful consideration of Isaiah in David Benjamin Blower's latest). But I always enjoy a thoughtful and well-reasoned expression of a different point of view.

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Thanks, Angharad! It does sound as though we're on a similar page. Patrick's essay is really mainly about a bunch of other things, but his aside about Christianity struck me because it's a note he strikes at various points in the book as well. It intrigues me that someone with his love of Tolkien is quite so two-dimensional in his approach to Christianity, but that's something I'll ask him about directly, as I owe him an email.

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Just signed up for the Regrowing workshop! Looking forward to it.

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Hurrah! Look forward to having you with us.

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Hmm, “Into the Deep” a discussion about “Christianity’s Surprising Resurgence” “Are All Christianities Esoteric” and Ivan Illich, a devout Jewish Catholic, monotheism/animism. Could that most unfashionable person, God the Father, be making a sneaky come back? A comment I made on your discussion with Gordon White.

“For me the Trinitarian esoteric heart of Christianity is that through Jesus by the gift of the Holy Spirit you can know the Father and his love inwardly, with you and above you, a foretaste of eternity, a participation in Christ’s own knowing of God, as he said to Mary Magdalene - “ I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”

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