6.1.D. Partnering with nature and the cosmos
6.1.D. Partnering with nature and the cosmos
Throughout this essay, I have defined P2P as communal shareholding based on participation in a common resource (with the twist that in P2P it is we ourselves who are building that resource, which did not previously exist, i.e. the common is actually the 'object of our cooperation'), whereby other partners are considered as equipotent. We also mentioned the co-existence within P2P groups of both a kind of naturally emerging and flexible hierarchy that aims to increase participation to a maximum extent, and egalitarian treatment of the equipotential partners. There are very good reasons to believe that we can and should extent this ethos to non-human forces, be they natural or cosmic, and if you have this kind of faith or experience, with spiritual forces as well. What follows is a speculative account of the philosophical and spiritual sources that could be used by our culture to recover such ethos. Participation emerges here with its central meaning: not that of atomized and separate individuals cooperating, but the growth of a consciousness that recognizes our mutual embeddedness and interdependence. What is emerging is a ‘participative worldview’, but it is also something we need to reconstruct.
Indeed in a sense, spiritually, the P2P or ‘participative ethos’ harks back to premodern animistic attitudes , which can also be found in Chinese Taoism for example. An increasing number of anthropologists, such as Steven Tambiah, have argued that the magical form of consciousness, is not just an outdated form practiced by ancestral humans or contemporary tribal peoples, but that it is a necessary adjunct to causality-inspired rational consciousness, that both are needed and entwined.
During the annual SEED conferences in Alququerque, New Mexico, Western astrophysicians, and philosophers are undertaking a continued dialogue with native American elders, as one way to mutually enrich their epistemologies, with the explicit aim of recovering participative approaches. Jean Gebser, in his masterwork 'The Ever-present Origin', is probably the one that has best described the process of recovery of such participative worldview, starting with the artists of the beginning of the 20th century and continuing with the development of quantum physics, in recent times, calling it 'integral consciousness'.
Instead of considering nature in a Cartesian fashion as ‘dead matter’ or a collection of objects to be manipulated, we recognize that throughout nature there is a scale of consciousness or awareness, and that natural agents and collectives have their natural propensities, and that, giving up our need for domination (or rather 'transforming it') in the same way that we are able to practice in P2P processes, we ‘cooperate’, as partners, with such propensities, acting as midwives rather than dominators. French sociologists like Michel Maffesioli and Philippe Zafirian have analyzed a change in our culture, particularly in the new generations of young people, which goes precisely in that direction, and it is of course specifically reflected in sections of green movement. Again, this is not a regression to an utopian and lost past, but a re-enactment of a potential, but this time, with fully differentiated individuals. While there is undoubtedly a new stress on 'wholism' in many contemporary thinkers, the stress is on interpretations of interdependence that do not return to pre-individual interpretations, but rather on showing how the individual is fully co-dependent on the whole. In our understanding, this goes much beyond systems theory, as it has to include the necessary subjective and intersubjective elements, an approach that we have used as a research methodology for this book, and which we call integral. (see appendix 1.A).
An important question is: how do we recover such a tradition of thought and feeling-being, we who are the children of the Enlightenment? Here are some explorations of 'genealogies of thought' which could be used to recreate such participative ethos.
One of the possible paths is the recovery of the cosmobiological tradition of the Renaissance thinkers, who are close to us since they had one foot in the world of tradition and one in the world of modernity-inducing change. Loren Goldner uncovers, in a very interesting essay , this ‘third stream of cosmobiological thought’, which he says could be used to reconstruct a post-Enlightenment left. He contrasts it with the Aristotelianism of the Church, and with the ‘mechanistic’ ideas of the Enlightenment (creators of a dead universe and empty space that can be gazed at and manipulated by the autonomous ego). He traces the history of this third stream starts with the Renaissance starting with Bruno and Kepler, and later continued by Baader, Schelling, Oersted, Davy, Faraday, Goethe, W.R. Hamilton, Goerg Cantor, Joseph Needham. For them, the universe is brimming with life, sensuousness, and meaning, and cannot be approached as dead matter. Marx explicitly refers to this tradition, and was imbued by it through his filiations with German 'idealist' philosophy, but, according to Goldner, that has been forgotten by the two dominant streams of the left, i.e. social democracy and Stalinism, who take over the mechanistic Enlightenment tradition. Both Foucauldian postmodernism, and the defense of the Enlightenment tradition by Habermas, miss and obscure this vital link as well, says Goldner . . In any case, this cosmobiological tradition is an 'alternative strand of modernity', which lost out but could perhaps be retrieved and redeveloped.
Other important genealogies to recreate a participatory worldview appropriate to our age have been undertaken by Smolinowsky and David Skrbna, in their 'ecophilosophy' . The focus here is on the concept of the 'participatory mind' . David Abram, in his classic ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’, seeks a source in the phenomenological tradition of western philosophy as represented by Edmund Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, who replaced the conventional view of a single, wholly determinable reality with a fluid picture of the mind/body as a participatory organism that reciprocally interacts with its surroundings. These different traditions stress the embodiedness of humans in our bodies and within nature .
Recently there have been important attempts to rephrase the participatory tradition by John Heron and Jorge Ferrer as well, arising from within the community of transpersonal psychology. The Nature Institute, inspired by Goethe and others, has been working on developing conceptions of qualitative science that fits this evolution as well. Toni Negri and others, are similarly trying to redeveloped a similar 'alternative modernity' based on the oeuvre of Spinoza, though the relationship with nature does not seem to be a prominent theme in his writings. Rather, they focus on developing a participative relationship with our machines .
In any case, there is a natural progression in scope, from P2P groups, to the global partnership-based dialogues between religions and civilizations, to the new partnership with natural and cosmic forces, that forms a continuum, and that is equally expressive of the deep changes in ontology and epistemology that P2P represents. I do not think it is possible to divorce the P2P ethos as it applies to people and humanity, from our wider relationship with nature, and therefore, it will be impossible to fully retain either the modernist objective gaze or postmodern-inspired nihilism. Instead, we have to reconstruct our worldviews and heal our 'split' with nature.
And at some point, we will start to realize that our very realities are 'always-already participative' , that we are not separate from the world, that our being-in-the-world is subjective-objective. When this happens on a more massive scale, a new civilization will in effect have been born.