June 22, 2008

Interview with Jari Chevalier

Dear Friends,

An artist and educator, Jari Chevalier, did an interview with me about a month ago and then recently posted it on her blog as a podcast. It was unusual for me in that her questions were primarily directed toward my consciousness trilogy (published over 1981-2000), rather than the two books I wrote on the American empire. It's about an hour long. The link is as follows, for those of you who might want to listen to it:


One caveat, however: when I first tried to listen to this by clicking on the purple "Listen Now" icon at the bottom, all that came out was high-speed gibberish, as though it were an old 33 LP being played at 78. If this happens to you, you should have better luck by right-clicking on the green text, "Download this episode," and following her instructions for Windows or Mac.

Hope you like it!



Anonymous Jimi said...

Greetings Professor Berman. This was a very thought-provoking interview. One question though - would you be willing to discuss in more detail your experience in the summer of 74? I am an atheist as well but I've also had experiences that I would consider to be, for lack of a better term, numinous. I would like to hear more about yours if you are willing to share.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Jimi,

I understand your curiosity, but I tend to be shy about talking about sacred experience. Although universal, it is at the same time extremely personal--sort of like sex, but infinitely more powerful. You'd have to get me very drunk, in short. Anyway, I'm sure you realize that these things have a lot to teach us...though with "vertical" (shamanic) experience, the danger is that one gets stuck in it forever, and thinks that's the whole show.


8:05 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

I really enjoyed the interview and, like Jimi, had some questions about your experience. I had (what you refer to) as an oceanic experience that I know was external in origin. I was not drunk or stoned, was completely alone and was no more expecting this than a visit from the President. I don't want to go into details either so I understand your reticence. My question is this: how can you have this experience and still consider yourself an atheist----even a mystical one?! That makes no sense to me. I do believe that even though God is everywhere, he is no-thing and it is life itself that is the real miracle. And I don't mean that in a simpering, new-age way. I read WG and didn't agree with your conclusions that the Axial Age produced belief systems that help create heirarchial societies (if I understood that correctly)to organize society---even if this was a byproduct of these religions. I think it was something more than that even if they've all become distorted over the centuries.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Well, mystical atheism may sound like an oxymoron, but I suspect there are a few of us around. If you check out "Coming to Our Senses," you'll see my best understanding of the phenomenon: the ascent experience is a bodily one, i.e. an out-of-body one; one doesn't need to posit "God" as an explanation. The mind-body can behave in a whole # of ways, and generate a variety of unusual experiences. This doesn't depend on anything external to it.

As for hierarchical systems, including politics and religion: these surely preceded the Axial Age, and the former can even be found among some HG societies (the Haida, for example, were slave-owners). But in general, the "religious" essence of the animistic world view of HG's was not a vertical one, and "ascent experience" doesn't show up in the historical record until abt 1800 B.C. Shamanism, as I demonstrate in WG, is really a stress reaction; religion (not in the sense of horizontal, HG animism) even more so. Which is not to say that one cannot learn a lot from vertical experiences, but eventually, there is a larger reality beyond this, and more deeply embedded in our Homo sapiens experience.


3:18 AM  
Anonymous Jimi said...

Professor Berman: My sense was it was probably very personal and not something you'd like to share. If we ever cross paths, though, I'll buy the drinks and we can have a long chat! Keep up the great work - it is most inspiring.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"how can you have this experience and still consider yourself an atheist"

Why is that contradictory? I think all conceptions of "God" are complete bullsh*t, but I don't think that modern science has come close to solving the human psyche (beyond the daily hype). The problem comes from conflating atheism with reductionism.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Melker63 said...

Great interview - as always. Since your two latest books also are mentioned, I would like to share with you yet another example of contemporary myth/reality-disconnect (sorry, they just keep comming):

I read about the DC gun-ban being overturned by the Supreme Court. I reader makes the following article-comment:

"I say we be a brave nation and embrace all of them [the amendments, including the 2:nd one] and freely accept their inherent risks. Then we can say we are “The land of the free and home of the brave”, not “Land of the scared and home of the slave”."

Well, the "big white elephant in the room" is infact that the latter alternative is already about to unravel itself - much more so the the first alternative. Michael Moore, for example, talks about his countrymen as "the frightened race". And house-, health- and creditcard-related debt-problems currently enslaves more and more of "the free and the brave".

But the myth currently still holds ground - regardless reality.

As for the myth of "hideout + guns = safety", I would suggest to these people to do a google-search on below very interesting article:

"The Art of Survival, Taoism and the Warring States"

Finally; while one the subject of contemporary myths, I would like to recommend you guys below podcast book-interview: "Myths America Lives By" (author: Richard Hughes).

Just google "Your Call" AND "Myths America Lives By", and you find it.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

I, too, was intrigued by the vertical experience. It brought to memory the experience that Daniel Quinn described in "Providence" - a bolt from the blue/more than a dream that shaped his life path. I'll have to go back and reread it. He is an atheist by the way. Any Ismaelians here?
Also, the interview was very wonderful. My favorite part was about the insect.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview, which provoked lots of thoughts and reactions but today I'll save those and just thank you.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

We may be talking about different experiences all together. I realize you have only my word to take for this (and you don't know me at all much less know if I'm delusional)but I know the difference between an external and internal experience and this was competely external. Isn't it possible that the great religions---Christianity, Judism, Buddism, Islam--were part an evolution to to help people to this larger reality? Buddha described his teachings as a raft to cross the river but advised his students to put the raft down once they reached the shore. By the time all of these religions came along it sounds like people needed help to reconnect with the values of simplicity, generosity, equality, which, as far as I can tell, all these religions espouse. Even though I don't believe any religion will "save the world" and no longer participate myself, I'm not an atheist either.

7:55 PM  
Blogger David said...

Dr. Berman,

Great interview!

Would you mind telling us a little bit more about your life in Mexico? I'm very curious about things like:

How did you chose where you live, and how do you make your living? Are you finding yourself becoming part of the local community there?

1:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear David,

Thanks for your interest. I tend to be shy about telling people exactly where I live in Mexico, beyond that it's a small town with a small permanent gringo population (so far), if increasingly ravaged by tourists. My association with Mexico goes back nearly 30 years, when I 1st visited and was struck by the place. I kept visiting, even published an article in a British ecology journal called "Mexico on My Mind." The place always moved me: so different from the US, esp. in terms of values (described at length by Octavio Paz, but you've got to be here to understand it). In 2002, I got "adopted" by a family in Mexico City (connected to the publisher of the Spanish edition of the Twilight book), and have been close with them ever since. Then about 3 years ago, I got adopted by another family, this in the small town where I now live. In some ways, I'm part of the local community here, radiating out from that particular family and their friends. The barrier that still exists is due to my limited Spanish: I'm fluent, but still a long way from the slang and colloquial Spanish that enable one to flow more easily in a group of people. But it's nice hanging out in my local cafe, chatting with the owner (who is a friend), reading and writing, etc. He occasionally makes dinner for the local crowd; the place is not filled with cell phones and laptops. It's human, in short--hard to come by in the US.

As for finances, I don't have a great income (this from Social Security and some small university pensions), but then I don't have great expenses. (In the US it seemed like I had to spend money to feel good.) I was also recently hired as a visiting prof by a university in Mexico City (I go in twice a month), which should make things a bit easier; though I expect that the appointment will be short-term. Que sera.

Hope that answers your questions. I sometimes hate to talk about the life down here, because there already is a stampede of US "refugees" seeking a better life, and I don't want to add to it. The problem is that they bring US values and ways of life with them, and in a few cases have largely destroyed the cities they now live in, rendering them little more than California shopping malls.

Saludos, amigo-


8:14 AM  

Dear Mr. Berman:

In the third book of your trilogy, you make a model about four dimensions or cultures:

The first defined as the dominant paradigm where you can see a certain truth in forms, and the fourth that you perfectly call paradox, where this truth can`t be seen. Well the question I would like to ask you is:

Could there be the possibility that this paradox may be handled locally and worked in a group unit or "intra" group in terms of Edward Hall, an accomplice in one way “ a here”, stronger than the forces that drive to speculative images and divides communities from “a there”? May the ascetic model have a further collective step, like E. Levinas's "epiphany" considered a deeper level of contact than empathy?

Greetings from Chile.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear pbcn:

Huge subject! In the interview with Jari she also asked to what extent ideas from Wandering God (sadly mistitled "Historia de la conciencia" in Spanish trans) could be applied to society at large, and I indicated that I wasn't optimistic. There are some group theorists who have wrestled with this, including W.R. Bion, for example; but the literature on group conformity seems to indicate that things really do get perverted in group behavior--as Freud noted long ago. The 1950s studies by Solomon Asch, for example, runnning thru Philip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram, don't make for a happy picture. Wish I cd offer you more hope, amigo...


1:18 PM  
Blogger Auvery Eva said...

I so enjoyed the interview; very timely; I have today been reading Coming to Our Senses on a train journey and just as when I read Wandering God (I'm doing it all back to front) I am greatly relieved to find your writings/thoughts; it all makes so much sense, relates to conclusions I have made but with wide ranging references. Wandering God is indeed a master piece; of content and style.

I fear that you are being a little romantic or behind the times with your view of Europeans - well the British in particular; it really feels as though personal success combined with a strident work ethic is the rollercaster now, there are small local attempts at something else but they are all tightly squeezed/regulated. I wish it wasn't true.... A friend has just said that he feels since 1978, our governments, whatever the view have shared the goal of following the USA. The dreadful moment in therapy or "postive thinking" is when you realise you can't entirely "right attitude" yourself out of your situation and that there are actually massive outside, state and commercial, restrictions on your life.

I am on my own quest to discover god, though I believe it to be something like the nothingness/everythingness of god; but no mystical/spiritual experience - and there have been a few - has convinced me of god. I am grateful to Quakers for allowing me to seek experience rather than have to believe someone else, and for the opportunity of discussing the teachings of Jesus (be kind!!!). And for silence. I was glad to hear of your oceanic experience as I had wondered about the possibility! I was also glad to hear you talk of Buddhism as seeking reality not escape, as a lot of people (including some who practise it) seem to view meditation as escaping. I'd like to make the washing up meditation or prayer and not meditate to escape it! The everyday the ordinary is what interests me, not seeking the mystical experience. But of course now it is very much the seeking of secular thrills and excitement. And everything has to be fun....

I do have a very specific question from reading (not finished) Coming to Our Senses: Does lack of interiority actually mean a cut off from body experience? It seems to me interiority splits mind from body, allows the reflective, the observer. It is that reflective state that allows one to view the experience, to separate. The watching of the green beetle is experience and possibly the observer of self disappears as the experiece is so full, though of course returns to help relate the tale....

The greatest gift I was ever given was being taught by my father to experience and investigate the world I am in with all my senses - and to ask questions. The greatest "out of the blue" experience was to feel completely embodied (to really feel/experience, not just intellectually understand the possibiliy or just believe, that mind spirit body everything about me is entirely physical.

I think I'd better stop. Thank you for your books - perhaps I'll read the more recent ones sometime! And if you feel able to answer the interiority/body question it would be great.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Auvery,

Re: the UK: I posted my answer under "Let's Get Real." As for your question on consciousness, the answer is actually in CTOS and WG (if you put them together), and wd be quite lengthy if I attempted it at this pt. However, in short form, what I refer to as "paradox" is not quite a Zen state, in which the self falls away and you just observe the other; it's a being filled by the other while simultaneously being aware of the self in the process. The medieval experience I talk about, in CTOS, of pre-interiority, involved a kind of auto-pilot behavior; not a mind-body split, but a strange kind of absence of mind; mechanical, I guess one cd say. The presence of interiority thus poses a challenge as to how the resurfacing of mind (11th C) was handled. Verticality, ascent experience, was the most common (heretical) response. Dullardism, or the repression of awareness thru some kind of addictive activity, is the common one today. Paradox has been very rare beyond the hunter-gatherer stage.

The classic case of mishandling interiority, creating a severe mind-body split, was probably Rene Descartes; I discuss this in ROW. But he certainly doesn't have to be today's model of dealing with interiority. You might check out a lovely short story by Heinrich von Kleist, "Ueber das Marionettentheater," which I read in German yrs ago, but which is probably in English by now (might have a title like "About the Marionette Theater). He talks about 3 stages of consciousness. In the 1st, the person is like a puppet, with no mind-body split because there's no mind. Then the split arises when the person sees himself in a mirror, and becomes self-conscious. Final stage is practicing until one is like a puppet once again, but *with* consciousness. It's really quite fascinating...

Thanks for writing-


7:03 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Hello Prof. Berman,
I really enjoyed your interview, and I continue to draw some comfort and resolve from your insights into American culture, that is, knowing that I'm not the only one who sees it, and knowing its not wrong to be troubled by it.
That said, I'd like to challenge you on some points. I am a Christian, and I think you are too quick to conclude that Christian teaching has nothing instructive to say about our modern crisis. Maybe that is an unfair characterization of your opinion, but I draw it from your horrified reaction that 59% of Americans believe that Christ will return, and your characterization of Christian spiritual experience as vertical, rather than horizontal like Buddhist and other spiritual experience.
We live in the middle of a bone-crushing juggernaut, as you say, and it has no regard for people, their integrity or dignity. Christianity is clear on the fact that our salvation depends on how we treat other people. How we treat the most unfortunate, weak and marginal persons is how we treat Christ himself. (Matt 25:44). You would be right to point out that this has not played out in the action of the church, but I can tell you that I know many Christians who aspire and do what they can to approach this perfection.
Can I ask why you are so horrified that so many people believe in the rapture? Buddhists believe that Maitreya Buddha will return after The Buddha's teaching has become irredeemably corrupt. I don't think it is fair to say that a Christian sits back and waits for the rapture, just the opposite, 2 Thessalonians 5, says The Day of The Lord will come "like a thief in the night" so then "let us not fall asleep as others do but let us keep awake and be sober". Anyone who sits back and waits doesn't act as a Christian, we are told that we can't know when the day will come, and in any case by what standard could one be so assured of their salvation that they sit and wait for it?
Last point, I don't think it is fair to characterize all Christian experience as vertical. Seems to me that whenever a Christian feels gratitude and gives thanks for loved ones, for food, fellowship and other blessings of life, this is a horizontal experience on par with what you describe as wonder and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of life. There is much more I could say, but I think this is enough. Look forward to your response.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chris,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I don't have any problems with the ethical/horizontal part of Christianity, any more than I have with the ethical aspect of Judaism. Jimmy Carter, for example, falls into what I would call the ethical practice of Christianity-category, and I have enormous respect for him--as you'll see if you read DAA. But to me, literal belief in a messiah (which I doubt more than a handful of ultra-orthodox Jews believe in), or, say, the notion that God actually handed the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, is an assault on reason, even on the ability to think. The same goes for the second coming or the rapture--this is not how the physical world works, and organizing one's life around things like this is akin to organizing it around fairy tales, in my view. (Nor do I regard Buddhist fairy tales as being any better.)

Truth be told, it's not clear that Christ even had a *first* coming, or if he even existed. Historically speaking, the data are not all that reliable. Flavius Josephus has a one-paragraph reference to him in The Jewish Wars; but that was published in A.D. 79--nearly 50 years after his supposed death. The testimony of the Gospels comes next, chronologically: A.D. 110. This is now 80 years after his supposed death. Can you imagine how reliable our understanding of WWI would be if the first account of it that we had dated from 1998?
It may be that the best analysis of the Christ phenomenon remains that of David Strauss, 1837 (Leben Jesu), which says that there probably was such a person, but we cannot really know anything about him, because everything written was a projection onto him of the community's hopes and aspirations at a time of sociopolitical crisis. What we have, in short, is mythology, not history.
(On the issue of historical verification see also Max Dimont's book, God, Jews, and History. For the argument that Jesus was probably just one more Jewish magician among many, check out the works of Morton Smith.)

Finally, if 59% of the American public believe in the rapture, how does this affect their politics? Surely, this is how we wound up with someone like Geo W. Bush in office. Is this unrelated to the (to me, horrifying) fact that 39% of Americans believe that Muslims should be required to carry a religious ID on them at all times (why not just stick a yellow star on them, and be done with it)? That something like 2/3 of the country reject Darwinian evolution, and want "intelligent design" (i.e., creationism) taught in our school systems? This is obviously not the Christianity of Jimmy Carter, but that's my point.

Thanks again for writing-


1:28 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Prof. Berman,
Thanks for your response. I suppose my real question for you wasn't stated very clearly. My contention is that Christianity can be a viable source of life, culture and community, whereas the bone-crushing juggernaut of consumerism we see now, can only be a source of death, anxiety and division. I'm not trying to make any exclusive claims for Christianity, or to evangelize to anyone, but don't you think it would be better for someone to sincerely read The Bible and struggle with its imperatives, rather than watching prime-time TV and agonizing over the dominant culture's imperatives? I know you wouldn't say that Christianity with all of its absurdities is the best place to go for guidance and inspiration, but a Christian believer decidedly thinks that it is. So, looking at the content of Christ's message, to love the neighbor, to trust God, couldn't this be a place for a person to make a stand against the evil that pervades our society?
I suppose the reason I put this question to you, is that in my reading and interactions with people, I see everyone struggling with this same problem, this malaise. They see it on the right, on the left, in churches, on college campuses. Certainly there isn't any perfect agreement on the cause or the course of action, but we all see that there is a huge problem. I don't know, I wish that we could set aside debates about belief and just ask what we can do. There are ethical implications of belief, certainly, but it seems to me that the question should be "does this foster goodwill and common purpose between people?", rather than "is it reasonable?" With the first question at the forefront , I think a lot could be done between large classes of people, and Christianity could score well. Look at what the militant atheists a la Sam Harris are doing, and ask the first question. Doesn't he actually say that there are propositions that a person should be killed for uttering? Seems kind of similar to the 39% that would vote for the gold stars. Militant atheists and Islamaphobes are all terrified, I think they all lack the courage to see that their neighbors aren't actually evil.
I'm not sure what to say about the historical question about Christ. I'm not a historian, amateur or otherwise. What makes the question somewhat irrelevant for me is the fact that believing in Christ wouldn't really be any easier if you had been with him, heard him speak and perform miracles etc. Many people saw him do miracles, and many still didn't believe. The only argument I'm really comfortable offering, and it won't satisfy you, is that sending Christ seems like something God would really do, and for God, of course, it would be possible. I'm very interested to hear your response regarding the merits of attempting collective action across differing ethical communities.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chris,

I truly hope that the choice doesn't come down to prime-time TV vs. the bible! What a narrow world that would be, indeed. Happily, one can oppose the consumer society from a variety of positions; one hardly needs Christianity to do so. Or Islam, Judaism, etc. (I don't include Buddhism here because if you eliminate all the fru-fru, it really just amounts to being mindful, and in that sense is more a practice than a religion.) And the reason not to oppose the consumer society from a religious position is that in my view, the cure is worse than the disease. The record is in, as far as religion goes, don't you think? What has been the source of more wars in human history than that? If Christ's message had any clout, it would have worked by now, right? Surely the proof is in the pudding. Clearly, the picture is bloody, not rosy. Take a look at this recent article, for what is just the latest version of the sheer destructiveness of religion:


Personally, I'm not a militant atheist; but I have to admit, that when I meet someone as bright as you obviously are, and they happen to be religious, what I want to say to them is this: Give it up; what do you need it for? Isn't life enough for you, just as it is?

Thanks again,

4:56 PM  
Blogger Auvery Eva said...

I just thought I'd leave a note to say that some years ago I read Heinrich von Kleist's The Marionette Theatre, but had forgotten about it - thanks for reminding me! But in doing so looked at the conversation between yourself and Chris; I also looked at the atheist soldier story, I was not surprised but also didn't want it confirmed. I think in the British army there is a milder version of this going on, perhaps to do with our odd head of state and church thing. It is very easy to put ones hopes on something outside - the desperate search for the beloved other or the rescuer. I see nothing wrong in viewing religious texts as philosphies, as guidance for living, but I have also met christians who care nothing for this life or sorting it out as they are waiting for the next - not taking heed of finding the "kingdom of god" if that is what they want, INSIDE, NOW! Guess I'm agnostic. Your book wandering God came up in a conversation during a movement workshop yesterday - and it wasn't me that mentioned it! Not sure if relevant but I have a few comments on "god" and prayer and ritual at the begining and end of this ramble:


if time and inclination allow!
The notion of a mystical atheist somehow gives me hope.... Also something I read today in a Quaker publication about cross religious sharings and respect and workings together - tolerance is not enough, is not even positive, it's all about acceptance that there isn't one way, one teacher etc I've always found tolerance to be a mealy, selfish word....

1:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Auvery,

Well, nice to know someone is reading "Wandering God"; almost comes as a shock (my best book, imo, and sold all of 2000 copies). But as for tolerance: frankly, given today's world, I'll take it; it may be the best we can do.

Thanks again for writing-


3:04 PM  
Blogger Parker W said...


I'm not Mr. Berman, but allow me to interject something here in response to your concerns about what mentioned pertaining to Christianity.

It seems to me that you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater so-to-speak, because I really doubt that Mr. Berman implied that the entirety of religion is completely worthless.

Indeed, there is a moral core to religion that you are referring to in your defense, but if you will recall, Mr. Berman defended that core in the talk, but ventured to say that unfortunately that core (that is arguably in most major religions) is inevitable defiled by the apparatus of society beyond what it had originally intended. These are things which I agree with so I am not only presuming to speak for Mr. Berman.

Surely you wouldn't think that believing in the coming rapture like so many Americans do is going to help us in this debacle. These accessories weigh down that very important original core of good will...would you agree?

Unfortunately (or not), we can't rapture our way out of this one. Its going to take religious people like you and freethinkers to put aside their extemporaneous differences and "reach across the isle" to get things done. This means focusing in on that moral core we both (should) share, and not being dogmatic-and that goes for militant atheists as well.

We're all in this together.

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I agree there is a common moral core to religion, and certainly we would all benefit by adhering to it. I also agree that people tend to mess it up, short-sighted and fearful creatures that we are.
What I don't agree with is that the solution is to loosen the standard, and fix onto something we can all agree on. For one, I don't think its possible, look at debate about marriage, monagamy, abortion, etc. I don't see how you leave these out of a moral code, and I don't see any widespread agreement on them.
Secondly, I don't see how the choice would be justified. Basically we would say something like, "Christ had a really good message that is beneficial for humanity, but he also said a bunch of weird things that we don't need to listen to, like his second coming and the exclusivity of salvation through Him".
How do you justify that? Do you think we can make Christ more perfect than he is? You can call it dogmatic if you want, but to me its just being obedient to the loving God who sacrificed everything for me. Its really a small thing for Him to ask of me.
I don't think it is an accident that Prof. Berman denies the second coming by denying that He came at all. There is, at least, a certain integrity in that view. Further, it does no harm to the question that faith asks, which is a personal one (not historical), if there was such a one who came in humility, and claimed to be God, would you believe in Him?

The idea that we just need to come together around all that is widely agreed upon presumes an optimistic view of humanity which I can't share based on experience or Biblical teaching. Christ is necessary because we can't accomplish the ethical task without his help. When Jesus came, the Jewish people were centered on fulfilling the demands of Judaic law, but they couldn't do it according to the perfection that was required. The Old Testament is all about how they failed to fulfill the law. But Christ gives power so that we can fulfill the ethical task. Nothing that Christ says is an accessory, and far from weighing down good will, faith gives power to truly love all as God commands us to.

So, in short, I fully encourage you to reach across the aisle to believers and non-believers alike. There is certainly much good that can be done despite disagreements concerning belief. Just don't ask believers to make Jesus into something he isn't (i.e. one who doesn't say He is coming back in glory). Sorry to throw so much at you. I wish that things could be reconciled as simply as you proposed. But, there is simplicity and hope in Christ's gospel also, and reconciliation of all beneath a loving God.
best to you,

2:40 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Dear Morris,

I listened to the interview and found it fascinating. I think I need to reread all three of your consciousness books since its been some time since I did so. As a "preservationist," I am interested in our divorce from the natural world since this appears to be the origin of our destructiveness toward the environment. How do you see the relationship between the mind-body split and the human-nature split? I recently read a fascinating essay by John Livingston entitled "The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation." His thesis is that we will not save wildlife by using the usual arguments since they are all based upon the human-nature split. His answer is that the human-nature split can only be overcome by what he calls "free flow" wherein a person comes to realize that when he damages nature, he damages himself since there is no really no separation. I'd be most interested to hear your thoughts on this.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Ron,

I doubt that consciousness alone, even major shifts of consciousness (unlikely in any case), is/are sufficient to save the environment. To take just one huge stumbling block, overpopulation--possibly 11 billion by 2050--will dictate the continued exploitation or despoilation of the earth. I suspect that the most the human race can do, and that only by an aggressive and concerted effort, is slow down the rate of damage. But that's just a guess on my part.

Thanks for writing-

10:05 AM  
Blogger Judy Sacco said...

Hello MB,
I just discovered your blog. I re-read The Twilight of American Culture and noticed it was published in 2000. So much of importance has happened since 2000 - 9/11, the Bush coup to gain the presidency in 2001, and the acceleration and increasing importance of global warming as a major force of change in the world - that I was wondering what you were thinking now. I discovered you wrote another book (DAA), which I have ordered, so maybe I will answer my own question.

I am interested in your move to Mexico. My husband and I have moved to Panama, probably for some of the same reasons you moved. I felt that all American life was about was being a consumer, and also I was spending a lot of energy trying to keep from being consumed by big corporations.

The town we live in has a lot of gringo expats, probably a lot like your town. They aren't concentrating in one place, though, so there is a lot of interaction with the local community. There are some who try to re-create America here, but the blessed Panamanian inefficiency just makes that impossible. We have made some good friends with whom we share spiritual books and talk (especially Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, and others of the advaita tradition).

I look forward to reading DAA. You haven't made an entry to the blog since June. I hope you return to it. I am really enjoying reading it.
Judy Sacco
Boquete, Panama

11:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Judy,

Yeah, sorry about not doing another posting, but I'm now teaching f/t (thru end of Nov.) at a university in Mexico City, and the work load has got me fairly busy. And then a rather steady schedule of book reviews, interviews, public lectures, and the like. I'm still living in this small town; the university just flies me in twice a month, which is pretty nice of them. I do experience occasional nostalgia for the US, esp. New York; and then my girlfriend lives in Boston; but I get back north often enough so that it feels OK. Mexico is also, sad to say, doing its best to imitate the US; I may have to move to Guatemala in 10 yrs, who knows. But right now--the gringos notwithstanding--the town is lovely and quiet, and hanging out w/my Mexican family (I have one here and one in the City) is always a pleasure. Mexico is surely not the Perfect Society by a long shot; 42% of the pop. lives in poverty (where the US will be in 20 yrs or less, I imagine), for example. But to have escaped the level of endless noise, commercial b.s., and a population that is angry and depressed, is a great relief. In a recent "world happiness survey," Mexico ranked fifth; and the everyday graciousness of these folks is--well, the way life *oughtta* be.
Good luck in Panama, and enjoy DAA.

Thanx for writing-

11:58 PM  

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