Ludlow

Lovely to be here and experience the texture that comes from the local. Ludlow is a fair trade, local sourced, transition town – and it shows! You don’t have to buy anything in the market to appreciate it being there. And it shows us what is lost through the more ‘efficient’ local economy – or lack of it – in other places. It turns out that qualia (see Wikipedia!) comes from all the texture that seems so old-fashioned – seeing the person who grew your food; smelling the cheese before you eat it. And so on. There’s a huge literature on all of this of course.

The ‘normal’ economy is reductive, standardising – and it doesn’t just do that with goods, but it looks at human beings like that. It’s the kind of thinking that started with David’s census.

Ray Kroc, early CEO of McDonalds seems to have summed this up in a quote that’s everywhere on the internet but whose source I can’t find:

We have found out… that we cannot trust some people who are nonconformists… We will make conformists out of them… The organization cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organization.
– Ray Kroc

See “just in time” strawberries with their human consequences; pallet and shrink-wrap. Once everything is reduced to a unit, no other logic can apply. And this logic has its own illogic, eg the shrink wrap round a fuse that’s the same size as one around a radio – because that way they fit on the same sorting machine, etc etc. So we could see an explosive development taking place over the last hundred or so years, starting in the Chicago stockyards, gathering in the oil economy, industrialized agriculture, information technology and media – all of which have many aspects, some of them liberating – but which all exhibit a tendency, a direction towards a soulless, lifeless, reduced world.

Of course one could think this is all a coincidence. But there’s too much that works in the same direction for this to seem a good hypothesis. Then you could wonder if it’s a ‘conspiracy’ – ie people consciously plotting towards a defined end. But it seems much too diffuse for that. And remember how the pioneers of the internet – those hobbyists who subverted the military’s purposes in ARPANET – believed that they were creating a power for liberation – as indeed they were! So a third hypothesis could be that there is an intelligence at work behind the actions of countless human beings, whose motives are as mixed as human motives always are.

In the film Fast Food Nation, the old rancher, who represents the sage in the film, talks about this intelligence that drives  the heartless, destructive meat packing plant:

This isn’t about good people versus bad people. It’s about the machine that’s taken over this country. It’s like something out of science fiction. The land, the cattle, human beings – this machine don’t give a shit – penny’s a pound, penny’s a pound – that’s all it cares about.

Fast Food Nation, Richard Linklater 2006

What’s amazing is how clearly he describes the intelligence that Rudolf Steiner called Ahriman, the adversary power who seeks to ensnare us in physical existence, divorcing us from our spiritual being – the machine, who reduces everything to units of production, and monetary value.

The intelligence in this system doesn’t want to get rich – it wants what money does to us. And it is amazing to see that the attack comes in precisely the place where we are so vulnerable – in our need for food, which is linked to our dependence on the money economy. Rudolf Steiner describes this in relation to the story of the temptation of Christ after the baptism in the Jordan, where he is unable to complete his struggle with Ahriman:

So Ahriman sent Lucifer away and carried out the last attack as Ahriman alone and said the words which resonate in the Gospel of Matthew: Turn minerals into bread! Turn stones to bread if you claim to have divine powers. And the Christ-Being said: Men do not live by bread alone, but by the spiritual which comes from the spiritual world. The Christ-Being knew that well, for he had recently descended from the spiritual world. Ahriman replied: You may be right. But that you are right and insofar as you are right does not stop me from stopping you in a certain way. You only know what the spirit does which descends from the heights. You were not yet in the human world. Below, in the human world, there are completely different people; they truly need to turn stones to bread, they cannot nourish themselves by the spirit alone. That was the moment when Ahriman told Christ what one could know on the earth; which, however, the god who had just stepped upon the earth for the first time could not yet know. He did not know that it was necessary below to turn the mineral, metal to money, to bread. So Ahriman said that the people below are forced to nourish themselves with money. That was where Ahriman still had power. And, said Ahriman, I will use this power!
The Fifth Gospel, Rudolf Steiner see RSArchive)

And Ahriman is only too pleased to see the nihilism that lurks in the collective psyche of the death culture (Macey), which he can hand on to Sorat – the negator, the annihilator. Ahriman’s logic is constructive, even if it’s a destructive construction (!). But the corrosion of the soul is embodied negativity. That’s the final issue of our death culture. That’s the obscenity of an industrial slaughterhouse, the glimpse it gives into a world where death is everyday, standardised, even sanitized.

And yet – there is the dearest freshness deep down things (Hopkins). We are witnessing an incredible growth in global concern – even using Ahriman’s own tools of internet and mobile communications. We need to identify the dynamic between nostalgia for lost worlds and a truly achieved, new culture of awakened selves. When this culture comes about – which comes about through communion, through our eating each other’s soul and spiritual substance, as represented in the eucharist – redemption of the temptation with the bread -, then the adversaries have served their purpose – they have given us the chance to come to ourselves and find the way forward into the future. This is both a return and something quite new:

The proffered gift and the shared meal are probably the most ancient forms of human interaction…”
The Last Week, Borg & Crossan

Using modern technology with care and filling it with meaning, we can have communion with each other that reaches beyond divides that previously meant we would not have even know of each other.

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4 Responses to “Ludlow”

  1. Sebastian Says:

    I’m right with you, that last paragraph is really quite exciting. I’m aware how tempting the past is, but I remember my mother saying “when I had to shop in the green grocer, and I didn’t have any choice, the produce was lousy and the service bad”. This has made me really sensitive to noticing where the solution might really be.

    I can’t help thinking that mechanisation and industrial processes could well be quite literally a part of what is needed for us to continue our evolution towards freedom. They generate the capacity for choice, and that’s something that is really handy if people are to spend time and energy worrying about who they truly are, instead of where the next meal will come from.

    I think there are real spiritual and physical advantages to upscaling production and I suspect that it is possible to operate an industrial scale slaughterhouse out of love for the animals and the people whose needs will be met. I heard about an autistic lady who travels the world helping people design and build slaughterhouses in which the animals never experience fear and which take them, from the moment they arrive until the moment they die, on a gentle journey upwards – slowly, quietly walking up gently rising slopes.

    Having said that I remember a farmer friend of mine saying “have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?” and when I said no he said “I think part of the reason we need them is that there is something dark in some people and it can find an outlet in those places”. Not sure what to make of that though!

  2. tomravetz Says:

    yes, nostalgia is dangerous, and misleading. According to Steiner, it’s where Lucifer works, tempting us back to a dream of our golden origins – tempting us away from the need to go through the darkness. Some of my eco-minded friends make me worried that they have fallen into that trap. Interesting to think of the slaughterhouses being a vent for the furnace of destruction in our middle. Maybe when we embrace that in ourselves we won’t need the dark houses of death to do it for us. Then we’ll all be vegetarians.

  3. Sophie Parsons Says:

    I don’t want to lead you away from your original point, but I wanted to share that I was thinking at some hour last night when we all should actually be asleep, that I remember being told the animals and plants gave themselves up to us, which makes me feel that it isn’t about us all becoming vegetarian, but about us all no longer needing to act out this darkness which mankind seems to hold and exhibit. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that there is such darkness in and around us as we all chose to leave the spiritual world, yet once here on earth we appear to want to punish ourselves and those around us for that decision. Maybe we are behaving in this way because we can’t remember our decision. Maybe our behaviour is the layer we must work through in order to become spiritual beings on earth.

  4. Technology « theology – anthroposophy – world Says:

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