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NATURE AND MADNESS
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If I had to choose only one book out of my whole library that is both a descriptive and prescriptive overview of the human and environmental crisis--how we got there--it is this book by Paul Shepard: NATURE AND MADNESS.

I am indebted to Paul Shepard for being the voice that shaped me for eventually confirming that morality is ultimately rooted in the body through an"extended human ontogeny". He confirmed this thesis that I had already come across through in the seeds's of Rousseau's thought (1749 the Academy of Dijon) but developed how it was rooted in psycho-epigenetic stages. I recommend you start with his book Nature and Madness , which is seminal for all his other books. He is considered by many to be the most early, original, and comprehensive voice in shaping a human "deep-ecology"



"The prospect of general, culturally-ratified distortions of childhood, of massive disablement of ontogeny as the basis of irraional and self-destructive attitudes towards the natural environment is the prospect to which I nown turn"... (Nature and Madness, p.xix, 1982)-Paul Shepard.

QUOTATIONS BY PAUL SHEPARD

"It is odd, after seventy centuries of city life, that we can continue to be uneasy about it and uncertain as to what is wrong. The situation is like those psychological illnesses in which the patient shows a devilish capacity to obscure the real problem from himself. A demon seems to make false leads, so that deliverance requires more of the same, confusing problem and symptom. It is as though traffic, smog, disease, violence, crime, uncaring strangers, dirt, drug addiction, and unemployment collectively provide distraction from something that perhaps cannot be dealt with...Let us suppose, with some evidence, that the city is typically a sink of psychological problems. In the individual these are partly caused by city life, but in the longer view they cause the city. Where can the cycle be broken, and what are its processes?" -Paul Shepard

We perceive the dark side of our present condition as our failure to adhere to the standards of "civilization". Crime, tyranny, psychopathology, addiction, poverty malnutrition, starvation, war, terrorism, and other forms of social disintegration seem to be the weakness and flaws in our ability to live up to the expectations of being civilized. Present disillusion with ideologies and goals of advance nations since the Enlightenment, and the decline in quality and experience of life it self, are matched by the degradation of world eco systems and the ratcheting scale of poverty and wide spread social turmoil. In the absence of some new synthesis that rejoins us to our natural heritage, the world of corporate organization pushes us towards the degenerating process of conformity, the frenzied outbreak of genetic engineering, and the pied pipers technological tootle leading down the "information highway" towards the "net worked" insanity that confuses electronic regurgitation with wisdom. This circuit-sedative turns us into entertainment junkies hooked without reprieve to the economic machine and its media, a new level of confusion between reality and virtual reality. Our image of ourselves-of humanity- is in question because ideology alone always fails. Species and cultures that have endured scores of thousand of years are subject to oblivion in the hands of this culture in which our faith has been upstage by growth.

We are not new as organisms or as a species, nor are the millions of species of plants and animals around us new. Some how our hunger for change and novelty has cost us a sense of the roll of nature in personal growth and the necessity of compliance and limitation. We must now ask in what sense our present dilemmas are measured by departure from some kind of diffuse, primordial scheme of human life and what if possible in terms of recovery.

In the face of predominant anthropocentric values, the vision of "natural" human kind seems eccentric, regressive, even perverse. Our idea of ourselves embedded in the context of the shibboleth of growth places us at odds with the notion of kinship with nature. When we grasp fully that the best expressions of our humanity were not invented by civilization but by cultures that preceded it, that the natural world is not only a set of constraints but of context within which we can more fully realize our dreams, We will be on the way to a long overdue reconciliation between opposites that are of our own making. The tools we have invented for communicating our ideas and carrying information have actually impaired our memories. We must begin by remembering beyond history.

Beneath the veneer of civilization...lies not the barbarian and animal, but the human in us who knows the rightness of birth in gentile surroundings, the necessity of a rich nonhuman environment, play at being animals, the discipline of natural history, juvenile tasks with simple tools, the expressive arts of receiving food as a spiritual gift rather than as a product, the cultivation of metaphorical significance of natural phenomena of all kinds, clan membership and small-group life, and the profound claims and liberation of ritual initiation and subsequent stages of adult mentorship. There is a secret person undamaged in every individual, aware of the validity of these, sensitive to there right moments in our lives. All of them are assimilated in perverted forms in modern society: our profound love of animals twisted into pets, zoos , decorations, and entertainment; our search for poetic wholeness subverted by the model of the machine instead of the body; the moment of pubertal idealism shunted into nationalism or ethereal otherworld religions instead of an ecosophical cosmology. But this means that we have not lost, and can not loose the genuine impulse. It awaits only an authentic expression. The task is not to start by recapturing the theme of reconciliation with the earth in all of its metaphysical subtlety, but with something much more direct and simple that will yield its own healing metaphysics.-Paul Shepard

"History does not resolve our confusion but further misleads us with its mix of dreams and visions, infantile mnemonics, Golden Ages, Christian paradises, escapism, ethnographic misinformation, and fundamentalist attempts to make of it a mythology (p. 15)... the prehistoric unconscious forms a better basis for the creation of a new history (p. 17)."

This breakaway from the mythic life which linked our species to the natural world, began when the early Hebrews rejected the nature/process stories and rites of their pagan contemporaries for the myth of a single god who, outside the world, reached into his creation, willfully deranging its rhythms, acting arbitrarily, making life a kind of novel, a history. -Paul Shepard

A repeated question of our time is, "How do we become native to this place?" History can not answer this question, for history it self is the great deracinator. Historical time is invested in change, novelty, and escape from the renewing stability and continuity of the great natural cycles that grounds us to place and the greater community of life on earth. -Paul Shepard

Music is fundamental to our wholeness, our sense of primordial multiplicity. But observe what is happening in our time. The exaggerated solemnity of music in temples, churches, and mosques is a measure of the loss of joy and and organic sound basic to hundreds of indigenous religions marked by "mythic" imagination, the use of skin-and-wood drum and group improvisation. Making music is often completely absent in the lives of our children. -Paul Shepard

Bringing back the Neolithic goddess might not be the solution to our present troubles. True we need need new stories and enactments, new myths and rituals... their veracity and power will depend on the convictions of the heart, growing out of instinct or inherent psychogenic sources which come from ways of life. This is why the New Age efforts to start with rites and resurrect old tribal myths will not work in changing our attitudes towards the earth. We may dance the Maypole till the cows come home but it will not recover the sense of the cycles of the seasons, which can only be regenerated (fully,deeply) in context. -Paul Shepard

As a highly specialized life form, we are genetically endowed to "expect" fulfillment of the genome's childhood schedule of needs and abilities, to which society is tutor and guide with its tests, informal daily life, and formal ceremonies that erupt and fall in time like the successive molts of feathers on the body of a bird. Our extended human ontogeny, with its natural demarcations in stages and phases, is governed by neoteny (a "state of newness")- a retardation of certain parts of the maturing process. Neoteny pre programs life stages, so that our becoming is a life long process. -Paul Shepard

Cultural responses to our inherent development as individuals have context. They have been worked and reworked so long that there is empirical wisdom in the social and cultural mentoring of the individual. The "extended childhood" and the characteristics of the adult that carry youthful traits into later life are therefor at the heart of human biology and evolution. The agenda is given; the support depends on social readiness to nature, itself a product of successful ontogeny of an older generation. -Paul Shepard

At last the new genetics and molecular biology reconfirm our bonds to the past. We are whatever our DNA-in response to our environment- makes us. The impact of being 98% identical in DNA to the chimpanzee and 80% identical even to horses falls on us with staggering impact. Even the lizard is represented in our presence, although we are only its cousin. Of course DNA does not operate in vacuum: the genetical heritage is constantly interfacing with our experience and environment.The old question of nature or nurture was always pointless, as the constraints are biological and the opportunities are circumstantial. -Paul Shepard

We are free to create culture as we wish, but the prototype to which the genome is accustomed is pleistocene society. As a culture we may choose or invent any language or set of gods we like. But that we must make up language and choose gods is what it means to be human...
The 'hard", irreducible stubborn core of biological necessity, and biological reason "says Lionel Thrilling. "reserves the right to judge the culture, and resist and revise it.
- Paul Shepard

Evolution does not answer the big questions as to where the world is going or why- myths do not have to explain everything. Evolutionary thinking gives me relatedness, continuity with the past, common ground with other life, a kind of celebration of diversity. It is much more humble than the eschatologies of "world religions" or the arrogance of secular progress or literary humanism. -Paul Shepard

Culture, in racing ahead of our biological evolution, does not replace it but is injured by its own folly.-Paul Shepard

Light beams coming down into the gentle, dusky gloom- like rays entering the sea- making the seeing eye possible and inviting it into unemagined habitats. -Paul Shepard

We must stand apart from the conventions of history, even while using the record of the past, for the idea of history is itself a western invention whose central theme is the rejection of habitat. It formulates experience outside of nature and tends to reduce place only to a stage upon which the human drama is enacted. History conceives the past mainly in terms of biography and nations. It seeks causality in the conscious, spiritual, ambitious character of men and memorializes them in writing. -Paul Shepard

The main certainty in the agricultural, civilized world was overwhelmingly uncertainty. Would the one crop seeds come up? Would the weather be right or disease wipe out the plants? Would flood all wash it away? Would there be adequate labor for tilling, hauling, storing and distribution- or would the labor force be drafted for war or die from communicable disease? Would enemies burn the fields again.- Paul Shepard

"History does not resolve our confusion but further misleads us with its mix of dreams and visions, infantile mnemonics, Golden Ages, Christian paradises, escapism, ethnographic misinformation, and fundamentalist attempts to make of it a mythology (p. 15)... the prehistoric unconscious forms a better basis for the creation of a new history (p. 17)." -Paul Shepard

Beneath the veneer of civilization...lies not the barbarian and animal, but the human in us who knows the rightness of birth in gentile surroundings, the necessity of a rich nonhuman environment, play at being animals, the discipline of natural history, juvenile tasks with simple tools, the expressive arts of receiving food as a spiritual gift rather than as a product, the cultivation of metaphorical significance of natural phenomena of all kinds, clan membership and small-group life, and the profound claims and liberation of ritual initiation and subsequent stages of adult mentorship. There is a secret person undamaged in every individual, aware of the validity of these, sensitive to there right moments in our lives. All of them are assimilated in perverted forms in modern society: our profound love of animals twisted into pets, zoos , decorations, and entertainment; our search for poetic wholeness subverted by the model of the machine instead of the body; the moment of pubertal idealism shunted into nationalism or ethereal otherworld religions instead of an ecosophical cosmology. But this means that we have not lost, and can not loose the genuine impulse. It awaits only an authentic expression. The task is not to start by recapturing the theme of reconciliation with the earth in all of its metaphysical subtlety, but with something much more direct and simple that will yield its own healing metaphysics.-Paul Shepard

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