Until now, my main book was The Ascent of Humanity, which explores the evolution of civilization from the perspective of the human sense-of-self. It arose out of a feeling of deep ambient wrongness in the world that had been offered me as normal. I couldn’t accept that the world had to be this way, and I wanted to know the reason for it, the reason for all the violence and pollution and ugliness I saw around me. Exacerbating this feeling were certain books I read in my early teens, books that made it impossible to believe that the world were fundamentally OK. These included Silent Spring, A People’s History of the United States, Gulag Archipelago, 1984, The Unsettling of America, and many others. In college and in my 20s, I became further aware of the environmental crisis, the dynamics of global capitalism and empire, the destruction of indigenous cultures, and all the other functions of the world-wrecking machine.
My search to understand the deep root of the ugliness led me to increasingly radical writers, but none seemed to go deep enough. Even extremists such as Daniel Quinn, Derrick Jensen, and John Zerzan seemed to offer no better explanation than, “There is this bad thing in human beings, especially civilized human beings, that needs to be overcome,” or, “Humanity made a huge mistake that we must rectify and atone for.” These philosophies seemed to be just another version of conquering evil, based on other version of original sin and the Fall. These, I eventually recognized, are yet a new elaboration of the same story of Separation that is responsible for our present condition.
In The Ascent of Humanity, I trace Separation — from nature, from community, from each other, from our own physical bodies — back to its origins, which are so deep that we cannot hope to reverse it, but only to complete it and integrate separation into a larger wholeness. That, I decided, was the purpose of humanity’s journey of separation — to return to wholeness enriched by the journey. The book describes each crisis of civilization as the extreme of a certain facet of separation, discussing money, technology, science, religion, education, medicine, law, agriculture, and other fields. Then it draws out the dynamics of transition, drawing on metaphors and myths of birth, death, and transcendence. Finally it describes what these institutions (money, science, technology, education, medicine, etc.) might look like in a new age, an age of Reunion in which we are no longer trapped in the discrete and separate Cartesian self.
My first book was The Yoga of Eating, published by New Trends in 2003. I do a fair amount of speaking and writing in the area of holistic health, a topic which might seem quite removed from economics or civilization. But in fact, The Yoga of Eating is just a more specific application of the same general theme. It applies the principle of ending the war against the self and the war against nature to our relationship to food. It explores ending the struggle against desire and pleasure, and instead aligning with authentic appetite to access body-knowledge. Anyone who has studied nutrition knows that there are profound contradictions among the hundreds of dietary philosophies out there, even among those calling themselves holistic. With so many conflicting external authorities, it is necessary to access inner authority in order to recover health, and joy, through food. You might say, the book tells us to “eat what you want.” The problem is that we are so alienated from our bodies and our food, and so conditioned by culture or dietary beliefs, that we have lost touch with what we really want. Therefore, many people use food as a substitute for other needs. This books explains how to recover and trust natural desire.