The Zombification of Speculative Non-Buddhism

I see that you practice the rhetorical strategy of first misrepresenting what I say, then proving you are ever so much cleverer than I am because you can find a flaw in your own invention. (Tom Pepper)

What has become of Speculative Non-Buddhism? Mr. Pepper (alias Gabe Syme, alias Bill S.), has summarized it in his usual succinct way. Speculative Non-Buddhism has become a game of twisting and turning words, taking out of context and ignoring the development of arguments, confusing or intentionally misinterpreting meaning – all the while its proper and actual task has long been lost or hasn’t been achieved to any relevant scope ever. In short, the discussion degenerated into flamewars while François Laruelle went missing early on. The non of non-buddhism, which is the anti-decisional non of non-philosophy, has never been developed beyond an intuition.

This has a history, let’s recap it briefly. Mr. Wallis opened the Speculative Non-Buddhism blog in summer 2011 with great enthusiasm and clearly motivated to get some people together to form a fire starter against the mindful obesity of contemporary Buddhism and, perhaps, to think some serious stuff. Even before this historical date – as it should be called because it was the first time a voice from within American Buddhism began pointing at its blatant narcissism – Mr. Wallis formulated critical thoughts about Buddhism in his writings. Finally at some point before the opening of his blog there must have been a revelation or breakthrough in his thinking. Possibly Ray Brassier with his Nihil Unbound has been the catalyst and with it came the critique of decision respectively the philosophies of difference by François Laruelle. At the same time Mr. Pepper appeared. He at once pointed out that Brassier and Laruelle both are beholden to an “atomistic” view which places the individual wrongly at the base of any analysis while in fact it is an effect of ideology. The dialectics of individual and ideology would have been a point of departure to begin to work on Laruelle’s thinking and how it solves the vicious circle such a relationship develops, but that never happened. What emerged instead was a confrontation with contemporary and mostly American Buddhism on one side, plus the development of Mr. Pepper’s Buddhism on the other (what he later would call The Faithful Buddhist). Especially the confrontation took center stage soon with Mr. Wallis giving out the slogan of Word Blood. Ray Brassier and François Laruelle were never again heard of – at least not in any kind of discussion which would develop an understanding of their thought. Instead Word Blood got heated up. The repressive tolerance at the root of every Buddhist discourse today was challenged. Several very animated discussions took place during the coming months and some of todays prominent Buddhists were involved. Unfortunately an old error, we see within internet discussions regularly, took over: loosing respect. We see it so often often today, in any social network, in any shitstorm, an error as old as the net. What happens to be a major civilizing factor in face-to-face communication, the ability to back off from the outright humiliation of another human, gets lost in the area of mass communication via the internet. 2012 was a time in which each one of us reveled in the fact of eventually having found an arena in which raging against the x-buddhist machine was not only possible but that it would be heard too by those who were addressed. Additionally it was a rage with a very good point. Lot’s of arguments were made and lots of Buddhists had to struggle with them. But it went too far and so, in this respect too, the project went astray.

During that campaign in 2012 Mr. Pepper introduced a categorization developed by Badiou. The three subjects: the faithful (the good), the reactionary (the bad), and the obscurantist (the ugly). Subsequently it became clear that Mr. Pepper was using this terminology not as a qualitative differentiation developed from analysis but as a kind of caste system in which only those capitulating to his thinking belonged to the faithful. Debating or asking inconvenient topics and questions became a reason to be degraded to the lower castes. Certain topics like neurobiology or psychotherapeutics, for example, became effectively and affectively forbidden. People mentioning them without condemning them at once or in fact arguing in favour of them were met with blunt and brutal insult. Argumentation and analysis were put off while Word Blood boiled over in frenzy. Respect was absolutely no option. Mr. Wallis himself never took sides in these confrontations. At best he would console the victim of an assault via private conversation – never he openly took a position against Mr. Pepper. Although it was possible to see that Mr. Wallis actually had differing opinions vis-à-vis Mr. Pepper, it seemed he would not risk to loose the Pepper asset. Namely because Mr. Pepper indeed was producing something – his Faithful Buddhist –, and that, in the wake of Badiou, Alhusser etc., became priority, while the original intuition, that Laruelle got through to something even more important, was lost. And so Word Blood culminated finally in spring 2013 when the open debate about the social structure developing with the participants of the Speculative Non-Buddhism project was declared anathema by Mr. Wallis. At last the blog was closed and Word Blood ended in embarrassment by disease mongering dissidents. It was a capitulation to the inability to come to terms with an event and its challenges. There had been a strong campaign to confront contemporary Buddhism with its contradictions and Mr. Pepper developed one of the rare critical thoughts within this Buddhism, but that was it. It is unclear to this day, apart from some minor attempts, how the non-buddhist subject looks like.

With that background it seemed a positive development when Mr. Wallis announced this October that he would start writing again on his blog. It would be “a continuation, but redirection, of what came before,” he wrote. Mr. Pepper in the meantime had opened and closed again his blog The Faithful Buddhist (his texts are published though), while the posse at this blog – The Non-Buddhist – went further away from any Buddhist thought. I wondered what Mr. Wallis would come up with. At least we here tried to understand more about non-philosophy, in whatever meager way. Would he finally be able to get his project going again? When Mr. Wallis eventually came out with his post Worstward Ho! it was a disappointment. Yes, the topic was about the constructive side of the non-buddhism project, but again there was this ostentative pictorial and metaphorical language reeking of the romanticism of Word Blood: picking through the rubble of the ruins of the buddhist real by the practitioner who has ruined (decimated, cloned, flattened) the x-buddhist material, carrying out promising-looking husk and hull… What crucial change takes place when philosophical/buddhist material is indeed cloned and not just reappropriate without turning the white light of decision and difference off (like the so called theological turn of philosophy)? In praxis it never was shown. Neither in the early stage of the project, certainly not with Word Blood, not in Mr. Wallis’s contribution to our book Cruel Theorie | Sublime Practice nor in the worstward post. But being an disappointment in this regard, after all, Mr. Wallis posed the question of organization. We here discussed this since some time without any visible result. In this sense it was a welcome coincidence. But the discussion going on from this point proofed to be instructive in a way not intended. We do not have before us now the ruins of the buddhist real, it’s the ruins of the speculative non-buddhist project. We proofed one more time that with Mr. Wallis – and in the end with Jack in the box Mr. Pepper again – we are not getting away from a modus of debate which exactly is depicted in the insightful words which are cited as the opener of this text. Worstward indeed.

The final absurd tragedy of this project is that such a discussion, in which the art of intellectual flamewar is cultivated as the sole ethics of interaction, is advertised as a step forward to a new subject, to a new thinking and is indeed produced and sold at the exchange of symbolic capital as a new elite leading to liberation – while actually Mr. Wallis and Mr. Pepper look like the zombies of their own ideas now.

It is true, both produced a lot of important stuff which hopefully give a lot of people the proverbial food for thought. Mr. Pepper indeed developed ideas about Buddhism which are so rare today that one can only recommend one or two other projects with equal force within Buddhism. One being the Critical Buddhism of Hakayama Noriaki and Matsumoto Shiro, the other perhaps being that of Sulak Sivaraksa whose Socially engaged Buddhism for once does not seem to be another Buddhist ventriloquism. Mr. Wallis on the other side provides with his Performance of non-buddhist Heuristics an exceptional tool for every Buddhist practitioner who has only the slightest doubt about his praxis, to get rid of this delusional misinterpretation of most modern Buddhism as a means of liberation. Indeed, together, both thoughts might be the means of a new and critical Buddhism which could be a force to alter – to some limited extent – social structures of alienation, exploitation and general confusion disguised as enlightenment. But this is Buddhism – another, albeit better, X-Buddhism –, one which to the day neither addresses the question of the organization of resistance within power, nor one which in the least sense thinks about what was the intuition which brought this project to life.

As it stands now these two protagonists look very much like they have been zombified. One playing silly games as a sockpuppet again, while the other in his latest installment tries to reincarnate yet another round of Word Blood, declaring it this time the non-buddhist facilitator, who – of course – reveals to you – again – your own ignorance and stupidity. At best, in the sense of the above said, about the attainments of the two, Speculative Non-Buddhism is now philosophy as Laruelle analyses it, another not so stupid vicious circle, at worst it is ridiculous gimmickry of two men not knowing how to stopp after they have given their performance – spoiling thereby what has been achieved.

Either way it is The Zombification of Speculative Non-Buddhism.

———————————–

[Edit: The blog Speculative Non-Buddhism – to which the two links at the end of the text point – was taken offline 11/27/2014.]

[2nd Edit: The blog Speculative Non-Buddhism – to which the two links at the end of the text point – was taken online again on 12/02/2014.]

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49 thoughts on “The Zombification of Speculative Non-Buddhism

  1. Matias,

    Could you write something here as extensive and concrete as possible about what you mean by “the question of the organization of resistance within power” ?

    Regards,

    Luis Daniel

  2. Luis, the problem can be described generally as follows:

    The dilemma of fight and resistance against modern power in every instance is, that modern power functions subjectivizing, meaning it transforms individuals into subjects by imprinting on them certain identities, putting them into certain roles and attributing to them certain knowledges; in this sense power always already is part of the subjectivity which could turn against it.

    The question has been often times topic at the SNB-blog although its paradox has not been solved. The above quotation is from a German text which discusses the problem from a Foucaultian point of view. Check the keyword governementality for example and go on from there.

    An “extensive and concrete as possible” discussion about this is not feasible in the commentary thread of a commentary. Sorry.

  3. Another narrative concerning the history of SNB might look like this. A group of readers don’t like being challenged and become absolutely obsessed with Tom Pepper. Their obsession leads to a blog centered on endless circle jerks about SNB and Pepper. And, whenever SNB or Pepper rear their heads on the internets, they absolutely lose their shit leading to even more endless blog activity by the ‘real thinkers’ on NTB. That’s where the real work is being done. It’s just that that damn Tom Pepper is so mean! Think about and try to end suffering or be obsessed with Tom Pepper?

  4. “absolutely obsessed with Tom Pepper” … yes indeed. I have heard this opinion often. It is well known. It is basically an objection I have summarized under the label disease mongering dissidents.

  5. Actually I was thinking about putting the comment function off before I posted this final commentary on Speculative Non-Buddhism. I was thinking about such comments like the one Vacant Horizon just posted. More bullshit to reproduce more flamewar.

    So from now on for this thread, I am going to let only through comments which have a substantial take on the topic. Any critique and any differing narrative is welcome.

  6. Instead of deleting, it would be more interesting for all readers to hear your story from your point of view. What you see for example as achievements and failures of SNB. But it is useless to point out stuff which has been reiterated often enough and – what is most important – is just an opinion, not an argument. I am pretty old school in this regard.

  7. Matias #2,

    A few things.

    Dissidence is the only thing that matters for its the seed of distributed power.

    […]

    Nevertheless you highlight the importance of respect. From my point of view any attempt of achieving objectivity points in the old direction of truth being conceived as something found and not created by humans. Since that never is the case (it is imposible, for all descriptions are human) the whole effort about it becomes a form of fascism, of imposing views upon others, including others telling your what troubled subjectivty/stupidity is about. I think this partly represetns the case you describe with SNB.

    […]

  8. Comment #9 accidentally went through unedited last night. I edited it now.

    Luis, re “a form of fascism […] I think this partly represetns the case you describe with SNB.” I am absolutely against the frivolous use of the term fascism. Look up what fascism has been historically and think about the relevance of it in this case. It will be zero.

    Re objectivity. Mr. Pepper went to great lengths often times to explain that there are transitive and intransitive truths. Although you are a longtime reader of SNB obviously that differentiation never went through to you. Why do you hold unto your truth so steadfastly? (It’s just a rhetorical question. Do not discuss it here.)

  9. Mattias, it wasn’t long ago that you guys were complaining a lack of participation on this blog, and what you could do to encourage more than the same old voices having the same old discussions. And now you encourage others to comment but only if the comment passes your criterion of a sufficiently rigorous argument, or you perceive it not to be useless. So what do you really want? I appreciate you don’t want to start another flame war, but I raise it because of that sense of hollowness I had, for example, when Glenn talked about organization and action. It doesn’t quite seem to ring true to me.

    Here is my non-argument opinion, as an interested outsider, on recent events. I think Gabe/Tom got it right, with the staggering lack of irony that only Tom can muster, in that SNB is/was characterised by a need to display intellectual and moral superiority over others. And the recent “turn” was more of the same, where everyone got to demonstrate their moral superiority (along with the customary intellectual superiority), because they were doing (or had done) real “work” in the real world.

    Much of what is valuable in the world exists because of the insecurity of humans. SNB may have made some significant achievements, a machine that kills x-buddhists no less, but still, when these kinds of motivations appear so important to the enterprise, they do rather get in the way of it.

  10. It seems Glenn has “pulled the plug”. My regret is that I made my last contribution in the form of “word blood”. It surprises me how angry his parting statements made me, especially his accusation of cosiness and his division of the project into a Laruellien and a Badiouien phase. For me that is to ignore the differences between Laruelle and Badiou. It doesn’t take the differences between them seriously and doesn’t follow through on the consequences of that division for non-buddhism. I realized at that point that to continue was impossible for me.(and got angry)

    I would like to investigate the way aggression and disrespect were structured into the project from the beginning. My interest in Buddhist meditation started after my experience of verbal combativeness on the left. I thought the practice of mindfulness might partially eliminate the habit, in my own behaviour at least. I think that was too simplistic. It didn’t take into account how aggression is facilitated by group structures and dynamics. If meditation has a role it might be there. The Buddhist model internalises what is relational.

    More on that later.

  11. Shawn, #12

    […] You encourage others to comment but only if the comment passes your criterion of a sufficiently rigorous argument, or you perceive it not to be useless. So what do you really want?

    The restriction applies only to this thread. I corrected #6 accordingly. I want to prevent – as the author – that in the wake of my text others use the opportunity to just unload sentiment without any kind of argument or with outright insult. I don’t want sufficiently rigorous argument, or what I perceive as not to be useless, I just want argument – or different narratives, or ideas, or informed opinion – whatever. I don’t want plain insult. The act of moderation is always a balance act, but one can tell insult from statement.

  12. Much of what is valuable in the world exists because of the insecurity of humans

    I don’t know exactly what I want any more here. Statements like the above, with a little flesh on them would be good, for sure. I’m finished with the “machines that kill x-buddhists”.polemical tone and the disrespect of the individual which it encourages. (I plead guilty)
    I am dropping the use of “x-buddhist”. I no longer believe it is useful. I think that Laruelle’s non-philosophy is not an anti philosophy and so has no use for the x. There are philosophies, and there is philosophy , in the technical sense Laruelle uses that term. Likewise there are Buddhisms and Buddhism in the technical sense used in the non-buddhist critique. The x promotes a them /us polemic. No them/us division exists at a basic level, and the levels of them/us that do exist might be negotiated without violence, or as little violence as possible. How to conduct critique and honest debate without “wordblood” is a good question to go on with.

    What do I want? Deeper study, less jargon, an attempt to communicate complex ideas in simple language. Something like this maybe:
    Not easy to do.

  13. There appeared to be a confusion (or disagreement) in the recent comments on SNB in the description of what can be found in the ashes of the x-buddhism following application of speculative non-buddhism. It seemed pretty clear to me that whatever that was, it would be (“just”) a form of x-buddhism. See, for example, Pepper’s x-buddhism. And yet it appeared that some (I recall a statement from Patrick to that effect) wanted that to be a speculative non-buddhism, or a non-buddhism. This didn’t make sense to me, as, more than anything, I see SNB as a method. A method, guided by the intuition that there is something worth salvaging from Buddhism to make the effort, given the right kind of distance (not too far, not too close). But whatever to be salvaged would still be Buddhism.

    #15 : “x-buddhism” creates an out-group, to be sure. But, really, who cares about the buddhism at the end of the x? If you have devoted your life to Buddhism, have many Buddhist friends, and work in a Buddhist school, then Buddhism will loom large for you. And so you care. But for “non-buddhists”, really, do you care? And does the society and circles that most of live us in? In my circles, Buddhism is a very marginal affair with a little consequence. Buddhists groups in the cities I have lived in few in number and numbers within them dwindling, with an increasing average age. Tibetan Buddhism seems quite healthy, but appears just a fad that won’t last. Now, meditation and mindfulness have more import, but then they have sucked far enough away from Buddhism into the hands of secularists that Buddhism has little relevance any more. And so, what about non-buddhism? Why not non-x? As noted by Mathias, this blog has moved further away from Buddhism thought. Skipping through the headers of recent posts, that seems clear. If there is hope for any of “this” to have some consequence in the world, then Buddhism doesn’t seem the best avenue for that.

    But then again, if this isn’t non-buddhism, isn’t this just a bunch of people complaining about neoliberalism? Ok, that is facile, but I am curious about is what does a non-buddhism look like without the buddhism. What kind of value does/can it have (independent of an understanding of SNB)?

  14. Shawn #16 “but I am curious about is what does a non-buddhism look like without the buddhism.”

    The intuition behind SNB was the relevance of Laruelle’s non-philosophy to Buddhism. Non-philosophy is not anti- or post-philosophy, just as non-Euclidean geometry is not anti- or post-geometry. Not only is there not a non-Euclidean geometry without geometry, there is not a non-Euclidean geometry without Euclid.

    Hyperbolic and elliptic non-Euclidean geometries arise from replacing Euclid’s fifth axiom — the parallel postulate — with an alternative axiom. (Euclid’s four other axioms are retained.) While built on the edifice constructed by Euclid, the well-known results are uninterpretable within Euclidean geometry.

    Whither non-Buddhism — Shawn’s comment, however, returns to the question raised many times here and at SNB – “Is there anything worth salvaging in the ruins of Buddhism?”.

    Despite it’s trope of non-duality, Buddhism is both idealistic and individualistic. Buddhism’s core instructions reject the practitioner’s efforts to change material, social conditions. Rather than act in the world, to alleviate suffering (dukkha) Buddhists are instructed to adjust their thinking / perception. For me this is the core tension at the root of the SNB project – What does Buddhism offer to a materialist? Not only does the Buddhist instruction to adjust one’s thinking undermine efforts to change social conditions, it occludes any understanding of the origins of suffering. Buddhism tells us that our experience of alienation, injustice, oppression is an individual, personal short-coming and not a constitutive core of capitalism.

    Clearly, the contributors to this blog reject Buddhism’s idealistic, individualism. But, surely, there is no non-Buddhism without Buddhism.

  15. Hello Shawn and Greg,

    Thank you for your thoughts and questions. It’s good to know that we still have readers of this calibre, despite the often clownish behaviour that marred the SNB experiment. Not to mention outright farce and aggressive “wordblood.” I don’t exempt myself. I am glad that at least two readers were not driven off by such scenes.

    I hope there are some more and that they will comment too, now that we have reached this crossroads.

    The points you both raise are complex. I started to try to answer them but failed to write anything that satisfied me. I need to give it all more thought. I will write a short post in response, referencing your comments and questions and any more that come up. It is important to give Matthias’s post some time, though, so I will wait for a week before publishing my thoughts. Thanks again. Please feel free to add anything else and to use the site for discussion between you two or anyone else who would like to chime in.

  16. I am devastated by this development. I honestly thought I was trying to make helpful suggestions. That critique, if valid, is constructive, and if invalid, merits correction, not abuse. Reactionaries merit abuse. I refuse to accept the diagnosis of Mr Syme (an admitted sockpuppet of sorts, whether Pepper or not) that I am so reactionary it is not worth pointing out my errors.

    Patrick, your last post at SNB may have been a touch intemperate, but it also contained a lot of valuable thought. Did you preserve it? If not (and I also did not — it never occurred to me that Glenn would take his football and abandon the field without even the kind of advance notice we got from Tom) then we are foolish indeed to have assumed that blogs belonging to others were safe repositories for our (pathetic, perhaps, but heart felt) outpourings. If you did, can you post it again here, or at nonbuddhist.com? At least the link about Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?.

    I am unwilling to conclude that Glenn has “pulled the plug.” This may be a temporary or circumstantial thing, or he may have a change of heart. (Oh dear, I am twice in two paragraphs referencing “heart.” My subjective idealism is running rampant.)

    Though I can only agree with much of what Matthias has posted in this thread, yet the overall thrust is wrong. It was never the goal of SNB to liquidate the critique of x-buddhism into the study of Laruelle — even Matthias’ own contribution to CT|SP focused not on Laruelle, but on Boyer. SNB invoked non-philosophy only by way of analogy. Glenn — who alone held the project together — always intended an eclectic synthesis of Buddhism and contemporary ideas. As Greg rightly puts it (#17), there is no non-buddhism without Buddhism.

    Matthias claims that the contributions to the post Dialogical Meditations I attributed to him were extracted in a somehow illegitimate manner. I cannot dispute that claim. But those contributions point a way forward, as his subsequent efforts to distance himself from them do not. Glenn and Matthias both called for direct action. Matthias pointed out that once it “becomes obvious… that there will be no authority leading into the transition to a hypothetical new truth… interest fades” with the “result… that very few people go any further.” Glenn replied: “I’ve experienced the same outcome. It was quite disheartening [aha! that subjective idealism again!], but not the least bit surprising.”

    Has this unsurprising outcome convinced both Glenn and Matthias that the enterprise is futile? I do not think that is what has occurred. Rather, I think that the effort required to overcome this barrier has proved, temporarily, frustrating to both of them. SNB is not zombified, it is merely (as Patrick says) at a crossroads. The call for direct action (of, it is important to point out, an as yet unspecified nature) has been met with predictable resistance. The resistance will be protracted, the effort required to overcome it great. A major task will be the specification of the direct action contemplated — more than Glenn’s proposal for a non-buddhist facilitator, more than Matthias’ vague invocations of the need for “real work” will be needed. Not “action” in the abstract, but specific actions must be proposed, and defended against the reservations of those of us who (based, in some cases, on substantial experience which Glenn too readily discounted by using the term “distasteful”) are far from ready, for a variety of practical and theoretical reasons, to move beyond the (admittedly relatively “cozy”) realm of intellection.

    (Parenthetically, and somewhat reluctantly, I express my unwillingness to join Matthias in equating Mr Syme, and his predecessor Bill S, with Tom Pepper. Bill S shared with Tom Pepper only his contempt for those who did not acquiesce in his view of what it could be reasonable to believe. Mr Syme, I grant, gave an imitation of Tom Pepper that was far too convincing to be readily dismissed. He walked and quacked like a duck, and it was hard to believe that he was instead a Happy Valley lefty who had merely made a desultory study of the habits of ducks. But while Tom Pepper can surely be overbearing and arrogant, I still have difficulty believing him to be fundamentally dishonest. Unless Tom Pepper has in fact relocated from Connecticut to Pennsylvania and there organized a small group of activists around agitation for radical income redistribution, I cannot accept that he would present such a biography, even under an assumed name, as fact. To do so would undermine the credibility of everything he has advocated for — and to what end? For the sake of hurling a few epithets at his undeserving inferiors, only to once again exit the scene with a Dick Nixonesque “you can’t fire me, I quit.” Tom may be a master of gesture, but mere gesture, I hope, is not yet his master.)

  17. Hi David,
    You raise many interesting points but I won’t respond just yet . I think I would be better writing a short post. I will try to cover the points you raise in that. I didn’t preserve my comment on SNB- never do. Here is the link to the review of Larst lih’s book: “Lenin rediscovered, What is to be done in context.”

    Will get back to you soon.

  18. I seem to be having difficulty with my post so I will take a shot at answering your questions here.
    My answer’s will probably raise more questions but that’s to the good I suppose.

    Shawn,

    […] A method, guided by the intuition that there is something worth salvaging from Buddhism to make the effort, given the right kind of distance (not too far, not too close). But whatever to be salvaged would still be Buddhism

    Well I don’t think either Glenn or Matthias entered into non-buddhism thinking there definitely was something to be salvaged. It was an open question. In any case my understanding is that whatever can be salvaged would be ,to use Glenns term “buddhistically uninterpretable” which is his colourful way of saying that Buddhists would not be able to make sense of it because it no longer functioned within their system of thought.

    Using Laruellien language, what can be salvaged is just Buddhism reduced to its last instance–human material. Human here means finite lived experience-what Laruelle considers to be the last thing we can say about the” real” before we over step the given boundaries of thought. Its not a reduction of the human but a last instance of speech about the human from which we can proceed to think the human in new ways.

    There are lots of things that could be asked about this but I will leave that for now

    But, really, who cares about the Buddhism at the end of the x?

    I no longer care about the x, taking “care” to mean that I still have an emotionally charged relation to Buddhism. I no longer have. I no longer decide for Buddhism and I no longer feel what Wallis calls a nostalgia fuelled by loss or perplexity. As I write, thought, I see that I do have an emotionally charged relation to non-buddhism and have decided for it against Buddhism . What does this mean apart from something akin to the horror of Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence? Maybe entry into ideology is structured into language; our relations with each other are always and already ideological; behind our backs as it were.

    Does this mean that you can build a new ideology the same way as you can build a new house -from the ground up and after a plan.? Glenn seemed to think so. At one stage I asked him how we formulate axioms, which is a round about way of asking how we come to make a new ideology better suited to our situation. His answer was that “I formulate axioms according to the ideology I want to create”.I was struck by two things. His answer didn’t seem to add anything new. It seemed to be a tautology, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made it so. Secondly his use of the “I” seemed to suggest that he had already decided on the basics, on his basics. Dialogue then was not a process of coming to agreement on the outline of a new approach but a battle between already existing options.

    Greg,

    Why not non-x? As noted by Matthias, this blog has moved further away from Buddhism thought. Skipping through the headers of recent posts, that seems clear. If there is hope for any of “this” to have some consequence in the world, then Buddhism doesn’t seem the best avenue for that.

    I agree . As I said above whatever Buddhism has to offer will be unrecognisable as Buddhism and will no longer function within the system of Buddhism. Non-x? Maybe. We will see.

    For me this is the core tension at the root of the SNB project – What does Buddhism offer to a materialist?

    The answer seems to be that once the various concepts and practices have been extracted from what Laruelle calls the decisional structure everything is available for use as one see fit . If its useful use it. If not forget it.

    Buddhism tells us that our experience of alienation, injustice, oppression is an individual, personal short-coming and not a constitutive core of capitalism.

    Agreed. But I didn’t need non-buddhism to tell me that; which begs the question — what is non-buddhism good for? More on that later but for now I’d say that its good for doing work on Buddhism. If we look at the core of Buddhism as Buddhism formulates it —.Buddha, Dharma, Sangha — it seems that the work has been more or less done. We have discovered that the Buddha as we have come to know him is not an historical figure but a protracted literary/philosophical/cultural invention; that the Dharma is a circular process with, at its core, a decision, cognitive and affective, for the Dharma as transcendent arbitrator of the real; that the Sangha is an hierarchical co-opted entity practising a form of political quietism. Conclusion; scrap Buddhism.

    You can still do non-buddhism if you have a mind to; teasing out all of the implications in fine detail. For me that seems now to be a work of the living on the dead, a graveyard meditation if you will forgive the pun. No doubt there is a career there for some academic if he feels inclined; an extension of the discipline of non-philosophy to the analysis of cognitive and affective decision as it applies to religion.

    David:

    It was never the goal of SNB to liquidate the critique of x-buddhism into the study of Laruelle —

    There’s no need to speculate. We have Glenns words from Nascent Speculative Non Buddhism.

    Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhisms designed with three primary functions in mind: to uncover Buddhism’s syntacticalstructure (unacknowledged even by—especially by—Buddhists themselves); to serve as a means of inquiry into the sense and viability of Buddhist propositions; and to operate as a check on the tendency of all contemporary formulations of Buddhism whether of the traditional, religious, progressive or secular variety—toward ideological excess

    As I said above I think that work was completed. My personal conclusion is that Buddhism is not a viable option going forward. What was not completed was an enquiry into theway Laruelle’s non-philosophical method might help in formulating a new approach, especially since Glenn has opted to concentrate on “practice”. Laruelle has interesting things to say about philosophical decision which bear on Marxism , for example. And there is the thorny question of philosophical decision in Badiou’s thought and Badiou’s counter-claims. Any exploration of practice, ideology or “party building” would benefit from exploring these and other questions in detail. Its not to be or so it seems.

    The call for direct action (of, it is important to point out, an as yet unspecified nature) has been met with predictable resistance. The resistance will be protracted, the effort required to overcome it great. A major task will be the specification of the direct action contemplated — more than Glenn’s proposal for a non-buddhist facilitator, more than Matthias’ vague invocations of the need for “real work” will be needed. Not “action” in the abstract, but specific actions must be proposed, and defended against the reservations of those of us who (based, in some cases, on substantial experience which Glenn too readily discounted by using the term “distasteful”) are far from ready, for a variety of practical and theoretical reasons, to move beyond the (admittedly relatively “cozy”) realm of intellection.

    Most of the above I agree with. I would add that the work of thinking things through is often the best action we can take. I don’t understand Glenn’s reaction but it’s no good speculating.

    Patrick, your last post at SNB may have been a touch intemperate, but it also contained a lot of valuable thought

    Matthias has done some behind the scenes magic . Here’s my SNB comment for what its worth.
    I thought these questions could be discussed with Glenn but it seems not.

    If I drop the hyperbole, the implied slight against academics, and over the top use of “an outmoded Marxist terminology” (all of which I wish I hadn’t used) what I said was obvious ; 1) professors should do what they are best at and what the oppressed for obvious reasons are bad at -formulate a theoretical basis for radical action; (which doesn’t stop professors rolling up their sleeves and getting in on the action. I once saw a professor charge at a line of police- a sight to behold!). 2) Don’t fall into the trap of thinking what is needed is yet another sect bringing the truth to the oppressed. The oppressed have created a wealth of organizations already in struggle. The party will form out the men and women who come forward during the struggle and cannot be created apart from that, certainly not following templates of the past and repeating the disasters of Stalinism.3) there’s a danger in replacing “self realization by means of meditation” with “self realization by means of politics”-a sort of quasi religious approach to saving the world as a personal project. 4( What exactly we should do regarding putting convictions into practice is a matter for each individual taking into account their own circumstances and should be left at that.

    What we don’t want is what Matthias points to here.

    During that campaign in 2012 Mr. Pepper introduced a categorization developed by Badiou. The three subjects: the faithful (the good), the reactionary (the bad), and the obscurantist (the ugly). Subsequently it became clear that Mr. Pepper was using this terminology not as a qualitative differentiation developed from analysis but as a kind of caste system in which only those capitulating to his thinking belonged to the faithful. Debating or asking inconvenient topics and questions became a reason to be degraded to the lower castes.

    Patrick jennings kommentierte unter Organizational Notes #34.
    als Antwort auf Glenn Wallis:

    Who can still doubt that the logic of contemporary western x-buddhism is a redoubling of the logic of western neoliberal capitalism? On one hand, this should not be surprising. For, everywhere it goes, x-buddhism conforms to the dominant ideology of its host. On the other hand, it should be outright revolting. For, everywhere it goes, […]

    Hi Glenn
    Whether or not to “engage” in revolutionary practice is never the question. Do it if you decide you must. Whats the big deal? This question is an old one , so old its a bit laughable that it should become an issue here. Of course its the classic petty bourgeois question (pardon my outmoded terminology) since the members of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia have an option about struggle. Some of them answer with years of dedicated struggle in the workers movement, others run hot and cold. Some opt for “self- realization through politics”, another classic petty bourgeois trait. (and one we often see transferred to politics from well meaning but theoretically bankrupt x-buddhists, who suddenly sprout a social conscience (another petty-bourgeois invention) and ask the silly question —so what are you doing in practice to make the world a better place? Simone Bouvier’s ” The Blood of Others” is probably the best literary exploration of this mindset.
    As for professes and their role, again its an old question .The answer is mostly always the same professors should do what workers are not good at for obvious reasons—-help construct a strong theoretical basis for workers struggle. In other words do the most un romantic thing— remain in position, all ones life if necessary, and do the hard stuff—-think.
    There’s no need to form a party. The oppressed have a long tradition of struggle, in America as much as any where else. You don’t have to look far to find struggle-its all around you in innumerable forms and already well established organizations-neighbourhood organizations, unions, anti racist groups, organizations of the undocumented, ecological organizations, animal rights , anti-war activism etc. etc.. Pardon my harping on the issue but bringing the “message” to the oppressed in the form of yet another new party, sect, group of two bearing the “good news” for the workers is another petty bourgeois trait. As Mark and Engels tirelessly pointed out the workers leadership will emerge in the confusion, terror and exile ration of social upheaval. The task of radicals in the meantime is to educate and organize. There is nothing to be smug about here–its bread and butter. Is up to the individual to decide the when and how of action-at least for the petty bourgeois academic. For the oppressed its a matter of deciding, usually with their backs to the wall, whether to risk resistance in times of massive compromise. Many opt to keep their mouth shut and knuckle down. Ironically, but that’s another petty bourgeois trait, the same “self realization by means of politic crowd” nearly always scream extremism when the oppressed finally get off their knees and take to the street(their streets) and start to tear down and wreak vengeance.
    Anyone interested in the complex and very old issue of “what is to be done ” could start by reading Paul Blackledge’s review of a good book on Lenin’s classic “What is to be done” by Lars T Lih, available here.http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=218&issue=111 Warning, if you are poised with your hat (workers cap of course) and coat on , and are clutching some leaflets fresh of the press in your (well manicured) hand, this book will give you pause for thought. As he points out the relation between the revolutionary act and the equally revolutionary non-act is a dialectical one that needs to be held in tension.
    “As Lih points out, because Marxists insist that socialism can only come from below we realise that it will necessarily emerge out of sectional and fragmented struggles. It is the sectional and fragmentary nature of the struggle which creates differences between more and less advanced workers, and consequently leads to the emergence of socialist leaders: anyone who organises a strike, challenges a racist argument, rips down a sexist calendar at work, etc. is acting as a leader. What is more, anyone who challenges such actions is also acting as a leader. ”
    Happy activism dears (its all so new and exiting, gosh I can’t wait for the revolution can you?)

  19. Thanks for the comments etc.

    The zombification text was meant to be a last statement about the SNB-project in regard of Mr. Wallis and Mr. Pepper, so I am not going to comment any more about it. All the more any references have been erased and more discussion without this referent will add to the confusion this must produce for people who are not so acquainted with the whole thing. I recommend to go back to the thing itself, namely the work which is available.

    Web contend which has been discontinued normally is retrievable via services like the Internet Archive. In this case it seems like Mr. Wallis took precautions that the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism is not available anymore in any form. The hasty comeback of Mr. Wallis (and hasty it was in my view) and now the sudden total erasure of his blog of course poses some important questions beyond what my intention with Zombification was. [Edit 12/02/2014: The blog is online again in archive modus.]

    It seems like one question raised in the comments revolves around the problem if one should use Buddhist material or not. I think this polarization is wrong. Of course one can use the material. The review of Lars T Lih, Lenin Rediscovered: What is to be Done? in Context gives a great example how material can change if looked at from different angles.

    Is the enterprise futile? What enterprise, though? My enterprise is the following question: What kind of action/living/art/politics is possible which is not sooner or later reappropriated by neo-liberal economy? That reappropriation appears is clear. Every attempt for any political act must work with this question – otherwise it is just useless activism. The theory/praxis polarization, to position the one against the other, is useless too. And for me all this has nothing more to do with Buddhism as we know it today.

    Though I can only agree with much of what Matthias has posted in this thread, yet the overall thrust is wrong. It was never the goal of SNB to liquidate the critique of x-buddhism into the study of Laruelle — even Matthias’ own contribution to CT|SP focused not on Laruelle, but on Boyer. SNB invoked non-philosophy only by way of analogy. Glenn — who alone held the project together — always intended an eclectic synthesis of Buddhism and contemporary ideas. As Greg rightly puts it (#17), there is no non-buddhism without Buddhism.

    My interpretation was different from the very onset of SNB. My main interest with Buddhism was meditation. I came to Buddhism with lots of experience with different practices in this regard. My credo then became, Buddhist sells meditation as something extraordinary, but it isn’t, everybody has it already. That’s it in a nutshell. I tried to make this point again and again – to no avail. Probably that’s because, indeed, it becomes buddhistically uninterpretable when shorn of its transcendental representations.

    Laruelle puts apart all greco-european tradition. It is impossible to think Non-Buddhism without Laruelle. Everything else is mere philosophy (or more x-buddhism). That is important because one can see this thrust in Buddhism too – to put apart the very syntax of thinking and to look what happens. But by saying the latter, I must have a certain thought about Buddhism. How this thought appears and then might turn against itself is a difficult question. My insistence about “hermeneutics” was about this question.

    My contribution to the book. I was thinking, while writing it, in the fall of 2012, about shunning it. At that time it became clear that Mr. Pepper was in it for doing his Buddhism and only his Buddhism. The Laruelle part of my text would have come long after what now is its end. I wouldn’t be able to write it even now. My text was premature, its a fragment and a bad one. I regret not having shunned the book project then. I succumbed to siren song of having a publication. Fuck!

    I will take a pause for the next two or three weeks with this, being busy with other things anyway. But the project is far from over. For me the last three years have been a radicalization. I am not going to reverse this path.

  20. Regarding the behind the scenes magic of retrieving erased content. I subscribed to the SNB blog via my own wordpress account. There one can choose to get an e-mail every time a new post and a new comment is posted. The mail contains the whole text of the post and the comment. Lots of people will have parts of Mr. Wallis’s blog in their mail.

  21. Matias – and Patrick,

    I think you are not alone. The whole world has been violently radicalized by the global reduction of freedom and economic contraction.
    The real problem is that from 2007 onwards the economy is spending 1.5 the total resources that earth can renew in a year. This will no doubt affect mostly the 20% of world population which consume 80% of its resource. The degrowth movement is a good place to start.
    I think that relevance in light of this fundamental challenge is the problem we need to solve, from all possible perspectives/views.
    From my point of view any attempt of achieving objectivity (truth being conceived as something found and not created by humans, this is dogma), blocks this possibility, enabling all sort of not so new forms of totalitarian and fundamentalist views in the name of the best possible causes, thus fueling the problem. There is also the ever present possibility of another artificially created major threat/war in any major city in the western world to justify reducing freedom of expression. In that sense SNB boldness was good in that it allowed all sorts of expressions. It just failed to really harness its creativity by – of all things – failing to suspend its preconceived decisions and justifying its imposition upon others.
    However I find no other way of living a better life in this context than standing and building an entirely new way of co-living that addresses this challenge.
    Thus from my point of view subjectivity is not the problem, but dogma and concentration of material power. Change the latter and you will change the former.
    I haven’t find a better way of doing this than the idea of implementing a true democracy, solidarity, the elimination of all forms of cruelty, the development of prudence and sensibility, the use of the psychoanalytic device (dialogue in a defined setting) and Art as a form of self-creation (not just resistance). An alternative currency that incorporates the true environmental and social cost in price formation is also important.

  22. Luis Daniel #25 wrote: “The real problem is that from 2007 onwards the economy is spending 1.5 the total resources that earth can renew in a year. This will no doubt affect mostly the 20% of world population which consume 80% of its resource. The degrowth movement is a good place to start.”

    These figures, if correct, show exactly why “degrowth” is the wrong place to start. What we have is not a consumption problem, it is a distribution problem. If we allocate only 20 percent of resource (instead of 80 percent) to the (privileged) 20 percent of the population, that frees up 60 percent of resource. 60 percent of 1.5 of renewable is 0.9 of renewable. Subtract the 0.5 over renewable we are using, and we still have 0.4 of renewable available to improve the standard of living of the disadvantaged 80 percent of the population. Plus, once the privileged 20 percent are no longer making the decisions for everybody we will find there is a lot more renewable than we thought, it just doesn’t generate the profit required to exploit it under capitalism.

    The right place to start is organizing the 80 percent to stop letting the 20 percent make their decisions for them.

    Thanks, Patrick (#21) for the repost. Glad to see this is again available at SNB as well, though I guess Glenn’s “Archived” post bodes ill for any resumption of the discussion there. (Ironic if true, given the “symptom: fatigue / diagnosis: fatigue” graphic Glenn used for “Organizational Notes #34.” Why #34, by the way? I am always late getting these references — only just realizing that “Worstward Ho” was a Beckett reference.) I regret some of what I said, but I also think the last three SNB posts and the comments they provoked (34,163 words, including three comments to “Dialogical Meditations” that I never saw before the site went off line) contain a great deal worth thinking about and point a way forward. Organizations, as Glenn put it, “conceive of the subject and fashion the person who then replicates their values.” Creating a new subject requires “organizations that are built to house” that subject. Not sure TNB is on board with that theoretically, much less on board with building such organizations. So if Glenn is fatigued….

    Patrick, as you point out, there are plenty of parties. Too many, in the sense that the multiplicity itself leaves the class they hope to speak for unheard. But perhaps that does not mean there’s “no need to form a party.” Your quote from the (excellent) Blackledge review referencing the “necessarily…. sectional and fragmentary nature of the struggle” is apropos here. Parties rise up to address the particular demands of particular struggles, and one of their functions is, in the course of those struggles, to allow the participants to gain experience and clarify their thinking. Parties split and consolidate endlessly, and that is frustrating and confusing, but it reflects the process of participants coming to find where they have common ground with others, and where they don’t.

  23. Hi Luis and David,

    “The real problem is that from 2007 onwards the economy is spending 1.5 the total resources that earth can renew in a year. This will no doubt affect mostly the 20% of world population which consume 80% of its resource. The degrowth movement is a good place to start.”…David

    The right place to start is organizing the 80 percent to stop letting the 20 percent make their decisions for them. ..Luis

    My thought is that there is no one place to start, unless you insist on there being only one right way of going about radical politics. I prefer a “see what happens while trying to think things through” approach. Why not start from both places at once? — Individual and communal practice committed to cutting down on excessive consumption and campaigns to organize the oppressed. Since, in material terms, both are related, why not address both aspects in any program of action?

    For me this is a way of allowing people to begin tospeak for themselves and to self-organize. In Marxist terms this might be the difference between a soviet (workers council) and a professional revolutionary party. As Lars T Lih points out this relation between the “Leninist” party and the “organs of workers power” is not as it has been depicted in the subsequent discussion, which had more to do with contemporary ideological battles than any interest in the actual conditions in which the Bolshevik experiment was undertaken.

    I think we could be more flexible in our thinking. One way to do this is to resist habitual terminology which generates in thinking a momentum in one direction. Language conditions thought, since language is the bearer of particular ways of seeing the world. For me this means a constant questioning of Marxist terminology. I would like to apply Laruelle’s philosophical method to Marxism . I think it is needed, although my habitual way of thinking makes me want to resist that. Matthias touched on this in his comment:

    That is important because one can see this thrust in Buddhism too – to put apart the very syntax of thinking and to look what happens. But by saying the latter, I must have a certain thought about Buddhism. How this thought appears and then might turn against itself is a difficult question. My insistence about “hermeneutics” was about this question.

    Thus from my point of view subjectivity is not the problem, but dogma and concentration of material power. Change the latter and you will change the former….. Luis

    Agreed. There is a definite relation between material power, — control of productive forces, raw material, natural resources etc — and social and political power. I think this relation is well established. For me the neo-liberal insistence on individual freedom and the doctrinaire marxist privileging of historical necessity are distorted understandings of this relation. Some sort of dialectical thinking seems appropriate here that would take account of human freedom on the one hand and the constraints on thought and action on the other.

    Organizations, as Glenn put it, “conceive of the subject and fashion the person who then replicates their values.” Creating a new subject requires “organizations that are built to house that subject. ….David

    Again this was one of Glenn’s statements that worried me but that I had no time to respond to much less think about. It makes broad philosophical statements about human freedom .

    “Organizations conceive of the subject and fashion the person who then replicates their values.”

    This sentence needs to be carefully thought through. It seems a straight forward statement about the conditioning force of the material, where organization stands for material. But what to make of the attribution of thought to an organization? This seems to reference something to do with Lacan’s idea of the formation of the subject via the symbolic system, or even Badiou’s notion of the event. “Fashion the person” seems to be another straight forward reinstatement of a materialist position. And yet the terminology seems to reference Laruelle’s use of person as “finite lived experience” or the equivalent non-buddhist term “person of flesh and blood”. This, though, is inconsistent with the other parts of the statement since Laruelle definitely cites materialism as an example of philosophical decision, although he does try to think from materiality as a last instance of thought about the real.

    Anyway it’s a difficult statement to assimilate. I don’t bring this up to nit-pick but to illustrate why Matthias and I refused to be hurried into a “new phase of the project under the sign of Badiou and Zizek”.

    Glenn was over hasty and seemed to expect that his proclamation could just be accepted after cursory discussion. Such complex ideas cannot be thrown about like so much confetti.

    Parties split and consolidate endlessly, and that is frustrating and confusing, but it reflects the process of participants coming to find where they have common ground with others, and where they don’t….David

    Too true, but I would pause here and consider the history of the left since the Bolsheviks. Not only the horror of Stalinism is at issue here. There are many other disasters to add to the list. A long time ago, when I pointed this out to Tom he dismissed every instance I pointed to as “not an instance of genuine marxist thinking and practice” In the world I live in practice is localized in distinct social formations and carried out by individuals of varying capacities driven by complex motivations, confused understanding,compassion and, often, hatred. In this situation a split can have deadly results.

    I always want to remind myself of the difference between the consequences of radical thought and action in times of peace and upheaval. On the other hand the rhetoric of peace is often no more than a cover for massive structural violence, as Buddhist discourse undoubtedly shows.

    Ironic if true, given the “symptom: fatigue / diagnosis: fatigue” graphic Glenn used for “Organizational…David

    Yes. Strange. Havn’t a clue what he was thinking . Perhaps it’s a case of heartfelt feeling

  24. David and Patrick,

    I agree with you both. Equity and degrowth go together. But so does participative – transparent – democracy.

    Here are links related with what I posted:

    Global Footprint Network – humanity now needs 1.5 earths
    http://www.footprintnetwork.org/pt/index.php/newsletter/det/human_demand_outstripping_natures_regenerative_capacity_at_an_alarming_rate

    4th International conference on degrowth
    http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/

    A 10 point plan for degrowth
    http://www.postcarbon.org/how-to-shrink-the-economy-without-crashing-it-a-ten-point-plan/

    Any and all projects/actions in this direction (degrowth, equality and participatory democracy) is what we mostly need.

    The role of discourse and conversation, the possibility of elliciting collaborative creativity and harnessing its potential for working together in this direction is something, I think, worth exploring.

  25. In #19 I wrote: “…more than Matthias’ vague invocations of the need for ‘real work’ will be needed.”

    I should not have said that. Matthias was not vague. If anything, he was too specific, pointing in multiple directions. Let me suggest we focus on one (or more, I suppose, but I will settle for one) of three:

    1. A group reading of a text. We experimented with this at the nonbuddhist.com forum, reading Badiou’s Ethics. This was not entirely successful, in that only John and I participated. But I got a lot out of it. Possible texts: Brassier’s Nihil Unbound; Laruelle’s “A Rigorous Science of Man.” Or something else. The forum works well for this sort of thing, but it could be done here also.

    2. Formulate a manifesto. This does not have to mean party-building, but it probably requires thinking as though party-building might be a possibility. (Or, scarier still, founding a new religion.) What are the basics of what we think we may have discovered so far? Buddhism spread, at least in part, because it developed simple, memorable theses that encapsulated a novel way of grasping the real. (Also true of Marxism.) Maybe we aren’t there yet, but the attempt might be interesting.

    3. Hang out. This was Glenn’s #21 in the “Real Work” thread. Scarier and more challenging, I think, than either of the others. Time zones are a problem, format an issue. But if we are unwilling to face one another in real time, to at least try our hand at the “intimate group nature of x-buddhist practice” Glenn cited in “Organizational Notes #34” (and please, somebody, explain the “#34”), then aren’t we resigning ourselves to being only (in the words of Paul Blackledge in the review cited by Patrick) “a talking shop”?

  26. Hi Luis
    Re 28#
    Thanks for the links

    I havn’t followed them all yet but heres an initial reaction. Richard Heinberg’s 10 point plan to shrink the global economy includes the following:

    3. Restore the commons. As Karl Polanyi pointed out in the 1940s, it was the commodification of land, labor, and money that drove the “great transformation” leading to the market economy we know today. Without continued economic growth, the market economy probably can’t function long. This suggests we should run the transformational process in reverse by decommodifying land, labor, and money. Decommodification effectively translates to a reduction in the use of money to mediate human interactions. We could decommodify labor by helping people establish professions and vocations, as opposed to seeking jobs (“slavery on the installment plan”), and by promoting worker ownership of companies. As economist Henry George said over a century ago, land—which people do not create by their labor—should be owned by the community, not by individuals or corporations; and access to land should be granted on the basis of need and the willingness to use it in the community’s interest.

    4. Get rid of debt. Decommodifying money means letting it revert to its function as an inert medium of exchange and store of value, and reducing or eliminating the expectation that money should reproduce more of itself. This ultimately means doing away with interest and the trading or manipulation of currencies. Make investing a community-mediated process of directing capital toward projects that are of unquestioned collective benefit. The first step: cancel existing debt. Then ban derivatives, and tax and tightly regulate the buying and selling of financial instruments of all kinds.

    If you recall the history of Latin America from the 1950’s on, from one point of view its a history of one coup after another often organized by the U.S.covertly and also quite openly and with impunity. Governments have been overthrown and military dictatorships established for much less then Heinberg advocates. My point is that such a program will demand a political struggle against vested interests all of whom are well armed and have already decided for violence to protect and promote their interests (recent events in Mexico bring that home in a really horrific way) Struggle seems to be inevitable . The discussion is about movement building, organizational structures, means of struggle, ethics of struggle etc. From this perspective Heinberg fails to address the key issue —how to take power from those who have it and cede it to the people, with minimal violence and in such a way that grass-root democracy is established and flourishes — which is much more than having a free vote but involves control of productive forces, natural resources, wage rates, land and rents, capital and technology, education, law, administration of justice and control of local, regional and state organs of power. Some south American countries are experimenting with just such a program but without a continent wide extension of the movement I don’t see how it will succeed. All the while the spectre of the intervention of big brother looms large.

  27. A few moments ago I erased all comments from the zombi-thread by a certain schattenj4eger from Germany which he posted till this morning. The guy was enthusiastic until yesterday about the German translation of the SNB heuristic. I don’t know exactly why but he seems to have had a change of mind overnight and is spamming me now with insults.

  28. Pingback: Schattenjagen … Heute: Der Unbuddhist. | schattenj4gd

  29. Aye, @Culture and ethics of flamewars …

    I have to say, after first just encoutering the ideas of “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism”, I was somewhat surprised to find how it seems to have developed on here. The impression from what I got here is a little bit that somehow there was no real progression – just ongoing criticism with another and yet another example. Heuristic means that your preliminary information is not complete, right? So a handful of examples should do – why not go on from that point and do something that’s really constructive?

    I can indeed to some extent reflect upon “why buddhism” for me – in short, it was due to the spontaneous realization, during my first trials with meditation, that there are things in the world I don’t understand. Christianity was what had led me to these experiences, but explanations were missing, so I went on searching for something to find explanations. That was, after a some years break in which I just tried to forget about it all, tried to force myself back to reducing my brain to the knowledge of Western sciences. Well, constantly trying to shut down a part of your brain is not comfortable, so I went on searching – in books about Western ritual magic(k) and other sources I found available, and finally, due to influence of some enthusiastic and extremely superstitious devotee of Tibetan buddhism – with buddhism.
    Actually, my first encounter with that system was not so bad. I had heard about buddhism in school already, and actually remembering that it was told that Shakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment by finding the middle way between ascetism and caring for his body and life had been of help for me already. I went into introductory books and articles, then closer to Tibetan buddhism – well, and it began to be really worse when I started to encounter these fucked-up minds of quite SOME Western buddhists.

    My motivation, yet, was clear: Having realized that I lack knowledge about something, I was willing to listen, learn and adopt concepts – and maybe to some degree searching for a safe place in a universe that obviously was not as simple as physics and Western science had told me. Christianity failed. Western science, which is a believe system in itself, failed. Needed somthing better. Full stop.
    Everything else, every openness to concepts that I maybe didn’t understand etc, any “trust in advance” toward potential gurus, religions, systems, emerged to some degree from that, I assume. Not knowing the whole truth, and being aware of that, I was searching for something that provided knowledge about – e.g. how to deal with some experience of “emptiness”, and particularly some other things I won’t get into in detail.
    Unfortunately it always tended to turn out that those claiming to know more than I do usually were making up stories .. may that be pure invention or just traditional belief they had adopted without questioning. Anyway, few exceptions were there .. the puzzle of information that, in test by me, did not fail, grew bigger, the potential to sort out the crap from valid stuff increased, and the willingness to give “trust in advance” was diminished.

    I think I had pulled out largely when I went to some Tibetan empowerment ceremony with a person who is not just a “fake guru”, but really someone who has been in meditation retreat .. and even that powerful guy didn’t manage to infect me with his charisma. I was sitting there, watching him, watching the guys around me, fully aware how much a show it is and how little of real and valid stuff was happening .. and simply couldn’t go back afterwards.
    I wouldn’t have made that in less than four years if I wouldn’t have been lucky in meeting some people who had real and critically opinions on their own.

    So much on some information about a “subject” that really likes your “tools” – for, hey, I was aware that somewhere there’s a mistake. Some buddhist(!) guru with a remark in his book, that, well, if you think that being buddhist makes you higher than the local gods, you better think twice, draw me somewhat out the door, I searched for something like that – and gladly found that translation on Matthias’ German blog, that was a perfect fit to finish pulling me to some “fitting distance”. What I had absolutely not been aware of was the vagueness of the term “dharma”, nor had I seriously dared to think about the not real originality of e.g. the Pali Kanon. It is so childish, so stupid – but hey, can I know for sure that these threats in diverse Sutras, of how you will go to hell should you ever doubt one letter of it, are not really powerful curses that will hit me?
    I’m through a lot of fear, and I guess I’m still under influence of some of it. But, I guess, you cannot force yourself to believe some lie if you’ve already seen how it doesn’t fit the world.

    Back to some ideas how to continue, on that very personal basis of mine – why didn’t you ever really APPLY some of these views you developed, using the materials this stuff comes from? Sutras, commentarys by the really GOOD people that have been there in buddhist history? I mean, well, challenging naive people, and maybe harmful “buddhist” teachers, and provoking them, so maybe something will move – well, yes, it’s part of the deal, maybe sometimes fun, maybe sometimes annoying.. but at some point for sure boring. Why always stick to those who just believe and never went as deep as you yourself in your understanding? Why not use that satanic fearlessness, this attitude of not being afraid of being accused for heresy – why not use that perspective to have a look at those things in buddhism that are precious?
    For, actually, in different articles and comments by diverse people here, I did indeed find some respect and appreciation for certain past buddhist practicioners or scholars. Why not get back to these materials, to the materials written by really great people instead of those who misinterpret them today, and shed a new light on that stuff that other people don’t dare to?
    Never read one of this threats how much “qualification” and “practice” and “realization” people must have to write commentaries on sutras? .. Gosh, every stupid Tibetan is accepted as commentator just because they get their “titles” and “recognition”, and most of them are worse in really understanding what’s written in old commentaries, texts, sutras then you guys here in this project. If you are not capable of distinguishing which “old texts” are of value and which are plain instruments of mass control, I really don’t know who would be able to. Written free of irony 😉

    In other words, why always just address the worshippers (and entrepreneurs – Tutte’s blog was really enlightening for me today, though usually I just tended to avoid most websites that were set up in such a way, right from the start..), why not address the sources they get their ideas from? At least that was my first thought when Mr. Wallis harsh speach fought off some of the demons the Tibetans had bound me to with their superstition. Why not take some sutra that has wrong ideas and pull them to light? .. Oh, well, maybe that’s more my task, right? 😉

    Kali is with you, my dear accusers, why not use that knife to chop off the enemies head, that is there called “ignorance”.
    Just an idea.

    Have a nice time.

  30. Luis #28: Thanks for your citations, very interesting stuff. Patrick’s comments about Heinberg are correct, Heinberg “fails to address the key issue” of how to change the power equation. But Heinberg’s discussion is very intelligent, and he explicitly recognizes that he is failing to address that issue. In fact, he seems to at least implicitly concede that he is proposing an unrealistic, utopian program. He is telling the capitalists what they would need to do to avoid descending into barbarism (Luxemburg — socialism or barbarism). He knows they will not do it. If his discussion has a defect (and I haven’t followed up on all his citations), it is that he remains perplexed about why the “elites” cannot see that his program is the only rational way for them to avoid the destruction of the civilization they have built and depend on.

    But humans are not fully rational, and they do not live forever. It may be that Heinberg underestimates how much the elites would have to give up under his program — how few iPhones and BMWs would be left after feeding India and Africa — and how much sense it actually makes, at least from their point of view, for them to hold on to as much as they can for as long as they can and put their faith in delaying the apocalypse. Until, at least, after their own lives (and, they probably can dare to hope, the lives of their children) are over.

    The point, or one of the points, at which the central weakness of Heinberg’s analysis seemed to jump out at me was his #8, re-localization. He is right, of course, that it makes absolutely no sense for us to be shipping commodities all over the world, unnecessarily expending vast amounts of non-renewable carbon resources. But he neglects to point out why we do that — because commodity production draws its profit from the exploitation of labor, and hence must follow the search for cheap labor even to the ends of the earth. Capitalism has strategically de-localized production, paying a huge and unnecessary carbon price in the process, because a geographically fragmented labor force can be more readily rendered politically impotent.

    Heinberg’s analysis is not a class analysis, and it fails to account for the fact that people in general will act, not in the interest of humanity as a whole, or even in the rational interest of their own particular social class, but only in the interest of preserving the relative power of their social class with respect to the competing claims to power of social classes antagonistic to their own. That is, they act as though they were involved in a class struggle. Which is not surprising, since they are.

  31. Hello Schattenj4ger,

    Thanks for your considered and interesting comment. The first part of it very much mirrors my own experience of Buddhism. I like the way you formulate the various nuances of feeling and thought as you progressed in your search . It will resonate with many readers here who have gone through a long process of interest in and disillusionment with contemporary Buddhism.

    In the heuristic attached to the text Speculative Non-Buddhism Glenn Wallis describes an experience of aporetic loss aporetic dissonance and aporetic inquiry. These three terms describe the mixture of thought and strong feeling which accompany the process of disengaging with the thought and practice of Buddhism. Which doesn’t, of course, mean a rejection of Buddhist ideas and practice but an extraction of them from any absolutist framework -Dharma as “Truth of truths” as it is presented and practiced in contemporary Buddhism.

    Your comment beautifully describes this process in a very personal way. I would like to see more of that approach since this is not an academic project in the usual sense of the word. Rather it tries to understand the significance of certain ideas for living at a personal and social level and in the realm of thinking and practice.

    I’m through a lot of fear, and I guess I’m still under influence of some of it. But, I guess, you cannot force yourself to believe some lie if you’ve already seen how it doesn’t fit the world.

    That is the experience in a nutshell I guess and “what now?” is the question on everyones lips when they have distanced themselves enough to be able to see that they must say goodbye to certain perhaps consoling ideas about salvation by means of Guru, meditation or holy word.

    Back to some ideas how to continue, on that very personal basis of mine – why didn’t you ever really APPLY some of these views you developed, using the materials this stuff comes from? Sutras, commentaries by the really GOOD people that have been there in Buddhist history?

    Well we have tried to do just that. Some of it is here on this site a lot more on SNB, some in the “faithful Buddhist” and on Dharma I okolice. More needs to be done of course.(You can make links on the side bar)

    Oh, well, maybe that’s more my task, right? 😉

    Exactly. But you don’t need to do that alone if you would rather not. Here we offer an opportunity to explore ideas.

    I think, for example, that your comment with a little expansion (or a lot if you feel like it) could make a good post and the basis for a new discussion. We would like to leave the present post up for the next week at least since it is a definite crossroad for us. But if you would be interested I would invite you to post here in the next few weeks. Don’t feel pressurized into a long or complex text. We would like to address some of the points you raise in a new tread that would hopefully follow such a post. Think about it!

  32. That is the experience in a nutshell I guess and “what now?” is the question on everyones lips when they have distanced themselves enough to be able to see that they must say goodbye to certain perhaps consoling ideas about salvation by means of Guru’s meditation or holy word.

    Oh, salvation I did already find in Christianity, and thereby let that religion go. I never hoped for salvation by a guru, just for worldly explanations maybe. Finally, I hoped for someone who would be stronger than some guys I encountered who were playing with lower black magic, and who would kill those guys for being bad – you know, some great magician fighting off and punishing the evil guys, and helping me instead of always leaving the triumph to those with the bad characters. Unfortunately, in Tibetan buddhism people tend to go to empowerments to learn how to kill others with black magic as well, interested to kill due to minor reasons and because they themselves are the unvirtuous ones. So my hope to find something helpful diminished somewhat .. but yes, I did indeed conclude from this that the people there don’t have very “cultivated”/good characters. I just didn’t dare to let it go as I felt it was powerful, felt I had made bonds, and promises, and as a principally “good person” got caught by the mistake that I had been forced to make promises and commitments I didn’t even want to. It is a crazy circus, but what do you do, even as a person with good reflection, if you’re the only one who questions certain things? Can you be sure that it’s the others who are being crazy, and not you? Do you trust your own perception so much that you do ignore what everybody else says?
    Honestly, I have never seen ANY person challenging buddhist beliefs. Christians are too stupid to do that, and massively lack knowledge; scientists will conclude that I’m simply insane, and are usually not sufficiently informed or understanding the issues to comment on them; buddhists – well, they won’t dare to.
    In salvation I had been interested during my time with Christianity. Having realized some degree of emptiness I was mainly looking for protection on a very worldly level. What brought me to buddhism was plain, materialistic fear, and I’m happy to leave at least a part of that shit behind. What you’re describing more fitted to my breakup with Christinianity, but that was some years ago.
    Though I have to admit that the trauma of that and especially the loneliness of being in that situation was something I maybe have still not fully cleared – but definitely I have worked on that one. You have to deal with being alone if you’re the only person who ever dares to enter unknown landscapes, and even if you would return afterwards, nobody would ever understand what you’re talking. That’s the fate you may end up with if you dare to enter things others don’t dare to, and if you should make the mistake to openly talk about it, all they’ll know to do is to put you to the madhouse.

    Well we have tried to do just that. More needs to be done of course. Some of it is here on this site a lot more on SNB, some in the “faithful Buddhist” and on Dharma I okolice. (You can make links on the side bar)

    Well – seriously? I read through quite SOME posts, and most I find doesn’t challenge the great practicioners and thinkers, and their writings in buddhism, but just the application and interpretation of “the dharma” by more or less modern and/or silly people. The rest seems to be spend on circling around the thoughts that have already been brought up and putting them into, well, other words, but without much new actual creativity, just smaller variations. Any concrete link where you really discuss and question some of the guys who inspired the whole contemporary buddhist mess? Any occasion on which you dealt with the “superstition” part instead of just throwing it out the window?

    Actually, you may provide a link if someone here did it so far, but did any of you work out what exactly it is that’s worth attention in what’s left of buddhism after your “machine” has finished it’s task? I did found some remarks that there was something, but not really what exactly it was. Anything that’s beyond mindfuck?
    I’m not yet stable in my view on that … but actually, after some days without these bonds, I think I’d just leave it like I left Christianity – with having understood the main things, and the realization that what’s left is not worth the effort, as it’s definitely not the core of what is or ever was important.

    I don’t mind writing long texts in general, and maybe indeed there were some guys in buddhist history who might still be interesting from an un-bound point of view. At the moment I don’t feel that there was anyone who’s vast and colourful character would have been so great that I would have said – well, that it strikes me. All painted in stereotypes, and if just the “ugly” stereotype. No complete human beings. Most boring art I’ve ever seen.
    If you know something better, I’d be glad to hear about that 🙂

  33. I post a link to an an article aimed at a general audience, certainly a familiar topic to those following this debate, but at least it’s more worth perusing than much of what’s peddled on Salon as “journalism” lately. It may fit into this welcome discussion of how class inequality, marginalization of Buddhist practitioners, and our break and discontent with its pieties spark contention, and commodification, as patterns shift and repeat in our economy.

    For every Silicon Valley executive who takes a mindfulness workshop, there might well be someone less privileged — say, a renter in San Francisco who is being forced out of her apartment by Silicon Valley money buying up the city’s real estate — who thinks, “Well, if those are the people that Buddhism is appealing to and the places Buddhist teachers are doing their teaching, then I don’t think I have a place in that practice.” For every person who is convinced by the claims of scientific validity to try meditation, maybe there are others who think, “This sounds just too good to be true. In fact, it doesn’t sound true at all.” And in both cases, they would have good reason to be put off by Buddhist practice, reasons every bit as good as those put forth by the mindfulness movement to promote their form of stealth Buddhism. In fact, to us, their reasons might be better. (excerpt)

    I realize Donald S. Lopez’ The Scientific Buddha: His Short and Happy Life anticipated this a few years ago; TNB-SNBers have articulated this critique in more astringent and erudite manner, but this article attempts to document dissension as it spreads in a capitalist, disruptive, and calculating context, the one where we all live. “Mindfulness, ‘Truthiness’ Problem: Sam Harris, science, and the truth about Buddhist tradition”

  34. Patrick # 30

    You said:
    “My point is that such a program will demand a political struggle against vested interests all of whom are well armed and have already decided for violence to protect and promote their interests (recent events in Mexico bring that home in a really horrific way) Struggle seems to be inevitable . The discussion is about movement building, organizational structures, means of struggle, ethics of struggle etc. From this perspective Heinberg fails to address the key issue —how to take power from those who have it and cede it to the people, with minimal violence and in such a way that grass-root democracy is established and flourishes — which is much more than having a free vote but involves control of productive forces, natural resources, wage rates, land and rents, capital and technology, education, law, administration of justice and control of local, regional and state organs of power. Some south American countries are experimenting with just such a program but without a continent wide extension of the movement I don’t see how it will succeed. All the while the spectre of the intervention of big brother looms large.” The history of Latin America has also been based on induced dependency on international debt.

    Your commentary is detailed and precise. However, I dont understand how you land to conclude that only a continent wide movement would succeed. Also the struggle you talk about as inevitable only deepens the problem. From my point of view, democracy problems are due to a lack of democracy and thus are solved with more democracy, with pressure yes, organized strong pressure, yes. Departing from this could mean totalitarian power which again, would deepen the problem. From my point of view, government structures are taken by concentrated groups of power which basically organize things for their own benefit. This is what we are seeing all over the world, not just in Latin America. It follows that the promise of good government is ill-designed and never arrives. Also that what we need is to empower citizens in order for all of us to get involved and gain power and secure better wellbeing for all. At the end the picture of distributed power should arise. This is can be done in many different fronts at the same time: in energy it is beginning to be the case in Germany with independent production of photovoltaic energy in ever more households. So bottom up movements, local food networks, informed (meaning being able to read what is going on worldwide) communities which make their budget decision, etc.

    David #34

    I agree with you. The source of the problem is that prices do no factor in the real environmental and social cost of things. We need to get out of fatalisms. We need to create real hope. And real hope sinks in only when a feeling of real possibility is grasped. For this we need not only imagine new way of co-living but make them happen. For this we need trust and dialogue and a more or less clear vision of where we are going. And do it. Ardently and urgently.

    Here is Badiou’s take on the importance of creating optimism:

  35. Schattej4eger

    Re 36#

    I have no experience of majic/occult practices beyond some superficial reading so I can’t discuss it with you. I know that such practices figure strongly in certain Tibetan traditions but for me it seemed quite natural to “throw it out the window.” That of course is a typically western attitude of picking and choosing the elements of a religious/cultural form. So too with the classical texts of Buddhism. The SNB project up to now has been about contemporary western Buddhism and explored the classical texts of Buddhism only in so far as they helped expose some contemporary Buddhist distortions or misconceptions .

    What we discovered quite early on was that contemporary Buddhism was primarily an invention of Modernism. There are posts here that examine this and a great amount on SNB; and there is a lot of academic research on this re-invention of Buddhism in the west. Much of this research is very accessible for the non-specialist. One of the things contemporary Buddhism tries to do is replace the magical with the scientific and to proclaim Buddhism as a thoroughly rational idea suited to our contemporary situation. That often means distorting the actual understanding of Buddhism within particular historical and cultural contexts. On one level this is unavoidable. What is important is that we know we are doing this . Contemporary Buddhism almost always hides what it is doing even from itself.

    Well – seriously? I read through quite SOME posts, and most I find doesn’t challenge the great practitioners and thinkers, and their writings in Buddhism, but just the application and interpretation of “the Dharma” by more or less modern and/or silly people.

    I am intrigued to know what you mean by “challenge”. For me the writings of the classical Buddhist scholars and practitioners of Buddhism are integrated into the historical and cultural situation of their times and cannot be easily extracted from their original contexts. There are general “truths” of Buddhism of course as there are of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam but such generalities usually break down on investigation and what emerges are very particular instances of a particular “truth” embedded within distinct cultures with their own interpretation and practice. Often these ideas and practices are conditioned on the social and economic structures and processes of the paticular historical period.

    There is,for example, a general idea in Christianity about the forgiveness of sin. In medieval times such a practice of forgiveness was embedded in a hierarchic system of religious authority in which the priest mediated between the ordinary sinner and God. Such an idea was challenged once the feudal hierarchical systhem began to break down. At that point the idea of direct un-mediated forgiveness of sin arose in which the sinner had direct inward access to god. We could challenge the idea of the forgivingness of sin but only in its contemporary form and from our contemporary perspective which is biased by our present interests–by the use we want to make of any particular idea.

    So too with the great ideas of Buddhism . They exist in the form of “the Dharma” by more or less modern and/or silly people”. True there are more or less sophisticated versions of the Dharma but they are all contemporary. Even what we consider to be scholarly presentations are biased by contemporary interests and perspectives. Which is why hermeneutics must figure in our thinking. We cannot have an unprejudiced view of the Buddhist classics but must view them through the lens of our own interests, preoccupations and needs. In that sense all former tradition is alien.

    Actually, you may provide a link if someone here did it so far, but did any of you work out what exactly it is that’s worth attention in what’s left of buddhism after your “machine” has finished it’s task? I did found some remarks that there was something, but not really what exactly it was. Anything that’s beyond mindfuck?

    That is the question. We often come close to answering it but only partially. This is because the answer involves the practice of a new Subject –- a new form of co-existence, new structures and processes of personal and social relation. This seems vague but is as Luis says above a very concrete act of experimentation from the ground up.

  36. Thanks fionnchu for that link in #37. It seems Buddhists get cold feet bit by bit re this topic. They have to do something against this mindfulness fad. That might be a good thing because they have to sharpen the image of Buddhism.

    If I had to put it into very few words I would say the following (also in regard of ‘saving the world’ from neo-liberal exploitation): There is a war going on. This war is of a evolving planetary economy against Live itself. In the last instance what we see as mindfulness today, as sold to the wealthy white colonial master consumer by people like Kabat-Zinn, is on the side of the war against Live. Mindfulness is at war against Live.

    The question then is: What means are necessary to fight on the side of Live?

  37. Hi Luis Daniel
    38#

    However, I don’t understand how you land to conclude that only a continent wide movement would succeed.

    I’m pointing to a long history of interference by the U.S in Latin America as soon as any movement for change threatens its interests. It seems to me that social change movements need to have at least the tactic support of people and sympathetic governments across the continent to have any chance of resisting interference.

    Perhaps thats not the feeling on the ground though?

    I am not trying to generalize too much . I know that each country and region has its own history, culture, traditions and interests. What works in one place will fail in another. What is considered in one state to be a dangerous challenge to the establishment is in another an exercise in democratic expression.
    But I think we can generalize to an extent and say that across the continent there are vested interests who oppose change. They cooperate among themselves in many ways to suppress change. These interests are already in power and have decided for violence if threatened. It seems feasible in the age of internet and social media that movements for social change will have a significance beyond the borders of one country and that they will appeal for cross- border and even international support. The “Arab spring” is an instance of that.

    Also the struggle you talk about as inevitable only deepens the problem. From my point of view, democracy problems are due to a lack of democracy and thus are solved with more democracy, with pressure yes, organized strong pressure, yes.

    I think we need to distinguish between different scenarios. For example your own initiative PIAD is a significant intervention to rectify a structural inequality in the educational system. Its success depends on many factors particular to Costa Rica. One of these factors is the strength of democratic structures . If they are weak or corrupt than those who regard such interventions as a threat to their interest will resist in open or covert ways. There are many ways to suffocate an initiative, as you probably know. If the conditions to persue such initiative does not exist then those in favor of change have only one option short of giving up- to struggle for their initiative. I cannot see how it can be otherwise in a world where power, wealth and resources are so unevenly distributed and where this inequality is structured as a given into the fabric of economic and political life.

    Perhaps there are forms of struggle that don’t directly challenge the power of vested interests but try to establish alternative structures. I am thinking of credit unions, cooperatives, communes, educational initiatives, worker–owned workshops neighborhood councils etc. That is one route of change. Maybe PIAD can be put into that category? But such initiatives depend on an already established freedom to organize, reform and educate. So even here the question of a general struggle to establish basic rights of assembly, political expression and association cannot be avoided. If they don’t exist they must be established.

    The recent murder of student teachers in Mexico illustrates how vicious the reaction to demands for change can be . Its is important to read the background to this incident to understand how the murders are linked to massive social inequality, a refusal by the oppressed to keep quiet in the face of such repression, the connection between crime and the corrupt political system, the impunity with which the security forces act, and the effect of the imposition of the U.S inspired “war on drugs “ on Mexican society (80,000 dead and 26,000 missing in 6 years) This documentary from Aljazeera makes it clear that the fate of the disappeared in Mexico is as much to do with security force activity as with the activities of drugs cartels.

    Is there anywhere at any time where freedom was not advanced except by struggle against vested interest and the existing structures of state power and privilege?

    It follows that the promise of good government is ill-designed and never arrives. Also that what we need is to empower citizens in order for all of us to get involved and gain power and secure better wellbeing for all. At the end the picture of distributed power should arise. This is can be done in many different fronts at the same time: in energy it is beginning to be the case in Germany with independent production of photovoltaic energy in ever more households. So bottom up movements, local food networks, informed (meaning being able to read what is going on worldwide) communities which make their budget decision, etc.

    I agree with everything here except your first statement. Isn’t the rest of your paragraph a call for good government? Wouldn’t its implementation be good government?

  38. I have no experience of majic/occult practices beyond some superficial reading so I can’t discuss it with you. I know that such practices figure strongly in certain Tibetan traditions but for me it seemed quite natural to “throw it out the window.” That of course is a typically western attitude of picking and choosing the elements of a religious/cultural form.

    Hm, okay, I see. I guess to elaborate that in deail would go far off what commentaries of this thread here are meant for. Maybe I’ll get back at it on my own blog, but I think some other things are of more importance to me first.

    I’m really wondering whether it’s worth it, you know .. but actually, well, indeed it WAS for me buddhist practice that brought me to a point where it didn’t take to much to push me out of that “house” or “refuge”, so for me parts of it worked quite well. Just went back to Tutteji’s blog and saw his later entries, where he got banned from some online Zen group because they can’t cope with satire. It’s such a shame, somebody should do something to at least offer an alternative to those spoiled, selfish little minds. Not caring about compassion, not caring about non-harming, not caring about non-killing (what else is a total ban than the trial to kill someone’s existence in a group?) – whatever they call “right action”, it’s definitely far from Mahayana, and it’s definitely far from modern 21th century ethics and demands.

    My issue right now is that I’m really not sure about how much energy I’m gonna spend on that topic in the future. Emotionally I’m unstable about it, though I’m sufficiently reflecting upon my behaviour and thoughts to at least know that at the moment I’m not clear enough to make long-lasting decisions. Maybe I’ll really just drop the whole topic. On the other hand – oh, it’s difficult to figure out, but something precious might be there, beyond that contemporary stuff.
    Simply cause, well, for me some things worked. Would be great to distinguish what works from what’s invention, right?

    One of the things contemporary Buddhism tries to do is replace the magical with the scientific and to proclaim Buddhism as a thoroughly rational idea suited to our contemporary situation.

    Yes, I’m aware they are trying to do that, and though banishing thoughts on “magic” has been practiced e.g. in some parts of Theravada as well, to get rid of pure superstition and weird beliefs, and in this regard this attempt is not even new in buddhism, I think for our modern society that is one of the worst possible mistakes they could make.

    For me the writings of the classical Buddhist scholars and practitioners of Buddhism are integrated into the historical and cultural situation of their times and cannot be easily extracted from their original contexts.

    Oh, I disagree on that one. A simple instruction like “watch your breath” relates to a particular way to deal with a human body, leading a human thinking being to perform a certain task with that body. “You will encounter x, but I advise you to ignore that when it happens, as it will just distract you” is another kind of advise that relates mainly to general processes that will happen in modern times as well as they have been some hundred years ago – may our environment and culture have changed, such processes depend on the condition of being a human being, with a human body, and actually genetically we haven’t changed so much during some hundred years that it shouldn’t work anymore.

    I do agree that such things, instructions and advices that are NOT bound to culture should be distinguished from what you correctly call things that are mainly doing the “integration” into the context. But if you want to analyse a text from 500 years ago in which there is included “apples will tend to fall down” in a larger context, assuming we wouldn’t have that physical insight today that apples will tend to fall down, the part of the larger context that puts this insight into int’s cultural context doesn’t necessarily mean that the statement cannot to be used or is not correct in modern times.
    In my opinion you loose the opportunity to find out about that physical law written in the text if you just ignore it because it has been written “in a historical context”. You don’t ignore Einstein because he lived in another time, do you?

    Oh, and my apologies for using examples :p I promise I won’t make a fetish out of them.

  39. Schattenj4ager
    #42
    Ha! Great points .

    I’m really wondering whether it’s worth it, you know .. but actually, well, indeed it WAS for me Buddhist practice that brought me to a point where it didn’t take to much to push me out of that “house” or “refuge”, so for me parts of it worked quite well.

    Yes I understand that one .

    I would be interested in hearing about the occult/magic side of things especially in the way it relates to the idea of virbrato—that array of charismatic somethings that make for a form of seduction into the fold; the unique aura of transcendental authority which surround the enlightened person and those who come in contact with him. You can get a flavor of it in a secularized form here in this video.

    The founder of Eyeconer Press, (the publishers of Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice) Camelia Elias, is someone who is able to integrate into her thought and practice a range of approaches from the cognitive/rational/analytical (mathematics for example ) to the intuitive/imaginative/magical in a way that astonishes me, although I have to say that conversation with her leaves me scratching my head. You might be interested. Here is a link to her blog

    I have isolated three really juicy thoughts from your comment that get to the nub. I will get bact to you on them as soon as I give them some thought.

  40. re #43

    I would be interested in hearing about the occult/magic side of things especially in the way it relates to the idea of virbrato—that array of charismatic somethings that make for a form of seduction into the fold; the unique aura of transcendental authority which surround the enlightened person and those who come in contact with him. You can get a flavor of it in a secularized form here in this video.

    Oh, dear, I hope you forgive me that I can’t bear watching that shit…
    Well, I’ve been in contact with one of his local fanclubs. They were actually the only real-life “buddhists” I encountered so far who just needed one(!) time of group meditation with me to figure out that I should not return without any kind of permission by their guru.

    Anyway, what that guy is doing is mainly making up a psycho-group, and that movie is mainly just based on the rules of advertisement for such people. That guy is not in any way enlightened, he’s just a sectarian.

    Thansk for the link to Camelia Elias. I have to admit, from first glance she’s not necessarily the type of person I’m able to work with. Buddhist magic is different from Tarot cards and stuff. But maybe we go to details elsewhere with that, I’m afraid it doesn’t really fit the topic here 😉

    Happy if you get something from it 🙂

    Thanks for your answer.

  41. I’m grateful to SNB for getting me in touch with my “injured self” persona. That’s the one where you feel unjustly accuse or criticized and the “poor me” stories begin. A conscious life is just one slap in the face after another.

  42. Robert,
    #45,
    Its better to reference specific comments or a line in the post than make generalizations . I presume your “injured persona” comment refers to others as well as yourself. Who do you think is telling “stories “here or at SNB about “poor me” Who else is feeling “unjustly criticized”. Should we psychologize differences in this way ?

    A conscious life is learning to duck and respond appropriately. I think you mix up consciousness with Buddhist mindfulness, or a similar state of mind. Such a mind applauds itself for its heroic stoicism. It sees itself as facing into the “slings and arrows”. Of course, its a pathetic delusion.

    Is gratitude of any real use?

  43. Luis #38: Thanks for the Badiou clip. It was wonderful. “If you are pessimistic, finally there is no use of yourself, because to be pessimistic, there is no necessity to be a philosopher. The situation suffices.” This is a sentiment I need to keep in mind better than I often do.

    Yet the alchemists were optimistic in thinking they could turn lead into gold. They were also wrong. Optimism untethered to reality does not engender hope, it leads to disillusion.

    I am optimistic in that I believe the industrial working class has the capacity to replace capitalism with something better, something functional, something sustainable. It has the motivation to do so because it is disadvantaged by the present system. It has the ability to do so because the present system depends on the industrial working class to produce the commodities and the surplus value that sustain it. But there is also such a thing as class collaboration, and I am not optimistic that it has better prospects today than it has ever shown in the past. I don’t think that is pessimism, I think it is prudence.

    You speak of trust and dialogue. In the abstract, these are good things. But optimism is no justification for trusting those whose true interest lies in betraying you, and those who will eventually betray you are often willing to engage in dialogue while they await their opportunity. I am in no position to judge what risks you are taking in the work you are doing. Deciding with whom alliances may be profitably formed is a matter that must depend upon many factors specific to particular situations. I merely suggest that, in general, political groupings will tend to behave in conformity to the interests of the class to which their members belong. To expect otherwise, in my opinion, goes a bit beyond optimism.

  44. Hi Patrick
    My mistake. My comment was about my own experience on the SNB site. The “stories” I refer to were created by my own internal “noise machine”.
    The “poor me” stories refer to my own self pity. Feeling “unjustly criticized” is about my tendency to use “stories” as a way of avoiding certain thoughts or feelings.
    My attempt at leading a conscious life does indeed feel like one slap in the face after another, in the sense that I’m constantly confronted by my own lack of generosity and love.
    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts.

  45. Hi Robert,
    My mistake . I thought I detected a note of sarcasm in you comment –a product of my noise machine. Its one of the big problems with this bloging thing. A face to face conversation would dispel misgivings as they arise by a simple change of posture or facial expression, in most cases anyway …sorry for jumping the gun.

    Its worth considering, though, whether ruminating on subjective motivations is helpful, especially on a blog. Mostly it leads to avoidable digressions like this one. So too with unquestioned “positive qualities” like gratitude. Its quite a thing to investigate the presumptions around these words when we think of them apart from the discourse they help construct and the practices they enable.

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