The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein

Posted: June 29th, 2009 by: h2

Online version, read it here.

More than any other species, human beings are gifted with the power to manipulate our environment, and the ability to accumulate and transmit knowledge across generations. The first of these gifts we call technology; the other we call culture. They are central to our humanity.

Accumulating over thousands of years, culture and technology have brought us into a separate human realm. We live, more than any animal, surrounded by our own artifacts. Among these are works of surpassing beauty, complexity, and power, human creations that could not have existed—could not even have been conceived—in the times of our forebears. Seldom do we pause to appreciate the audacity of our achievements: objects as mundane as a compact disc, a video cellphone, an airplane would have seemed fantastical only a few centuries ago. We have created a realm of magic and miracles.

At the same time, it is quite easy to see technology and culture not as gifts but as a curse. After millennia of development, the power to manipulate the environment has become the power to destroy it, while the ability to transmit knowledge transmits as well a legacy of hatred, injustice, and violence. Today, as both the destruction and the violence reach a feverish crescendo, few can deny that the world is in a state of crisis. Opinions vary as to its exact nature: some people say it is primarily ecological; others say it is a moral crisis, a social, economic, or political crisis, a health crisis, even a spiritual crisis. There is, however, little disagreement that the crisis is of human origin. Hence, despair: is the present ruination of the world built in to our humanity?

Is genocide and ecocide the inevitable price of civilization’s magnificence? Need the most sublime achievements of art, music, literature, science, and technology be built upon the wreckage of the natural world and the misery of its inhabitants? Can the microchip come without the oil slick, the strip mine, the toxic waste dump? Under the shadow of every Chartres Cathedral, must there be women burning at the stake? In other words, can the gift of technology and culture somehow be separated from the curse?

Table of Contents (under fold)

Chapter I: The Triumph of Technology
Gee Whiz—The Future!
Utopia Postponed
The Addiction to Control
From Separation to Boredom
From Affluence to Anxiety
Chapter II: The Origins of Separation
The Biological Origins of Self
Fire and Stone
Labeling the World
Mathematics and Measure
Keeping Time Images of Images
The Marvelous Piraha Cultivation and Culture
The Machine Religion and Ritual
The Playful Universe
Chapter III: The Way of the World
The Scientific Method
My Personal Age of Reason
Masters of the Universe
The Quest for Certainty
Reducing Reality
The Ghost in the Machine
The Origin of Life
Alone in the Universe
Chapter IV: Money and Property
The Realm of Me and Mine
Alone in a Crowd
The Anonymous Power
Social Capital
Cultural Capital
Natural Capital
Spiritual Capital
Time, Money, and The Good
The Economics of Other Interest and Self-Interest
The Crisis of Capital
Chapter V: The World under Control
The Total Depravity of Man
The Winners and the Losers Life and Death
Yes and No
The Pressure to Break Free
Molding Minds
The Great Indoors
Life under Contract
The War on Germs
The War on Suffering
Life in a Playpen
Chapter VI: The Crumbling of Certainty
The End of Objectivity
Truth without Certainty
Order without Design
The Nature of Purpose
The Purpose of Nature
Life without a Replicator
The Community of Life
The Genetic Plenum
Chapter VII: The Age of Reunion
The Convergence of Crises
The Currency of Cooperation
The Restorative Economy
The Age of Water
Technologies of Reunion
Work and Art
United Back to Play
The Medicine of Interbeingness
The Spirit of the Gift
Storyteller Consciousness
In Love with the World
Chapter VIII: Self and Cosmos
Human Nature Restored
The Fall
The Perinatal Matrix
The Gaian Birthing
Eulogy and Redemption
At Play Beside The Tower

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