Russian Eco-Cult Community in California

Boingboing's current guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor with catholic interests. He is currently Projects Editor for MAKE magazine and the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Wendy. 

Anastasia by Vladimir Megre

If you're looking for a way to get back to the land and enjoy an integrated life while society collapses, The Shambhala-Shasta Anastasia Eco-Settlement Project has 466 acres of land and is looking for settlers. It sounds nice! I've long fantasized about this kind of thing. Maybe now's the time.

The "Anastasia" in their name refers to the heroine of the "Ringing Cedars" series of books by Vladimir Megre, which came out in Russia during the mid-1990's and started being translated into English beginning in 2004. If numerous websites are to be believed, the series has a large following not just in Russia, but around the world. "Ringing Cedars" refers to the books' claim that when a Siberian Pine tree (sometimes translated as "Cedar") reaches 500 years of age, it becomes a sort of cosmic energy-channeling antenna. And so also rings the New Age BS detector, but please stay with me here...

I read and enjoyed Anastasia, the first book in the series, and I hope to read the rest. On one level, the book is a male midlife-crisis fantasy-- a first-person account of a spiritually empty entrepreneur who finds a stunningly beautiful and brilliant native girl in the forest, and she changes his life forever. Anastasia runs naked, communicates telepathically with animals, is clairvoyant, and possesses vast wisdom that has been lost to modern civilization. She's the "noble savage," and she's also a virgin who fell in love with the author/entrepreneur during a chance previous encounter that he doesn't remember, and she wants to start a family with him ASAP.

What interests me most about Anastasia (and I know I need to read more in the series to confirm/deny), is how it combines deep ecology with traditional, even conservative family values. There's no sense of hippie "alternative lifestyle" in its back-to-the-land message. It honors Christianity and connects with its audience through their experience gardening in dachas (modest country houses) on weekends. It's a container for hard-core downshifting that I sense would appeal to solid, traditional, family-oriented folks. Meanwhile, the book also has some wacky, unexpected ideas that I liked-- for example, the Anastasia character suggests that pollution from roadways could be mitigated by requiring active air purifiers on every vehicle's front bumper.

Websites that sell the Ringing Cedars books also sell products derived from the Siberian Pine-- nuts, oil, and polished slices of the tree to be worn as pendants. And perhaps the initial bolt of inspiration that Megre had, as an inland shipping entrepreneur exploring the Siberian forest, was how to concoct a new religion that would maximize the commercial value of this common regional tree. A 5 gram pendant (slice of branch on a string) costs $4 plus shipping.

Furthermore, according to the cult-watching Center For Apologetics Research, Megre was forced to admit in 1998 that he made the Anastasia stories up, whereupon psychic healer Olga Anatolevnya Guz began to claim that she is the real Anastasia.

But people can change, eyes can open, and how one comes to create a belief system doesn't reflect on the value it contains. Buddha abandoned his wife and baby son in order to pursue his own spiritual journey, but he turned the deadbeat-dad guilt that he must have felt (although his family was rich, so less damage done) into a philosophy and practice of non-attachment that countless people, including myself, have found valuable. There are numerous paths to insight. (But I've also talked to single women in San Francisco who are sick of all the passive, "hey, babe-- no attachments" Buddhist guys.)

So, Siberian Pine products aside-- not that I've tried any-- the Anastasians seem to be onto something constructive, and although I don't think I'll be joining them, I am "rooting" for them.


  1. Where did you read that this is in California? I found only mention of it as being between Ashland, OR, and Mt. Shasta, CA, but they use an Ashland mailing address. Also, on their blog, they mention driving across the Cali border to get to Shasta.

    Not to be a dick or anything, but that guy (whose name appears to be Rain) pictured on their blog who has Fabio hair and who wears nothing but those roseate pants with gold detailing and the spiderman shirt — he is maybe violating the immoderate grooviness code of the hundredth monkey in the Space of Love. But I’ll have to check my orientation packet on that.

  2. “…is how it combines deep ecology with traditional, even conservative family values.”

    Of course, these guys aren’t the first to do that. In fact, it’s one of the most consistent themes of “back to the land” fascist movements in the 20th Century. The Nazi party, for example, had a strong environmental streak (“blood and soil” and all that), and many Nazis were members of enviro/green youth groups like the Wandervogel.

    It’s entirely consistent with the times that the same ugly ideologies should rear up again.

  3. this is so sweet. i probably went to high school with these people. (wait:nope)

    as a native of ashland, oregon, please allow me to translate the following description of the Shambhala Nature Preserve and Eco-Village Research and Educational Project:

    “It is located in the Mt. Shasta area near the Oregon border. The views of Mt. Shasta from nearly every vista, hilltop and ridgeline are exceptional. At an elevation of approx. 3,000 ft., it has flat land, rolling grassy fields, meadows, canyons, ridgelines, ponds and oak trees and two gushing year round creeks. There are also springs and wells and the water is abundant.”

    these people obviously moved here from somewhere else. they either couldn’t afford any forested land (i.e. no cedars) and/or they decided on dry, yellow cattle land to cram as many “settlers” into the space as possible. crouched under sparse stands of scrub oak, there will be a dearth of shade to cover the inevitable mobile homes/yurts/domes/tipis. it is hot as fak in summer (with snakes), and basically, within two weeks of endtimes these poor fuggers will be re-enacting that commune scene from “easy rider” where the bearded scrum sit around with parched throats thanking god for the rice or whatever.

    looking through scopes from the surrounding hills, they will seem easy targets to the neighboring militias (and the whole family-values conservative back-to-the-land tradition these guys supposedly follow doesn’t translate as “shared cultural values” to fourth-generation rednecks).

    and why do they have an address in ashland? simple: every crazy new age douchebag within a hundred miles has to check in at the ashland co-op at least once a month, and since the post office is just a block away, well…

    you do the math. the only equation i remember from growing up in that part of the world was

    1 swung dead cat = 2 channeled light warriors + an incarnation of the coconut monk, sorely rubbing their heads.

  4. #2 This is indeed how the Nazis envisioned their “Lebensraum im Osten” concept. Look at the Riefenstahl aesthetics, the mountains, the gaze…
    But besides that, the whole notion of an encapsulated- new-human-type of approach is a typically Modernist strive to create a peculiar symbolical sphere and thus exclude/ignore by definition all antagonisms that are endemic to society – i.e. its public space, its polis, its blogs. You declare yourself a “peaceful community”, hence, everybody who opposes you is by definition a warmonger. That is a dangerous ideology.
    It should be the other way around: “Our community is pathological, we are all sick bastards, there is no hope, and by engaging in the public sphere we strive to improve us and our environment. Join us in the impossible.” That is real utopia. Real utopia is to admit that there is no hope.

  5. I hope this eco-cult has a good supply of bleach, ’cause Anastasia is going to need a root job in about a weeek.

  6. There’s something very Ayn Randish in the self-sufficient super-character with her beauty and smarts and telepathic squirrels. I can’t help but worry about how well they’ll do when their role model is not only improbably useful, but impossibly so.

    (Also: Shout out to the Mary Sue narrator who finds himself the object of her wholesome and invigorating lust!)

  7. Ugh. This Anastasia sounds like the quintessential manic pixie dream girl. Beautiful, uninhibited, and existing for no other purpose than to open the mind of a brooding and solipsistic male narrator. And a virgin to boot! Well that’s just SWELL.

  8. The blood ‘n’ soil, back to the land stuff appealed to Germans long before the Nazis came along to take advantage of it. It goes back even further than Romanticism, which it is a big part of. For one thing, it made the careers of writer Karl May and composer Richard Strauss.

    But if all the colony’s children turned out to be blonde, pretty and telepathic, I’d be a bit worried. Interested, but worried.

  9. I don’t think human beings need a religion, especially not a new one. Religion makes you feel special, a warm feeling of being part of the pack, but does it really contribute to evolution, or is is a dead end? Maybe trees are cosmic antenna, but why that specific tree, why not all trees? Also, every single woman I know would hate this story, as it is described. It is your basic “Sensitive Male on Spiritual Quest meets Uninhibited Beautiful Goddess” blah blah blah. What a pile of fertilizer.

    I’m all for a spiritual, earth-centered lifestyle, but why, oh why do we have to make up these silly religions/pathologic neuroses, and follow them with blind devotion? Why can’t we just live and create and enjoy life before we turn into fertilizer ourselves?

  10. The throwaway line about the Buddha “abandoning” his wife and child is a commonplace, but makes an unsupported assumption: did the Buddha abandon his wife and child, or was there a shared agreement that he would seek the answers to profound human questions as a family enterprise? It is more likely that the Buddha and Yasodhara decided on this course together, Gautama seeking knowledge and wisdom from his travels while Yosodhara tended the infant Rahula and awaited his return so that the whole family may be enlightened—which was, in fact what happened. Feminists and “traditional family values” proponents have both given Yasodhara way too little human agency in the taken-for-granted reading of the Gautama’s “abandonment”. The Buddha, once enlightened, returned home and was rejoined with his wife and son, both of whom became his disciples. This doesn’t seem a likely outcome for a family “abandoned.”

  11. MAS, also, Guatuama was a prince. His family had money and Yasodhara was taken care of. He not only abandoned hiw wife and child, but he abandoned his Self. That was the whold point.

  12. I don’t root for any claims about the nature of how things work that are made without evidence.

    @#19: Siddhartha also became enlightened, and years later after helping other men achieve enlightenment, he changed his mind and said that women could be enlightened as well as men.

    That makes me question the quality of his initial enlightenment.

  13. Paul, I have also long fantasized about this kind of thing. There’s a gorgeous (looking) intentional community in the hills of Hawaii I have my eyes on, even.

    However, unless I can find a hippie commune with internet, Warcraft and Halo, I’d have to leave the husband behind. Which I don’t see happening anytime soon (either finding said commune, or leaving the boy).

    To swing far off track, here… if/when the Oceans rise, will much/any of Hawaii be safe, I wonder?

  14. re: the passive, “hey, babe– no attachments” Buddhist guys.

    Non-attachment doesn’t quite work this way, although it’s true that people will quite often attach to a philosophy that seems to let them off the hook. Focusing on this element of Buddhism is attractive to those who prefer to avoid commitment, I sure. It’s a misunderstood teaching when used in this way.

    Personal responsibility, intimacy, and commitment to others are also essential in Buddhism. Those who are really honest about their practice can’t pick and choose only that which is convenient.

    -A San Francisco Buddhist guy!

  15. #26 – I’d agree with you if the language surrounding enlightenment and Buddhahood weren’t so specific. Absolute wisdom and perfect enlightenment are applied. If your absolute wisdom and perfect enlightenment lacked basic concepts like equality, then they are more “steps in the right direction” than anything.

  16. #19: It is more likely that the Buddha and Yasodhara decided on this course together, Gautama seeking knowledge and wisdom from his travels while Yosodhara tended the infant Rahula and awaited his return so that the whole family may be enlightened—which was, in fact what happened.

    “More likely” based on what? Wishful speculation? Sure, it’s a nicer story than the traditional frame, but it also conveniently sidesteps one of the more uncomfortably morally ambiguous aspects of the original story, IMO defusing some of its usefulness as contemplative material.

    On the other hand, sanitizing the disturbing aspects of the original narrative with a comforting modern overlay is a pretty “new agey” thing to do, and thus entirely in keeping with the spirit of the community under discussion here, so carry on, I suppose.

  17. @1 Not sure where it is, actually…

    @2, @6, etc. Yikes– good point about the Nazi volkish similarity! Need to
    be aware of that possible direction. But anyway, I don’t see a
    dissonance between back-to-the-land and social conservativism, but I
    think in the USA there’s an association with permissiveness.

    @3 Thanks for the local translation!

    @9 True!

    @16 Lots of reasons why we make these things up that I don’t think will
    go away, but absolutely agree about enjoying the precious gift of life!

    @19 Whoops, I’m clearly guilty of that– I didn’t even know Yasodhara’s name!
    Yes, it could have been mutual decision, which would show amazing love
    communication. Wow, what a beautiful example of the strength to let
    go– now I’m filled with curiosity about her! Any recommended

    @20 Not bad to me, I’m kind of a hippie myself sometimes, depending on
    how long since the last haircut– I just know others’
    negative associations with the word.

    @23 Fascinating– thanks!

    @25 Agree that it’s a misunderstanding, all to convenient. Maybe it’s
    possible to twist anything around, any belief, no irony too obvious to
    the compartmentalizing mind.

  18. They may have good intentions and some good ideas, but I still find a lot of this suspect. On one hand we have a Russian businessman using ecology, a bastardized Christian/new age hybrid, and a certain amount of ethnic pride* to sell pine tchotchkes. On the other hand we have wide-eyed hippies trying yet another attempt at a commune in northern California. Hey, it might not be anything sinister on Megre’s part (there are worse things than selling pine pendants and fantasy novels), and I’m all for communes (I’d bring back the Oneida Community AND the Shakers if I could), but I don’t see this panning out in the way you might prefer or predict.

    This quote: “Everything – but everything – on Earth, every blade of grass,
    every insect, has been created for Man” sure seems like the kind of thing Jerry Falwell used to say, in a purely NON-ecological way (in fact, ANTI-ecological).

    *(Don’t kid yourself, why did he use a blond with an obvious Russian name instead of a native Nenets or Buryat or other mongol/turkic girl, which would be more believable considering the ancient mystical native knowledge she is supposed to possess?)

  19. #30, #25 & Paul — I agree completely that there are douchey douchebags out there that try and skip out on responsibilities by sounding off on “free-love” and so on, but i think the problem also lies with the women (and men) that are complaining: if you want attachment, go look for it elsewhere. The fact that they don’t want attachment isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s a personal decision. Sure, maybe they could communicate that (lack of) desire more effectively, but the expectation that all men SHOULD want attachment is naive, close-minded and selfish.

    just sayin’

    a non-attached, non-buddhist, SF man

  20. Yes, Arjuna @#32. Absolutely. What I was getting at is that the conventional use of the word “attachment” and the Buddhist understanding of the term are two different things.

    Anyway, people should have the relationships they want, by all means. If I’m not in a relationship I’m comfortable with, I can move on. I can’t complain too much either way, because I have a choice, and so does the other person.

    But saying that it’s against my religious beliefs to have a deeper level of commitment? No, that’s a huge cop out, and it’s just not true. If I don’t want a deeper level of commitment that’s fine, but I have to do the honorable thing and tell it like that.

  21. Enlightenment is an unblinkering, a removal of obstructions. I would rather not characterize it as an end to personal improvement. Such ideas might be a barrier to enlightenment.

  22. #34 as long as you realize that what happened before wasn’t enlightenment. This is a simple definition issue. If you say enlightenment is equal to total perfect understanding, then don’t bandy the word about before you achieve it. What Siddhartha experienced was premature enlightenment.

    What you’re describing is the road to enlightenment bolstered with humility. I’d take what you’re aiming for over some kind of spiritual bravado any day.

  23. Why in the hell does Buddhism get taken seriously, spoken of as true, yet this guy doesn’t? I certainly wouldn’t use Herman Hesse’s book as a guide to what actually happened a couple thousand years ago when a South Asian prince left his wife to practice yoga. A dozen & a few decades ago the Church Of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints was considered not a real religion, Most likely Scientology will gain widespread acceptance in a few decades. All religions, as far as I can see, are human constructs, some seeking to discover some fundamental truth about the world we live in, some seeking, um, other stuff. Seems if they stick around long enough they become accepted as religions. Some even do some real good for the world, some do some real harm, most, from what I’ve seen & read about, do both. If the synopsis of the book I’ve read in the post & comments is accurate, this may just get someone or a few someones laid. If it doesn’t turn toward harming folks mentally or physically, that’s not a bad outcome. And if they last long enough, they may get to be as reviled as Scientology is here at BoingBoing. By then Scientology will be sponsoring ballot initiatives to have Cory Doctorow’s balloon shot out of the air.

  24. @39 – sure it is. Cite your source, and I’ll cite you one back.

    Moot point, though, even if you choose a definition of religion which excludes buddhism, this in no way addresses, invalidates, or rebuts haroun’s point.

  25. Antinous, this is from Alan Watts. I know this is against the rules, to post such a large comment without my own writing, so feel free to unpublish if necessary. It’s just that I cannot say this any better, in fact I cannot say this at all. Maybe just leave it hang for a day then poof, it is gone.

    Everybody these days is interested in spiritual development, and wisely so, because we want to change our consciousness. Many people are well aware that this egocentric consciousness is a hallucination, and they presume it is the function of religion to change it. After all, that is what the Zen Buddhists, and all these yogis in the Orient are doing. They are changing their state of consciousness to get something called satori, or mystical experience, or nirvana, or moksha.

    In pursuing spiritual disciplines, however, such as yoga, Zen, and also psychotherapy, there arises a difficulty. This difficulty lies in wanting to find a method whereby I can change my consciousness and improve myself. But the self that needs to be improved is the one that is doing the improving, and so I am rather stuck. I find out that the reason I think I believe in God is that I hope that somehow God will rescue me. In other words, I want to hang on to my own existence and feel rather shaky about doing that for myself, so I hope there is a God who will take care of it. Or I may think that if only I could be loving, I would have a better opinion of myself. I could face myself if I were more loving. So by some gimmickry the unloving me has to turn itself into a loving me. This is just like trying to lift yourself off the ground with your own bootstraps; it cannot be done. That is why religion, in practice, mainly produces hypocrisy and guilt, due to the constant failure of these enterprises.

    People study Zen, and they say that getting rid of your ego is a superhuman task. I assure you it is very, very difficult to get rid of your ego. You have to sit for a long time, and you are going to get the sorest legs. It is hard work, and all you wretched kids who think you are getting rid of your ego with easy yoga do not know what you are in for. The biggest ego trip is getting rid of your ego, and of course the joke of it all is that your ego does not exist. There is nothing to get rid of. It is an illusion, as I have tried to explain, but still you ask how to stop the illusion. But who is asking? In the ordinary sense in which we use the word I, how can I stop identifying myself with the wrong me? The answer is simply that you cannot.

    The Christians acknowledge this by saying that mystical experience is a gift of divine grace. Man, as such, cannot achieve this experience; it is a gift of God, and if God does not give it to you there is no way of getting it. That is solidly true, since you cannot do anything about it because you do not exist. You might say that is pretty depressing news, but the whole point is that it is not depressing news. It is the joyous news. There is a Zen poem that talks about “it,” meaning the mystical experience, satori, the realization that you are, as Jesus was, the eternal energy of the universe. The poem says, “You cannot catch hold of it, nor can you get rid of it. In not being able to get it, you get it. When you speak, it is silent. When you are silent, it speaks.”

    This phrase not being able to get it, you get it is the feeling Krishnamurti tries to convey to people when he says, “Why do you ask for a method? There is no method. All methods are simply gimmicks for strengthening your ego.” 1 low do we not ask for a method? He answers, “In asking that you are still asking for a method.” There is no method. If you really understand what your “I” is, you will see there is no method. We think this is so sad, but it is not. This is the gospel, the good news, because if you cannot achieve it, if you cannot transform yourself, that means that the main obstacle to mystical vision has collapsed. That obstacle was you. What happens next? By now you are at your wit’s end, but what are you going to do commit suicide?

    Suppose you just put that off for a little while, and wait and see what happens. You cannot control your thoughts, and you cannot control your feelings, because there is no controller. You are your thoughts and your feelings, and they are running along, running along, running along. Just sit and watch them. There they go. You are still breathing, aren’t you? Still growing your hair; still seeing and hearing. Are you doing that? Is breathing something that you do? Do you see? Do you organize the operations of your eyes, and know exactly how to work those rods and cones in the retina? Do you do that? It happens, and it is a happening. Your breathing is happening. Your thinking is happening. Your feeling is happening. Your hearing, your seeing, the clouds are happening across the sky. The sky is happening blue; the sun is happening shining. There it is: all this happening.

    May I introduce you? This is yourself. This is a vision of who you really are, and the way you really function. You function by happening, that is to say, by spontaneous occurrence. This is not a state of affairs that you should realize. I cannot possibly preach about it to you, because the minute you start thinking “I should understand that,” the stupid notion that “I” should bring it about arises again, when there is no “you” to bring it about. That is why I am not preaching. You can only preach to egos. All I can do is talk about what is. It amuses me to talk about what is because it is wonderful. I love it, and therefore I like to talk about it. If I get paid for it, it is because sensible people get paid for doing what they enjoy doing. My whole approach is not to convert you, not to make you over, not to improve you, but for you to discover that if you really knew the way you were, things would be sane. However, you cannot do that. You cannot make that discovery because you are in your own way so long as you think “I” am “I,” so long as that hallucination blocks it. The hallucination disappears only in the realization of its own futility, when at last you see that you cannot make yourself over.

    A lot of yoga teachers may try to get you to control your own mind, mainly to prove to you that you cannot do it. “A fool who persists in his folly will become wise,” and so they speed up the folly. Initially you may have a certain amount of superficial success by a process commonly called self hypnosis, and you may think you are making progress. A good teacher will let you go along that way for a while, until he really throws you by asking, “Why are you concentrating?”

    Buddhism works very much in this way. Buddha said, “If you suffer, you suffer because you desire, and your desires are either unattainable or always disappointed. So cut out desire.” So those disciples went away and they stamped on desire, jumped on desire, cut the throat of desire, and threw out desire. When they came back, Buddha said, “But you are still desiring not to desire.” They wondered how to get rid of that desire. When you see that all of this is nonsense, there naturally comes over you a quietness. Seeing that you cannot control your in you realize there is no controller. What you took to be the thinker of thoughts is just one of the thoughts. What you took to be the feeler of the feelings is just one of the feelings. What you took to be the experiencer of experience is just a part of the experience.

    There is not any thinker of thoughts or feeler of feelings. We get into that bind because our language has a grammatical rule that states that verbs must have subjects. The funny thing about this is that verbs are processes, and so are subjects and nouns, which are supposed to be things. How does a noun start a verb? How does a thing put a process into action? Obviously it cannot, but we always insist that there is this subject called the knower, and without a knower there cannot be knowing. However, that is just a grammatical rule, not a rule of nature. In nature there is just knowing. If you say that you are feeling, it is as if you were somehow different from the feeling. When I say “I am feeling,” what I mean is, there is feeling here. When I say “You are feeling,” I mean there is feeling there.

    1. I just don’t see how the long quote by Watts, in any way answers the question “In what way is Buddhism not a religion like other religions?”

      First of all they have the neat robes – and maroon and deep yellow go very nicely together. They sing and chant. They have an altar in a temple. There is an entity on top of all this. There is stuff this entity said which other people repeat. There is a spiritual/emotional/mental state that one can aspire to achieve. They take money to bless stuff. They have temples – wait I already said that – Did I just meet myself? – I’m confused.

      And at the end of all this someone comes along and says something like “Yes. But none of this is important the important stuff is the fact that . . . blah, blah, blah.”

      Can we agree that Buddhism is more a religion than it is not?

  26. “buddhism isn’t a religion”

    For most Buddhists it most certainly is. Buddhism is one of the more powerful opiates out there. It’s a mystification of reality.

    I don’t understand this glorification of Buddhism but westerners tend to get caught up in their own mystification of the East.

    Not only do we have today, among the Japanese top managers, the wide-spread “corporate Zen” phenomenon; in the whole of the last 150 years, Japan’s rapid industrialization and militarization, with its ethics of discipline and sacrifice, was sustained by the large majority of Zen thinkers – who, today, knows that D.T.Suzuki himself, the high guru of Zen in the America of the 60s, supported in his youth, in Japan of the 30s, the spirit of utter discipline and militaristic expansion. There is no contradiction here, no manipulative perversion of the authentic compassionate insight: the attitude of total immersion into the self-less “now” of the instant Enlightenment, in which all reflexive distance is lost and “I am what I do,” as C.S.Lewis put it, in short: in which absolute discipline coincides with total spontaneity, perfectly legitimizes one subordination to the militaristic social machine. Or, to put it in somewhat simplified terms (which, however, just repeat the central ethical lesson of Bhagavadgita): if the external reality is ultimately just an ephemeral appearance, even the most horrifying crimes eventually DO NOT MATTER.
    Self-Deceptions – On Being Tolerant and Smug

    (Emphasis mine)

    The Japanese or Chinese Buddhist monks had no trouble writing their great philosophical treatises and then practicing their sword play on a few hapless peasants.


           The reader is hereby given notice that just as with all other human inventions and endeavors Buddhism comes in many different sizes and flavors. The reader is therefore duly advised to carefully choose those Buddhists with whom he or she wishes to associate in order to prevent becoming a victim of religious pandering and/or exploitation. Finally, the writer suggests, AS AN ADDED MEASURE OF SAFETY, the reader always remember to include a generous portion of Taoism in any personal recipe for peace. Thank you and good luck.

  28. re: #39- I would say Buddhism is both a religion & an experience of something beyond normal reality. Whatever the Buddha did to achieve enlightenment isn’t being practiced today by Buddhists, as far as I know, & I have an interest in & read quite a bit about these things. What is known today as Buddhism has gone in quite a few directions since Gotama’s enlightenment. One hand it inspires & fuels the Dalia Lama’s principled & public dissent to China’s occupation of his homeland, & at least one aspect of it, was used to justify Japan’s entry into World War II. Religion is a very broad category, & get’s used selfishly & selflessly all the time. As Buddhism is practiced today it most assuredly is a religion to many of it’s practitioners.

    Human beings take things & turn them into religion, be it transcending normal reality, cutting taxes, getting laid or proving that there is no such thing as paranormal activity. The problem with transcending normal reality is that it isn’t much fun & has a dubious payoff. Being a proselytizer for just about anything will win you adherents, satisfying an urge to be with other social beings. Who’s to say what would come of this commune in lovely, though maybe not so hospitable, Oregon? If I was betting, I’d figure more of a mess than a lasting paradise. But I’da bet against a religion founded by a 3rd rate sci-fi author, or one founded on some gold plates a dude found & can’t show me, from the get go.

  29. Noen, I read with great pain, and at the bleedin’ edge of me ability to read and comprehend, the Zizek piece to which you provided a link.

    By Zizek’s broad interpretatioin of fetishism, everything becomes a fetish in the right hands. Zizek completely misses the point of this letting go in the first place. I would ask what is the difference between letting go and letting god, el supremo of fetishes, handle everything. I do not let go of life, but of the concept, my hallucination of self.

    All these things around me are not worthless, just overvalued; a conclusion we all arrive at once we are confronted with mortality. Was eating vegan overvalued if one dies of cancer anyway? Or maybe, more correctly, we have allowed these things or endeavors to consume a disproportionate amount of time. Have we simply undervalued our time? Because in the end that which does not lie there in the bed with you, when you’re counting the dots on the ceiling one last time, was indeed overvalued in comparison.

    I prefer to look at this letting go as admitting my inability to understand, my willingness to live peacefully with mystery. Letting go of searching. Letting go of the idea of I as I, as seperate, as the center of the universe. Not that I declare all things to be worthless, but that the relative values are more accurately delineated.

    The Western world has trouble with the Eastern philosophies, not religions, because the Westerner can only understand by way of Western religious thought. It is the idea of heaven, or any other post-life existence, that ultimately cheapens this life. This experience becomes nothing more than a test, a waiting room with CCTV’s, where one’s every thought, decision, and action is recorded to one day be examined to determine your worth, your worthiness for joining the celestial choir.

    This judgment of your life to determine your worthiness, devalues this finite life. Every thought, decision, and action is now valued not by this life, but on the promise of another infinite life. Western religion is a fetish, a dream of salvation to sustain us in our worthless misery. In fact through the instrument of original sin we are explicitly told we are worthless without our fetish, our god.

    The more correct understanding, is everything is worthless and everything is precious. Once the singularity expanded into dualism, each object or dream became at once worthless and precious. It is worthless because it shall all be gone, it is precious because it shall all be gone. Search Untitled 1 for a recent comment containing the word ox.

    My precious boys are awake, must go now.

  30. Haroun saith:

    Human beings take things & turn them into religion, be it transcending normal reality, cutting taxes, getting laid or proving that there is no such thing as paranormal activity.

    That is well worth repeating… the Middle Way is not really a religion, yet there are many people who worship the Buddha.

    Something similar can be said about Noen’s incisive observation; people commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of goodness and justice.

    It’s what one does, not how one justifies it, that really matters.

  31. Oops, search for bull; the version pasted used bull instead of ox. The comment is the verses to Ten Zen Paintings.

  32. “[D]id the Buddha abandon his wife and child, or was there a shared agreement that he would seek the answers to profound human questions as a family enterprise?”

    Yes! Yes! That’s what I kept telling my ex-wives: Think of my wandering travels as a shared family enterprise.

    But did they? Did they agree to a family agreement?


  33. @ FoetusNail
    I was only interested in the part that I quoted and my intent was just to provide a counter example. I feel, or it is my perception that, westerners (me) tend to romanticize Buddhism and eastern religions so I felt it necessary to provide a counter to that.

    But they are religions as far as I am concerned, even if officially atheistic. The typical Marxist critique of religion is that it is a mystification of the Real. An analogy would be when we perceive a dog behind a picket fence we perceive the whole dog and not just the slices we see. Religious mystification sees the god behind our semantic net. Hence, the Virgin Mary appears in a grilled cheese sandwich or in water stains on the wall of a building or in the random coincidences in one’s daily life. It’s an illusion, we’re doing it.

    Yeah, it’s difficult reading any of the Modern French or continental philosophers because there is a great deal of background that is assumed. America and English philosophers tend to be much more pragmatic. On the internet the gap is even worse because it tends to be dominated by geeks who often have next to zero experience with anything outside of their obsession with technology.

    “everything becomes a fetish in the right hands.”
    Yes, that’s what we see. Google fetish and you’ll get everything you can imagine and a few you can’t. The standard psychoanalytic explanation of fetish is: “I know very well but…” In religious practice a fetish object stands in for the god. “I know very well that this stone statue is not X god but I behave as if it were.” It’s symbolic substitution.

    Repeating Zizek’s criticism:
    “the attitude of total immersion into the self-less “now” […] in which absolute discipline coincides with total spontaneity, perfectly legitimizes one’s subordination to the militaristic social machine.”

    Is it any wonder then that Zen Buddhism was predominate among the warrior class who penned exquisite works of art one moment and conducted wholesale slaughter the next? It seems to me Zizek is correct that the lack of any kind of reflexive distance is what enables one to engage in genocide by day and retreat into one’s calligraphy by night. Similar examples could be drawn from Nazi Germany and the Inquisition. Nazi SS officers were encouraged to step back and perceive the larger picture so that they would not be damaged by the atrocities they committed. That is the danger of any system of thought that urges you to pull back from reality into some kind of nether world. As if you were viewing the pain and suffering on Earth from orbit.

  34. I got into the Back To The Land thing in 1973. Investing in the future, I guess, but I was thinking of a small commune. That didn’t happen, but the land’s still there, trees growing 12-18 inches per year, although I am 2500 miles away. Never saw any Russian Rimas, telepathic or otherwise, in the woods. Did have some hippies living in a tent one summer; one of them was a blonde, however, who liked to get naked and talk to animals, but she was afraid of the bears. They went away. The bears stayed.


    Each month a bank in Oregon
    notifies me that we are partners
    in 40 acres of cedar and pine
    overlooking the Pacific.

    I go up there every few years
    to look around, drink a six pack,
    piss in the bushes, and shoot the empties
    off a stump with my Woodsman .22

    It’s called Getting Back To Nature.

  35. Noen, perhaps Zen is a tool for the mind, and because it is marvelously efficacious for physical manipulation of the world it can be used for good or evil, depending on the wielder.

  36. “A Family Quest: The Buddha, Yasodhara, and Rahula in the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya,” John S. Strong, in Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia, University of Hawai’i Press, 1997. And also, “Family Matters: Dramatic Interdependence and the Intimate Realization of Buddhist Liberation,” Peter Hershock, in Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000) pp. 86-104. Also the books Liberating Intimacy and Ch’an Buddhism by Peter Hershock.

    A lot of important scholarly work has been done since Alan Watts. A lot has been learned about the significance of relationships in Buddhist tradition, particularly in Zen practice. This is just a tiny taste. Please inform yourself before offering flames and unfounded opinions.

  37. A few positive words about Ringing Cedars movement. It is not a cult, it is not a religion, and it has nothing to do with hippies or eco-communes. The main idea is creating a Kin’s domain on a piece of land no less than 1 hectare in size. Kin’s villages consisting of Kin’s domains are sprouting now all over Russia.
    Ecovillage of Kin’s domains is a settlement based on family owned land where each family owns one hectare of land to be kept in the family for generations.
    One hectare with woods, fruit trees, garden and a small pond can provide the family with all of life’s necessities.
    By using long ignored methods of cultivating the earth and harvesting in the context of preserving the earth for future generations, this hectare of land will produce enough for the family’s use with surplus.
    In Kin’s domains great opportunities are opened up to significant improvements in health, reduction in crime, strengthening of family relations and harmonious self development.
    A Kin’s domain is called a Space of Love for its spiritual nature, reconnection with Pristine Origins and profound impact on its inhabitants. Living naturally is an essential part of the idea Space of Love. However the idea is deeper. It may be called: “Back to the Future!” Co-Creating of a Space of Love immutably involves reuniting through all generations of the Kin, from the Past and to the Future.

    Anastasia is a descendant of great Vedic civilization. She calls herself “Vedrussa”. Vedism was speard on vast territories of India, Russia, Europe and other coutries. Vedism was based solidly on a Divine culture. Everyone’s way of life was Divine. ( because they listened/heard and followed through with Father, Co-creation. He was their friend) And every family created in its domain a Space of Love, they felt the wholeness of Nature and, consequently, of everything God had created.
    What happened in Vedism was that people spoke with God through Nature. (God’s Hand of giving) Instead of bowing down before Him, they attempted to understand Him. They loved God as a son and daughter love their kindly parents.” (emphasize good parents). This is our Pristine Orgins.

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