Live or Die – The Social Contract

The nature of humanity is confined to the mechanics of the human experience in its environment. We are creatures of the Darwinian model – driven environmentally and genetically through the process of natural selection to maximize individual performance in the provision of asset goods that will promote existence at the highest level possible.  We want to live and live well. We are driven by an intractable necessity to resolve those physical and mental conditions that place constraints on our opportunities and acquisitions that reinforce our sustainability.

This is not a unique condition. All organisms are subject to the simple fact of the universal nature of living creatures; that all creatures require energy to function, that said energy is external to a creature’s physiology, and that a creature must therefore seek, acquire, utilize or consume said asset goods.

The descriptor for such a hostile environment is the word scarcity, and we’ve already covered that subject, to some degree, in my earlier post. Now, to add a little more before I get to the subject matter of this post.

A second characteristic to this universal condition is that asset goods are always available at levels that require a creature to compete for those goods.  Asset goods are limited; always. Existing organisms face limited resources of relevant, usable particulars that are crucial for the accomplishment of its survival and continued existence.  In other words, things are rough; things are in short supply, there’s insufficient provisions by which a creature might experience life as one more of supply than demand.  As a result, one must contend in an environment that lacks copious and accessible resources; forcing a creature to engage in the consummate, continual, and unchanging task of competition for the very asset goods by which one exists.

All animate creatures of this planet must seek, gather, and consume in order to exist.  This is the normalcy of being alive.  We take it for granted.  We wish it to go away. We are who and what we are precisely because of the tension inherent in being alive in a world of scarcity. 

Fascinating that scarcity is literally the only platonic form that one can say actually exists in our physical realm. Scarcity is the only perfect state. As a result, we have submitted all of our capabilities as an intelligent, rational creature to the cause of ameliorating this condition.  It is the singular effort we make as a species.  There is nothing else we do other than to encounter scarcity on the playing field of existence with the hope to place it behind and away from us.

Scarcity is the procreative parent of the human, social condition. You do nothing that is not some reaction to the condition of scarcity.

Now, humans are notoriously puny animals when compared physiologically to a wide range of other animal species. It is by our intelligence that we have gained the advantage over all animals on Earth, and it is by our evolving, adaptive behaviors of sociality that we continue to rule our domain. The work of asset provision – at least for humans – resides in our sociality, for such work is most productive when performed in concert within groups of people; each person playing a predetermined role. As the sole purpose of such work is to live, and live as well as possible, for as long as possible, there is a natural quid pro quo contract embedded within this cooperative work. The distribution of provisions to those who perform the work of asset acquisition is metaphysical to human existence.

For there to be this social work of asset provision, there must exist sociality; known as communications between individuals and between groups. If the individual, who is always a member of a group, and the group itself recognizes cooperative, conformed work and are voluntary to that work, then it follows that the communications or “language” used in work performance are validations of the individual’s participation and role authority in asset acquisition. This brings about the quid pro quo contract I noted earlier.

Quid pro quo simply means: something in return, or an equal exchange.

Every act of communication is always an act of personal validation; without exception. The sole reason to communicate – whether by verbal means, the written word, or physical action – is to promote one’s own existence and purpose within one’s environment. All other considerations regarding a communication is always secondary; including acts of altruism.

In a universe defined completely by scarcity, for any individual to ward off the ills of scarcity, they either need to live the life of a reclusive forager/hunter in unincorporated lands, or choose to rely and become part of a social group, thereby providing some degree of viability, stability, and potential flourishment. As the latter has learned from infancy, to do this successfully, one must conform to cooperative activities within the social group.

It simply follows that participatory validation is an act within the unconscious nature of a society. As such, it emerges from what is known as culture. No, I do not mean society. I mean culture, and for there to be culture, there must be an explicit and/or implicit social contract in working order.

Quid pro quo is the anecdotal manifestation of any social contract. We have certain assumptions held closely within our genetics that pertain to how we are to treat one another throughout our social existence. These unconscious assumptions took root over a protracted period of time and evolution of our species as we entwined ourselves with one another; forming into societies that were necessary for our survival.

Plato, in Book II of, The Republic, has stated the problem of human nature better than most and I must refer to it here. I’ll try not to let Plato ramble too much.

“They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice…”[1]

Perhaps this is a bit disorienting to you. How, of sane mind, would one observe injustice as good? Plato lived 2500 years ago; a time when such perceptions might have had more reason. He was really referencing his words back to a time when humans had little knowledge of social living; a time when other beasts ruled the Earth, and the human state of mind yielded a life that was, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.[2]

Think of it this way… Work, the type of work that acquires asset provisions, is long, hard, and subject, quantitatively and qualitatively, to all types of causal agents. You spend hours gathering berries, edible roots, grasshoppers, and maybe a rodent or two so you might feed your family and live another day. You sense an accomplishment. You have some reason for a temporary fix of happiness, but the work was hard and exhausting. That’s one way to go about life.

Then there’s the alternative. You lie about nonchalantly on a hillside all the day long, watching others go about their work in the valley. As sunset approaches, you pick out your provider, approach unseen, and kill him or her from behind with a stone axe (which you stole earlier). A bounty of provisions are yours. You sense an accomplishment. You have some reason for a temporary fix of happiness and the work was easy and idyllic.

Which is the life that is good and which is the life that is bad? This is what Plato refers to, “and so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither…”. Of course, and in due time, the perpetrator of the murder finds him or herself murdered through an act of revenge by the victim’s family and friends. That’s how it goes, and thus the Social Contract was an inevitable necessity. Think of the Golden Rule.

The species, Homo Sapiens, has been working on this social contract for some 300,000 years. As it has always been a social animal – by the fact that it minimally requires a male and a female for the progeny of the species – the human has faced the many problems of survival. What we call injustice is but one of many, but it is central to the development and maintenance of a stable family unit and the scarcity demands that enforce the structure of a society. 

In order to be part of a society, have a role authority there within, and participate in both the acquisition and distribution of asset provisions, there had to be fundamentally fixed within human nature a social contract whereby each one of us understood that injustice – both giving and receiving – was more than just impractical, but constituted the greatest threat to the stability of the society to bring about the resources for human survival and hopeful flourishing.

It is this social contract that is the foundation of any and all societies that function successfully, and the greater the force of the social contract on a society, the more stable the society, the longer it lasts, and the more rewards to its participants; an enduring happiness.

This contract, this pact, this commitment, this bond, this guarantee is so important to humanity that it has been ritualized across the spectrum of human behaviors; moving from the conscious on into the unconscious. From Japanese tea ceremonies to Catholic Communion, from celebratory parades to ship launchings, from weddings to funerals, from the Starbucks’ coffee cup to the MAGA hats, from competitive sports to competitive wars, from the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize to the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword, humans have enshrined the manifested, conscious rituals of the Social Contract into every aspect of their lives. As to unconscious reverence for the Social Contract, one might consider how people line up at queues, take turns going through doorways, converse in turn, and volunteering oneself to another’s emergent needs to the point of death; to name but a few..  

Now, it would be sensible to note that the Social Contract exists within a society. The physical manifestation of the Social Contract, held between all humans, is what we refer to as society. It is the see and be seen world. Society is the set of evolving beliefs and practices that constitute the entirety of human expression. Society is the evident validation of human communications that form a basis for human existence. Society is that part of ubiquitous change or evolution that we refer to as natural selection, or the continual emergence of human behavioral variants that compete for validation within any social group. Society is our conscious world.

There is another world, though, one that has no direct physical manifestation, cannot be seen with the naked eye, constrains the forms of emerging, human behavioral variants, defines communications, and is unconscious to human perceptions and actions. I’m referring to culture. The Social Contract exists and operates as culture.

“Culture predates society, as it evolves before consciousness.”[3]

This quote, by the playwright David Mamet, cuts through the normal hyperbole of human indulgence in temporal sociality and establishes a link to the primordial aspects of human evolution. Clearly running afoul to much of academia and the normal interpretations of culture – and there are many – I do not view culture as the arts, the religions, the traditions and customs, the foods, nor the governments. These things are of societies and constitute the values, goals, and practices of a society. Culture lies underneath society; it is responsible for the society and represents those characteristics of human essence, as a genetically-defined creature, that molds the nature of the Social Contract. Culture is the governor or regulator of a society that works to balance the immutable Social Contract with the mutable and evolving character of a society, so as to promote maximum efficiency. All conditions of the society originate and emanate from culture.

The sole reason humanity is here today, in the form it is in, is due to the Social Contract. Some might consider this a success; some a failure.

The purpose of the Social Contract is to provide, 1) equal opportunity to the asset resources that maintain life, 2) equal social representation, and 3) individual protection from breeches in the Social Contract. As you may note, no social contract has been successful in this definition. Humanity, in its essentially self-interested nature, accepts a certain degree of balance between the benefits of the Social Contract and its failures due to individual and group corruption. This is the balance of voluntary and involuntary submission.

Thus comes a brief observation on the term ideology.

In my previous post on scarcity, I noted that Desmond Morris used the term neophilia in describing a central behavior to the human species. Neophilia is ideology.

The general argument is that ideologies represent the human potential for good; that ideologies represent goals for all of humanity to strive for throughout their lives. In this vein of thought, I would have to say that ideology is the force by which humanity pushes back against the forces of universal scarcity. Ideologies are therefore power.

Ideology is the ubiquitous nature of humanity’s initial push against the forces of scarcity. We always, first and foremost, imagine the goal before we settle upon the means by which to acquire the rewards. Ideologies are the hoped for paradigms that specifically exceed human comprehension and competence, yet they are universally credited with all successful practicalities. Humans have a curious, yet very beneficial, quality to their cerebral composition. It’s called imagination. In the end, it is through practical means by which humanity steps forward along its path.

The reason for the Social Contract is simple; the human animal will never be successful as a long-term species should it either operate in a state of anarchy – that’s what human life is without the Social Contract – nor ultimately channel itself into a solitary, non-social, creature. Won’t work, end of story.

Many philosophers have postulated that the Social Contract is about political authority. I might amend that a bit. There is the necessity of an icon, as symbol, or a form of justice; an ideological, perfect form that under and through all human experiences, can adjudicate fairly the standards of the Social Contract. This form must be inescapable; essentially omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Religion makes that claim. Government would like to make that claim; given the fact that it preceded religion as a structure for a social group. Remember, before government and religion could come into focus, there had to be certain principles recognized and used for the successful continuity of any social group. What that form summons itself into – a collective vision by the greatest number of conforming individuals within a social group – can come in various forms; the two most successful being government and religion.  What I am getting at is that sociality is but the means to the Social Contract; government and religion providing humanity with the best answers to our quest for life, since we are, by nature, immutably social.

The Social Contract was a development through complex systems of trial and error, through countless social groups, and over a period of many, many millennia. It was never, as dallying philosophers like to note, a sedition to anarchy; as if at one moment all of humanity were simply beasts, and then, through ceding certain, considered rights of self-rule, became man (one short step to deification).

The reality of being a social animal is that there lies within the genetic manifestation of being human a quality of justice towards other humans. This quality will dominate human sociality to the degree of the stability of the society maintaining efficiency in providing asset resources and protecting all individuals equally. What this means is that a society that demonstrates inefficiencies in provision and inequalities in representation can expect a reduced level of conformity to the Social Contract; i.e. corruption, crime, and other types of breaches in the standards of the Social Contract: vice.

The Social Contract is essentially the aggregation of virtues; which are universal to all societies of humanity. While we tend to focus our references to virtues through religious methodology, that is only because religion within the social groups of humanity was the first and primary means by which the earliest periods of the Social Contract was constructed and habituated through natural selection. In other words, the Social Contract is a genetic construct first and foremost; that being the basic definition of a social animal. It is not chosen, but rather an inherited selection. Vices were delineated in order to provide means of assessing an individual’s failures in adherence to the standards of virtue.

Religion was and is, for the foreseeable future at least, the means by which a society maintains the Social Contract, and thus its own stability and success. In modern societies, it is often noted and understood that religion is becoming less influential across the spectrum of social groups. It will be interesting to observe the quality of the Social Contract if this is indeed a permanent trend, as of this date, there is little, emerging, social structure that can replace the existing Social Contract as a viable means by which a society can maintain a sense of universal justice and fair play amongst its citizenry. If this assertion is factual, then we can expect a period of societal deconstruction. Not a good thought, as all humanity floats on the reality and practicality of the Social Contract. Without it, human society would collapse, and the Earth would move on to its next phase; much like the age of dinosaurs, except in this case, it won’t be an asteroid that finishes us off, but by our own petard. For any continued, long-term success as a society, humanity would have to replace both government and religion, with a third means by which to live.

A final note. Should one opine the belief that the Social Contract is a failure due to its inability to prevent injustice down through innumerable millennia, and should therefore be replaced by another option, I suggest your soup has gone cold.

Anyone have any ideas?

[1] Plato, The Republic; Book II.

[2] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

[3] The Secret Knowledge on the Dismantling of America – David Mamet; page 20.

The Scarcity Principle

I want to revisit a post from 2018, repeat some of what I said then, and elaborate in greater depth about the conflict all living creatures face: the immutable problem of scarcity. There is obviously a purpose in doing this, as I want to walk us through two basic characteristics of the human condition; one asserted from without – that being scarcity – and the other asserted from within – the Social Contract. Squeezed between the two, so to speak, brings about the evolving existence of the primary subject I want to tackle – that being the ideology and final reality of freedom. And, so to start…

Today, there are many long-standing natures of the human being that have been, in the western, modern world, universally accepted as fact, and our teleology and success hangs on their presence. Some are bred in forever, while others are more susceptible to the redefinition of their meanings, so as to nestle comfortably and efficiently into our evolving society. In some cases, a few human metaphysical concepts of being are facing dramatic upheavals in their definition and use these, so-called, modern days.

As shocking as the novel, Peyton Place, was to the social and sexual mores of proper, white Americans living in the 1950’s, so too was a zoological exposé by Desmond Morris in 1967. It portrayed the exalted man of divine aspirations as nothing more than kin to the great apes; describing all its faculties and motivations as simple, behavioral adaptations and habitations to its environment. Morris stripped mankind of its regal garb and showed the world the true human being.

In his bestselling book, The Naked Ape, Morris referred to the human condition of neophilia; the love of the new.  It led him to describe the most interesting aspect of the human condition; one that entailed a few rules as he describes:

“These rules can be stated as follows: (1) you shall investigate the unfamiliar until it has become familiar; (2) you shall impose rhythmic repetition on the familiar; (3) you shall vary this repetition in as many ways as possible; (4) you shall select the most satisfying of these variations and develop these at the expense of others; (5) you shall combine and recombine these variations one with another; and (6) you shall do all this for its own sake, as an end in itself.”

As impressed as I was when I read those words in 1967, I now understand that Morris was slightly in error; at least about that last phrase: “you shall do all of this for its own sake, as an end to itself.” The truth is that we did “all this” for our preservation and not just to idle the day away. This endless quest of humanity to unravel our sensory perceptions and then attempt to knot them back up in some new form and usage was for but one purpose; to fend off the onslaught of the one and only, true adversary to life: scarcity.

Scarcity may be defined as a noun referring to an environmental condition in which existing organisms face limited resources of relevant, usable particulars that are crucial for the accomplishment of its survival and continued existence.  In other words, things are tough; things are in short supply, there’s insufficient provisions by which a human might experience life as one more of supply than demand.  As a result, one must contend in an environment that lacks copious and accessible resources; forcing an individual to engage in the consummate, continual, and unchanging task of foraging and competition for the very means by which one exists.

Scarcity has been the dominant factor of our environment since before there was anything that might be related to as hominid.  All animate creatures of this planet must seek, gather, and consume in order to exist.  This is the normalcy of being alive.  We take it for granted.  We wish it to go away; hence religion, and that’s another story to tell. We are who and what we are precisely because of the tension inherent within scarcity.

Scarcity has defined and shaped the very physiological and psychological characteristics of each and every human within his or her social structure. The scarcity of material, sensory particulars in our environment hold primacy to the very metaphysical core of what and who homo sapiens are as a creature.  Our birth, security, health, and well-being are completely dependent upon this condition.  Scarcity directs our thoughts, our words, and our everyday actions, and we engage this condition in the never-ending effort to assuage our needs for those things that enable our continued existence.  It is the parent we never knew we had.  It is the teacher, the politician, the grocer, the mechanic, the administrator, the soldier, the mortician, and the lord of our very being.  The Darwinian phrase “the survival of the fittest” is a direct reference to this most intimate tension between humanity and the environment about us, and make no mistake, scarcity, as an incomparable dictator, has created us in its likeness. And not to underestimate its importance, scarcity is responsible for the full complement of genetic material within us. We are nothing other than a creature of scarcity.

While I have been, by implication, referring to material goods that we lack and must have in order to survive, I’ve been only referencing the final phase of an action(s) and not the means or mode by which one acquires sustenance. The more important methodology comes by an agency that I noted in the opening paragraphs of this essay.

Knowledge is humanity’s sole sponsor for its pursuit of existence. Through the understanding of our world and of ourselves as social creatures, we have been able to move the dynamics of evolution into our favor. I need not detail this point to its abstraction; just leave it to ask yourself to look around. Everything you see, everything you experience, is the result of knowledge and its application into the effort for a better life.

Our gained assets of our social condition have systemically pushed us towards where we are now as a species on planet Earth; living in an elaborate and complex social system that is the result of the congealing of different systems that have been tried and failed with those that have been tried and succeeded.

Politics by government, our elected, economic practices, and the will of humanity are the driving forces that generate and sustain humanity. These forces are the result of knowledge; the knowledge of what has worked or failed, and thus represents the quality and character of human nature at this moment. It is our best effort. This trial and error process has yielded governments of autocracies (dictatorships), aristocracies (family dictatorships), and democracies (elitist dictatorships). It has also produced economic systems by which a society might sustain itself: capitalism, communism, distributism, feudalism, socialism, statism, and the welfare state.

As to these social structures brought about by scarcity, there has been one common theme throughout the varieties: a strict, static, power-based form of hierarchy, though the forms are diverse: divinity, royalty, ecclesiastical, administrative, political, military, and elitism. This last form of social group entails caste systems of India, white privilege in Europe and America, the feudal families of Japan, actors, professional athletes, and, of course, the patriarchal domination that exists – in all fairness, due to scarcity – throughout the world. The result of all of this institutionalizing, is a tradition of management of our society that, for better or worse, is what we have today.

With hierarchy and authority came an inequitable layering of individuals into identity groups with varying degrees of rights and privileges. Those who can, would, and those who cannot, couldn’t. Again, this is scarcity. To call this evil, as many do, is to evade a natural condition of humanity; that in the effort given to maintain sustainability – to push away the more rapacious characteristics of scarcity from one’s front door – most humans will do just about anything to live; including entering into many social institutions. Ultimately, no social condition comes about through the elective process; it always comes from necessity; a necessity caused by scarcity.

These are but the public, institutional consequences of scarcity; the ones that can be clearly delineated through historical documentation.  There are the everyday, private varieties that go unrecorded.  Each of us live a life of necessary discrimination; the making of a distinction or difference between multiple subjects or objects. This is not without purpose. There is a continual effort by each of us to move ourselves, to position ourselves so as to reap, through labor or laziness, the resources that we personally need and desire. Not one word is uttered, nor an action taken that does not advance the cause for the individual involved. From this personal enterprise comes the wide variety of pathological conditions that plague each one of us. And thus, it is with great fanfare that we acknowledge the altruisms and sacrifices of humans who give more than they take. It is quite unusual. As such, there is nothing abnormal about discrimination as a tool for survival, as it promotes the foundation by which one secures one’s existence.

Scarcity is responsible for the majority of all violence that occurs in human societies; whether it be illegal acts between individuals and groups, or legal, military actions between social groups and countries.  Scarcity is responsible for gang-wars, slavery, eugenics, genocide, and law offices.  Tucked neatly within the principles of scarcity can be found racism, bigotry, elitism, and all of the other “isms”; even those whose claim is reparative, like feminism.

Scarcity is also responsible for every quality and act of love and compassion.  It ennobles us to the arts and raises us all with the rising tide of human accomplishment.  Scarcity nestles itself within every act of goodness between individuals and between social groups.  Though it is important to keep in mind that these virtuous emotions we so urgently feel when what is good finds true, accessible expression, they are but the release of the frustrations of scarcity.  It’s why we cry in the presence of beauty.

We are so caught up in what is the singular reality of our condition that we cannot think, nor imagine, what it would be like for humanity without scarcity.  No science-fiction writer has ever properly illuminated such a place; preferring the amateurish, more-common, grazing field of dystopia: the utter failure to cope with scarcity.

Because we must live with scarcity, we treat it as normal. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find much information on this subject; whether it’s your local library or the internet. Humans are too hard at the task of scarcity to view it in a relationship other than short term. What’s for dinner? I need a new pair of shoes. This traffic is ridiculous! We just don’t see the big picture, and I contend, that without seeing the big picture, we are destined to repeat the same mistakes and the same errant visions that have ultimately been only a hindrance to our evolution into the potential future that, at this point, we seem only to dream about.

It’s an interesting occurrence in recent years that the movie industry is so fascinated with the imaginative, speculative dystopian concepts for a future of humanity. Just try to find a book or a movie about a pleasant and happy future. Few have bothered to give themselves over to an intelligent, rational prophecy of a future without scarcity. Instead, we simply look at today and not tomorrow. Politicians promise an era of justice and equality.  Technocrats promise a future of leisure and pleasure.  Corporatists promise a job for everyone, along with daycare, and the Religious promise a future of perfection.

Fortunately, humanity has the key to unlock the door into a world of abundance, and that key is knowledge. Our very innate nature is to remediate any condition of suffering.

What we do want to understand in all of this is that this new world will not come about by revolution, upheaval, revelation or some other momentary and momentous event. No cataclysmic point in time, no charismatic individual will yield a universal understanding and amiable abeyance to the necessary conditions for universal plenitude to exist. We have attempted such measures many times in the past with consistent regularity; always offering assurances of utopian resources for freedom, liberty, and equality for all; only to discover that we have installed but another hierarchy and another authority that takes more than it gives.

To change the very genetic mindset of the human society from whence it came to where it will be, will require patience. Humanity’s evolving nature and its unique ability to imagine solutions to our needs is a matter that evolution, and only evolution, retains the authority over. A sixth grader cannot simply become a tenured professor by desire, impatience, and dictate. Things just don’t work that way.

This is the point of this post on scarcity. It is to establish in your mind where we are today, and the potentiality of our future not being dependent upon our past; as much as we believe it to be inescapable. There are seemingly two ends to the spectrum of conditions by which the human animal lives out its destiny. Those ends are scarcity and plenitude. We’ve just had a brief look at scarcity. If plenitude were to yield as much reflection of human existence as scarcity has, can you begin to imagine what we might become at the very core of our being? The conclusions for life brought forward by engaging this subject openly and without historical prejudice yield totally different existences in which the very composition – physiological and psychological – of the individual and society are as far apart as scarcity is from plenitude.

There’s more to the struggle for survival than the provisions that bring a measure of physiological comfort to humanity; there’s also those human constructs meant for the comfort of our psychological source of being. The importance of such constructs is as critical to our historical success as any fire with roasting meat turning on the spit. Of them all, the Social Contract stands at the epicenter; it was, is, and will continue to be the sole bulwark against the failure of humanity as a species of animal on this, and any other, planet.

I take up the matter of the Social Contract in my next post; soon.

On the Road Again

So, it’s been four years since I posted last. Much like a river moving downstream, my thoughts and pursuits have taken me into unexpected tributaries numerous times; waters that I had never considered when I began this blog. What were some of those tributaries? Well… just a few… philosophy, evolution and natural selection, thermodynamics, social order, entropy, religious anthropology, 20th century psychiatric theory, quantum mechanics, and wave field theory.

Three years back, I wrote the code for a website titled, Spiritual Iron. Its purpose was to fill a gap in the spiritual meanderings of both the religious and the non-religious. You know, these days the common phrase is, ”I’m spiritual. I’m not religious.” I get it. The old shoe doesn’t fit as nicely as it used to a few hundred years ago. Enlightenment has fully arrived, and the mental blisters of deific faiths have hobbled many a traveler from experiencing the social and technological wonders of modern society. As a result, many are willing to go with the flow of a reality lacking any intent they are aware of, other than their own. I’m not. Personal intent kinda sucks.

Spiritual Iron, is basically a news-oriented website; highlighting particular stories and events that I feel points towards true spirituality sans religious denotation. Twelve subjects of spiritual information rest within three categories.

  • Transcendence – Spiritual, Religion, Environment, Health
  • Immanence – Philosophy, Psychology, Human Nature, Culture
  • Apotheosis – Science, Technology, Economics, Education,

In a nutshell, I search the internet and link chosen articles into my website. A picture and a bit of caption, and the reader can link to the article if it suits their interests.


Religion’s Role

Spirituality – for me at this point in my life – is more about reading reality in its simplest, ontological forms; the manner in which humanity lives out their lives, and, on the larger scale, how the universe reconciles itself as one entity with intent. For me, spirituality is not about religion, but a recognition of the consilience of all things. Spirituality lies at the base of human existence; well before  it was blanketed in multiple layers of societal humus.  Jesus understood this, Judaism and Christianity are based upon this, and the sciences are unearthing this consilient universe’s reality and (heaven forbid) conscious state of intent.

I’m sure some pushback will arrive on this opinion.

Christian spirituality has been largely defined by human beings who were deeply invested in Christian doctrine. The survival of any temporal material or immaterial thing – as all things are – requires successful succession; for all things are temporal. Concepts, theories, even facts require constant reiteration of a narrow, concentrated scope to ensure their consistent presence and usage in the human mind. Living creatures incorporate both physical anatomies suited for procreation, and immensely strong psychological inclinations to engage in procreation. Even rocks crumble, yet emerge again from the geological activities of our planet. It is therefore unsurprising that Christian theology recognizes this fact and has firmly embedded it throughout its theological and social doctrines.

I’ve always admired the perseverance of Christian apologists. No matter the subject – it could be about the pitfalls of eating an ice cream cone in the desert – these highly-invested apologists are always able to explain the pitfalls and remedies through some analogy on how Jesus would have handled it, or how Paul going down with the ship rose again, or Moses dealing with the Pharoah’s pursuing army. It’s truly remarkable to me, and I know that it penetrated deeply into the world populace over the last two thousand years. Essentially, the entire world as we know it is the result of Christianity.

However, I cannot confine my thoughts on spirituality simply within the realm of Christian mysticism, for as I have said, spiritual reality is not religious reality. They are two different subjects. In essence, I am proposing that the term spirit, along with its derivatives, require a new foundational platform from which to rise into common understanding, usage, and language. A social evolution towards this necessity has been building consistently since the Enlightenment, and the sciences are the conveyance by which we will eventually come to this redefinition and redemption.

I have written extensively on the Christian spirit in Travels of a New Christian. The titles: My Testimony and the Birth of My Spirit, The Spirit Within, The Spirit Immured, Mary and Her Spirit, The Problem of the Spirit, The Cause for the Spirit, and The Poor in Spirit clearly testify to my fixation (I admit) to this thing called spirit.

I also noted in November 2012, in my first blog, “So, I want to talk about ‘The Path’ – that walk that we all must take as God’s children.” At the time, I was referencing to a Christian-themed ‘walk’; one that would use Christian content and doctrine as a tool for witnessing; as a way for providing counsel to others through one’s own experiences and revelations, but always referencing back to Biblical content and universal interpretations.

Permit me to advance a proposal.

Religion is the cultural means by which humanity connects into their true reality – that which, and to a very small extent, we have now begun to empirically understand through the sciences; to name two… quantum physics and wave field theory. The basis of all true religions lies in two areas of interest. The first, and in no order of importance, is their meditative initiatives. Prayer is one such practice. Contemplation is another. These are means to sustain ourselves physiologically and psychologically in a world that seems ultimately cruel, by leveling our senses into the stream of consciousness that pervades, with intent, throughout all matter and energy. The second, is their philosophy. It’s no coincidence they all speak of duty, compassion, ethics, and labor. These virtues, along with the many others, constitute the task of sociality and cooperation. The virtues form the backbone of human relations.

Religion is responsible for the success of humanity to date, and probably well beyond into the future. It is the best possible means for our species to find some contentment in a world that seems unsympathetic to human adversity. Why, can I say this? Because, it is. To not accept the fact that no historical society has ever successfully structured a long-term civilization, without religion as it’s philosophical and structural base, is to admit to a fool’s errand. It’s popular these days to pretend the factual and well-recorded history of humanity is somehow illusionary in the face of modern problems of sociality, but even here, it’s impossible to avert one’s eyes for long from the inescapable conclusion of the importance of religion.

NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula
NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula

Intent in All Things

Perhaps religion’s most important contribution to human understanding of the universe is the idea of intent.

I say intent not as meaning some deific overlord of creation that shapes all things according to its will, but rather I say intent simply as what we observe of the universe. There is direction, and no matter the uncountable, errant paths and dead ends that exists about us, the universe has direction. Take away our stagnant, anthropomorphized expectations that suits our material level most frequently, and there is the perpetual and enduring direction. I call this intent. To walk this one step further, I might suggest that intent means consciousness. And to walk this one step further, one streaming in that intent, that consciousness, is a spiritual experience and journey.

What we experience with our personal senses is a construct of convenience. It’s the here and now. Religion is the cultural methodology for streaming in the ubiquitous continuum of time and space; of moving outside of the here and now, and into a consciousness that more closely relates to that intent, the direction in which the universe flows. We are a social animal above all other descriptors. To be social requires a complex interrelationship of many different human characteristics, qualities, and inclinations. Common to them all is their adherence to philosophical ideals that pervade religions, and  their contribution and support to a set of principles and rules that engage humanity in social behaviors.

Humanity – new and novel to the scene – has been around long enough to settle into a range of cultural principles that have greatly benefited humanity in its quest for plenitude and contentment. These cultural principles are as much embedded within our genetics, as they are in our social relations. As such, these principles constitute a social contract that defines and directs human will and action. ‘Will’ is the recognition of that social contract, and ‘action’ is our acceptance and implementation of that social contract.

All of humanity’s infamous debate between religion and the sciences renders down to this cultural conclusion. While it seems logical to reject religions as archaic reasoning, or simply because one believes religious dogmas to be false, cultural evolution moves not by idealism, but by the consistent experience of what works. And it is our culture that defines who we are as human, and not our society. And it is culture, not society, that embodies the human social contract.

I’m not say this is to be regarded as a permanent condition. Evolution is just that. What I am saying is that the human task of knowledge is to bring into view a horizon – one well into our future – that ensures, without the dictate of any authority, a sense of being that’s cast the misery of scarcity from its constitution.  

 Religion has worked tremendously well in bringing us to this stage in our existence, and to abandon religion is to suspend us in an animated world in which there are many questions left unanswered. Is this – that being the putting away of religion, solely for the sake of empirical knowledge – not a risk to our survival that is too great to simply and blindly accept? If the only grocery store in your wilderness is south, southwest of you, would you really ignore that truth in favor of walking off to the north, northeast?

Religion is a truth, for truth is nothing more than the vehicle by which we travel through the continuum of life. This does not mean that all of humanity must bow, zombie-like, to the past, cultural institutions. This does not mean that genies and gods exist. What it does mean is that cultural structures come about with a certain immutability; born through long periods of time in which humans utilize social interactions to experiment with what works and doesn’t work, in advancing us towards a existence of flourishment and not despair. This is what society is; a think-tank of ideas whose sole purpose is to ward off scarcity in favor of plentitude. It is the temporary, is it not? Just check out your social media preferences any morning and you’ll get a good taste of the grit of the social mill. Society is the sandbox.

Having said all that, I move on in my travels as a new Christian. I think my use of the term Christian has been a convenience; a manner in which my writings might make some sense. I do remember a day or two after my 2009, significant, encounter with intent – I then acquiescently referred to as God – that I posed the thought to my assistant in my career’s choice that if I had been born in Iran, I would be calling myself Muslin, rather than Christian. I still believe that. Society does set some values.

What I have learned and evolved towards over the past thirteen years is to shed the uncountable definitions and limitations of society and look deeply into the purpose of culture. This journey hasn’t shattered any past teachings, nor future expectations. Rather, it has simply permitted me a different view of the metaphysics of the universe we all live in. It is immanent and transcendental at the same time. I find this curious, almost strange, in its spiritual freedom, and at the same time, a phenomenon of wonder.

Needless to say, this is all to let my readers know that my travels are about to broaden beyond the appealing and safe shoreline of Christian thought.

Much more to come.

L. Reese Cumming

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Matthew 4:4

But He answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.””

Peregrino 2

Well, I really am getting down to the final few weeks before I leave on the pilgrimage of the Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela).  My ticket is dated April 3, 2013; four days after I become Catholic at the Easter Vigil at St. Peter the Apostle Church, Naples, Florida.  I thought I would use this post to bring my readers up to speed on what this is all about, and why I am doing this pilgrimage, and I shall.  What I must add though is a recent turn of events.

My parents have been trying to sell their apartment for the past year, so they can move into a retirement community.  They had no luck during that time to either sell their apartment or find a residence they liked, and it came to a point where they just decided to live out their remaining years where they are.  The road was clear for me to go on this pilgrimage, and I bought my ticket.  A couple of days later – you guessed it – they received an offer for their home, and found a new home at their preferred community; all in the same day.  If that’s not God working in their lives, I don’t know what is.  So here I am; aching a bit that my plans are postponed, but delighted that I am still around to get them both moved.  Again, God’s hand all over this one, as I had originally planned to walk in March/April, and I would have been gone by the time they received their offer to sell.

So let’s talk the Camino…. Continue reading El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Your Call to Service

I had started another post some days back and had gotten a few pages into it.  I thought it sensible to progress my journey, as a new Christian, into the events of my education at the New Hope School of Ministries, and perhaps I shall return to that someday.  What became quite evident though was that the Holy Spirit knew all too well what needed to be said.  After a lot of mental doubt and the mysterious disappearance of the word file from my hard drive this past morning, I knew that nagging thought in the back of my mind needed to become an expression of my heart instead.  And so here I go.

Operation Shoebox – Guatemala – December 2009

Pastor Dwight, Kathryn, I, and a new friend, Dollea Herron, stepped through the doors of the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, and into a bright sun and the kind presence and care of Dany Mejia, director of operations for this mission trip.  Dany was a past student at the Living Water Teaching school in Xela, as well as a once-small child who benefited profoundly from just such a mission trip as we were about to embark upon. December was here and a crisp wind marked the coming of cold evenings and warm afternoons for the next week.

Along with some forty other volunteer missionaries, we stayed the night at a local motel before taking the four-hour bus ride into the central highlands of Guatemala.  Quetzaltenango, or Xela, is a bustling and dirty city, and our destination spread out across a plateau; surrounded entirely by a mountain ridge replete with active volcanoes that belched smoke on a routine basis.  The bus ride was a venture back into a time of the Mayan culture, and quite surreal as we found ourselves surrounded both by a world of simple ways and means and a modern society embracing all that is material.  Donkeys and motorcycles were parked side-by-side at the traveler’s restaurant where we ate breakfast that morning, and a wonderful breakfast it was.  The tortillas were handmade before our eyes by a young woman stationed at a wood-fired comal. The food was ‘typica’: a few salsas, tortillas, mashed beans, scrambled eggs, and fresh-squeezed juices, as well as a cafe dark and intense. Continue reading Your Call to Service