Goatwalking 3 - Jim Corbet


Animism is a technocratic theory attributed to pretechnocratic societies; the savage's awareness that presence is unfragmented and is met in all others is interpreted as a belief that every object has a self in it.


Is there more reason for believing that each human body you meet has a self inside it than there is for believing that mountains, trees, and springs do? Are you sure there's a self in your own body? Why do savages refer to spirit as the air we breathe, people living in spirit instead of spirits living in people?


Gods as well as animals once spoke to us. Now each self talks to itself. But have you ever tried to find the self who speaks? Elusive, isn't it? Maybe the subject self is unobservable because it really isn't there at all. But if I'm not the one talking to myself, who is? Daemons - that is, angels - are said to be messengers who shape primal presence into specific, personal points of view, so, unlike the self addressing self, they account for the primacy of shared meaning and for the rhythm of aspiration and inspiration manifest in poetry, prophecy, and the other ways of expressing communion.


The assumption that meaning must be centered in the self-conscious self dies harder than its geocentric analogue. Technocratic man has extracted all explanatory content from mythopoetic insights concerning the daemonic in order to distill a residue of pure superstition - self-addressing self - that functions as the referential center around which his world view revolves.


No way of living can be right that is part of a livelihood system that destroys rather than supports life. All others are primarily subjects rather than objects. And genuine communion is inseparable from right livelihood. How, then, can members of technocratic civilization enter into communion?


When communion is conceived technocratically, as an end state to be superimposed or achieved, they can't. Communion is always here and now rather than an end state. Technocratic civilization is itself irreplaceably good, in its time, because it is the womb of contractual property relations among strangers, which grows into the societal forms that must precede any realization of the covenant to extend civility to humankind and all that lives. In their time, social philosophers were right in claiming that human civilization had to be founded on slavery. In their time, they have been right in claiming that war is the natural relation of one state to another and that national security must override human rights. And industrial civilization's free markets and private property are also essential for the realization of human rights and for the emergence of a land ethic that establishes rights for the biotic community that is, for extending civil association beyond (and in spite of) national borders and for accepting everything that lives as a member of our consociation.


Learning to go cimaron opens an exodus. Learning to live by fitting into an ecological niche rather than by fitting into a dominance-submission hierarchy opens human awareness to another kind of society based on equal rights of creative agency for all. This awareness develops even when untamed living is a practiced apart from one's ordinary livelihood. Living cocreatively rather than possessively seems impossibly demanding because it is virtually impossible in our kind of society, of individuals and families. Errantry's special virtue as a community practice is that the covenant community can open the way where its members are individually powerless, while at the same time it greatly enhances is members personal and familial abilities to undertake uncovenanted tasks. Covenanting, rather than the individual's adaptation to wildlands, is the fundamental practical concern of any posttechnocratic human being who seeks to go free. The radical individuality of the cimarron is realized only in the kind of consociation in which everyone is a fully empowered partner.


Covenanting is the fundamental adaptive concern of anyone who seeks to become fully human, because the basic covenant community empowers its members to be cocreators of a social order in which humankind lives in harmony with one another and all that lives. There are, of course, many less inclusive meaning of the verb "covenant" - as many meanings as there are ways that human beings can choose to band into partnership with one another - but I will ordinarily use "covenant" to refer to the enactment by consensual agreements of societal and other symbiotic harmonies that would reach completion in communion. I will sometimes call the pilgrim people constituted by all such covenant peoples "the church", but I can only speak of this gathering of the covenant peoples from my own specific place within the church.


As the gathering of covenant peoples, the church is cultivated rather than built, discovered rather than described. It is a multicultural, interfaith people of pilgrim peoples whose errantry is an open-willed quest to fulfill shalom - in each day, through their lives, and in the life of the entire people, on earth as it is in the high heavens (as the Kaddish puts it). It covenants to transform civilized humanity away from living violatively, as the possessors of the earth. The personal side of this pilgrimage errantry - scouts a way into unchartered time.


Errantry seeks the cultural breakthrough that opens the way for civilized humanity to live by communion rather than possession, much as agriculture opened the way for human bands to take possession of the earth and in doing so to step from life-in-nature into history. Individuals sometimes take this next step in which history is overarched by eternal presence, but the search for a cultural breakthrough has to do with the emergence of cocreative communion as a people's chosen way of life, transmissible through succeeding generations.