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Friday, 31 May 2013

First posted on Friday, 20 July 2012 at 20:40

Shortly before he diedin June of this year, Graham Carey circulated, in draft, his idea of a new monasticism.  I include his draft here in full for the considerationof a wider readership.  Graham’s idea certainly deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible.

Centres of opposition, hope and regeneration.

IvanMartin Jirous, poet and Artistic Director of the Plastic People of the Universe and close friend of Vaclav Havel, believed that simply expressing oneself through art could ultimately undermine the totalitarian system. Haval himself said that ‘hope is not the convictionthat something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it works out.’

As political and religiously inclined observers of the Occupation Movement we find, in the diverse history and inspiration of monastic styles of living, a key to how such thoughtful and committed activists might future organise in order to retain the uniquely brave force of what they have initiated.

This,we feel, offers a way for the serious Occupy members to organise domestically beyond the present circumstances into something that attempts to be a more reliable, secure, and lasting form of organisationbased on Christian and other inter-faith engagements with issues of social justice, poverty and oppositionary strategies and tactics. We have to recognise that the existing status quo is held in place by forces trained for centuries to protect individual and corporate wealth.

Itis a common complaint that the Occupiers are against capitalism, but offer no clear alternative, whereas we find the following words of Vaclav Havel to answer that complaint. ‘I believe the phenomenon of dissidence grows out of an essentially different conception of the meaning of politics.’     

We venture to suggest that traditions of monastic living have been sustained successfully over hundreds of years by their devotion to specific rules and sublime liturgies. Our problem today is to speak to a new kind of spirituality suitable for confronting the grave multiple threats that arise from both capitalism and totalitarian governments. These traditions have been set out by Diarmuid O’Murchu in Reclaiming Spirituality (1997).

In the long term we postulate a type of Fyodorovian ‘supramoralism’, one which acts and can be vouchsafed in the short term by a new kind of revolutionary agent. As Nikolai Fyodorov has boldly written…

Supramoralism postulates paradise, the kingdom of God, not in the world beyond but here and now. It demands the transfiguration of this earthly reality, a transfiguration which extends to all heavenly bodies and brings us closeto the unknown world beyond. Paradise, or the kingdom of God, is not only within us. It is not only a mental or spiritual kingdom but a visible and tangible one, perceptible to our organs as they are developed by psychophysiological regulation (by the control of spiritualand bodily phenomena), organs capable of sensing not just the growing of the grass but the motion of atoms and molecules throughout the universe, thus making possible the restoration of life and the transfiguration of the entire universe.

Where will the alternative to today’s market and private wealth driven motivations comefrom? How will this earthly reality be transformed? How will the seedbed of supramoralism be laid down?

We believe that the hope for humanity lies in the active development of a genuine alternative that counterposes simple living and voluntary poverty in contrast to luxury and conspicuous consumption, non-violence to violence, culture toanti-culture, putting down roots to social mobility, true education to training for materialist ends.

We have reason to believe that atheism offers only an incomplete way of human existence and is less likely to contribute the inspirations and style of living useful to spiritually-based and vowed enclaves. We value the sense of awe and wonder at the sublime potential of life on earth (A. J. Heschel). We accept the inspired secularity of contemporary feminism to be a better ideological alignment.

Our hope is for a new style of modern, even post-modern, monasticism - new centres of radical opposition. We tentatively call these Enclaves of the Human Spirit and Sustainability, centres of opposition, hope and regeneration.

In defining what these Enclaves might be, we look back to the past for illumination: to stable primitive or native communities and the great monastic houses.

Weare inspired by Evdokimov’s conviction, cited by Rowan Williams in A Silent Action: Engagements with Thomas Merton, that the ‘desert’ phase of monastic history, in the geographical sense, has come to an end, and that what the monastic impulse now requires is an ‘interiorised’ monasticism, ‘at the heart of the world… to be lived out in new forms.’

Thelocal Enclaves of the new ‘monasticism’ will be the main way to live inthe madness of today’s world, with the rewards of closer co-operative living that combats loneliness with more congenial sociability and trust, co-operative house economics versus individualistic spending habits.

We suggest that it is in localities where we are able to cohabit and cohere politically in love, while being empowered by a mutually agreed code of living based on friendship, trust and commitmentto an agreed multi-faith base of spirituality that, experimentally, thefollowing draft features will develop.

We suggest that such enclaves will:
be non-violent, physically and linguistically
be non-celibate
be celebratory and fun
have vows to enable the gift of commitment
be neighbourhood-based and locally-engaged – not walled in
agreea single day every seven when members meet to pray, meditate, eat, readand reflect together in a simple place dedicated to the purpose
be made up of members drawn initially from religious Occupiers and those spiritually sympathetic to their aims
be welcoming to isolated members, who will be kept in touch and in communication with each other via the internet
inaugurate a rule, a guide to living that is spiritually aware, for members to follow
assertthe role of the contemplative life in establishing the value of the unique individual as the necessary element in a healthy society

Thepolitical ambitions of such enclaves will operate through the new Occupy ideology of feminist-inspired General Assemblies. We recall Vaclav Havel’s Civic Forums in Prague in the 1980s and we are guided by feminist practice. As O’Murchu has written:

Feminists are among the leading spiritual catalysts of this new awakening. They throw the questions hot and heavy; there is little they leave unquestioned, and that in itself poses a huge threat to our numbed culture of respectability. Beyond the question however, they offer a critique whichis much more holistic and profound than that offered by any other cultural and religious source.
(Reclaiming Spirituality, p.118.)


Works that have inspired us

Peter Abbs and Graham Carey, Proposal for a New College: a Radical Alternative for Higher Education (1977).
Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation (2006).
Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth (1988).
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977).
Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: the Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (1982).
Bertolt Brecht, The Great Art of Living Together (1972).
Graham Carey, World Out of Control (2003).
Graham Carey and Alan Russell, Individuals Declaring for Non-Violence, (2007).
Olivier Clement, On Human Being: a Spiritual Anthropology (2002).
Communities Directory: A Guide to Intentional Communities and Cooperative Living (2000)
Paul R. Dekar, Community of the Transfiguration: Journey of a New Monastic Community (2008).
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880).                                                                          

‘Neverin all world literature has Christianity been advanced with such striking force as the religion of spiritual freedom’ (Mochulsky).
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poem: I Am Waiting – ‘I am perpetually waiting for a rebirth of wonder’ (1958).
Nikolai Fyodorov, The Philosophy of the Common Task, 1906.
Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: the Recovery of Meaning in the Post-Modern Age (1993).
Eric Gill, Autobiography (1940).
Vaclav Havel, Living in Truth (1986).
Tarif Khalidi, Images of Muhammad: narratives of the prophet in Islam across the centuries (2009).
Alastair McIntosh, Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power (2004).
Donald Nicholl, Chapter on Nikolai Fyodorov in Triumph of the Spirit in Russia (1997).
Diarmuid O’Murchu, Religion in Exile (2000).
Diarmuid O’Murchu, Transformation of Desire (2007).
Herbert Read, Education Through Art (1956).
Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (1982).
Friedrich Schiller: On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Edited by Wilkinson and Willoughby (1967).
Cyprian Smith, The Way of Paradox: Spiritual Life as Taught by Meister Eckhart (1987).
Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (2001).
Swampland flowers: Letters and lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui, translated by Christopher Cleary (1977).
Dominik Tatarka, The Demon of Consent (1956).
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854).
W.L. Webb, Obituary of Vaclav Havel, Guardian (19th December, 2011).
Michael Wenger (ed.), Wind Bell: Teachings of the San Francisco Zen Centre 1968-2001 (2002).
Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (2008).
John Zerzan, Elements of Refusal (1999).

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