Homo Magister

The world does not belong to humans. Humans belong to the world. If we take the time to contemplate we might come to realize that we are more than “our thoughts” that perceive in fragments or analysis that is reduced to pieces of thoughts: that fuel concepts that are detached from the real experience of life and the world. Our thoughts are limited in this way and it is in being stuck in perceptions that reflect a separateness that we flounder. In turn we look for wholeness that we are missing in this perception in ways that are oriented to seeing only parts and pieces and that can not enable us to comprehend the depth of our connection.

Daniel Quinn writes “Homo sapiens was born being shaped. He was born a member of the community that was shaping him. Not exempt from membership by virtue of his greater intelligence. Not isolated from the rest by virtue of his capacity to wonder and dream. Not aloof from the rest by virtue of his knowing that he was unlike the rest in these ways. A part of the rest. And being a part of the rest, Homo sapiens was shaped. Shaped not by nothing. Shaped not by ignorance. Shaped by belonging to the community of life. Which was itself being shaped. The community itself was being shaped. The matter was being handled. Not by man. The shaping of the world was not in man’s hands. It was in other hands, which had shaped it from the beginning.
Daniel Quinn “Ishmael” https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/i/ishmael/book-summary

10 thoughts on “Homo Magister

  1. Someone recommended “Ishmael” to me, but I’m still not convinced. I picked it up and opened to a page which said that someone who lived outdoors under the stars would not want to kill people, something like that. I thought of Ghengis Khan, who I imagine lived under the stars in a tent, and who, with his men, apparently slaughtered a third of the population of the world in his time. Maybe that was not a good passage of the book.

    As for the passage above, it seems to ignore that our intelligence obliged us to take an active role in shaping our environment. This is how evolution works. You don’t get an advantage and not use it. To simply say, “Oh, well, we are part of nature and we need to realise that” is just a superficial ‘Let’s all be nice and make friends’ kind of statement. If the aim is to address our tendency to damage our environment, then its an evasion, revealing nothing about why we do it, and thus incapable of having any impact on the fact that we do it.

    Or maybe I’m too harsh. :o)


    1. I wrote you something Im not sure if it made it through. He seems to have strong opinions but there is an important point in his message. He is quite repetitive and not so creative in his way but I can relate to his sense of crisis and his thoughts about the limitation of human thinking.


      1. I find Ken Wilbers approach to evolution interesting. The notion that for every stage of evolution there are challenges and that if those challenges are not realized than we remain stuck and at risk. Each stage includes the stage prior to it and then transcends it. I think that the challenge for this stage may be realizing the limitations of thought. In our reliance on thought as a way of negotiating life we have forgotten something of past ways of relating that need to be included. In our reliance on thought we see the old ways as irrational, primitive or archaic. We as well remain stuck in our formulated opinions not open to new thinking,ideas or ways of seeing things that are not measurable or outside our conventional ways. In some ways I think that Quinn has read Wilber and has seen this and focuses on the crisis we are in and what we have forgotten that is essential to our being. I think as well that there is something that has been oppressed in our functioning and its something that we have to be able to include and transcend. Our reliance on conditioned intellect might not enable us to do so.


      2. Include and transcend. There is something more than our intellectual functioning that may be our salvation. But it includes our intellect but sees the limitation of it. This idea that our intellect had been a wonderful tool but that it is incomplete in our seeing of the whole. I can’t remember what astronomer I heard it from but he said something like this. That the origins of the universe may be something that we won’t find through our reductionist ideas. It may be that we are looking in the wrong way and that is was a much more holistic phenomenon.


  2. Yes, that all makes sense. I think we are stuck at a mechanistic and materialistic bottle neck. We mustn’t retreat from reason, but we need to open our reason to a greater acknowledgement of immaterial relationships. Bruce Lipton defines materialism as the idea that only matter matters. We won’t be able to understand consciousness if we only see it as a product of the chemical reactions happening in the brain, if we place matter at the centre of our attempt to understand, in the same way that we can’t understand why people like to watch Game of Thrones by studying the circuitry of the television set on which it is received.

    I also think the evolution of our society is stuck at the bottle-neck of the neurotic character-armour. This is what I try to help with in my writing. If we can learn unconditional self-acceptance then we can move beyond the state of ego-embattlement. Only when we open up outwards in honest, spontaneous and generous communication with others can we manifest the whole of which we are the parts. Lipton, in his book Spontaneous Evolution, talks about how evolution goes through stages of specialisation and competition which then leads to a breakthrough to another level of union into a more complex whole. He says we are at the human equivalent of the stage when single-celled organisms came together to form a community of single-celled organisms and grew a membrane around the community to form the first multi-cellular organism. So he says that our destiny is to grow into a specie individual, a union of individuals freely coordinating to form a larger whole in the same way that the body can be understood as a community of cells.


    1. I like that concept “neurotic character armour”. I relate to what you say. I ask what it is to see in a deeper way and how do you facilitate it. Literature, writing, art it seems are some ways that promote a different seeing. But there must ultimately be a different kind of experience that occurs.


      1. I get the concept of “character armour” from psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. He’s been a big influence on me. He shows how our natural impulses can end up being diverted into unhealthy forms. A lot of his work revolved around sexual repression. He felt that the biological impulses of the body which include the erotic, if not interfered with, direct us toward love and enthusiasm for productive work. If we are persuaded to fear and repress any of our biological impulses, we become neurotic in a submissive way or the impulses are diverted into unhealthy secondary drives such as sadism.

        Perhaps there is some overlap between Reich and Quinn. Reich said : “Not until man is willing to recognise his animal nature – in the good sense of the word – will he create genuine culture.”

        He also believed that mysticism was a misdirected attempt to compensate for an inability to find a healthy way of living in the world, that religions, especially, often try to deny the individual healthy forms of bodily pleasure in the real world and then redirect the resultant longing to something unreal.

        On the other hand, I think the spiritual is the realm of non-material relationships, so if a spiritual perception relates to the real world and facilitates loving behaviour between individuals, I think that is the kind of deeper way you may be referring to, rather than something ethereal and escapist.

        I try to address this whole issue, as best I can, in my book How to Be Free.


      2. I have been interested in Reich for some time but I have nit read him extensively. I watched a movie about him a while ago. I relate to much of what he proposed. I think the attractiveness of Buddhism is that it is a lot about freeing the oppressive conditioning that causes us suffering. In that freeing we are free to evolve in line with the organic origins that have always driven us. Modern wisdom is often compromised by questionable intellectual conclusions and assumptions and we no longer attend to and trust our own organicity. I found that Quinn comes from that place but in a way that attempts to shock and waken his readers ti the crisis. He us quite repetitive in that. I read three quarters of Ishmael and found it very interesting but didn’t finish it for some reason. I did just read his short book The Book of the Damned which is also on this theme and in this way that I have mentioned.


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