This is very good. You're speaking to one of the primary conundrums that plagues spiritual philosophies, and humans in general: There is an underlying oneness that binds us together, and we need to access that state of consciousness to gain perspective and see the bigger picture. And yet duality, or polarity, seems to be a fundamental condition of materiality. We can have beautiful, transcendant experiences of oneness that open us up to deeper possibilities, but at some point we all have to come back to earth and be in the messiness of spiraling layers of separation, subatomic particles constantly under the forces of attraction and repulsion.

The Jesuit mystic (and paleontologist) Teilhard de Chardin had the insight that evolution occurs when organisms separate and differentiate (forces of repulsion) then, once they have evolved into separate lines, are attracted together in symbiotic relationships to form more complex forms of life. Sometimes the force pulling things together is pure attraction, sometimes it's outside pressure such as constrained resources. But both are necessary. If the original single celled organisms hadn't differentiated into different types of archaea and bacteria, we wouldn't have the complex cells that comprise our bodies.

To me, as an animist paganish meditating psychedelic-loving sincere Christian, Love is not so much the force of attraction as the Presence that holds it all together, with hope and faith in the ultimate good of all things; it understands that repulsion and attraction are both necessary aspects that propel growth and evolution while allowing everything to hang together. Christ is the power of love and the power of integration. Which doesn't mean I thin every one needs to follow him, it's just one example of how faith can be useful.

We can see two people on opposing sides as combatants struggling in a tug of war, pulling a rope til one side gives in, or the whole thing snaps. Or we can see them like the bridge and tuning pegs on a guitar, holding a necessary tension. Apply a clever set of fingers, and now you're making music. If we understand that difference is necessary, and that there will always be a give and take of power needed, maybe can we learn to have fun with it, to see one another as lovers and partners in an unfolding dance of evolution and creation. It will take a lot of trust-building and willingness to risk.

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2022·edited Nov 25, 2022Liked by Alexander Beiner

I started reading this and, part way through, thought I should send it to my father, only to find that he'd already emailed it to me. The two of us are regularly in conversation with each other about the "culture war" as it's called. Despite both being Christians, people from outside of our relationship would say that he's on one side of the cultural argument (right, conservative, "anti-woke") and I'm on the other (left, progressive, "woke"). That we both felt the need to share this with the other speaks to its power to move the conversation forward.

I was a bit dumbfounded by how you managed to bring so many concepts together under the banner of one essay: intersectionality, social constructivism, Christianity, psychedelic therapy, Taoism, Ibram X Kendi, Curtis Yarvin, Allen Ginsberg, Carl Jung. At one point, I thought out-loud, "Just bring Noam Chomsky into this and we're all set."

I was joking, but now I'm serious. I think it might be helpful to bring the world's most famous libertarian-socialist/anarcho-syndicalist into the conversation. We need to think about the language we use in these conversations, how we use words like "woke," "left," "right," and so on to create meaning—and also how our institutions use them to do the same. It might also benefit us to look to people like Chomsky who don't fit into our established boxes for insight on how to think outside of them.

Most of all though, I think we need to constantly remind ourselves of something you highlighted here:

"Sometimes you learn, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re just wrong. Sometimes you get canceled, and sometimes you’re the one canceling. Life is consistently unfair, and we’re all hypocrites."

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2022Liked by Alexander Beiner

The metaphor I'm thinking about at the moment is ecological niches and organisms. In both over time they optimise for thriving, facilitating the thriving of the part and the whole.

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2022Liked by Alexander Beiner

I believe the two foundational forces are Love and Fear, not hate. Fear will morph into projected hate.

The other idea is to unite in the necessity to work toward a sustainable future. ( always needing more work) with the working rule of consequence rather than right or wrong. Does the consequence of the work reassert, reaffirm, recreate, a sustainable environment needed to sustain life?

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Alexander Beiner

Thanks Alex for being a vessel for these conversations. The transcendent approach you speak of, the holding of opposite poles is synonymous with Jung's transcendent function, where the opposite poles are held equally in regard and thus the personal or the group unconscious might have the opportunity to find a symbol in the collective unconscious which will transcend the opposites to create an emergent 'third'. If we could collectively step out of the recent post 2016 era and cast our lens broader and further back in history, we might notice an enantiodromedia- like structure where epochs have collapse and new epochs are rebuilt. Jung posited there was an intelligence, a telos in the collective unconscious, so my feeling is that the polarisation that is prevalent today is not the disease, but a symptom, and maybe we cannot rationally think our way but we have to hold the symptomatic society i.e. you, me, us and that alone will invoke a numinosity to fill the god- shaped hole, for the very act of staying humble in the uncertainty is an ultimate act of faith in something larger than ourselves. If we ever land in that space, then we may have a chance to wisely attribute the new technologies or adopt tried and tested ways of land management etc so that we could all live truly for one and each other and not in fear or service to the current Moloch.

I think you have modelled the holding from the heart and the ability to hold the uncertainty in spades during the RW project, and this work is not easy and it requires courage from the heart and not so much ego from us all.

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2022Liked by Alexander Beiner

This is a really thoughtful and inspiring piece.

Expand full comment

When I first joined Substack and scanned the landscape here, I wasn’t sure that I would find anyone so positively engaged in the future and how to successfully navigate our way there. I’m very pleasantly surprised to have found you. This is excellent writing and completely necessary subject matter for our time.

Expand full comment

Protopia Response

November 2022

Scott Sidney

It's impossible to escape the loss of spirituality; a belief in something bigger than oneself. Even with that belief, the next hurdle is overcoming the impulse to control the lives of others. "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

The individual, the family, neighborhood from local to national governing bodies, the impulse is always to see the log in others' eyes; to coerce conformity beyond what is necessary for a functioning unit. Someone always believes they have a better idea and forces a solution to a problem for which there is no consensus.

Common people are the overwhelming force in the world. We all just want to live our lives in peace without interference, under minimal legal restrictions. It appears to me all these confabs such as Davos or Protopia include social, cultural, academic, governmental elites who by and large never live among the people for whom they believe they are helping; their well appointed homes, by and large, located far away from the hoi polloi probably in gated communities. Common folk don't seem to be invited to speak for themselves. We couldn’t afford the travel and lodging expense nor the time off work.

Somehow I doubt the average person would think that ingesting hallucinogens to come up with solutions to self generated problems is anything more than self indulgence. Everybody feels put upon but only governments make it policy. Every law passed without consensus imposes on someone else's rights. There's consensus against murder. There's consensus against rape. There's consensus against theft. Indeed, the 10 Commandments seem to cover it all.

But there's no consensus on global climate change and what agreement exists is best remedied by proposals by some as Bjorn Lomborg or Michael Shellenberger.

What poverty exists is due more to government policies than any failures by the general population. But since the government by definition is in charge, and their livelihoods depend on remaining in power, maintaining the status quo is their priority; dependence on them is their priority. Creating problems is their priority.

The reason there is so much discord is the absence of consensus for problems so few believe exist or are not the critical issues they are made out to be. Consequently, those holding slim legislative majorities find it necessary to build consensus for their grand plans by demonizing opponents and remove them from public influence. This of course creates backlash spilling over to violence which has to be remedied by the very governments who create the circumstances for it.

You want solutions? You want to make peoples’ lives better? Ask common folk what would make their lives better. Ask what they think are the best solutions. They’re closest to the problems. Not you. Not some bureaucrat comfortably seated in a comfortable office while others attend to their needs; while feigning important work unrelated to peoples’ everyday lives under the pretence of helping. Just stop your grandiose, all encompassing, plans.

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2022·edited Nov 25, 2022

What is the answer?

It seems that the answer is elusive and the truth of the matter is way too difficult for most people to hear or speak.

I wonder what it is.

Probably: “I don`t know”

Expand full comment

You captured it at “the God sized hole in all of us”. The west is now becoming a faithless place. Life on the other hand is an act of faith. Faith in God (that comes with humility) or faith in man (that comes with arrogance). Faith in man is now rampant (with “the science” taking the role of moloch). It has and will always fail, as it is impossible for the fish to describe the ocean. It is what makes people cling to tribes and try to crush dissent in a futile exercise that leads to ever greater fragmentation and collapse. During the pandemic, this house popped up with the slogan “science is God” which betrays the foundational spirit of our age: ignorance of God, and ignorance of science all rolled up in a great ball of human arrogance (https://www.seattlemet.com/home-and-real-estate/2022/01/george-freeman-universal-life-church-monastery-rectory).

I appreciate you working with Jung, but I am afraid that is insufficient when people are starting from this place. Indeed we need to experience the divine and trascendental to get out. If we don’t personally seek it in humility, the universe will take care of humbling us in time.

Expand full comment

I think a lot of people just need to really shout at each other, prior to trying to find common ground TBH.

I think it's an unrealistic expectation of the thinking mind that of it's activity alone it will find harmony with other perspectives.

We assume thinking to be more upstream of underlying brain processes than it likely is.

Expand full comment

"What I do feel fairly sure of is that there’s no magical place where we’ll all agree and sing Kumbaya around a fire.": Agreed.

Expand full comment
Dec 11, 2022·edited Dec 11, 2022

An excellent piece provoking deep thought and excitement about how to leverage the emerging ideas.

The suggestion towards the end that religion may be part of the solution grated with me. Monotheistic religions and their promotion of anthropocentrism (humans are at the centre of why the world was created!!) are a significant source of blindness to the reality of us as part of a delicate ecosystem which we are now impacting in such a negative way that we risk destroying it. We liberally talk about 'saving the planet' which really exposes our hubris and the extent to which our heads are stuck where the sun doesn't shine. The planet was ok before we emerged and it will go on after we are gone!

So religion has not helped us and won't in my view.

Dualism is another belief system that has significantly contributed to our problems. Our challenge perhaps is to restore balance between our conceptual consciousness and our animate consciousness* (Lent 2022) so that we have the wisdom to play a positive contributory role to the continued evolution of the the delicate eco-system that we are part of.....but perhaps that ambition may also reflect human hubris too.

*Ref: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Web-Meaning-Integrating-Traditional-Universe/dp/B096VZ4PQ2/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+web+of+meaning&qid=1670751796&sr=8-1

Expand full comment

Thanks Alexander, that was a fascinating account and source of information for me.

This may be a strange thing to refer you to but if you haven't come across Teal Swan then I would highly recommend you look at her work. I think this perspective on conflict resolution has many similar themes you're exploring.


I have found personally being peace is the challenge and I work on my resistance to vibrating at that frequency!

Best wishes to you and your work.


Expand full comment

This was a fabulous piece! I especially liked the ending and recognition that disagreement and polarization will always be with us, as an expression of our unconscious shadow. The path forward is constant development of our awareness, tolerance of other’s worldviews, and making space to content and honor all of it, with room to expand as needed.

Expand full comment

The part with Institutional control of narrative struck me as a powerful way to “freeze possible conversations “ into a performative/ performance of personas in a safe predicable set of dance moves we all just play out because the shape & structure of Authority & Institutions determines narrative anyway.


This feels important and true.

I wonder a lot about company structures as creating a zero sum pie that we all fight over in a tournament that looks like school continued.

The organizational chart sets up identities.

We are issued lines by KPI KRA or OKR and speak our accountabilities & responsibilities.

Rage , anger or grief of the impact from supply chains we build or use or benefit from are “ too large , too hard to possibly discuss here”.

The structures create externalities. We are not even allowed to feel the pollution or harm or impact of energy systems or money systems or institutional structures ( companies, NGOs, institutions, PPP or local , regional or national government) so governance is never on the table because we cannot describe the systems as levels of authority.

I’m committed to finding small groups of high transformation and high commitment teams.

Trauma and the mimetic’s of blame seem fundamental work.

The challenge of commerce and transformation in the same container ( Company,DAO,CoOperative etc ) is deeply important.

Thanks for The Big Picture.

Expand full comment