November 26, 2005

Self and Society

William Irwin Thompson (born 1938) is a visionary cultural historian, social critic, yogi, and poet. He is especially interested in keeping alive the esoteric, humanistic, and spiritual traditions of mankind. He describes his writing and speaking style as "mind-jazz on ancient texts". Previously professor of humanities at Cornell, York University in Toronto, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he left for a more humanistic and spiritual quest. He has lived for part of the year in Europe in recent years. Thompson's son is Evan Thompson, cognitive scientist and professor of philosophy.
Thompson is especially influenced by Hindu Vedantin Sri Aurobindo, Swiss cultural historian Jean Gebser, and media ecologist Marshall McLuhan. He has practiced Paramahansa Yogananda's Kriya yoga for decades. His objective is to create a "a metaindustrial horizon for our future" by showing the continuity between historical forms of mysticism and contemporary global political, social, economic, and cultural trends.
Thompson has expressed admiration for the esoteric philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the mystical evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin, the Mother Goddess anthropology of Marija Gimbutas, the biological epistemology of Francisco Varela, the endosymbiotic theory of evolution of Lynn Margulis, the complex systems thought of Stuart Kauffman, and mystic David Spangler.
Thompson is especially fascinated by Sumerian epics, including How Inanna brought the mes from Eridu to Uruk, Inanna's descent to the Netherworld, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. He sees these epics as formative of Western Civilization. He has also written on Venus figurines and the Paleolithic Great Mother goddess cult, artifacts from Çatal Hüyük, the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, the Hindu Rig Veda, Ramayana, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the Tao te Ching. He has written book-length treatments of the Easter Rising of 1916 and Quetzalcoatl.
Thompson considers fellow Irishman James Joyce's stylistically experimental novel Finnegans Wake to be "the ultimate novel, indeed, the ultimate book," and the climactic artistic work of the modern period and the rational mentality. Thompson is fascinated by Los Angeles, where he grew up, and Disneyland, which he considers to be LA's essence.
Thompson sees the contemporary period as a dark age, characterized by unpredictable climate patterns and storms, the worldwide emergence of new viruses, and terrorism. This dark age (hopefully) precedes Gebser's integral period, which will be characterized by a planetary consciousness, a noetic polity, and a chaos-dynamical mentality. However, Thompson believes that another possible – indeed likely – outcome is the destruction of human civilization through techno-tribal warfare and/or environmental catastrophe. If that happens, he believes that cosmic evolution will continue, eventually lifting another species or entity to advanced intellectual and spiritual levels.
Thompson has harshly criticized the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber, postmodern literary criticism, artificial intelligence and the technological futurism of Raymond Kurzweil, the contemporary philosophy of mind theories of Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland, and the astrobiological cosmogony of Zecharia Stichin. He has also dismissed the approaches of "nihilist" Friedrich Nietzsche, Harold Bloom, and Allan Bloom as irrelevant to the crisis of the present age. Contents[hide]1 Teachings 2 Lindisfarne 3 Quotations 4 Works 5 External links 5.1 Essays and poems by Thompson 5.2 Essays about Thompson

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