In April 2015 John Vibes and I released our first book in The Conscious Resistance trilogy. “The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality” is a brief rundown of our personal philosophy, our interpretation of libertarianism/Anarchism/Voluntaryism and intersections with various belief systems and modes of spirituality.
The book has been received relatively well by friends, fans, and notable libertarian thinkers such as Jeffrey Tucker. Thankfully though, we are not without critics.
I recently stumbled upon a post from The Last Bastille blog titled “The Conscious Resistance?”. The Last Bastille is ran by Kyle Rearden. I have never met Kyle and my only association with him is through Shane Radiff, one of our contributors here at The Conscious Resistance Network. Shane and Kyle have previously published essays together. Either way, from what I can tell of his prolific writing and website, Mr. Rearden is an intelligent guy and we likely have many things in common.
With that said, I would like to respond to some of the criticisms and claims made by him. The blog was originally published in August but I figure it’s never too late. And I actually enjoy being able to elaborate on the ideas we proposed.
So without further delay, let’s read Mr. Rearden’s criticisms.
Rearden starts off with this:
“Spirituality is an often vague and ill-defined idea, especially when contrasted with religion or science.”
I absolutely agree that spirituality is often vague and ill-defined. To avoid this, Chapter 2, “Explorative Agnosticism”, offers three definitions of what we mean when discussing spirituality.
“An individual’s personal set of beliefs about the great mysteries of life and the world beyond the five senses.”
“Spirituality is a free and personal interpretation or connection with a spirit realm or higher power or whatever that person wants to call it.”
“Spirituality is a practice that brings an individual closer to their essence, where essence means a set of attributes that make an object what it is.”
Rearden continues, “People are looking for why there is tyranny in their own lives, and some find solace in exploring metaphysics or tinkering with their physiology. Although the latest cutting edge discoveries could increase your understanding of Nature, these emerging technologies might as well be just recreational, absent some practical use.”
Again, I agree with him that without some type of regular practice, ritual, or structure an individuals self-exploration will remain recreational and not necessarily lead to any valuable insights.
“In other words, what Broze & Vibes are promoting here is to willfully and knowingly exercise your freedom.”
Correct. Much appreciation to Rearden for at least acknowledging that facet of our ideas. Now tell us how you really feel….
“Objectivists are likely to cringe at the notion of “spiritual agnosticism.” Defined somewhat loosely, spiritual agnosticism is a subjectively held of personal beliefs about the nature of reality beyond the five senses and that the existentiality of deities is unknowable.”
Neither John nor I identify as objectivists and absolutely recognize that objectivists will take issue with our Explorative Agnosticism. It is that particular skeptical, strictly “rational” crowd that these ideas are aimed at.
Right off the bat, spiritual agnosticism is an excuse to believe in any old superstition you damn well want without being required to make a good faith effort (pun-intended) in justifying it somehow.”
Perhaps there is truth to this. We do not feel that free individuals owe other individuals anything other than what they have contracted or agreed to. My personal beliefs about the world do not need to be justified to anyone other than me.
“Religious toleration is one thing, but trying to prevent rational critiques of your superstition by insisting it’s all subjectively unknowable embraces, perhaps inadvertently, the same tyranny that grinds us down under its heel, and does so by its very irrationality.”
Again, I see no reason to “prove” or justify my beliefs to Mr. Rearden. We do make the claim that reality may exist in some mix of “subjective” and “objective”, essentially a multi-layered reality where the physical world is quantifiable and measurable, and another reality that is currently beyond the scope of accepted science and dogma.
The example we give comes from the essay “Seeing is Believing: The Four Worlds of Shamanism”, by Polynesian Shaman, Serge King, Ph.D. The essay discusses the four worlds, or experiences, that “everyone moves in and out of spontaneously and usually unconsciously.”
Whether or not Rearden identifies with this claim or not is irrelevant. Our point is that one’s individual beliefs are not dependent upon other people. As we state in Chapter 2:
“As free people, our beliefs about the world should not be limited or controlled by the collective. And as such we do not care if others doubt or deny our beliefs because we make no effort to doubt or demean their beliefs about the spiritual, non-physical world. Quite simply, our interpretations of the world beyond the five senses are not dependent on any one person, institution, or book. “
As far as his fears of our ideas inadvertently embracing tyranny, we make it clear that we do not support spiritual or religious interpretations of the world that violate the Non-Aggression Principle.
Rearden then takes a moment to attack the second half of the book which looks at a variety of belief systems and their connection to Anarchist thought.
“Whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, shamanism, or even Islam, Broze and Vibes appear to believe that in order to be free, you can just make up whatever ideas you may have, no matter how incorrect, about the nature of reality itself, and that will somehow shrink or abolish the State, at least, by implication. I have no reason to think that engaging in ritual, imbibing psychedelics, or embracing your inner child is going to prevent or stop a Bluecoat from having his way with you during a traffic stop at the side of the road.”
It’s difficult to know if Rearden is reading our book or not because at no point in the text do we promote the idea of shrinking or abolishing the State through psychedelics, embracing the inner child, etc. What we are stating is that through a number of different methods (see Chapter 7: Conscious Healing), including psychedelics, you can work to know yourself more deeply and thus enrich your search for liberation. We do not expect the state to sit by idly while we meditate but we do believe those who regularly meditate and maintain a state of balance will be more apt to survive and thrive during a State attack or collapse.
In fact, in the beginning of the book we make it clear that we are reaching out to Anarchists who are weary of spirituality AND spiritual types who are generally afraid of action and prefer to believe the world’s ills will be fixed by positive affirmation alone.
As we state, “The words are also written for the spiritually curious; the researcher; the wayfarer who values themselves spiritually but may have yet to consider how to achieve freedom, or may be intimidated by some of the darker aspects of our five-sense reality that need to be overcome.”
Rearden then takes a moment to quote and criticize this passage from Chapter 6 , “Consciousness & Rights Applied to Animals, Plants, and Earth”:
“Many indigenous communities belief that life exists in all forms: plant, stone, human, animal and inanimate. We believe the closer we move to respecting all life as equal to our own, the deeper our understanding of liberty becomes. It is not only about pursuing freedom in terms of our individual paths, but recognizing the importance of allowing others to operate under their own freedom of action. Many of us already speak to our pets as children or companions. Why not acknowledge the life in plants, animals, crystals and the earth that surrounds us?”
So, that does mean that if I freely choose to smash my chair into tiny bits, I have violated the non-aggression principle because my chair is alive and sentient? If anything, such a notion would be none other than animism, rather than spiritual agnosticism. According to the authors, it seems to me, they think that property rights necessarily enslaves all those poor inanimate objects…*ahem*… “beings,” as well as animals; therefore, property rights in owning plants, animals, crystals, and real estate violate the non-aggression principle, right? Perhaps if the authors had spent more time studying economics and less time on “muh feels,” then maybe this whole systematic problem of the State would’ve been solved by now in a realistically practical manner.”
At this point I want to share another line from the first chapter. Mr. Rearden may have missed this so I will refresh his memory.
John and I write, “We would also like to make it clear that this book is not meant to be the final word on ANY of the topics discussed. Rather, we hope to broach the conversation and spark healthy debate about how far one should take their desire for freedom. None of the ideas expressed should be taken as arguments for a monopoly or “one size fits all” model of freedom.”
So, our individual ideas about property or consciousness are not to be taken as prescriptions for some model Anarcho-Conscious society, they are merely ideas that John and I are toying with. I don’t know what passage in the book made Rearden think that we believe property rights enslave inanimate objects, but we did not make that claim.
However, I do think there is value in debating the NAP and discussing different interpretations that might include animals, or even plants. How that looks exactly I do not know, I simply acknowledge that there are those seeking to recognize life in all its various forms, not simply human. Also, my ideas on property are always evolving. This is why John and I do not take a particularly hard stance on property rights because, despite Mr. Rearden’s comments, we have read a great amount of literature on property (both as theft and as freedom) and we believe in a truly free society there will be an open experimentation of competing ideas on property. Look for more thoughts from us on this topic in book #3 in 2017.
“Speaking of government, the authors’ use of the term, “panarchy,” is notoriously incorrect. Panarchy refers to an acceptance of all forms of governance (including monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy), with the proviso that each individual citizen explicitly consents to a particular form of government, and is able to easily leave said jurisdiction without having to completely uproot his life in order to do so”
Well, apparently our definition is “notoriously” incorrect. Let’s see how we can rectify this situation. In Chapter 4, “Towards Panarchy: Anarchy Without Adjectives”, John and I write:
“There is value in all anti-authoritarian literature and philosophy, though each side of the argument also has plenty of blind spots. That being said, we believe in Panarchy, or acceptance of all individual’s sovereignty and their possible economic solutions as long as they are absent of force. This would allow for all individuals who claim their right to self-governance and seek the absence of coercion to break free from the state with other free humans with similar goals.”
Rearden says, “Panarchy refers to an acceptance of all forms of governance… with the proviso that each individual citizen explicitly consents to a particular form of government, and is able to easily leave said jurisdiction”, We say, “acceptance of all individual’s sovereignty and their possible economic solutions as long as they are absent of force.”
In the Panarchy we describe, sovereign individuals could choose to live under a monarchy, democracy, or other government they decide, or live without a centralized authority. I am not sure I see a big difference in what we describe, other than semantic differences.
John and I describe our vision further:
“Furthermore, it is important to encourage everyone to accept the idea that people do not need to be forced into associations and relationships with one another because they happen to live in the same area. In some circumstances it may be necessary to migrate to the same area to create a commune or a type of protected community.
However, as long as it is logistically possible for people to arrange themselves peacefully in the same geographical region, they should still be able to subscribe to different views on economics, spirituality or any other controversial topic that divides people politically. The only common thread that need tie communities together is the mutual belief that they have no right to force their beliefs on anyone else.”
Rearden does compliment us for our chapter on Anarchy and interpretations of Voluntaryism. Rearden seems to have a slight disagreement with our view of Agorism though. He quotes our passage on Agorism and responds with his view.
“Agorism also extends to the creation of alternative education programs, Free Schools or SkillShares, and independent media ventures. Also essential to Agorism is support of entrepreneurs who actively do business outside of the state’s license and regulations.”
As far as I can tell, the general idea of agorism is presented here correctly, even if the specific examples are not the best. Agorism is all about trading in the black and grey markets, and although white market activity is certainly an option economically, it’s still not agoric because not only does it not challenge the power of the State as the black and grey markets do, but it actually reinforces it by way of submission to its edicts. For instance, it’s already legal to trade Bitcoins and grow community gardens.”
One point I want to further illustrate for Rearden is how community gardens contribute to the Agora. When an individual is involved in a community garden, or a successful guerilla gardening operation, they are not only able to provide surplus food for their community, but that food can then be sold to other individuals directly or via farmers markets. All of that activity can be done without licenses, regulations, or taxes, in the gray and black markets.
Lastly, Rearden ends his review with a compliment and then a couple more critiques.
“Derrick Broze & John Vibes’ The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy & Spirituality is certainly a better philosophical book than FREEDOM!, yet, its defense of first principles was, well, rather lacking. Property rights were equally trivialized or ignored, the chapter on collectivism was muddled, and most significantly, there was nothing practical offered, even in terms of freeing yourself within your own head. Meditation was encouraged, but no tips on how to do it, yoga was only mentioned in passing, and lucid dreaming was totally absent.”
I will concede that the book is not heavy on deep expositions of the Non-Aggression Principle and property rights, but, as I mentioned, this book was the start of a trilogy. The third book will explore our specific ideas on the mechanics of creating a free community within a statist society. As far as his comments on Chapter 9 – “Are We All One? Collectivism vs Individuality”, please read for yourself and decide if our points are “muddled”.
When it comes to his assertions that we do not go deep enough into meditation, yoga, and other tools for empowerment I have some good news for Mr. Rearden!
In April we will be releasing the second book in The Conscious Resistance series, “Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion”, which will specifically discuss how activists can navigate this crazy world once awakening to the hard truths that John and I discuss in the first book and our regular journalism. We will also give specific instructions on meditation, positive affirmations, and creative visualizations.
“Considering the baggage thrown upon readers, tutorials on how to make their promoted “spiritual agnosticism” work for you, at least for beginners, would have made this book more palatable, but I made the mistake of expecting too much from sensationalistic celebritarians, it would seem.”
I know you couldn’t have possibly known that we were planning to release a second book, Kyle, but was the celebritarian comment really necessary? ha. Seriously, if you knew much about our work you would know that we regularly speak out against the celebritarian circle-jerk.
Perhaps we can continue this conversation once book #2 is available for your review.