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William Irwin Thompson

 What do you think about the idea that we’re actually evolving beyond sex altogether?

Bill: We are tending to deconstruct sex. For example, the woman’s movement is taking apart seduction and romance. Flirtation is now against the law in some colleges. So there’s a massive assault on the whole quality of courtship and seduction and, by feminists, on the beauty myth and advertising. Medi-business is taking apart reproduction the way the family farm got usurped by agribusiness. Sex has become a mystery school, and in certain groups it’s become a whole way of life – way beyond the goals of reproduction.

Rebecca: Some archetypes seem to have an eternal quality to them, especially the male and female archetypes. But do you think that these archetypes are evolving in keeping with the changing self-image men and women and if so, then in what ways?

Bill: I don’t want to say that they’re eternal, I’ll just say that their melting temperature is higher so that it takes longer for them to disappear. They tend to last for a couple of hundred thousand years.

Balzac wrote this alchemical novel called Seraphita where a man and woman fall in love with the same figure. The woman falls in love thinking Seraphita is a man and the man falls in love thinking it’s a woman, and this love is just beyond any sexual definition. So even back in 1830 Balzac was playing with these themes that got played out in the culture of rock music in the sixties.

I saw a picture of an Indian guru in Hawaii and you could not identify the sex; it looked totally androgenous. I think there is a quality of fascination with the androgen and sexuality is on its way out. But in some parts of the culture people are getting into natural childbirth and natural death and recovering biology as the sacred. But it seems to be romantic, like writing poems to trees before the industrial revolution or William Morris talking about handicrafts when factories were taking over. What its real future is and how it’s going to stand up to this double assault will be interesting.

David: You’ve said that when a way of life is vanishing then people tend to try and hold onto it even tighter. Do you see the rise in fundamentalism as being indicative of that kind of phenomena?

Bill: Oh, that happens all the time. You get the Renaissance and then you get the Inquisition.

Rebecca: Do you think we are in a period of initiation?

Bill: I think we’ve definitely been in a period of initiation since 1967. Something really weird happened on December 31st 1967. I’m a firm believer in the Zeitgeist, that this is a myth that has an ontological reality to it.

Rebecca: Did you believe that we would use the opportunity in better ways than we have?

Bill: Yeah. I suppose I was more optimistic and I think we could have done better,(laughter) but I don’t know. If one has the big picture – which is one good thing about myth – then you don’t have to be optimistic or pessimistic in a quarterly report. You can look at something like the Crestaceous extinction and say, well, that wiped out 86% of life on the planet. But a forest fire can actually trigger seeds that otherwise wouldn’t spread.

So, on one level I think we’re up against a really big catastrophe bifurcation for humanity, but as death is part of the architecture of individuation then it’s just part of a larger story. I think we’re moving towards a collective shared death which is maybe one reason why we are invoking a catastrophe. Otherwise evolution might continue in this slow way and we’d be locked into hell for a longer period.

Actually by raising the heat we’re really destabilizing the planet. Look at what we’ve done in the past fifty years to the biosphere. We’re raising the ante. We don’t quite know what the risks are, but we’re totally committed to it; we’re not going to put it into reverse.

Everybody’s committed to whatever their trip is – whether it’s gay or lesbian or fundamentalist or skinhead. They’re all turning up the heat and no one is moving towards comfort and steady state. We’re calling down some evolutionary transformation but we don’t quite know what it is.

David: What do you think happens to human consciousness after death?

Bill: I think that when you’re alive, you weave a subtle body and that it’s composed out of all of your thoughts – the collective ecology of your consciousness. When you die, you’ve actually woven your next form of incarnation, and you move into that subtle body which you’ve constructed throughout your life.

It isn’t punishment, like going to hell, but it is remorseless. When you live in your subtle body in the bardo realm, you begin to meditate on weaving the flesh that will be the carnal form for your next incarnation. You’re not alone because you’re actually inside (this may seem flaky, but indulge me) an angelic body that is a collective neighborhood interacting with you.

I talked to Nechung Rinpoche who was the abbot of the largest monastery in Tibet before the communist invasion. He said that when people come together in practice they actually constellate a form of consciousness that is larger than them. The bodhisatva sends a beneficent being that takes an energy from a higher dimension, steps it down and makes it available to the people in the meditation practice. It’s like when you go to a great concert and you suddenly feel that something has happened, that everybody has suddenly thrown a switch and turned on another reality.

So, our subtle bodies are woven into this larger angelic formation. I’m happy with the concept of angel but there are different words for this in different traditions; it’s a transcultural phenomenon. These angelic bodies are like midwives to your own rebirth, and so when you interact with them when you die you actually go into that bardo. The paranoid way of thinking of this is abduction and flying saucers, that you’re taken up into a tin can which is going to carry you to the stars. Well, all of that is misplaced concreteness for what is really angelic multi-dimensionality.

David: What do you think happens at the moment of death?

Bill: It all depends on what you’ve been doing in your meditation practice. If you’re a yogi, you die consciously every night – you can stop your heart and go into bardo at any time during meditation. At the moment of death, if you’re really advanced, you could just stop your heart and go out through the top of your head and not have the process just inflicted upon you.

David: And when you say “go out,” you mean going out in the vehicle of thought that you wove together throughout your entire lifetime?

Bill: Yes. And you’re not alone. When I quit M.I.T., I gained a whole new fellowship of friends – and in the subtle dimension you have your colleagues too. Plato discusses this in the myth of Er at the end of the Republic which is one of the first descriptions of the death experience. If you examine your dreams at night, you’ll often find yourself at airports or at college campuses or at places with a lot of other people and if you start doing dream practice you notice that this stuff is already coming up.

Rebecca: You spoke about planetary culture not being a mono-culture, but isn’t the culture largely controlled by who controls the media? America is the media-tzar of the world.

Bill: Well, but multi-nationals control the media. This is not really about nations, this is about multi-national or trans-national corporations. Nafta is not about nations, it’s about cheap labor to destroy Canada to get their water so we can get the water we need to run the economy threatened by China, because if we have Canadian water and cheap Mexican labor and Europe and China are competing with us, we have a market large enough to survive at the economy of scales that American corporations require.

But, if you look at the Crusades, we Europeans thought that we would invade and get the holy land, but what happened was that we uncovered the platonic manuscripts, Indian algebra and created the Renaissance. In the culture of Europe, the father is Islam and the mother is Dark Age Europe – the child is the Renaissance which then moves to America and the New World. So these things aren’t really under anybody’s conscious control.

David: Do you see any teleology in the evolutionary process?

Bill: No. I think that innovation is non-linear, that it’s a complex, dynamical system. It has certain parameters – you can’t play tennis without a net – but it’s definitely not a system moving towards a linear goal. The human imagination tends to envisage that evolution is going to hit higher and higher stages and that the next evolutionary step is going to be an animal like us but just a little better, with a bigger brain and maybe with technology embedded in it – I think that is a total failure of imagination.

If we have this

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