David Hinton’s new book is an exploration and treatment of the wound deep in our culture—the illusion of separateness from the natural world. Our Greek and Christian cultural inheritance tells us that we are spirit-centers standing outside and above our fellow-travelers on the planet and our truly important kinship is with the divine, immaterial world. The result has been climate change, deforestation, pollution, mass extinction, and the malaise within humans themselves.
But we have not always held the illusion of separateness and we are beginning to recover from it again. He discusses the thought of Lao Tzu and the influence it had on an ancient China that is in many ways similar to the modern West. He traces the beginnings of a recovery from the illusion of separateness here in the West beginning with the Romantic poets, through Robinson Jeffers, and into ecological thought.
He does not, however, present this modern recovery as assured. One of the most mind-shifting points he makes is that the illusion of separateness and its later manifestation in colonialism and capitalism are in fact a successful short-term evolutionary adaptation. Obviously, it will be a disaster in the long-term—and we’re in the beginning stages of that disaster now. It is not assured, however, that the powers-that-be will abandon that paradigm.
What we face, in fact, is a philosophical and spiritual problem. The wound is deep and technological fixes will never be sufficient. We need a philosophical and spiritual revolution that discards the illusion of separateness and re-integrates humanity into the natural world. With this book, Hinton convincingly lays out our task and leads us to ancestors who can guide us in it.