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Zenarchy is a way of Zen applied to social life. A non-combative, non-participatory, no-politics approach to anarchy intended to get the serious student thinking.
In the words of Antero Alli, author of Angel Tech and other rebellious manifestoes: “Zenarchists everywhere will be delighted... an arsenal of strange loops and fractal surprises... don’t leave OM without it!”
For Camden Benares and Robert Anton Wilson
Face of the Unborn
Very early in the Zen tradition in China, a seeker was instructed to return to his face before he was born. In other words, be yourself. Don’t put on a face for the outside world. Let your attitude be as unconditioned as before you emerged from the womb. Cultural trends and movements also have unborn expressions. When Jesus spoke, his words were not immediately called Christianity.
In 1967 in California something existed that has since been characterized as the Love Generation, the Hippie Movement, the Counter-culture and Flower Power. But those were names given it by the media. Before then it was more or less unconditioned, and it consisted of people who believed in being unconditioned — in finding their faces before birth. They hadn’t decided to be the Love Generation; they had decided to put aside striving for appearances.
An interview was published in the Los Angeles Oracle, a transcript of a conversation between Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder and Alan Watts. At one point they chatted about the flamboyant new people populating the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Alan Watts said that as soon as somebody discovered a name for the phenomenon, it would kill it.
Although we sometimes called ourselves hip or hipsters or hippies or flower children, at that time those were just names among many that seemed occasionally fitting. As a social entity we were not yet stereotyped. Between a hard-bopping hipster and a gentle flower child there was a distinction, and neither label stretched to include us all.
Usually we called ourselves heads. Pot heads, acid heads, or both. Bohemians, Beatniks, mutants, freaks and groovy people were names used with due caution. For in those days what we called ourselves was not to obscure what we were, and what we were was open to experience.
Becoming hung up on avoiding names, of course, can be as misleading as being named, classified and forgotten. We were not making an effort in either direction. We intended, however, to avoid abstractions that short-circuit thought. An unborn face entailed a naked mind.
Zen is called Zen, but when the monk asks the master, “What is Zen?” he does not receive a definition but a whack on the head, or a mundane remark, or a seemingly unrelated story. Although such responses might baffle the student, they did not encourage him to glibly pigeon-hole the Doctrine.
Zen remained alive and vigorous for many more generations than would otherwise have been possible. Neither was it easily co-opted nor did it degenerate into superstition. Among the people in the Haight-Ashbury that Alan Watts did not want to see named were many scholars of Zen. More recent traditions also influenced what was coming to be.
Every year near Thousand Oaks, California, was something called a Renaissance Faire. As a custom it survives even now, but before the media discovered the hippies it was not the same. That it was less commercialized was only part of the difference.
What could be gathered about the people who came there to peddle their wares was significant. Self-sufficient individuals who lived by means of their craft, whether it was leather carving or pottery or one of a dozen other skills, they were bearded and long haired in the years before anyone employed by a corporation was permitted to look so outlandish. Self-styled gypsies who lived in the canyons and foothills and desert areas up and down the coast from Los Angeles, they were tanned, wiry and weathered. In their conversation they were knowledgeable without seeming pompous. A natural sensuality appeared in their body movements that did not seem distracting. Playing music, singing folk songs and dancing whenever they felt like it, they did not seem especially gaudy in their colorful clothes.
People like them had been in existence in California at least since the early Forties. Gary Snyder insists in his writings that their tradition goes back in West Coast history past the turn of the century. I recall seeing them when I was a child — my nose pressed against the car window as we drove through the environs of Hollywood. In those days, they were generally gathered around the entrances of the local health food stores.
I asked my mother what they were and she said they were crackpots; I determined then and there that when I grew up I was going to be a crackpot.
Then there was the Beat Generation of the Fifties. Overlapping with the Bohemian craftspeople, it was not identical. Beatniks tended to be more urban and vocal, less stable and more pessimistic. Among the most avid readers of Beatnik poetry were these serene artisans, who also mingled with them socially. By 1967, though, most of the Beats were consigned to the dead past, at least in the public mind, while the older and less conspicuous group endured without benefit of the obituaries written for the Beat Generation after its heyday. Lawrence Lipton used to argue in the Los Angeles Free Press that the demise of Beatdom was a media hoax, but in any case the word “beat” had been beaten silly, and only the most naive flower child or the most sophisticated hipster could any longer use it without sounding square.
Critics of the counter-culture have charged that such mores indicated a system of conformity among the hip just as oppressive as the one they were trying to escape, but that was not the way it was at all. A wide range of behavior was lovingly tolerated. Only stepping back into the plastic world of mindlessness was discouraged.
I remembered, as one of my early contacts with the hip culture, a visit I’d made in the early Sixties with a young woman of an acquaintance, to the home of a jazz musician. Tucked away in the hills above the Sunset Strip, it was the pad where his friends gathered to jam. I had been attracted to a picture of Ramakrishna, the Vedantic Indian saint, sitting on a dresser with a little flower in a vase in front of it. So late in the spring of 1967 I designed a simple meditation table — a rectangular plywood board with a brick under each corner — for incense, flowers and Zen books, not to mention my marijuana stash. Symptomatic neither of a belief system nor a discipline, meditation became for me a relaxing way to spend part of an hour, from time to time, seated cross-legged in a corner of the living room.
Raga music played on the stereo, sunlight coloring the walls through the homemade stained-glass window behind and above me; wisps of smoke gyrating from the end of a joss stick, a cup of tea — these simple and inexpensive enjoyments added more to my life than any collection of art treasures could have. Such was the unborn face at the time of becoming.
An eternal paradox of this kind of subject matter: the specifics are irrelevant, but it cannot be conveyed at all in general terms. Certainly it isn’t about a handful of cheap decorations. Stopping to dig them was what it was.
After my second LSD trip was when it began. Horrible bummer that it was, I came down from it nevertheless knowing for the first time what it would take to make me genuinely happy — not much. But I didn’t have it. More time, less hustle.
So I spoke with my wife. I told her I was tired of busting my ass. I would keep up my end of the load; she worked part-time. I was no longer into rushing through life as if it were something to be gotten over with. I would awake each morning and sit and think until I figured out a way to make ten dollars that day — writing, selling grass or working odd jobs. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I had only wanted to make as much money as possible, and suddenly it was obvious that I had been completely out of touch with my own values.
Since I was editor of a libertarian newsletter with all the free ad space I wanted, and since my contacts in Los Angeles were numerous, it proved simple to earn my daily bread in this fashion.
An understanding woman, my wife contributed an idea of her own. We could live without paying so much rent. My grandparents were now in an old people’s home and their house was vacant. We arranged to rent it from my family for fifty dollars a month plus upkeep.
A big old house in which I first came to consciousness as a toddler, it contained two bedrooms and a large living and dining area composed of two adjoining rooms, a glassed front porch, a gigantic old fashioned kitchen, and an enormous backyard with a charming, if decrepit, walnut tree.
With so much room for guests, this house on 77th Street in Southwest Los Angeles became a social center of sorts. We harbored my brothers when they became acid heads and had to quit living with my parents, occasional runaways they brought home from hitch-hiking adventures, visiting libertarian and Kerista acquaintances from out of town — and together we gardened, listened to rock music while stringing beads to peddle on consignment in head shops, and of course, partied. In retrospect, I always think of that house as 77th Street Parade.
About the same time the Human Be-Ins started happening. Announcements in the Free Press and occasional comments from my teenage brothers first brought them to my attention.
Then there was the Easter Love-In and Gathering of the Tribes in Elysian Park. That was my initiation into the possibilities inherent in our situation. Converging before sunrise from all directions they came — high and grinning people garbed in ceremonial dress. Sounds of tinkling bells worn around necks and on the sashes of robes, together with the rattle of an occasional tambourine, filled the air. At the center of the field was an ensemble of gongs and temple bells called Spontaneous Sound — with one man, stripped to the waist, leaping among them, striking one and then another.
Believing in reincarnation or genetic memory was a temptation. A friend walked up to me and said, “Well, here we are again.” Tribal banners hung in the trees. A voluntary extended family of one kind or another was assembled under each of them. Among many others were represented the Hog Farm, the Oracle Tribe, Strawberry Fields/Desolation Row as well as the Free Press and KPFK.
Why they were called Human Be-Ins was obvious, for just by being there we had created all this haunting beauty.
Although it lacked the strident quality of a demonstration, this gathering could not help being an eloquent protest of all that was drab and uninspired in the surrounding dominant culture. Only the tiniest children took it all in stride as something quite natural to be expected.
More Gatherings of the Tribes followed during the spring and summer of 1967 in the Crystal Springs area of Griffith Park. Before long we organized a tribe of our own called the Gentle Folk with our friends who were into sexual mate sharing and psychedelics. Most of them we had met through Kerista, a movement that enjoyed a brief, spectacular success as the hip religion — establishing communes in ghetto slums — until the founder, Jud the Prophet, turned most of us off by coming out strongly in favor of the war in Vietnam.
I recall carrying our banner through the early morning mist, sitting beneath it later as an American Indian squatted in front of me and, without uttering a word, made a beautiful flower out of some feathers and colored pipe cleaners we’d brought to give away. Then he handed it to me.
Before dawn I would also gather rose balls — flowers just about to bloom — from bushes around our house. Whenever I made eye contact with someone at the Love-In, I’d toss them one. Some Diggers who liked my rose ball idea once gave me a big, fat joint of Acapulco Gold.
Our whole tribe huddled one morning under the same blanket, giggling. God’s eyes made of yarn. Peace emblems and scented oils. Guitar-strumming minstrels. Beautiful women in flowing long dresses. Laid-back Hell’s Angels. Bewildered crew-cut servicemen on liberty and little old ladies looking for Communists. Afro-Americans with drums. Practically everything and everybody you wouldn’t expect to find anywhere else was here.
One of the little old ladies went home with flowers in her hair and wrote a nice column about us in the Pasadena newspaper for which she happened to work. As she was to note, when we cleared out of the park in the evening, not a speck of litter was left behind. For the most part, the rest of the media confined itself to inaccuracies such as underestimating our numbers by many thousands or implying that we were outstandingly sacrilegious. Every effort was made from the start to insure that we would become nothing more than a passing fad.
By the middle of that summer, the cops were infiltrating us and making busts for marijuana possession with increasing belligerence. Earlier, Timothy Leary had said, “I didn’t mind it when they were calling us a cult because that means a small group of people devoted to an ideal, but now they are calling us a movement, and that means we are in danger of becoming a minority group.” By this time it was worse, for we were a generation. As the misrepresentation and persecution increased, the morale of our fragile social miracle deteriorated and with it went most our much-touted love.
“Hippies don’t like to take baths!” became a popular cliche and so everyone opposed to personal cleanliness ran away from home and joined us. Whoever originated that rumor was probably speaking for how they themselves would have opted to behave in an atmosphere of freedom. Mechanisms of self-fulfilling prophecy insured that every unseemly trait projected our way by those who feared themselves would become the truth in short order, for Time and Newsweek began to function as recruiting literature. So it was not long before it was no longer hip to be a hippie.
Astonishing, though, was that anything had happened in the first place. Nobody could say precisely what brought us to be, but LSD got much of the credit. Unlike junkies, pot heads were always a sociable lot. Acid, however, was to endow them with a cosmic confidence in the righteousness of their way. That in turn led to lectures and light shows and psychedelic boutiques and, ultimately, a movement strong and vigorous enough to be taken for a generation. But in fact, it had contained people of all ages with little more in common than independence of mind.
Among my friends in those days was a man named John Overton. A technical writer for the aero-space industry, a White devotee of Black culture and a consummate seducer of women, he began to blossom spiritually with LSD, psycho-drama and human potential groups. Briefly he became involved with an Indonesian cult that recommended legally changing one’s name in order to reprogram an unwanted self-image. So he changed his first name to Camden, because he liked the sound of it, and his last name to Benares, after the city where the Buddha delivered his first sermon.
Since then, he has written Zen Without Zen Masters (Falcon Press, 1985), a book that inspired this one and which seems to have grown out of our stoned 1967 discussions about mysticism and authority. To the best of my knowledge he also wrote in those days the first American Zen story, as a result of a visit to the Oracle Tribe’s mansion. Published in his book as “Enlightenment of a Seeker,” it is about a young man who didn’t know what to think of himself. Then one day he overheard another say of him, “Some say he is a holy man. Others say he is a shithead.” As Camden explains, “Hearing this, the man was enlightened.”
Among the scholars of hip I did not know personally, Gary Snyder was into something he called Zen Anarchism. Everything else he said also attracted me.
As Japhy Ryder, he was hero of Jack Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums. In the interview with Ginsberg, Leary and Watts he seemed at once the most sensitive and the most politically sophisticated.
As a libertarian I was acquainted with that astute minority among us calling themselves anarchists. That they were not a bunch of psychopathic bomb throwers out to stir up chaos and violence, but a group of sociologists independent of the constraints of institutional financing, was just beginning to dawn on me.
At the library I was always obtaining books about Zen Buddhism, for I was aware that it was one of the keys to the fresh liveliness of what was happening. Writers in the Free Press and commentators at KPFK frequently quoted Zen sayings. When I was serving in the Marines in Japan I’d made a cursory study of the subject, but came away more puzzled than enlightened — both with Zen and Japanese culture in general.
Now Zen struck me as the natural lifestyle implied by anarchist politics — and from the Taoistic perspective of Zen, anarchism seemed the logical political option. Like the Yin and the Yang, they belong together in a dynamic synergy of creative power.
In his final work, Tao: The Watercourse Way, Alan Watts was to reach the same conclusion, linking the principles discovered by Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu — Taoist sages as responsible as the Buddha for the flavor of Zen — with the anarchism of Peter Kropotkin.
Pondering the words of Alan Watts in the Oracle interview, about the destructive power of names, I decided it was not the labels so much as our attachment to them that constituted the problem. Much like the Psychedelic Movement, our consciousness began to narrow. As the Hip Culture we were used by Madison Avenue to sell fashions. As the Love Generation we became hateful and angry because we saw ourselves as loving and young, and those opposing us as spiteful and old. Perhaps the secret of survival, now that we were being named from the outside anyhow, was to forever create new names and always be ready to let the old ones go.
Early one Saturday morning, wooden blocks seemed to tumble and clatter away from my mind in all directions. Had it been satori (enlightenment), I wouldn’t have been so annoyed since then by the trials and tribulations of living. But it was something that nearly allowed me to understand what those old guys meant. When my mind closed in on it, it slipped away like an eel — but that took time because I was quite thoroughly stoned on marijuana. After that, my fascination with Zen outstripped my devotion to rigid anarchist ideology.
Then there was the night I was having a bout of insomnia and jumped from bed, ran into the dining room, grabbed a sheet of paper and a laundry marker and wrote one single bold word: Zenarchy!
I hope that didn’t kill anything.
The Birth of Zenarchy
During the days at 77th Street, I didn’t write much about Zenarchy, but I contemplated the notion of a periodical by that name. I was experiencing considerable frustration over lack of editorial freedom as managing editor of the libertarian newsletter. My fascination with the counter-culture was not shared by the publisher. But then nearly everything was getting on my nerves by the middle of the summer.
Degenerating under police pressure and media hoop-de-la, the hip culture was becoming steadily more difficult to defend as my enthusiasm for promoting it increased. Smog-ridden Los Angeles with its maze of freeways kept bringing to mind Timothy Leary’s advice to “turn on, tune in, drop out”. (Or as Camden was to phrase it: “fly up, freak out, fuck off”.)
Everyone was saying urban existence was not for heads. I was turned on and I fancied that I was tuned in, so I began making jaunts to the woods to see what smoking a number there was like. A whole new drug experience seemed to result in nature’s universal living room — both overwhelming and comfortable.
As did many before and after me, I searched for a place to live in the outskirts of Los Angeles — only to discover there were none. Expensive hill property or desert comprised the major alternatives to the megalopolis. So my wife, Cara, and I decided to sell our Volkswagen and use the money to move to Florida. Our ultimate aim was to purchase or build a houseboat and plunge into the Everglades.
As it happened, we never got any farther in the direction of unspoiled wilderness than a cottage on a farm near Tampa, Florida. Then, I got a job across the bay and we moved into town. At least there was no smog.
After becoming immersed in the writings of Chuang Tzu — the only person in history besides Diogenes whose reincarnation I would care to be — I began publishing a sporadic newsletter in flyleaf format called Zenarchy. Principally this was to keep in touch with my California friends.
Usually I would type up a page or two when the mood suited me, paste a dingbat or two swiped from another publication between blurbs, and then pay the local offset printer to run off two or three hundred copies.
My original ambition in California had been for a monthly or quarterly journal, but the sparse format proved serendipitous. Most of my friends were inspired to begin issuing newsletters of equally simple design, stimulating their friends in turn to do the same. In the early Seventies there emerged a whole network of one-person journalistic efforts, most of them well worth the reading.
Following are portions of the Zenarchy broadsides, beginning with the August 19, 1968 issue published in Tampa:
Zen is Meditation. Archy is Social Order. Zenarchy is the Social Order which springs from Meditation.
As a doctrine, it holds Universal Enlightenment a prerequisite to abolition of the State, after which the State will inevitably vanish. Or — that failing — nobody will give a damn.
“Having said that zen study is knowing yourself, the roshi went on: In America you have democracy, which means for you government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I in my turn am bringing democracy to Japan. You cannot have democracy until people know themselves. The Chinese said that government was unnecessary and they were right. When people know themselves and have their own strength, they do not need government. Otherwise they are just a mob and must be ruled. On the other hand, when rulers do not know themselves, they push the people around. When you do not know yourself, you busy yourself with other people. Zen study is just a matter of getting your own feet on the ground.” (from Matter of Zen by Paul Wienpahl, New York University Press, 1964)
Stoned Sermon #1: Dogen’s Hole
Having as little as possible to do with the powerful — that was Dogen’s splendid Way of Buddhas and Patriarchs. So when one of his followers accepted for his Zendo a gift of land from a grateful Regent whom Dogen had instructed, the fool was driven by the master from the monastery.
Moreover, Dogen ordered the portion of floor where the erring monk customarily sat in zazen torn out — and in the earth beneath it he had his students dig a six-foot-deep hole.
Zenarchy is new in name alone. Not only is it the Bastard Zen of America which has grown to flower over the recent decades in nearly everybody’s pot — it is the heretofore nameless streak that zig-zags back through the Zen Tradition, weaving with delirious defiance in and out of various sects and schools — slapping the face of an Emperor here, rejecting a high office there, throwing a rule-blasting koan at a bureaucrat elsewhere — and coming to rest finally in the original true words of Lao Tzu (from a translation in Laotzu’s Tao and Wu-wei by Dwight Goddard, Thetford, Vermont, 1939): “When the world yields to the principle of Tao, its race horses will be used to haul manure; when the world ignores Tao, war horses are pastured on the public common.”
Nevertheless, there was never a greater Zenarchist than old Dogen Zenji — for in that astounding hole of his can be found a monument to Freedom as enduring as the very Void.
Such gentle tolerance as he displayed is a rare thing, too, in the world of men and Buddhas. But then his Compassion for the foolish monk was no doubt boundless, as befits an Enlightened One.
That was followed by a September 4, 1968, flyleaf titled “Quotations from Chairman Lao” containing these statements from Lao Tzu:
“It is taught in books of strategy: ‘Never be so rash as to open hostilities; always be on the defense at first.’ Also: ‘Hesitate to advance an inch but be always ready to retreat a foot.’ In other words, it is wiser even in war to depend upon craft and skill instead of force.”
“When well-matched armies come to conflict, the one which regrets the need for fighting always wins.”
“The good commander strikes a decisive blow, then stops. He does not dare assert and complete his mastery. He will strike the blow, but will guard against becoming arrogant. For he strikes from necessity, and not out of a zest for victory.”
“Both arms and armor are unblessed things. Not only do men come to detest them — but a curse seems to follow them. Therefore, the True Man avoids depending upon arms.”
“I am teaching what others have taught — that the powerful and aggressive seldom come to natural deaths. But I make this wisdom the basis of my whole outlook.”
“If one attempts to govern either himself or another, he is sure to become frustrated. For it will seem that whatever he tries to grasp, slips away. The Sage makes no such attempts, makes no failures, has nothing to lose — is therefore at peace with himself.”
“He who wants to take over the country and remake it under his own reforming plans will fail. ‘Mankind’ is an abstract concept that cannot be remade after one’s own ideas. Under any system of reform, a ruler must make use of different, real-life people — some as they seem and some not, some who will assist and others who will resist, some strong and some brittle and unsafe to rely on. That is why the Sage never tries to take over things and reform man, but is instead content to reform himself — letting others follow his example, but never forcing them.”
“Nothing is more fragile, yet of all the agencies that attack hard substances nothing excels water. Likewise, the powerless can wear down the mighty and the gentle survive the strong. (Everyone knows this but few can practice it.) So the Sage accepts the disgrace of his country and in so doing becomes a true patriot; he is patient under the misfortunes of his cause and is therefore worthy to lead it.” (Translated from the Tao Teh Ching of Lao Tzu by Ho Chi Zen.)
Appearing promptly on September 16, 1968, the next Zenarchy began with a verse from a poem I had written just before the 1967 Easter Love-In:
Come and play the poet game with me!
Let’s call out the cries of anarchy!
Let’s be happy; let’s be soft, and free;
Come and play the game of liberty.
“Totalitarian states, however, know the danger of the artist. Correctly, if for the wrong reasons, they know that all art is propaganda, and that art which does not support their system must be against it. They know intuitively that the artist is not a harmless eccentric but one who under the guise of irrelevance creates and reveals a new reality. If, then, he is not to be torn to pieces like Orpheus in the myth, the liberated artist must be able to play the countergame and keep it as well hidden as the judo of Taoism and Zen. He must be able to be ‘all things to all men’, for as one sees from the history of Zen any discipline whatsoever can be used as a way of liberation — making pots, designing gardens, arranging flowers, building houses, serving tea, and even using the sword; one does not have to advertise oneself as a psychotherapist or guru. He is the artist in whatever he does, not just in the sense of doing it beautifully, but in the sense of playing it. In the expressive lingo of the jazz world, whatever the scene, he makes it. Whatever he does, he dances it — like a Negro bootblack shining shoes. He swings.” (from Psychotherapy East and West by Alan Watts, Random House, 1961)
Spin your inhibitions off and see Flowers in your heart and let them be. (Come and play the poet game with me!)
Stoned Sermon #2: The Way of Play
It is no coincidence that the cultural currents of Zen and Anarchism immediately joined when Zen came to the West. For nowhere in recent Western history is the life of the Eastern renunciate more closely paralleled than in that of the dedicated revolutionary, forsaking all attachments for a single goal. And no Eastern sage comes closer to the zestful life sense of the Anarchist than the Zen Master.
But the deeper fruits of this union, speaking at least with reference to the Anarchist, are yet to be realized. What Zen has most to offer Anarchism is freedom here and now. No longer need the Anarchist dream of a utopian millennium as he struggles to outwit the State — for he can find freedom in the contest, by simply knowing that freedom is everywhere for those who dance through life, rather than crawl, walk, or run.
For if a man has renounced inward ownership of property, renounced possessive attachment to his loved ones, and is cheerfully detached from time, with no fear or hope for what the future might bring — he is immune to all threats and pleadings of any State in the world. On the streets or in prison — indeed, on his very way to execution — he can play!
That is, he can become aware of his true nature as a player in the cosmic maya game, and can therefore openhandedly let his karma play itself out. He can blend with the life forces around him, as a dancer to his music, and prance boldly into the collage of events — with no fears, no regrets, and no compromises — turned on, tuned in, and made One.
Come and cry the cries of anarchy!
Running through the streets of history,
Let’s be happy; let’s be nice, and free.
“In the year 326 the persecution of the Christian ceases. Emperor Constantine becomes a Christian and raises the Christian Church to become the State Church. Christianity, which for three hundred years had borne a shining fruit in the darkness of the catacombs, could blossom on the surface. The Christian is liberated from the permanent fear of death. The church of the early community, whose power lay in prayer and the formation of the ascetic personality irradiated by Christ, becomes now a power which also carries weight in the world. Dogma is fixed, wonderful churches are built, the magnificent liturgy develops. But the face of the Christian alters. Where formerly a Christian was a Christian, now he is Everyman. Where formerly there had been a community of saints, now saints become more and more rare in the community. They flee into solitude, to prayer, meditation and need of union with God. Thus in the fourth century ends the wonderful experience of a closeness to God, a bringing down of heaven to earth, a general spiritualization of the cosmos with healing divine forces, a joyousness and peace which we can no longer imagine, because the organs to understand and experience these conditions are blocked.” (from Meditation and Mankind by Vladimir Lindenberg, Rider and Co., London)
Come and play the childhood game, and be!
Oh the peace you’ll know, the ecstasy!
Spin your inhibitions off and see!
Come and play the poet game with me.
As you can see, in spirit I was still issuing invitations to Love-Ins. That was my gospel, and in no way was it intended to be taken the least bit esoterically. Authoritarian psychology was also of interest to me, for it was our failure to make appropriate psychological warfare against the bureaucratic mentality that was our undoing in California. So I addressed myself to that issue in the October 5, 1968, Zenarchy, briefly, as follows:
How to Reason with Authorities
“Hold up!” said an elderly rabbit at the gap. “Six pence for the privilege of passing by the private road!” He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. “Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!” he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other, “How stupid you are! Whey didn’t you tell him —” “Well, why didn’t you say —” “You might have reminded him —” and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case. (from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Heritage Press, 1944–66)
Shun proposed to resign the throne to Shan Chuan, who said, “I am a unit in the midst of space and time. In winter I wear skins and furs; in summer, grass-cloth and linen; in spring I plough and sow, my strength being equal to the toil; in autumn I gather my harvest, and am prepared to cease labor and eat. At sunrise I get up and work; at sunset I rest. So do I enjoy myself between heaven and earth, and my mind is content: — why should I have anything to do with the throne? Alas! that you, Sir, do not know me better!” Thereupon he declined the proffer, and went away, deep among the hills, no man knew where. — Chuang Tzu (from Volume II of The Texts of Taoism, translated by James Legge, Dover Publications, 1962)
In the October 21, 1968, edition of Zenarchy I followed this thinking a step further, stressing now the positive aspects in this way:
The Only Solution is a Yin Revolution
“What is really being said is that intelligence solves problems by seeking the greatest simplicity and the least expenditure of effort, and it is thus that Taoism eventually inspired the Japanese to work out the technique of judo — the easy or gentle Tao (do).” (from Psychotherapy East and West by Alan Watts, Random House, 1961)
“The True men of old waited for the issues of events as the arrangement of Heaven, and did not by their human efforts try to take the place of Heaven.” — Chuang Tzu (from the Texts of Taoism by James Legge, Dover Publications, 1962)
“It is interesting in this connection to recall Dr. Reich’s distinction between matriarchy and patriarchy, as given in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. According to Dr. Reich, work-democracy and self-regulation of primary drives were characteristics of primitive matriarchy, and both were destroyed by the rise of authoritarian patriarchy. Recent anthropology has cast doubt on the existence of the ‘primitive matriarchy,’ but, as G. Rattray Taylor shows in his Sex in History, there can be little doubt that cultures do show more Matrist tendencies in some periods of their development, and more Patrist tendencies at other periods. Patrist periods are characterized by sexual repression, limitation of freedom for women, political authoritarianism, fear of spontaneity, worship of a Father God, etc. Matrist periods, on the other hand, are characterized by sexual freedom, high status for women, political democracy, spontaneity, worship of a Mother Goddess, etc. This agrees with Dr. Reich’s picture of the distinction between Patriarchy and Matriarchy.
Chapter 6 of the Tao Teh Ching Says:
The valley spirit never dies She is called the Eternal Female
“According to Needham, Blakney and other Sinologists, this Eternal Female is the goddess of pre-Chou China forgotten by the conventions of the Patrist Chou State and official Confucian philosophy. Blakney considers the early Taoists to have been recruited from peasants who remembered the Shang State and its Matrist orientation.”
(from “Lao-Tse and Wilhelm Reich, Prophets of Inner Freedom” by Robert Anton Wilson in the September 1963 issue of A Way Out, School of Living, Brookville, Ohio)
“The True men of old did not reject (the views of) the few; they did not seek to accomplish (their ends) like heroes (before others); they did not lay plans to attain those ends. Being such, though they might make mistakes, they had no occasion for repentance; though they might succeed, they had no self-complacency. Being such, they could ascend to the loftiest heights without fear; they could pass through water without being made wet by it; they could go into fire without being burnt; so it was that by their knowledge they ascended to and reached the Tao.”
— Chuang Tzu (from the Texts of Taoism by James Legge, Dover Publications, 1962)
So Follow the Way
Of the True Men of Old:
Find Shade in the Summer;
Grow Fur in the Cold.
This was followed by a portrait of the archetypal counter-cultural woman drawn exclusively from my old New Orleans French Quarter friend, Loy Ann Camp. Therein I compared her to the woman in Bob Dylan’s song of whom he says, “She’s got everything she needs; she’s an artist; she don’t look back...” For in the most literal sense Loy, like so many of the hip females of the early Sixties, was an artist by profession who was “nobody’s child” and who never stumbled because she had no place to fall — a perfect balance of gentleness and strength. Like a waiter I once met who acquired a reputation as a karate expert because he slipped and kicked his opponent just as he was beginning to get in a fight, I inadvertently gave the impression that I knew what I was talking about — at least in relation to what I have since gathered about intelligence community secret societies based upon matriarchy, etc. Since, in order to add a sense of universality to the image of the modern-day Eternal Female, I did not mention Loy by name, many people seem to have assumed that I understood the deeper levels of Dylan’s lyrics, up to and including who he was really singing about. As a matter of fact, I assumed it was Joan Baez. Here is what I had to say:
Incarnations: Everything She Needs
“And upon this day I say unto you: Each Sentient Being is an Incarnation of Me, and whosoever upon hearing this Truth shall come to know it, is blessed; and twice-blessed are they who shall be unable again to forget it; but thrice-blessed is that Man or Woman who needed never to be told.” — Visitations 13:5 The Honest Book of Truth
You know her. We all do. Anyone who has ever lived in the Haight or North Beach or Taos or Old Town or the French Quarter or the East Village or anyplace like that has met her, because that’s where she belongs, and she knows it from childhood.
She has a horsey angular face and long straight hair and is dedicated to her art, whatever it may be. Bob Dylan had to be thinking about her when he wrote that song about how “She’s got everything she needs; she’s an artist; she don’t look back...”
So serene is this chick that everybody wants her — for friend, lover or just to have around — and it is that serenity which so transcends her features (that on everyone else would be homely), making her the center flower in every bouquet of Beautiful People.
Usually she hangs out with heads. Not because she is necessarily a head herself, though she may or may not blow a little pot, but because she has that thing about her — that cool. And she never goes around boasting about not needing a crutch to get there (and thereby revealing a far greater dependency than anyone ever develops for drugs). But you know she’s turned on by her ways — just watch her pet a cat!
I used to sit up all night with her once in awhile. She’d sketch and I’d write. Maybe between us we’d have a dime and so we would buy a coffee or Coke and relax in a place where they didn’t care how long we sat around. When our asses got numb, we’d go for a walk and go up and sit on her balcony in the summer night air.
No matter what her name is, her voice is always soft — except when she expels that hyena laugh. And then it doesn’t matter because what she is laughing about is really very funny.
She is so thin and frail, and you think her blood must be ten degrees cooler than yours. You worry about her because you know that she is a poor judge of character, accepting as friend everyone who comes along, no matter how bad their scene. This gets her into an occasional creepy situation and sometimes puts her through some drastic changes. But when it is all over, you feel silly that you got uptight, because she’ll be the same as before.
Maybe some night when you’re talking, she’ll tell you that the squaw boat, made from hide stretched over a light wooden frame, is the safest way to go — because in a storm that’ll sink the mighty battleship, the little saucer-like vessel just rocks up over the biggest waves and down again on the other side.
In the next Zenarchy newsletter, I decided to be cute. Here is the entire content of the November 25, 1968, edition:
Stoned Sermon #3: The Dharma Made Simple
Our text for today is a quotation from Chun Chou which appears in The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (Grove Press, 1959): “Stepping into the public hall, His Reverence said: Having many sorts of knowledge cannot compare with giving up seeking for anything, which is best of all things. Mind is not of several kinds and there is no Doctrine which can be put into words. As there is no more to be said, the assembly is dismissed!”
There followed a page and a half of blank paper.
As Christmas was nearing, I decided with the December 1, 1968, issue that it was time to say a thing or two about Jesus. What follows continues to this day to seem to me an accurate representation of the personality that comes through when I read the Gospels:
Stoned Sermon #4: Laughing Buddha Jesus
In his book, Zen Catholicism (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963), the Benedictine monk, Dom Aelred Graham, says:
“The word ‘Buddha’ means simply the ‘Enlightened One’; so understood, there have been many ‘Buddhas’. As Dr. Edward Conze points out: ‘In the official theory, the Buddha, ‘the Enlightened’, is a kind of archetype which manifests itself in the world in different personalities, whose individual particulars are of no account whatsoever.’ From this point of view, Jesus of Nazareth would undoubtedly be accorded the title ‘Buddha’, since He is revealed, according to St. John, as both uniquely ‘Enlightened’ and the ‘Enlightener’.”
Moreover, the Edgar Cayce readings (quoted in Many Mansions by Gina Cerminara, New American Library, 1967) inform us that “Those who walk closer with the Creative Forces should indeed be full of joy, pleasure, peace, and harmony within,” and that “the principle of the Christ life is joyous!” “Remember,” they urge, “He laughed — even on the way to Calvary — not as so often pictured; He laughed.” Yea: “This is what angered them the most.” So: “Cultivate the ability to see the ridiculous and retain the ability to laugh.”
Wow! Can you dig that Jesus was a Buddha? Can you grok a laughing Savior? A Zen Buddha from Nazareth?
Nothing is more heretical. Nothing is more treasonous. Jesus had a sense of humor. That idea will destroy Western Civilization as we know it.
Come, brothers. Come, sisters. Let’s all join hands and enter the Church Invisible of the Laughing Christ. Let’s all join hands and find the Hidden Temple of the Happy Jesus. Let’s all join hands and giggle.
Another Zenarchy flyleaf did not appear until May of 1970. By that time we had moved to Atlanta, but it concerned an experience in California in 1967. One night as I sat in the half-lotus position stoned on grass and listening to an Indian raga, my eyes rolled up behind my eyebrows, the images I saw enacted the following drama, which I now titled “Bummer”:
He looked off in three directions at once. His four arms flew out. Time to dance!
A display of Divine Majesty — lightning steaks, planets on His fingertips — a Cosmic Juggler, moving so fast He became a still pattern, humming. (Like a rock whirling on the end of a string becomes a ring or a fast-spinning wagon wheel turns into a disc.)
Then — disintegration! A skull-headed machine gunner popping people open.
I fear. Drop out — down into the body. Into a cell. Cell. With rats underneath! Or worse — reptilian rats, gnawing upward.
Fangs of steel break through the floor.
The floor is a door.
And I am a poor Jew, clinging to the wall.
The door gave way.
The drum was silent.
Outside was Nothing, the Void.
Hung Mung, laughing madly, turned my way and said:
“There is no enemy — A N Y W H E R E.”
A Character from Chuang Tzu, Hung Mung was just an embellishment. But the rest of it actually happened with the plot resolving itself precisely at the final drum beat of the raga. In those days I was doing a lot of LSD and, as any head will attest, acid heightens the marijuana experiences that occur immediately afterwards. Rolling the eyeballs back enhances your ability to perceive internal images in psychedelic states of consciousness, as simply pressing them with your fingers — applying pressure against your closed eyelids — will also do. Such images are a natural phenomena of consciousness and are to be seen, albeit less vividly, in ordinary states of mind. But that was the only time they ever enacted a drama for me as well plotted as a nocturnal dream!
In July of 1970 I published a parting shot before turning my attention as a Zenarchist to politics. Aimed at the excessive seriousness that by then was transforming the open-minded spirituality of the hippies into a regular occult reich of competing and increasingly fanatical cults, this Zenarchy was titled “Lila Yoga”, meaning: the discipline of play:
Laughter is the Universal Salute of the Cosmic Mind. It is how the Mind greets Itself in Ten Thousand new Incarnations every moment. It is love’s loudest voice.
“Humor and cheerfulness not only do not interfere with the progress of meditation but actually contribute to it.” — Meher Baba
“Humor is not sinful, unless it be cruelly directed against one who is helpless, honest, and sincere. When directed against hypocrisy, stupidity, and error, humor can be a flaming beautiful weapon in the cause of light and beauty.
“We must learn to love so deeply, widely and purely that our instincts for laughter will always be true ones, and our capacity for humor another facet of our joyous sense of power and being.” — Gina Cerminara
“I shall be a tornado of laughter, toppling the timbers and towers of sorrow. Zooming over endless miles of mentalities, I shall demolish their troubles.” — Paramahansa Yogananda
“Cultivate the ability to see the ridiculous, and retain the ability to laugh.” — Edgar Cayce
“It is time to come to your senses. You are to live and learn to laugh. You are to listen to life’s radio music and to reverence the spirit behind it and to laugh at the bim-bim in it. So there you are. More will not be asked of you.” — Hermann Hesse
“In the year 1166 B.C., a malcontented hunchbrain by the name of Greyface got it into his head that the universe was as humorless as he, and he began to teach that play was sinful because it contradicted the ways of Serious Order. ‘Look at all the order about you,’ he said. And from that, he deluded honest men to believe that reality was a straitjacket affair and not the happy romance as men had known it.
“It is not presently understood why men were so gullible at that particular time, for absolutely no one thought to observe all the disorder around them and conclude just the opposite. But anyway, Greyface and his followers took the game of playing at life more seriously than they took life itself and were known even to destroy other living beings whose ways of life differed from their own.
“The unfortunate result of this is that mankind has since been suffering from a psychological and spiritual imbalance. Imbalance causes frustration, and frustration causes fear. And fear makes a bad trip. Man has been on a bad trip for a long time now.
“It is called the Curse of Greyface.” — Malaclypse the Younger
Laughing Buddha Jesus Still Loves us All!
Unfortunately, the Meher Baba people and the Edgar Cayce enthusiasts and the Hermann Hesse fans of my acquaintance, as well as the Hare Krishnas and the Jesus freaks, not to mention the Paramahansa Yogananda devotees, were all victims of the Curse of Greyface. Worse, my Zenarchy about lila yoga did nothing at all to expand their personalities.
In this chapter I have used some words with which some of you maybe unfamiliar. So I’ll explain what those terms mean as I also relate what I learned from publishing the Zenarchy newsletter.
Rational arguments alone, together with quotations from the arguments of others, are insufficient to transform “the human mind and everything that resembles it” — in the words of Andre Breton, the Surrealist — so in Zen there is zazen (sitting in meditation). As Gary Snyder points out this is a natural function of all higher mammals except for humans of the civilized variety. We might gather that it is therefore a manifestation of, as well as a means of attaining, unconditional consciousness. Cats and dogs are excellent examples, readily at hand, of animals who practice what the Zenji (Zen people) sometimes translate as “just sitting”. Zazen is usually practiced in a Zendo (Zen center), and is particularly emphasized in the Soto sect.
Within the Rinzai sect more attention is paid to the koan (a paradox or riddle of sorts for contemplation), designed to stop the student short of a superficial understanding that goes in one ear and out the other without affecting the nervous system.
Nothing is less inclined to cultivate spontaneous gifts, of which humor and intellectual generosity partake, than pointing out to anyone their lack in that department and advising them to correct it. All it does is put them on the psychological defensive. For as Alan Watts said in Psychotherapy East and West, an essential ingredient of the countergame is tact — and I must admit that I am as tactless today as I was then, especially when it comes to lecturing and scolding those who do not display tact. As Watts also observes in that most valuable book, the one condition where spontaneity becomes next to absolutely impossible is when one person puts another on the line and orders them: “Be spontaneous!” Zen masters understand this, but they do it anyway — for the poor monk is likely to be in their clutches for a good many years and when he finally aquires the knack of responding unselfconsciously to an order like, “Show me your freedom!” he is absolutely free forever.
Another word I have used in both this and the first chapter is raga, a form of Hindu music that illustrates the balance of spontaneity and discipline, of chaos and order, that we are talking about very much as jazz music attains the same effect.
As propaganda, the Zenarchy flyleaves were very successful in preaching to the converted. And for that reason I guess they served a purpose in raising the morale of the people who already knew what I was talking about. After a student of Zen attains satori (enlightenment) it is necessary to undergo further training to become a master skilled in the art of transmission.
Son of Zenarchy
I do not remember when or where it was that inspiration struck again with the nom de guerre of Ho Chi Zen. Ho Chi Minh was of course the prototype, the courageous leader of the North Vietnamese called in his own language “Son of the Nation”. Calling myself after such a great revolutionary and on top of that changing the denotation to “Son of Zen” was of course outrageous, inexcusably so — and I guess that’s what I liked most about the idea. For it partook of the chip-on-the-shoulder spirit of Zen.
With me very much in the early days in Tampa, the name endured our move to Atlanta in late 1969 — although I had used it only once in Zenarchy, designating Ho Chi Zen translator of “Quotations from Chairman Lao.” Actually those quotations were not translations at all, but a rephrasing based upon a number of different translations of Lao Tzu. So Ho Chi Zen began his career as a rascal, and he has not changed in the least since then.
Like most of the colorful pen names my eristic friends and I have fallen into using, the Ho Chi Zen moniker is just as often used as the name of a character in my writings as by-line. For John Wilcock’s Other Scenes Cara and I were to write an essay inspired by Timothy Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy idea called “Subjective Liberation”. Intended as the first chapter to a book I never wrote called The I Tao (Way of Changes), the article first appeared under our real names and then was reprinted again in the same publication under Ho Chi Zen.
In Zen Without Zen Masters, Ho Chi Zen makes a number of guest appearances, usually to steal one of my best lines, such as: “By the study of Zen one can learn to help people — or, that failing, at least to get them off your back.” Moreover, he surfaces every now and then in the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
In the summer of 1970 in Atlanta’s very political Marxist-Leninist underground paper, The Great Speckled Bird, was when and where he first rode to fame. Most of the serious young Bird staffers were out of town that season, cutting sugar cane in Cuba or running guns for the Palestinians in the Middle East. Someone mentioned to me that for that reason the editors were extremely hard-up for material. They didn’t pay anything, but what the hell? Here was a chance to have some fun, especially since they were in search of material that would appeal to the “freaks”, hippies living in the 10th Street area and engaging in violent struggle from time to time with local police and rednecks.
My first instinct was to endeavor to dampen tempers with a certain amount of instructive humor. For I saw more creative ways to make revolution than by grabbing for a gun at the least provocation. So Ho Chi Zen wrote an article for the Bird called “Mind Fucking Zen”. Briefly, it argued that the essential element of Zen tactics is surprise. For surprise is nature’s way of saying, “You’re wrong! Think again!” Sanctified by aeons of evolution, this survival trait, the capacity for surprise, could be used by revolutionists to change minds. To illustrate, Ho told a Zen story.
Results of publication were spectacular. Folks from the 10th Street region called the Bird office to congratulate them for “the hippest thing” they’d ever printed. One woman kept calling demanding to know who Ho Chi Zen was. As I soon learned, she was the former wife of our neighbor, Carl Hendrickson, certain that “Mind Fucking Zen” was his creation. When I mentioned to Carl that I was the culprit, he said, “My God, everybody in town has been accusing me of writing that rap!” We decided we must have something in common and resolved to spend more time getting stoned together.
Carl Hendrickson was a heavy old-timey hipster who belonged to the White Panther Party, closely associated in those days with the Yippies. Anarchistic and psychedelic, he resembled me in his thinking just enough for sparks to fly.
When Timothy Leary broke out of jail that year and abandoned his former charming pacifism with a violent, angry manifesto, Carl said: “They never should have taken away that man’s dope! Before they were fucking with a Catholic, but now they are fucking with an Irishman!”
I liked that one. For the most part, though, Carl resembled nearly all other Atlanta radicals — guns appealed to him more than flowers and humor. I wasn’t that angry yet.
As a journalistic celebrity, Ho Chi Zen was now much in demand at the Bird. So I followed “Mind Fucking Zen” with a number of similar contributions from the Zenarchist Arsenal.
One was a story I borrowed from the arguments of the anarchists and clothed in the legend of the Robber Cheh, a favorite character used by Chuang Tzu for making points about thieves.
Once an apprentice to the Robber Cheh got word that the village of Yin lost favor with the Duke, falling behind on taxes; the royal constables were withdrawn. Meanwhile, the neighboring village of Yang remained under guard day and night. Which village to steal from was the subject of discussion.
For while the apprentice wanted to attack Yin, the Robber Cheh insisted it would be safer to commit robberies in Yang. Since the residents of Yin knew they were without protection, they would guard their property with fierce dogs, dig pits around their homes, alert their neighbors to keep an eye out, and moreover, few residents of Yin would not be armed. Whereas Yang, reasoned the Robber Cheh, would be easy pickings. All his band had to fear was the police, who could be watched on their rounds until they passed through a neighborhood, and then the thieves could strike.
Another piece celebrated Timothy Leary’s jailbreak, drawing parallels between Leary and the Mexican revolutionary, Emil Zapata, who used to retire to the mountains and ingest psychedelic mushrooms.
When curiosity as to the identity of Ho Chi Zen reached an intolerable level, I dispatched a fictitious reporter to Atlanta’s nonexistent Chinatown to interview my inscrutable Oriental. My object was to satirize Western stereotypes about Asians. Found living behind a Chinese red door in an opium den, cloaked in every possible cliche associated with Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan, with a gong on his front porch bearing the seal of the Illuminati, his ornate home scented unmistakably with fumes of Peking Proletarian Incense, Ho delivered an interview that was characteristically surprising — though not nearly as surprising to me as that the Bird possessed enough humor to publish it.
Therein, Ho explained that the State is a figment of its own imagination and that the Zenarchist Revolution is inevitable; “In fact, it just took place as I was speaking that sentence! Now that you have your freedom, how will you hide it from robbers?”
Another time he was quoted from a speech he didn’t actually deliver in Piedmont Park on “the dope problem”, that being the problem of what to do about the dopes who thought marijuana and LSD should remain illegal.
Thereafter, dedicated Bird writers began returning from the far-flung barricades and Ho Chi Zen faded into the ornate Oriental woodwork — with parting tips about how guerilla warriors could survive in the wilderness, gleaned from my research about dropping out.
Among Ho Chi Zen’s contributions that summer had also been a five-step program for social change, called Yin Revolution, that utilized drop-out skills in conjunction with political action. More about that in the pages to follow.
Predictably, many Marxists regarded Ho Chi Zen as a deviationist with pronounced petty bourgeois tendencies. That is a charge I would not deny, since in the view of anarchism the petty bourgeois is a natural revolutionary ally of the worker, something to which even Mao Tse-Tung gave significant recognition in planning the Chinese revolution. For Mao had read Kropotkin and Bakunin along with his Marx.
When I wrote a letter to the Bird a year or two later recommending the flags of all nations be burned, as well as the red flag of revolution, the black flag of anarchy and the white flag of peace, in order to assert that human lives were more valuable than rags, signing it Ho Chi Zen, I was brought to task. I had included in my list the Viet Cong flag which, unlike all the other examples mentioned, was not a rag, but a symbol for which thousands of revolutionary soldiers had given their lives.
Robert Anton Wilson wrote me to say that I was wrong and the Bird was right in repudiating my letter, “For while the flags of most nations are made only of cloth and hence are simply rags, the flags of the socialist nations are made one-hundred-percent of gossamer and angel feathers.”
Soon a San Francisco printing collective joined the fray when called upon to reprint certain of Ho Chi Zen’s Bird articles in Saint John’s Wednesday Bread Messenger. In a rider on which they insisted, they accused Ho of racism for resembling Fu Manchu, missing the point of the satire. Moreover, this Marxist printing collective went on to point out, with no little outrage, that there was no evidence that Ho Chi Minh was into Zen, a possibility that never occurred to me in the first place. (Chairman Mao, on the other hand, possessed a profound grasp of Taoism and often resorted to Taoist concepts to explain Marxism to the Chinese people.)
So to celebrate the end of the Vietnam War, I bumped Ho Chi Zen off and wrote him an epitaph. Since Ho Chi Mihn was affectionately known to his people as Uncle Ho, the Atlanta high schoolers who also read the Bird had taken to calling Ho Chi Zen by the nickname, Nephew Ho. Called “Obit, for Nephew Ho”, the poem began with the lines: “When Lester Maddox raised all Hell/Ho Chi Zen would break the spell/Lampooning every racist myth/Yankees napalmed Asians with...” Ho proved irrepressible, however, and it turned out soon enough that my report of his death was, in Mark Twain’s famous words, “greatly exaggerated.” Nonetheless it was, belatedly, the only reply I ever made to the sober-sided charge that Ho Chi Zen was just a modern-day version of the Yellow Kid.
Many an artist has tried to capture the elusive Ho Chi Zen with pen and ink. Nothing quite presents him as I imagine he looks, as the picture in Zen Without Zen Masters that accompanies the story, “Ho Chi Zen’s School”. There he is shown waiting to pounce on any student who puts money in his donation bowl three times in a row, in order to expel that unfortunate for excessive gullibility.
Times are, though, when Ho Chi Zen is just too cute for the serious business of Zenarchy. That is why I tried to kill him. Too much the gimmick and not enough the funky human being I’m trying to give permission to exist in everyone. He gets in the way. But he is as wily as Bokonon in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Just when I think I am rid of him, he pops up somewhere new. Rasputin’s assassins had it easier. Nephew Ho is as immortal in his own way — and sometimes as detested by his creator — as was Sherlock Holmes. I seem stuck with him.
As the Chinese Buddhist Layman P’ang Jung used to say of too-clever a Zen antic, “Bungled it trying to be smart.”
Toward the final, desperate days of the Nixon regime, though, Ho Chi Zen made a return appearance in The Great Speckled Bird that was neither too facile nor the least bit offensive to my sincere Marxist comrades. Done up on the front page like an album cover, the lyrics to Nephew Ho’s “Watergate Rock” began with: “I want to make one thing perfectly clear:/I’ve nothing to hide and nothing to fear...” Repeated at the beginning of each stanza, this couplet was followed at the song’s end with, “...but angry women of all ages,/Buddhist monks in tiger cages,...” and continued with a list of who Nixon had to fear, of people whose pain and heartbreak had made possible Richard Nixon’s sorry career as President of the United States of America.
That time Ho Chi Zen was what they call “right on”. And I guess that, more than anything else, is why I still let the little rascal monkey around in my written work. When his country and the rest of the world needed him, Ho Chi Zen was there.
Zen Games, Zenarchy Counter-Games
No one complains more loudly and sincerely about hippie games than hipsters. Zen masters object likewise to something they call “the stink of Zen”.
A famous roshi once said to his inquiring monks: “All this talk about Zen is making me sick to my stomach!”
If you like to eat with chop sticks and fan yourself with imported Japanese fans, that’s lovely. Just don’t get the idea it has a tinker’s dam to do with Zen.
In every society ridden with class distinctions there is a tendency to turn everything into games of oneupsmanship. Japan is no more an exception than the United States. Zen literature is replete with transcripts of quarrels among masters about which of them is most enlightened. Such arguments frequently begin and end as jokes, however, for Zen people try to remember what they are about. Once a drunken monk wandered into the room where two Zen masters were ferociously contending and both of them collapsed in laughter, never to cross wits again.
Yet as Alan Watts points out in “Hip Zen, Square Zen”, even in Japan there is a trend to formalize Zen schools that tends over the centuries to rob them of much of their spontaneous appeal.
Slapping his master was how the great Zen lunatic, Rinzai, signified his awakening. (Only fair to note: his master had been hitting him with a stick whenever he asked a question.) Said Rinzai of his master: “There is not so much to the Buddhism of Huang Po after all!” Nevertheless, today the school founded in Rinzai’s name issues certificates to students who attain satori.
In America, the hip counter-culture has not even fared that well, but was co-opted in a matter of years, instead of generations.
What to do? What to do? For you cannot make rules to preserve liveliness and originality. A Zenarchist answer is to keep destroying old forms — or abandoning them — including the habit of destroying old forms when it gets in the way. For the practice of Zen or Zenarchy or psychological nakedness or whatever you want to call it says with Bob Dylan: “I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.” In fact, a popular Zen saying goes, “If you meet the Buddha on the path to enlightenment — kill him!”
As Alan Watts says in The Way of Zen, “There must be no confusion between Zen masters and theosophical ‘mahatmas’ — the glamorous ‘Masters of Wisdom’ who live in the mountain vastness of Tibet and practice the arts of occultism. Zen masters are quite human. They get sick and die; they know joy and sorrow; they have bad tempers or other little ‘weaknesses’ of character just like everyone else, and they are not above falling in love and entering into a fully human relationship with the opposite sex. The perfection of Zen is to be perfectly and simply human. The difference of the adept in Zen from the ordinary run of men is that the latter are, in one way or another, at odds with their own humanity, and are attempting to be angels or demons.”
To invent ego games wherein the points to be scored are for egolessness is, therefore, to miss the spirit of what we are talking about. Having nothing to do with hierarchies, mundane or spiritual, we are not out to prove anything — except that status is nonsense, as when we lightly bestow lofty titles on one another and ordain each other Zenarchs. Our purpose is, rather, to understand ourselves, our whole beings, and to “remember” something so simple that it tends to elude classification and satisfactory definition. For that reason, it is hard to remember. Captured in this or that string of words, unconditioned and unconditional mind tends soon to become confused in our thoughts of it with the words or sentences that only indicate its possibility. Thus one day we repeat to ourselves words that may once have awakened us, only to find them hollow. Then we find ourselves no longer dealing with the miracle of ordinary existence, but with an abstraction about it — a nervous twitch enshrined idolatrously somewhere in the frontal lobe of the brain! Rote learning is impossible when what we want to remember is spontaneity in living.
Words are useful tools of reference. Clinging too desperately to them is like grasping our lives in fear. We shut out our perceptions that made the thing worthwhile in the first place. We become like lovers who get into a spiteful fight over which of them loves the other the most.
All human activity is this way. Outward forms of religious reverence become so much more important than what religion is trying to teach, that devotees kill for them. Jesus would have to arise in every generation to denounce the scribes and Pharisees of every age for it to be any different. That was the point of the saying about new wine in old skins. Over and over, any such prophet would be crucified or stoned or lynched, besides. Objects of art suffer much the same fate. Pointing beyond the uptight concerns of the market place, they wind up objects of its calculations, investment speculations and status seeking.
In Psychotherapy East and West, Watts recommends dealing with this frantic compulsion to compete. What he calls for is a counter-game. More than a game against games, a counter-game is any activity selected because it is by nature more exciting than status games. At that point, however, all comparisons must end. For the counter-game is played outside the context of direct competition.
When missionaries or school teachers taught young Hopi Indians the game of basketball, the latter steadfastly refused to keep score. With their strong taboos on competition, the Hopi turned basketball into a counter-game!
Usually, though, a counter-game is something going on over to one side. Gradually, individuals become curious about it and, when it is successful, they forget all about what they were doing previously. No such course of action is without pitfalls. There is no getting around that a counter-game is in part trying to be more fascinating than other games and is therefore in competition with them, indirectly.
Watts insists the counter-game must be soft and sexy and invitational, rather than imperative in tone. When everything not forbidden — no matter how desirable — becomes compulsory, then we are back where we started. Like good lovers we must let the matter go when our seductions fail. To become bitter and resort to intimidation or guilt as a means of persuasion would be to lose the spirit of the counter-game.
Here the dictum of karma yoga is useful: devotion to our activity for its own sake with detachment from the results. Or, as Jesus phrased it, what your hand finds to do, do it with a whole heart.
Precisely because these things are too simple for words, it has been necessary to develop a whole literature about them! We could say, for example, that if you want to step out of Zen games and into Zenarchy, then throw away your rice bowl and begin drinking coffee instead of green tea. Every now and then some serious student of Zen would find liberation upon reading those words. “Trees are trees again and mountains are again mountains” is the way one Zen master summed up that feeling. Or, as Robert Anton Wilson once said, “God is dead: you are all absolutely free!” Taken too literally or not literally enough, though, such words are nonsense at best. Not only do words mean slightly different things to different people, an action taken in the context of one person’s life produces different results in another’s. For that reason Zen monks are exposed to whole barrages of stories and sayings that are all windows into the same reality. Hopefully, sooner or later one statement or another clicks. When that happens an intuitive perception makes clear that every object is a thing in itself, and all our grand ideas are simply distractions: visitors “look at these flowers as if in a dream.” They were not seeing flowers at all; a thousand and one ideas about the flowers and about everything else cluttered their minds — as their conversations must have revealed.
Conceptions help us locate things and they tell us something about their natures. Unfortunately, they are also frequently preconceptions that screen out any direct awareness of what we perceive. Many optical illusions result from this phenomena, and it is chiefly for that reason that Gestalt psychology examines them in so much detail. When we miss the beauty of a flower because of our mental activity, that is sad. When for the same reason we miss the shape of a form or the nature of a diagram, that is puzzling. When we miss the unique character of a human being, that is tragic. What we call prejudice is a result of stereotyping, and yet stereotyping is only an exaggerated and crude form of something that occurs even among the most liberal individuals in almost every human encounter.
With enlightened, or naked minds (the no-mind of Zen) we enjoy the flowers. What’s more, we avoid the depersonalization of individual human beings.
When the reality of what I’m talking about is brought home to us with traumatic force by some remark or event, those with understanding say we are enlightened, or hip, or aware. That makes us in their eyes desirable company. We don’t bring them down. Beyond that much, though, there is no badge of status.
In the words of the Lankavatra Sutra, this is a “turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness.” Perhaps because our culture is not Buddhist and because it stresses belief more than what D.T. Suzuki called the noetic aspect of conversion, such a once-and-for-all realization is rare. Instead, we experience something when we are not grasping for it at all and then, when we try to hold onto it, it eludes us. After that we know the sneaky thing is there, somewhere. Like a wild bird, it comes into view only if we learn to be patient and wait for it — never when we try to summon it forth by beating a drum.
So there is not so much to the Zenarchy of Ho Chi Zen after all. When a priest boasted to Bankei that the founder of his sect could perform miracles, Bankei replied, “My miracle is that I eat when I’m hungry and drink when I’m thirsty!”
In a like spirit, Chaung Tzu wrote: “What I call good at hearing is not hearing others but hearing oneself. What I call good at vision is not seeing others but seeing oneself. For those who see others but not themselves, or take not possession of themselves but of others, possess only what others possess. In thus failing to possess themselves, they do what pleases others instead of what pleases their own natures.”
At first this may seem to contradict what was said earlier about allowing ourselves to perceive others as they are. What becomes clear when we dispense with our mental categories and conceptions in favor of what they indicate is that self and others belong to the same reality. When your own nature is not felt you cannot possibly empathize accurately with what others feel. When you fail to perceive others without the subtle prejudice of expectation, you cannot use the information you absorb about them to evaluate your own behavior objectively.
Words by their nature stress distinctions at the expense of interrelatedness. That is why so many mystics bad-mouth distinctions and speak of the oneness of it all. Not that these distinctions don’t exist! A map that shows only political boundaries looks far different than a map of only mountains and valleys and rivers and streams. Yet both indicate the same territory. Likewise, we have the verbal and conceptual map and the map given us directly by our senses. When using one, it is best not to forget the other.
“Speech is obscured by the gloss of this world,” lamented Chuang Tzu. “The net exists because of the fish. Once you catch the fish you can then forget the net. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Trap the rabbit and you can leave the snare. Words exist because of the meaning. Get the meaning and then you can forget the words. Where can I locate someone who forgets words, so that communication will be possible?”
Do his words contradict what I said about not forgetting one map while using the other? Only on the surface. Once you’ve got the meaning, you can forget both his words and mine! Words are tools and what Chaung Tzu is saying is that at times they must be laid aside. After you cut the wood, forget the saw and grab the hammer.
With relational, or spiritual, matters this is much less obvious than with maps and saws and hammers and the things we use them for. As a remedy Ho Chi Zen suggested Spiritual General Semantics, saying, “Every religion asserts that God is unknowable and beyond all human comprehension — then they define God in precise, finite terms and persecute all who disagree with their definition. This is not a struggle on behalf of the Divine. It is a struggle on behalf of a collection of words!”
General Semantics teaches that the word is not the thing as the map is not the territory and the menu is not the meal. “That doesn’t mean not to look at the menu,” says Ho Chi Zen, “but, for Heaven’s sake, don’t eat it!”
Alan Watts claims that much of what Buddhist sages mean when they say nothing is real or that everything is maya (illusion) is that our words and thoughts about reality are not real in the sense that they are not the reality they talk and think about. What ordinary people usually speak and think of as reality is “only a finger pointing at the moon”, say the Zen masters; it is not the moon itself.
Certain of them have even been known to urinate upon and, in other instances, burn statues of the Buddha. For a wooden Buddha is only a menu. Bowing to Buddhas without getting and practicing the meaning of what the Buddha said is far greater blasphemy than pissing on them!
Occasionally, Buddhists resort to what at first may appear as Orwellian newspeak, in that they assert that something is its opposite in meaning. “Nirvana (Paradise) is Samsara (Hell) and Samsara is Nirvana.” Unlike Big Brother, they are not trying to mystify us in order to dominate. They are just trying to get us around the traps we lay for ourselves with words. For Heaven and Hell are states of mind that result from how we perceive reality. Perceive it clearly and, even at its worst, there is a terrifying beauty to behold. Misapprehend it and fail to function appropriately; the inevitable result is suffering.
As Krishnamurti says in The Urgency of Change: “As the man in the jungle must keep terribly awake to survive, so the man in the jungle of the world must keep terribly awake to live completely.”
Looking at it that way, we see that the problem in the Sixties was not that they named us the Love Generation. The problem is that we allowed ourselves the luxury of accepting their flattery. After that, every time we failed to love them we felt like hypocrites. Once we felt that way, we lost our confidence and our actions reflected as much. Then our lives changed for the worse.
What if, instead, we had responded to the Love Generation appellation by laughing and saying, “Yeah, sometimes!”?
Far and away the best answer to the problem dealt with in this chapter was given without resort to words. Ho Tai is the mountainously rotund Laughing Buddha whose statues are almost as common a theme of Chinese art as those of Gautama Buddha. A Chinese Zen sage who wandered about dispensing gifts of sweets from a sack slung over his shoulder, Ho Tai was once asked to explain the theory of Zen.
Befuddled and bewildered by the question, he furrowed has brow and sat on a log and thought and thought. When the questioner at last despaired of ever getting an answer, he went on to ask: “What is the practice of Zen?”
Ah! Ho Tai brightened at once, stood, shouldered his bag and went his merry way!
Devised for use by individuals or small groups or movements or whole nations as the case may be, Ho Chi Zen’s strategy of Yin Revolution offers freedom in every sense of the word to everyone willing to go through the Five Changes: Subjective Liberation; Economic Independence; Parallel Communications; Liberated Trade; Objective Political Freedom.
Named after the female or receptive and serene side of the Taoist dialectic, Yin Revolution enables any number of persons to proceed directly to freedom without waiting until all society joins the struggle. Without a transition phase where a self-appointed vanguard rules on behalf of the masses, it avoids the danger that such an elite will never relinquish power in the end.
Resembling judo and karate, its tactics lend themselves most readily to the weak and oppressed — eluding the means the mighty must use to secure their dominance. For as Ho Chi Zen has observed: “Men do not hold power; power holds men.”
Common enough is the saying that the master is no freer than the slave. A systematic study of power and its dictates restricting its holders has to my knowledge never been made. Usually, students of political power stress its rather questionable benefits to its holders or simply take for granted that ruling is a desirable and enjoyable activity.
Yet it is easy to see that, as sages and commoners observe, the power over others so coveted by politicians and so glorified by the scholars that write for them is not much good for attaining personal satisfaction. Not only is the quest for power addicting and wearing on the youth and health of its participants, those who grasp it successfully find themselves preoccupied with keeping it. In that task their choices are restricted both by the actions of the loyal opposition and by the conspiracies of the worst gang of cut-throats in their empire.
All options of the mighty must, in other words, be selected with a mind to how anyone who would oust or supplant them might respond. Within such a politically realistic context they wind up doing what they must instead of what they would like. That is one reason why politicians seldom keep their campaign promises.
Should they come down too harshly on nonviolent protesters, a more determined and menacing faction will use the incident to make political hay. If they behave too leniently toward genuine threats to their security, they will be overthrown. Distinguishing between one opposition faction and the other is a full-time job that would require spying on everyone. yet if they spy on all their subjects, their unpopularity will escalate. Predicaments like these lead to loss of a rational perspective.
During the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon and most of his advisors once spent at least an hour discussing what to do about a picketer who was then carrying a sign back and forth across the street from the White House. To worry about a lone individual who is harmlessly expressing an opinion is hardly to enjoy freedom.
Keeping the dictates of power in mind, we can scurry beneath the feet of our oppressors and tie their shoelaces together. Or we can evade the brunt of their worst policies, much of the time, simply by remaining alert.
Change Number One: Subjective Liberation
Growing up authoritarian-submissive we suffer a profound imprint on our nervous system, living as a result in what Timothy Leary called neurological cages. Internalized pecking orders would be just as apt a name. Something about what these mechanisms are like and how they are escaped has already been discussed without using either of the above names.
Essential to realize is that most individuals are wholly unprepared to live without neurological cages altogether. Upon springing themselves from one, they will usually quickly seek another. Slavery seems more comfortable than freedom to those long accustomed to it. And what most people object to about foreign despotisms is not so much that they enslave, but that their manacles chafe in strange places.
Permanent Subjective Liberation requires us to get used to the responsibilities and uncertainties and stimulating difficulties of freedom. While the birds of the air have their nests and the foxes of the field have their burrows “the Son of Man,” Jesus warned, “has nowhere to lay his head.” Like an infinitely prolonged LSD high, life beyond the ruts of convention and conditioned reflexes can seem a heady way to be. Until we learn to calm the winds and waters of heightened awareness, we may feel like a boat adrift in a storm.
Just as submission to material or psychic authority demands mastery of certain disciplines — the ones we learn in church, school and work place — so certain other skills are needed for independence of being. Since most of us are, by background, conditioned for the problems of authoritarian society only — and even the freest present-day society is authoritarian — we generally feel at odds with ourselves upon tasting freedom. This is as true of Subjective Liberation from former cultural restrictions as for emancipation from physical slavery. We love our freedom and yet we long for the “massa”. We become like the Apostle Paul who confessed after his liberation from the religious orthodoxy of the Jews that what he would not do, he did, and what he would do, he did not do.
Most yogas and systems of contemplation, most psychological therapies and human potential exercises, most psychedelic substances and Zen pointings give us an indication of freedom. All too often results are incomplete or temporary. For that reason, comprehending the nature of the unconditioned human being is helpful. Sadly, most ways of liberation recognize from the outset only one or two of the four aspects of untrammeled being, nearly always emphasizing one at the expense of all the others.
Rationality or curiosity, sexuality, sociability or compassion or gregariousness, and spirituality or esthetic intuition are all the focus of this or that pathway to liberation. Additionally, they are all personality characteristics found in newborn babies and toddlers.
Laboratory animals will satisfy their curiosity about something unknown to them before they will seek out animals of the opposite sex, or food. Children will automatically reason logically with the limited information available to them, sometimes with comic results. Above all, as higher mammals and particularly as primates, we are beings that ingest and correlate data. We don’t have to be taught this. In fact, in existing societies we have to be discouraged from carrying it too far.
When our elders slap our hands for grabbing delicate possessions or for placing objects in our mouth, that is called socialization. They are teaching us to behave. What they are also teaching us is to associate learning with pain and scoldings. Unconsciously, we begin to regard knowledge as vaguely evil and forbidden, or useless and boring. And logic without facts is useless and boring, like a mill without grist. By the time we reach school age there is little danger that many of us will be as eager to learn as we all were as toddlers. So the bosses and the politicians can relax, secure in the knowledge that not many people will catch on to their game. And those that do will be tamed with awards and scholarships and guided to jobs that benefit from keeping the system the way it is.
So we have to teach ourselves all over again, in the deepest levels of our being, that we need never apologize for seeking information. In exploring our own sexual natures we will be called perverts. In probing social mechanisms wherein genuine political and economic power resides we will be called paranoids. Words like that serve little more purpose than to intimidate curiosity. With most of us they are quite effective.
Much else in our language and habits of thought endures because it dovetails nicely with the purposes of past and present authoritarians. Our logic is so filled with short-circuits, quirks, kinks and cliches that it is an effort to think clearly for ourselves. By studying all the paths of liberation, including General Semantics and the writings of the British libertarian philosophers who inspired the American Revolution — not to mention the works of the anarchists — we can begin to identify and ferret out these authoritarian-submissive presumptions that have deprived us of our natural reason. Nothing but the truth of the rationality of the unconditioned mind gives such power to the ever-popular story of the emperor’s new clothes.
By itself, intellectual liberation that does not come to terms with human sexuality can be worse than useless. And regaining our original lusty sexual innocence requires, beyond reviving our curiosity, an entirely different approach than liberating reason. For now we are called upon to deal with that portion of the human mind called the human body, regarded in speech as a separate entity from the body. They are interconnected. That explains why erotic matters are usually imponderable even to poets. So much is sexuality part of us, closer than breathing, that trying to understand it is akin to the eye endeavoring to see itself — in a beautiful metaphor used in another context by Alan Watts — or like the hand trying to grab itself.
Possibly, sexuality is the mother of religion. Primitive mystics may have been ascribing symbols to aspects of what we call lust, both genital and the more pervasive non-genital kind of which Norman O. Brown writes so eloquently. Certainly when religion becomes organized and established it begins to regard sex jealously as a dangerous competitor, perhaps in an effort to hide its own not-so-miraculous-and-immaculate origins.
Politicians intuitively grasp the usefulness of sexuality as a sure way to divide people and distract them from the business of becoming free in other ways. Whether they choose to be for or against sexual repression, they can create such an uproar that political and economic crimes and failures will fade into the background. Jay Gould, the monopoly capitalist, once boasted that he could cure unemployment by hiring one half of the jobless to kill the other half. As long as they can keep their subjects quarreling with one another about personal affairs, they need not fear a united effort to oust them. Since organized religion is politically powerful, it usually takes the side of repression. As Aldous Huxley showed in Brave New World, they could just as easily reduce us to submission by taking the opposite approach. In contemporary culture, factions of the ruling class sometimes join forces with organized crime to create turmoil by supporting sexual freedom. Efforts like that are not sexual liberation movements; they depend as much on guilt and blackmail and puritanical legislation as drug smuggling depends on narcotics laws — without which there would not be much profit in the activity.
Once I was driving through Atlanta with my Hindu friend, Suresh, an exchange student from India. Upon noting that the largest adult book center in town was located right next door to the Baptist book store, also the largest of its kind, he commented, “Why not? They keep each other in business!”
Yet, granted that sex is a powerful tool for distraction, it can and does also distract from what is trivial and unworthy of incessant preoccupation, as was characterized in the Sixties by the slogan: “Make love — not war!” In the chapter about the counter-game called “Invitation to the Dance” Alan Watts insists, correctly I think, that the counter-game must possess an essentially erotic aspect. Between a counter-game and a melodrama there is a vast difference. A melodrama splits the cast up into “good guys” and “bad guys”. A counter-game seeks to reconcile opposites, side stepping dichotomous traps such as Eros against Thanatos by a kind of judo.
Allowing sexuality to exist as an end in itself, to such extremes as abandoning even the quest for orgasm — abandoning, not rejecting; (the difference between allowing and demanding) — we permit sexuality to regain its spontaneously seductive nature. Both suppression and exploitation of sex can serve authoritarian purposes. Only wu-wei (letting be) can make way for the side effects of sexual enjoyment — such as a healthy, free erotic elan — to serve the cause of liberty. And this kind of attitude cannot help but advance freedom, any more than the sky can help being high.
Simply because the Establishment sometimes exploits human sexuality, we cannot allow its members to get away with seeming like the only sexy people in town. This mistake has been made in recent decades by almost all Marxist-Leninist organizations; the consequences have cost them dearly. For as the communist anarchist Alexander Berkman tried to warn, a social revolution is much more than a political revolution. Comparing the social revolution to a fragile flower, he says it must be cultivated with gentle care. More than that, it must in the long run be far more pervasive.
Had the Great Human Be-In and Tribal Gatherings been promoted in strictly intellectual terms with button words like “socialism” or “individualism,” opposition to them would have been fierce and immediate. Presenting them without definition invited attendance, and won converts from every philosophical school.
Perhaps compassion is called com-passion because, intuitively, we understand it is the companion of passion. When our natural capacity to become sexually aroused vicariously over pleasure experienced by others is repressed, so is our natural empathy for the suffering of the less fortunate. Again the map of speech tends most often to divide what in the territory of mind and body employs the same basic biophysical energy. Sexually repressive ways of living must devise elaborate moral codes that pay lip service to compassion and humanity to restrain their adherents from acts of sadism. With all their endless chatter about compassion and humanity, the Confucians earned the scorn of the Taoist sages — who delighted in twitting the Confucian need to make ado about what comes naturally to people who are in touch with themselves, who have not “lost the Tao”. For humans are gregarious mammals who live in tribes and extended families without fuss or forethought until they fall into the clutches of missionaries or imperialist politicians.
“The True People of Old,” says Chuang Tsu, “were kind to one another without knowing it was called compassion. They deceived no one and did not know it was called honesty. The were reliable and did not know it was called dependability. They lived together freely giving and taking and did not know it was called generosity. For this reason their actions have not been recorded and they made no history.” Calling this the Age of Perfect Peace, the sage tells us its citizens lived like deer in the forests, sleeping without dreaming and awakening without anxiety.
Sociality comes as easily to the unconditioned mind as reason or sex. When Dom Aelred Graham complained in his Conversations Christian and Buddhist that Zen seemed to him amoral due to the absence of anything like the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule, a Zen master responded that compassion is one of the definitive components of Zen enlightenment, and that without compassion it isn’t Zen.
Rules — unlike contractual agreements useful to many situations and at least bilateral in nature — are only needed by those who have lost the capacity to govern themselves humanely. Once they are established it is a vicious cycle, for those who grow up under them never reach the maturity required for common-sense living.
Having mentioned that the fourth characteristic of unconditioned personality is spirituality, I’ll begin by pointing out that I am obviously not talking about theological belief systems, since those things can be argued forever without any corresponding change in human actions. Metaphysics should not stubbornly be dragged into community affairs; in return, the community ought to respect freedom of personal belief among its individual members. Otherwise, it will be divided and ruled.
All religions participate in spirituality. Yet it is something also available to the skeptic, as Julian Huxley shows in Religion Without Revelation. Psychedelic consciousness is at this point a rather passe term, yet it functions to show that what we are talking about is not a monopoly of religious faith. Quoting Blake, Aldous Huxley called it a cleansing of “the doors of perception” in his book by that name. Since nothing direct can be said about it, and since most of this book is devoted to indicating how it may be experienced, further elaboration is next to useless. Lord Buddha responded to all inquiries about metaphysical spirituality with what he called “a noble silence”. For that reason he is sometimes called the Silent Sage.
That what we are discussing, under whatever name, is closely related to our sense of the beautiful is clear because it has always inspired the creators of great art. Like reason and sex and compassion, esthetic discrimination seems largely inborn. And, therefore, Zenarchists who are skeptical of religion may prefer to call this characteristic of unconditioned mind esthetic, instead of spiritual.
Buried under all the layers of ignorant assumption and fable and reflex conditioning called individual personality, at the center of every human soul, is a pure flame of undivided rationality and sexuality and sociability and spirituality. When you reach that flame in self or other without evoking a knee-jerk reaction from armoring which imprisons it, you have touched the most private holy of holies within the living human being. You are then participating in the work of Subjective Liberation.
Change Number Two: Economic Independence
As Marx and Kropotkin and other revolutionaries have observed, trying to attain and maintain psychological liberation under deficient material conditions is practically impossible. More than scarcity is involved.
Regimented working conditions (endured today in both capitalist and socialist nations) are also deadening to the spirit. Equally difficult is finding any options in the struggle for freedom when you must report for work like a soldier to muster in order to produce, must dress and conduct yourself in such a way as not to scandalize the sensibilities of your boss, and must remain at production until a given hour when you are dismissed.
Lack of control by workers of the means of production is certainly the root of the problem. Marx erred, though, in thinking if corporations were turned into public bureaucracies the monotonous routine would transform itself. Until the communist anarchist dream of direct expropriation of the tools of production is realized, or until there is a laissez-faire free market where small businesses can survive easily enough that we can become self-employed, it is up to us to find ways to break out of the predominant system. For an independent economic base of action is almost necessary for maintaining inner liberation and making the imaginative responses to political authority required by the counter-game.
Fortunately a wealth of information for attaining that much is readily available in The Whole Earth Catalog publications.
An excellent preparatory step is to heed Henry David Thoreau’s observation: we are rich not according to what we possess, but according to the number of things we can do without. Take inventory of what you own or consume that genuinely contributes to your happiness. Identify what you purchase in order to impress others whose opinions do not matter. Many people own stocks, for example, because of an addictive compulsion to gamble, not for reasons of a security that leads to peace of mind. What is the point of winning and losing symbolic wealth that is seldom if ever seen, touched or tasted by the owner? Much the same thing can be said for the desire to purchase, year after year, a late-model car. How many home appliances cost more trouble and money in maintenance than they are worth?
For direct enjoyment of living, what about purchasing your own tools of production and using them with your own brain and hands? The Whole Earth Catalog and its widely available sequels are subtitled “Access to Tools”. Once in possession of your own means of production, you fit both capitalist and socialist definitions of the free individual. And if you don’t own enough luxuries to sell to buy the tools, you need not despair. Knowledge is as valuable as capital for self-employment and can often be used to acquire any tools you may need.
A statement of purpose in The Whole Earth Catalog reads: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it. So far remotely done power and glory — as via government, big business, formal education, church — has succeeded to point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing — power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by The Whole Earth Catalog.” To be included, an item must be deemed useful as a tool relevant to independent education, of high quality or low cost and easily available by mail.
Guides and implements listed make it possible for you — if you want — to forage, grow, hunt or raise your own food, make your own clothing and shelter, provide yourself with competent medical care for most ailments. That isn’t the only use for The Whole Earth Catalog and how far you or your group wants to go in that direction is of course optional. No matter how much or how little time and effort you expend in learning independent survival, though, you are that much ahead of the game. For to tread the money mill, if you are not a banker, is to labor against house odds.
“A bank may, under Federal Reserve rules, loan eight times as much as it has on deposit,” cautions Robert Anton Wilson, asking then, “if seven dollars out of every eight that are so produced by bank credit are not created out of nothing, what are they created of?”
Inflation is the name of the result. Note the power of the banks when you read articles and hear speeches on inflation by apologists for capitalism and socialism alike. They seldom mention banks.
Not only does fractional reserve banking erode your purchasing power, you also pay in the same way for deficit spending by government. Again, only bankers benefit. They collect the interest. And interest is made necessary only by coercive regulations on money supply, amounting to a bank-government partnership. Otherwise you could issue I.O.U.’s on your own collateral and buy things with them, paying only a minimal fee for a credit investigation.
In Great Britain the average worker also spends one working day out of every nine paying for his or her automobile — in purchasing cost, repairs, insurance and highway taxes. Add to this the burden of taxation in general, both direct and hidden in prices of what we buy from taxed and tariffed industries. Then take into consideration the giant’s share of your paycheck you probably fork over for rent. You can’t possibly secure a just return for your labor.
“Never buy what you can make,” my grandfather used to say. If you follow that advice you will gain much more than you lose by forsaking what were once the advantages of division of labor. Beyond that, of course, is producing something useful or desirable in goods and services for purposes of barter.
First, though, exchanging goods and services depends on your ability to communicate with other independent producers.
Change Number Three: Parallel Communications
Every center of political-economic authority strives to monopolize communications. Mass media, telephone and postal systems are all controlled by corporate-government oligarchies. If we enjoy freedom of expression, it is managed freedom of speech.
Unfettered communications between self-liberating people is required for both communal and free market activities outside the rip-offs of coercively monopolized capital.
Brainstorming and combing publications of the libertarian right are both useful methods for developing ideas about creating alternative communications. Networks using advanced electronics, associations of nomadic individuals and, when necessary, cyphers and codes, are among these alternatives.
Periodicals and books pertaining to libertarian right applications of principle can usually be found among individuals on the fringes of the Libertarian Party, since even many politically active libertarian capitalists are also interested in direct free market action outside the system.
By scrutinizing advertisements in libertarian publications for yet other printed material and products and by corresponding and personally visiting libertarian technicians and entrepreneurs, you will quickly find much that will contribute to creating and participating in liberated systems of communication.
Change Number Four: Liberated Trade
Free contracting for the exchange of labor for goods and services, barter and monetary (accounting) systems free from inflation and usury — parallel market places are the modes of Liberated Trade. Libertarians call them agoric systems of production and exchange.
Both the Whole Earth movement and the libertarians you meet for creating parallel communications will be able to show you how to comprehend this activity and make it, or let it, work for you.
Having previously mastered the first three changes you will find it easy to now become an essentially free person or family or tribe. For by this time you will know where to acquire further data for participating in Liberated Trade.
Change Number Five: Objective Freedom
“Now that you have your freedom, how will you hide it from robbers?”
Political governments, organized crime syndicates and intelligence community bureaucracies known popularly as conspiracies, are the only threats to your liberty at this point. You don’t necessary have to overthrow them to be free of them. That would, besides, be like cutting the heads off a Hydra.
What they all possess in common is the blunt recognition that, as Chairman Mao said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Governments are generally devoted to public relations for the purpose of obscuring that fact. Mafia dons have traditionally been more honest about their line of work, but they are getting smarter.
Self-defense skills, defensive weaponry and technology, authoritarian psychology and, if you are fanatical, emergency suicide techniques can all be studied for the purpose of coping with violent enslavers. If you let it be known that you are prepared to kill yourself rather than submit to coercive authority — and have the means at hand, such as a poison pill in a locket around your neck — you may find that many an authoritarian will decide harassing you would cause too many problems.
Judo, karate and other Oriental methods of arguing by hand are additionally valuable as Zenarchist disciplines. Non-lethal weapons such as gas guns are useful for people who would rather attain instant security in this area. Other defensive weaponry can include alarm systems for protecting personal property and communication arrangements for identifying potential oppressors. One application of authoritarian psychology is to make an appointment with a harassing bureaucrat at 4:30 Friday afternoon and then borrow the neighbor’s kids and dogs and bring them along.
These are just a few examples of the many methods of dealing with the ultimate source of political authority — the armed agent, as cop or squad of soldiers or hit man.
Since the eye is superior protection to the sword, evolution equips all animals with sensory organs — only a few with fangs or claws or horns, etc. It behooves you to devote the most attention to whatever will expand your awareness, including fancy alarm systems.
Or use them to enlighten your oppressor.
Doctor George Boardman, a libertarian who believed in living without the dubious protection of government, once suggested what I would call a Zenarchist burglar alarm. A nocturnal intruder triggers a mechanism to flood the area with blinding light and activate an amplified recording that says: “How about a little light? Thief.”
As the great Zenarch, Gregory Hill, says: “’Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!”
The No Politics
Potential dangers exist in Yin Revolution. Without a comprehensive overview of its extent we cannot estimate success or failure. In one sense that makes it like Hopi basketball, and yet ignorance is never a good thing. Yin Revolution is essentially nonconfrontive; confrontation makes for communication with the so-called enemy and such communication sometimes resolves the problem. A minority of those who become free may not have attended sufficiently their own Subjective Liberation and, like the Pilgrims who settled New England, might quickly turn around and begin oppressing others. Without any consensus whatever, Parallel Communications could degenerate into a form of technocratic feudalism complete with wizards and warlords — something that is already more prevalent than is widely acknowledged.
Today we are nearing the possibility of winding up in a world like the nightmare reported by Gary Snyder in Earth House Hold: “ — dreamed of a new industrial-age dark ages: filthy narrow streets and dirty buildings with rickety walks over the streets from building to building — unwashed illiterate brutal cops — a motorcycle cop and a sidecar drove up over a fat workingman who got knocked down in a fight — tin cans and garbage and drooping electric wires everywhere —”.
Widespread Economic Independence will of course militate against such a trend. But only a high degree of voluntary social cohesion will prevent it or something worse — like sanitary but sterile totalitarian regulation — from afflicting the bulk of humanity.
Zenarchy is the art of steadfastly failing to provide political leadership and, by having as little to do with political power as possible, thereby transforming the empire. For the spirit of freedom is the fundamental ordering principle of the whole universe. Chaung Tzu chronicles the history of sages who refused the throne. Superior people understand that in forsaking the chance to administer a kingdom they can sometimes foster the values of an age.
In the Age of Perfect Peace the True People of Old lived in harmony equal to the rhythm of the seasons and the ebb and flow of tidal cycles. With no concept of law and order, they lacked occasion for crime and turmoil.
Likewise: enjoying the resources of a kingdom, Prince Siddartha could not attain tranquility; fasting and mortifications also failed to bring serenity; sitting under a tree and doing nothing though, he was taken by Buddhahood.
“From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider ‘evil’ are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm,” says Gary Snyder of Buddhahood. “The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the ‘human’ standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard,” because of a compassionate nature, “and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer,” according to “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution” in Earth House Hold.
Peter Kropotkin once observed that, “Throughout the history of our civilization, two traditions, two opposed tendencies, have been in conflict: the Roman tradition and the popular tradition, the imperial tradition and the federalist tradition, the authoritarian tradition and the libertarian tradition.”
Tao Is Where You Find It
Old George Boardman was an instructor at Robert LeFevre’s libertarian Freedom School in Larkspur, Colorado, where I was a student in 1964.
Most of the time Boardman lived in a ghost town called Chloride, Arizona, population: 250. No government was present there at that time, not even as a figment of its own imagination.
As for crimes against person or property, the most recent one was committed five years earlier by some Californians who were passing through. No crimes with victims occurred, said George Boardman, because there were no police to protect criminals from a watchful populace.
George wrote a regular column for the Santa Ana Register recounting his adventures in Chloride and setting forth his wise, usually slightly cranky or downright stubborn views of various issues. In 1969 he passed away and I wrote him a tribute that was published in the Register.
That man could cause an Orange County, California, Bircher to see the contradiction between “law” and “order” without ever feeling his mind had been changed about politics. In Zen, such tactful persuasion is called upaya, the “gentle method”. And though Boardman’s rhetoric was conservative, his philosophy was both humorous and — well, I hesitate to say “radical”. For once he said, “I’m not an anarchist nor a libertarian, or anything else. I’m George Boardman — and I don’t want to be held responsible for anyone’s views but my own”.
In a discussion of Natural Law, the philosophical basis of early American conceptions of liberty, Henry B. Veatch (in an article, “Natural Law: Dead or Alive?” in Literature of Liberty, October-December 1978) writes: “What, though, is this doctrine of so-called ‘natural law’, that thus had such a long and chequered career, and has even displayed, in the words of more than one authority, the happy faculty of repeatedly being able to bury its own undertakers!”
So it was also with a doctrine called ‘tao’ which buried its Indian Buddhist missionary undertakers in China by way of a Taoistic response called Ch’an Buddhism that Japanese pronounce as Zen. For when the emperor became a Buddhist, many Taoists joined and influenced the Ch’an sect of that religion rather than loudly resisting its attempts to convert the empire. That is why in Zen today we hear so much about the Tao. For the Ch’an Buddhists did a better job of preserving the spirit of the philosophy of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu than did the formally Taoist religion which, instead, degenerated into fortune telling and other superstitions.
A similarity in content between Natural Law philosophy and the original Taoism preserved in Zen is uncanny. Both consist of the same common-sense observations about human be-ing in accord with nature and uphold the notion that laws of nature also apply to society. Yet neither view much resembles Social Darwinism, which also claimed to derive its principles from the natural world.
Speaking of Natural Law in the ancient world of the West editor Leonard Liggio comments elsewhere in Literature of Liberty: “The Stoics posited an identification of physics and nomos, nature and law. The wise man lived in harmony with nature; he was not dragged in the train of events.” What is that but following the Tao?
Veatch also says in “Natural Law: Dead or Alive?” that the views of Natural Law held by Thomas Aquinas did not go far enough. “But why not,” Veatch asks, “consider ethics and politics, as construed in the light of this conception of natural law, an analogous to certain arts, skills, and crafts? Why does the skilled surgeon, for instance make his incision in one way rather than another?”
Exactly the same point is made about an ox butcher in one of the parables of Chaung Tzu. Why make an incision one way instead of another? Following the Tao, an expert butcher cuts between the joints and thus never has to sharpen his blade. Although a good surgeon is anything but a butcher, incisions must just the same be made one way and not another. This fact can be generalized to all reasonable human activity, including construction of social arrangements. So we see there are rights, or naturally right ways to behave, ways of the Tao, that take conditions into consideration, as well as ecology and sociology. Therefore it is possible with common sense to distinguish between natural ethics that work and unnatural moralities that eventually only produce widespread misery.
If Tao is not Natural Law or, in other words, if Natural Law is not Tao independently discovered by Western philosophers, then what is the difference between them? Alan Watts says in Psychotherapy East and West: “The whole literature of Taoism shows a deep and intelligent interest in the patterns and processes of the natural world and a desire to model human life upon the observable principles of nature as distinct from the arbitrary principles of a social order resting upon violence.” That is exactly the project of Natural Law philosophy!
Seize the Timeless!
Zenarchy is the politics of the mind emptied of useless anticipation. Principles are seen as tools for making decisions when inspiration fails or prolonged deliberation is impossible. Ideology and analysis are only seen as preparation. For naked awareness characterizes the moment of clear and perfect action.
Preaching is ineffectual and neither cute ideas nor a quick wit will carry anyone through this “gateless gate”. Everything is good in its own time and therefore must be taken in terms of context. Yet when the moment inviting a wholehearted response appears, the learned is relegated to the unconscious and obstacles to pure perception are obliterated. That way, we are open to the unexpected.
Actor and action unite.
Why the Heathen Rage
Among certain varieties of ants there is a worker who spends her whole life clinging to the ceiling of a tunnel serving as a storage tank for nectar gathered by workers of other occupations. Among ants this is Tao. Among people it is called being valuable to society.
As long as we think of the individual as something society needs, we will not evolve any higher than the ants. Society — like food, clothing and shelter — is something the individual human being needs. Society exists for the sake of the individual. As Laughing Buddha Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” No person rightfully lives entirely for the sake of society.
When anyone is used for the sake of society — conscripted, enslaved or sacrificed — society has ceased to function as intended. Instead, it has become a system of social arrangement that oppresses, rather than serves, those who comprise it. In accord with Natural Law, the Declaration of Independence says any system like that is to be altered or abolished.
Pointing to a gnarled tree no woodsman had cut for lumber, Chaung Tzu says, “Everyone understands the value of usefulness. But how many perceive the value of being useless?”
Sometimes it is valuable to everyone to be useless to society.
If you permit society to oppress you then it will oppress others and the result will be decadence and cynicism. Eventually “society” will become a blood-thirsty god with a will of its own that acts contrary to the will of its participants.
The extent to which society is kept firmly in the service of all individuals is the measure of how much it is performing its function: safeguarding basic rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Healthy societies always find defenders and supporters in time of crisis. They need not rely on taxation or wage slavery to endure. At Valley Forge there were no draftees.
Voluntarily supported societies earn that support, and as long as they remain voluntary there is an added check upon the system. Volunterism leads not to the collapse of order, but to its renewal.
Societies — systems of social arrangements, not collections of people — command enormous material and creative resources. When their survival as social organizations depend on it, they can usually be counted on to place these resources at the service of their participants. So there is seldom danger of societies collapsing.
Only when individuals collapse — one at a time, first here and then there — does social order then also eventually decay. Through the collapse of human beings — a Wilhelm Reich here, a Lenny Bruce there, a Janis Joplin elsewhere — the social order begins to crack and heave, edging toward ruin.
Sacrifice never was and can never become a viable principle of social construction. On the contrary, it is called for only in life-boat situations — emergencies or “worst cases” — never in peaceful day-to-day living. And, of course, voluntary self-sacrifice, resulting from natural compassion, is neither uncommon nor oppressive.
A wholly sacrificial society, however, is totalitarian and despotic. Systems like that appear strong for awhile. Internally, though, they are weak and ridden with contradictions — because, within them, human needs run contrary to social demands at every turn. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
A voluntary society — based literally upon the teachings of Jesus and other great sages, including the philosophers of Natural Law — is more than possible. Only when large numbers of individuals cherish and pursue that end does it become a reality, though — when, in universal enlightenment everyone says together: “Off our backs!”
So the heathen rage because they have dreamed a dream. This dream comes not to those who are sleeping, but to all who remain fiercely awake. And the heathen rage because they must live with that dream and also with what is their lot under imperialism.
We Zenarchists seldom call ourselves Christians or Buddhists, for that would make us useful to organized religion. And for the same reason we call our politics The No Politics — to avoid becoming useful to politicians.
Validation: A Stoned Sermon
Cultures that validate their elders possess wise old people; cultures that invalidate them have senile old ones.
Cultures that validate sexuality enjoy clean, healthy and beautiful erotic play; societies that invalidate it have dirty, exploitive commercial smut.
Societies that validate women possess strong, serene and intelligent females; societies that invalidate them suffer dumb broads and bitches.
Societies that validate children possess cheerful, wise and responsible youth; societies that invalidate them end up with delinquents and brats.
A culture that validates its ethnic minorities boasts of rich pockets of exotic cultural variety; a society that invalidates them is divided between drab suburbs on one hand and filthy ghettos on the other.
Validation is not automatic agreement with someone you think is wrong. All forms of flattery are deceptive and, hence, invalidating.
Validation is treating someone with a respect that assumes that if they are given enough information, they’ll use it with their minds. Conversely, if someone is acting weird or pissed off or self-destructive, validating attitudes assume there is a reason. Usually such people are oppressed. A validating approach assumes that if everyone will just get off their backs not many will have to help them.
A derivative of Natural Law in our legal system is the assumption of innocence until guilt is proven. When, as individuals, we keep that much in mind while at the same time searching for the reasons for offensive behavior, then our attitude toward others is validation. The opposite view assumes that everyone is a social invalid until they prove they aren’t. That is why so-called law and order attitudes are frequently coupled with racism and sexism. Assumptions about others are important because our expectations often mold their response.
Suchness in Action: The No Politics
An art of Zenarchy consist of saying “No!” or “I won’t” to oppression. As the active ingredient of the strike, it becomes a potent factor when a critical mass of rebels transform “I won’t” into “We won’t”.
Other policies rigidly and aggressively attack the opposition. No Politics heeds the advice of Chairman Lao to “always be on the defensive at first”. A good offense is not the best defense; the best defense is no offense at all.
Recognizing the utility of conscious inaction, of refusal, is mindful of the humanity of the so-called enemy. Struggle aimed at complete annihilation is alien to the Zenarchist spirit. Victories in battle are celebrated with tears of mourning.
A “willow tree” mentality that avoids ideological constipation is possible through the Zen knack of seeing the “suchness” of things. They are so much what they are. So are people. Every person does a perfect job of being that particular individual and no other. So living, changable and surprising humanity takes precedence over the urgency of winning at all costs each and every contest. For the one is a territory of flesh and blood; the other is only based on our map of who is friend or foe.
Great is the mind kept forever sharper than the sword. Reading the Tao Teh of Lao Tzu is useful in absorbing this style of struggle that emphasizes a mood of restraint, with conscious and decisive action at crucial moments.
Vital Organs of Human Liberty
Principles are tools for thinking. Useful especially for keeping in mind the overall context relating to every decision, they are not to be confused with the specific sensory data of thought.
Without attending to all the sources of oppression, we cannot hope that our Yin Revolution will become popular with all oppressed people. And without principles pertaining to those sources of oppression we cannot assure that in liberating in one area we’ll not become oppressors ourselves in another.
That prisons breed crime is the First Principle of The No Politics of Zenarchy. Penal systems are vast chains of universities in criminal activity. Harsh punishments reinforce hostility and alienation so as to provide additional motives for antisocial behavior. As we begin to research alternatives to retribution in history and anthropology it quickly becomes obvious that a more reasonable approach is to insist on restitution from those who commit crimes with victims. This can be enforced when necessary by community refusal to cooperate with unrepentant transgressors. How effective such a method could be is indicated by A.S. Neill in Summerhill and by Eric Frank Russell in the closing chapters of The Great Explosion. Law by contract and enforcement by strike is one viable alternative to unilateral coercive law and chaos. We endeavor to educate the populace toward a Permanent Universal Abolition of Retribution, resulting in Government by Strike and Not by Gun. As for the incurable psychopath who goes around murdering people and continues to make the scene through unstinting looting? Whoever shot that individual would receive a common-sense public hearing for the purpose of determining the facts. Even our present system recognizes the defense of “justifiable homicide”.
Although Big Brother said the opposite, ignorace is slavery. That is our Second Principle. If secrecy were national security, you could vote with your eyes shut and save freedom. Democracies that keep their citizens in the dark are democratic in name only. That corporations are entitled to conduct business in an atmosphere of confidentiality is the result of superstition. Unlike acts in the bedroom, which all misdirected communities try to control, corporate decisions affect everyone in society. Timothy Leary’s battle cry of No More Secrets inspires us to see ten thousand ways to bring about the Permanent Universal Abolition of Institutional Secrecy everywhere in the world.
It ain’t the landlord; it’s the rent is our Third Principle. No rational system of land tenure would require inhabitants of this planet to pay fees for the dubious privilege of living here. Even if for the sake of argument we grant validity to first claim theory, then the whole Western Hemisphere belongs to Native American Indians. And their system of land tenure was based upon occupancy and use. Either one was enough to insure ownership. Uninhabited and unused land, in cases where both conditions prevailed, was up for grabs. Evidence indicates the ancient natives of Europe maintained a similar system, and in common law there is such a thing as squatters’ rights. Lords and ladies of the land, as the names imply, are feudal traditions. Pollution is profitable and fifteen million people starve to death every year due to absentee landlordism more than to any other single cause. Neither agri-business nor collective farms offer quality, speedy solutions to those problems since, among other things, they use petro-chemical fertilizers. To protest ground rents and the oppression that makes them thinkable, we Zenarchists believe in chanting and writing as often as possible this powerful mantra: Permanent Universal Rent Strike. Hopefully, that will stimulate a nonviolent transformation in the direction of Ecological and Equitable Use of Land and Natural Resources.
Since money is only a symbol to keep track of exchanges in goods and services or labor, that is our Fourth Principle. No clique of bankers in conspiracy with any government possesses the right to declare that we must accept for all debts only this or that form of currency in payment. When all retain the right to reject payment in symbols of value that are not trusted, then Gresham’s Law functions in reverse and we call it Mahserg’s Law. The good money drives out the bad. That way the free market assures that the money supply will not exceed the value of available goods and labor, so inflation becomes impossible. Zenarchists advocate you Make Good Money in Your Spare Time by issuing your own certificates of value or cheques, redemptive in your wealth in goods and services. If everyone did this, we would have something like a Direct Barter Free Credit Economy, where money is a convenient symbol of credit and nothing more. Alan Watts discusses a similar idea in “Wealth Versus Money” in Does it Matter? Last but not least, liberated money is an important issue because the multinational central banking corporations organized just before World War I are almost certainly to blame for contributing to wars and violent social unrest. Without the threat of such tragedies — made possible by extending credit for the purchase of arms — the bankers would possess no means of enforcing collection of interest payments on national debts from governments.
That absentee control of the workplace is the root of all oppression (or at least most of it) is the Fifth Principle. Because of private credit monopolies and regulated currency it is, under the present system, usually necessary to borrow money (called investments) for tools (called capital). Interest payments (called dividends) are made on these capital investments. We advocate a pluralistic free market economy and therefore support both communist anarchist struggles for industrial democracy and the libertarian rightist goal of small-business laissez-faire. In a free society, where people can issue their own money backed with collateral or credit instead of having to obtain loans or investments, both communism and the free market are possible. In order to abolish absentee bossism Zenarchy calls for a Permanent Universal Absentee Boss Lock Out and the Complete Deregulation of Nonabsentee Entrepre-neurs. We seek to combine the working class and the petty bourgeoisie in a powerful surge against both cartel capitalism and statist socialism.
As Zenarchists and Yin Revolutionaries we believe it makes sense to resist all forms of coercive authority and that is our Sixth Principle. To advance it, we repeat the mantra, Permanent Universal Tax Strike. We further seek to probe all cryptocratic methods of extortion so as to bring about Exposure of All Forms of Conscription, for human slavery is alive and well in the intelligence community. Foreign-born and second generation Americans are extorted by intelligence bureaucracies that threaten to kill or injure their kin in the old country. Technocratic methods of surveillance and death-threat extortion also exist, ranging from artificial induction of cancer to halting Pacemakers with micro-waves when orders are disobeyed, using miniature observation devices to detect the least gesture of rebellion. As Zenarchists we also oppose the temporary and more humane type of slavery called military conscription, for no country that remains worth fighting for need rely on a draft. Another coercive institution we oppose is the trade tariff for it is an old saying in economics that where goods do not cross borders, soldiers do.
Liberation is for everybody and this is our Seventh Principle. We oppose racism, sexism and the persecution of intellectual minorities (including even bigots who abstain from force). Zenarchists want Permanent Universal Cultural Autonomy by means of Self-Selecting Intentional Neighborhoods made possible by communitarian computer matching services. Further, we endeavor always to raise consciousness against discrimination that dehumanizes any individual human being.
Transistorized untouchables exist. Our Eighth Principle pertains to a humanoid robot caste among us that authoritarian technocrats are creating at this time, although not much is said about it in the media. As incredible as it may seem, subcutaneous brain-wave transmitters and cranial silicone chips and ultra-high frequency sound wave projectors are already developed and in use for manipulating the minds of human beings. As Walter Bowart writes in Operation Mind Control: “Although the first victims of Operation Mind Control were perhaps especially suitable personality types for such use, with the advances being made in the psycho-sciences all but a few of us may eventually be victimized.”
An examination of the bibliography of Bowart’s book will convince the average skeptic that sophisticated mind manipulation is not a paranoid fantasy. The notion that reflex conditioning of any kind will create order instead of a social nightmare is based upon an unexamined Behaviorist assumption. For individuals cannot unilaterally manipulate beings of approximately equal intelligence; counter-manipulation comes into play. Unlike laboratory mice, human beings imitate their manipulators instead of responding to them mechanistically. We begin to resemble our oppressors. Try to condition a child with B.F. Skinner’s techniques, for example, and that individual will become a wheeler-dealer, not an obedient servant. That is why the Taoist sages said that the more punishments and promotions there are, the more turmoil there is. When everyone tries to control everyone else — and that is what happens when one group tries to manipulate another — all society becomes a howling madhouse. We therefore call upon everyone to Defeat the Behaviorist Technocracy by means of Exposure and Dismantling of All Sleeper Agent Projects, as they are often called. When scientists gain political power, warned the anarchist Bakunin, they can be expected to treat their fellow humans just as they treat rats and mice in laboratory experiments. In that, as in most other things, Michael Bakunin has proven prophetic.
Moreover, in all systems of domination of one human by another communications snarl because effective communication is only possible between equals. That is called the S.N.A.F.U. Principle and it is our Ninth Principle in the No Politics. Zenarchists promote and demonstrate Alternatives to Bureaucracy such as affinity groups, tribalism, town-meeting democracy and participatory parallel institutions. All such alternatives resemble each other in that elected representatives of families, clans, tribes or whatever are not powered to make laws in meetings with representatives of other groups. Instead, they may negotiate contracts, subject to approval by the members of the group they represent. That’s the first difference between a libertarian federation and a bureaucracy. Everyone is equal in power; elected officials are not more equal than everyone else — as were the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. A second crucial difference is that contracts are enforced, not at gun point, but by community sanction. A family or tribe or township that breaks an agreement suffers a loss of credit, for others refuse to do business with it to a degree dependent on the seriousness of the breach. That system works today on Wall Street; when a broker says on the phone he or she will buy a certain number of shares, that commitment stands, even if the price of the stock in question declines before the deal is made. Corporate bureaucracies also use the second method, but not the first — thus they are slightly more efficient than government bureaus: they experience fewer S.N.A.F.U.’s. When cooperatives in which all are equal fail, it is usually because the members lack skills in conducting meetings or in nonviolently arbitrating disputes, not because voluntary federations are less effective.
So-called meeting-house Quakers possess excellent skills in conducting meetings. Much can learned from them and from the secular Movement for a New Society, a pacifist organization with Quaker origins.
As for dispute resolution, see the advice given by Jesus in the Bible for treatment of an offending brother and note the similar Essene method reported in The Wilderness Revolt by Diane Kennedy Pike. Also refer to Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane to see how quarrels are resolved without recourse to coercion in Middle East market places.
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Taken separately, many of these Nine Principles do not sound like much. When studied to a point that they are absorbed wholistically — as a Gestalt — they are seen as intimately interconnected. Taken together, they reinforce one another and in fact function as the Vital Organs of Human Liberty.
In summary: The No Politics is Taoistically skeptical of rewards and punishments, because humans learn by imitation and all money and prisons teach is manipulative behavior; the truth about everything will help more than anything else to make everyone free; public, corporate and technocratic bureaucracies don’t function as effectively as voluntary federations.
The Seven Noble Natural Rights
There are at least seven natural rights, or the Tao of human activity in society possesses seven attributes, or people are like machines only in the respect that they don’t work good if you neglect their maintenance requirements.
What are the maintenance requirements of the human being? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
Keeping us confused and divided against one another about these rights, the multinational power elite teaches us in America that only life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights. In socialist nations they promote the view that only food, clothing, shelter and medical care are rights.
We are further encouraged to argue about whether rights must be earned or whether it is the duty of the government to guarantee them. Everyone necessarily struggles for their rights, and no government can ever guarantee anything except death and taxes.
All that bickering begs the relevant question: What can we do in voluntary cooperation to see that our natural rights, our intimate functional needs, are respected? Without that much, human beings are incapable of behaving as constructively rational and loving members of any population.
The Care and Feeding of Zenarchy
Looking at reality is like trying to stare at both ends of a very long stick at the same time. Our minds function in such a way as to see first one side and then another of a concept. We see the black on the white background or the white on the black in the famous optical illusions used to illustrate Gestalt theories of perception, whereas it is virtually impossible to see both at once.
Zen Buddhists have sensed as much since ancient times. What they have also realized is that while the history of something may be necessary or at least helpful in coming to terms with it, that much alone is usually insufficient. Likewise, although abstracting the essential principles of a process can communicate a mechanistic sense of what it does and does not include, there are times at which that is a little like outlining a story plot and presenting it in place of a whole novel. Also, sometimes the more concisely a principle or an idea is stated the more it tends, even if memorized, to go “in one ear and out the other”.
In the teaching of Zen, Taoism, Hasidic Judaism and Sufism the use of brief, often humorous anecdotes serve to transmit glimpses from a multitude of angles and for a profusion of varying minds. Great spiritual teachers like Jesus and Ramakrishna of course employed the similar technique of the parable and illustrative anecdotes are valued in all types of education. There is however, a flavor most known in connection with the Zen story — a hint of mindfucking absurdism approaching conceptual art of the surrealist school — which, when adopted by anarchism, transforms it into Zenarchy.
Zenarchy stories are probably just what is needed to establish and maintain a Zenarchist revolutionary tradition.
The Shortest Theological Debate in History
Ho Chi Zen: “What is God like?”
Tom: “Somebody. I don’t care.”
Everyone a Zen Master
Here is a spiritual exercise that will help you apply Laughing Buddha Jesus’ advice about loving one another.
As you are walking the streets or riding a public conveyance imagine yourself the father or mother or each person you look at — regardless of age. See all adults as your grown children, contemplating them one at a time even if that makes you feel a hundred years old.
Or imagine that every man or woman you pass or encounter is a Zen master — each with her or his own method of teaching. Sometimes they will sense your respect for them and will glance at you and grin. Take the dress and posture of each individual as evidence of his or her style of expressing enlightenment. Hear every scrap of conversation as a Zen riddle.
And never forget the saying, “Tao is your everyday mind.”
One of Ho Chi Zen’s students asked him, “What was the occasion of your enlightenment?”
Ho replied: “I forget.”
Reader’s Digest Zen
This true story was actually published in one of the humor sections of Reader’s Digest many years ago:
At an interdenominational religious conference in Hawaii, a Japanese delegate approached a fundamentalist Baptist minister and said, “My humble superstition is Buddhism. What is yours?”
Three in the Morning
Chuang Tzu said: “A keeper of monkeys told them, ‘I will give you three nuts in the morning and four in the evening.’ That made them mad, so he said, ‘Very well. I will give you four in the morning and three in the evening.’ That made them happy.”
Zenarchist Coffee Drinking Ceremony
One of the few formalities of Zenarchy, the Coffee Drinking Ceremony must be observed in strict conformity with the following procedure:
Roll five joints of high quality marijuana and prepare one large pot of very strong coffee. Place these items in the center of a kitchen table together with a book of matches. Next, place on the table two large earthenware mugs and one simple but attractive ashtray.
Now sit at the table with someone you love very much and spend the hours from late night until sunrise animating conversation.
Inwardly observe the discipline of always keeping in mind a heartache during intervals of the discussion that are light and full of laughter. When you chat of sorrowful things keep in mind something beautiful, funny and hopeful.
Words of a Zen Anarchist Poet
Says Gary Snyder, “Three-fourths of philosophy and literature is the talk of people trying to convince themselves that they really like the cage they were tricked into entering.”
Hung Mung, Television Personality
One of the characters to appear in the writings of old Chaung Tzu is Hung Ming, whose name means Primal Chaos, for which reason he was adopted as a Chaoist Sage by the Discordian Society — a nonprophet ireeligious disorganization about which you will learn more and understand less if you read Principia Discordia. As such, he is also a Zenarchist Immortal, for Zenarchy is to Discordianism much as Zenis to Buddhism or Taoism.
In Chuang Tzu he is visited by another character, Great Knowledge, whose inquiries he answers by laughing and slapping his knee and shouting, “I don’t know! I don’t know!” Great Knowledge persists in questioning Hung Mung, who at last enlightens him with an appropriately chaotic, rambling speech.
Not claiming to know anything, Primal Chaos reveals everything to informed curiosity — though not usually in a very orderly format. In becoming acquainted with this sage who knows nothing and does not care tht he does not know anything, we can learn enough to accomplish nearly anything.
Discordians say you can get a look at Hung Mung by getting stoned and tuning your television to a channel that is not broadcasting. His dancing image will become more and more visible the harder you look for it. And having no sponsors, Hung Mung — they say — is never interrupted by commercials. Zenarchists are skeptical of that much.
Of the same tradition as Hung Mung and Ho Chi Zen is Rabbi Koan, who brings to Zenarchy the sect of Kosher Zen. For much of what Zen sages have called “a special transmission outside the scriptures” of Buddhism, seems to hae been discovered independently by the Hasidic Jews of Eastern Europe who study the oral traditions of the Cabala.
As every reader of Martin Buber is already aware, the Hasidic Zen master, called a Zaddik, is fond of telling all kinds of Kosher Zen stories.
For example, once such a Rabbi entered the sacred meeting house to find his disciples playing checkers. “Ah, ha!” he exclaimed. “Do you know the rules to the game of checkers?” Too taken aback to answer, the young men maintained a guilty silence. So the Rabbi said: “Very well, I will instruct you in the rules to checkers. The first rule is that you can only move forward. The second rule is that you can only make one move at a time. And the third rule is that, upon reaching the back row, you may move in any direction you wish!”
Another Hasidic tale concerns a student who undertook a food and water fast for one week. On his way to see the Rabbi on the last hour of his fast, he went by a well. Overwhelmed by temptation, he drew a bucket of water. As his lips touched the ladle, he decided that to yield to thirst would wipe out a week’s work. So he went off to the meeting house instead. When he entered the Rabbi looked at him and said, “Patchwork!”
The Forgotten Sage
In Flight of the White Crows, John Berry reminds us that Chaung Tzu says the true sage is absent-minded: “The absent-minded man cannot remember his bad deeds; he cannot remember his good deeds.”