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Rafiq's Response to My Blog (Oct. 9/16)

I appreciate Rafiq's sincere and nuanced long response to my blog (Oct. 9/16) where I "review" his book. He was fine with me publishing his response here, as we both intend to keep the conversation going and invite others to comment and join in. Enjoy. I'll respond soon to this piece in Comments format.

Sometimes Fearlessly: A Grateful Response to Fisher’s Riff on Days of Shock, Days of Wonder

Rafiq

In his blog post “A Peek into a Young Artist’s Days of Fearlessness: Rafiq,” R. Michael Fisher does me a great kindness.[1] He takes my work as a writer seriously and he invites his readers to do the same. At the conclusion of his riff on my memoir Days of Shock, Days of Wonder: The 9/11 Age, the Ways of the Mystics, and One Man’s Escape from Babylon in the Belly of a Whale,[2] Mr. Fisher writes, “Rafiq will be an interesting player of the revolution to come, for I have no doubt of his importance … He and his work are still young and growing toward something more powerful. I’ll be watching, as no doubt will others, for what form it all takes.”

More than that, Mr. Fisher has invited me into a dialogue about my work with a reader who cares about the same things as me: the psychology of fear, the depth of love, the chance for revolution in the face of, as he puts it, “a harsh predatory capitalist world that doesn’t give a shit about his quest or mine.” It is rare for a writer to find a truly kindred reader. It is even rarer to find one who is passionate enough to ask questions whose answers can help carry the whole project of social and self evolution just a little bit further forward. In the interest of that project, then, here are my replies to his comments. I’m grateful for the chance to help frame these important ideas if I can.

But, first, a correction is in order. Although Days of Shock, Days of Wonder is endorsed on its cover by scholars Four Arrows (aka Don Trent Jacobs), David Ray Griffin, and Kevin Barrett, I never was able to find a publisher for this memoir. Like my first book, Gaj: The End of Religion,[3] which I wrote to counter the idea of God or Allah as an individual who could take sides in the “war on terror,” my memoir was published by my own company, Hay River Books, a writer’s cooperative that I set up in 2004, where various artists work on each other’s productions in exchange for similar help. So when Mr. Fisher writes the following, I think he has mistaken Hay River Books for Hay House: “It is an impressive feat for anyone to get a book like this published by an official publisher the quality of Hay River Books, as I believe they have published many of Noam Chomsky’s political tracts. Good for him.” I am happy to see that my book left the impression that it could have been published by Hay House, but it just ain’t so.

[RMF: Oh, you are right. My mistake. But actually I didn't think you'd at all be in the genre of 'new agey' type for Hay House publishers, but I meant Haymarket Books, where Chomsky publishes often]

Also, before turning to Mr. Fisher’s questions about Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, I should explain the context in which he asks them. His blog post, as I say, is a riff, not a review, for it is based on his reading of only the book’s final four chapters. He writes,

“I confess, beginning context material can sometimes be important for understanding what comes later in a book. So, if I misinterpret anything herein, it’s my own damn fault. Rafiq or anyone can correct me if I am way off the mark. Frankly, I get a thrill out of the risk of mis-interpretation. I can’t explain it other than it’s freeing to just ‘fly’ and be ‘incomplete’ and not apologetic to those who want a standard book review.”

I’m happy to say that Mr. Fisher is not at all “off the mark.” But filling in some pieces from earlier in the book will shed more light on my understanding of the themes he brings up.

On the matter of fear, I should respond to the following: “He skirted around defining ‘fear’ a lot more carefully (maybe, earlier in the book he does so) … I found him a bit of a conformist … in regard to his imaginary and understanding of fear and its management and/or transformation.” In my first book, which is a work of religious-spiritual philosophy, I write that a lack of connection to the greater whole “can give rise only to fear about the outcomes of our lives and to fear of each other. In turn, this fear breeds actual division, discontinuity, and the exaggeration of difference, such that our fears (like prayers) become the means by which we weave our futures” (p. 90). By the “greater whole,” I mean what can be called “God,” and I am writing about the distinction between God as an individual separate from creation and God as an energy that animates all of creation. This distinction is discussed in chapter one of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, where I tell about how I came to write my first book.

In Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, as Mr. Fisher points out, I am “not trying to write a serious philosophy book.” Unlike my first book, which is all theory, my memoir is all practice. So rather than defining “fear,” it seeks to illustrate the conditions for fearlessness. The primary condition, as I say, is a worldview that is rooted in a holistic understanding of reality, wherein God is already conspiring in one’s favour, so to speak. One can move from the belief that this is so to the knowledge that this so only through firsthand experience of what I refer to in the title of my book as “wonder,” by which I mean evidence of a singular intelligent force at work in all of life.

Examples of such wonder appear in my memoir’s first chapter and form the core of many of the early chapters, continuing to accumulate across the real-life narrative of the book. Their collective effect is that they begin to suggest a grounds for fearlessness. But connection to the greater whole, whether in theory or practice, is not the same thing as absolute knowledge of the greater whole. As Four Arrows emphasizes in his recent book Point of Departure, the inspirited realm should be regarded as the “Great Mysterious.” One’s interconnection with the Great Mysterious is thus based on courage in the face of the unknown.[4] Courage precedes fearlessness, which cannot merely be claimed based on dogma but must be hard-won through experience.

In chapter nine, as I begin my retreat from Babylon in a camperized Volkswagen van, I write, “Driving out of the city, I turned on the radio in the middle of the Beatle’s Hey Jude to hear a joyous refrain. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ crooned McCartney. I told myself that I wouldn’t” (p. 67). What follows is an account of nearly killing myself while cliff jumping with my niece and nephews. The rally cry that day had been “no fear.” But they were just words, and when it was all over, I reflected, “I’d summoned enough fearless calm to come through with nothing but scrapes and bruised heels. But I was humbled. I’d been running around half-cocked. A city boy in nature. Real fearlessness was measured and patient. I would have to make it a practice on the road” (p. 68).

And that is what I did. The latter half of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder is an attempt to illustrate that process. After a week volunteering at a Buddhist retreat centre on Canada’s west coast, I write, “Each day before breakfast and dinner, I meditated with the group for thirty minutes. I was calmer than I’d been in my life. The world seemed ephemeral and simple. More than feeling fearless, I saw that there was nothing to fear after all. I vowed to keep meditating” (p. 73). Here, the link between fearlessness and an increased connection to the greater whole through meditation is key. This inner experience of God is a companion to the outer experiences of God that I narrate in terms of wonder.

After my van gets stuck on a beach, with its rear-mounted engine buried in a pit dug by my unsuccessful attempts to get it out, I write,

“If the tide came in, the engine would be flooded with salt and sand. It would be the end of the road. My pulse started to race. Was I truly fearless? I was about to find out … I lay awake and listened to the waves lap the shore … The waves seemed louder. All suffering is just thought, I told myself. The Buddhist stance … I turned out the light and slept fitfully” (p. 76). “At five-thirty I saw a thread of yellow in the clouds low over the ranch lands. Morning at last. I got out of the van. The tide was coming in. I started walking. I told myself that if all went to shit, I would catch a bus to an airport and get on the next plane to Montreal. I would leave the van behind, the solar panel, most of my stuff. But I didn’t really think it would come to that” (p. 77).

And it didn’t. My van was pulled out of the sand by a farmer with a tractor. We crossed paths on the road, and he managed to free the van before the tide was even getting close. Experiences like this one made it possible for me to keep on “jumping into the unknown without a net in sight” (p. 133). So although it may appear that there was little method to my madness, particularly given my professed preference for aligning with the flow of the Tao and letting its current carry me where it might, there was indeed a well-conceived basis for my fearlessness.

Mr. Fisher writes, “I was glad he interacted some with Four Arrows around the fear concept … However, in the pages I read I did not see an intricate synthesis that convinced me Rafiq was utilizing the best of what Four Arrows’ work had to offer him in this area.” Mr. Fisher is correct that at the time of writing Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, I had not moved from theory into practice with respect to Four Arrows’ ideas about how fear impedes rational reflection by making one susceptible to subconscious input from figures of authority.

Yet in chapter twelve I recount numerous experiences of Four Arrows that show how this aspect of fear works, all drawn from his memoir Primal Awareness.[5] I have included that part of my book in an article entitled “Indigenous Wisdom Explains Hypnosis of the 9/11 Lie” because understanding the psychology of fear is a necessary first step toward liberation from fear.[6] To be fearless in confronting authority, we must cultivate inner authority, and to do that we must confront past lies and discard subconsciously accepted nonsense. An ongoing project, to be sure.

As for the matter of love, I should respond to Mr. Fisher’s observation that I “didn’t spend a lot of time defining love systematically either. This makes me wonder, what does he actually mean when he writes about these important terms [i.e., fear and love] in human existence?” As with my attempt to illustrate the conditions for fearlessness, my book’s real-life narrative is intended to illustrate an opening of my heart and the factors that made this lived experience of love possible. And because no journey is linear, but instead a spiral that brings one back around to the same themes and awakenings again and again as it tightens, I structured my book as a double journey into love. That is, both the book’s middle and final chapters conclude with a surrender to love.

In the case of the middle chapter, it ends soon after a German mechanic I met while living in my van on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico tells me about his part in setting up a murder. I write,

“I watched the German sweating there on his back in the gravel and ground-up seashells of what was once an ocean floor. Like he was lying at the bottom of the world. And I felt only forgiveness. Love. Something I’d never felt for the killers in high places who’d done the [9/11] attack. Those misguided faces of the One. My days on the beach had opened my heart” (p. 81). Before the chapter’s end, I add, “I recalled what an American man had said to me in Nizamuddin. How the important thing was to choose one path and follow it to the end. At the time, I’d scoffed. That would be like reading only one philosopher. I’d forgotten what the Hindu thinker had said about all religions being a finger pointing at the same thing. The unifying, indwelling quality of God … [I felt] like I’d followed the path of Sufism to its end. Love for all in All. And I’d found my heart again” (p. 81).

While living on the Baja, I had come into the possession of a fat book of poetry by the Sufi poet Hafiz, who lived during the 1300s. Along with my immersion in nature and practice of meditation, this book played an important part in my orientation toward love. Having read it through twice, I write, “Not Shakespeare in his sonnets nor the Old Testament in its psalms built a greater monument to love than Hafiz. Love of self and love of God. The two entwined” (p. 78).

At the end of the book’s final chapter, I write that a true revolution required that we “ignite our inner fire and illuminate our hearts. We had to love. This was the teaching of Quetzalcoatl, Jesus, and Hafiz. It was what Gandhi had meant when he told us to be the change we wanted to see in the world … Love for all in All had to be the elixir” (p. 165).

From these passages, we see that I understand love, like fear, to be a factor of our connection to the greater whole. Love for God as a part of ourselves is the path to love for both ourselves and others as part of God. In a truly holistic understanding of God, all is God, so all grounds for distinction, all grounds for hate, fall away. When Four Arrows writes on the cover of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder that I have written “a book to ignite a generation,” he is referring to my memoir’s potential to ignite people’s hearts by illustrating through narrative how the workings of the inspirited realm testify to our unity, which is the grounds for our mutual love. Mr. Fisher is right when he says that my book is unlikely to ignite “anything of such grandiosity” as a revolution by my generation. Before that can happen, we need a reorientation as individuals toward a love-based rather than fear-based cosmology.

So what does fearless love look like in action? Mr. Fisher writes, “I think often because of his total fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, and other factors, Rafiq ‘missed’ the boat of doing effective good work that could have been accomplished on his four-year journey.” He wonders whether I could have done my “socially-engaged art practices ‘better’” in the communities I frequently visited in Mexico. He is talking about actions on the ground in response to the lived experiences of actual people. I am not surprised that he should look for this type of practice in his assessment of what he calls a “a socially engaged artist,” a category that I am happy to occupy. In this respect, as with many others, his thinking and mine are aligned. As the following account will make clear, to quote a poster on the door of my Grade 2 classroom, I believe that “love isn’t love until you give it away.”

In chapter one of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, I explain, “I was living in a one-room apartment above an all-night diner in a seedy part of downtown Montreal. A lot of people asked me for spare change. I usually gave them some” (p. 6). What follows are two anecdotes about how face-to-face generosity illustrates that giving and receiving are links in a single chain –  the source of reciprocity. In chapter three, I tell about two homeless Inuit men for whom my apartment became a kind of drop-in-centre where they got warm, cooked on my stove, and occasionally slept on my floor when the winter turned bitter cold. I would end up making a documentary with them so that they might have a voice. It’s called Be Smile: The Stories of Two Urban Inuit.[7]

Later, when I settled in the town of Sayulita on the west coast of Mexico, a similar situation arose with a teenage girl from Mexico City who was sixteen when we met and had been living on and off the streets for three years. She ended up staying with me or using my camping gear to set up home on the beach. Eventually, I helped her get a job at a friend’s shop, and she worked there for two years, living with me whenever she needed to. I thought about including her story in Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, in which case it would have been there in the final chapters that Mr. Fisher read, but I didn’t have any distance from that experience at the time. In fact, she and her punk rock friends from Guadalajara were crashing in my living room as I pounded out the book’s final pages.

There is one final comment to which I should respond. Mr. Fisher writes, “I’m curious what happened eventually to the white whale? In the 80’s I bought a 1973 VW and well ... a kinship with Rafiq’s spirit is inevitable.” The white whale, Ballena Blanca, is what I came to call the van that took me out of Babylon. In chapter fifteen of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder, after three harrowing months stuck in Belize with mechanical problems and after a week of daily vehicle breakdowns of various kinds as I drove north trying to get back to Canada, the van died in Austin Texas. The engine was blown. I write,

“I could rebuild it for about four grand. I could replace it for a lot more than that. Or I could sell the van for parts and walk away … I walked away. It was 2011. Two years to the week since I’d bought my home on wheels … I kept my drum, a backpack of clothes, a knapsack with my laptop, video camera, and hard drive. And one of the younger mechanics gave me a duffel bag for my books and some odds and ends. That was just about all of my possessions” (p. 130).

True to what I told myself the night that my van had gotten stuck on the beach with the tide coming in, I walked away with no more than I could carry. And I continued on. Sometimes fearlessly. Sometimes with love in my heart. Always in search of the authentic.

Notes

[1] R. Michael Fisher, “A Peek into a Young Artist’s Days of Fearlessness: Rafiq,” Fearlessness Movement Blog, 9 October 2016, http://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/a-peek-into-a-young-artist-s-days-of-fearlessness-rafiq.

[2] Rafiq, Days of Shock, Days of Wonder: The 9/11 Age, the Ways of the Mystics, and One Man’s Escape from Babylon in the Belly of a Whale (Montreal: Hay River Books, 2016), https://www.amazon.com/Days-Shock-Wonder-Mystics-Babylon/dp/0973656115.

[3] Rafiq, Gaj: The End of Religion (Montreal: Hay River Books, 2004), PDF at www.endofreligion.com, https://www.amazon.com/GAJ-The-End-of-Religion/dp/0973656107.

[4] Four Arrows, Point of Departure: Returning to Our More Authentic Worldview for Education and Survival (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2016), 62, https://www.amazon.com/Point-Departure-Returning-Authentic-Worldview/dp/1681235900.

See also Rafiq, “Indigenous Worldview and the Art of Transformation,” review of Point of Departure by Four Arrows, Truthjihad.com Blog, 28 September 2016, http://truthjihad.blogspot.mx/2016/09/indigenous-worldview-and-art-of.html.

[5] Four Arrows, Primal Awareness: A True Story of Awakening and Transformation with the Raramuri Shamans of Mexico (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1998), https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0892816694.

[6] Rafiq, “Indigenous Wisdom Explains Hypnosis of the 9/11 Lie,” Truthjihad.com Blog, 9 September 2016, http://truthjihad.blogspot.mx/2016/09/rafiq-indigenous-wisdom-explains.html.

[7] Rafiq, Be Smile: The Stories of Two Urban Inuit, documentary (2006), https://vimeo.com/103911360.

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Comments

  • COMMENT- 2           –RMF Oct. 22/16

    Rafiq’s Comment on my Comment-1 piece is formatted in a dialogue which is indicative of a conversation exploring each other’s backgrounds, thoughts, feelings and what it means to be a “writer” and how to ‘walk the talk’ of our worldviews along the path of fearlessness.

    Dialogue (a word, concept, we both find favorable for use to describe an approach, a method, in our exchanges) – a methodology for (r)evolution? I think at some point, in terms of commitment to truthing in our co-inquiry we can attend to refining the notion of “dialogue” (dialogic, dialectic, as ways of thinking and processing reality). Just a thought.

    I remind the reader (as well as Rafiq and myself) to remember the truth of what Rafiq wrote in his response to my riff off of his book (Days of Shock, Days of Wonder): [Michael is] “a reader who cares about the same things as me: the psychology of fear, the depth of love, the chance for revolution.” Indeed, yet at some point we ought to deconstruct the entire notion of “psychology of fear” before any claim can be made with substance as to whether Rafiq and I agree on a common platform for exploring “fear” and concomitantly, “fearlessness.” When he reads my scholarly book (as he says he is planning) The World’s Fearlessness Teachings (Fisher, 2010)—then, we’ll have at least some common vocabulary and scaffolding to have a productive conversation, dialogue, on these themes.

     Now, to the focus of my Comment-2: (a) use of autoethnography and, (b) Sacred Warriorship.

     Although we have some definitely different backgrounds that lead us to shape different personalities and character, different identities—we also have some common ground, which is essential to dialogue. I wish to respond to Rafiq’s latest piece along the lines of a sorting out some common ground and some differences; nothing here is written in stone, but is a process of exploration in which we weave through co-inquiry a net of ‘truth’ about ourselves as individuals, as a co-inquiry ‘team’ and as particularities of Consciousness itself evolving. I’ll restrict myself to just a couple examples that pop-up for me.

     (a) Same & Different re: “autoethnography” as a method of inquiry

     I am glad Four Arrows and Rafiq have discussed the research method (or inquiry method to be less formal sounding) of autoethnography, which Rafiq defined in his latest comment of which reinforces that there is a potentially healthy (not narcissistic) ‘use of the self’ for inquiry into the problems of the state of the world—we agree, I sense, that neither of us is needing to be an up-front-and-center ‘hero’ in our art and liberation work. And just to note, I love how Rafiq expressed his writing and writer-self as not so much about “raw” (i.e., self-indulgence for the sake of self-indulgence) as about himself via portraiture in the artistic sense as an “artifice” (I would call living-artifact of inter-relational Natural, Cultural and Spiritual realms) and “work of art”—whereby, the ‘self’ is always in co-relation and thus co-creation—very different (if not contrary to) from the distorted (fragmentary) exoteric forms of fear-based thought in the modern West in its conceptualization of a fear-based (inflated) “self.” Of course the dominant meta-narrative of the West and its “progress” is of a heroic-self advancing beyond the primitive, the barbaric, and so on to become the civilized-self. This is a dubious claim that Rafiq and I and many others are questioning today in the postmodern world... and beyond... 

     Rafiq and I want to be influential players, authentic and in integrity (“whole”) as we approach co-creating change both inward and outward—not privileging one domain of reality as primary (‘good’) and the other as a hindrance (‘bad’): for e.g., implicitly, it seems Rafiq and I agree that characteristically, and disturbingly so, most political “activism” is outer-focused in its attempts to bring about change, reform and transformation of systems that are oppressive and out-of-date with the times; equally disturbing or imbalanced is the “spiritualism” (e.g., New Age stuff) which is inner-focused in its attempts to bring about change, etc.

     Those two approaches (“camps”) really end up, as Rafiq and I have experienced (and participated in), often arguing with each other (usually avoiding each other) and not much synergy comes from that conflict. It is still largely an unresolved ideological division of wounds that need healing. Of course, there are exceptions, and I am thinking of the more recent movement of “Engaged Buddhism” as one attempt to integrate the inner and outer focused approaches. That said, I also think there is a difference (tension, if not out and out conflict) in how Rafiq shapes his own view at this time re: the “hero” (and/or Hero, as archetype and leader of transformation). He writes positively about his own “escape from Babylon” in the context of a hero’s journey (a al Joseph Campbell) and yet seems to contradict that sentiment. I think he’s angered (wounded still), and somewhat dissing too quickly the too many heroes (leaders) in the world who are powerful and outstanding figures in human history. I pick up this rigid resistance in him by his comment “The last thing the world needs is another hero. But we are each the hero of our own journey”—and, reading between the lines a little, if I may, this strikes me as a bit immature or rash, albeit, a valid reaction to the abuses suffered by many heroes (many, self-appointed) in past history and today.

    There is a troubling and distinct absolutism and binary dualism running in his rhetoric at this point (i.e., in this case, Rafiq is not apparently being very holistic and inclusive and embracing with love, but arguably, rather reproduces a fear-patterning—my point: the latter holistic worldview in ‘talk’ is his repeated philosophical view throughout all his work that I have seen)—which is his very strong teacherly claim as well. I’m concerned with what Rafiq is teaching. I want him to be likewise concerned about my teaching—all in a ‘good way’ (as the Indigenous worldview recommends our truthing). As a contradiction in his ‘talk and walk,’ I would challenge his confident claim as being questionable if examined deeper in its motivations and discourse bias.

    To be short, let me say, I prefer a more nuanced integral approach to see the Hero archetype (and/or (S)Hero, as some prefer to attend to gender; which is never easy to resolve as adequate and only creates another binary as the “queer” perspective would likely argue). Yes, I agree with Rafiq entirely that “we are each the hero of our own journey.” Yet, there is room for both that truth and the larger macro-historical context that there are (super)Heroes that ought to be nurtured (e.g., Sacred Warriors and Royal Leaders, in the archetypal sense), who also stand well above the crowd of the many (as in Rafiq’s pluralistic bias toward a kind of equalitarianism). So, I say, both/and, and challenge the thinking to move beyond a fear-based patterning of either/or (note: I am not setting these up as absolute dualisms, only as a continuum of growth along the spectrum of consciousness, along the spectrum of possibilities from fear to fearlessness; I am following much of Ken Wilber’s philosophical map of the spectrum of consciousness and his Integral Theory).

    I believe Rafiq and I would have lots of common ground here on this topic of autoethnography and the “hero” as positive revolutionary forces—but also big  differences—in the latter case, especially, as I sense he overly-associates the pathological forms of hierarchy (i.e., hierarchism) and he tries to find a solution via a pluralistic heterarchy (i.e., heterarchism)—or, at least that is a potential issue I’d like us to take on in the future—if he is interested--especially, because it impacts how we see “leaders” (and/or “heroes”) and movements, including revolutions (or as I prefer to say, (r)evolutions)... and it affects how we see each other as comrades on the journey too.

    (b) Same & Different re: “Sacred Warrior” concept and our budding childhoods:

    More or less, and without a clear mutually agreed upon definition or meaning between Rafiq and I, there seems a positive resonance of empathy (not repulsion) for the archetype “sacred warrior” (or “spiritual warrior” or “peaceful warrior”—there are many terms). I’m pleased about that. This commonality came through (implicitly) as I was putting out (Comment-1) one of my desires/visions for being part of the formation of a fearlessness “trio” or tribe” and/or “Sacred Warrior” S.W.A.T. team to help the transformation of fear to fearlessness on this planet that is so swamped by Fear’s Empire (i.e., the ‘Fear’ Matrix as I call it). Rafiq spun off this and told a bit of his background as  mediator between fights in his youth (which I’ll talk about below). He also is a fan of The Matrix sci-fi trilogy to some degree, although he interpreted it mostly within a new physics (metaphysical spiritual pantheism) kind of framing.

    Btw, I focused my entire dissertation (Fisher, 2003) on utilizing the “Sacred Warrior” archetype (among other arts-based, feminist and heuristic methods) and a “fearless standpoint theory” (Fisher, 2008) to examine and perform the insidious “culture of fear” context of our lives today—whereby, The Matrix (sci-fi movie, 1999) was the structure of narration for the written and performed dissertation re: the dynamics of “unplugging” from Babylon (to use Rafiq’s metaphor). Four Arrows approached me four years later to write up a short piece about the process of that dissertation and publish it as a chapter in his 2008 book The Authentic Dissertation (Fisher, 2008a). That began the exchanges and ongoing co-inquiry with Four Arrows—of which I had never heard of him before that time—which, is rather shocking to think I missed him in all my years reading radical educators—but, there you go. I also consider Four Arrows’ work as Sacred Warrior pedagogy (and activism)—and we are writing about this in a forthcoming book and some articles (e.g., Fisher, 2017). Also, I’d recommend Rafiq (and others) read my technical paper (Fisher, 2009) interpreting The Matrix as a socio-emancipatory meta-narrative (meta-myth and therapia) for our times—and, it is my interest first and foremost to analyze the futurist “truthing” (pre-9/11) that goes on in the film ethos within the relational worldspace and context of a group of ‘revolutionaries’ (cyborgs mostly) flying around in a spaceship in the sewers of the scorched Earth (in the year c.2199). Lots there to talk about seriously beyond all the comic-book action violence in the film(s).

    Anyways, back to Rafiq and his response to my suggestion of Sacred Warriorship as important in this world and in times of revolutionary impulses. He wrote of his youth and the need he had to break-up fights wherever they are in the external world, especially at school: “This behavior continued throughout my life; I must have broken up a fistfight each of the fifteen years I lived in Montreal as an adult” (he also mentions a few cases of a similar impulse and action in his book Days of Shock, Days of Wonder). I call that in family systems therapy terms, the “mediator” role. I’d like to hear more on how Rafiq thinks he inherited this role both inside his family system and then outside in society and how that led to his being what I’d call a “peace-monger” (perhaps?). Hmmm... I am very different in this regard, because I was one of the fighters he maybe would have tried to break-up (which, I wouldn’t likely have appreciated). Raised poor-working boy, and all those frustrations of classism made be ‘tough guy’ even those I was a skinny runt but had long legs and arms, all very useful in street fighting. Anyways, it is interesting that Four Arrows was a school team wrestler in competitions, also with that need to fight and be tough. So, there’s a configuration to look at in our triangulations. I will say, I also have been known to break-up fights and the first I recall was trying (unsuccessfully) to break up my mom and dad fighting when they were drunk and even at times got physical. I was like 11 years old stepping into the ring, when my older brother and younger sister stayed in bed—I just couldn’t stand it and was “fearless” to walk in and confront them with my “Stop it!”

    Based on my own theorizing, that’s the “No!” of the Essential Rebel archetype which is closest to the spirit of fearlessness impulse in its healthy form of self-righteous indignation (i.e., healthy anger)—and at the foundation of the Sacred Warrior. I guess, that is all dependent on making distinctions between an unhealthy fear-based warrior and not. Anyways, a longer conversation, but I’m guessing Rafiq is not as experienced in working with his own and other people’s anger—as I gather he would ‘lose-it’ on people aggressively, when his attempts to be mediative and peaceful wouldn’t work or seemed useless. That’s important shadow work for all of us in the Peace Movement, Nonviolence Movement and Fearlessness Movement. I have long come to see that the latter, Fearlessness Movement is the only authentic reflection and ‘reality’ for a future (R)Evolution on the planet—I didn’t say it was the only way to go, I do think it is the best way to go and more authentic and grounded in “truth” than the Peace and Nonviolence concepts (at least, I think these words are horribly in error). A much longer conversation and likely difference Rafiq and I have in how we come into the world... we’ll see. Btw, I am so dedicated to the cause of the Rebel/Sacred Warrior I have been often accused of being a “terrorist” (explicitly, or implicitly)—and, have lost a lot of friends and colleagues over this. It’s a very tender hurting place to follow this path, and feel continually mis-interpreted and thus, dissed in the process. I feel totally a social exile from my own country (Canada) but it goes beyond that. I have always been a believer that we have to learn well how to “fight” before we learn how to not fight. There’s a great deal of confusion, in my mind, about what is “love” on this planet (especially, in the West) grrrrrr.... That’s a blunt way of putting it—the teacherly, preacherly and prophetic part of me coming out a little (smile). I can also stay humorous around all this and I appreciate that same seriousness and humour with a spiciness of creativity and beauty in Four Arrows and Rafiq, based on my (limited) study of their work and being.

    Note: my dedication to the Rebel-Sacred Warrior development work came out in my years as a leader/teacher/founder of The School of Sacred Warriorship (1993-1997), which later morphed into the Neo-Rebel School (a more watered-down curriculum)--that's a long story I have not written out or much talked about. I have studied this tradition, in my own radical ways with some intensity, and I have many critics as well. 

    References

     

    Fisher, R.M. (2008). Fearless standpoint theory: Origins of FMS-9 in Ken Wilber’s work. Technical Paper           No. 31. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

     

    Fisher, R. M. (with Quaye, S. J., and Pope, B.) (2008a). Fearless leadership: R. Michael Fisher’s story. In        Four Arrows (Ed.), The authentic dissertation: Alternative ways of knowing, research, and    representation (pp. 143-48). NY: Routledge.

     

    Fisher, R. M. (2009). “Unplugging” as real and metaphoric: Emancipatory dimensions to The Matrix trilogy.

                Technical Paper No. 33. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. [available

                online @ERIC ED503743 pdf]

     

    Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world’s fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear    management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

     

    Fisher, R. M. (2017). Radical love—is it radical enough? International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

    (Spring issue).

    • Michael’s statements in the following are from his comment above. My replies are interspersed.

      Michael: I think at some point, in terms of commitment to truthing in our co-inquiry, we can attend to refining the notion of dialogue.

      Rafiq: I am conscious that my role in our exchange thus far is mostly that of respondent. I am answering more questions than I am asking. Because I have agreed to accept this role in our initial exchange, our “dialogue” remains more a response by me to your evaluation of me and my work. Perhaps that will change.

      Michael: At some point we ought to deconstruct the entire notion of “psychology of fear” before any claim can be made with substance as to whether Rafiq and I agree on a common platform for exploring “fear” and concomitantly, “fearlessness.”

      Rafiq: The “psychology of fear” could be the subject of a separate discussion. What little I think I know about fear is that:

      (1) Fear of something is usually more painful than the thing itself.

      (2) Fear is a left-brain phenomenon related to fight or flight and demanding a rational response, so it reduces irrational right-brain functioning and limits the wiser intuitive response.

      (3) Fear can make one susceptible to subconscious conditioning, or programming, because when heightened it creates a state of concentration akin to a light trance, making it possible to tell the frightened whatever you wish without their mind subjecting the information to rational scrutiny.

      Michael: The research method of autoethnography reinforces that there is a potentially healthy (not narcissistic) “use of the self” for inquiry into the problems of the state of the world. The “self” is always in co-relation and thus co-creation—very different from (if not contrary to) the distorted (fragmentary) exoteric forms of fear-based thought in the modern West in its conceptualization of a fear-based (inflated) “self.”

      Rafiq: Yes, and as a result of always being “in co-relation and thus co-creation,” the self is always unfixed, in flux, and fluid. It takes true fearlessness to embrace this understanding of the self in a Western world that insists on boxes into which the self can be placed and thereby contained and reduced to something fully knowable.

      The fear-based self, of course, is “inflated” precisely to hide its fear. The arrogance of youth surely works this way. We understand so little when we’re young that we’re terrified to admit it even to ourselves. So we take refuge in arrogance.

      Michael: I think Rafiq’s angered (wounded still), and somewhat dissing too quickly the too many heroes (leaders) in the world who are powerful and outstanding figures in human history. I pick up this rigid resistance in him by his comment, “The last thing the world needs is another hero.”

      Rafiq: When I say that “the last thing the world needs is another hero,” I mean that rather than “another hero” in the singular, the world needs “heroes” in the plural. Rather than the cult of the individual, which has been bent to such grotesque purposes by politicians and celebrities in our post-rational age, a revolution needs many people who can fearlessly let their own lives be heroic.

      Do I have psychological reasons for taking this stand? That is, am I angered or wounded in some respect and thus “dissing” past heroes? Part of growing up is accepting that our heroes have flaws. That nothing is black and white. When our heroes fail us, we forgive them and reassess what we mean by hero. This requires fearlessness because it means confronting our illusions and accepting a more nuanced and less comfortable reality. So the question is whether I am disappointed that my heroes haven’t lived up to my expectations. The answer is no. Rather, “hero” is not a label that I put on anyone. Nor is it a label that people put on themselves. Yes, people can be heroic in their actions and that should be recognized. But we create heroes, or as you say “(super)Heroes,” only when we are afraid to take responsibility ourselves and need to believe that someone greater than us can lead the way. That’s why we tear down our heroes so quickly when they trip up. We want them to be better than us and don’t like hearing that this one was a womanizer, and that one was an absent parent, and so on.

      Heroes exist in story books, and in autoethnographic memoirs, to inspire our heroism, not to stand in for it. No hero yet has succeeded in leading us out of our collective darkness because we get stuck looking at the hero and never become the hero ourselves. We fail to do the inner work because our gaze is outward upon the hero. That’s where I’m coming from. I’m not saying that no one has anything to teach or that we shouldn’t admire true leaders, although I do think that in our networked era, there is far greater potential than in the past for numerous people to inspire others, as illustrated by the recurrence of “leaderless movements” in the twenty-first century, like the 9/11 truth movement. This movement has its standout figures, but these figures are part of a truth network, not a truth hierarchy, meaning that the movement would evolve and survive without them.

      Michael: I sense Rafiq overly associates the pathological forms of hierarchy (i.e., hierarchism) and he tries to find a solution via a pluralistic heterarchy (i.e., heterarchism).

      Rafiq: When I give the indication that heterarchy is preferable to hierarchy, I am referring to hierarchy as currently practiced in a world dominated by what I refer to in Days of Shock, Days of Wonder as “the cult of money and death” (p. 48). I also prefer heterarchy as an alternative to this distressing manifestation of hierarchy because my experience of the energetic realm of our material life has been such that this realm appears to be heterarchical. That is, the “divine” is everywhere at once, not atop a throne.

      But I am also aware that hierarchy can be complemented by heterarchy. The two can coexist. An example that Four Arrows uses is the fact that in some Indigenous cultures only the men could decide to go to war, but they could do so only if the women agreed to sew them new moccasins, without which they would not enter battle. Here, we have two hierarchies in coexistence, with men atop one realm of decision making and women a top another. These two points of leadership do not cancel each other out but can be seen as two points in a heterarchy that helps to create balance.

      Michael: I’d like to hear more on how Rafiq thinks he inherited the role of mediator both inside his family system and then outside in society and how that led to his being what I’d call a “peace-monger” (perhaps?).

      Rafiq: I’m one of five children, four boys and one girl. In a sense, I’m a middle child since I was born between the only girl and the youngest child. And yes, I was something of a peacemaker in my house. By the time I came along, my family’s dysfunctions were firmly in place and I was a keen observer and often pacifier of the scene. Outside in the world, my impulse to be the peacemaker was there from the beginning. It felt innate. However, an influencing factor might have been that I was sent to weekly Sunday school from a young age, where I learned about a radical desert dweller named Jesus who preached peace. Maybe he rubbed off on me early, even though I later came to reject the church built up around his otherwise radical spirit. Jesus, properly understood, was a sacred warrior, even (especially?) when he kicked over the money lenders’ tables in the temple.

      Michael: That’s the “No!” of the Essential Rebel archetype which is closest to the spirit of fearlessness impulse in its healthy form of self-righteous indignation (i.e., healthy anger)—and at the foundation of the Sacred Warrior. I’m guessing Rafiq is not as experienced in working with his own and other people’s anger—as I gather he would “lose-it” on people aggressively, when his attempts to be mediative and peaceful wouldn’t work or seemed useless.

      Rafiq: There is violence and there is aggression. The former is a type of imbalance. The latter can be a form of necessary communication, but I don’t like resorting to it, and it never feels very good at the time, even if it does sometimes make a point.

      Michael: I have long come to see that the Fearlessness Movement is the only authentic reflection and “reality” for a future (R)Evolution on the planet—I didn’t say it was the only way to go, I do think it is the best way to go and more authentic and grounded in “truth” than the Peace and Nonviolence concepts.

      Rafiq: I’m inclined to agree. Fear seems to be the necessary starting point. As a young man in my early twenties, I frequently reflected that fear was the great debilitator. I knew that fear was holding me back, and I wracked my brain trying to identify what I feared, but I couldn’t see it or name it. I was too close to it. What I feared in my anxious twenties was life itself because I didn’t know enough about life to make confident decisions. The question I didn’t ask my self was why fear was such a debilitator. Only in the past five years have I become seriously interested in understanding the psychology of fear. So I look forward to reading your publications on the matter and returning to this strand of our conversation when I have.

  • Comment-1 RMF, Oct. 19/16

    I'll start with a 'random' quote from Rafiq's book:  "I'd come back to the hippies by the path of the heart" (p. 118). I wonder if Rafiq identifies as a hippie, then, or now, why or why not? I'm very curious. Personally, I have never so "identified" but then I sort of was one back in the late-60s as a rock musician (drummer, vocalist) yet I was too young and uniformed politically to really be a conscious hippie (I think; but that memory is too long ago to know how I saw myself as a label of identity; but, like Rafiq, I was a rebel for sure)... smile. Okay, let me begin my tangential response (Comment-1, is what I label this):

    Because I was getting ready to respond to Rafiq’s response to my first riff off his 2016 book (Days of Shock, Days of Wonder) and work in the world (based only on the last 4 chapts.), it seemed appropriate to take time to read (and study) Rafiq’s book from the start. I desired more context and links. I read it slowly, with copious red ink underlining and circling and arrows, and penciled-in micro-notes to myself for possible research and writing later. This led to becoming immersed in the book for several days.

    Thus, I am finding this current (what I’ll call) Comment-1 challenging to write for a number of troubling reasons. I think it worthwhile to get some of them out in the open for the writing process itself but also for Rafiq and I (and, any other readers of this exchange) in our coming to assess what “commitment” might mean to this dialogical process and building some kind of relationship of quality. The dirty words, ‘commitment’ and ‘expectations’ like in any quality relationship, it seems to me, will always arise. At this point, I expect only that Rafiq will read some of my work and this Comment section but after that, there’s no expectation per se.

    So, in the mood of this self-disclosing and vulnerability to put this out in public online, I’ll list some things spontaneously and see what comes out that both excite me about this new relationship (and his book) and what trouble me (somewhat)—and, yes, I guess, I desire to give them quality attention because they will impact what follows; this is part of my own critical reflective and relational praxis going on here and I am putting it out without Rafiq or anyone else agreeing this is worthwhile attending to... so, it’s up in the ‘air’ and I await Rafiq’s initial response:

    (a) some part of me was (is) so ‘stirred’ up in reading the whole book it seems less important (for now) to go into detailed response to his response to my riff piece—that is, what he said and I said, and he said, etc. (even though I want to return to that exchange later at some point, as I think it will be beneficial)

    (b) some passion and creativity is pulsing to want to co-create a unique productive exchange, like a “play script,” a “documentary film,” a piece of art and/or some kind of “dream” or something less rational, and less controlled, logical, formal, erudite (even though, equally, I want to return to the ‘headier’ stuff, theory and strategic offerings and reflective feedback and challenges we may offer to each other)

    (c) I feel a little lop-sided in the exchanges so far with me knowing so much more about Rafiq (particularly, the years in the book) while he (as far as I know) knows little about me and my ‘memoir’ (which I have not written so concisely, but in lots of ‘failed attempts’ and scraps here and there for decades)—for e.g., he’s got a compelling story of how he got his spiritual name Rafiq [1] and I’d like to share my story of how I got my spiritual name Michael (pronounced My-ky-el)—I actually think little bits like this, in parallel story-telling (re: our autobiographies) is valuable to readers of this and to him and I and future trajectories—there’s a lot in an identity symbol of a ‘name’ (often, even more than we know)... anyways... I have really noticed a kind of “bashfulness” coming up inside me, almost in reaction to Rafiq’s raw memoir-style and getting so much attention on it as he puts it out there—and, I’d love to write my own, but I am finding lots of “blocks” telling me why that isn’t the best thing to do and why it is not that important—so, thanks Rafiq for bringing up that mess of ambivalence in me and, of course, I will thus have ambivalence about your (deep motivations) re: sharing so much about yourself and you are on 45 yrs of age—and so on... albeit, we seem now to live in a “selfie” age of expressions galore (that’s just not my age and sub-culture, I guess)...

    (d) the reading of his book has left me ‘wired’ a little or in a ‘buzz’ and also very serious as to what is ‘wanting’ to be engaged (or what I imagine is being engaged)—like it is from another ‘dimension’ it feels like at time-- and, so I don’t want to ignore this intuitive and felt disturbance and rarity that I would feel this (with anyone) I have never met in person in the flesh—but then, I think that is the point: I have ‘met someone, something here’ (albeit, in text, online)—it feels extraordinarily ‘deep’-- and I don’t really have a clear sense of the something here [2] and I don’t want to project onto the ‘new’ relationship and so on (nor romanticize it as “so special” guckky or “soul connection” even gukkier if it is habitual rhetoric; I am so ‘burnt’ on new-age talk)... but, it seems I will (as will he), to some degree, psychologically project my own needs, wants, and hurts (i.e., shadow) ... at some core level of our beings coming into ‘contact’ and seek “attention” from each other (if not from the world)... and I don’t want that motivation (below the surface) to be ignored but also not to dominate the creative original exchange—so, it is like the co-creation of Rafiq and Michael (perhaps Four Arrows) is some triangulating interior set of assemblages that are ‘supposed to’ come together and clash, crash and bang around on the open sea to see, and really see and love and potentially synergize... IF there is something useful for the present and future planetary condition—and IF it’s a “workable” relationship of the deepest intimacy (i.e., recognizing the historical, personal, fear, woundedness, and so on but also not being limited by it and working together, healing and transforming together)—a “fearlessness tribe”(?) (trio)... or whatever(?)... I’ll call it “soul level” stuff going on... and, again, exciting and disturbing for “me” (who ever that is?)... and, I want to own my part in this, and ensure if possible the relationship does not remain in the banal (“me” level) or in the critical philosophical and theoretical but extends and extends more—and, yet is very much also focused on the context of what Rafiq (and Four Arrows) and I bring forward as the critical background context for attempting to live a life in contextual (everyday world) “evil” (live, spelled backwards)—or what we could more technically call the Post-9/11 Era (Lie) and the Anthropocene Era (global warming and mass species extinctions to name a couple characteristics of this time period)—in short, the meta-context is everything to this exchange-- to Rafiq’s book and life, my own, and so on... and the meta-context (other critics and I also call the “culture of fear”) ain’t pretty!—it’s actually, rather terrifying—as, from many accounts and angles, it’s going to be a disastrous next 10-15 yrs of multiple cascading mega-crises synergizing, more or less—and, frankly, I’ve been “on” this contextual problem of the planet’s crises since I was 20 (1972 or so, when “Green House Gas” problem re: burning fossil fuels was already known as problematic to survival) and have never forgot what is happening in the post-industrial era of collapse and hitting the ‘limits of growth’ (hyper-expansionism ideologies) in the West and now globalized around the world—and, I used to say over those decades of “conscious” activism, education work, liberation work, and just living with a small eco- and ego- footprint that “we’re in big trouble, if we don’t soon change this or that”—then comes some ‘whack on my head’ and my discourse shifted (did I shift it? or did it shift and I picked it up?) and, that is, within the last 6 mo. particularly, with more information especially about climate change (we can’t seem to haul down CO2 levels below 400) add to that run-away predatory global economics with corporate oligarchies (pathologies) running a self-destruction paradigm, etc., that I find myself saying, “Oops, too little, too late, we’re past the point of no return, the “tipping” has just recently occurred and now we’re fucked!” –yet, what does that mean to me and others I may share that with and how then do we proceed to live a ‘good’ (ethical) life? I mean can I honestly, with good heart and intentions to “speak the truth” go up to a grade 2 class and say, “Hey, you kids, you know what is the truth about the context you are living in right now and what is predicted in the next 10-15 years as you are supposedly going to be graduating from high school?”

    (e) Rafiq’s book has ‘pushed me’ even farther along to face all this and, I’m glad for it and yet feel disturbed—and, I also can get very critical about how he has written about this and I keep asking, “what is he teaching others?” –and many questions... and I wonder how aware he is of what he is teaching and is he taking full responsibility for it? ---and, then, I say, “But why should he be under any of these questions from me, and also why should he be alone with it all?” (or maybe he isn’t alone with it all?)... thus, I return to what our relationship is and may become, and what critical praxis might be necessary to be “conscious” of crafting what we envision –if such is even something he wants? –reality is, I have since 1989 a very clear and strong soul vision (in various forms it all comes down to the Fearlessness Movement)... the actualizing of it is of course a whole other ball of wax... and, who will “join”... what co-creation may they bring? ... and/or it seems sometime people I meet (actually most often) don’t want to follow any movement or leader of a vision, or tradition... they want to learn a little and then go and do their own thing again... etc. I also know that impulse. However, unlike Rafiq, I (like Four Arrows) am no long 20, 30, 40, 50, ... now, nearing 65 next spring (I don’t likely have much more than 15 years of full capacities if all goes well—so, there’s a certain extra sense of ‘no more fooling around’—I want to work with a Sacred Warrior S. W. A. T. team... and...(?) bring on fearlessness like never before... or some such arrogant(?) notion... impulse... but, yes, I think that is the spirit of fearlessness itself ‘urging’ ‘pushing’—and, that is my surmise so far of Rafiq’s latest book and his life too (should I be so bold to assert)...

    (f) I know Four Arrows has no idea you and I are connecting... nor, that he is the ‘passage’ way to which we have found each other... I honor that he is doing what he is and right now has more important things than the ‘three of us’ (for e.g.), he has spent the past 3 wks ‘battling’ on the front-lines with the Indigenous people at Standing Rock, ND (re: the Dakota Pipeline fiasco)--btw, on p. 116 you mention you and Four Arrows publishing an article that challenges educators re: how they were teaching 9/11, and how you got "rejected four times by journals in Canada and the United States" only to find a Pakistani university journal published it finally--well, I actually was the one who gave Four Arrows the heads-up on that journal and editor, and I also published on "pedagogy of fearlessness" in that very controversial issue... another, story there.

    (g) as part of my own shadow work in examining the ‘troubled’ feelings and thoughts and near ‘dizziness’ at times of entering Rafiq’s world a bit—there’s the budding question for me: “Who does Rafiq remind you of in your life? Especially, those who have hurt you and/or undermined your emancipatory work? and/or those that have frustrated the hell out of you?” (something like that: What ‘Agents’ of the Matrix have you encountered before that ‘look’ and ‘talk’ like Rafiq? etc. –yes, I think The Wachowski Bros.’ sci-fi trilogy The Matrix is the perfect meta-narrative and meta-myth for our times, and I am sort of hoping that Rafiq will be aware of this and “into it” in some way, as we talk further)...

    [enough... I’ll leave this pizza-pie of mixed things for Rafiq to respond to or not]

    End Notes:

    1. Rafiq (meaning, “friend” and/or “friendly”) may tell us more about his spiritual name; it is well documented in his book (basically, given to him by a Sufi ‘guru’ when he was in India, around age 40(?) on a pilgrimage that was a kick-starter to his overall four-year traveling journey that makes up the focus of story in this book).

    2. I had a dream last night, I won’t go into per se, but I trust dreams can give important clues and guidance in life, just as the Indigenous peoples have known forever... to say the least, it involved me hearing an excerpt of a song, part of a big contest taking place in a big hall, and I was picked out among the crowd to possibly win the prize (a pair of U-2 concert tickets), the song excerpt played and I said, “Something. By The Beatles” and that was the right answer. I looked up on a Google search and found the George Harrison song on the Abby Road album (1969), rock tune, “Something” (in the way she moves)... and it was recorded under the title “Something” by Elvis Presley (1970), Shirley Bassey (1961), Frank Sinatra (1972), Joe Cocker (1969) and Musiq Soulchild (2002). I’m playing with the metaphor and energy of “Something” as I come to the emerging worldspace and processual relational exchange of Rafiq and I (and Four Arrows)... and, it is nothing too... and, maybe that’s all just another way to get to “Mysterious” (?) but without saying that word or envisioning it as mere rhetoric or cool spiritual talk, or anything like that—that would piss me off. “Something” is something more than merely something—is my intuition. Like, the proverbial phrase (but in a sacred way): “Rafiq is really something else” and so on... one could play with that, equally, with “Michael is really something else” and so on.

    • Michael’s statements in the following are from his comment above. My replies are interspersed.

      Michael: “I wonder if Rafiq identifies as a hippie, then, or now, why or why not? I'm very curious.”

      Rafiq: The term “hippie” is an oxymoron. Coming from the word “hip,” it refers to someone who is hip to the trends of the day. A follower of fashion. So in that sense it can be used pejoratively. But the “hippie” spirit is not about following trends and upholding the status quo; it’s about rebellion. More than that, it’s about a very specific move away from a model of life based on the exploitation of nature and toward a model of life based on harmony with nature. Rebellion and an alignment with the rhythms of nature are two things about the hippie ethos that I admire. Its professed preference for peace and heart-centered living is another. But I don’t call myself a “hippie” for two reasons:

      (1) Although in my memoir Days of Shock, Days of Wonder I am clear about what attracts me to the “hippies,” the term on its own is associated with too many experiences that are alien to me, such as true communal living, although I had a taste of that with the “wild” Sufis of northern India. Another example is the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs; my experience lies instead with the use of plant medicines under the guidance of a shaman. I am also not as “escapist” as the hippies are thought to be. In your initial response to the final four chapters of my book, you write, “It did strike me he’s a pleasure-seeking escape-from-society kind of beach-hugging ‘dharma bum.’” Yet my “escape from Babylon” was more about positioning myself to counter Babylon than about turning my back on the problems of Babylon. Having showed in the first half of the book that our democratic institutions are useless in the fight, I look in the second half of the book for holistic ways that can sustain my work, of which both my book and this dialogue are a part.

      (2) When people claim to be something righteous like a “hippie,” you can be sure that they are not that thing. Many people, for example, claim to be the adherent of this or that religion, yet nowhere can we find any one person who exemplifies what it means to be such a thing as the true follower of any religion. In my book, the person who readers might most identify as a hippie for her professed ethos is also the person whose selfishness causes me the most grief. In the wake of that episode, I write, “I’d pulled away from the hippie scene” (p. 145). There is no arriving at the ideals for which we thrive but only the pursuit, so it is best not to fool ourselves by claiming labels we have not earned.

      Michael: “At this point, I expect only that Rafiq will read some of my work and this Comment section but after that, there’s no expectation per se.”

      Rafiq: I have added your book The World’s Fearlessness Teachings to the list of books I will order the next time I have a box of books shipped to me in the little town where I live on the west coast of Mexico. No doubt I’ll be able to write a review sometime in the new year, akin to my review of Four Arrows’ Point of Departure. As for what you can expect from me in this exchange, I can only say that I intend to honor it because it feels like a gift and because it feels like the right conversation at the right time. I have certainly been wanting to have a serious dialogue with Four Arrows and others about what a real revolution should look like.

      Michael: “I want to work with a Sacred Warrior S.W.A.T. team ... and ... (?) bring on fearlessness like never before ... or some such arrogant (?) notion ... impulse ... but, yes, I think that is the spirit of fearlessness itself ‘urging,’ ‘pushing’—and, that is my surmise so far of Rafiq’s latest book and his life too (should I be so bold to assert).”

      Rafiq: Everybody’s life derives its meaning from something different. For me, there has always been something inside stirring me to make things right. As a bow-legged, barrel-chested, still-chubby five year old, I would break up any fights I saw on the playground at recess. This behavior continued throughout my life; I must have broken up a fistfight each of the fifteen years I lived in Montreal as an adult. So, yes, a “spirit of fearlessness” has always pushed me along when it comes to doing what seems right, from making peace in the street to promoting 9/11 truth as a way to end wars. How fearless I have been with respect to other things in my life is another matter entirely.

      Michael: “I have really noticed a kind of ‘bashfulness’ coming up inside me, almost in reaction to Rafiq’s raw memoir-style and getting so much attention on it as he puts it out there—and, I’d love to write my own, but I am finding lots of ‘blocks’ telling me why that isn’t the best thing to do and why it is not that important—so, thanks Rafiq for bringing up that mess of ambivalence in me and, of course, I will thus have ambivalence about your (deep motivations) re: sharing so much about yourself.”

      Rafiq: I had a lot of ambivalence about writing this memoir. But I’m a writer. That’s what I bring to the table. And my material is my life. So I have used that material to speak about the things that are important to me, like the truth about 9/11 and the deep state politics of our globalizing world as well as the spiritual dimensions of the problems we face as individuals and as a global society. When I tell people that my book is a memoir, I am sure to tell them that it is not about me in the way that a memoir by a famous person is about everything that has made that person who he or she is. Rather, it is about the spiritual and political context of the 9/11 age in which we are living. So the book narrates only experiences in my life that relate to those two themes. It was in part Four Arrows who convinced me that using memoir in this way could be effective. He calls this type of writing “auto-ethnography,” which one dictionary defines as “a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings.” As for my “deep motivations,” then, in writing about myself, I can assure you that my intention was not to put myself in the spotlight or on a pedestal. The last thing the world needs is another hero. But we are each the hero of our own journey, aren’t we? As Leonard Cohen says, “I’d die for the truth in my secret life.” My book tells of my struggle to escape Babylon so that I might return one day with the elixir that will save us because I hope that readers will be inspired to make a similar journey, if only realized in the psyche. Finally, I should say that I’m surprised my memoir strikes you as “raw” in the sense of overly self-revealing. I feel that what I show in the book is but a small fraction of myself. Rather than raw, the portrait that I offer strikes me as an artifice like any other work of art. Friends who’ve read it can attest that it’s all true, but it’s not the whole truth. How could it ever be?

      Michael: “The reading of his book has left me ‘wired’ a little or in a ‘buzz’ and also very serious as to what is ‘wanting’ to be engaged (or what I imagine is being engaged)—like it is from another ‘dimension’ it feels like at times ... I have ‘met someone, something here’ (albeit, in text, online)—it feels extraordinarily ‘deep’—and I don’t really have a clear sense of the something … I’ll call it ‘soul level’ stuff going on ... and, again, exciting and disturbing for ‘me’ (whoever that is?).”

      Rafiq: The fact that we are having this exchange is perhaps a testament to the other dimensionality you mention. We know that matter is a form that energy takes. In effect, everything material has its energetic complement. Everything occurs on both the material and the energetic plane. The energetic plane can feel other-dimensional. And deep. And beyond our ken. It certainly did while I was living and then writing about the more “mystical” events of Days of Shock, Days of Wonder. Perhaps you are reacting to that aspect of the book.

      Michael: “I find myself saying, ‘Oops, too little, too late, we’re past the point of no return, the ‘tipping’ has just recently occurred and now we’re fucked!’—yet, what does that mean to me and others I may share that with and how then do we proceed to live a ‘good’ (ethical) life? … Rafiq’s book has ‘pushed me’ even farther along to face all this and, I’m glad for it and yet feel disturbed—and, I also can get very critical about how he has written about this and I keep asking, ‘what is he teaching others?’ –and many questions ... and I wonder how aware he is of what he is teaching and is he taking full responsibility for it?”

      Rafiq: I’m aware of what I’m “teaching,” not that I would call it that. I don’t claim to teach in the sense of offering anything new. I’m an explainer more than an original teacher. My holistic worldview, in which I understand the creator and creation as synonymous, has been expounded by many before me. In the 1600s Baruch Spinoza argued that where there is matter, there is the mind of God; and in the 1900s Albert Einstein showed that where there is matter, there is energy. Mind/energy and matter are the same thing. My mystical experience of and engagement with life is consistent with this understanding. And, in any case, we are really just talking about pantheism of the kind long espoused by Hinduism, wherein Brahman is regarded as, to quote Huston Smith’s The Religions of Man, “being, awareness, and bliss. Utter Reality, utterly conscious” (pp. 64-5). Or perhaps you are concerned more that my exit from Babylon models a response to the question of how to live “a ‘good’ (ethical) life” in the face of our global woes that is untenable or otherwise objectionable.

      Michael: “The Matrix is the perfect meta-narrative and meta-myth for our times, and I am sort of hoping that Rafiq will be aware of this and ‘into it’ in some way, as we talk further.”

      Rafiq: The Matrix, as portrayed in the film trilogy, is a perfect metaphor for a holistic, interconnected, pantheistic reality. Just as the material world of the Matrix is the product of strings of zeroes and ones in a computer, which is a kind of single mind, so too is our material world the product of energy/mind itself. In my first book, Gaj: The End of Religion, I write, “string theory evokes the image of a universe comprised of material strings plucking themselves into greater vibrational, or musical, materiality (like Coleridge’s ‘organic Harps’)” (p. 50). The Matrix is also a good example of us creating in our own image. Just as we are each networked into the single energy that animates what physicists call “the non-local universe,” meaning an energy that is not in a single location but everywhere at once, so too are the characters of the Matrix trilogy networked into a computer, or single mind.

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