I was delighted to interview Charles Eisenstein as part of the Embodiment Conference, 2018. The interview has recently been released as a podcast and this was the first time I’d sat and listened to it. I initially heard how his ideas echo those I’m already familiar with; the voice of Deep Ecology, notably Joanna Macy, and ideas that the spiritual activist Starhawk has explored. I was playing philosophical bingo, ticking off ideas I have on my ‘embodied ecology’ list. I realized that I wasn’t really listening to what Charles was saying, how he’s taking those familiar ideas and reworking them. So I’m going to drop all my preconceptions here, and come to Charles’ words with a beginners ear.
Charles Eisenstein identifies the ‘Story of Separation’ that has prevailed for centuries. It’s that sadly familiar story that divides to rule: It drives a wedge between humans and nature and splits sacred spirit from ‘profane’ body. But a new story is arising that will transcend the old dualities and allow us to discover the true community of human and nature.
A deeper awareness of our embodiment is fundamental to this new story: The body is not “a flesh robot”! Charles speaks of the “relational function” that deeper embodiment opens us to, pointing out that “You are the totality of your relationships”. This belief leads him to challenge the consensus approach to climate change campaigning. Instead of emphasizing the increasing potential for disaster – a fear based strategy – he focuses on developing a “participatory mindset” that would reveal the fundamental connection between humans and the rest of nature. “What do we serve as beings on this Earth?” That service comes from love, not fear.
We also talked about the spiritual dimension of activism. Charles emphasized the need to work on ourselves and how that inner work mirrors our outer relational engagement. He’s interested in the foundational “ground conditions that give rise to the world destroying machine”. There are numerous ways to respond to that question and these invite us to ask “What is my call to service?” We can draw on our intuition, our “embodied orientating system”, to help answer that question.
Charles is refreshingly comfortable with not knowing. Accepting that “I don’t know” allows us to be with the “vacuum of humility”, and opens a space that allows for creative responses. He has a very Taoist approach: Rather than trying to make yourself change, “give attention to what wants to happen”, and let “changes come from that”.
You can hear the full interview.