Feb 9, 2018

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Hello friends!
Here's episode 20 where I go deeeeeeeep into the woods and tall grass and the reaches of space with Dr. David Shorter. David is the the author of We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances, a healer, and a professor at UCLA, where he teaches courses like "Aliens, Psychics, and Ghosts," "Meditation for College Students" and more. David is awesome, and we don't hold back in this conversation, and I'm so happy with it.  

This is the first episode in February - and one of three in a row that will be looking at reality claims, objectivity, and postmodernism. All in plain language, hopefully, even if there's a little inside baseball here and there.


  • Spirituality as capitalist consumption
  • How to avoid appropriation but not blind yourself to other cultures
  • Allies and their blind spots
  • Why "I'm not religious but I'm spiritual" doesn't describe anything
  • Why social justice narratives can become scientistic materialism
  • How do we accept the truth value of different spiritual pathways even though we can't have access to them?
  • You should be working in the language of the community you're working in
  • Why do philosophers and activists privilege language so much?
  • We experience the world in content, not language
  • When a snake is a place
  • Why you shouldn't trust talking butterflies and coyotes, but squirrels that run away from you are cool
  • There are different scientific methods, and some are better than others
  • Why plants don't come from seeds
  • The scientific method turns the world into objects, and capitalism likes objects
  • Objectification is not dehumanization
  • The spread of English objectifies the mental world (or "objectivate" it)
  • I get mildly cranky about Chapo Traphouse for a sec
  • Why is the Left obsessed with denigrating spirituality and worshipping science with very little power critique
  • How our medical concepts create new diseases
  • Dear indigenous people: "Sorry for everything we've ever done to you, now save us."
  • So-called "alternative" medicine is often just allopathic medicine in disguise
  • How responsible are you for your pain
  • Health and healing is a language
  • How my Syrian grandmother survived cancer without knowing about it


Here's David's website, which has a link to all his articles, his book, and more. Lots of stuff, good stuff, there.

David has been heavily influenced by the philosopher Martin Buber, whose main work is I and Thou

The Ludwig Wittgenstein quote is "If a lion could talk, we would not understand him." I love Wittgenstein, and he's a huge influence on me and my thinking and he keeps coming up. If you want to get into his work, the best place to start is Culture and Value. Or if you want to do a just the tip sort of thing with Wittgenstein, you can read Michael Taussig's excellent essay, "The Corn Wolf" in his book of the same title

The story I relate about the aboriginal guide and the dogs is in a book about animism by Graham Harvey. But David and I were thinking of two different Graham Harvey animism books. The one I mean, which is excellent, is Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey. The one he means, which is also excellent, is The Handbook of Contemporary Animism edited by Graham Harvey. Both are great.

David refers to himself as a Whorf-Sapirian (or a Sapir-Whorfian), alluding to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which, in its most basically stated form means that the language we use shapes the way we experience reality. Another way of stating this, as per Edward Sapir himself: ""Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society."  Here's a good summary with tons of links. There are also links to critiques. (As you can hear in the episode, I tend not to agree with the hypothesis, but not because I think all languages lead to the same view of the world, but because it has the wrong picture of language and what it does.)

Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows is such a profound and beautiful book, and you should read it right away. Seriously.

I mention Goethe's method of science as a (very inexact!) Western corollary to some indigenous ways of seeing. If you don't believe this could be possible (or if you do!), I urge you to investigate Goethe's profound scientific works. I learned about them and used them as a student at the amazing Nature Institute, which offers a variety of (in person, not online) courses every year.

David's mentor, Kenneth M. Morrison, was a renowned native studies professor, and you can read his book The Solidarity of Kin.

You probably listen to Chapo Traphouse, or you've seen one of the hosts, Felix Biederman, on AEWCH  - The episode I have in mind is Episode 174.

If you haven't read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions it's just waiting for you. Sidenote: Ludwig Fleck said everything Kuhn said, and said it first.

You can read more about the gold coins in the vaginas and so on in Alejandro Jodorowsky's profoundly crazy and stunning book, Psychomagic

Esther Hicks is a super high vibe get into the vortex and manifest all you want force! She's pretty great if you can just get past your bullshit and listen.

I mention Daskalos, whose work has been such a profound influence in my life. You can read about him in the overwhelmingly beautiful and absolutely mind-blowing book The Magus of Strovolos.

*NOTE: I'm ditching the time signatures, because only a few people use them and they take me literally 2X the episode length to make. So I could be at it four 4 hours just to make those fuckers. If you miss them and are willing to step up and make them for me, let me know!


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