William Irwin Thompson, Part 2 (Thinking Together at the Edge of History)
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This week we continue the special two-part conversation with historian, poet, and mythographer William Irwin Thompson. Author of dozens of sweeping works of synthetic insight, Bill Thompson’s greatest work may not have been a book but a community: The Lindisfarne Association, a post-academic “intellectual concert” for the “study and realization of a new planetary culture,” which anchored in various locations across the United States as a flesh-and-blood meta-industrial village for most of its forty years.  

In his latest and last book, Thinking Together at the Edge of History, Thompson looks back on the failures and successes of this project, which he regards as a “first crocus” budding up through the snow of our late-industrial dark age to herald the arrival of a planetary renaissance still yet to come.  

This episode pivots from a contemplation of Lindisfarne’s history to our navigation of the turbulence between two world eras – how will we weather all this change, and what new life and worldview awaits us on the other side?

We talk about surfing the “winds of creative destruction” in a highly volatile digital economy; the emergence of the elemental spirits of the land into our demon-haunted crystalline electronic infrastructure; the future of parenting in a world too fast and too complex for public schooling or the nuclear family; the tension between emergent new media and art forms and the traditional forms of novel/poem/painting/song/etc.; the relationship between improvisational speaking and spiritual channeling; and the experience of being an “entelechy,” a multitude of smaller agencies comprising an ecology of self, an endosymbiotic “Homo gestalt.”

Bill speaks candidly and fluently about his unusual life history as a parent and living journey as an aging mystic, bringing erudite historic overview together with a surprisingly frank perspective on his transpersonal experiences. It’s an honor to be able to share this discussion with you…


“Mysticism is relevant now because it’s a good description of the daily news; it’s just responsible journalism that there is this mystical quality to an ethereal economy that is electronically blipping wealth back and forth in this computerized online banking world.”

“When you have an oxymoronic culture with the djinn inhabiting the computers and moving into the cognitive space symbiotically with human beings, the definition of the environment is changing and that which is invisible to the materialist or the industrialist is now recognized as an endosymbiont with us – so it becomes like the cell with the mitochondria.”

“Depressions and catastrophes are transitions from one system to another in complex dynamical systems, so you have to step back and look at the big picture. And if you try to keep the accounts in a small container, where you say, ‘Nothing is stable! Nothing can be held’ Well, why is Buddhism so popular? Because that’s exactly what Buddhism is saying! If you attach and you’re grasping, you’re going to suffer.”

“We see [the change] but we always see it negatively. We see the crash but not the imaginary future that’s emerging.”

“When the family always lived together in the nuclear family, what do you have? They were always arguing and fighting…compression isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s what Whitehead would call ’the fallacy of simple location.’ So I embrace that the environment is now planetary. It’s person-planet. And through Skype and things like this, I’m in constant communication with the family, and that’s okay.”

“As you develop your subtle bodies through yoga…when you reach a certain point, you get what I call a ‘matching grant,’ like how a foundation gives matching grants, and if your evolutionary sheath reaches a certain point, then a being comes to cohabit-ate with you in your auric extended ecology.” 

“You don’t want to have a hungry ghost as a daemonic guide, so discrimination is definitely called for.”

“Some [bacteria] you need in your stomach to digest, and if they get in the wrong place and they’re out of timing, they’re not so good. If Godzilla tramps through Times Square, it’s not a good thing. If he goes for a walk in the Jurassic, it’s okay.”


Again, here are the links to the first two chats we had in 2011 and 2013, as well as to my video remix of one of Bill’s lectures with footage from Burning Man. Enjoy and be sure to check out Bill’s awesome books, as well as his extensive lecture series archived online with the Lindisfarne Tapes!

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