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Return of the Witch

by Marvin Harris
Printing version

After being branded as superstition and suffering years of ridicule, witchcraft has returned as a respectable source of titillation. Not only witchcraft, but all kinds of occult and mystical specialties, ranging from astrology to Zen and including meditation, Hare Krishna, and the I Ching, an ancient Chinese system of magic. Catching the spirit of the times, a textbook titled Modern Cultural Anthropology recently won instant success by declaring: "Human freedom includes the freedom to believe."

The unexpected resurgence of attitudes and theories long held to be incompatible with the expansion of Western science and technology is associated with the development of a lifestyle which has been given the name "counter-culture." According to Theodore Roszak, one of the movement's adult prophets, counter-culture will save the world from the "myths of objective consciousness." It will "subvert the scientific world view" and substitute a new culture in which the "non-intellective capacities" will reign supreme. Charles A. Reich, another minor prophet of recent years, speaks of a millennial state of mind which be calls Consciousness III. To achieve Consciousness III is "to be deeply suspicious of logic, rationality, analysis and of principles."

In the lifestyle of the counter-culture, feelings, spontaneity, imagination are good; science, logic, objectivity are bad. Its members boast of fleeing "objectivity" as if from a place inhabited by plague.

A central aspect of counter-culture is the belief that consciousness controls history. People are what goes on in their minds; to make them better, all you have to do is give them better ideas. Objective conditions count for little. The entire world is to be altered as a result of a "revolution in consciousness." All we need do to stop crime, end poverty, beautify cities, eliminate war, live in peace and harmony with ourselves and nature, is to open our minds to Consciousness III. "Consciousness is prior to structure. . . The whole corporate state rests on nothing but consciousness."

In the counter-culture, consciousness is stimulated and made aware of its untapped potential. Counter-culture people take journeys--"head trips" -- to broaden their minds. They use pot, LSD, or mushrooms -- to get their heads together." They rap, encounter, or chant in order to "freak out" with Jesus, Buddha, Mao Tse-tung.

The aim is to express consciousness, demonstrate consciousness, alter consciousness, raise consciousness, expand consciousness--anything but objectify consciousness. To the Aquarian, mind-blown, stoned, freaked-out partisans of Consciousness ill, reason is an invention of the military-industrial complex. it should be "offed" like any other "pig."

Psychedelic, drugs are useful because they allow "illogical" relationships to seem "perfectly natural." They are good because, in Reich's words, they make "unreal what society takes most seriously: time schedules, rational connections, competition, anger, excellence, authority, private property, law, status, the primacy of the state." They are a "truth serum that repeals false consciousness." One who has achieved Consciousness 111 "does not 'know the facts. He doesnt have to because he still 'knows the truth that seems hidden from others."

Counter-culture celebrates the supposedly natural life of primitive peoples. Its members wear beads, head-bands, body paint, and colorful tattered clothing; they yearn to be a tribe. They seem to believe that tribal peoples are non-materialistic, spontaneous, and reverently in touch with occult sources of enchantment.

In the anthropology of counter-culture, primitive consciousness is epitomized by the shaman, a figure who has light and power but never pays electric bills. Shamans are admired because they are adept at "cultivating exotic states of awareness" and at roving "among the hidden powers of the universe." The shaman possesses "superconsciousness." He has "eyes of fire that burn through the ordinariness of the world and perceive the wonders and terrors beyond." Using hallucinogens and other techniques such as self-asphyxiation, and hypnotic drums and dance rhythms, the shaman, according to Roszak, "cultivates his rapport with the non-intellective sources of the personality as assiduously as any scientist trains himself to objectivity."

There is much to be learned about the counter-culture from a consideration of Carlos Castanedas popular hero Don Juan, a mysterious super-conscious Yaqui Indian "man of. knowledge." Castaneda writes of his experiences as a fledgling anthropology student who wanted to penetrate the separate, non-ordinary reality of the shamans world. Don Juan accepted Castaneda as an apprentice, and Castaneda set out to write a doctoral dissertation based on Don Juans teachings. To remake

Castaneda into a "man of knowledge," Don Juan introduced the innocent student to various hallucinogenic substances. After encountering a transparent luminescent dog and a hundred-foot gnat, Casteneda began to doubt that his normal reality was any more real than the nonordinary reality to which his mentor had conducted him. At the outset, Castaneda was intent on finding out how a "man of knowledge" conceives of the world. But the apprentice gradually began to feel that he was learning something about the world itself.

"It is stupid and wasteful," noted another anthropologist, Paul Riesman, in a New York Times book review, "to think of Don Juans knowledge--and that of other non-Western peoples--as no more than a conception of some fixed reality. Castaneda makes it c1ear that the teachings of Don Juan do tell us something of how the world really is."

Wrong on both counts. Castaneda does not make anything clear. And Don Juans "separate reality" is not unfamiliar to "Western peoples."

Castanedas most famous hallucinogenic trip is very reminiscent of matters I discussed here earlier. Don Juan and Castaneda spent several days preparing a paste from yerba del diabla--"devils weed"--mixed with lard and other ingredients. Under Don Juans supervision, the apprentice spread the paste on the soles of his feet and up the insides of his legs, reserving the largest part for his genitals. The paste bad a suffocating, pungent smell--"like a gas of some sort." Castaneda straightened up and started to walk, but his legs felt "rubbery and long, extremely long."

I looked down and saw Don Juan sitting below me; way below me. The momentum carried me forward one more step, which was even more elastic and longer than the preceding one. And from there I soared. I remember coming down once; then I pushed up with both feet, sprang backwards and glided on my back. 1 saw the dark sky above me, the clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary.

After learning how to maneuver by turning his head, Castaneda experienced "such freedom and swiftness as he had never known before." At last he felt obliged to descend. It was morning and he was naked and a half-mile from where he had set out. Don Juan assured him that with practice he would become a better flyer:

You can soar through the air for hundreds of miles to see what Is happening at any place you want, or to deliver a fatal blow to your enemies far away.

Castaneda asked his teacher, "Did I really fly, Don Juan?" and the shaman replied, "Thats what you told me. Didnt you?"

Then I really didnt fly, Don Juan. I flew in my imagination~ in my mind alone. Where was my body?

To Which Don Juan rejoined:

You dont think a man flies; and yet a brujo [witch] can move a thousand miles in one second to see what is going on. He can deliver a blow to his enemies long distances away. So does he or doesnt he fly?

Does this sound familiar? It should. What are Don Juan and Castaneda debating if not the respective merits of the Canon Episcopi and Institor and Sprengers Hammer of the Witches? Does the witch fly in mind alone or in body also? At last, Castaneda asks Don Juan what would happen if he tied himself to a rock with a heavy chain: "Fm afraid you will have to fly holding the rock with its heavy chain."

As we learned from Professor Harner, European witches flew after rubbing themselves with salves and unguents containing the skin-penetrating alkaloid afro-pine. Professor Harner also informs us that atrophic is an active ingredient in the Datura genus of plants, known in the New World as Jimson weed, thorn apple, Gabriels trumpet, mad apple,and devils weed--the last being the variety whose root made Castaneda airborne. In fact, Harner predicted that Castaneda would fly like a witch before Castaneda rubbed himself with devils weed.

Several years ago I ran across a reference to the use of a Datura ointment by the Yaqui Indians of Northern Mexico, who reportedly rubbed it on the stomach "jo see visions." I called this to the attention of my colleague and friend, Carlos Castaneda, who was studying under a Yaqui shaman, and asked him to find out if the Yaqui used the ointment for flying and to determine its effects.

So shamanistic superconsciousness is the consciousness of witches favorably regarded in a world no longer threatened by the Inquisition. The "separate reality" previously unknown to smugly objective "Western peoples" is so much a part of Western civilization that a scant three hundred years ago "objectiflers" were burned at the stake for denying that witches could fly.

In the first chapter, I cited the claim that the expansion of "objective consciousness" inevitably results in a loss of "moral sensibility." Counter-culture and Consciousness III represent themselves as humanizing trends concerned with the restoration of sentiment, compassion, love, and mutual trust in human relation-ships. I find it difficult to reconcile this moral posture with the interest expressed in witchcraft and shamanism.

Don Juan, for instance, can only be described as amoral. He may know how to "rove among the hidden powers of the universe," but he is not troubled by the difference between good and evil in the traditional Western sense of morality. His teachings are, in fact, devoid of "moral sensibility."

One incident in Castaneda s second book epitomizes the moral opacity of the shaman's

super-consciousness more than any other. Having achieved fame and fortune with The Teachings of Don Juan, Castaneda tried 'to find his mentor to give him a copy. While waiting for Don Juan to appear, Castaneda studied a pack of street urchins who lived by eating scraps left on the tables in his hotel. After three days of watching the children darting in and out "like vultures," Castaneda became "truly despondent." Don Juan was surprised to hear this. "Do you really feel sorry for them?" he wanted to know. Castaneda insisted that be did, and Don Juan asked him, 'Why?"

Because I m concerned with the well-being of my fellow men. Those are children and their world is ugly and cheap.

Castaneda does not say that he feels sorry for the children because they are eating the scraps he has left on the table. What seems to bother him is that their lives are "ugly and cheap." Hunger and poverty give rise to bad thoughts, or bad dreams. Taking the cue, Don Juan admonished his pupil for supposing that such waifs could not mature mentally and become "men of know!edge":

Do you think that your very rich world would ever help you to become a man of knowledge?

When Castaneda is forced to admit that his affluence hasn't helped him to become a successful witch, Don Juan nails him:

Then how can you feel sorry for those children?. . . Any of them could become a man of knowledge. All the men of knowledge I know were kids like those you saw eating leftovers and licking tables.

For many members of the counter-culture, the morally most degenerate product of the scientific world view is the technocrat the heartless, inscrutable technician devoted to expert knowledge, but indifferent as to who uses it and for what end. Yet Don Juan is precisely such a technocrat. The knowledge he imparts to Castaneda carries no moral burden. In becoming a "man of knowledge," Castaneda s main concern is to avoid taking something that will flip him into a permanent orbit. For all the moral concern about how Don Juan s extraordinary powers are to be applied, Castaneda might as well have learned howto pilot a B-52. His relationship to Don Juan unfolds in a moral wasteland in which technology is the supreme good, even if he and his teacher eat "buttons" instead of pressing them. I contend that it is quite impossible to subvert objective knowledge without subverting 'the basis of moral judgments. If we cannot know with reasonable certainty who did what, when, and where, we can scarcely hope to render a moral account of ourselves. Not being able to distinguish between criminal and victim, rich and poor, exploiter and exploited, we must either advocate the total suspension of moral judgments, or adopt the inquisitorial position and hold people responsible for what they do in each other s dreams.

As Time magazine reporters discovered while trying to do a story on Carlos Castaneda, Consciousness III can cast an impenetrable fog over the simplest human events. Invoking his freedom of belief, Castaneda either fabricated, imagined, or hallucinated extensive portions of his own biography:

Born in Peru, not Brazil

Date of birth 1925, not 1935

Mother died when he was 6, not 24

Father a jeweler, not a professor of literature

Studied painting and sculpture in Lima, not Milan

"To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics," said Castaneda, "is like using science to validate sorcery. It robs the world of its magic."

According to Castaneda, Don Juan is the same way, The worlds most famous shaman doesnt want to be photographed, tape-recorded, ir questioned, even by his apprentice. No one except Castaneda appears to know who Don Juan is. Castaneda freely admits: "Oh, Im a bullshitter! Oh, how I love to throw the bull around"; at least one friend from Peru remembers him asa"big liar."

Don Juan may not exist. Or perhaps we should say Castaneda met a Yaqui witch in "mind" but not in "body." On the authority of the Inquisition, this might still have resulted in an accurate account of Don Juans teachings. Or, perhaps, Castaneda went sometimes in "imagination" and other times in "body." These are intriguing ideas, but they can make only an imaginary contribution to the improvement of anyones moral sensibilities.

Counter-culture makes claims that extend far beyond the supposed preservation of individual morality. Its advocates insist that superconsciousness can make the world into a more friendly and more habitable place; they see flight from objectivity as a politically effective way to achieve an equitable distribution of wealth, recycling of resources, abolition of impersonal bureaucracies, and the correction of other dehumanizing aspects of modern technocratic sccieties. These ills allegedly come from the bad ideas we have about status and work. If we stop trying to show off, and if we stop believing that work is a good thing in itself, revolutionary transformation will occur without the need for anyone to get hurt. As in fairyland, "we can make a new choice whenever we are ready to do so."

Capitalism, the corporate state, the age of science, the Protestant ethic -- all represent types of consciousness, and they can be altered by choosing a new consciousness. "All we have to do is close our eyes and imagine that everyone has become a Consciousness III. The Corporate State vanishes. . . The power of the Corporate State will be ended as miraculously as a kiss breaks a witchs evil enchantment."

Consciousness so far out of touch with practical and mundane constraints is, in fact, witchcraft rather than politics. People can change their consciousness whenever they want to. But people usually dont want to. Consciousness is adapted to practical and mundane conditions. These conditions cannot be imagined into or out of existence the way a shaman makes hundred-foot gnats appear and disappear. As I pointed out earlier in the chapter on potlatch, prestige systems are not created by vibrations from outer space. People learn the consciousness of competitive consumerism because they are constrained to do so by immensely powerful political and economic forces. These forces can be modified only by practical activities aimed at changing consciousness by changing the material conditions of consciousness.

Counter-cultures glad tidings of revolution by consciousness are neither new nor revolutionary. Christianity has been trying to achieve a revolution by consciousness for two thousand years. Who would deny that Christian consciousness could have changed the world? Yet it was the world that changed Christian consciousness. If everybody adopted a peaceful, loving, generous, non-competitive lifestyle, we could have something better than counter-culture--we could have the Kingdom of God.

Politics conceived in the image of Consciousness III takes place in the mind, not the body. The convenience of this form of politics to those who already possess wealth and power should be obvious. To reflect philosophically that poverty is, after all, a state of mind has always been a source of comfort for those who are not poor. In this regard, counter-culture merely brings forward in slightly modified form the traditional contempt expressed by Christian theorists for worldly possessions. Also traditional and within the mainstream of conservative politics is the guarantee that nothing will happen by force. Consciousness III will destroy the corporate state "without violence, without seizure of political power, without overthrow of any existing group of people." Counter-culture is sworn to attack minds, not capital gains or depletion allowances.

By definition, counter-culture is the lifestyle of alienated middle-class college-educated youth. Specifically excluded are those who "continue to tend the ashes of the proletarian revolution" and "the militant black young." The hope that counter-culture will transform society into "something a human being can identify as home" rests on the fact that it is a middle-class movement. What makes it so important "is that a radical rejection of science and technological values should appear so close to the center of our society, rather than on -the negligible margins. It is the middle-class young who are conducting this politics of consciousness."

Aside from the question of whether a politics of pure consciousness should be called politics rather than witchcraft or some other form of magic, two other dubious points should be noted. First, counter-culture does not reject technological values in tow; second, the rejection of a certain kind of science has always been present at the very center of our civilization.

Counter-culture is not averse to making use of the technological products of "objective" scientific research.

Telephones, FM stations, solid-state stereos, cheap jet ffights, estrogen birth-control pills, and chemical hallucinogens and antidotes are essential to the good life of Consciousness III.

Moreover, dependence on high-decibel high-fidelity music has created the greatest degree of subordination of a popular idiom to technology in the history of the performing arts. At least tacitly, therefore, counterculture accepts the existence of specialists in the physical and biological sciences whose job it is to design and maintain the lifestyles technological infrastructure.

The most hated forms of science in the perspective of Consciousness III are not the laboratory sciences, but those which seek to apply laboratory standards to the study of history and lifestyles. Counter-culture depicts the turning away from the scientific study of lifestyles and history as if it were a departure from some deeply ingrained pattern. But even among so-called behavioral and social scientists, the prevailing form of knowledge is not and never has been what the counter-culture saysit is. How can anyone react to an overdose of the science of lifestyles when the science of lifestyles insists that the riddles examined in the previous chapters of this book have no scientific explanation? Extensive "objectification" in the study of lifestyle phenomena is nothing but a myth of the social dreamwork of the counter-culture. The prevailing consciousness among the majority of professionals concerned with explaining lifestyle phenomena is virtually indistinguishable from Consciousness III.

If the return of the witch involved turning the physics, chemistry, and biology labs over to people who disdain objective evidence and rational analysis, we would have little to fear. The exercise of the freedom of belief in the laboratory could only be a temporary inconvenience until the charred remains of superconscious experimenters were swept out along with the rubble they created. Unfortunately, obscurantism applied to lifestyles does not sell-destruct. Doctrines that prevent people from understanding the causes of their social existence have great social value. In a society dominated by in-equitable modes of production and exchange, lifestyle studies that obscure and distort the nature of the social system are far more common and more highly valued than the mythological "objective" studies dreaded by the counter-culture. Obscurantism applied to lifestyle studies lacks the engineering "praxis" of the laboratory sciences. Falsifiers, mystics, and double-talkers do not get swept out with the rubble; in fact, there is no rubble because everything goes on just as it always did.

In previous chapters I have shown that profoundly mystified consciousness is sometimes capable of galvanizing dissent into effective mass movements. We have seen how successive forms of messianism in Palestine, Europe, and Melanesia carried forward vast revolutionary impulses aimed at more equitable distributions of wealth and power. And we have also seen how the Renaissance Church and state used the witch craze to enchant and befuddle the communitarian radicals.

Where does counter-culture fit into this? Is it a conservative or a radical force? In its own dreamwork, counter-culture identifies with the tradition of millenariam transformation. Theodore Roszak says the primary goal of counter-culture is to proclaim "a new heaven and a new earth," and in its formative phase, Consciousness III brought crowds of dissenting youth together at rock concerts and antiwar protests. But even at the peak of its organizational efficiency, counterculture lacked the fundamentals of messianism. It had no charismatic leaders and it lacked a vision of a well-defined moral order. In Consciousness III, leadership is another trick of the military-industrial complex, and as I indicated a moment ago, a set of well-defined moral goals cannot be reconciled with the amoral relativism of shamans like Don Juan.

The flight from objectivity, amoral relativism and acceptance of the omnipotence of thought speak of the witch and not the savior. Consciousness III has all the classic symptoms of a lifestyle dreamwork whose social function is to dissolve and fragment the energies of dissent. This should have been clear from the great importance given to "doing your own thing." You cant make a revolution if everybody does his own thing. To make a revolution, everybody must do the same thing.

So, the return of the witch is not a mere inscrutable bit of whimsy. The modern witchcraft revival has definite points of similarity with the late medieval craze. Of course there are many important differences. The modern witch is admired while the old witch is feared.

No one in the counter-culture wants to burn anyone either for believing or disbelieving in witches; Reich and Roszak are not Institor and Sprenger; and the counter-culture fortunately has no commitment to any specific body of dogma. Yet we are left with the fact that the counter-culture and the Inquisition stand shoulder to shoulder on the issue of the witchs ffight. Within counter-cultures freedom to believe, witches are once more as believable as anything else. This belief, for all its playful innocence, makes a definite contribution to the consolidation or stabilization of contemporary inequalities. Millions of educated youth seriously believe that the proposal to kiss away the corporate state as if it were an "evil enchantment" is no less effective or realistic than any other form of political consciousness. Like its medieval predecessor, our modern witch fad blunts and befuddles the forces of dissent. Like the rest of the counter-culture, it postpones the development of a rational set of political commitments. And that is why it is so popular among the more affluent segments of our population. That Is why the witch has returned.


If the witch is here, can the savior be far behind?

A case has been made by Norman Cohn in his book The Pursuit of the Millenium for linking the messianic movements that preceded the Protestant Reformation with the secular convulsions of the twentieth century. Despite their contempt for the specific myths and legends of JudeO-Christian messianism, the lifestyle consciousness of figures like Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini arose from a set of practical and mundane conditions similar to those responsible for the rise of such religious saviors as John of Leyden, Müntzer, and even--I would add--Manahem, Bar Kochva, and Yali. Secular, atheistic military messiahs share with their religious predecessors a "boundless, millennial promise made with boundless, prophet-like conviction." Like the Judeo-Christian saviors, they claim to be personally charged with the mission of bringing history to a preordained consummation. For Hitler it was to be the Thousand Year Reich purified of the polypus of the Jews and other in-dwelling witches and devils; for Lenin, it was to be the Communist Jerusalem whose motto was that of the first Christian commune: "And all that believed were together and had all things in common." Or as Trotsky put it: "Let the priests of all religious confessions tell of a paradise in the world beyond--we say we will create a true paradise for men on this earth." For the alienated, insecure, marginal, pauperized, bedeviled, and bewitched masses, the secular messiah promises redemption and fulfillment on a cosmic scale. Not only a chance to improve ones everyday existence, but total involvement in a mission of "stupendous, unique importance."

Measured by the grandiose visions of military-messianic consciousness, counter-culture appears to be a relatively harmless affirmation of the futility of political struggle, either of the right, left, or center. But complacency is an apt response to Consciousness UI only in, the short run and in the absence of any well-formed dis-. cipline capable of explaining the causal processes of history.

The intended "subversion of the scientific world view" is npt dangerous because it actually threatens any part of the technological infrastructure of our civilization. Counter-culture enthusiasts are as dependent upon higher energy transport, solid-state electronics, and the mass production of textiles and food as the rest of us, and they lack both the will and the knowledge necessary for a reversion to more primitive forms of production and communication. At any rate, there is nothing to fear from any sect, class, or nation that fails to participate in the further advance of nuclear, cybernetic, and biophysical technology. Such groups will inevitably suffer the fate of the other Stone Age peoples of the twentieth century. They may survive, but only precariously and at the sufferance of immensely more powerful neighbors--on reservations or in communes protected for their value as tourist attractions. To regress to more primitive stages of technology, or even to hold the line at what the industrial powers now possess, cannot but appear as the most ludicrous and harebrained of proposals to the majority of mankind that grows daily more determined to improve their lives by breaking the Euro-American and Japanese monopoly on science and technology. A million chanting Reichs and Roszaks affect the advance and spread of science and technology about as much as the chirping of a single vagrant cricket affects the operation of an automated blast furnace. The threat of counter-culture lies elsewhere.

The gurus of Consciousness III cannot conceivably halt or slow down the advance of technology; but they can increase the level of popular befuddlement concerning how that technology is to be made to reduce rather than intensify inequities and exploitation, how it is to be made to serve humane and constructive purposes rather than cause terror and destruction. The deepening confusion, psychic involution, and amorality epitomized in the return of the witch carry with them for anyone aware of the history of our civilization the imminent threat of the return of the messiah. Disdain of reason, evidence, and objectivity -- super-consciousness and its heady freedom of belie -- are steadily stripping an entire generation of the intellectual means of resisting the next call for a "final and decisive- struggle" to achieve redemption and salvation on a cosmic scale.

Head trips and freak-outs cannot alter the material -basis of exploitation and alienation. Consciousness III will change nothing that is fundamental or causative in the structure of capitalism or imperialism. What lies ahead, therefore, is not a do-it-yourself utopia, but some new and more malignant form of military messianism, brought on by the -antics of a middle class that tried to tame its generals with telepathic messages and that thought it could humanize the greatest concentration of corporate wealth the world has ever seen by going barefoot and eating unhomogenized peanut butter.

As I said at the beginning of this book, the most pernicious fabrication perpetrated in the name of freedom to believe is the contention that we are menaced by an overdose of "objectivity" about the causes of our own lifestyles. The lifestyle of groups such as the Yanomanio and Maring make clear what uttter nonsense it is to suppose that scientific objectivity is humanitys original sin. It is evident from the history of Europe alone that the maiming, drawing and quartering, racking, hanging, drowning, crucifying, and burning of innocent people long antedate the rise of modem science and technology.

Some of the specific forms of inequity and alienation characteristic of industrial society are clearly products of the specific tools and techniques made available by advances in the natural and behavioral sciences. But none of the pathologies of contemporary life can be blamed on an overdose of scientific objectivity concerning the causes of lifestyle phenomena. Scientific objectivity about the fundamental causes of racism is not what keeps our ethnics at each others throats, overturns school buses, and blocks the construction of apartments for underprivileged families. Scientific objectivity is not the cause of male, female, or homosexual chauvinism. It was not an overdose of scientific objectivity about lifestyles that produced the lopsided priorities that favor moon landings and missiles over hospitals and houses. Nor is it an overdose of scientific objectivity about lifestyles that has created the population crisis. And what has scientific objectivity got to do with the infinite itch of consumerism, conspicuous consumption, conspicuous waste, built-in obsolescence, status hunger, the TV wasteland, and all the other weird driving forces of our competitive capitalist economy? Was it a lack of freedom of belief that led to the looting of minerals, forests, and soils, to the sewers running in the sky and the tarpits on the beaches? What was rational, reasonable, "objective," or "scientific" about all that? How does an overdose of objectivity about lifestyles explain a war that three Presidents couldnt give a rational reason for fighting but also couldnt stop?

One might as well believe that objectivity was the commanding lifestyle of Germany in 1932, that the A±yan beast cult of blond manhood, anathematization oQthe Semites, gypsies, and Slavs, worship of the fatherland, and the Wagnerian chanting, goose-stepping and Sieg-Heiling in front of der Fuhrer all resulted from the atrophy of the "non-intellective capacities" and feelings of the German people. Ditto Stalinism with its Uncle Joe cult, genuflections before the corpse of Lenin, Kremlin intrigues, Siberian slave camps, and party-line dogmatism.

Of course we have our Strangelove zero-sum-game specialists, would-be super-objectiflers who objectify human life by counting corpses and computerizing death. But the moral flaw of such technologists and their political handlers is a shortage of scientific objectivity about the- causes of lifestyle differences, not a surplus. The moral collapse of Vietnam was scarcely caused by an overdose of objective consciousness about what we were doing. It consisted of the failure to expand consciousness beyond mere instrumental tasks to the practical and banal significance of our national goals and policies. We kept the war going in Vietnam because our consciousness was mystified by symbols of patriotism, dreams of glory, unyielding pride, and visions of empire. In mood we were exactly what the counter-culture people want us to become. We imagined we were menaced by slant-eyed devils and worthless little ye!low men; we enthralled ourselves with visions of our own ineffable majesty. In short, we were stoned.

I see no reason why the further indulgence of involuted, ethnocentric, irrational, and subjective modes of consciousness should result in anything markedly different from what we have always had: witches and messiahs. We dont need more weird vibrations, bigger psychotropic cults, and zanier head trips. I make no claim for the millenarian splendors that will come from a better understanding of the causes of lifestyle phenomena. Yet there is a sound basis for assuming that by struggling to demystify our ordinary consciousness we shall improve the prospects for peace and economic and political justice. If this potential change of odds in our favor be ever so slight, I think, we must regard the expansion of scientific objectivity into the domain of lifestyle riddles as a moral imperative. Its the only thing thats never been tried.