Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Writer Paul Cudenec has given an interview to a newspaper in England about his latest book, The Stifled Soul of Humankind.
Paul told the West Sussex County Times, which covers the area where he used to live, why he had chosen to go to France to write.
“I could feel a real negative pressure building up around me in West Sussex,” he recalled. “Not only the threat from fracking, but also from massive house-building schemes, the possible expansion of Gatwick and so on.
“I really needed to go away somewhere to try and make sense of it all and place it all in some kind of historical context.”
Paul insisted that despite the downbeat title of the book, and the rather scary cover art depicting damned souls, it contains an essentially positive message.
He explained: “On the one hand I try to describe all the factors that have blocked the freedom and the potential of humankind – from the megalomania of the Roman Catholic Church through the theft of common land and the suppression of folk culture, to the lie of ‘progress’ that is still being imposed on us today and which threatens our very existence.
“On the other hand, I also show that there is an underground stream of opposition to all of this. It takes different forms at different moments in history, but it is obviously the same stream.”
Paul said it was important to realise that this idea of resistance was spiritual in origin – an aspect which he said had been neglected by many contemporary radicals who were still attached to a “scientific” or economic analysis of society.
“One of my favouriter thinkers, the German-Jewish anarchist Gustav Landauer, was warning of this 100 years ago – he saw dogmatic Marxist thinking as the biggest enemy of any authentic human renaissance because it denied the very idea of a human spirit.
“Now that state communism is fading into history, I think dissidents today have to go back to the original rebellions against the machineries of power and profit to seek inspiration in ideas that have been mostly neglected since orthodox Marxism became so dominant.”
In his book, Paul traces a thread of ideas back to the 13th century and the Brethren of the Free Spirit – rebel Christians viciously persecuted by the Inquisition. Their anti-authoritarian heresy spread across Europe, helping to fuel centuries of peasant uprisings, and later inspired the radical Ranters and Diggers of the 17th century English Revolution.
Also woven into the story are the likes of William Blake, William Morris, Richard Jefferies, Franz Kafka, René Guénon, Herbert Read, Carl Jung and Aldous Huxley.
Paul said: “Some of the writers speaking out against industrial civilization in the 19th century have been described as ‘anti-capitalist Romantics’. For me, that is what we have got to reclaim, that sense of spirit, of life, against the dead hand of money which seems to rule everything these days. And while there is life there is always hope, no matter how bad things are looking.”
To arrange an interview with Paul Cudenec, or to invite him to speak, he can be contacted directly via email@example.com
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
We have just brought out a series of free mini-booklets called Winter Oak Branches of Knowledge. The fourth of these is adapted from the final chapter of Paul Cudenec’s new book The Stifled Soul of Humankind and is called Spirals of Hope. Here is the text:
Deep anxiety is a common personal reaction to the world stripped of meaning and authenticity in which we find ourselves today. One solution proposed for this crisis of the spirit is to “live in the Now” and thus put into some kind of distant perspective the nagging confusions of our contemporary society, to root oneself in the physical reality of each moment, finding a firm foundation in the sensations of looking, listening, breathing, walking, eating.
But, while an obsessive nostalgia for the past is clearly unhealthy for any individual, so is the addiction to the present moment that results from living excessively in the Now. It encourages a drifting and passive kind of experience. Despite the intention of shedding the ambitious and anxious ego, the Now personality can become selfish, glorying in the irresponsible spontaneity of its own eternally present tense. It may manage to avoid anxiety in this way, but only by ignoring the fact that anxiety is a symptom. The root causes of the problem are simply ignored and any real remedial action indefinitely postponed.
What applies to the individual also applies to the macrocosm of society. Collectively we are also tempted to retreat into living purely in the Now, in the face of the disorientating storm of anxieties swirling around us. Living perpetually in the present tense of the News, we simply respond intuitively to the stimuli it offers, find ourselves carried along from one issue to the next. Attempts to reach a deeper long-term understanding of our collective predicament are made virtually impossible by the constant white noise generated by accounts of history serving the interests of the status quo. Sometimes it’s merely the sheer amount of irrelevant detail that makes it difficult to make out any real shape to what’s been happening to humankind, but often these accounts are deliberately misleading.
Los Amigos de Ludd write that capitalism imposes its own reality by “reducing History to a succession of stages in the fulfilment of its own dogma, and the past to a skeleton of concepts and abstractions”. Michael Löwy argues that reality has been obscured by a modern mindset which “sees the movement of history as a continuum of constant improvements, of irreversible evolution, of growing accumulation, of beneficial modernisation for which scientific and technological progress provides the motor”.
In contrast to this official story of Progress are visions such as Walter Benjamin’s famous imagining of the angel of history, as inspired by Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus. “His face is turned towards the past,” explains Benjamin. “Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress”.
Like Benjamin, we need to be able to step back from the frantic ever-changing detail of the Now and see that it is part of a much broader and more significant scenario. What we will see is a humanity dispossessed, a society in which freedom, autonomy, creativity, culture, and the spirit of collective solidarity have been deliberately suffocated by a ruthlessly violent and exploitative elite hiding behind the masks of Authority, Property, Law, Progress and God.
Such enslavement of humankind should be enough to incite the desire for change, but there is, in addition to all this, another factor: this capitalist industrial civilization is also killing the planet. The situation could hardly be more urgent and yet our culture barely responds, shows no sign of changing. The core problem is perhaps that our society is no longer alive and you can’t expect much in the way of response from a corpse! Our so-called democracy is a sham, the people disempowered and cowed into submission by Authority and there is therefore no obvious way that the majority can influence the direction society takes, even on detailed points, let alone issues of fundamental importance.
However, it is important to remember that this sensation of powerlessness is all part of the psychological trickery used by the authorities to ensure our compliance with the continuing status quo. Living collectively in the Now, we are blinded not only to the past, but to the future. More specifically, we have become convinced that just as Progress has inevitably brought us to where we are today, so it must continue to take us to wherever it must lead. We are taught that the future is essentially pre-determined, according to the historical laws which we are told have shaped our world, and there is nothing we can do about it. This lie has even come to be accepted by radical opponents of industrial capitalism, who insist that the best we can do is to adapt to the grim future that will inevitably be delivered to us by the system.
In truth, there was nothing inevitable about the way our society has turned out. It has taken centuries of repression to impose the will of a sociopathic elite on the population. That repression continues today, along with the possibility that it will fail to hold us down. Seen from our enemies’ point of view, there is nothing inevitable about the continuation of their system at all. They live in constant fear of losing control, of being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the lawless mob. That is why they devote so much time and energy to feeding us lies, locking us up, acting out the theatre of Authority, sending in riot cops and armies to put down any signs of resistance to their global slave-labour system.
“Now is the moment for us to explode the ultimate lie with which we have been brainwashed - that we are powerless”
We are living in an age when many of the illusions of Authority are falling away and many millions of people across the world are seeing the truth behind the false constructs which prop it up. Cynicism is rife but we seem to have stopped there, balanced on the point of no longer believing in the system but unwilling to go any further, to take the final step into outright resistance. Now is the moment for us to explode the ultimate lie with which we have been brainwashed – that we are powerless.
The first step is to understand how it is that we have been duped, how we have been reduced to a state of psychological submission. Then we have to rediscover within ourselves the vital spirit that makes us strong, the sense of collective belonging and empowerment that so frightens those who would keep us and our descendants as their slaves. It barely matters what we term this power within, so long as we do not allow it to be overshadowed by the myth of a power outside or above us – there can be no authority, no god, but ourselves.
From this perspective, the situation of the human race looks quite different. It seems impossible that it could ever bow its head in slavery or stand idly by while its mother, the Earth, is destroyed in the name of short-term greed. It seems unthinkable that people could ever have forgotten that the desire for freedom lies at the heart of their very being. Reconnected with the long-forbidden knowledge of its own power, a people will naturally be propelled towards its innate and eternal needs. Like the green shoots of a plant seeking out the sunlight, humanity will always have a natural tendency to fulfil its inner organic potential.
Peter Kropotkin could be describing our own times when he argues that “there are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable”. But, of course, revolution is only inevitable, or indeed possible, if we take whatever action is necessary to bring it about.
It is here that we must again confront the comfortable habit of perpetually living in the Now and with it the whole concept of time as something that sweeps us along like small twigs in a surging river. This is Time regarded as Authority, as an obstacle to our power to shape our own reality, to become the people we want to be.
We are not bound to travel to any particular future, there is nothing inevitable about any outcome, no matter how likely it may look from our present vantage point. While we recognise the existence of circumstances that stand in the way of the future we would like to see, there is no reason why we must therefore accept that their influence will be decisive. It is, as Ernst Bloch says, always possible to replace the fatalism of a “because” with the determination of a “despite everything”.
“We have to reintroduce ourselves to history, not as observers but as participants. The power that we can rediscover in ourselves is, among other things, the power to create the future”
We have to reintroduce ourselves to history, not as observers but as participants. The power that we can rediscover in ourselves is, among other things, the power to create the future. We have to create our own narrative – the narrative of revolution. Like the prophesies of rebels past, our narrative can become self-fulfilling. There is a self-feeding circular momentum that we need to get started. The understanding of the need for revolution, the dream of revolution, the hope of revolution, the belief in the possibility of revolution – all of these must be fostered in turn before revolution can ever take place.
For this task we need a powerful collective vision and determination that can inspire, that can transform, that can regenerate, that can sweep aside seemingly immovable obstacles and turn remote possibilities into hard realities. Humankind needs new generations of idealistic young revolutionaries, heretics, inspirés with a burning sense of purpose and destiny, with the unquenchable energy to will into existence the new world of which they dream. We need, as Kropotkin insists, “intrepid souls who know that is necessary to dare in order to succeed”.
We won’t get them by sticking to dry dispassionate analysis of history, by being bogged down in detail, by being waylaid into dead ends of pointless abstraction or pedantry. We won’t get them by shying away from the truth, by compromising with the system, by regarding passionate polemic as an embarrassment. We won’t get them by trying to regulate and repress the spirit of our own revolt, by pouring cold water on others’ attempts to bring about change, by sneering at hope itself.
There are those who reject hope as unrealistic and those who reject it as being passive, as being reliant on factors outside our own control. But both positions fail to see that hope is in fact a vital factor in our ability to change reality and that, far from playing a passive role, it is the key to inspiring active participation. “Let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions”, says Kropotkin and he argues that the action it inspires will itself feed back into the positive energies of the revolutionary spirit: “Courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission, and panic”.
Prophecy brings hope, hope brings courage, courage brings action, action brings inspiration, inspiration brings more determination, renewed hope, deepened courage. Once this magical spiral of revolt has started spinning, it takes on a life of its own and becomes, in Kropotkin’s phrase, “a revolutionary whirlwind”.
The authentic urge to revolution can be destructive, but never negative, and behind it there be must always be a vision born from the heart of humanity. There is something therefore much deeper behind the will to genuine revolution, to anarchy, than mere opinion. It rises from the depths of our collective soul and thus, by extension, from the natural world of which we are part. It is the vehicle of an intangible organic need for things to be made right, for humankind and the planet it dominates to once again exist in harmony with the Tao.
This restoration of the state of nature, of the Golden Age, is demanded by natural laws next to which our artificial human laws look feeble and ephemeral. Once unleashed, the mighty strength of a global uprising summoned by the life-force itself will have no difficulty in sweeping away for ever the violent machineries of a tyranny which has stifled humankind for far too long.
“Prophecy brings hope, hope brings courage, courage brings action, action brings inspiration, inspiration brings more determination, renewed hope, deepened courage. Once this magical spiral of revolt has started spinning, it takes on a life of its own”
Sunday, 6 July 2014
All three titles by Paul Cudenec are now available from two radical bookshops in London.
The Stifled Soul of Humankind, The Anarchist Revelation and Antibodies, Anarchangels and Other Essays can all be found at both Housmans and Freedom - they all retail at £7.99.
Housmans, at 5 Caledonian Road, King's Cross, London N1 9DX, is a not-for-profit bookshop, specialising in books, zines, and periodicals of radical interest and progressive politics.
It stocks the largest range of radical newsletters, newspapers and magazines of any shop in Britain. It opens Monday to Friday, 10am to 6.30pm, Saturday, 10am to 6pm, and Sunday, noon to 6pm.
Freedom Bookshop in Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX, is Britain’s largest anarchist bookshop, stocking thousands of books, newspapers and pamphlets on history to sex, philosophy to workers’ struggles, fiction to anti-fascism, as well as the latest magazines, periodicals and newsletters from all the major anarchist and radical groups.
It opens Monday to Saturday 12 noon to 6pm and Sunday 12 noon to 4pm.
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Winter Oak Press is delighted to announce the publication of a new book by anarchist philosopher Paul Cudenec.
In The Stifled Soul of Humankind, Cudenec depicts a humanity dispossessed, a society in which freedom, autonomy, creativity, culture, and the spirit of collective solidarity have been deliberately suffocated by a ruthlessly violent and exploitative elite hiding behind the masks of Authority, Property, Law, Progress and God.
But he also identifies an underground current of heresy and resistance which resurfaces at key moments in history and which, he argues, has the primal strength to sweep away the prison walls of our diseased civilization and carry us forward to a future of vitality and renewal.
Cudenec writes: “We have to reintroduce ourselves to history, not as observers but as participants. The power that we can rediscover in ourselves is, among other things, the power to create the future. Prophecy brings hope, hope brings courage, courage brings action, action brings inspiration, inspiration brings more determination, renewed hope, deepened courage. Once this magical spiral of revolt has started spinning, it takes on a life of its own”.
In The Stifled Soul of Humankind, Paul Cudenec delves into disparate corners of history to provide the ammunition for his deeply radical analysis, throwing up some intriguing questions about the way our society has become what it is today.
What is the connection between Sufi mystics of the Middle East and the peasant revolts that shook Europe in the Middle Ages? At what point did Protestantism turn from being a revolutionary force into a reactionary one? What links the colonization of North America with the Highland Clearances in Scotland? What is the basis of authority? Can art retain its authenticity in an industrial civilization? What on earth did Franz Kafka have in common with the völkisch predecessors of the Nazi movement? Is Marxism fundamentally opposed to capitalism? Why was Aldous Huxley targeted for ideological attack by a leading figure in MI6? And, most crucially of all, what is it that ties all these questions together and reveals a seam through the rock of history that can help us understand how so much has gone wrong and how we might yet put it right?
Cudenec’s book The Anarchist Revelation, published by Winter Oak in 2013, has earned some influential praise in anarchist circles. US eco-philosopher John Zerzan, author of Future Primitive and Running on Emptiness, described it as “the least pessimistic book I can recall reading. It brings anarchist resistance and the spirit together in a very wide-ranging and powerful contribution”.
Gabriel Kuhn, translator of Gustav Landauer’s writing into English and author of Life Under the Jolly Roger and Soccer vs the State, wrote: “The book attempts no less than equipping contemporary anarchism with a footing that is often neglected: the transfor-mation not only of society’s structures but also of people’s souls... an inspiring read”.
Cudenec’s essay Antibodies, republished as part of a book of his collected writing in 2013, was welcomed as “very readable and profoundly thoughtful” by Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism and Nature’s Web: An Exploration of Ecological Thinking. Marshall said Antibodies provided “many new insights on the destructive relationship between the greater part of humanity and the planet which tries to sustain them”.
The Stifled Soul of Humankind by Paul Cudenec (160 pages) will go on sale at £7.99 and will be available from all major booksellers.
For more information, to request review copies or to arrange an interview with the author, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
This very positive review of Paul Cudenec's The Anarchist Revelation can be found on the Permaculture magazine website.
Helen Moore reviews Paul Cudenec's book that explores why knowing ourselves more deeply requires that we move beyond society's conditioning and connect with the power of the transpersonal.
Could the twin urges in my life - to know myself deeper and, in the face of ecocidal capitalism, an increasingly radical sensibility - actually have their roots in the same impulse? Paul Cudenec’s passionately argued book, The Anarchist Revelation, Being What We’re Meant to Be, persuades me that they do.
Drawing on an impressive range of sources, Cudenec begins by showing how much the status quo relies on our not knowing ourselves. Our educational system, the media, TV, scientific materialism and established religion all play their part, so that: “Being just what we are… is the greatest challenge any of us face in a civilisation where our compliance, our obedience, depends on us not knowing who we are.”
Of course, individual development originally unfolded in interconnection with the natural world, and was embedded within the anarchist ‘organic society’, based on natural laws, co-operation and the self-organising capacity of ecosystems. But having lost our ancient rites of passage and with little awareness of the natural world, in which clues to the meaning of life can be found, our modern alienation from Nature contributes to our collective dysfunction and madness, moving us yet further from our own authenticity.
Fortunately, because we have in fact been shaped through evolution and don’t actually come into the world as “helplessly amoral blank sheets of paper”, on which the state puts its stamp, but as “an integral part of the collective existence”, we can still access our natural sense of ‘love and rage’ as we witness injustice and oppression on a global scale. Cudenec believes this “builds up in our spirits - individually and en masse, consciously and unconsciously - and becomes the force behind the need for revolution”; but it also sustains us by offering a “spiritual pool”, from which we can draw.
In proclaiming ‘No Gods, No Masters’, many anarchists have, of course, notoriously rejected religion, in particular the authoritarianism of the church. Emma Goldman nevertheless saw anarchist revolution as “the mental and spiritual regenerator”, while Cudenec skilfully demonstrates how the roots of anarchism and the universal spirituality posited by Aldous Huxley and Carl Jung, amongst others, are deeply intertwined.
Ultimately, the author’s heartening message is not only that the spirituality inherent in anarchism can sustain us against the deadening effects of capitalism, but also that by transforming ourselves – surrendering to the alchemical processes that dissolve the ‘base metals’ of our superficial ego-selves – we can serve the greater whole, becoming “a conscious manifestation of [the] greater unity, as a temporary representative-on-earth of the life force.” Mind-expanding and well-written, The Anarchist Revelation will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Helen Moore is an award winning ecopoet based in Somerset. Her debut collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins, was published in 2012 by Shearsman Books and is highly recommended.
Friday, 27 September 2013
"The least pessimistic book I can recall reading. It brings anarchist resistance and the spirit together in a very wide-ranging and powerful contribution”.
This is the comment, in a recent article, from US anarchist writer John Zerzan on Paul Cudenec's The Anarchist Revelation, published by Winter Oak Press.
Zerzan is the influential author of Elements of Refusal, Future Primitive and Other Essays, Running on Emptiness, Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections and Twilight of the Machines.
This positive international feedback to Cudenec's work follows on from anarchist author Gabriel Kuhn's review on the Alpine Anarchist site, in which he refers to it as "a daring journey through the history of ideas".
Kuhn, author of Life Under the Jolly Roger and Soccer vs the State, adds: "The book attempts no less than equipping contemporary anarchism with a footing that is often neglected: the transformation not only of society's structures but also of people's souls.
"Cudenec's text is well-structured, consistent in its arguments, and manages to address poetry, mysticism, and spirituality without regressing into lofty gibberish."
Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, has described Cudenec's essay Antibodies as "very readable and profoundly thoughtful" and offering "many new insights on the destructive relationship between the greater part of humanity and the planet which tries to sustain them".
Paul Cudenec will be talking on The Anarchist Revelation at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday October 19, at 5pm in room 3.20.