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The San Francisco Diggers and the Garbage

The original Diggers first appeared during the 17th-century English Civil War, a time of great social and political instability. In 1649, Gerrard Winstanley, “moved by supernatural illuminations,” organized the Diggers. Winstanley and company also took some influence from Acts 4:32: “The group of believers was one in mind and heart. No one said that any […]

October 11th

Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove

In an essay that I’ve mentioned once or twice before, “Fourier! – Or, the Utopian Poetics,” Peter Lamborn Wilson situates Fourier, the utopian visionary, in the Taoist tradition, specifically, “the Taoist emphasis on spontaneity, work-as-play, wealth, health, longevity, sexual ‘alchemy,’ complex cuisine, and even sensual pleasure.” Here, he uses an important footnote: “Taoism is not […]

September 27th

History of the People Through Nature

In a previous post on Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium, I discussed the theme of pursuing a better future. I’d like to return to it to voice my concern with the book’s focus on leaders to define history. Should we let individuals tell our story, or the people? Cohn writes the history of millennial […]

September 12th

The Possibilities and Dangers of Pursuing a Better Future

Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium provides a detailed look at millennial groups in the Middle Ages. He variously uses the terms eschatology, chiliasm, and heresy to describe the binding beliefs of each of these groups, mostly based on literal readings of the Book of Revelations. In general, they believed that following a period […]

August 12th

Assassins of Alamut — Streams of Wine, Milk, and Honey

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” So begins the film version of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, with the quote attributed to Hassan-i Sabbah. In the late 11th century, Hassan led a group known as the Assassins, an order of Nizari Ismailis (a branch of Shia Islam), from his network of mountain fortresses. Hassan and […]

July 17th

Diogenes of Sinope, an Ancient Athenian Crackpot

“Do you remember the story of Diogenes, the ancient Athenian crackpot?” So begins chapter 1 of Dolly Freed’s Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money. “He was the one who gave away all his possessions because ‘People don’t own possessions, their possessions own them.’ He had a drinking […]

May 23rd