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Syntheism and the Holarchy

So I’ve been asked to write about Holacracy and it’s connection to Syntheism. But in my opinion that is not the right question. Holacracy, in my opinion is, a brand name. As is my own business which is called HNO.nu. Both are forks of the same program, which I affectionately call, the Holarchy.

Holarchy comes from Holon (Greek: ὅλον, holon neuter form of ὅλος, holos “whole”), and ἄρχω (arkho), meaning “to rule or to command”).The Holon is a term coined by Arthur Koestler and describes an entity that is similarly part of a whole and the whole itself. So in a Holarchy the whole is ruled by the whole. Which means all the people in an organization are simultaneously the purpose and part of the bigger purpose.

To understand what Holacracy does I recommend this article titled: Heres why you should care about Holacracy. Which explains the practical application of the Holarchy in great detail and shows a bit of the social change that is required to let it run.

“Responsive organizations aim to distribute authority and decision-making to all of their employees — even if it makes them less predictable and efficient in the short run. The goal is to increase their capacity to learn and respond to change by empowering more of them to do so.”

A Holarchy is a fundamental shift away from the Keynesian Command and Control structure, which is better known as a Hierarchy. It is a method that helps organizations grow in the same way nature grows it’s magnificent diversity of different organisms. That’s why Brian Robertson (the founder of Holacracy) calls it an evolutionary algorithm, as well as an operating system for organizations.

And it is within these two elements that the Holarchy and Syntheism meet.

As I see it, when our linear thinking became predominant in ‘western culture’ we started inventing machines that could help us with processing ‘linear stuff’.
Which of course culminated in the modern day Computer. And Computer has gotten increasingly better at doing our (to be crude) left brain operations. Of course the brain is far to intricate to be reduced to just a left and a right part but, for the sake of argument, lets say the left part of the brain is mainly associated with rational and linear thinking, and the right part is generally associated with creative and Rhizomatic thinking. (Which is, obviously, the opposite of linear thinking.)

So having made this distinction we can now go on by imagining that Computer has taken over most of the linear left-brainish thinking. And the big difference between humans and Computer is that the latter has no ego. By which no-ego means that Computer has no motivation to manipulate the flow of information.

Because of it’s absolute rationality the computer has figured out the optimal form of processing information. Which is something that we humans could never have achieved because the processing of information is what gives us power over others.

To explain that The GNU Foundation defines software as “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. With this you can make the analogy that: if I have beer, you can not take my beer. But I’ll teach you to make your own beer. This is the whole point of all “free” software and open-source and the opposite of Control. Because in this analogy Control means: If you want my beer you will have to pay for it, because I will not tell you how to make it. Which in laymen terms is called a monopoly.

Which is the same control that institutionalized religion uses.
“Somewhere there is a god, and the only way to get to god is through me.” So the church has the monopoly on the way to god. Which is only to be understood from an ego perspective. And by ego this time we mean: The ‘I’ that identifies with objects. Which is a major flaw in societies throughout history. Right now it would sound something like this: “That is my car, it is part of my identity and status. So if you scratch my car you scratch me.”
Ego is tied to identity which, when tied to the external, has to find a unique position in society to experience a sense of importance. So the priest controls the-way-to-god and that gives him his status. If you know how to get to god without his ‘guidance’ he would lose his sense of meaning and purpose in society. This, by and large, is the turmoil we experience in society today. The old control system is losing it’s control to the new ‘Network Society’. But they will fight tooth and nail to keep it. Even though they can never win from entropy. By which I mean that everything in nature wants to go to it’s least structured state.

“Naturally control is impossible, because it is the opposite of nature which is inherently chaotic and complex.”

We who see the future realize that we don’t need anyone to get to god. But we need each other to get ahead.
We are not the center of the universe. We are human beings with very special capabilities. But in the end we are part of a very intricate and complex network of life. And that network of life is part of a bigger network. And it is this network that we recognize as God.

To respond to an earlier post, there is meaning to being part of this intricate network of God. Which, ultimately, is to be part of it and expand on it. In other words, which resonates throughout our human existence, we live to enjoy life and add beauty to it.

Our ‘Network Society’ is looking for more natural ways of living. Because it is becoming increasingly clear that the contemporary way of organizing ourselves is very unnatural. And if we don’t change we will cause so much damage that it might exterminate all human-life.

One of those changes is to copy the ego-less way of processing information that Computer shows us. And use it to organize ourselves in accord with nature and God. However you imagine it/her/he to be/not-be.

So What is the connection between Holarchy & Syntheism?
The Holarchy is a comprehensive and natural way of working together. It defines a clear and natural structure with which we organize ourselves. The method is like a game that we can play to find our place in any organization without the need for an ego identification with the external. That’s why we separate “role from soul”.

As ‘human gods’ we have created machines. And the machines invite us to look at ourselves and see our true place within creation. And the Holarchy is a method that has grown by doing just that. We are first people in society, and next to that we perform certain roles. The roles we have are, ultimately, the ones we choose to take. You are not your role, just like you are not your car. It is a mere tool in our endeavor to become more human. And right now, it seems that the best way to do that is to share part of our being with our creation.

So we have to become more like the machines we have built. Our rational mind has given us a perfect image of how we could be. Which means that we leave the rational and linear to the machines that can do it far better then us, which is Computer. And we start being what is left right. Which is to be connected to everything with our Rhizomatic creative right brain. Because that is the part that makes us unique. And it’s the part that can conceive the beauty that is abundance in our society.

Everyone can add 1 + 1,
but expressing yourself through creativity is what makes you a unique node in this great network we live in. And it is that same realization that Syntheism tries to invite us to.

Both The Holarchy and Syntheism show us that we are nodes in a network of many different nodes. Syntheism tries to give us a ‘spiritual’ story to cope with that fact and is thus ultimately subjective. The Holarchy is ruthlessly objective, a method with a rulebook that anyone can follow. But the rules are not there to hinder your progress. They are the game-rules with which we can organize in a truly equal way.

But to do that we will have to let go of a lot of programming; The Newtonian world view, that we are all particles who never connect, has to be updated to the idea of a network-universe. We are connected to everything and everyone. And the ego-anthropocentrical idea of human beings being separate from the network-world has to go. As does the idea that, to be somebody, you have to have a lot of stuff because that somehow makes you a ‘better person’. These things have to change. And working with Holarchy can help by making that change manageable. Because it is like a program, it sets you free to work with purpose and a sense of direction and belonging. It is not a way of controlling, it gives clear structure to cope with chaos. As does Syntheism.

Hourtopia – a participatory artistic take on “The Infinite Now”

You may already be familar with the Syntheist concept of The Infinite Now – the idea of a transcendental experience within which all of time and history seems encapsulated into one single moment  and place in passing. While The Infinite Now is of course the name of the Syntheist baptism act, and as such a both dividual and communal event of immense importance, the concept also refers to kairos, the classic Greek concept of time as a short moment when everything happens at once, as distinct from kronos, time as pure duration.Hourtopia

An interesting and highly recommended online participatory art project with a similar theme is Hourtopia. Please feel most welcome to check it out at the Hourtopia web page or on Facebook and make your own artistic contribution.

Where and when does all of history seem encapsulated into a short time span and at a specific place in your own life? Would you even like to contribute to Hourtopia with a picture of your own Syntheist baptism act?

Synthea

“The falling leaves drift by my window

The falling leaves of red and gold

I see your lips the summer kisses

The sunburned hands I used to hold

 

Since you went away the days grow long

And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song

But I miss you most of all my darling

When autumn leaves start to fall”

/Jacques Prévert

 

Coping with great loss

The heat of the summer nights are fading. Coats are clenched to the body. The pensive beauty of autumn is here. Any stable state will eventually change. At some point bliss will end. Such is the nature of existence. Any outlook denying that the good times will end will assuredly be a fearful life. Learning to accept, endure and overcome our inevitable losses and failures are lessons we all will learn, sooner or later. Sooner is better.

We are now transitioning into Synthea, one of the four main Syntheist festivals. We have named the period between the autumn equinox and winter solstice Syntheos. It is from Synthesis, the Greek word for “bringing together”. Undoubtedly the greatest asset of any religious community has always been in times of personal crisis, helping us deal with loss, being there for us when we need it the most.

This season we will focus on endings, death, transformation, change and ridding oneself of the old and redundant

Synthea, autumn equinox

Philosophy and science teaches us that the world we have in our minds, our memories, are all symbolic representations in the brain. This is undoubtedly true. So why does if feel differently being in the moment, than having had it pass? What is the difference between a cool breeze on our faces a hot summer’s day and our memory of it? What about an imaginary breeze? What is the difference between a the memory of a friend alive or dead? What is the difference between an imaginary friend and a real friend?

I write this text moments after having learned of the death of a friend. I’m now a whirl of conflicting emotions and my conclusion is that none of my understanding of the nature of the world matters. A heart in pain doesn’t care about the philosophical implications or what science tells us is natural or normal. It doesn’t care whether it makes sense to feel hurt. All it requires is human contact and comfort. To find the warm and caring eyes of compassion. A place to feel safe.

Sanctus: Written by Zbniew Preisner to his friend and artistic collaborator Krzysztof Kieślowski as he was dying in hospital.

Since we’re atheists, shouldn’t it make us, the Syntheists, better at dealing with loss than other religions? We aren’t afraid of the naturalistic reality of life. I have to conclude; probably not. All religions are excellent at dealing with grief. Which is odd considering that the vast majority of religions have ideas of an afterlife. An outright denial of death is standard practice. When a loved one dies why are they sad at all? Their loved one is now, allegedly, in a happier place? Aren’t they?

Which brings me back to my earlier point. The heart feels what the heart feels. Comforting lies and wishful thinking, no matter how often repeated, cannot give comfort in times of great emotional turmoil. Only the genuine caring compassion of a community will be good enough. It certainly seems like all major religions figured this out early on and are all good at it. They’ve just neglected to tell anyone. They all have successful models we can use.

An Islamic funeral ritual

1) Bathing the dead body, The immediate family and others trusted by them clean the deceased together. Psychologically it works on many levels. It brings home the reality of what has happened powerfully. It serves to remove any sanitized image one might have had about the person. This body is unquestionably lifeless, but life has to continue and those surviving can find help and solace in each other. In the shared ritual they are physically helping each other, and may act as a bridge to allow them to open up and help each other emotionally.

2) Enshrouding the body in white cotton or linen cloth. A symbol of our equality. At birth and death we truly are all equal.

3) The funeral prayer, Salat al-Janazah

“O God, if he was a doer of good, then increase his good deeds, and if he was a wrongdoer, then overlook his bad deeds. O God, forgive him and give him the steadiness to say the right thing.”

If one wants to be cynical, one might say that it’s not about asking God to forgive the deceased, but the congregation, family and friends; and not allow any perceived sins besmirch those surviving the dead. Allowing each person to be their own.

4) Burial of the dead body in a grave. Emotionally it’s normal to outright deny that somebody you have lost is actually lost. The burial acts as forcing the survivors to physically expel the dead from their lives. Not their memory of course, but unhealthy hopes of a future together. 

5) Positioning the body so that the head faces Mecca. To emphasize the Muslim identity and being part of a community.

It is arguably the single most important feature of any religion. What we can do differently is cut the bullshit. Leave the platitudes and one-liners we all know have never helped anybody.

The way we react to death of loved ones makes it all too obvious that we’re primarily emotional beings. It’s important to acknowledge that we’re all, at times fragile and in need of being taken care of and comforted by somebody we trust.  Much like a parent comforts a child. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, how economically efficient world we create for ourselves if we don’t primarily focus that world on taking care of human insecurities and character flaws. Without compassion from our fellow humans, we are truly alone in this world. We need to support each other, help each other, because we know nothing else will.

Please take some time to think about those in your life, the people you care about, who you know are suffering from a loss now, those who are overcoming grief or hardship. What kind of support do they require? Is it within your power to help them? Is your help welcome? Often all that is needed is to let them know that you’re there for them if they need you.

 

If there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are surely no theists at a funeral.

If there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are surely no theists at a funeral.

 

Disclaimer

The ritual and practice described in this text is only a suggestion. There is no wrong way to do Syntheism. If you don’t like our festivals, gods, the way we use them or the names we have for them…. feel free to invent your own.

Celebrating participatory culture

Since the internet arrived a couple of decades ago, we have seen an explosion in participatory culture. Why would you ever go to say a regular rock concert or a traditional theater performance again – where you are just regarded as a passive consumer – when you can attend a festival where your own inputs and contributions have value and meaning to all your fellow participants? Participatory culture is active culture as opposed to traditional passive culture.

Freedman_Burning_Man_10
Burning Man festival

Just like interactivity, participatory culture is sacred to Syntheists. Syntheos is the divinity that materializes when Syntheists come together (the Greek term Syntheos means both “the god(s) we create” and “the god created when we are together”). So just like Syntheists regard the freedom and equality of interests on the internet as a holy mission – the internet wants to be free – they also regard participatory culture – as opposed to consumed mass culture – to be sacred, to be a manifestation proper of Syntheos.

The Borderland
The Borderland Festival

The most well-known example of a participatory festival is of course Burning Man, held in the deserts of Nevada, the United States, every early September. Other examples include Secret Garden Party in July and Wilderness Festival in August, both in the UK. The first participatory festival in Scandinavia, an early Syntheist stronghold, is called The Borderland, which this year (its third year running) takes place July 21-28 on the island of Gotland, Sweden.

Secret Garden Party
Secret Garden Party