Beyond Illusion

Why We Offer This Course

Each of us may view her or his life as a response to three basic ques­tions: To what pur­pos­es do I live? By what means may I fur­ther my pur­pos­es? On what bases do I decide these things?

For sev­er­al thou­sand years peo­ple have engaged in ever more rapid, elab­o­rate, and large-scale action aimed at improv­ing our con­di­tion. Despite all of this activ­i­ty, total human suf­fer­ing may be greater at this moment than ever before. As Pogo pro­claimed, “We have met the ene­my and he is us.”

Are we to suf­fer steadi­ly more? Or may we improve the qual­i­ty of our own exis­tence, and that of those around us, while lay­ing a foun­da­tion for fur­ther gains by those who may fol­low us?

How com­plete­ly may we shed our illu­sions, and bring our aspi­ra­tions with­in the bounds of the pos­si­ble? By cul­ti­vat­ing a more accu­rate under­stand­ing of the world and our place in it, and of our­selves, may we learn to see more clear­ly the pur­pos­es to which we live and the actions by which we may fur­ther them?

We at Mag­ic per­ceive the meth­ods and accu­mu­lat­ed prin­ci­ples of human ecol­o­gy (which we define as the sci­en­tif­ic inves­ti­ga­tion of the inter­ac­tions among humans, and between humans and the oth­er ele­ments of the envi­ron­ment) to be excep­tion­al­ly pow­er­ful tools for learn­ing rules of the game of life, and for iden­ti­fy­ing strate­gies by which to live well. We view human ecol­o­gy as a core ele­ment of valuescience.

We offer this course so that we and oth­ers may devel­op our capac­i­ties to gen­er­ate har­mo­ny with­in, with our fel­low humans, and with the rest of nature.

What We Do in This Course

In the course we learn the fun­da­men­tals of eco­science. Then we apply them to exam­ine what peo­ple com­mon­ly think and do, and why. Final­ly we bring them to bear upon our own lives, and use them to become more as we intend.

We have divid­ed the course con­tents into ten top­ics for pre­sen­ta­tion in this prospec­tus, and we often offer the course over a ten-week peri­od, meet­ing from one to five times per week. When we meet more fre­quent­ly or for longer peri­ods, we address top­ics more broad­ly and more deeply. Some­times we present a “short course” in which we com­press or omit topics.

We aim to accom­mo­date the inter­ests, apti­tudes, and under­stand­ing of par­tic­i­pants. In the objec­tives and out­line includ­ed lat­er in this prospec­tus we have list­ed ques­tions indica­tive of approach­es we have found fruit­ful in the past.

Our meth­ods include read­ing, writ­ing, and dis­cus­sion, as well as observ­ing our­selves, oth­ers, and the nat­ur­al and arti­fi­cial ele­ments of our envi­ron­ment. We place spe­cial empha­sis upon prac­tic­ing what we learn to alter pat­terns of our every­day lives.

We build the course upon a five-step sequence, often repeated:

  1. become more aware of how we are being and what we are doing;
  2. imag­ine alternatives;
  3. crit­i­cal­ly eval­u­ate con­se­quences of our cur­rent ways and of oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties before us;
  4. choose what we prefer;
  5. cul­ti­vate the being we intend. Near the out­set, par­tic­i­pants may respond in writ­ing to ques­tions for­mu­lat­ed to elic­it some of the basic ideas from which each of us gen­er­ates a self and a way of liv­ing. With this writ­ing we estab­lish bench­marks against which to mea­sure change.

Next, we gain famil­iar­i­ty with a mod­ern sci­en­tif­ic world-view, and with its roots. We delve into the pos­si­ble pur­pos­es for which liv­ing organ­isms cre­at­ed sci­ence, and we con­sid­er its evo­lu­tion, and its import in human affairs dur­ing the past two cen­turies. We review the cen­tral pre­cepts of con­tem­po­rary sci­ence, and out­line the fun­da­men­tals of eco­science, with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to how com­plete­ly this dis­ci­pline is inte­grat­ed with oth­er nat­ur­al sciences.

Then we address cul­ture. First we exam­ine the evo­lu­tion of cul­ture in ani­mals, includ­ing our own species. Next we recon­sid­er ideas about wealth, view­ing them as ele­ments of cul­ture, as evi­dence of adap­tive strate­gies, and as reflec­tions of val­ues and under­stand­ing of their pro­po­nents. Final­ly, we illu­mi­nate var­i­ous com­mon “-isms” and ide­olo­gies with an eye to rec­on­cil­ing appar­ent incon­gruities between eco­nom­ic and eco­log­i­cal paradigms.

In the lat­ter por­tion of the course, we eval­u­ate the human con­di­tion and our prospects. Explor­ing a range of future visions rang­ing from san­guine to apoc­a­lyp­tic, we ana­lyze pos­si­ble con­nec­tions among paths we choose per­son­al­ly, and aspi­ra­tions we hold for our­selves, for oth­ers, and for the larg­er envi­ron­ment. Sur­vey­ing diverse tech­niques by which peo­ple have inten­tion­al­ly changed think­ing, feel­ing, and oth­er behav­iors, we reassess our own reper­toires for self-real­iza­tion, and exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent ways of becoming.

We end with a search for com­mon val­ues and means for effec­tive­ly fur­ther­ing them. Through­out the course we become bet­ter acquaint­ed with each oth­er, and bet­ter able both to con­tin­ue inde­pen­dent­ly and to sup­port oth­ers in the sequence of learn­ing and per­son­al change which we prac­tice togeth­er here.

Further Reading

Please check the fol­low­ing on-line works in our Pub­li­ca­tions Cat­a­log: