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: