Paul Kingsnorth and John Michael Greer Are My Homeboys
I can take a hint.
A few weeks ago, I went through a spate of queries as to whether I had read anything by Paul Kingsnorth or John Michael Greer. These inquiries were from readers of my books and my blog as well as from good friends—and when I received three such prompts from three people completely unknown to one another within the space of a couple of hours, I figured it was time to give these two writers a hearing, Like I said, I can take a hint.
I had never heard of Kingsnorth, the novelist and environmental writer, though it seems as if I should have. Good heavens, he’s everywhere these days! I had heard of Greer, but only knew about his neopagan writings (which I’d never read), and learned that not only was he Archdruid of North America at one time (a job I did not know available) but also that he is a very perceptive social critic, the kind of guy not afraid to ask the most obvious questions. My friend Mike Sauter, a regular contributor to Jesus the Imagination, has been recommending Greer’s blog to me for a good long while, and I really liked this blogpost on Johnny Appleseed,. And, for Pete’s sake!, his blog is entitled Ecosophia. How have I not been following this guy?
Anyway, prodded by my better angels, I purchased a couple of their books, Kingsnorth’s Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays and Greer’s The Retro Future: Looking to the Past to Reinvent the Future, both published in 2017. My own book Transfiguration, which treats many of the same issues as their books—transhumanism, the coming collapse of the technocratic paradigm, our relationship to the Creation and divinity, and how to live a fully human life—was published in 2018. So, obviously, I was overjoyed to find two kindred spirits out there in the world.
The gist of Kingsnorth’s book (and approach to life) is that talking about environmentalism and the thing we call “activism” are essentially fruitless at this moment. Better, he argues, is to actually live it, which is why he and his family bought two and a half acres in the west of Ireland (Kingsnorth is British) and started walking the walk instead of talking the talk so much (his own admission). As anyone familiar with my work will know, this is precisely what my wife and I have been doing on our biodynamic farm. Theoretical environmentalism is one thing; living it is another.
Greer’s book, on the other hand, is a cogent interpretation of modernity and its discontents. In particular, he repeatedly points out that those of us who think electric cars and wind farms will solve anything and allow us to still hold to our transportation-heavy and technologically-reliant lifestyles in the future are living in a fool’s paradise. That’s why his book examines the retro future: he thinks what we need to do is start developing the skills that will be necessary in a post-industrial age (I also touch on this in Transfiguration). He lists “seven sustainable technologies” that would serve humanity in good stead as we move into such a time: 1) organic intensive gardening; 2) solar thermal technologies (not the same as solar panels); 3) sustainable wood heating; 4) sustainable health care; 5) letterpress printing and its related technologies; 6) low-tech shortwave radio; 7) computer-free mathematics. Some may bristle at these, astonished that Greer would suggest that the future will not be one of multiplying digital playgrounds and unbounded transportation freedom. Greer might say they’ll just have to learn the hard way.
As I did in Transfiguration, in these two books these writers anticipated where our civilization was heading and how to answer that. They’re pretty smart guys, but the World Archons are also pretty smart and could also see where things were heading—so they’ve been trying to game the outcome to their advantage. But that can only last so long. I don’t think either of them saw what the Archons were planning. But here we are.
Kingsnorth was recently received into the Orthodox Church and, unfortunately, he’s been paraded around by a number of Orthodox bloggers and such much in the way the captured Cleopatra was through Rome (Catholic media is horrible at this kind of convert trophy hunting as well). Nevertheless, an incipient Sophiology certainly seems to inhabit his work (which may be what drew him to Orthodoxy). The Archdruid Greer also seems to embody an inherent Sophiology. For souls attuned to both the natural spiritual worlds—and who do more than that conceptualize, a sophiological sensibility is simply unavoidable.
Ride on, brothers.
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine.