Tom Atlee

Carl H. Flygt

May 2006


I met a good man this weekend, a man of conscience and vision and hope. An idealist and an organizer, Tom Atlee’s guiding principle, among other things, is a picture of human political and intellectual life on the model of a plant, constantly bifurcating into new shoots and tendrils, but unified by an unchanging or slowly changing trunk and stem, and responding to the constant psychic pulls and cosmic nourishments of a deep, moist Woman and a spiritual Sun. More likely than not, this Intuition of Possibility entered Tom’s self-consciousness, as it has entered the self-consciousness of probably all New Age proponents, or at least of a preponderant majority, by contact with naturally occurring psychotropic compounds, with the sacred Peyote for example, or the noble Cannabis. What is unique about Tom is his devotion to the idea that progressive Western political institutions, especially democratic self-governance, can be made out to exemplify and to extend this cosmic archetype. Tom thinks human activity on earth can become substantially like a cosmic plant.


Power relations, of course, are hardly something one will find in the Plant Kingdom. These are features of the beings who move, of the animals and of us humans. One might imagine then that Tom perhaps is misguided, that his metaphors are mixed, that his categories are misapplied. Yet there remains the poet’s intuition, the mystic Vision of the ethereal and cosmic City, the philosopher’s dream of the Social Organism where all pleasures and all pains are in common, and where private property neither of material nature nor of personality or Idea complicate a free exchange and utilization of that which gives life indifferently and in appropriate measure to a transcendental whole. “The one who came from farthest to my lodge,” wrote Thoreau, “through deepest snows and most dismal tempests, was a poet. A farmer, a soldier, a reporter, even a philosopher may be daunted. But nothing can deter a poet, for he is actuated by pure love.” I think it is more or less plain that Tom Atlee is likewise motivated.


The solution to the problem of political power is, I think, closer to hand than might be imagined. Certainly no great and reliable proximity to the ideals of psycho-social unity and the enjoyment of cosmic power and vibration can be discerned in most of the New Age fare currently on offer. But the experience of Collective Intelligence is on the rise, and the outlines of a worldwide social movement are emerging. Here there may be a very effective way to speak psychedelic truth to coarse political and institutional power. Collective Intelligence requires groups of individuals to use conversation and language in a new and disciplined way, and it results in a psycho-social unity among the self-selected that outclasses and shames the expectations and manners of those accustomed to exploiting political and material advantage. The exemplar of modern political and economic power, a George W. Bush or a Donald Trump for example, will prove merely and perhaps pathetically unsuited to survive the circumstance of pure conversation, where consciousness is exalted into the cosmic dimensions prior to human birth, karmic action and death, and where life is sensed as an immediate and tangible value, not as a self-centered promise or imagination of the future. Such a set of attitudes and habits will be extruded, or better softened and remodeled, by any real social organism coming into contact with it. It is just such social organisms that need to enter the political dialog, and in so doing, to transmute it materially.


Needless to say, a good bit of purity and self-discipline will be required of the liberal New Ager seeking to achieve sustainable practices through democratic politics, probably more than many will be willing to muster. Collective Intelligence applied to political conversation will demand spiritual sacrifices previously unheard of in grassroots activism and organizing. But such sacrifice is something that some will be prepared to make. The idea and the practical feasibility of Absolute Democracy will be too compelling for them to resist. The social organisms of the political future will be led by people like Tom Atlee, who see nothing greater in life than to strive for the ideal of transcendental unity between and among all those who would discover the resonances and the power of terrestrial life, cosmically sensed, in its most fundamental and erotic modes.


The lawlike use of language and conversation is the key to collective intelligence in the social organism. A stern and sublime natural law of some kind underlies consciousness and life in general. How could it be otherwise? The law of social self-consciousness and social life is unity – unity of content, of impulse and of motive. The key to unity is logic and intelligence, and sufficient insight into principle and artistry. From there it is a question of practice. Let those with sufficient commitment and sufficient capacity begin the process of exhibiting the laws of self-consciousness, of life and of perfect democracy, to the awe and chagrin of those who would merely exploit them, and turn them into cosmic exemplifications of short-sighted self-interest, of material excess and of undeveloped aesthetic sensibility and poor taste.