Dark Green Gods: on hyperobjects, animism and the greening of religion

In Dark Green Religion, environmentalism intersects with religiosity to sanctify nature. It proposes a sacred view of the natural world, so could this be an answer to our ecological crises? In this webinar, Hannah Close, curator of Contemporary Spirituality, dialogues with Timothy Morton, one of the course teachers, about eco-spirituality, religion in the modern Western world, 'Nature' as a concept, hyperobjects (a term coined by Tim), and more.

Hannah Close: So I'm Hannah, for those of you who haven't interacted with me online before, and I'm the curator of the course Contemporary Spirituality: Meaning and Mysticism in the Modern Age... it's a bit of a mouthful. And this webinar is obviously related to that, because Timothy Morton has very kindly joined us to discuss some of the themes that we'll be talking about then. So, and also advaya, you may not also be familiar with, but advaya is co-hosting the course with me on a beautiful new platform. And there will be a link in the chat at some point to the course website, also a discount code, for 15% off, which is worth snapping up, and any of the details you will need for joining.

Okay, so without further ado, I'm going to introduce Tim to you. I'm sure many of you already know who Tim is, but I should do it formally, so. Timothy Morton is Rita Shia Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. He's the author of Being Ecological, Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People, and Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. And lots of other cool books that I haven't mentioned there. He's collaborated with Bjork, Jeff Bridges, Olafur Eliasson, and Pharrell Williams—also very cool. And will be teaching on Week Three of Contemporary Spirituality on topics related to eco-spirituality, and things we're going to talk about now. So I'm just gonna dive straight in at the deep end, with the questions. Number one... It's obvious that in modern society, our perceived separation from nature as well as our lack of reverence for it, has been incredibly damaging. In your writing, you've previously challenged the term 'nature', which is super interesting and long overdue. So before going any further, could you speak about this term 'nature', scare quotes, and what you imagine it to mean, or not to mean?

Timothy Morton: Thank you. First of all, thank you very much for having me.

And it's very auspicious for me, because I'm actually working on this again, these issues, much more explicitly from the point of view of spirituality. And in fact, those of you who've read my stuff may know, or may have intuited, that there's a lot of that in there already. And quite a lot of what I say is actually very much influenced by two things. Esoteric Buddhism, that is the lineages of Vajrayāna, and Dzogchen, mahamudra, if you know about those, and a Dagara shaman called Sobonfu Somé. And perhaps we should start there, actually. Sobonfu's work is very, very important to me, and I'm acknowledging it very fully in my new book, which is called Hell! Because my daughter came in the kitchen, two Novembers ago and she was crying, and she said: Daddy, we're in hell! And she meant it. And part of talking about spirituality is surely sort of older people like me, taking responsibility for what's going on in the world and giving people like my daughter who's 19, some sense that there can be a future that's different from the past. That's really important to hold on to and I think any spiritual tradition is sort of talking about that, whether it be Buddha-nature, or Heaven, whatever that may be, whatever that is, right?

And Sobonfu's mode, right, she comes from Burkina Faso, and her whole thing is about grief rituals. In that world, if you want to get married, you have a grief ritual, right? You have a dispute with your friend, you have a grief ritual, right? You want to put a different colour of door on your house, you have a grief ritual, right? And they're so busy doing grief rituals, they have no time to take over the world. And you may have seen in my work, there's a lot of explicit talk about the grief side of life, and we could sort of start there. And it's profoundly influenced by Sobonfu. And... start with, we're in hell, Daddy! And I've been going through a lot of grief recently, because I just moved, and moving house... And also my daughter just had a heart operation. And there's just a lot of grief in my world. And it's like, we keep that at bay, especially white guys, especially in Western culture, we keep that at bay.

And this concept of nature is also like a way of keeping the biosphere at bay, actually, and we are the biosphere. Like we grew out of this biosphere, we are part of it. We're extensions of the biosphere. It's like an extension of our body, but it's also we're an extension of it. And when you say nature, you're sort of saying like, there's something under here, like in my genome, maybe, or maybe it's in these mountains over there, or maybe it's in my past, or maybe it's who I really am, but this is the pretending version. There's all kinds of ways of saying nature, as a way to keep something at bay. And when you're grieving, there's something knocking on your door, you can't really keep it at bay, and I would argue that grief in a way, it's the one emotion that's definitely bigger than you, your sense of yourself. It's always bigger. It's part of what you could call your soul.

And I like to say soul, because it's like, even this sort of grey Scooby Doo smoke in a bottle thing, version of soul, is better than mind, which is this very abstract, empty, conceptual thing to think about, right? And whenever I hear the word mind, I hear the phrase and body, and you've got this mind-body dualism, which is basically a subject-object dualism, which is basically a master-slave dualism, and if you don't like that dualism, you're going to want to not say things like mind and body I think. Nature and culture. That's another kind of dualism that's dependent on this mind versus body, thought versus emotion, training versus who you are. And grief is kind of like everything you ever did, and everybody you ever saw, and everything you ever thought of... Everything. The whole thing. This huge, big pile of everything, and it sort of impinges on your world. The older you get... I'm getting sort of older, and you just feel it more. And if you keep it at bay, it makes it worse.

I was trying to keep it at bay a little bit yesterday, and I got into all kinds of snarl-ups with it, and then so today I'd sort of gone into the skid, and I'd realised where I was at. And I was able to do it better, to sort of grieve better. And this is like a rather long winded way of saying, nature... it's always opposed to something, like for example, in philosophy world, you could say it's a normative concept, in other words, it establishes good versus bad, right? So for example, you could say some things are natural, like transphobic people: 'some forms of sexuality and gender are natural and some forms are unnatural'. It's a really toxic thing. And evolution world and biology world and biosphere world has got nothing to do with these concepts, at all. Everything you see around you. This, the way I'm talking, these funny glasses that I bought from a chemist shop, like everything, the way the lights are, the way this seminar is organised...

Everything is made out of literally queer female desire, namely that is desire without an object. Because like a female peacock found a certain kind of male peacock sexy, that's why they have those tails. That kind of thing which is sexual displays, the evolution driver, and because a female peacock can find it sexy, a male peacock can find it sexy, and of course you can find it sexy, and Charles Darwin said whenever I think of a peacock's tail, I get really grossed out and I want to throw up and grossed out is actually his way of saying, 'too much enjoyment'. 'Too much enjoyment.' And, it kind of means that whatever's driving the biosphere isn't to do with a kind of goal. That's another thing about nature. It's supposed to be this thing that's very... it has a certain vector to it. It has a certain kind of reason behind it, but the the real reason to care about like looking after our world is that it's a beautiful accident. It's a beautiful accident. Everything about it. Natural selection, sexual selection, symbiosis. They're all about these beautiful accidents, and if spirituality is about anything, it's about learning how to like work with the accident quality of life, and not be so, 'I'm caught in my tragic story.'

Hannah Close: Thanks, Tim. Maybe I'm just thing-ing the thing a little bit here, but if not nature, then what? So you mentioned the word soul as well, and biosphere, and these other words are sort of bubbling up. Do we even need... As soon as we give it that category, are we just separating ourselves, or is there a way of doing it?

Timothy Morton: No, I think the beauty is that we can use all the words that science discovers. Biosphere is a good word. Life form is a good word. Dolphins are wonderful, right? They're not natural. They are life forms, living in a biosphere, and that's got nothing to do with natural versus not natural. And the whole problem is humans thinking that they're different from these things: fundamentally different. And the other thing is that profoundly, and this is something I'm arguing in this book, which is called Hell, and the subtitle is 'In Search of a Christian Ecology', it's like, is there one? Could there be one? And actually realising, funnily enough, there really is one. And the way in which just a regular old scientifically observable brain, in an normally describable body, sits in a biosphere. The feel of that, the noise that that makes, is every... all religions seem to...

I'm gonna make a huge big generalisation here and say that in at least established religions around the world, there's a kind of VIP lounge, and you make it up to the VIP lounge in some way, right? You do enough prostrations to Vajrasattva or whatever, and you make it into the lounge. And in the lounge, they say, this whole thing about a mostly white psychopath guy in the sky with a beard who's trying to hurt you wasn't really true. Whatever that was, it was just some kind of thing to control people. And what it really is, is that you are this thing or you're deeply part of this thing, and your job from now on, is to notice that. So what does it sound like? You are this biosphere, you are part of it, and your job is to notice that. And the argument in the book is actually that what it feels like to be a life form is described in religion. So you go into the VIP lounge and they say, you have to notice it. And they teach you something like some kind of meditation. I learned meditation with Buddhist meditation teachers and they sit you down, and there's like Christian versions of it, and there's a beautiful, medieval book called The Cloud of Unknowing, and it's in the title, so just be a cloud of unknowing, like, that's it.

Don't try to adjust that. Like the search for some intrinsic thing that's more real than this. I'm trying to find it. That's in Buddhism called samsara, you're trying to look for something else, and so you sit and you meditate, and you're like, I'm not getting it, I'm not finding it, it's all it's out of reach. And... that's it! Don't change that. That out of reach feeling is it. And if we had a little time, I'd take you through a meditation thing that I learned. It's called mindfulness of life. And it's not the same as mindfulness. Mindfulness has become very corporate. And it's become like pressing those finish buttons, like the smiley face and the angry face and you're pressing it on your inside of yourself every few minutes. So it's not that. It's actually just literally noticing that you're breathing, noticing that you have hands, your butt is on the chair, there's air coming in your nostrils. You're just this thing, this quivery, trembley thing called a life form. There's this funny feeling of slightly uncertainty. I don't know what this is. What's Professor Tim doing? What's he talking about? What is this? And this tantalising quality... We live in a tantalising world. The world is ungraspable.

But that's actually, biologically, totally simplistically, true. Because nerve signals come in your brain. I don't know how long. I'm not a scientist. Maybe a few milliseconds. After this thing touched the coffee cup, the brain went, Oh, touch. And then it's been established. Then this system, the nervous system, which is also in the plant, makes a kind of upside down photocopy of that, like noise cancelling headphones... it's environment cancelling headphones. So your sense of self, this basic proprioception, not your ego, but just like your sense of here I am, like, my meditation teachers call it meer I: you can't get rid of that one. That thing there is like an upside down photocopy of your environment. If worms didn't have this ability, they'd get stuck in the tunnels they were building. Think about it. Because they couldn't differentiate between themselves and the tunnel. So they're sensing the tunnel, then they're making an inside out copy of it. That's your sense of self, and that's arriving, whatever that is milliseconds, after this. I did this. And then it inverted it so that it's like, Oh, my finger touched this.

And so, this funny feeling of, I'm just out of reach, my body is just out of reach, this is just out of reach. It's here, but it's just out of reach. God is here, but they're just out of reach. Heaven is here... Somebody says the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Probably meaning, not, the end of the world is coming and you're all gonna be judged. It probably means, it's like the loose change in your pocket. You don't have to notice it, because it's handy. It's right there. You sort of can't notice it because you it's the thing you can't notice about yourself, because you're there. And this funny feeling of out of reach, that turns into, philosophically... it turns into, actually dualism. But this funny feeling of duality... is it. That's how you know, you're connected to the biosphere, which funnily enough, is this funny feeling of actually, slightly, disconnection? You don't have to push through it. That's what all the esoteric manuals are saying. Don't push through the funny feeling of disconnect and confusion. The nirvana is inside the samsara, the Buddha-mind is inside the confusion. Don't delete that, it's in there, the signal is in there. And your job is just to know that, and so I feel like a lot of religions are holding this truth, which is also a totally straightforward scientific truth. Which is, I'm gonna say a big word now... Religion is the phenomenology of biology. In other words, to translate, you don't need to use those words... Spirituality is the feel of alive. What it's like to be a bird, what it's like to be a butterfly, what it's like to be a tree, is described in these meditation manuals.

Hannah Close: There's so much in what you just said. It's completely fascinating me, and I've got to be careful not to run off with it. Because what you've just said has made me think of Eros, and metaphor and paradox, and loads of really good juicy stuff. We're gonna park that. And we'll talk about that another time, even though it's the same thing, and go on to my next scripted question, which is going to be... Let's go into Christianity. So I'm noticing and lots of my peers are noticing there's a huge resurgence in Christianity going on, which is a bit surprising because it's going on in my generation, millennials, basically, who used to be really anti-Christianity. We don't want anything to do with crusty religions, theistic religions, and there's this whole movement now of re-greening of Christianity, or trying to relate to the pagan or earth-based, or green bits of Christianity. So I wondered, why do you think this is, what do you think about it in general, and then maybe can you relate that to your forthcoming book? Tell us what that's about.

Timothy Morton: Yeah. I didn't Wow, gosh, thank you for telling me. I'm just this guy walks around the supermarket having ideas and putting them in the iPhone. And I'm going, Oh, what about this and that? And I already know, in America, there's the Exvangelical movement, where people are suddenly realising, Oh, my goodness, we were in this abusive power structure that had nothing to do with actual religion. And we're out of here, but we don't want to drop into atheism, or we don't want to drop into some idea... Again, I just accidentally wrote a book for them, which is this Hell book, but also now you're telling me in the UK, and possibly elsewhere in Europe, there's this other movement of the same thing. Another, I think, another aspect of the same thing, which is this rapprochement with the thing that people think of as the baddie. I was just talking about like, the idea that a lot of people think of as the baddie, like new age and some Buddhist ideas, thinking dualism is the baddie. The dualism is the secret sauce a little bit. You don't have to delete it, you see. This funny feeling of like, I'm not quite connected, is how you know you are, because it's not a concept.

There's so much to say about this. I'm just so touched, and blown away, that that's happening. And I'd like to know more about that. Because actually, I totally accidentally wrote a book for you people who are interested in that, really seriously. And I really didn't know. Gosh, there's so many things to say, that it's gonna take me a little while, because I just read the proofs last week, I just sent the proofs off, I just indexed this consent of the proofs. And so I'm deeply in the sort of thick of it, and so I'm trying to find the right place. But maybe the place to start would be something that Jesus said that's very similar to something that Buddha said, or that Buddha did. I've reconnected to Christianity, through a massive, long exploration of Buddhism. I started exploring Buddhism, like I'm getting out of here, Christianity, I'm going into Buddhism world, when I was 17. And I've done meditation retreats, for months, long. I've gone to Mount Kailash in Tibet, I'm full on Buddhism. And then suddenly, in March of last year, finding Oh, my word, No I'm not.

And I got Jesus. I'm just going to say that in a really massive way, and I rediscovered my Jamaican stepfather who's my real, actual father, and I connected with Treena. And it's because I've had this surgery. They cut me open the five different ways in my stomach and it was sort of like LASIK for my soul. I don't know if you know, LASIK, but they cut the eye and the eye reconfigures and suddenly it can see... with these lasers, they used to do it in Soviet Russia with knives, which are really scary and my cousin did it. But like the Sabbath was made for man. Not man for the Sabbath. Let's pick these grapes. This is about pleasure. This is about a basic pleasure orientation. What happened to Buddha? What happened to Siddhartha? He was meditating with all these yogis, who were like, we're getting out of here, we're getting out of samsara.

This old lady came with a bowl of rice pudding, to offer to these yogis, who were like, Let's burn ourselves on fire, because we got to get out of here, in the forest, and Siddhartha was one of these people, and he accepts the rice pudding, unlike everybody else. He's like, Oh, you awful bad person. You awful, bad, Jesus. You went to pick grapes with your people on the Sabbath. That's terrible. And Buddha took a spoonful of this, and remember he's been fasting probably for months, and I've done this, where I gave up cholesterol for months and months and months and then suddenly, I couldn't do it anymore. I got sick and I ate some some soup and I swallowed it, and the sensation of hyper bliss of having... because cholesterol is like a, you're a very good boy, chemical. Rice pudding milk, and he's eating it, and it goes in, the warm rice pudding. And the pleasure... and he's like, Ah, the pleasure is the pathway. You don't have to delete the pleasure, this body... Eating, it's a thing you do because you're a life form who grew out of the biosphere, is it.

And then when Jesus is doing the same thing. And then Jesus saying things like, I'm the leaven, the symbiotic bacteria thing, that's kind of in you, and squirming around inside you. I'm going to remix you. I'm going to remaster you. Like a remix guy. I became friends with Dave Terrell, who ran this club called Love, when I was... I'm from 1988. What can I say, you know? Everything in the early Acid House days was about Christianity, all the iconography, weirdly, and I made friends with Dave Terrell, who did the whole pump up the volume thing and his flyer for this club was the Virgin Mary with this burning heart and and I wanted to get permission to reproduce it in a book. And so he does a lot of remixing, for his job, and it's sort of like Jesus and Buddha, Buddhism and Christianity are the same idea of like, you've got it, already, let's just tweak it a bit and remix you so that you can have a much nicer time. I'm gonna hang out with these prostitutes, and I'm like scrawling in the sand with my finger, or whatever that is, or with a stick, and I'm doing literally geometry, which is just Earth touching, it's what it means, right? And these people are about to stone Mary of Magdala.

And actually, on my Buddhist shrine, I had a statue of Mary of Magdala forever. And I went to Maudlin College, Oxford, which is Mary of Magdala college, and that's kinda like the little thread of Christianity that ran all the way through the Buddhism, was that. And, people were like, we're stoning this woman for adultery. He was like, what the fuck are you doing? What? And they're like, yeah, she's done this bad thing. And he's like, Yeah, okay, whatever. Just the first person who should throw the stone who hasn't done a sin yet. And they're all like, Oh, right. And then they all just sort of walk away. It's this connection to knowing that you're an embodied being, because like, as an embodied being you are limited. But as in Finding Nemo, the sharks say fish are your friends. But I'm saying finitude is your friend. Finitude is your friend. And kind of basic finitude, is a way to say original sin. That shouldn't be a bad word that you should say to yourself, that should be the nicest thing you say, is that. And while I'm thinking this idea of like, being lovely about that, as opposed to eugh, about that. I'm also connecting to the original sin of the USA, which was what Britain did, which was like, let's outsource all the slavery to the Caribbean and America, to make a huge pile of money. Like why is America the richest country in the world?

And so for me, part of this connection to Christianity is a deeply anti-slavery, anti-racist thing, and has to do actually with connecting strongly, because of Treena, to black Pentecostal charismatic forms of Christianity. And I am now the most embarrassing type of person I could have thought of about 10 years ago, who is like, fully, I don't know what evangelical really means, like when people say it, it means something terrible. No it's, white evangelical people in America are like causing fascism, right now. They're bankrolling it, right? But they're not allowed to have it. Because actually, if you look up the word evangelise, it comes from a Greek word and it's in a middle voice. Verb. It's not active and it's not passive. Evangelism is a kind of Tourette Syndrome, you're like bleugh! I can't stop saying this crazy thing that you're loved, by this being: more than you could possibly imagine. And I'm so glad it's happening to people because the kind of nihilism, and also the kind of revenge speak that is in ecological language is really toxic and doesn't help.

When people are like, you're gonna be laughing on the other side of your face, when you find out the science was right! My friend Adam McKay made this movie called Don't Look Up, and he made it with a production company called Hyperobject Industries, which he... he got the name and he's a good guy and he made this movie, but he's basically saying, You religious people have got it all wrong. And the trouble is, Joe Public has got an idea, the stupidest version of which is better than that, which is that, Jesus loves you anyway. Of course, there's a comet coming to destroy the Earth, we know that. We are evangelical Christians, but Jesus loves me anyway, so why should I care? Until people like me talk to Jesus loves you anyway, we have a problem, because we're talking the language of revenge, and Jesus loves you anyway, even dumbest version is about mercy. And mercy is better than revenge, and guess what else? Life is mercy. Life is the chemical universe, which is a revenge universe, right?

This chemical destroys that chemical. This black hole sucks that planet in and life is like wait... just over here in the life part of the universe, we're going to refrain... This thing was once a little version of itself called a baby, and roughly this thing maintained itself because of quantum theoretical things that this thing can do because why? Because at that level, time is jiggling. It's not going forwards. It's going forwards and backwards. And quantum and life is a thing that makes itself out of the fact that the universe fundamentally is jiggling. It's not this arrow. It's not this machine that's pointing. It's actually quivering, jiggling, alive really, is that right, this kind of quivering, jiggling thing. And I feel like Christianity is really talking to that. Talking to Mercy. And mercy is like, it's kind of wired into you as a life form. How else could you have a new idea? How else could you have a thought, apart from this mercy thing? Like when you're in a fight, and you're grinding away at it, and then you realise, wait a minute, why the... why am I doing this? What am I doing, why am I doing? How could you even think that? How could you even have one moment of hesitation, if the universe really was this machine that was just pushing... Well, so, I'll shut up. You know what I'll do. I'll shut up. And I'll bite this pizza. And then Hannah can ask me a question.

Hannah Close: Alright. I shall choose a question that is a pizza bite, in length. Let's see here. This question is a bit obtuse, but I'm going to have to ask it: is God a hyperobject? And for those that don't know what is a hyperobject...

Timothy Morton: Yeah. So about 10 years ago, I published this book, called Hyperobjects. And it was about things that are physical things, that are so big, and so hard to understand. And you're part of them, and you're also part of lots of other ones. And so they're overlapping, right? You can think them, and you can begin to measure them, like so, global warming is a good example. It's really big. It's everywhere. It goes on forever. And you can only see little bits of it, and then when you see the bit of it looks like rain... It's normally raining today, and some people go Oh, that means it's not really happening. So because it's so big, and multi dimensional, it's hard to get a handle on it. You know what it is, but you can't see it and in that sense, in a certain way, you know, in a certain way, what God or Buddha-nature is, but you can't get a handle on it. I'm not sure God is a hyperobject. That's a very interesting question. I'm teaching Paradise Lost right now, and Milton has got some really cool incredible things to say.

You know that worm thing where the worm makes an upside down photocopy of itself, and can be aware of itself in the tunnel. For Milton, God creates the universe the same way that the worm makes an upside down photocopy of the one. In a way the universe is an upside down photocopy of God. The universe is God perceived through God-cancelling headphones: upside down. The footprints of God's absence, in that sense, from the universe, are kind of everywhere. And so in that sense, God is like the weakest possible signal. I'm saying, I'm agreeing with you Hannah. God is a hyperobject. It's because God's everywhere, that it's that still small voice, that's the weakest possible signal, trying to hear this big, loud, Donald Trump brah! is... you're missing the point. Because if something's everywhere, it's the most default possible thing out of which everything else is made. And so it's going to be the seemingly gentlest, weakest, faintest signal, which is how you know it's everywhere and everything. And yeah, that's it.

Hannah Close: God is a hyperobject. Okey doke.

Timothy Morton: You heard it here first.

Hannah Close: Can modern society ever truly become animist, not in the vein of going back or mimicking Indigenous cultures or even appropriating them, and then I think, well, we're already so semi-animist in terms of technology: for example, the way we refer to our cars as if they're living beings, and things like that, and, this is a very dry phrase, but what would a contemporary animism look like that's fit for our culture as it is now?

Timothy Morton: All my work. Part of it has been I'm trying to move this titanic of white Western thought, away from the iceberg that it's heading towards, a little bit more around towards the things that it thinks it's escaping from, and it calls it animism, and I like to put that word in my early work, I put it with a crossing out mark, because the word itself is kind of compromised by... it's like the word anarchist. It means a communist that Marxism doesn't like. Or Gnostic. It's like a Christian that official Catholicism doesn't like. It's like a pejorative term to a certain extent. And you could sort of view the history of settler colonialism as white people... This is the Christianity interpretation that I'm giving in this book. It's like white people sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is more visible in the so-called animism cultures that have been destroyed and colonised and enslaved by the white people. And if there's anything about contemporary culture that's to me very interesting, it's this. The interesting rise of Pentecostalism, which kind of is like... please forgive me, I'm just finding out about this as I talk about it.

Talk Radio, actually, the LA Talk Radio person kind of thought wouldn't it be interesting to have this religion that was different that was like this... And the Holy Spirit, the being who is the least well known, but why? In white Western Christianity. And the most interesting one. And how a lot of people like Oh, that's just the feeling of being in a community of people, like the sort of Slavoj Žižek Marxist interpretation of it, but like, why does that feel good? Why does it even feel good to be in a community? Why do you want it? Why do you even want that, right? I think this is a very interesting thing. And that would be a little bit how... to me it would be like remembering, or thinking about or fermenting, or having a long conversation with, the Holy Spirit aspect of Christianity, funnily enough, that these two things are actually not dissimilar. And this journey, I mean, even it's called, in the medieval phrasing, the Holy Ghost, because the last time a lot of European people even talked about it, was in the Middle Ages, as it were, and so, the language about it for white people is incredibly crude, and it's affected by this dualism of subject versus object. The Father and the Son and all these sort of things, like there's this duality thing going on. It's very hard to imagine.

Whereas for instance, in Buddhism, and Hinduism and other spiritual traditions like that, there's the subtle body. That it's like it's in between the gross body, the object bit, and the totally subtle thing, the mind. And I fully believe in this subtle body concept. I'm very aware of my subtle body, it isn't even my subtle body. It's a transpersonal energy field in a way. And it is the word affect, in contemporary theory, kind of gets at something to do with this subtle body, and being able to tune to that, and when Jesus says the Spirit blows where it listeth... or I can't remember the exact words, in the Bible, the Spirit goes where it wants to go. That's actually very different from thinking in terms of, I'm imposing my will on a thing, I'm the actor and this is the passive thing, it's more like I'm kind of following along something. And so I think, since this is already true, since this is already the case about the world, that acting never meant imposing your will on things, that it was only ever actually following along with things. This template of subject and object, master and slave, is about to snap. Like why is fascism happening, really, around the world? Because some people are realising, Oh my word.

It's even in the word woke. The word woke is a horrible, pejorative word, right used in a horrible way to like, hate on white allies of Black people by using a Black dialect word from the early 19th century. And it's sort of like... but if you say it, it's almost like acknowledging that something's happening, that there's this thing about to happen. It's almost like in Shrek Three, Antonio Banderas, who plays Puss in Boots. At the end, he goes, whatever happens next, I will not cry. And it seems to me that when people are harshing on this concept of woke, they're harshing on this feeling that's bubbling up inside them, that they actually can't resist it, and that at some point, some of those people are going to go, oh my god, oh my god, I'm responsible for the legacy of slavery, because I can understand it and look at structural racism. Look at my skin colour. It's so obvious. And at that point, whatever you say about animism, that's what it's going to look like. It's going to look like a profoundly anti-racist movement, which is planet-scale, that's going to actually be how human beings finally get to realise that we are indeed part of this biosphere.

Hannah Close: Tim, thank you very much for coming and talking, and opening all of these wonderful doors that we're now going to run into and explore.

Timothy Morton: Thank you so much, and I'll see you soon.


Timothy Morton

Timothy is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University.

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Hannah Close

Hannah is a writer, photographer, curator and researcher exploring philosophy, ecology, culture and being alive in a world of relations.

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