Thank you for opening this discussion, tedln!
And for the link to the "Jains" article, Ozark Lady!
One of my lifelong interests has been the history and development of religions. I freely admit that I'm not as familiar with the history of Jainism as I would like to be.
The linked article contains several statements which contradict others, but many polemic tracts (whether religious or secular) are structured similarly and can't stand up to logical analysis.
What I really want to bring to the table here is an odd episode I experienced online a few months ago. I, too, was wandering around the Internet trying to figure out what Permaculture / permaculture was about:
--What was the deal with the capital / not capital P?
--How/why was Perma/permaculture different from an ecological awareness and understanding of Nature (assuming that we *can* develop such an awareness or understanding)?
--Why did everyone seem to worship at the feet of the same guru? After all, my reasoning went, if the principles were accessible to all, then intelligent and aware people could apply those principles as best suit their own conditions, just like we do in gardening, but perhaps at a much more complex level. Why did there seem to be only one "source"?
--What was this "design" schtick? Isn't Nature (or the Divine, for people who feel more comfortable with traditional words) the best designer? Didn't the natural world prosper *before* people all over the world began digging fields into the earth, mining metals, hunting animals, and all the rest of it? Why should we feel that we can "design" better than Nature can?
So there I was, wandering through the Internet. I came across a forum dedicated to Permaculture. I read maybe 20 or 25 pages of various postings by the forum owner and various forum members. A few of the members wrote as if they were independent thinkers, but most of them seemed to have drunk the Permaculture-flavored Kool-Aid.
The whole approach seemed to be a very rigid, hierarchical, "money
required before we tell you anything at all *AND* before you're allowed to teach anyone else anything using the word permaculture
school of groupthink.
One of the pages I read contained musings about trademarking the word Permaculture (with a capital "P").
Another contained estimates of the number of people in the world who were enlightened enough to do various levels of environmentally aware/pro-environment tasks. Anyone here who maintains his/her own compost heap/bin/pile out of kitchen waste, liberated leaves, and so on will be interested to know that, on a scale of 1 to 10--with 10 being the most enlightened--s/he is somewhere around...a 4.
Oh, yes: it was a logarithmic scale! So the next level, a 5 (I forget what Enlightened practice was required), was 10 times more worthy than a 4, and so on. If you multiply it out, whoever is at the 10th level is 1,000,000 times more worthy than all of us happy composting fools.
Of course, there was only one guru at level 10 and one Enlightened person at 9. Taking the required (and evidently expensive) two-week course in and of itself was sufficient to place someone ahead of us long-time (or short-time) composters, closed- or almost-closed-loop householders, etc. It reminded me forcefully of--
Uh-oh. Religious history in the next paragraph. Skip over it if you need to.
The fact that one could, in two short weeks, "earn" / buy a placement on the (unofficial, at least then) 1 to 10 permaculture forum scale by taking a two-week $$$ course reminded me very much of the Papal Indulgences which so enraged Martin Luther back in 1517. (People could buy an Indulgence and automatically be forgiven their sins; they could even buy Indulgences for deceased family members and be assured that those relatives' souls would not suffer in Purgatory but would be moved along speedily to Heaven.) The Indulgences were a real money-maker for Pope Leo X, but to Luther they were the buying and selling of salvation itself. (For further developments, see Protestant Reformation....)
It's safe now, I think; religious history lesson is over.
The parallel between the two came immediately to mind: $$$ in, higher "placement" for the soul (Leo X) / social image and permaculture worthiness.
Our culture has traditionally valued those who freely and generously share their knowledge. This forum exists and offers support because of this generous tradition. Those who teach *only* in return for money are usually looked upon with suspicion, as if they're motivated only
to separate seekers from their money.
And indeed, in the 20 or 25 pages/message threads of the permaculture forum, I found much food for thought w/regard to the probable psychology of people who are involved in this (dare I call it?) dogma, and certainly loads of material (if I were a sociologist) for sociological study.
But what I did not
find was discussion of...Nature. Of the importance of
Wildlife, whether swimming, crawling, flying, or walking
Food, whether native or cultivated
Native Plants of whatever kingdom/phyla
or similar themes
The forum seemed to be a structure without any substance at its center, a literal "shell" game.
It was a very unsettling find.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9