Episode #160   Three years on: Manda’s reflections on our third anniversary – and looking forward into 2023

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Three years – and 160 episodes – into the podcast, Manda takes stock of where we’ve been, why we set up and, crucially, where we’re going, both in the ‘cast and in the membership programme.

As we move from our third to our fourth year, it seemed like a good time to look back on the origins of the whole Accidental Gods project – why and how we started and what our original aims were – and then to look forward to the coming year and what we’re focussing on both on the podcast and within the membership. So much has changed even in such a short time. We’re all more aware than ever of the tipping points around us, but also more aware of what we can do, of the many, many roles that are here to be filled by people who have time and energy and commitment to give to transforming the future. So this is a paean to possibility and a thank you to all who have been part of the journey this far.

In Conversation

Welcome to Accidental Gods to the podcast arm of the project that aims to bring us forward to a flourishing future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott, host of this podcast. And generally speaking, I talk to a guest, but this is our third anniversary, and as we head into the start of our fourth year and our 160th podcast, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been, where we came from, how we started, and — more importantly — where we’re going.Because as with everything in the world just now, we are evolving and it feels like a time to pause and reflect and consider. And I wanted to share that with you.

Our first episode aired to the world on the 24th of December in 2019. For reasons that I absolutely can’t remember now, we decided that Wednesday was a good day to launch. And so this was the Wednesday after the solstice. Although in reality, the journey started at least a year before that. Every year, Faith and I sit with the fire at the dark nights of the year. I have done this from long before we met – several decades ago now – and ask of the fire ‘What do you need of me?’ This requires a degree of a sense of connectedness to the fire.

Way back when I was writing the Boudica books, I considered myself to be a fire dreamer, not exclusively, but certainly that was the primary element with which I made contact and through which a lot of the time I connected with the gods of the land. And if this sounds outside your sphere of influence, then frankly, let it go. For us, it matters. And connecting to the fire in 2018 was, I suppose, as deep as it ever is. I was feeling quite smug because I had finally brought a group of students all of the way round the wheel within which we structure our western shamanic training. So to be very clear, I am teaching people to use the tools of shamanic practice in a 20th century world. I am not teaching people to be shamans and I genuinely don’t think that anybody who exists in our modern, Western educated, industrial, rich, democratic, notionally weird culture is ever likely to be a shaman. You just need to work with someone who has, for instance, grown up in the Amazon and been apprenticed since they just reached double figures to understand the gulf between what we do and what they do. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the tools of shamanic practice in our W.E.I.R.D Culture – we definitely can. And it is my experience that the gods of the land are very happy to connect. We just need to take the time and the effort to learn how.

When I wrote the Boudica books, I went around the country saying, ‘This is who we were. This is who we could be. Everything you need is in here.’ And by the end of what was in those days, a three week book tour, people were coming back to me and asking how to do it. I thought it was all very clear in the books and evidently it wasn’t as clear as I thought. So 20 years on, of the hundreds of people who had started a foundation group, nine had gone all the way around the wheel. So I sat with the fire going, ‘Hey, guys, look, nine people, nine.’ And essentially what I got back was, ‘Nine people in two decades is not going to cut it. You need to be teaching at scale.’ Which was enormously confusing on every level, because I believed then and believed now that the shamanic work really needs to be taught 1 to 1, and teaching it at scale is neither safe nor useful for anybody involved in either side of that interaction.

But I had two very clear visions from the fire, and one was of the blue pearl of the earth, rolling through the blackness of space and surrounded by a myriad network of millions upon millions of very tiny filament wires, threads, all crossing and crossing and crossing. And at every crossing point was a node of consciousness. And not all of those nodes, in fact, very few of those nodes were human. And the second image I got was of me standing on a stage in America talking to large numbers of people.

And that was confusing because at that point I had given up flying completely because carbon footprints were a thing and I had no intention of going to the States. But about three days after that vision, I had an email from somebody in the States suggesting that there were quite a lot of people who might otherwise come across to a foundation course, but I could go out and teach there. And the end result was that I went out in May of 2018 to a place where I ended up teaching three courses back to back to a fairly large number of people, which meant I had to work out how to teach at scale. I had to work out what that meant, what was possible, what was going to be useful to people. And the result was the project that we call Accidental Gods. Named because we – our culture – did not mean to have the power of gods, certainly not at any conscious level. When I was growing up as a kid I did not think that I would be part of the culture that had the capacity to wipe out not only our own species, but every other species on the planet. But that said, just because we have the capacity doesn’t mean we have to use it. And as I’ve realised that that capacity does exist, I have also realised that we have the capacity to become something far, far greater.

And that was what it seemed to me after a lot of sitting on the hill and inquiring of everything that I understand to be true was I needed to be teaching details of how we get to the conscious evolution of ourselves as individuals and of our species as a whole. So that is the evolution of our consciousness consciously taken. And so in the first instance, what we developed, Faith and I, was an online self teaching course that you can do at your own pace, which was designed to bring people as close as I understood then and frankly still understand now, to being able to connect with the web of life and ask with integrity and a sense of grounding, ‘What do you want of me?’on the grounds that this is the single most important question that any human being can ask of the greater web of life.But we need to ask it knowing that there is something that can answer and having the capacity to discern the difference between our own egos response and a response that at least on the best objective measures that we have, appears to come from the outside.

That course was established and still exists and all the way through setting it up through 2018, Faith, who has to do all the tech, was suggesting quite powerfully that perhaps the solstice of 2019 was not an ideal launch time, and I would go up the hill and come back down and say, ‘I’m really sorry, but there’s a really clear push that Solstice 2019 is when it absolutely needs to happen’.

And we had no idea why, but we broke quite a lot of our internal fuses making it happen. And as we evolved along, it seemed that we needed a podcast or at least an audio trail to talk the course members through what was happening and why, and particularly the neuroscience. Because what I really wanted to do is bring together the latest neuroscience with the ancient age-old practices that humanity has evolved over millennia into something that would make sense to people now.

 And so the first nine episodes of the podcast are doing exactly that. They are me pretty much talking as I am talking to you now, explaining what Accidental Gods is, how it works, why it works, and how best to make the most of it. And I quite like podcasting. It’s fun. Terry Pratchett (a great and gifted writer and much missed) once said that writing novels was the most fun that any person could ever have with their clothes on and on their own. And that is 100% true. But podcasting is at least equal. It is one of the most inspiring experiences of quite a varied life. And when I realised that I could go out and have conversations with people that I really respect and whose ideas I want to explore and ask them the questions that I am otherwise sitting at home while I read their books or their blogs or their websites, or listen to their podcasts and go, ‘Yeah, but, but this, What about this?!’. 

And I can do that now. I can write to them and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a podcast, you want to come on?’ And in the early days, quite a lot of people went, ‘No, no, actually I don’t’. And these days, not only do most people say ‘Yes,’, but I have increasing numbers of people writing going, ‘Hey, you want me on your podcast?’ And again, at least 50% of the time we have a pre-Pod conversation. And I think, ‘Yeah, I really do. I had never heard of you before, and now I really want to know what you do and how you do it. And I want to share this with the world.’. 

 And that last bit is the bit that really matters. It’s the sharing ideas across the world. We know that we are in a time of absolute transition and transformation. Anyone listening to this podcast has got that. In the early days, I think it was perhaps not so clear. And to an extent we did spend some time going over the fact that the existing system is broken.

 Our very first podcast was with my dear friend Della Duncan, who I met when I did the Master’s in regenerative economics at Schumacher. Della was one of the faculty teachers who led us very beautifully through Joanna Macey’s Work That Reconnects and really helped our year, the Economics group, to bond on a level that otherwise would not have been possible.

Della hosts her own podcast, The Upstream Podcast, and has become part of our Solstice tradition with Natalie Nahai as we reflect on the year. But that very first podcast back in the early months of 2020 as the pandemic was just hitting and we were beginning to understand what lockdown might open the doors to different ways of doing things.

 And that is for me, the core of what we’re about. It seems to me that conscious evolution is essential. We have two choices, really. We’re either going to drift back into the kind of medieval patterns of behaviour that we have dragged ourselves away from over the past few centuries, but that lie quite close to the surface if we begin to scrape away the established rules of what we call civilisation, at least in the West. Oe can evolve beyond this as individuals and as a culture to something that we could not possibly imagine yet, but which has, I believe, astonishing potential. Human creativity is miraculous on so many levels and there are so many, many ways in which it is being brought to bear on the problems of our time.

There is a fascinating individual called Richard Bartlett, whom I hope to invite on the podcast, probably around the middle of next year. He has looked at responses to the transformation we’re currently undergoing, and he’s sifted them into a progression of four steps, rather like the steps of grief and loss.

 Stage one is denial, avoidance numbing and joking, which is characterised by ‘I don’t want to think about it because if I did it would probably be depressing because we’re probably screwed and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. So get out of the way. I’m trying to watch the football.’. 

 Stage two is the rage and grief. ‘I’ve seen how big the problem is. Nobody is doing anything. Everyone was more power than me is to blame. I don’t know what piece of the puzzle is mine to solve, so I choke or freeze or panic when I try to imagine doing something constructive. But at least I can protest.’. 

 Stage three is risking burnout. ‘I know what peace is mind to work on. I’m fully engaged in constructive projects, but I can’t see enough people taking action. So I feel compelled to work at at least three times my capacity, painfully oscillating between overwork and depression.’. 

 Stage four is joyful and relaxed, and this is characterised by: ‘I know my piece to work on, and I’m in relationship with many other engaged peers working on theirs. I couldn’t imagine a more meaningful life. We have such deep support networks that civilisation could collapse and we’ll still take care of each other.’

 And this, for me, meshes very cleanly with Simon Michaux’s categories of overall civilizational response. Simon is definitely coming in the podcast in February, or at least let’s say we’ve booked him, I’ve stopped saying anything as definite: podcasting, I realise, is a very fluid art.  Anyway, Simon characterises people in four categories: First is ‘Business as usual. Everything is going to continue the same and we are in fact going to fight to ensure that it continues the same’, which I would strongly suggest characterises the politicians of both sides of our national political divide in the UK, in the US and to quite a large extent around the world. You don’t get to be a politician under the current system unless you are fully invested in keeping that system going with a few obvious random outliers. But generally the people who hold the reins of power have a lot invested in making sure that they continue to hold the reins of power.

 His next group are what he calls the Vikings. I wouldn’t necessarily go with that. The Vikings are one of the few groups in Western history where the history was written by the losers and the Vikings did not come out well. I would perhaps suggest we call them the Colonisers, because whatever region you’re looking at, these are the individuals who walk in with a lot of power, and at the very least, they pillage. Mostly they impose extraordinary colonial violence and pretend that they are the good guys.They take everything, they leave nothing, and then they move on to wherever they can take stuff next.

 Simon reckons, and I do want to talk to him about this, that the existence of whatever we call these people is what pushes the next lot into coherence, cooperation and creativity. So, the next two classes are, first of all, what we might call the Preppers, the people who are basically trying to prepare for civilisation not being quite as it has been and hoping to survive. They’re either filling underground chambers with cans of beans or trying to set up regenerative agriculture and the communities that stand a chance of creating their own power, having safe water to drink, somehow, managing the sewage outflow, all of the practical things that are pulse of fossil fuels has made almost irrelevant. We don’t think about these things anymore, but they are absolutely integral to our survival.

 The fourth group in Simon’s categorisation, I think maps quite cleanly onto Richard’s fourth group of joyful and relaxed: these are what Simon calls the ‘Arcadians’ – people who are invested in using whatever time we have left of the current civilisation to build a working successor, open eyed, knowing what’s coming, knowing what needs to be done and cooperating with other people in finding out how to do it.

 And this is what this podcast is for: helping to bring together the people who are doing exactly this, looking open eyed down the road, looking at the point when fossil fuels are harder to get, looking at the point when we really have to stop burning them or burning them much more intelligently with very specific outcomes in mind rather than just randomly powering stuff to maintain lifestyles that are not supportable, sustainable and definitely not regenerative.

 Brackets here: for those of you who don’t listen to this podcast every week, ‘Sustainable’ means doing things slightly less badly while ‘Regenerative’ means, undoing the harm that we’ve done and creating a world where people live in full cooperation with the rest of the web of life so that we have dynamic interchange that can be maintained with joy on both sides forever.

 This is not impossible. Until very recently, humanity lived in pretty good equilibrium with the web of life. Yes, there were some species of megafauna that became extinct, but the background rate of extinction is one every 700 years. It’s not the rate of extinction we have just now. But if you look at continents like Australia, we have humanity living on that continent for hundreds of thousands of years in a way that seemed entirely regenerative. A lot of the studies being done now in the Amazon show that the jungle is largely a human interacted area, that it would look very different without the tribes that have lived there again for many, many millennia.

 We’re going forward. We are definitely not going back. But one of the central theses of my spiritual path, and therefore Accidental Gods in all of its forms, is that the greater web of life has all of the answers – that one of the failings that we have with our Western mindset when we cut ourselves off from this.

I would go back to the Romans for that cutting, but that’s a whole separate conversation. At any rate, we took on ourselves the idea that we have all the answers and we have very linear mindsets. We live in a complicated world where you turn dial A and something happens over there in Section B and we can follow on down an extended alphabet.

But the living world doesn’t work like that. The living world is complex. You may turn dial A, but the random other consequences of this that you’ve never even thought about and probably can’t measure are virtually infinite. So I believe very strongly that we need to let go of the idea that we have the answers and step into the idea that what we need to do is listen. IF we can do this, the answers will arise, provided we are working with integrity and have done the work – and it does take time – to be able to ask those questions and hear the answers in ways that are actually likely to be real. So this is one of the reasons why we’re shifting the Accidental Gods membership so that instead of a webinar once every other week, which we were doing, we’re going to go to 2 hours on a Sunday once a month where we’re going to run an experiment.

 We’re calling it the Intention Intensive because I’m a writer, I like alliteration. It’s also, I hope, memorable. But the plan is really to help people to reach that space of being able to ask that question and hear the answers. In the same way that creativity is an extraordinary, miraculous thing and human creativity is astonishing and is one of our greatest gifts, our greatest superpowers, if you like, then the capacity to hone and hold a clear intent is, I think, one of the most powerful forces on the planet.

But we don’t use it very well. We have a tendency to use our capacity to frame imagined futures, to frame quite bad imagined futures to depress ourselves much further than is necessarily wise or useful. Imagining bad futures isn’t useful at any level, unless it spurs us into doing something constructive to change them. And the problem is, the more we imagine not-good futures, the less capacity we have to extend our creativity beyond the known, beyond the boundaries of what we believe to be essential and unbreakable – like shifting from capitalism into other ways of exchanging value. There’s an aphorism that floats around the internet, and I cannot remember who said it, that it’s easier to imagine the total extinction of humanity than it is to imagine the end of free market neoliberalism, which appears to be true. You just have to watch our various politicians, and they’re still talking about growth as if this were somehow useful.

They might add an adjective on the front:  green growth (rarely) sustainable growth (increasingly), but whatever they do, they’re all locked in this appalling paradigm. I have great hope for the Scandinavian countries because Simon Michaux says that the governments in Finland and Sweden are getting what he’s saying about material flows, basically stopping and the need to use what we’ve got while we’ve got it to create different ways of being. So watch that space for something very different. But in most of those parts of the world that are part of the problem and not the solution, envisaging the end of predatory capitalism does seem to be much harder than envisaging the end of life on the planet. And yet, as so many guests on this podcast and elsewhere in this area of the Internet are pointing out, there are literally millions of people working tirelessly to create other ways of being, other ways of doing things, other ways of managing the global mammoth that is our industrial society.

And so what we need, each of us, is the capacity to imagine how we would feel if we were to wake up in the morning and the world felt like a place where anything was possible and we could play our part in it wholeheartedly, full heartedly, clear heartedly, strong heartedly. We need to be able to imagine a world where we are completely in love with being alive, where we don’t know what each day is going to hold, but we get out of bed absolutely immersed in, and full of, the understanding that whatever happens, we will be able to meet it and meet it well, and we are surrounded by other people who are coming from the same place and who are there to support us.

It is the case that one of Simon’s key groups is the Preppers and that the Preppers are all busy building, sustainable or we hope, sustainable communities. But that doesn’t stop the fact that even in the Arcadian end of the spectrum, community is the way forward. And so one of the things that I am really focussed on going forward (and therefore the podcast is focussed on), is how we can build the templates of building community. How do you create the social glue that gives you the cohesion that will hold disparate people when things get tough? And just allowing things to get tough is not enough. We need the social technologies, the ways of being, the ways of making decisions, the ways of solving problems before they become so huge that everybody is triggered before things get tough. Because the time to do stuff is not when you’re already unsure of where the food is coming from. And if we can solve these problems in time and it definitely is still possible, then we will never get to the point where we’re worried about where the food is coming from.

So this is one of those circular catch 22 moments. If we don’t do the work now, then we will not be able to do the work later. If we do the work now, then we have no idea where we will go. But where we’ll go will be somewhere that is predicated on constructive, compassionate, regenerative values that bind humanity to the web of life in a way that feels constructive to both sides. Working through that very first vision of the multiple filaments of light around the globe of the Earth, what became really clear was that we needed to get to and could get to a point where each of us individually had a clear, clean, honest, grounded sense of self, where we knew what it felt like to bring the best of ourselves into connection with the rest of humanity and the web of life such that we could ask, What do you want of me and respond in real time by doing whatever it is that only each of us can do, so that you would know what is it that only you can do, who is it more importantly, that only you can be? And in the being of that, what do you bring? What note do you bring to the Symphony of Life? What thread do you bring to the tapestry? Whatever metaphor works for you, what is it that is unique to you that is also regenerative? What is it that you bring that honours life, that sings to the greatness of life?

Because it’s not hard to work out what each of us could bring that would dim the great song of life, that would dull it, that would make it discordant. Our culture shows us that in ourselves every day. And to a great extent, I think a lot of the disconnect in our culture, a lot of the horror that we perpetuate on ourselves and other species, both those that we consider sentient and those that we don’t, is because of the horror that we see inside. When we look at the magnified perceptions of what we consider to be difficult about ourselves.

So many of the students that come to work in the shamanic work come with a sense of self that tells them they are broken. And a lot of the work that we have to do is in healing such that, yes, there is pain, but there is also the capacity for joy. And these two do not have to be binary. It is possible to live with both, and it’s possible to connect to a world that is, I would say, in pain and is also evanescent with joy. And finding that paradox and living with it, is helped, I believe, by finding that sense of genuine connection. And the first podcast of next year with Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick explores some of the ways that we can begin to find that honest connection with Eva and Justin’s different experiences of working with other cultures and other forms of life in ways that honour the time that it takes to get past the projections.

We all project: it’s part of what we do. But there does come a time if we give it enough time, if we give it enough effort, if we give it enough bandwidth, there does come a time when the responses really don’t feel like they’re coming from the depths of our own subconscious and they are coming from something outside. And the great thing about that is that it’s testable. If stuff comes in answer to a question, then we can test the answers and see how they work. And if the world feels more regenerative as a result, if the song of life feels a little louder, a little brighter, a little more resonant, then we can begin to believe what we hear.

So that’s the foundation on which we work. And I thought it was worth reiterating that not all of you have gone back and listened to the first nine podcasts, although a large number of you have, for which I’m very grateful. I hope there’s enough new in this not to feel like you’re listening to the old stuff. And for the rest of you, it felt important that you know the baselines from which we work. Everything that we bring to you, at least in theory, is a note in the overall song; is an example of somebody somewhere (or a group of people) working as well as they can in regenerative ways to build the connections between people, between ideas, between visions of the world that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us.

I want us to be part of a movement that exists and is clear enough that our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren will look back at the timelines and say of us that, ‘Yes, we did leave it rather too late. But when it really mattered, we set aside our differences, we overcame the many triggers of our tribal divisions, we found the greatness of spirit, the generosity of spirit, the bigness and strength and clarity of heart and of mind to bring our creativity together and to create the foundations of a future that means that the generations that come after us can look forward to connecting more deeply with each other and the world.’ What greater gift could there possibly be? And how badly needed is that now?

So that’s where we’re going, and why. And we’re kicking off 2023 with a Gathering: four hours on the 2nd of January: ‘Dreaming your Year Awake’, which I hope will set us up for the rest of the year, will begin to open these doors. It’s open to anyone and everyone: you absolutely do not have to be part of the Accidental Gods membership to come along to that. It’s online, it’s on Zoom, it’s 5:00 till 9:00 UK time in the hope that that will reach as far around the world as we can.

After that, at the moment, the Intention Intensive is definitely within the membership. There may be other Gatherings through the year though I hope I will be writing the second of what will be a series of Thrutopian novels next year, so I may not be doing too many Gatherings. You never know. But the intention work is definitely going to be there within the Accidental Gods program. And I really do not want to turn this into some kind of advertorial, but I do get emails pretty much every week from people asking how they can support the podcast. And we do have a Patreon page, but honestly, if you want to support at all, come and join the membership. You get really quite a lot of help to connect to the web of life. And that’s what matters. The podcast isn’t altogether cheap to produce, but while we can produce it and fund it in other ways, we will do.

I also had a really charming young man who wanted to sponsor something, and I’m not going to do that for a while. Certainly not just now. Really, I do not want to be increasing sales of things that I don’t think are sustainable. ‘Buy Product X because that’s how we keep consumption going,’ does not feel like a useful thing to be doing, so we’re not heading down that route either.

Above all else, I really, really want the podcast to continue to be free at the point of use for as long as we can possibly do it. So. If the Accidental Gods membership is too much, just email us. Everything is flexible. We can make most things happen. We’re on, if you didn’t know that already.

And at the end, as I always do, but with real heart. I want to thank Caro C for all of the work she puts into the production of this podcast: it’s a labour of love on every level. Caro is the only person besides me and Anne Thomas who does our transcripts – thank you, Anne – who listens to every single podcast.  Caro listens to it many times over as she does the sound engineering. So thank you, Caro. Thank you, Anne. Thank you, Faith, who does the website and manages all of the technology that makes everything work. There was a time in our relationship where I was the techie one in the family, which is hilarious now. I don’t understand how most of this stuff works, and if I ever had to send out a MailChimp on my own, it would be an utter catastrophe. So we’re not going to go there.

And I always thank the listeners at the end and I always mean it. If we didn’t have all of you out there listening, there would be no point in this: the amount of time and effort it takes would be better put into other things. So I am endlessly grateful that you take the time to listen and that you share it. Five stars and a review is lovely and is good for our egos, and I’m sure it does wonderful things for the algorithms of whatever podcast providers you use – but sending a link to half a dozen other people each week going, ‘Hey, I think you might like this, and here’s why’, is what spreads these things. It’s what lets people know that these conversations are happening, that the mainstream stuff is a snow storm and is not real, and that under the surface there are people really working to do the stuff that matters and that you can be part of it.

Somewhere along the line there will be something in one of these podcasts that resonates and you can pick up that thread and run with it and begin to build a networks of your own that take you in to Richard Bartlett’s fourth stage where you are joyful and relaxed, where you know your piece to work on and are in relationship with many other engaged peers working on theirs. This is what we’re heading for people. And it’s definitely possible. So we’ll see you in the new year. May your solstice and your Hogmanay be glorious. Thank you so much for being there. And goodbye.

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