Theodore Roszak


American History Professor at California State University, best known for his 1969 text, "The Making of a Counter Culture" and "Where the Wasteland Ends:Politics and Transcendence in Post-Industrial Society"

Author Quotes

To begin with we're dealing with problems that are urgent and life threatening and threatening the lives of other species beyond our own. You simply have to say that if it's true, it's true. Now in many cases we're not sure that it's true. We're troubled perhaps because of the uncertainty of the problem and we have to invoke prudence more than certainty in the matter. But in addition to that, even if the problem is an urgent one, you still at some point, I feel, connect with something more positive and affirmative in people. And I believe it's there. I wouldn't be saying this if I didn't believe it was there. So my article of faith is that at a very deep level the human psyche is grafted to the planet out of which we evolve, that there is what I call an ecological unconscious. Now whenever we invoke the unconscious, the depths of the unconscious, what we're essentially doing is pursuing a philosophical discussion of human nature. We're asking what makes people tick, what are the foundations of human behavior? And there's been of course a lot of speculation about that throughout psychiatric tradition. Some people find sexuality there, others find the archetypes of the high religious traditions there. I'm suggesting that at a certain level of the unconscious mind, what we find is ecological wisdom. And indeed, if that were not there, our species could not have survived and evolved as it has. Exactly what the ecological unconscious is and how it asserts itself and makes itself known, that's perhaps yet to be discovered once we attend to the problem. But I have floated this phrase, suggested this phrase as a hypothesis-- that at the lowest level, the deepest of the unconscious mind, we find a ecological unconscious deeper down even than Freud's ideas about sexuality or Jung's ideas about religious archetypes It's something that connects us intimately, companionably with the flora and fauna, mountains, rivers, the natural world around us.

We are discovering that natural philosophy needs bonds of sympathy as well as precision of intellect.

When it is another human being who is being... objectified, everybody (except the rapist) can clearly see the act as a crime. But when we objectify the natural world, turning it into a dead or stupid thing, we have another word for that. Science.

When theoretical physicists censor the public's spontaneous visualizing response by warning us we must not try to picture the underlying nature of the world, whether atoms or quarks or preons, they are drawing upon an intellectual discipline devised by Calvin. Reality is beyond the senses; only the rigorously logical mind, leaping bravely into the intangible, can grasp it. No images.

Without apoptosis, life would not be possible... when cells lose their ability to die, they run rampant, assuming that life-threatening form we call cancer... The process of apoptosis by which life and development are governed is profoundly communal... Cells ...need to be "encouraged" to live.

Women enter the sciences, but "womanliness"?those qualities that have always been stereotypically attributed to females?is not yet entirely welcome, whether it comes into the laboratory wearing pants or a skirt.

You and I, whole human beings, are, so Richard Dawkins insists, merely "survival machines, robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes." At its most fundamental level, he finds the living universe populated by John Wayne genetics and Clint Eastwood chemicals.

The more people have time to experience the joys of creativity, the less they will be consumers, especially of mass-produced culture. I see that as a kind of new wealth that counts for more than owning material things. I also see art as something people will do rather than consume, and do it as a natural part of their lives; creative endeavors are a form of profound spiritual satisfaction.

The truth of the matter is no society, not even our severely secularized technocracy, can ever dispense with mystery and magical ritual.

The youths comprised a culture so radically disaffiliated from the mainstream assumptions of our society, that it scarcely looks to many as a culture at all but takes on the alarming appearance of a barbaric intrusion.

This is the point at which the "rape of nature" ceases to be a metaphor. It is an accurate depiction... rape stems from a compulsive need to control, to control completely... From ...inadequacy flow fear, anger, the need to punish and subjugate... the objective is... to dominate this elusive, troubling female so that she will do what she is ordered to do... that requires the objectification of the other; she must become what he wants her to become.

The eyes are the gates of heaven and hell.

The final stage of life... offers us the opportunity to detach from competitive, high-consumption priorities... At that point, life itself?the opportunity it offers for growth, for intellectual adventure, for the simple joys of love and companionship, for working out our salvation?comes to be seen as our highest value... That is what I have always assumed it means to be countercultural.

The macho is in the metaphors, not the phenomena.

Reduced to the statistical permutations of genes, life became "nothing but" the marriage of chance and selection.

Science, in broad outline, can be divided into three parts: the study of the vast, the study of the tiny, and the study of life which... acts as audience to both the vast and the tiny.

Since the late 19th century, aging has been the normal state of all industrial societies; it is a sustained trend. Societies designed to cater to the needs of aging populations will soon become the accepted political condition of our species. Acknowledging that fact will, at some point, slide so smoothly into the conventional wisdom that future generations may not realize that this is a major new feature of modern life, this is different, this is not what human culture was ever meant to be?and it all started now.

Some Calvinist divines identified an "idol" as anything "feigned in the mind by imagination." There is a haunting similarity between such teachings and Galileo's bold attack upon what he called "secondary qualities" in nature.

That is what Castle's work needed: a beginner's eye?my eye, before it became too schooled and guarded, while it was still in touch with the vulgar foundations of the art, still vulnerably naive enough to receive that faint and flickering revelation of the dark god whose scriptures are the secret history of the movies.

The alchemists of the ancient world had a teaching: "As above, so below." Four words that contain an entire cosmology... a grand cosmic unity, a harmony resounding in the mind of God.

The bond of sympathy, like the artist's eye for beauty, may stretch across many divisions.

The Earth's cry for rescue from the punishing weight of the industrial system we have created is our own cry for a scale and quality of life that will free each of us to become the complete person that we were meant to be.

The elder culture that is being improvised all around us day by day... promises to be the road toward a saner, more compassionate, more sustainable world?altogether, a more important turning point than ever presented itself in the 1960s... This, at last, is what the dissenting idealism of the 1960s was, in its highest and brightest expression, all about: a transformation of values that may finally reveal the goal of industrialization... In raising that possibility I cling to one hope. They grew up... reveling in their willingness to search beyond the limits of convention... What Boomers left undone in their youth, they will return to take up in their maturity... we have won years back from death. That gives us the grand project of using those extra years to build a culture that is morally remarkable.

The epidemic psychosis of our time is the lie of believing we have no ethical obligation to our planetary home.

Our goal should not be to borrow from elsewhere, but to search among our own cultural resources, perhaps even in modern science and industrialism, for ways to restore art to the status it has always held in traditional societies as a form of knowledge... art adds to what we learn from any combination of physics, biology, geology, and chemistry. It tells us the world is... deserving of reverence.

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American History Professor at California State University, best known for his 1969 text, "The Making of a Counter Culture" and "Where the Wasteland Ends:Politics and Transcendence in Post-Industrial Society"