Show me the wisdom

The world tree is a motif present in several religions and mythologies, particularly Indo-European religions, Siberian religions, and Native American religions. The world tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld. It may also be strongly connected to the motif of the tree of life, but it is the source of wisdom of the ages. – Wikipedia

One common theme in magic, mythology, and fantasy is the idea that this “wisdom of the ages” is (or was) known by individuals called “the old ones.” Some say they came and went eons ago and left their wisdom right in front of us, and that all we had to do was figure out what we were looking at. Others say that whether the “old ones” still walk amongst us unseen or left eons ago, that their knowledge can only be found by years of meditation, study, and withdrawal from the day-to-day world.

I’ve been fascinated with this stuff since I was in high school and first came across the mystery school mysteries, comparative mythology, and similar approaches to “the big question.” I’ve noticed a lot of commonality between systems even though the myths and techniques are often somewhat different.

The only thing I’m sure of is that the more one studies all this, she less s/he knows. That doesn’t imply, though, that if one hadn’t studied it at all, s/he would know everything by the time s/he reached my age. All I have so far at my sage other than aches, pains, medications, and trips to the hospital is a monthly copy of “AARP Magazine.”

Maybe all this has been bunk. If so, it’s been joyful and addictive bunk that’s provided a lifetime of wondrous insanity. As luck–or the gods would have it–I’m not living on the street or, worse yet, in an institution where the psychiatrists ask, “Do you hear or see things that aren’t there?” My only response to that would be, “How would I know?”

When I became an old one, I didn’t have a visit from an older one who handed me a book titled “Here’s The Wisdom.” Or, if that did happen, I was asleep and missed it.

So, all I have to say about the wisdom is that it’s been a nice hobby and it’s given me some mysterious things to put in my novels. I have no idea what percentage of my readers think the wisdom is out there waiting for them and end up in an asylum where they’re asked “Do you hear or see things that aren’t there?” If so, I hope they know the right answer.

So reading about mysterious things is a risk sort of like bungee jumping. You might be yanked up into the high clouds where all will become known or you might hit bottom where nothing more will be known–or vice versa.

But what a ride.


Conjure Woman's Cat Audiobook By Malcolm R. Campbell cover artMalcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Listen, and if you’re still “okay,” move on to the second audiobook in the series.

Ain’t got no cigarettes or wisdom either

A commenter on my last post said, “Found a peanut? That’s your wisdom for the day?”

I’m neither a man of means nor the king of the road. That means I’ve made a dreadful mistake if I gave y’all the idea I have any wisdom to dispense. I’m just a country writer, folks, living on the remainder of a farm that’s been in the family for five generations. I’m writing about the South these days partly because I live here, though, with the current political environment, I hesitate to say I’m from the South because people in the social media and on some news programs are accusing those of us living here of starting the Civil War.

That’s absurd, of course, because none of us were here at the time. We’re called a lot of things because the country seems to enjoy making fun of the South, saying we’re all half ignorant and probably bumpkins even though some of the country’s best literature came from our part of the country.

Yes, we like grits and we consider sushi to be only good for baiting one’s hook on a fishing trip. So what?

I’ve been in almost every state in the union, went to college in New York, and lived and worked in the Chicago area. Nothing I’ve experienced or witnessed gives me any reason to think the South is better or worse than any other part of the country. It doesn’t take a guru to come to that conclusion. So, I’m okay with living here–except when the taunts against Southerners get started.

According to Wikipedia, “Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.” I don’t even know what that means, but I can tell you this, I ain’t got it.

If I need a dose of Wisdom, I get out my copy of the “I Ching” just like everyone else. The oracle always tells me what’s up and what’s going down.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”



I’m not sure of anything anymore

We learned today that blowing out the candles on a birthday cake sends some 1,400 bacteria into the icing. My thoughts are, why didn’t we know that 50 years ago, and aw shucks, there goes another tradition.

Years ago, when I was a kid, I thought my grandfather knew everything. Now that I’m his age, “old white guys” are being blamed for most of the world’s ills.

Heck, I’m sitting here in my house writing novels and short stories and generally minding my own business when I learn that (a) I’m complicit in everything bad that happened in the world back to the days of Moses, and (b) That if I don’t admit to that and offer up a variety of atonement and reparations, I’m pretty much chopped liver.

I never liked liver, so that’s a fate worse than–well, I’m not really sure.

If you’re an old white guy, do you feel this way: that you’re irrelevant and/or a criminal? Or, that you’re the neighborhood joke but the last one to find anything funny about it?

Used to be, when an old guy of any race, religion, or culture spoke, people listened. Okay, there was a hiatus in that during the 1960s when we were taught not to trust anyone over 30. But generally speaking, age was presumed to be a time of wisdom. Now it’s considered a time of archaic beliefs that are holding back the world from progress.

Old white guys held out a little longer before the world accused them of being generally incompetent. But now they’ve joined the crone, the woman once considered wise, who is now put in a home somewhere because she’s no longer hot to trot and/or a viable member of the PTA. If it weren’t for global warming and a scarcity of ice floes, I think most of us over 70 would be rounded up and sent out to sea. Basically, we don’t know anything anyone wants to know any more and we’re in the way of progress. The old white guys with a billion dollars in their checking accounts are hurting all of us because their money still talks while our social security checks are hardly even a whisper in the wind when it comes to influence.

I’m okay with all this. I don’t want the responsibility of saving the country from itself. Like the sophomores in college years ago who thought they knew everything (but didn’t), a new breed of lawmakers is running amok with this proposal and that, and my view (which is irrelevant) is that those lawmakers are trying to outdo each other with crazy ideas. As an old white guy, I don’t hear anyone speaking to the moderates, just to the extreme left of the Democrats and the extreme right of the Republicans.

Hell, even Bernie was called an old white guy and he’s more “out there” than most of us. So, what chance do we have to say anything worth saying? Slim to none, as my grandfather said.

And that’s just as well because as I read the daily news, most of it doesn’t make any sense, and I have to wonder where that lack of sense is “just me” or the people running the country. Years ago, I knew the answer. Today, I’m not sure.



Wisdom from nature and indigenous cultures

“Malidoma [Dr. Malidoma Some´] teaches that the healing power of nature, ritual and community is what the indigenous world offers to the modern world. In the indigenous world, community is integral to the harmony and balance of each individual.” from the mission statement of East Coast Village

africaThe modern world of science and technology has learned a lot from observing nature and indigenous cultures’ relationships with the natural world. Unfortunately, we have also missed most of what nature and indigenous cultures have had to offer, and we further facilitated that tragedy by calling such cultures hicks, savages, superstitious, ignorant and pagan (in the negative sense most people assign to that word).

Organized religion went a step further, claiming throughout history that pagans–including witches–worshiped the so-called “devil” and needed to be put to death for their beliefs. These beliefs were not only natural but threatened the knowledge and wisdom a culture based on patriarchy had to offer.

Today, for example, we look at prescribed drugs as compounds invented in laboratories and produced in factories. While synthesized drugs have brought quality control and the benefits of mass production, they also come with a price based on a patent that allows drug companies to charge hundreds of dollars for little bottles of pills with ingredients that are probably worth a few pennies.

Yes, it can be dangerous for people without an herbalist certification or an oral tradition of using plants as medcine, much less prescribe them from others. Yet, when the medical establishment condemns the practice out of hand, they are overlooking the fact that many major drugs, past and present, originally came from plants and were frequently discovered by observing what native cultures used for medicine. One expert says that 120 distinct chemicals that come from plants are currently used throughout the world.

In a recent news story (A Doctor Discovered Why Insulin Is So Pricy In America — And How To Buy It More Cheaply)  it was shown that insulin costs diabetes patients more than most of them can afford because a pricey biotech drug created in the 1970s took over the market so completely that the off-patent, generic insulin is no longer available in the United States. The whys and wherefores of medicines and their costs are part of a complex tangle of issues. The lack of natural drugs just might, in some cases, stem from our championing what comes out of a lab over what nature produces.

spellsensuousIn The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram argues that “Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain.”

We have been making excuses for years about the supposed Gods of science and technology at the expense of a shared relationship with the natural world and those who understand it. From time to time, we run across articles that focus on one indigenous culture or another that show one group has little or no cancer and another group has little or no stress and stress-related maladies. But such things usually stop at the curiosity-level “go figure” or the profit-motive level of “how can we synthesize what they know put it in a pill?”

ofwaterDr. Malidoma Some´, a widely known teacher of African wisdom, is the author of multiple books, including “The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community,” “Creating a New Sense of Home” and the now-classic “Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.”

On his website, Dr. Some´ writes that “It is possible that we have been brought together at this time because we have profound truths to teach each other. Toward that end, I offer the wisdom of the African ancestors so that Westerners might find the deep healing they seek.”

I don’t reject art, culture, science or technology. I do reject thinking they are all we have.  Dr. Some´ has things to teach us that we have turned a deaf and snobbish ear to for generations. Now we have a medical system nobody can pay for, global warming nobody knows how to fix and poverty that exceeds our comprehension. Something is badly out of sync and those who tell us that modern man is like a cancer upon the climate suggest that we ourselves are the problem.

Abram suggests we will never solve the major issues of life as long as we’re only willing to look at everything except nature and natural wisdom whether it comes out of Africa or the so-called “First Nations” (to use the Canadian phrase) who live invisibly among us.

I was taught what most kids of my generation were taught. Christianity is all there is. Paved streets are better than unpaved country roads. Science and technology are better than anything the witches, root doctors, and “illiterate savages” have to offer.

Undoing all that brainwashing can take a lifetime. If only, we could start fresh with our children and not addict them to false gods in the first place.


KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella about a granny and a kitty fighting the KKK that’s filled with the wisom of the natural world. It’s on sale today on Kindle.

“I loved the way Campbell made magic part of the fabric of the place…Readers of magic realism will appreciate Conjure Woman’s Cat. Highly recommended.” –  Lynne Cantwell, hearth/myth – Rursday Reads