Toward a Human Rewilding Method

On a psychotherapeutic method

I

I am abandoning the term “psychotherapeutic technique” — human rewilding is the psychotherapeutic technique, and what a much prettier name!

More, “psychotherapeutic technique” may give the erroneous impression that the means of making man well-suited to this world is engineering him properly (see “On My Great Wisdom and Abundant Social Life,” note II). But it is the project of the technicians, loyal to the advance of technology and civilization, to engineer man to suit the needs and demands of society; it is the project of the rewilders to break man out of the common mold and empower him to develop himself, with community. Though human rewilding must be rooted in biology, it must also avoid giving the technicians biotechnological tools. For this reason rewilding must be rooted most strongly in psychology.

On Wild Roots

II

What was it about Wild Roots, specifically, that helped me so much? My friends have mentioned to me before that there is a Jacobi before Wild Roots and a Jacobi after Wild Roots. The most obvious benefits include:

Body positivity

My confidence in my own body was helped by the lack of mirrors at Wild Roots, the body positive environment, and the plethora of nudists’ swinging dicks and boobs. There was a “tradition” at Wild Roots of bathing in the stream naked, and at first I was very uncomfortable with it. Eventually I came around, and started walking everywhere in my underwear (didn’t want my penis caught on some thorn). After that I was hooked, fully in the nudist camp — not least because stiff clothes like pants started to make my body ache!

At Wild Roots, the only thing reflected back on me was the nature around me. I sort of detected this was helping me while I was there. I had set my mind to becoming more body confident after I dropped out of college, still chasing that high I got the first time I danced in a crowd without alcohol. So when I finally did get a mirror so I could shave (for the sake of trips to town) I stored it under my bed facing the wall. Note also that everything that applies to mirrors applies to photos and social media. When a social-media-happy visitor came to Wild Roots and started taking pictures, I avoided them constantly. That is, until (1) I became more confident in my body and (2) I could no longer resist the desire to show my friends and family how crazy I looked, and wanted to post a photo on Facebook.

A nonjudgemental playground

Now, the people at Wild Roots don’t always apply here (see note IV, below). But the nature at Wild Roots was absolutely essential to developing my openness and self-confidence. I mentioned to one of the people there that Wild Roots was like a “playground.” This is the best way to describe it — a playground where you could explore, take untrod paths, and really do anything you wanted without judgement. It helped me develop my character myself.

And although the overly individualistic anarchist ideals of Wild Roots led to the problems of note IV, they did permit a larger range of possibilities than a more rigid and formal structure would have. In many ways, I was treated like an adult, with the ability to do anything I wanted to do and go anywhere I wanted to go. This allowed nature, not civilization, to be my tutor (see Repent to the Primitive, pp. 99-101, 113).

A skill-oriented community

Wild Roots was one of the main progenators of the primitive skills subculture, and it continues to sustain the community. At the “commune” the main emphasis was learning various skills that used to be commonplace in traditional comunities — like tanning hides, gathering and processing food, plant identification, etc. Learning each of these skills allowed me to become confident in my own abilities. It instilled in me a sense of self-worth.

A willingness to impose hardships on initiates

One person at the community, noting my I’ll-show-you disposition, tended to degrade my achievements and tell me that I wouldn’t ever achieve the goals I wanted to. I understand why he did this now. In traditional communities coming-of-age rituals imposed great hardships on the children in question, sometimes hardships that modern standards would consider abusive. In my case, the man who was degrading my achievements wanted to harness my internal strong-headedness to take me further than I would have if he had just coddled me. I’m sure he took his cues from his time in the military.

The man was right — I immersed myself in precisely the things he told me I wouldn’t be able to do. However, as I’ve mentioned before, Wild Roots lacked a cohesive community, and it seems an absolutely essential element of traditional coming-of-age rituals was a community of comrades with whom the children in question could share their hardships. As a result, the man’s comments only further fractured my loyalty to the Wild Roots community, and was a large reason I left for Asheville later on.

Still, I think the man’s intuitions about my psychology at the time were spot on. Once, he told me to bathe before he took me into town. He didn’t want to be seen publicly driving around a dirty child and give off the wrong impression. Fair. But the way he said it made me feel affronted and like he wasn’t respecting my autonomy. So I (his words) “backtalked” him, and he refused to drive me into town. As a result, I walked several miles along the rode with my thumb out so that I could get to Asheville that day, and within two or so hours I met the other person the man had already drove there.

III

The Wild Roots community was founded on a human rewilding method that placed a huge emphasis on children. This only makes sense. Consider a few primitivist theories:

Paul Shepard believed that children’s brains are prone to “magical thinking.” Before and outside of civilization, this magical thinking was and is adequately satisfied by the religious myths of the community and by nature.

In traditional communities, children generally come of age around 12-14 years old. In modern industrial societies, however, children do not come of age until their late teens or early twenties — if at all. Shepard, drawing on ideas from neotony, noted that domesticated animals tend to have facial features typical of their wild counterparts in the younger stages of development. Similarly, human facial features are becoming more and more babylike.

Note that in the animal kingdom, humans are distinguished from other animals by their insanely long period of mental and physical development outside the womb. Shepard believed that this unique feature of human biological development allows for the formation of civilizations. Somehow, civilization has extended man’s childhood phase. This allows civilized societies to make man an infinitely manipulable creature, still prone to children’s “magical thinking,” all without changing a man’s biology, as with domesticated animals. To satisfy magical thinking, civilizations replace real animals with animal logos. Instead of artifacts that are a product of man’s own work and directly related to his mode of life, man is turned into a consumer of delivered artifacts, to which he is often made addicted. Instead of a community which can guide the child and properly guide his development, enabling him to be a powerful and dignified human predator, industrial societies dislodge the individual and leave him with no other option but to cleave to its own institutions, making his development loose and fragmented, or completely nonexistent (see especially Repent to the Primitive, pp. 108-112; and also “Notes on Humanism and Progressivism“; “A Critique of the Concept of ‘Leftism’“; “A Provisional Synthesis“).

Related to Shepard’s work is a book by Jon Savage, Teenage. In the book Savage argues that around the turn of the century, some time around the post-WWII turn to computing, a new phase of human development was created: the teenager. This teenage phase of development is unheard of in traditional societies, which, as already mentioned, bring its children to adulthood at around 12-14 years old. Savage argues that the idea of the “teenager” was created almost exclusively to serve totalitarian or capitalist purposes. Whole markets were created to cater to this new class of human, and totalitarian regimes focused heavily on education models (see the Prussian education model) or indoctrinating children with their ideologies (see the Hitler Youth, Boy Scouts, or the communist Youth Leagues). No longer was there any desire at all to bring man outside of his childhood phase — that would destroy his manipulable quality, and lead to a collapse of the consumerist economy that depends on manipulation. I repeat: the whole of the industrial economy depends on the helplessness, childishness, civility of its citizens, and it is in an all-out war with those who wish to raise their children as dignified human predators.

Finally, the work of Weston Price demonstrates the physiological elements of this critique. Price’s research focused on the effects nutrition has on diet, specifically the contrast between traditional and Western diets. He synthesized most of his research in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and the findings are astounding. Across the board, Price found that people with a traditional diet had perfect teeth, including well-formed dental arches, and almost a complete lack of cavities. In contrast, people nearby of generally the same “racial stock” and in a similar geography, but consuming Western diets, had terrible teeth with an extreme prevalence of cavities. Furthermore, if the people he studied switched from a traditional diet to a Western diet, their children would suffer from bad teeth; and after a switch back, the children would have perfect teeth again. He found, then, that a lot of these effects depended heavily on the health and status of the mother. This would explain many of the regulations traditional communities had around pregnant women — not an expression of misogyny, after all.

IV

The worst part of Wild Roots was its fractured and decaying community. Only after crossing “the barrier” (note III) did I realize why the community was decaying and how serious the problems it faced really were.

Because of the community’s focus on childhood development, they faced constant pressure from the outside. I can only surmise some of these problems from when I was there. But recall above the uneasiness one of the members of the community had with taking me, a dirty kid, into town. In the middle of conservative Appalachia, a bunch of nudist, dirty hippies are living in clay huts in the forest?! More, since the emphasis was on healing, of course a large number of members have a lot of psychological anxieties to work through, resulting in a community-image defined by mentally ill people. Sure, many of these people came out in much better condition, but that doesn’t change the image.

They could have fixed this by making the commune an officially sanctioned institution for psychotherapy, like the wilderness therapy camps we see today. Unfortunately, because the psychotherapy lied way outside the mainstream, official designation would force them to assume a state-condoned means of healing that would degrade the very reasons their psychotherapy was so effective!

Related to this problem was the entrenched, fundamentalist version of individualist anarchism that held Wild Roots in its grip. This was largely due to the idealistic pretensions of its younger founders, who, as I’ve stated before, were a bunch of burnt-out hippies, activists, anarchists, and drop-outs. As a result, any attempt to organize the community and acquire officially sanctioned documentation was resisted by the social group that had formed around the commune. They wanted it to retain its anarchist qualities. Of course, because of what I stated above about the effects bureaucratization would have on the Wild Roots method, this tension is reasonable, and it is always present in anarchist politics (see Misc Notes on Misc. Notes, note VII). Still, the fundamentalist dedication to individualism is a primary reason the commune, and others like it (see “Notes Concluding the Uncivilization Project,” note V), fell apart — and a well-structured, healthy community is essential to rewilding psychotherapy. More, it is essential for creating liberated, healing spaces within our sick civilization.

I do not, however, see any way of re-implementing the Wild Roots method without being censored by the state.

On Asheville

V

After leaving Wild Roots because of my disillusionment with the community, and my inability to realize that some of my hardships were intentional, I spent time on the streets of Asheville. I didn’t have much, just a backpack full of blankets, a sleeping pad, a notebook, a book, a few miscellanneous items, and a food stamp card. I had gone there because I wanted to avoid the NBC journalist who I had arranged to come to Wild Roots. But while I was there, I realized that I was much more relaxed, and, having nowhere left to go, decided not to return.

It was getting to be pretty cold, but I had enough gear to keep me warm. I spent my time walking around Asheville wearing blankets instead of jackets. I read. I went to the library. I hunted around for good dumpsters where I could find food. Mostly, though, because I lacked anything productive to do, I was pretty bored. I was also constantly filled with shame because of my food stamp card. I started this project to become independent of civilization, not even more dependent — what was I doing?!

The heavy-handedness of the police and the constant glares from strangers made me go insane. I was already pushed into a kind of infantile state because of my time at Wild Roots, so even minor slights had a major effect on me. I tried to unleash some of the anxiety by writing and clearing my mind with breathing techniques, but mostly I just bottled it in. It got to be terrible, until eventually a good friend of mine drove three hours from Chapel Hill to pick me up. When I got back to Chapel Hill, I lashed out again, taking minor slights too seriously (see “The Problem of Loneliness“). I was unnecessarily aggressive toward my friend, who had not only drove three hours to Asheville to pick me up, but was letting me stay in his house rent free until I could pick myself back up again. I was, as was my habit (see “Oh…“), biting the hand that fed me.

Still, this time until crossing “the barrier,” especially my time in Asheville, has helped me realize a little better what an effect a city can have on your health, especially if you are already sick. See note VI.

On Rat

VI

When I was in Chapel Hill, but before crossing “the barrier,” and before moving into my friend’s house, I went to PetCo to get a pet rat, appropriately named Rat. My university mentors approved of this decision, noting how it helps a person’s psychological health. They were so right. Rat has become my best friend. I trust him more than any human, which probably allowed me to learn all the things I’ve learned from him — I am open to it in a way I am not when other humans give me advice. Interestingly, this parallel’s Paul Shepard’s ideas that children in traditional societies self-direct their development in large part by learning from animals.

For example, when I first got rat, he was extremely skinny, scared of everything, and had terrible diarrhea. Because of this no one would buy him from the pet store, so I got him for something like $2-3. I gave him a better diet, and in only a few days his diarrhea was no problem at all. The lesson of proper nutrition.

Rat was also extremely scared of everything when I first got him. He was skiddish and unnecessarily perturbed by loud noises. At the time I was still living out of my backpack, so I decided I wasn’t going to get him a cage. I also hated the idea of putting him in a cage. It contradicted my whole philosophy! So I just let him run around anywhere I went, and I carried him around in my backpack. Slowly he got more and more sociable. The lesson of a proper playground.

After I moved into my friend’s house, I continued to leave rat out of the cage. I fed him anything I ate, but also let him choose when to eat by leaving his “rat food” out and accessible. At first he gained a lot of weight, which worried me, and almost made me start feeding him like you’re normally told to. But then he lost a little weight, and has stayed at a regular weight since. The lesson of autonomy.

When I moved into my apartment, I finally got Rat a cage (but always left the door open, of course!). I had already thought that he was doing well, and didn’t think I would see much improvement. But after getting him a cage and a more stable environment than he had at my friend’s house, he is more sociable, has more energy, and is generally in a better condition. He’ll hop around the house now! At the same time, I felt myself feeling better, having rented my first apartment, and was in a similarly better condition. The lesson of at-homeness.

In other words, Rat showed me that what I thought was a failed experiment, uncivilization, was actually wildly successful. By getting rid of everything and building up from there, I have been able to demonstrate to myself what a human truly needs, and one of the ways those can be satisfied in the modern context. Thanks, Rat. I love you!

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