Building Golgonooza: Marinaleda, the Spanish ‘Utopia for Peace’

Spain’s communist model village, Marinaleda

Strada_di_Marinaleda,_Andalusia_(Spagna)-View of a town's roadThe village Marinaleda, in impoverished Andalusia, used to suffer terrible economic and social hardships. Then in the 1970s, led by a charismatic mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, the village declared itself a communist utopia and took farmland to provide for everyone. Could it be the answer to modern capitalism’s failings?

Sánchez Gordillo described Marinaleda – which has no municipal police and full employment – as a “utopia for peace”, acutely observing that “we have learned that it is not enough to define utopia, nor is it enough to fight against the reactionary forces. One must build it here and nowbrick by brick, patiently but steadily, until we can make the old dreams a reality: that there will be bread for all, freedom among citizens, and culture; and to be able to read with respect the word ‘peace ‘. We sincerely believe that there is no future that is not built in the present.”  Transforming human society “brick by brick”, for the betterment and wellbeing of every one of its citizens, is exactly what Blake’s vision of Golgonooza is all about.

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Left Brain Angels and Right Brain Gods, by Rod Tweedy

The Divided Brain and Religion

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Which is Yours?

Harvard neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, commenting on the subtle but significant differences between how each hemisphere of our brain understands and engages with the world, observed that “the two halves of my brain don’t just perceive and think in different ways at a neurological level, but they demonstrate very different values based upon the types of information they perceive, and thus exhibit very different personalities” (My Stroke of Insight).

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Blake’s Illustrations of Dante’s Hell, by Eric Pyle

Entering Psychological Hell: The Dark Side of Christianity 

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Updating Dante

‘Dear Sir, I am still far from recoverd & dare not get out in the cold air. Yet I lose nothing by it—Dante goes on the better, which is all I care about’ – William Blake

 

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them’ – Matthew 5:17

 

‘No thing can become manifest to itself without opposition’ – Boehme

Among William Blake’s last works was a series of illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was an ambitious project for a man of 67 to begin, and he didn’t live to complete it. Even in its unfinished state, however, the series is a rich and fascinating work of art that can add to our understanding of Blake’s philosophy and artistic goals, and be enjoyed for its strange beauty.

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Essay on Christianity, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley’s Jesus

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Shelley is often thought of as an atheist, the author of the celebrated pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism, for which he was promptly expelled from Oxford. In fact, the pamphlet did not advocate atheism as such but rather argued for its decriminalisation – a philosophical nicety sadly lost on the Oxford authorities. Moreover, Shelley himself at the time was if anything a Deist, as were most progressive eighteenth-century radicals – his letters from this period are filled with arguments trying to find a rational basis for belief in God.

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The Kingdom of God Is Within You, by Leo Tolstoy

Jesus’s teaching of peace, and the Church’s teaching of war 

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The Kingdom of God Is Within You is a short philosophical essay written by the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. In it he forcefully explains his reasons for rejecting militarism and warfare as solutions to humanity’s problems. Tolstoy had witnessed the brutal and brutalising nature of war firsthand, serving as a second lieutenant during the Crimean war, an experience he dramatically recounted in Sevestapol Sketches (1855) – the work which propelled him to fame. The Kingdom of God Is Within You lays out a new organization for society based on what he saw as the key elements of Jesus’s teachings: freedom, peace, love. It was first published in Germany in 1894, after being banned in his home country of Russia, and become an important text for Tolstoyan, pacifist, and Christian anarchist movements, influencing such pivotal 20th-century figures as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The book powerfully exposes the hypocrisy of the Christian Church – “professing Christ in words and denying His teaching in life” – as well as recording its complicity in the arms industry, and its role in using Jesus’s words to sanction blood sacrifice.

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