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The Ishmael Companion
Beyond Civilization
 Study Guide


From The Book of the Damned:
Excerpt 1

Meet Homo Magister

It took man three million years to figure out that his destiny is to
rule the world. He was a slow starter.

That’s the way Homo magister, man the ruler of the world, tells the
story. It’s the way he sees it. The first three million years of human
life were nothing but a long, tedious buildup to him. Two hundred
thousand generations, and not a shred of meaning in any of them.

Homo magister understands the people who lived those futile,
pathetic lives. They were what he calls hunter-gatherers.

Definition by occupation.

When Homo magister looks at the history of these people, he
naturally perceives it as a void, because nobody was doing anything.
Except hunting and gathering. And of course battering stones. It was
the Stone Age.

Definition by product.

Homo magister would naturally see it that way. But it’s not
the only way to see it.

Be imaginative. Forget products. Forget occupations. Imagine it
a different way.

Imagine that our ancestors were enacting a story, a different story
from ours. Not a story about man mastering his environment. Not
a story about man’s conquest of the world. Not a story in which
products and productivity figured at all.

Go further. Imagine that enacting their story made their lives
meaningful to them. The way enacting our story makes our lives
meaningful to us.

Go further still. Imagine a story for the entire lifetime of a
genus. The genus Homo. Think of an outline for such a story.
Not three million years of nothingness, followed by an explosive
flourishing so violent that it consumes the world in ten thousand
years, followed by extinction.

That’s not a story for the lifetime of a genus.

Stretch yourself. Imagine that during the first three million years
of human life people were enacting a story. And that it was man’s
destiny to enact that story.

Not just for three million years. For thirty million years. For three
hundred million years. For the lifetime of our planet, perhaps.
Billions of years.

It was that good a story.

It was a good story, good for the lifetime of a genus. But it was
not a story about power—about conquest and mastery and ruling.
Enacting it didn’t make people powerful. Enacting it, people didn’t
need to be powerful. Because, enacting it, people didn’t need to
rule the world.

Imagine that ruling the world was something they thought they
didn’t need to do. Because it was already being done. As it had
always been done. As it had been done from the beginning.

Imagine that they had a different supposition about the world
and man’s place in it. Imagine that they didn’t suppose, as Homo
does, that the world belongs to man, that it is his to
conquer and rule. Imagine that, in their ignorance, they supposed
something else entirely.

Be outrageous. Imagine that they supposed something completely
absurd. That man belongs to the world.

Not the other way around.



More excerpts from The Book of the Damned

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