Post Capitalism and the Five Elements Mandala
An extract from Post Capitalist Philanthropy
I’ve almost finished Post Capitalist Philanthropy, the brilliant book by Alnoor Ladha and Lynn Murphy (PDF available by donation). For your interest I’m reproducing in article form some of the content on the knowledge page of their beautiful website, followed by links to a few relevant events.
Post capitalism is an umbrella concept to better understand what we want to transition out of and transition into. Capitalism is not simply a system of market exchange - it is a system that measures and reduces the value of Life including human labour, living ecosystems, relationships and life-force.
Post capitalism is not simply another ‘ism’ to replace previous ideologies; it is a conceptual container for social pluralities based on shared values (e.g. reciprocity, altruism, cooperation, gifting, equity consciousness, empathy, interbeing and solidarity with all Life). It stems from the shortcomings of the existing system and the lived experience of life-centric alternatives. In short, we endeavour to find approaches, practices and models that usher in systems rooted in interconnected relationships and a broader honouring of Life, in all its diversity and mystery.
Although the prefix post can imply a “context after”, it also implies a state which is informed by the context prior to it. This is why understanding the dominant system is so critical. If we do not have a clear perspective of capitalism, we become contextually irrelevant. However, if all we have is a critique of the dominant system, we in turn become spiritually and creatively impoverished. This is why post capitalism is a necessary discourse for the collective imaginary.
Post capitalist realities exist right now, and many have existed for hundreds (if not thousands) of years despite the dominant system(s). Indigenous cultures and communities that are based in the values mentioned above are inherently post capitalist even if they were not created in opposition to capitalism; their very existence is a form of resistance in the face of the dominant culture’s desire to eradicate and undermine them.
Five Elements Mandala
The Five Elements Mandala is a way to represent some “coordinates of possibility” for transition pathways. We adopted the form of mandala (which is Sanskrit for “circle”) as it represents a spiritual journey from the external world to the spiritual centre. In some traditions mandalas are believed to represent different aspects of the universe.
Our mandala is rooted in the traditional five elements of Water, Air, Fire, Water, and Ether, and two intersecting axes, the vertical and horizontal lines of action.
The Y-axis represents Transformation and Creation with a focus on building and catalysing new-ancient-emerging ways of living, knowing, sensing and being. In short, creating post capitalist cultures, collective imaginaries, and infrastructure.
The X-axis represents Restoration and Solidarity with the lens of addressing historical injustices while rebalancing and recentring right relationships.
We placed the element of Ether at the centre of the axes and the elements to represent the essential, interdependent nature of (re)cultivating life force.
The elements represent five interrelated transition pathways:
Indigenous peoples as the element of Water, the tributaries and veins of the planet, stewarding the world’s biodiversity (they represent about 5% of the world’s population and steward over 80% of the world’s biodiversity).
Social movements as Fire forge the pathways towards life-centric alternatives through direct experience and place-based wisdom.
Creating new-ancient-emerging post capitalist cultures as Air; re-imagining and reconstituting the oxygen (i.e. ideas and consciousness) we breathe.
Building post capitalist infrastructure as the Earth element, ensuring food, land, water, energy, medicine and cultural sovereignty at local and bioregional levels.
(Re)cultivation of life-force as the element of Ether; addressing the roots of the trauma culture of capitalist modernity and centring our relationship with life and death.
The Five Elements
Solidarity with Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are varied and diverse in their cultures, practices, cosmologies, histories, geographies, contexts, and approaches. What many of them share is that, despite 500 years of colonial slaughter, exploitation and pillage, their communities have preserved the wisdom of place and relationship to land; generational, symbiotic knowledge of their respective terrains that continues to be necessary for human survival.
Areas of work may include:
Funds to and alignment with land and water protectors
Ongoing decolonising and practices to understand and live solidarity
Elders/wisdom circles and supporting the Life Plans
Myriad efforts led by Indigenous communities that preserve and uplift their self-determination
Support food/land/water/medicine/cultural sovereignty projects
Rights of Nature legal jurisprudence
Solidarity with social movements
These are groups and peoples who are directly affected by the onslaught of neoliberalism, are often dehumanised as their lands and bodies carry the most valuable “resources'', especially movements from the geopolitical South. Funding and being in solidarity with social movements is about listening to, responding, honouring and learning from the needs of the peoples and lands that modern wealth has been built on, without their consent. Some of the most critical economic alternatives can be found amongst these groups, as they experience oppression whilst living and embodying other ways of knowing and being that in many cases already exemplify a state of post capitalism.
Some of the critical transition pathways that social movements advocate for include:
Evolving democratic practices
Bio-regional self-sufficiency & cultural sovereignty
LGBTQI rights & gender justice movements
Create post capitalist infrastructure
The root of the Transformation and Creation axis is the element of Earth, which is the necessary task of creating post capitalist infrastructure. This is the physical, cultural and societal structures necessary to transition and live outside the constraints of modernity. The aim is to create systems and infrastructure for strong, resilient localised economies, deep democracy, community sovereignty, alternative modalities for health & education, flourishing ecosystems, and vibrant communal systems.
Areas of work may include:
Localisation of production, consumption, and livelihoods
Bio-regional infrastructure and sovereignty
Ecological restoration and regeneration
Open-source knowledge systems
Alternative communities and experiments, including temporary autonomous zones
Commons-based land stewardship
Mutual aid networks
Create new-ancient-emerging cultural contexts
We need spaces to create, imagine, and dream together to shift the cultural conditions, the memetic landscape of beliefs and the dominant ontologies and cosmologies in order for emerging alternatives to take root and flourish.
We must engender the cultural context with compassion, empathy, service, generosity and solidarity while deepening our structural and constellational worldview. This is the realm of artists, poets, culture hackers, shamans, educators and others.
Support for new-ancient-emerging cultural contexts includes:
Physical and virtual spaces to imagine and dream together
Cultural narrative work
Emerging media approaches
Gatherings and other ways to deepening relations
Artistic and creative activism (i.e. artivism)
(Re)cultivation of life-force
The (re)cultivation of life-force is the centre of the mandala as it is essential to and discursive with the other four elements. It also connects the axes, elements, and represent the on-going inner/outer healing journey. Ether is the invisible, ineffable, ever-present force required for Life itself and for creative, vibrant evolutionary change.
Areas of work:
Reconciliation and restoration circles
Family constellations and somatic-based therapies
Ancestral healing work
Physical embodiment practices, meditation and contemplation
Psychedelic medicines especially those rooted in traditional cultures
Place-based spiritual practices (such as the Lakota Inipi or Sweatlodge)
Cultivation of personal and communal creativity
Resurgence of mystery schools
Grief circles and other communal rituals
If this piece resonated with you, you might like to consider attending one of the following:
The Reworlding Fellowship is an eight-month immersive experience for political leaders, activists, community organizers, journalists, and social change practitioners. The focus is on merging a structural-historical analysis of power, exploring post-capitalist possibilities and integrating these with lessons from plant teachers and the more-than-human realms. The aim is to become more contextually-relevant to the living world in these times of meta-crisis.
The Futurecraft Residency is a week-long facilitated residency taking place in Cornwall, UK, 28th April – 5th May 2023 on cultivating wholeness & crafting regenerative futures. Some of the topics we’ll explore through a diversity of approaches include:
Cultivating wholeness: What do we understand by wholeness? What does it mean to be a whole human being? How can we cultivate wholeness both personally and collectively?
Crafting regenerative futures: What futures do we desire, for ourselves and for all life? What is the context we are operating in? How can we craft our dreams into realities?
Join the Transition Resource Circle for a five-part webinar series exploring the hidden, unspoken and maybe even esoteric dimensions of philanthropy, wealth and capital.
Lynn and Alnoor will be joined by guest hosts including Vandana Shiva, Vanessa Andreotti, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Bayo Akomolafe, Rupa Marya and others. They will take us through a journey ranging from:
the history of capitalism and not often spoken contradictions in philanthropy
ways to metabolize our current crisis
various approaches to understand and respond to collapse(s)
practices for embodied cognition and ontological shifts
explorations of other ways of knowing, sensing and being
possible transition pathways towards post capitalist realities