Diggers Ranters Consociates

Representative writings from three intentional, nearly-autonomous, common-creed communities of the 17th Century.

The Diggers were perhaps first and foremost a social justice movement in that their membership was comprised of landless common folk determined to work and farm common lands in the English countryside, claiming this was their God-given right, and their only escape from the oppression of serfdom, against strident opposition.  The made-for-BBC film, Winstanley, is a fantastic depiction.
from The True Leveller's Standard Advanced... (April 20, 1649). [aka the First Digger Manifesto]
The Work we are going about is this, To dig up Georges-Hill and the waste Ground thereabouts, and to Sow Corn, and to eat our bread together by the sweat of our brows. And the First Reason is this, That we may work in righteousness, and lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All, both Rich and Poor, That every one that is born in the land, may be fed by the Earth his Mother that brought him forth, according to the Reason that rules in the Creation.

The Ranters were an anarchistic tribe of English radicals who held fast to the apparently heretical belief that God resides in all things and all creatures and that the laws of humanity are superseded by a self-actualizing understanding of the cosmos.  They were never able to stay in one place for too long.  Today we might think of their philosophy as bordering on moral nihilism.
I saw various streams of light (in the night) which appeared to the outward eye, and immediately I saw three hearts (or three appearances) in the form of hearts, of exceeding brightness; and immediately an innumerable company of hearts, filling each corner of the room where I was. And methoughts there was variety and distinction, as if there had been several hearts, and yet most strangely unexpressably complicated or folded up in unity. I clearly saw distinction, diversity, variety, and as clearly saw all swallowed up into unity. And it hath been my song many times since, within and without, unity, universality, universality, unity, Eternal Majesty, etc. And at this vision, a most strong, glorious voice uttered these words: The spirits of just men made perfect. The spirits, etc. with whom I had as absolute, clear, full communion, and in a twofold more familiar way, than ever I had outwardly with my dearest friends and nearest relations.
Thomas Morton's scandalous erection of a Maypole in the settlement of Merry-Mount (Mount Wollaston, what is now Quincy, Massachusetts) is described in William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation and formed the basis for Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1836 short story, The May-Pole of Merry-Mount. Morton and his colony were clearly inspired by the nature and the natives of the New World, and temporarily maintained an autonomous pagan utopia.  Here is Morton's account of the revels at Merry-Mount.
from Revels in New Canaan, by Thomas Morton (1637)
The Inhabitants of Pasonagessit (having translated the name of their habitation from that ancient Savage name to Ma-reMount [MerryMount]; and being resolved to have the new name confirmed for a memorial to after ages) did devise amongst themselves to have it performed in a solemne manner with Revels, and merriment after the old English custome: prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day of Philip and Jacob ; and therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beer, and provided a case of bottles to be spent, with other good cheer, for all comers of that day. And because they would have it in a complete forme, they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols, and other fitting instruments, for that purpose ; and there erected it with the help of Savages, that came thether of purpose to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed one, somewhat neare unto the top of it : where it stood as a faire sea marke for directions; how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Ma-reMount.


Literature encoded in DNA

The J. Craig Venter Institute this year managed to build a complete genome sequence--artificial DNA-- and install it into a bacterial cell. The strand took over operations of its host cell and began reproducing. Many have claimed that this event might be remembered as a major step toward artificial life.

There is something sinister about the entire enterprise, to me at least, but there is one aspect of the story that reminds us that even the mad scientist bent on playing God harbors a latent artist within.  The Venter team apparently encrypted several literary passages and coded them into otherwise unused portions of the DNA sequence.  This is actually something of a trend nowadays amongst that small group of actual artists (harboring latent scientists within) for whom genes are a primary medium.  See, for example, artists Joe Davis and Eduardo Kac.

The quotations encoded onto the bacteria's DNA:

See things not as they are, but as they might be.” -- Robert Oppenheimer
What I cannot build, I cannot understand.”  -- Richard Feynman
To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, and to recreate life out of life.” -- James Joyce

I would like to learn that the Venter Institute folks have given up their Frankensteinian hubris and have instead chosen to devote their time to a hunt for encoded poetry in the unused portions of existing creatures.  Could there be alien Kabbalah the strands of my own cells?