Oct 6, 2007

Ancient Gnostic Culture on the Brink in Iraq

As I said early on in this fiasco in Iraq, in addition to the pointless waste of human life, we are destroying history itself.

Much as I'd feared, the war resulted in the loss of many archaelogical artifacts. Now I know Donald Rumsfeld will think I'm going all Henny Penny over this trifle, but I do take the loss of history, going back 7,000 years seriously. Although, in fairness, the oil is safe, and it is, technically, much, much older.

In today's New York Times op-ed section, a plea for the protection of the Mandean culture.

The Mandeans are the only surviving Gnostics from antiquity, cousins of the people who produced the Nag Hammadi writings like the Gospel of Thomas, a work that sheds invaluable light on the many ways in which Jesus was perceived in the early Christian period. The Mandeans have their own language (Mandaic, a form of Aramaic close to the dialect of the Babylonian Talmud), an impressive body of literature, and a treasury of cultural and religious traditions amassed over two millennia of living in the southern marshes of present-day Iraq and Iran.

Practitioners of a religion at least as old as Christianity, the Mandeans have witnessed the rise of Islam; the Mongol invasion; the arrival of Europeans, who mistakenly identified them as “Christians of St. John,” because of their veneration of John the Baptist; and, most recently, the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, who drained the marshes after the first gulf war, an ecological catastrophe equivalent to destroying the Everglades. They have withstood everything — until now.

This op-ed caught my eye today, in part I think, because I've been reading up on the Gnostics again lately. It's an area of study I keep colliding with because of its overlap with other cosmologies that interest me. A good resource is The Gnosis Archive. (Don't worry. I'll be adding it to the blogroll shortly.)

Because of this damned war, we are on the brink of losing a living link to antiquity. For a little more insight into the relevance of this cultural heritage and the Nag Hammadi scriptures, go here.

An older Counterpunch article, appropriately entitled, "The Plight of Iraq's Mandeans," explains a bit about their belief system.

In the newsmedia, the Mandaeans are sometimes referred to as being devoted "to the teachings of John the Baptist" (7). This is accurate but misleading, not only because Mandaeans insist that theirs is the religion of Adam, but also because they have their own scriptures containing their own account of John the Baptist which disagrees with much of the Christian Bible's depiction of the man. There are, furthermore, many elements of the Mandaean religion which Christians, as well as Muslims and Jews for that matter, would find alien (1, 2).

The Mandaean religion resembles ancient Gnosticism in some respects: God did not create the world directly, but delegated its creation to deputies who made both a superior world of light and an inferior darker world in which humans live, it being impossible to create a world of light without also creating a world of darkness. Salvation is the successful transition to the world of light after death. Many early Christians were Gnostic, but such ideas were also condemned in the early Church as well, and by the time of the Emperor Constantine, Christian Gnosticism was quite marginal. It did not survive very long in the West. It is a testimony to the traditional tolerance of Islam that a Gnostic or quasi-Gnostic religion, in the form of Mandaeanism, was able to survive throughout the medieval Middle East and into modern times, although I do not mean to imply that it was always easy for it do so.

With the ascent of Islamic fundamentalism, in Iraq, Mandeans, like many minority sects there, are being forced to convert, young women forced into marriages with Muslim men. In short, we are witnessing yet another cultural genocide as a result of our imperialism.

Oct 1, 2007

Massacre of Buddhist Monks in Burma

The peaceful protest led by Buddhist monks against the regime in Burma (Myanmar) has been suppressed in a violent bloodbath.

Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand.

In what has been termed the "Saffron Revolution," thousands of Buddhist monks have been leading peaceful marches against the country's military regime.

On September 23, as many as 100,000 anti-government protesters led by a phalanx of Buddhist monks and nuns marched through Yangon (Rangoon), the largest crowd to demonstrate in Myanmar since 1988. Next day, tens of thousands more monks, joined by civilians, marched peacefully through key areas of several Burmese towns. Indeed, since late August this year, monks and people around Burma have been out on the streets protesting against a sharp hike in fuel prices imposed by the dictatorship on a long suffering people, among the poorest in the world.

The protests were initially triggered by student activists, who, lacking the immunity accorded to monks, were immediately beaten up and detained. Min Ko Naing, a student leader and hero of the 1988 failed uprising against the military regime, who has already spent nearly a decade-and-half in jail, was among those arrested.

Today, reports from inside the country are declaring the uprising over and the military junta in control.

Reports from exiles along the frontier confirmed that hundreds of monks had simply "disappeared" as 20,000 troops swarmed around Rangoon yesterday to prevent further demonstrations by religious groups and civilians.

. . .

There, troops abandoned religious beliefs, propped their rifles against statues of Buddha and began cooking meals on stoves set up in shrines.

Words fail...

Sep 5, 2007

Glacial Melt Accelerating

Small Pieces of Ice Floating in Glacier Bay

Rapidly accelerating melting of the polar ice caps is causing some climatologists to revise their global warming tables. Catastrophe may be coming sooner rather than later.

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced.

Experts say they are "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone.

. . .

The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began thirty years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

Dr [Mark] Serreze said: "If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our childrens' lifetimes."

But, if you really want to feel an icy chill run down your spine, consider this: What will Dr. Serreze be saying two years from now? Sudden climate change? Anyone?... Anyone?

Aug 5, 2007

Legislating Reincarnation

Sonam Gyatso, Third Dalai Lama, 16th-17th Century

In its continuing effort to crush the influence of Tibetan Buddhism within its borders, China is cracking down on the reincarnation of living Buddhas.

All the reincarnations of living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are "illegal or invalid," China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said in Beijing Friday.

The SARA has issued a set of regulations on reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas, which will take effect as of September 1.

"It is an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas," the SARA said in a statement issued Friday.

The regulations require that a temple which applies for reincarnation of a living Buddha must be "legally-registered venues for Tibetan Buddhism activities and are capable of fostering and offering proper means of support for the living Buddha."

I have to admit, this actually struck me funny when I first heard about it; the idea that a government bureaucracy could administrate the comings and goings of souls. But, it's deadly serious.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.

For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.

This continues and expands Chinese policies to wrest control of the Tibetan spiritual practices that largely define the occupied people. Having already decreed that only the government can authorize the appointment of its two most important spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. His holiness the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, selected the reincarnate of the Panchen Lama in 1995. But, Chinese authorities held their own selection ceremony and the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has since disappeared.

Last week hundreds of Tibetans were taken into custody for protesting the detention of another Tibetan protester, who seized the microphone at an official Chinese event and called for the return of the Dalai Lama.

The reports said the crowd of hundreds responded with a roaring yes when Runggye Adak asked whether the Dalai Lama should return.

"If we cannot invite the Dalai Lama home, we will not have freedom of religion and happiness in Tibet," Radio Free Asia quoted him as saying in a report filed from neighboring Nepal. Many Tibetans go through Nepal to reach the seat of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

Aug 2, 2007

Echinacea Prevents Colds: Newest Study

Echinacea Purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Studies on the effectiveness of echinacea have been decidedly mixed. Like many natural remedies much of the evidence is anecdotal. That's never been a deterrent for me as I have never believed in one size fits all remedies. (I pendulum test everything. Works for me.) However, a new scientific study concluded that echinacea does, in fact, prevent colds, by a substantial percentage, and seems to shorten the duration and severity of colds.

The paper, published in the July issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, used statistical techniques to combine the results of existing studies and reach conclusions based on the larger sample that resulted. The researchers selected only those trials that used randomized and placebo-controlled techniques: 14 studies involving 1,356 participants for the number of colds and 1,630 for the prevention of colds. The studies varied in the dosages of the herb, the duration it was taken and the species of echinacea used, and the number of participants ranged from 40 to more than 300.

The analysis concluded that echinacea reduced the risk of catching a cold by 58 percent. It also found that the herb significantly shortened the duration of a cold, but there was no general agreement about the magnitude of this effect.

“Our analysis doesn’t say that the stuff works without question,” said Dr. Craig I. Coleman, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut, and the senior author of the paper. “But the preponderance of evidence suggests that it does.”

On the subject of herbs, this might be a good time mention that one of my newest affiliates is Mountain Rose Herbs. I don't mean this to be a shameless plug, but a genuine recommendation. I waited for years for these folks to go online and start an affiliate program. I bought from them when all they had was a low-budget, newsprint catalog. Their herbs and oils are top-notch. Highly, highly recommended.

Jul 8, 2007

Now This is Just Dumb

Head of Hatshepsut or Tuthmosis II New Kingdom, circa 1479-1425 BC

As noted here the mummy of Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut was recently identified. It's an exciting discovery for archaeologists and Egyptophiles like myself. This morning I opened the Huffington Post to read this idiotic headline: "Mummy Reveals Legendary Egyptian Queen Was Obese, Balding And Bearded." Number 1: Who cares? Number 2: The beard was a false one, and was affected to represent her pharaonic authority. Number 3: Can no woman in history escape objectifying lookism?

Huffington Post is not primarily at fault, here. The headline derives from the source material; an article on Live Science. And it only gets worse from there.

Turns out, Hatshepsut was no Cleopatra. Instead, she was a 50-year-old fat lady; apparently she used her power over the Upper and Lower Nile to eat well and abundantly. Archaeologists also claim that she probably had diabetes, just like many obese women today.

Hatshepsut also suffered from what all women over 40 need—a stylist. She was balding in front but let the hair on the back of her head to grow really long, like an aging female Dead Head with alopecia.

This Queen of Egypt also sported black and red nail polish, a rather Goth look for someone past middle age.

Got it? Hatshepsut was a "Glamour don't." Why this matters roughly 3500 years after the fact is a mystery to me.

Letting alone that Cleopatra's legendary beauty is a subject of some dispute, this article is wrong-headed from the outset. I can't believe it was written by an academic, and female one at that. She does allow that Hatshepsut was extraordinarily successful, but implies that it was in spite of her homeliness. What it was in spite of was a culture that did not allow for female rulers. How ironic that all these years later her memory must still battle a sexist, objectifying standard.

Jul 2, 2007

Making the Darkness Conscious

Mukesh in a Yoga Position

Hat-tip to Unexplained Mysteries for noting this article on brain function and meditation. A recent study concludes that mindful observation of our darker emotions advances our healing process.

If you name your emotions, you can tame them, according to new research that suggests why meditation works.

Brain scans show that putting negative emotions into words calms the brain's emotion center. That could explain meditation’s purported emotional benefits, because people who meditate often label their negative emotions in an effort to “let them go.”

Psychologists have long believed that people who talk about their feelings have more control over them, but they don't know why it works.

I have written and spoken a good deal about the use of active denial as a spiritual practice. Most recently, in my review of the movie "The Secret," but also here. I have come down hard against "Secret" mania, not because it is the worst offender, but because of the viral nature of the message. It's cleverly packaged pop-spirituality, but the message is a retread of one many of us grew up with: "Don't dwell."

As I wrote in that review:

I nearly fell out my chair when I heard "The Secret's" Bob Proctor advise that when you're feeling bad you should simply put on some music, because it would change your mood, and to "block out everything but that [happy] thought." Try that if you're clinically depressed. Just try it. Or if you are recovering from childhood sexual abuse. Or if you are one of our returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even the joyous sounds of Steve Martin's banjo won't make you happy, and to suggest that it's that simple is insulting. And if you could block out all that pain, it would be anything but healthy.

In her appearance on "Oprah," Lisa Nichols explained how she addresses people who want to talk about their personal history or "story." Her response is "I don't want to know it, because you've used it to keep yourself where you are." So word to the wise, if you want someone to help you heal and come complete with your painful history, Lisa Nichols is probably not the appropriate facilitator for you.

Many years ago, as a communications student, I was taught that the most important communication tool is listening. When I started working professionally as a reader and healing facilitator, the importance of well-honed listening skill was really brought home for me. I found that there are readings in which I really say very little, but which facilitate enormous transformation in the client. I allow my guides to direct me in a process of transmitting the messages I receive; then listening, breathing, and experiencing what is happening in a client's body when they speak their truth. In this way I am able to help them process and clear. The longer I do this work, the less I run my suck. People need to be heard, and in most of our daily lives, we are not.

The message of this fascinating bit of brain research is that listening to ourselves -- to the streaming of our own thoughts -- is also crucial to our emotional health. More importantly, we need to acknowledge and name our feelings; even and especially the ones we don't like.

When the participants chose labels for the negative emotions, activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region—an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences—became more active, whereas activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, was calmed.

. . .

“In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses,” Lieberman said of his study, which is detailed in the current issue of Psychological Science.

This runs exactly counter to the ideas advanced in "The Secret" and other new age staples on positive thought. For years we all heard that focusing on our negative thoughts and feelings would exacerbate them and cause us to "magnetize" more negative experiences. The suggested remedy was to focus on the positive, thereby "manifesting" positive results. Never mind that our ideas of positive and negative are, not only subjective, but entrenched in a dualistic conception of life and the universe. In other words, this splitting function actually keeps us from experiencing wholeness, or "one-ness."

Suppressing and denying also keeps us from processing and healing our painful emotions, as this study graphically illustrates. Thinking only happy thoughts will not cause our unpleasant emotions to atrophy and disappear. It simply drives them underground. (It can also cause them to play out in our bodies, but that's a subject for another discussion.) It is actually acknowledging the darker feelings rattling around the subconscious, that reduces their effect on our overall emotional state.

Jun 27, 2007

Hatshepsut Mummy Identified

Statue of Queen Makare Hatshepsut (1503-1482 BC) Holding Two Vases Containing Offerings of Wine

An unidentified mummy has been confirmed by DNA evidence to be that of the female pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut.

The mummy was discovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings burial ground in 1903, but had not been identified as that of the queen and was left on site until two months ago when it was brought to the Cairo Museum for testing, said Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.

. . .

A woman monarch who called herself a pharaoh and dressed like a man, Hatshepsut ruled over Egypt during the 15th century B.C.

During her famed 18th Dynasty rule, she wielded more power than Cleopatra or Nefertiti. But when her rule ended, all traces of her mysteriously disappeared, including her mummy.

According to A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut's mummy was intentionally hidden because of political intrigue surrounding her reign. Hatshepsut usurped the role of named heir to the throne Tuthmosis III.

Hatshepsut (Ma'atkare') the fifth ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1473-1458 B.C.), the daughter of Tuthmosis I and Queen 'Ahmose. As was common in royal families, Hatshepsut married her half-brother, Tuthmosis II. They had a daughter, Neferu-Re'. By a minor wife, Isis, Tuthmosis II had a son, Tuthnmosis III.

Tuthmosis II was suffering from a systematic illness and died in 1479 B.C., managing to appoint his harem-born son his heir before dying. Hatshepsut stood as regent because Tuthmosis III was quite young. They ruled jointly from all appearances until 1473, when Hatshepsut had herself declared pharaoh, assuming all of the office's masculine titles and masculine attire. She had considerable backing in the court, being able to count on the high priest of Amon, Hapuseneb and other officials. It is possible that her daughter , Neferu-Re', married Tuthmosis III. This princess lived until the 11th year of Hatshepsut's reign.

Administering the affairs of the nation, Hatshepsut also bagan work on her temple at Deir El-Bahri, on the western shore of hte Nile at Thebes. Reliefs on the walls of that shrine portray her fictional divine birth as the daughter of Amon and her right to rule Egypt. She also laid claim to a previous coronation, an equally fictitious event that supposedly happened in the reign of her father, Tuthmosis I making her his co-ruler. At her side in this period was her chief steward, Senenmut, who had entered the service of the royal family during the reign of Tuthmosis II. Other high-ranking officers of the court also aided her until Neferu's death and the downfall and death of Senenmut, in or before the 19th year of her reign. A few years later the Asiatic rebelled in the principalities of the east.

During her reign, Egypt remained secure, and Hatshepsut, initiated many building projects. Although she professed hatred for the Asiatics in her reliefs, Hatshepsut apparently did not sponsor punitive campaigns against them. When Kadesh and its allies started revolt in c. 1458 B.C., Tuthmosis III led the army out of Egypt, and Hatshepsut disappeared. Her statues, reliefs and shrines were mutilated by the Tuthmosis camp in time, and her body was never found. There was some speculation concerning a female corpse discovered in the tomb of Amenhotep II. It is known that Hatshepsut's corpse was hidden from Thuthmosis's allies...

Further reading on Queen Hatshepsut:
Manchester Guardian
Rich East
Tour Egypt

Jun 10, 2007

"Yoga May Help Treat Depression, Anxiety Disorders"

Woman Performing Yoga

Emphasis on the word "may." The article so entitled is heavily caveated. First the good news:

Yoga's postures, controlled breathing and meditation may work together to help ease brains plagued by anxiety or depression, a new study shows.

Brain scans of yoga practitioners showed a healthy boost in levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) immediately after a one-hour yoga session. Low brain levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression, the researchers said.

"I am quite sure that this is the first study that's shown that there's a real, measurable change in a major neurotransmitter with a behavioral intervention such as yoga," said lead researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Now, for the bad news: None of the research subjects actually suffered from these or other psychological disorders.

[Zindel Segal, chairman of psychotherapy and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toronto] also pointed out that all of the people in the study were mentally healthy, and clinical depression and anxiety disorders involve more than the "daily fluctuations in stress and tension" that healthy individuals are prone to.

The control group used in the study sat and read -- a rather cerebral activity and far from stress reducing depending on what one reads. The study did not compare different types of physical activities, or even other forms of meditation. Segal again:

"We know that yoga can have a profound effect" on smoothing out life's daily ups and downs, Segal said. "But so does working out on a Stairmaster for an hour."

On the plus side, we now know a little more about why yoga is really good for healthy people.

May 21, 2007

Have We Passed the Tipping Point?


As discussed here and here, climatologists are increasingly concerned about evidence of key tipping points, beyond which global warming rapidly accelerates, ultimately leading to a possibility of "sudden climate change."

As per Steven D at Booman Tribune, there is stunning evidence that we have passed a major tipping point, and much sooner than previously expected.

Via The Independent:
The earth's ability to soak up the gases causing global warming is beginning to fail because of rising temperatures, in a long-feared sign of "positive feedback," new research reveals today.

Climate change itself is weakening one of the principal "sinks" absorbing carbon dioxide - the Southern Ocean around Antarctica - a new study has found.

As a result, atmospheric CO2 levels may rise faster and bring about rising temperatures more quickly than previously anticipated. Stabilising the CO2 level, which must be done to bring the warming under control, is likely to become much more difficult, even if the world community agrees to do it. [...]

"This is the first unequivocal detection of a carbon sink weakening because of recent climate change," said the lead author of the study, Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia. "This is serious. Whenever the world has greatly warmed in the past, the weakening of CO2 sinks has contributed to it."

Others have characterized the study's results in even more alarming tones:

Ian Totterdell, a climate modeller at the Met Office Hadley Centre, described the research as “an important piece of work”.

He said: “This is the first time we have been able to get convincing evidence that a change in the uptake of CO2 by the oceans is linked to climate change. “It’s one of many feedbacks we didn’t expect to kick in until some way into the 21st century.”

We are witnessing changes that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Changes that were not predicted to occur for several more decades are showing up now, as you read these words of mine. Temperatures and sea levels rising faster than our climate change models predicted. Glaciers vanishing before our eyes. Ice melting in the interior of Antarctica in a region the size of California, where ice has never melted before in recorded history.

May 16, 2007

Quietly Practicing Wicca


There's a good piece in the The New York Times today on the increasing popularity of Wicca and the secrecy around its practice.

Among the most popular religions to have flowered since the 1960s, Wicca — a form of paganism — still faces a struggle for acceptance, experts on the religion and Wiccans themselves said. In April, Wiccans won an important victory when the Department of Veterans Affairs settled a lawsuit and agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.

But Wicca in the civilian world is largely a religion in hiding. Wiccans fear losing their friends and jobs if people find out about their faith.

Taking aim at some of the myths about Wicca and its supposed association with Satanism, the article does a fair job of explaining some of the symbols and practices.

“It’s a very open religion,” said Helen A. Berger, a sociology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. “Each person can do what they want, and they don’t have to belong to a group. They take things from a number of different sources, like Eastern religions, Celtic practices. You are the ultimate authority of your own experience.”

But its symbols and practices elicit suspicion from outsiders, Wiccans and religion scholars say.

Many Wiccans practice some form of magic or witchcraft, which they say is a way of affecting one’s destiny, but which many outsiders see as evil. The Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star inside a circle, is often confused with symbols of Satanism. (The five points of the star represent the elements of nature — earth, air, fire and water — and the spirit, within the eternal circle of life.)

There's not a lot of new information here. But, it's nice to see some recognition of the increasingly popular practice in the paper of record; and of the continuing difficulty for practitioners to practice openly. For more information on the VA's approval of pentacles, see here.

May 1, 2007

Secrets and Lies

A while ago I took "The Secret" to task for a number of things; such as being based on a faulty premise, making undeliverable promises, and encouraging denial as a spiritual practice. Add one more item to the list: fraud. One of the key contributors to "The Secret" Denis Waitley has been caught out by the Fraud Discovery Institute, which found discrepancies in his education credentials and false claims by his business, Usana. Their most recent report can found here.

Waitley withdrew from renomination to the board of directors of Usana, when the discrepancy was uncovered; apparently to stop the hemorrhaging of Usana's stock. Waitley has apologized for the "error." The oversight in question?

Usana has made headlines in the last two weeks after coming under S.E.C. scrutiny following a 500-page report from FDI that was made public and a subsequent investigative cover story in the Money & Investing section of the Wall Street Journal (March 15).According to Barry Minkow, independent licensed private investigators who specialize in examining resumes could not confirm that Mr. Waitley had earned a M.A. degree from the Naval Post Graduate School, in Monterey, California. Moreover, the Doctorate, or a Ph.D. in Human Behavior from La Jolla University listed in Mr. Waitley’s resume, appears to have come from a now defunct and never-accredited “diploma mill,” according to Minkow. Both alleged degrees are listed on official S.E.C. filings.

Mr. Waitley, a well-known motivational speaker who also appears in the hit movie, The Secret, is listed on Usana’s Schedule 14A Proxy Statement, filed on March 13, 2007, as having “served as a director of USANA since May 2000. Dr. Waitley has also served as a consultant to and a spokesperson for USANA since September 1996.” The Proxy also states, “Dr. Waitley received a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, an M.A. in Organizational Development from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, California, and a Ph.D. in Human Behavior from La Jolla University.”

The Fraud Discovery Institute, under the direction of Barry Minkow, contracted a licensed private investigator to assist in FDI’s inquiry into this apparent resume inconsistency. After contacting the Naval Post Graduate School, he writes: “When contacted by our investigators, a representative of the school was unable to locate any record that the search subject graduated with the stated degree, and as such, it would appear that this assertion is untrue,” the report says.

Regarding the Ph.D. from La Jolla University, the report also stated, “Finally, the subject is listed in the same government filings as having graduated with a Ph.D. from La Jolla University. No record of this school was found in our databases of current accredited institutions of higher-learning, and the school does not appear in the databases of the State of California Bureau for Private Post-Secondary & Vocational Education. Despite extensive database searches, no working telephone number was found for this school. Accordingly, it was not possible to verify that the search subject graduated with the stated degree from this institution.”

Somehow, these fictitious higher degrees found their way into numerous SEC filings, according to Usana, purely by accident.

Conspicuous by its absence in "The Secret" is any discussion of integrity. To have integrity is to be integral; to be whole. "The Secret" teaches exactly the opposite; advocating a system of splitting off or suppressing those parts of yourself that don't feel good. Is it any great surprise that one of its architects is mired in a fraud scandal? Not to me. Living a fraudulent, inauthentic life is the implicit message of "The Secret."

Apr 24, 2007

Wiccan Troops To Receive Proper Burial

The Veteran's Administration and the Bush Administration have finally reached an agreement that will allow Wiccan troops to be buried with the appropriate symbol for their religion; the pentacle. As I reported here, there has been a long stand-off between the VA and the families of those of our fallen who practiced Wicca.

The Department of Veterans Affairs previously had given veterans a choice of 38 religious symbols, including numerous forms of the Christian cross, as well as the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel and an atomic symbol for atheism.

But, for nearly a decade, the department had refused to act on requests for the pentacle, without a clear reason. VA spokesman Matt Burns said that approximately 10 applications were pending from adherents of Wicca, a blend of witchcraft and nature worship that is one of the country's fastest-growing religions.

But a legal settlement was reached yesterday.

In yesterday's legal settlement, the VA agreed to grant all the pending requests within two weeks and to approve new ones on an expedited basis for 30 days. The department will also pay $225,000 to the plaintiffs for attorneys' fees.

This resolves the lengthy battle, in which Wiccan service members and their families struggled for recognition of their religion.

Until now, the Veterans Affairs department had approved 38 symbols to indicate the faith of deceased service members on memorials. It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort on behalf of the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.

The group attributed the delay to religious discrimination. Many Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, or hold the mistaken belief that Wiccans are devil worshipers.

“The Wiccan families we represented were in no way asking for special treatment,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said at a news conference Monday. “They wanted precisely the same treatment that dozens of other religions already had received from the department, an acknowledgment that their spiritual beliefs were on par with those of everyone else.”

Among Wicca's detractors: President Bush.

In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said, it found e-mail and memorandums referring to negative comments President Bush made about Wicca in an interview with “Good Morning America” in 1999, when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers’ being allowed to worship at Fort Hood, Tex.

“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”

In what Rev. Lynn described as a "total capitulation," the religion of a fair segment of the armed services has finally been legitimized.

There are 1,800 Wiccans in the armed forces, according to a Pentagon survey cited in the suit, and Wiccans have their faith mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on their dog tags.

At least 11 families will be immediately affected by the V.A.’s decision, said the Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church in Wisconsin.

Now if we could just get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell."

Mar 31, 2007

Everything Tries To Be Round

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round... Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle. The nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.

-- Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man

Which is the long way 'round my saying that I love this art. I won't be posting the images here, because I think they're proprietary, but Edward Winkleman has reproduced a number of images by Julie Evans. If the spheres within sheres print I included in my last post looks like something that was snatched out of my head, this is like a kind of jazz riff on what goes on inside my head. From the press release:

Evans works slowly and painstakingly, rendering delicate garlands and intricate mandalas, and filling large expanses of color with tiny, countless, vertical strokes. She creates ambiguous spaces within spaces that are at once both micro and macro in realm, keeping the viewer up close to these intimate works, but with the sense of their broader reach into place and time.

She has worked in India and Nepal, including travel and research supported by a Fulbright Scholarship studying with a master of Indian miniature painting. Critic Mario Naves wrote of Evans' work that she "creates vistas infinitely more expansive than the physical parameters of the paintings support. Clearly the conventions of Indian miniature paintings have become second nature to her."

These pieces definitely evoke mandalas and what I find really interesting is the use of sacred geometry. I'd have to break out my tiny, little, screen-sized calipers -- in other words, something I do not have -- to determine if the proportions are exact, but there looks to be a lot of use of phi ratios and golden mean spirals. There are also beautiful lotus images throughout.

I've been thinking a lot about lotus's lately and recently added a handful of the nicer images I could find to the art gallery. The lotus image is one that has been so overused in spiritual circles that it's been largely reduced to a cliche. The symbolism is so profound that I think this is unfortunate.

When we moved into our new house last year, one of the items left behind by the previous owners was a bowl of black, decorative rocks, with a cheap, fabric lotus plunked on top. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I really don't think they were Buddhists, so the imagery is probably completely accidental. This, in part, is what makes it so profound. Amazing the way we all just pluck these things out of the Akashic record, without the vaguest notion that we have done so. The image, of course, evokes the Buddha's "Lotus Sutra." Loosely translated: From the darkest mud comes the most beautiful lotus. So I have kept it. Tacky, Michael's, fabric lotus and all.

But my fascination with the lotus is more rooted in Egyptian mythology and owes to something I plucked out of the Akashic record many years ago in meditation. I scribbled the images down because I did not understand them at all. It was a disjointed collection of death/rebirth images. In the middle of the page was this strange looking flower with a face emerging from the center. It was only years later that I stumbled on the Egyptian lotus mythology that explained the image. Here's the short version from A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt:

The lotus signified Re' 's power and birth and was celebrated in the Loutus Offering, a hymn sung in the temple on festival days, especially at the cultic center in Edfu. The hymn referred to the god Re' as the "Great Lotus," which emerged from the primeval pool at the moment of creation.

Perhaps someday I'll write the long version, which is complex and beautiful with tendrils moving through numerous myths. But for now I just endorse you to look at Julie Evans's art.

Also of interest on Edward Winkleman's blog, a discussion of the abortive attempt to exhibit the chocolate Jesus. I just don't understand the outrage. Is it the Easter season conflation of Jesus with a giant chocolate bunny? Or is it the presence of the penis? Because I'm pretty sure Jesus had a penis. I know the Biblical accounts don't go into too much detail on that, but even so. With all his rantings on sacrilege and bigotry, I wonder what Bill Donohue's views are on, say, the tomahawk chop. So far I think he's been mum.

Mar 27, 2007

Battlestar Galactica's Special Destiny

Battlestar Galactica

I recently added the "Battlestar Galactica" series on DVD to the bookstore. I think this merits a little explanation. Why would I place a science fiction series about a multi-generational battle with mechanoids in my little new age book shop? Well, for starters, it's one of the best written, directed, and acted, series in television history -- easily on par with that other transcendent bit of programming "The Sopranos." More to the point, some of the themes lend themselves to a range of philosophical and metaphysical discussions.

Much has been written about the political themes in the series. Less so about the religious, spiritual, and mythical themes.

Some of the spiritual themes owe to the source material; the original series which has been fairly described as "Star Wars meets Wagon Train." There are not many similarities to the painfully campy show... well, except for the basic storyline, characters, and a curious homage to mythology; largely, but not entirely, Greek.

The name of the 12 colonies, collectively, is Kobol, "an anagram of Kolob, which, according to the Mormon Book of Abraham, is the star nearest to where God dwells." This owes to the Mormon background of the creator of the original series Glen Larson. The names of the colonies themselves are renderings of the 12 zodiac signs: Caprica, Aquaria, Scorpia, etc. The character names are like a listing from a world mythology class syllabus: Adama (Adam), Apollo, Athena, etc.

From the departure point that was the original show, the new series has moved in some surprising directions and impressed viewers and critics alike with its depth. This is as much the case with the mythological themes as other elements. The central conflict of the show is between the human survivors and their Cylon attackers. But there is also a religious conflict between these two civilizations; the polytheistic beliefs of the humans and the monotheism of the Cylons. But humans and Cylons alike are possessed of spiritual visions and intuitions regarding their shared destinies. These visions, rich in familiar archetypal resonances and shamanic devices, lend a particular gravity to the series.

In the first season, the accidental President of the Colonies Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who is taking an herbal compound called kamala extract as a cancer therapy, begins to have strange dreams and "hallucinations." At one point during a press conference she sees snakes writhing on the podium. She later learns that her "hallucination" of the snakes is a vision prophesied by the "Pythia." The name Pythia is, of course, that taken by the Oracles of Delphi in ancient Greece. There are many versions of the mythological underpinnings of the Oracle of Delphi. At least in latter iterations, it was the temple of the Apollo who, legend has it, slew Python (Pytho, Delphyne), the great dragon.

The Pythia was the priestess presiding over the Oracle of Delphi while it was the temple of Apollo, located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The Pythia was widely credited with giving prophecies inspired by Apollo, giving her a prominence unusual for a woman in male-dominated ancient Greece, but given the probability that she was first an oracle for the goddess, Gaia, who was the Great Goddess, Earth, the presence of priestesses at the oracle of the goddess would have been typical in archaic times. The name of Themis is often used to identify the Pythia. In earlier myths, Themis built the Oracle at Delphi and was herself oracular. According to another legend, Themis received the Oracle at Delphi from Gaia and later gave it to Phoebe.

Gaia was also a great dragon, akin to the Sumerian Tiamat. (For more information on the correlation between creation myths, goddesses, and reptiles, scroll down to here.)

Priestess of Delphi

But the allusion to the Pythia myth is not an idle one. According to legend the Oracle of Delphi exposed herself to an hallucinogen. Seated on a tripod she breathed a vapor that was said to emanate, through a crevice in the earth, from the rotting corpse of Python. It was more likely ethylene gas. In Laura Roslin's case it is kamala extract. But the use of hallucinogens in spiritual practice is an ancient one. According to Graham Hancock's Supernatural, it may date back to the stone age, as evidenced by shamanic themes in paleolithic cave art. So called "hallucinations" are a method of "piercing the veil" and revealing the hidden, but very real, world.

But in "Battlestar Galactica," the Cylons are also capable of shamanic experiences. We discover this most poignantly when one of the Number Threes (Lucy Lawless) undertakes repeated death/rebirth experiences to learn what lies between the worlds.

In the season that just ended, we learn more about the visions of Kara Thrace, call-sign Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff). Thrace, by the way, is an ancient country, now absorbed in part by Greece, that was between the Black Sea to the Aegian. We learned a while ago that Starbuck had a "special destiny," of some kind, known to the Cylons. In more recent episodes we discover that she has been painting a symbol over and over for years that very much resembles what they refer to as the "Eye of Jupiter."

See here for some background on the geometry and symbolism of eyes and why they speak to something seminal in our consciousness. This particular image of spheres within spheres is one that has entranced me for years. I thought seriously at one time about doing a giant canvas of that image. I never got around to it, and frankly, I'm not much of a painter. But the following image looks very similar to what I saw in my head for a period of years. Stare at it for a while. It's hypnotic.
Gong of Initiation-Circle-Wholeness/Unity

There is much to say on this fantastic show, but not much more that I can relate that won't divulge its intricate plotting. I do not mean this to be a spoiler review. To my sorrow, the newest season just wrapped and there will be no new episodes until 2008. Can't wait.

Mar 21, 2007

Sick As Our Secrets

One does not become enlightened
by imagining figures of light,

but by making the darkness conscious.
The latter procedure, however is disagreeable,
and therefore not popular.

-- Carl Jung

It took me a while to get around to seeing "The Secret." Once I learned what the secret actually was, I felt no great urgency. But when I saw how it had been savaged on Salon.com, I resolved to see how bad it was for myself. Pretty bad, really.

This is not to say that it has no value. A number of the tools recommended by its co-creators are effective, at least up to a point. Far be it from me to discourage the use of creative visualization, visualization boards, affirmative thought, or any other of what I would consider rituals. When appropriate I recommend these tools to my clients. But they are not a panacea, and that caveat is decidedly missing from the slickly produced movie; and presumably the book, which I did not, in all fairness, read.

I don't think I'm revealing any state secrets when I tell you, gentle reader, that the secret revealed in "The Secret" is the "law of attraction." The problem is that this is not so much a law as it is a bromide. What many of us learned during the "new age" revolution of the 80s and 90s was that all of our affirmations and creative visualization did not, in fact, work. At least not fully or "every time," which is what "The Secret" promises... well as long we don't think "bad" thoughts and undo all the promise of our "good" thoughts. According to the brain trust that brings you "The Secret" our "negative" thoughts bring unpleasant experiences, and our "positive" thoughts bring pleasant ones. I almost wish life were that simple.

The "law of attraction" is really a very dumbed down -- one might say truncated -- version of a much deeper truth. This is probably why it has resonance and "feels" true enough to inspire a cottage industry. It has what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness."

Underlying this attractive idea is what mystics have been teaching for millennia. It is that all things reflect all other things. That it cannot be otherwise because we are, in fact, one with everything around us. This means that the people you meet are not "like" you ("like attracts like"). They are you.

Where the "law of attraction," as presented in "The Secret," teaches us that if we are attracting unpleasant experiences, we need to shift our thoughts away from the negative and make ourselves happy, mystical thought teaches what Virginia Sandlin terms "sourceful awareness." Mystical thinkers honor that anything that comes into our reflective experience is mirroring something that exists inside of us, all be it, to a different degree. So our recognition of what we find unpleasant in our reflective environment is an opportunity to complete and heal that aspect in ourselves, thereby facilitating healing for the world that is our reflection.

So this mystical awareness comes with a greater sense of responsibility than thinking happy thoughts in order to get a new car.

I entitled this review "Sick As Our Secrets" not simply as a play on words, but because that axiom speaks to one of the deeper problems inherent in the philosophy advanced in the "The Secret." That phrase, popular in Twelve Step programs, is used to describe the dis-ease that arises because of the fraud, shame, and denial that are so much a part of the life of addicts and their families. As anyone who has undertaken a healing process on that level learns, the secrets that do the most damage are the ones we keep from ourselves. Try as a I might, I can't see the difference between the practices advocated in "The Secret" and plain, old-fashioned denial. To advocate that people simply stop feeling their "bad feelings" is not just glib. It's irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

I nearly fell out my chair when I heard "The Secret's" Bob Proctor advise that when you're feeling bad you should simply put on some music, because it would change your mood, and to "block out everything but that [happy] thought." Try that if you're clinically depressed. Just try it. Or if you are recovering from childhood sexual abuse. Or if you are one of our returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even the joyous sounds of Steve Martin's banjo won't make you happy, and to suggest that it's that simple is insulting. And if you could block out all that pain, it would be anything but healthy.

In her appearance on "Oprah," Lisa Nichols explained how she addresses people who want to talk about their personal history or "story." Her response is "I don't want to know it, because you've used it to keep yourself where you are." So word to the wise, if you want someone to help you heal and come complete with your painful history, Lisa Nichols is probably not the appropriate facilitator for you.

The implicit hostility of this particular assumption is one I'm all too familiar within my own field. That is to say, the idea that people are holding on to past trauma because they are "unwilling" to release it. I have even heard colleagues say of their clients, "Well they don't really want to get better." If they're showing up for help, they want help. It just may not be the kind of help that healer is willing or able to provide. And when a healer runs into the limits of his or her own paradigm, it is easier to blame the client than to question the belief system. When a client pushes your buttons, it's easier to dismiss the client than to determine why you have sourced them into your practice.

The glib, binary approach re-popularized in "The Secret" has real world consequences. I was recently emailed an article by Ross Bishop that addresses the impact on people suffering from mental or physical illness. He writes:

I received an email recently from a woman who had suffered through bi-lateral breast removal. She wrote:

Do you have any insight on why I developed this disease? It's been very difficult for me to handle what they teach in "The Secret" and all the Unity Church beliefs and that we create illness through negative thinking because I worked so hard to heal my life and have lived a life of joy for the past two years.

For several months I have been receiving calls and emails from people who are distraught over the guilt-producing messages contained in the video "The Secret." These people have been told that:

. . . you create in reality, in one way or another whatever you focus your attention on. Your life is going to be an outcome of where you predominantly place your attention.

This is a resurrection of the discredited "Law of Attraction" foisted by new age teachers, MLM organizers and get-rich-quick real estate infomercials. The idea is a simple one: what you place your attention on will manifest in reality.

Like Mr. Bishop I have been hearing from frustrated clients who aren't finding the tools to improve their lives in these ideas that are achieving a whole new level of popularity in the new age arena. And like Mr. Bishop, I see them beating themselves up for not being able to accomplish what they've been promised is so simple.

Experiences like these with the fall-out from "The Secret" make me tend to agree with Peter Birkenhead of Salon, who characterizes the slickly repackaged philosophy and Oprah's endorsement of it as venal.

Why "venality"? Because, with survivors of Auschwitz still alive, Oprah writes this about "The Secret" on her Web site, "the energy you put into the world -- both good and bad -- is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day." "Venality," because Oprah, in the age of AIDS, is advertising a book that says, "You cannot 'catch' anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought." "Venality," because Oprah, from a studio within walking distance of Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green Projects, pitches a book that says, "The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts."

Worse than "The Secret's" blame-the-victim idiocy is its baldfaced bullshitting. The titular "secret" of the book is something the authors call the Law of Attraction. They maintain that the universe is governed by the principle that "like attracts like" and that our thoughts are like magnets: Positive thoughts attract positive events and negative thoughts attract negative events. Of course, magnets do exactly the opposite -- positively charged magnets attract negatively charged particles -- and the rest of "The Secret" has a similar relationship to the truth. Here it is on biblical history: "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of." And worse than the idiocy and the bullshitting is its anti-intellectualism, because that's at the root of the other two. Here's "The Secret" on reading and, um, electricity: "When I discovered 'The Secret' I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good," and, "How does it work? Nobody knows. Just like nobody knows how electricity works. I don't, do you?" And worst of all is the craven consumerist worldview at the heart of "The Secret," because it's why the book exists: "[The Secret] is like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, 'I'd like to have this experience and I'd like to have that product and I'd like to have a person like that.' It is you placing your order with the Universe. It's really that easy." That's from Dr. Joe Vitale, former Amway executive and contributor to "The Secret," on Oprah.com.

So scientific it is not -- nobody knows how electricity works, indeed -- but the notion I find most disturbing is that we should disconnect from the realities of the world because they don't feel good. I've even heard people go so far as to assert that by tuning out horrific events we can actually help to heal the world; accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative in our minds will reflect itself in a similar healing for the planet, the theory goes. What to say? You know, if reading newspapers is too upsetting for a person and causes discomfort, there's nothing wrong with putting them aside, to create an emotionally safe space for oneself. One would hope that within that context they would undertake the healing necessary to address the world around them again. But to confuse that elective denial for actual healing or some type of spiritual evolution is vanity. I'd love to wish the war in Iraq right into the cornfield by just not thinking about it, but it doesn't work like that. Now when we reach the point that we can look at the news and not get triggered, or thrown into anger or fear... that's an accomplishment. (Full disclosure: I haven't reached that point.)

There's a site I turn to periodically called Awaken in the Dream. The site author Paul Levy writes a great deal about spiritually conscious activism. In a recent piece, "Triggered by Evil" he takes a tack that stands in stark contrast to the idea of ignoring the news because it makes us uncomfortable. Writes Levy:

Due to the horrific events playing out on the world stage, I find myself unable to avoid the subject of “evil.” Some of my readers have objected to my use of the term “evil,” because it “triggers” something in them which makes them feel uncomfortable, and sometimes even makes them stop reading. Their reaction has made me wonder whether I should use a different word so as not to trigger them, or is activating people the whole point of my writing? When I contemplate this question, however, I am left with the feeling that there is no other word that more accurately describes what I am pointing at than “evil.” I find myself wondering, is there something being revealed to us when, for example, people are triggered by the mere mention of the word “evil?”

He goes on to explain how ignoring evil increases, rather than decreases, its power over us.

Evil animates itself, psychologically speaking, through humanity’s unconsciousness. Evil’s power is only operative in the absence of consciousness. Evil, through our psychological blind spots, plays with our perceptions so as to hide itself. In order to not be destroyed by evil we have to understand the nature of the beast we are dealing with. Like that great maxim of medicine says, “Do not attempt to cure what you do not understand.” We have to bring evil to the level of conscious awareness. To quote Jung, “…how can evil be integrated? There is only one possibility: to assimilate it, that is to say, raise it to the level of consciousness.”

Evil cannot stand to be seen, for when it is truly seen, it is not unconscious anymore, and its seeming power over us gets taken away. Just like a vampire can’t stand the light of consciousness, once we see evil, we take away its autonomy - it can no longer act itself out through us unconsciously. The energy locked up in evil then becomes available to serve what is best for the whole, which is to say it becomes transformed so as to feed and nourish life, instead of creating death.

I offer up these alternative perspectives, because I think they form a necessary counterpoint to the "tyranny of a positive attitude" advanced in "The Secret."

One of the subtler story arcs of the "The Secret" is that its co-creators appear to have gone through a period of struggle, trial, or some other journey through the shadow world. Rhonda Byrne describes her trauma from the death of her father and career crisis. Joe Vitale was homeless. Michael Beckwith was a drug dealer who had a classically shamanic "death/transformation" dream. What he described on "Oprah" could be defined as a "peak" or "mystical" experience. But it came after a long period of wallowing in muck.

The authors gloss over these experiences, using them more as cautionary tales -- things they went through before they knew the secret -- than exploring how crucial these periods surely were to their later accomplishments. But I guess if "The Secret" promised health, wealth, and relationships beyond your wildest dreams, by instructing, "First, go through a period of personal hell," it wouldn't sell very well. The assumption is, I guess, that people are picking up the book or movie because they are as ready as the authors were to come complete with their shadow journeys. But just because you are suffering and want relief from that suffering does not mean that you are done with suffering. It does not mean that you are remotely ready to just release everything that causes you pain. "The Secret" promises that you can come complete with that pain by thinking really hard. If only that were true.

Your "thoughts" are not the sum of your consciousness. You are so much bigger than your thoughts. The universe does not serve your thoughts. It cannot, because the universe does not exist outside of you. You are the universe. All of it. The good, the bad, the ugly. Our challenge as people of consciousness, beings of power, lightworkers (pick your term) is not to wish the "negative" away. It is to own and reintegrate our shadow, because to do so is to heal -- bring into wholeness -- ourselves and all the world.

"The Secret," both book and movie are available in the bookstore.

Also recommended: Nora Ephron's "The Secret: A Testimonial" on The Huffington Post. Hilarious!!!

Mar 15, 2007

Site Navigation Update

I recently updated to the new version of Blogger, which allows for topic labels. This means you can click a label from the list at the end of any entry and bring up a page of all thematically related entries. I've also placed a direct link to the "Eye of God" piece in the sidebar. A quick look through my stats indicates that a lot of people are looking for this article and having trouble finding it since it moved into the archives. Enjoy.

Mar 14, 2007

Debunking the Debunkers

An Inconvenient Truth

The first major tip-off that the New York Times hit piece on Al Gore masquerading as journalism is really raw meat for the right wing base comes right in the lede:

Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,”...

Yes, Hollywood. That den of iniquity that is poisoning American culture. If Hollywood loves Al Gore, he must be bad for our children.

What follows from there is strawman arguments, unsubstantiated quotes, a rogue's gallery of scienticians, and other usual suspects. It's an old formula. Quote a handful of contrarians without revealing the controversy that surrounds them. Then proclaim opinion among experts divided, when, in fact, there is a near consensus.

But don't take my word for it. Good analyses of the New York Times piece can be found here and here. Check it out.

Mar 9, 2007

Mayan Priests to Cleanse Site of Bush

Mayan Rituals and Mystical Dances, Xcaret, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

My first thought when I learned that President Bush would be visiting Latin America was concern for his safety. That he is despised all over the world and must travel in a reinforced bubble is no secret, but Latin America sets off alarm bells for some reason. He is unwelcome in that part of the world.

It would seem the Mayan spirit guides are particularly displeased, and have called upon the priests to purify the sacred site of Iximche after Bush's visit there.

Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

Bush's seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites _ which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles _ would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30.

I have little doubt that the cleanse will be necessary, having heard the whispering of the guardians at Teotihuacan in Mexico. Most tourists are oblivious to the fabric of spirit that inhabits these sacred sites. You have to listen and you have to know how. These sites are trampled and disrespected everyday, wholly unconsciously. And as Paul Levy has beautifully explained, Bush is the very embodiment of unconsciousness.

At some point I will relate in full my experience with the hidden world at Teotihuacan. It is a place of audible whispers. Every stone and every structure talks. To walk through its ruins is to perform a ritual. It is best to have some awareness that you are doing so.

Iximche is one of many Mayan sites exhibiting the complex architecture of the "resurrection technology" of their human sacrifice rituals. The relevance of the "ball courts" and other ritual elements are beautifully explained in The Shaman's Secret, which can be found in the bookstore.

The Wall of the Ball Court, Probably Completed in the Early Post Classic Period, circa 900-1200 AD

Feb 12, 2007

Nature's Not Working Quite Right

Cherry Blossoms

Well this is alarming. Something truly awful is happening to the bee population. A mysterious illness is wiping out colonies all over the country.

A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some affected commercial beekeepers -- who often keep thousands of colonies -- have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees. A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter, and up to 60,000 in the summer.

This follows another epidemic of bee killing mites a few years ago. But the current crisis points to a possible explanation for that ailment, and disturbing portent for the future of apiculture. An analysis of the dead bees points to an immune breakdown.

Cox-Foster said an analysis of dissected bees turned up an alarmingly high number of foreign fungi, bacteria and other organisms and weakened immune systems.

Researchers are also looking into the effect pesticides might be having on bees.

In the meantime, beekeepers are wondering if bee deaths over the last couple of years that had been blamed on mites or poor management might actually have resulted from the mystery ailment."

Now people think that they may have had this three or four years," vanEnglesdorp said.

This is disturbing on many levels. Not only does it bode ill for honey production and agriculture that relies on bees for pollination. It's yet another indicator of nature gone awry. And like global warming, this phenomenon probably has its roots in human behavior; in this case the use of pesticides.

Here's another example of nature gone mad, that can only be ascribed to the planet's rising temperatures. Cherry blossoms... in January.

Cherry blossoms have been sprouting from Baristaville to Brooklyn, but in January? It seems that mother nature is giving winter a miss this year. The evening news last night even reported "April Showers" for later this week.

And if you're thinking that the massive snowfall in New York state is an indication that global warming isn't such a threat, think again. Lake effect snow occurs when the warm air from lake water meets a cold front. The more the planet heats, the warmer those lakes get, and the greater the shock when cold air, from say Canada moves in. Kind of like our intensifying hurricanes, as the waters in Gulf of Mexico become warmer.

Well. Aren't I a ray of sunshine.