Aug 28, 2008

Is God the Enemy?

The Ancient of Days

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How can [God] be perfect? He's not. It shows in his work... Take a look at a mountain range; every mountain different, different height, different shape. Leaves are all different. He can't get two fingerprints the same, man. He's had a billion years to work on that. Can't even give one person two thumbs the same. And everything he makes dies.

-- George Carlin, "Toledo Window Box"

I don't know why, exactly, but I've been getting a real kick out of Beliefnet lately. It's heavily linked from Huffington Post, and it's been a pleasant diversion from the endless convention coverage. So, the other night I clicked on their rundown of unusual religions. Kind of fun. Definitely some things I've never heard of. Asatru? I know of people who consider themselves Odinists and a lot of rune readers -- Ralph Blum was my author, once upon a time -- but Asatru? New one on me. It goes on... Eckankar. Who hasn't heard of Eckankar... Then I get to the punchline.

Maltheism: God vs. Humanity

Maltheism is the belief that God does exist, and that God is evil. Maltheists see God as the true spiritual enemy of humanity, and oppose God because of this. The Maltheist movement was founded by Paul Zimmerman, who was active on Beliefnet until his death in 2003. His motto was "God against Humanity: choose a side!" Maltheists believe the most important thing is how we treat each other as human beings, and support the self-empowerment of the human race.

That got my attention. This is a religion?

So, I googled it up and learned from Wikipedia that it is a Usenet creation.

Maltheism is an ad-hoc coining appearing on Usenet in 1985,[7] referring to the belief in God's malevolence inspired by the thesis of Tim Maroney that "even if a God as described in the Bible does exist, he is not fit for worship due to his low moral standards."[8] The same term has also seen use among designers and players of role-playing games to describe a world with a malevolent deity.[9]

I'm not sure if Tim Maroney is a person or a pseudonym, but I can't help reflecting on the Angel Maroni, who appears in Mormon doctrine... and nowhere else, to my knowledge.

As the Wikipedia entry makes somewhat clear, opposition to the god construct is not original, or new.

A related concept is dystheism (Greek δύσθεος "ungodly"), the belief that a god is not wholly good, and is possibly evil. Trickster gods found in polytheistic belief systems often have a dystheistic nature. One example is Eshu, a trickster god from Yoruba mythology who deliberately fostered violence between groups of people for his own amusement, saying that "causing strife is my greatest joy."

But polytheistic deities since prehistoric times have been assumed to be neither good nor evil (or to have both qualities). Thus dystheism is normally used in reference to God, the omnipotent deity associated with monotheistic belief. Indeed, the moral absolute of good and evil has historically arisen in parallel with monotheism. In conceptions of God as the summum bonum, the proposition of God not being wholly good would of course be a contradiction in terms.

The guy that we think is God? Third in command. He's the western marketing manager. That's all. The real God is too busy, are you kidding... He's throwing gas balls around the firmament.

-- George Carlin, "Toledo Window Box"

What came to my mind, however, was some of the Gnostic conceptions of the Demiurge and the Archons. According to some Gnostic teachings, "God" did not create this planet. Rather, it was created by a Demiurge, and is, therefore, very flawed. The Demiurge came into being by the creative of the aeon Sophia, who, according to some readings, made the error of creating without the partnering of another aeon. The result was the flawed creation and the incursion of the Archons who purport to rule the creation and all within it.

The role of Sophia in creation according to Gnostic scriptures is very curious. In the Pistis Sophia, Sophia is deceived by the demiurge and archons who make a false light shine below, and when she descends to embrace the false light they bind her and steal her Light-power. In other Gnostic scriptures she conceives the demiurge without the consent of the Most High or apart from union with her Divine Consort, thus giving birth to the monstrous form of Yaldabaot – the lion-headed serpent. In any case, in one way or another Sophia brings about a shattering of the unity and harmony of the Divine Realm, the Pleroma of Light, and in so doing becomes the cause of the imperfect creation, the Great Matrix or Entirety.

The somewhat controversial Gnostic scholar and author John Lamb Lash explains Sophia's "error" thusly:

Precise language is important in the expression of living cosmology. Precise poetic terms, if you will. The Aeon Sophia did not make a mistake and create the universe and the Archons. She acted unilaterally, without pairing with another Aeon, and projected herself beyond the galactic core. Aeons are formless powers in the galactic core of each galaxy. There are many galaxies in the Universe. Sophia did not create the Universe, she emanated the world order we experience as the triple system: sun-moon-earth. Sophia did not make a mistake, but she exaggerated her involvement in her emanation, her Dreaming. Hence, she herself became embodied in her Dreaming. This is a rare event, not typical of the way Aeons operate. As a side effect of her excessive involvement in her Dreaming, Sophia plunged from the galactic core. (Imagine a surge or spike of luminous, foam-like matter from the galactic core into the encircling arms.) The impact she made on the elementary matter in the galactic arms produced an inorganic species, the Archons. The Archons then proceeded to fabricate an inorganic planetary system, a clockwork mechanism. The Earth, the living planet that embodies Sophia, was then captured in that lifeless system. This is the “mistake” – or, better said, the anomaly of our world system.

So, from a Gnostic perspective, it is not "God" who is the enemy, as Maltheism would have it, but the Archons, who subvert our entire awareness, and endeavor to keep us prisoners of our own endless suffering. According to Lash, however, Jehovah, the Judeo-Christian God is most definitely the enemy.

Gnostic texts clearly state that Jehovah is the “Lord Archon,” a reptilian type of alien predator who dominates the hive-mentality of the embryonic or Grey aliens. Jehovah, whom the Gnostics called Yaldabaoth, is truly an extraterrestrial being whose realm is the planetary system independent of the earth, sun and moon. He is not an “advanced being” (i.e., more evolved than humans) but a demented alien with certain superhuman or deific powers. Gnostics taught that Jehovah infects humanity with the belief that he is their creator god, but in fact he cannot create anything. The NHC is very clear that Jehovah-Yaldabaoth is the commander of the Archon species.

Not so different from the nascent, Usenet born Maltheism. In fact, some of it is eerily similar. Such as this rumination from Craig Zimmerman, son of the late and lamented Paul Zimmerman.

The world is under attack from an extraterrestrial force, not of this Earth. Those in charge deny there is a problem, deny that there is anything wrong. In fact, unbeknownst to us all, those in charge are collaborating with the enemy.More than just collaborating: they are acting as the enemy's fifth column, propagandizing to us the notion that this alien foe is really our friend, and that we should joyously embrace eternal servitude to this monstrous force.This sounds like the theme of the long-running TV series "The X Files," or the plot from a new Oliver Stone movie, doesn't it?Except it's the way things really are in this world, and the way they have been for centuries.The extraterrestrial force is God. The collaborators are the God whorshippers who tell us, despite all evidence to the contrary, that God is good, worthy of our devotion and supplication.They tell us, despite all the evil God has wrought upon us (and all the good he takes credit for that happened naturally with no assistance from him), that we should whorship him, obey him, fall in line and accept him.

And, maybe they're onto something.

Aug 24, 2008

Is Greenland Turning Green?

A Section of the Ice Sheet Covering Much of Greenland

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New concerns from scientists over the ice sheets in the ironically named Greenland.

In northern Greenland, a part of the Arctic that had seemed immune from global warming, new satellite images show a growing giant crack and an 11-square-mile chunk of ice hemorrhaging off a major glacier, scientists said Thursday.

To put that into perspective, the piece that broke off is about half the size of Manhattan Island.

But the most alarming sign, according to Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, is a huge 7-mile (11.3 kilometer) crack, seen above in the center right of the July 25 image, that has appeared farther back on the margin of the glacier.

The groove could create an imminent and even bigger breakup—up to a third of the ice field, he said in a statement.

"The pictures speak for themselves," Box told the Associated Press. "This crack is moving, and moving closer and closer to the front. It's just a matter of time till a much larger piece is going to break off … "

This is concerning for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if the glacier continues to calve, it will add to already rising water tables. Secondly, it could be an indicator of the growing impact of global warming.

The question that now faces scientists is: Are the fractures part of normal glacier stress or are they the beginning of the effects of global warming?

"It certainly is a major event," said NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally in a telephone interview from a conference on glaciers in Ireland. "It's a signal but we don't know what it means."

It is too early to say it is clearly global warming, Zwally said. Scientists don't like to attribute single events to global warming, but often say such events fit a pattern.

AP Photo/Byrd Polar Research Center

Aug 22, 2008

Meditative Moments

Young Woman Meditating at the Beach
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There's a nifty meditation tutorial up on Beliefnet. (Hat tip to The Huffington Post.) To the authors' credit, they do not do that thing that always drove me crazy about meditation guides when I first started. You know that part, where the author says something like, "Step 4: Now, clear your mind." Like that can be done in a step.

I'm posting this because there are some really interesting observations and suggestions that I really haven't seen elsewhere. The authors take the tack that we already meditate, because we're, more or less, hardwired to do so. They proceed to offer some suggestions on how to meditate with greater intentionality and scope, including ways to use stressful events like waiting for the bus or standing on a bank line. It's all very practical, but hints at deep awareness of how to open to mystical experience. Here are some of the phrases that jumped out at me.

Meditative consciousness is no more than a shifted relationship to yourself and reality; your everyday life is already filled with many moments in which you connect with yourself in this way. You simply need to recognize that you're naturally meditative, and amplify that place inside you.

. . .

Meditation can happen any time; it is simply about dropping into yourself and into reality as it is.

. . .

Everybody has ways they switch off the worry of the mind and relax into the present moment. This is meditation. The first step to integrating this meditative awareness into your life is to acknowledge that you are already a meditative person.

. . .

There is no wrong way to access meditative awareness.

I just really enjoyed the tone of this one, so I thought I'd pass it on. I've also added a number of one of the author's books to the bookstore. I was unfamiliar with Arjuna Ardagh's work. Where have I been? I learn something new every day.

Additional Resources:
Living Essence Foundation
Leap Before You Look
The Translucent Revolution

Aug 21, 2008

Embracing Imperfection

Wild Flower

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In Karen Bishop's latest energy alert (just posted), she addresses the shadow work we have been slogging through, with the lunar eclipse of the 16th. Many of us are feeling vulnerable and acutely aware of our flaws.

If you are one who is unusually sensitive and connects easily, you may have experienced the lunar eclipse on August 16th with confusing feelings of low self worth, perhaps self-loathing, and even guilt for no apparent reason. You may have felt just plain icky and you did not know why. Suddenly feeling bad about ourselves for no apparent reason is simply a manifestation of the lunar eclipse supporting us in going deep within and seeing the denser aspects of who we are.

If you don't get Bishop's email notices about new alerts, you're missing out. They always include wonderful bonus material, in the form of relevant book excerpts. Sometimes those excerpts speak more to the moment for me than the alerts themselves.

In today's email, Bishop includes an excerpt from Remembering Your Soul Purpose. It's a fairly well known parable, of unknown origin, so I think republishing it in full here falls well within fair use.

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on either end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the cracked pot was miserable, ashamed that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why? What are you ashamed of?" asked the bearer.

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt compassion and said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming many beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That is because I have always known about your crack. Accepting what was given to me, I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Author Unknown

I'm sure I've heard this story before. But reading it today, I am singularly effected by the truth of it.

As one who walks the path of the wounded healer, I know well how my imperfections inform my work. I doubt that I could relate to my clients' struggles and challenges, had my life been effortlessly full.

Many times I have pondered that the greatest writers, musicians, and other artists -- the ones whose work moves me at my core -- are those who have been scarred by life. The ones whose art is a form of healing, both for themselves and for their audience.

Anyone who has ever worked a twelve step program knows that the power of that system is in people sharing honestly about their flaws, fears, and wounds. It is in that sharing of "experience, strength, and hope," that members assist each other in their recovery. The healing that comes from releasing that sense of shame and isolation can be profound.

We can appreciate the wisdom that comes from our injuries and mistakes, when we are ready to embrace life as an ongoing process. One that brings "progress, not perfection."

There is a Japanese term: Wabi-Sabi. It refers to an aesthetic in art, architecture, and life.

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

Our truest beauty lies in our imperfections.

Aug 18, 2008

Totem Series: Spider

Antilles Pinktoe Tarantula

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I have this long list of power animals I've been intending to write about. I had no intention of starting with spider, but she has other ideas. Every time I've thought about starting this series, she has been dangling before my third eye. In this vision, she is large, about six inches across, brown, and slightly furry. She has made herself impossible to ignore.

Spider has not been a primary totem in my experience for some time, but for years she was ever-present. My journey with spider began innocently enough one morning as I was awakening. As the fog was clearing from my head and my eyes regained their waking focus, I saw something large, black and furry scurry across my pastel green duvet cover. I bolted from my bed and was on my feet in a fraction of a second. It normally takes me a good while to achieve perpendicularity. I am not a morning person.

The spider in question was really only about a half of inch across. It seemed much larger and more menacing when it was barreling across my blankets. But it was a muscular looking thing; black with orange striped legs.

I was working in a new age bookstore at the time. I'd been at work for several hours, that day, when a customer I knew well came in to browse. We chatted pleasantly, as I polished some of the silver jewelry, when I noticed an identical spider crawling across the top shelf of the jewelry display case. Black, furry, with orange stripes. I shrieked. My friend laughed and offered to remove the spider for me. He reached into the case and tried to grab it, making several vain attempts before finally cupping it in his hand and placing it outside in a potted plant. "Oh yeah. She's here for you," he said, with a knowing wink.

For years, she was everywhere -- In my home, in my path, in my dreams -- compelling me to ponder the meaning of her medicine. Now, I have long known that spider is the divine creatrix, in many world traditions. I consider spiders sacred and won't intentionally kill one unless I'm genuinely concerned that it's poisonous. Spiders are helpful. They kill other pests. I generally leave them be and sweep away the old cobwebs when they're done. But, for a particular part of my journey, she was so ubiquitous that I was forced to dig deeper.

One aspect of spider is creativity. She creates from her own body by spinning, sometimes, very elaborate structures from these secretions.

Spider Woman used the clay of the earth, red, yellow,
white, and black, to create people. To each she attached
a thread of her web which came from the doorway at
the top of her head. This thread was the gift of
creative wisdom. Three times she sent a great flood to
destroy those who had forgotten the gift of her thread.
Those who remembered floated to the new world and climbed
to safety through the Sipapu Pole the womb of Mother Earth."

~Navajo Creation Story~

. . .

For the two-legged beside whom Spider crawls, there will exist a depth of creativity that may manifest in any of a myriad of ways. Perhaps the talent is in writing prose that conveys depth of feeling and spirituality, or it may be the human counterpart is particularly skilled at creating beautiful and intricate jewelry that will often have an etheric quality to them, much like glimmering strands of a spider’s web.

Whatever channel this creativity flows through, it is a quality and gift that must be expressed and allowed the freedom to flow. If creativity is not acknowledged in the Spider individual, then a very necessary and integral part of their Life’s Purpose is being denied.

Such creativity is divinely inspired and a Gift that is given by the Great Mystery. The paradox in this for the Spider individual may be that they will deny an awareness of their own creativity for many years in deference to other areas of their lives which seem to call for attention. Often, the area that distracts the Spider soul most often is that of relationships as much like Grandmother Spider was forever aware of her Children, so the two-legged with this creature being as a Totem will tend to focus much of their attention on loved ones rather than nurturing and fulfilling their own needs. Yet if the Spider Soul does not give license to this creative spark, it will feel as though their life’s blood is slowly ebbing away or they are being "drained" of energy.

That last bit is interesting, isn't it. Being drained of energy seems to be my life condition, no matter how much creative work I undertake. But then, I've long suspected that I have not yet discovered my truest work, and in resisting it, on some unconscious level, I'm wearing myself out. Hmmm... something to ponder.

Close View of a Spider on Web

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According to the same entry, the Senneca spider myth speaks directly to communication.

Another area in which Spider has been recognized as being a Creative Force, is in communication of all forms. The Senneca People believe that Spider created the first alphabet of the Two-Leggeds so that we could leave a written history of our travel, lessons learned and progress made on this walk around the Wheel of Life. Following is a recounting of the story behind the creation of that alphabet.

“Spider wove the web that brought humans
the first picture of the alphabet.
The letters were part of the angles of her web.

Deer asked Spider what she was weaving
and why all the lines looked like symbols.
Spider replied, "Why Deer, it is time for Earth’s children
to learn to make records of their progress in their Earthwalk."

Deer answered Spider, "But they already have pictures
that show through symbols the stories of their experiences."

"Yes" Spider said, "But Earth’s children are growing more complex,
and their future generations will need to know more.
The ones to come won’t remember how
to read the petroglyphs."

***When Spider is present as a Primary Totem, she will bring with her a gift of communication. Most often, this skill is conveyed via the written word, rather than orally delivered, as Spider Souls can be quite shy, though they are capable of weaving beautiful words in the form of poetry or fiction (think of a Spider spinning its web), that can leave the reader spellbound and enraptured.

If this talent is not obviously present, it has likely been repressed during early childhood. If this is the case, concentrated effort will need to be taken in resurrecting this suppressed talent, as part of what any Spider Soul is here to do, is to convey profound insight and wisdom via the written word. Again, this can be paradoxical, as often times the one beside whom Spider walks will be rather oblivious as to the true power of his/her words and ability to elicit strong emotions.

There is much that I relate to in these tellings of spider as creatrix. Writing and journaling have been a large part of my expression, lo these many years. But, as is my wont, I felt compelled to dig still deeper into the myth of spider. Spider is connected to very fabric of the world, and that is more fascinating to me than the various acts of creative expression within it.

Orb Spiders Cobweb, Showing Water Droplets September UK

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I had an experience some years ago that brought the deeper meaning of spider mythos home to me. I was vacationing at the Jersey shore. It was a strange trip for many reasons. There was a full moon that week; a blue moon. Laying on the beach one night, staring at the stars, images kept flickering in and out. The material world felt eminently permeable. Staring at the sky I kept seeing something that looked like lightening, but wasn't. And for moments at a time, fragments of the night sky disappeared, revealing a kind of grid pattern.

I mentioned this experience in a session with Virginia Sandlin, the Cherokee Mystic, with whom I studied for a number of years. When I described the grid pattern, she said, "Well, that's what it looks like." She explained that, as in the telling of so many native cultures, spider spun the great web, the matrix upon which all of material reality came into form. "Now picture," she said, "a giant spider web as if you were encircled by it. What would it look like? Wouldn't it look like a grid?"

I could not help but notice, in my first viewing of "The Matrix," the numerous spider images associated with the machine world. Most vividly, when Morpheus shows Neo what the matrix is and how human beings are being grown as crops, machines that look like white, translucent spiders can be seen crawling in amongst the pods.

Depending on how one feels about the physical world, spider can be a benevolent or a more ambivalent construct. When I was deep in my ponderings about why spider was such a constant reflection, one friend suggested that it might be a warning about not becoming entangled in human dramas. There could be some truth in that. But the drama in which we are all entangled is manifest creation itself; maya. Or, what Morpheus calls, "the world that has been pulled over your eyes."

When we know that maya is the power that blinds us, binds us and deludes us, we become aware of the extent of its influence and its role in our lives. Out of this awareness comes a senseof caution and discriminating, which ultimately leads to our salvation. But till we reach that stage, we remain in the grip of maya, like fish, caught helplessly in a net. Saivism recognizes maya as one of the pasas (bonds) or malas (impurities). It is responsible for our animal (pasu) existence or beingness and becomingness. It causes in us ignorance and egoism and binds us to the objects we desire and seek. It makes us believe that the objective world in which we live and experience alone is true. It draws us outwardly and binds us to the things, we love or hate or we want to possess or get rid of. It is responsible for our experience of time and space which otherwise do not exist. It conceals our true nature and makes us believe that we are mere physical and mental beings. Through its powerful pull, it draws us forcefully into the objective reality of the world in which we live and binds us to things and events through our thoughts and desires. Unlike the western religion, in Hinduism God is not separate from His creation. His creation is an extension of Him and an aspect of Him. This world comes into existence, when God expands Himself outwardly, like a web woven by a spider. In His subjective and absolute state, His creation is unreal and illusory, but in our objective and sensory experience and real and tangible. It is a projection or reflection of Him, like the objects in the mirror and the mirror itself, different from Him somewhat, but also not so different, dependent but virtually distinct. He uses the concealing power of His own maya to draw Himself into Prakriti and conceal Himself in it as a limited and diluted being.

Along those lines, I happened upon this story of an ancient Hindu temple that became the battleground for a spider and an elephant.

There was once a vast forest that surrounded the interior lands around the Kaveri river in Trichy district. It was a forest rich with Jambu trees under one of which was installed a Shiva Linga. Back in the serene world that surrounded this Linga lived an elephant that used to come and worship the Lord every day. The elephant was an ardent devotee of the Lord.

At the same time there was yet another unassuming devotee who used to worship the Lord with as much devotion. A spider used to live around the shrine and tie a web above it so that the leaves from the Jambu tree would not fall on the Lord himself. But there was a problem for every time the spider made his web to protect the Lord, the elephant would destroy it thinking it was absolute sacrilege. This resulted in a mounting fight between the spider and the elephant, a massive clash of egos.

Finally the spider decided one day that it would not take this any more. The next day when the elephant came to worship the Lord he as usual decided to destroy the web the spider had spun over the Linga. This time the spider got smarter and entered into the elephant’s trunk and bit him. The following duel killed both the elephant and the spider. This is when Lord Shiva appeared before both of them, and said that they both had pleased him well with their devotion.

The spider in his next birth was born as King Kochchengan who built the current temple at Thiruvanaikkaval, in the island city of Srirangam to worship Lord Shiva. Interestingly, he built the sanctum sanctorum in such a way that no elephant would be able to enter the Gharbha Griha. Hence this is the only temple where the Garbha Griha is built low, has a very small vestibule (Antarala) and an even smaller chamber within which the Lingam resides. The entrance is extremely small such that no elephant can even find its way in. The only way to view the Lord is through a Jali window placed in front of Nandi, through which the Lord can be seen. It is considered very auspicious to be able to view the Lord through the horns of Nandi Bull through the Jali window.

So, it would seem, that spider both expresses and conceals "god." He, or she, depending on the myth, is associated with the creation of the world, and with maintaining the illusion that keeps us feeling separate.

Indeed, in some tellings, spider is something of a trickster. Anansi, a key figure in West African folklore, is such a character.

Anansi stories are known as Anansesem to the Ashanti, Anansi-Tori in Suriname and Kuent'i Nanzi in Curacao.

In some beliefs, Anansi is responsible for creating the sun, the stars and the moon, as well as teaching mankind the techniques of agriculture. Another story tells of how Anansi tried to hoard all of the world's wisdom in a calabash. In the end he realizes the futility of trying to keep all the wisdom to himself, and releases it.

Most cultures which feature Anansi in folktales also tell the story concerning Anansi becoming the King of All Stories, not just his own. In the original Ashanti version of this story, Anansi approaches Nyame, the Sky God, with the request that he be named King of All Stories. Nyame then tells Anansi that if he can catch The Jaguar With Teeth Like Daggers, The Hornets Who Sting Like Fire, and The Fairy Whom Men Never See, he will be King of Stories. Anansi agrees, despite Nyame's doubt that he can do it. Anansi then tricks the jaguar, who intends to eat him, into playing a game that allows Anansi to tie him up. He tricks the hornets by pretending that it is raining, and telling them to hide in a calabash. He tricks the fairy with the gum/tar baby trick addressed below. He then takes them to Nyame and becomes King of All Stories. Other versions, notably Caribbean variations, of this story involve Anansi getting Snake for Lion/Tiger.

So, I am left with deep ambivalence about spider. She brings both wisdom and trickery, creation and illusion. And sometimes, she bites.

The Woman With Two Brains

If you have not yet seen this video, you must. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist. She got the chance to be her own research subject when a stroke robbed her of left brain function. In this lecture she describes her experience and the epiphanies that came with it.

I was reminded of this video, recently, when I happened to catch this interview with neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga on NPR's "Fresh Air." Gazzaniga has done extensive research with split brain patients, such as epileptics who've had the connection between hemispheres surgically severed to prevent seizures.

Both discuss, in different ways, the role of the brain in spiritual awareness and religion. I highly recommend laying a little time aside to give both of these presentations a listen. The NPR interview has audio available here.

Aug 17, 2008

Shroud of Turin in the News

This is a Computer-Enhanced Image of the Face on the Shroud of Turin

Computer-Enhanced Image of the
Face on the Shroud of Turin

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Researchers are chipping away the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, and reexamining radiocarbon tests that undermine the case for its being the burial cloth of Jesus.

In 1988, science seemed to put that question to rest.

Radiocarbon dating by three separate laboratories showed that the shroud originated in the Middle Ages, leaving the "shroud crowd" reeling. Shroud skeptics responded, "We told you so." The Catholic Church admitted that it could not be authentic. Many scientists backed away.

John Jackson, who has devoted much of his life to the study of the shroud, has proposed an alternate explanation to those test results, insisting that too much of the other physical evidence points to much earlier date.

Twenty years later, Jackson, 62, is getting his chance to challenge the radiocarbon dating. Oxford University, which participated in the original radiocarbon testing, has agreed to work with him in reconsidering the age of the shroud.

If the challenge is successful, Jackson hopes to be allowed to reexamine the shroud, which is owned by the Vatican and stored in a protective chamber in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.

Jackson, a physicist who teaches at the University of Colorado, hypothesizes that contamination of the cloth by elevated levels of carbon monoxide skewed the 1988 carbon-14 dating by 1,300 years.

What I found fascinating reading the LA Times piece, is how highly charged the debate is over this, and how much bias there seems to be on both sides of the divide. Both Jackson and his wife are Catholics, Rebecca having converted from Judaism, because of the shroud. Their passion on the issue is intense, and would, one hopes, not skew their research. But, the bias on the con side seems more religious, to me, than on the shroud enthusiast side, at least in this telling.

Steven Schafersman, a geologist who maintains a website skeptical about the shroud, dismisses the effort as one that's bound to fail.

"He's had other ideas, but they've all been shot down, and this one will be shot down too," he said of Jackson. "Ordinary people know this is just a relic."

I'm somewhat sensitized to this issue, of late, as I described here. For a rationalist, he seems awfully predisposed to a particular conclusion. I say, where there are questions, do the research and let the chips fall where they may.

The Sacre Sindone (Shroud of Turin) is Publicly Displayed at Torino

The Sacre Sindone (Shroud of Turin)
is Publicly Displayed at Torino

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Additional Resources:

Totem Series: Introduction

Petroglyph I

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I'm going to start posting profiles of different power animals, or totems, in no particular order. This will not be a complete encyclopedia, but a kind of ad hoc catalog of power animals as they come up in my reflective reality, or otherwise enter my consciousness. I've been having some rather unusual experiences with the spirit animal world, of late. This is something that happens periodically. In all honesty, it happens constantly. It's just that sometimes it compels my attention more than at other times. There are a couple of ways that this happens. One is that animals appear in my reflective reality, or what we call the physical world, in a repetitive or dramatic manner. Other times they appear in meditation or dreams. When an animal impresses upon me in this way, I do exactly what I tell my clients to do, in similar circumstances. I google the name of the animal plus totem. This brings up a range of definitions of their medicine.

What I'd like to do with this series is collate some of the definitions from around the web and other sources. These entries will be subject to edit and additional information as the need arises. And, as ever, I invite discussion and input.

Aug 15, 2008

Perspectives on Energy Storms

Miranda, the Tempest, 1916

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In Karen Bishop's last update, "The Continuing Energies of August -- In the Eye of the Storm," we got an indication that things would get a little jagged.

But now enter the energies of August. Although a rocky road remains behind us, there will be much more smooth sailing ahead for us, if only for awhile. And know as well that in the months to come there will be immense shake-ups, much turmoil, and great change. During this time and the times to come, know that the more we remain out of the mainstream, or stay clear of what is falling, the less affected we will be. The key is to stay in our sacred spaces and provide our services from there.

. . .

On August 16th, we will experience a lunar eclipse and full moon. During this time, we will have the opportunity to experience and examine our shadow selves, what is inside of us, what our fears are, and we may feel and emptiness and rather spooky energy. It may feel that the light is temporarily gone and that we are only connected to a strange and dark space. We may not want to be alone then, and thus crave the companionship and connections to others.

I always find it ironic that whenever she writes most cheerfully of positive expansion, I feel like the cure is worse than the disease. Perhaps, I haven't mastered the whole staying clear of falling objects thing. I find this process awfully uncomfortable. (Think childbirth.) This month is incredibly intense. I don't know about you, but I'm in energetic overwhelm. My head feels all swimmy and I can't seem to get my thoughts clear. I also don't think I've ever hated the physical, 3d world, more.

Along those lines, I found a little more insight into the current "storm" from Amethyst Wildfyre.

So how do these energy storms come about? Just like with the weather - when a high and a low come together boom there’s the thunder, the lightning, the wind and rain! Energetically we have arrived at a gateway or portal where enormous amounts of highly vibrating energy is pouring into, around, over and through our planetary matrix. This high vibrational energy bumping up against the lower vibrational energies is combining to create the storm energy and it’s really shaking some things up for everyone.

If you’ve been feeling extremely sensitive lately this is not unusual, again just like you can smell, taste or feel it in the air right before a big thunderstorm, the same thing is happening with this energy storm. Of course what is also happening is a lot of old, dead, stuck, heavy energy is being vibrated by the high energy influx. As this happens we tend to experience a lot of chaotic shifts. The work is to remain grounded, centered, balanced and clear. To be the EYE of the storm so to speak. This is the place of pure power, direction, and focus.

You may notice that all around you there are people who are moving through all kinds of emotion stuff right now. This particular energy storm is heavily focused on the emotional clearing of the light bodies. Old patterns that you thought had been cleared are now up for review and for a thorough cleansing of any residual particles in the electromagnetic field that are disharmonious.

Some of the physical ramifications for those that are deep in the throes of the cleansing might be experiencing some weight gain, water retention, crying for “no” reason, sudden shifts in the emotions from calm one minute to highly charged the next. There is also alot of shifting happening in relationships, business circumstances, careers and finances. How these storms are navigated is entirely up to you!

Yes. Yes to all of the above.

Aug 14, 2008

Within You Without You

I'm working on another diatribe, magnum opus... whatever. We'll see how that works out. In the meanwhile, listen to the pretty music. I am.

Aug 10, 2008

"Just Ask This Scientician"

I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.

-- Albert Einstein

I stumbled on this very compelling post in Wolf & Goddess, on science, atheism, and Richard Dawkins.

Yesterday Wolf and I were in a book shop and I saw Richard Dawkins‘ book The God Delusion. The title scared me, I leafed through it with ill-concealed hysteria and asked Wolf if he found the title sad or threatening. Wolf is grounded in his faith (unconventional, he is no monotheiest) and moves easily past naysayers. I fear contamination. A guy, a clever guy, a scientist, publishes a book asserting God is nothing more than a dangerous delusion and I linger, fearfully - wanting to read it, and yet not.

It is like passing the scene of a car accident, not wanting to look and yet wanting to. You want to look and see people ashen faced and trembling, lighting cigarettes and saying “what a relief I could have been killed”. You want to see survivors not corpses. I want to read The God Delusion and survive. I don’t want to be contaminated with even more doubt.

While doubt, as such, is not my issue, I can relate to the agita atheists like Dawkins inspire. The smugness. The certainty. Why is it that so many atheists come across as more militantly dogmatic than Christian fundamentalists? It strikes me as ironic... but, it's really not. Human beings crave certainty. We long for clean, straight lines in our reality. Throughout much of human history we satisfied that need with religious authority. Today we satisfy it with science. Science has become religion.

A short while ago, I was listening to this interview with Brian Weiss. In it, he shares his recollection of an exchange he had with Carl Sagan. These two men of science butted heads about the validity of Weiss's renowned work with reincarnation and regression therapy. Sagan, not surprisingly to those familiar with Sagan, was initially very dismissive. But Weiss pointed out to him that he was dismissing something without actually looking at the body of research Weiss has accrued -- the documentation of people who found historical records confirming their past identities, the cases of people speaking in foreign languages they did not know, and that his regressed patients get better. Sagan admitted, according to Weiss, something fairly extraordinary. "Brian," he said, "I've not been acting as a scientist, have I?" (Weiss discusses this incident and explains his own beliefs that science requires an "open mind" beginning at the end of video 6 in the series.)

Adoration of the Rising Sun in the Form of the Falcon Re-Horakhty, New Kingdom, c. 1150 BC (Papyrus)
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This is my biggest problem with both practitioners and laymen in this new discipline of scientism. They view science as an entity, an authority, and a kind of unassailable "book of facts." Anyone who thinks of science as something that establishes "facts" is neither practicing, nor honoring the scientific method. Science provides few definitive answers. It is, rather, a method of asking questions. Good scientists are involved in a process of discovery. They are not absolutist.

A linearized, pragmatic scheme of the four points above is sometimes offered as a guideline for proceeding:[25]

1. Define the question
2. Gather information and resources (observe)
3. Form hypothesis
4. Perform experiment and collect data
5. Analyze data
6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
7. Publish results
8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)

Step 8 in that list is fairly important. Science, far from providing final answers, is constantly revising itself. A great many "facts" that we learned in school have been adapted and changed. Just recently, for instance, I read that falcons can no longer be considered close relatives of hawks and other raptors. They are, rather, close cousins of parrots.

When a falcon swoops from the sky to seize its fleeing prey, no one would mistake the sleek predator for a gaudy parrot.

Yet the secret kinship of falcons and parrots is one of many surprises in a landmark genetic study of 169 bird species being published by Field Museum researchers.

. . .

The analysis also showed falcons are more closely related to parrots than to other hunters such as hawks and eagles. If true, the finding would mean that falcons do not even belong in the scientific order originally named for them.[emphasis mine]

Science provides an ever evolving body of knowledge. Not only are scientific findings and categories being constantly revised, there is much that remains unknown in various scientific fields. Otherwise, a lot of scientists in a wide range of fields would be out of jobs. And yet, many practitioners of this new religion of scientism tell us that much that we observe and experience cannot exist because it cannot be clearly and consistently observed and there is no scientific evidence for it. But the world turned on its axis before we knew that it was round, or had any conception of an axis.

Bumblebee Harmony I

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In recent years, for instance, there has been a good deal of breakthrough research into insect aerodynamics. But, throughout much of the modern age, it has been a mystery.

Traditionally, scientists assumed that the basic physics of insect flight resembled the basic physics of human aviation.

For example, there's an urban legend that many decades ago, scientists analyzed the plump bodies and stubby wings of bumblebees and concluded they were too heavy to fly. Over the years, during repeated retellings of this story in schoolyards and barrooms, it acquired a punch line: "But bees don't know they can't fly, so they fly anyway."

The urban legend is based on fact: A bumblebee study was conducted in 1934 by the European scientists Antoine Magnan and Andre Saint-Lague. They applied mathematical analysis and known principles of flight to calculate that bee flight was "impossible," say insect-flight researchers Douglas L. Altshuler, Michael Dickinson and three colleagues at Caltech and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in an article for today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Since this time," the authors note, "bees have symbolized both the inadequacy of aerodynamic theory as applied to animals and the hubris with which theoreticians analyze the natural world."

Nothing in the natural world needs the imprimatur of our scientific institutions to function. Nor, does anything in the unseen or metaphysical world. For those of us who have seen glimpses of what lies beyond the veil, it is every bit as real as the flight of bumblebees.

None of this is intended as a disparagement of science; only to the practice of and belief in science as somehow conclusive and absolute, and the negation of all that lies undiscovered. The greatest scientists have been those who were open to the mysteries. Lahirondelle of Wolf & Goddess closes her rumination with an Einstein quote; the same quote alluded to by Weiss in the interview linked above.

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

-- Albert Einstein

Yes, Mr. Weiss. Einstein was almost certainly a mystic.

-- The title quotation is from "The Simpsons," episode "Lisa the Vegetarian."
-- Books by Brian Weiss can be found in the bookstore in the Past Life Work section.

Rest in Peace Isaac Hayes

What a sad few days. Losing Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes in one weekend. Not to mention thousands dying in an eruption of violence on the Russia/Georgia border. Things sure do feel intense, just now. Intense and sad.

Aug 8, 2008

Graham Hancock's "Quest for the Lost Civilization"

Some helpful soul has posted this movie on YouTube. It seems to be out of print and near impossible to get, although I have a page set up in the bookstore, where you may be able to purchase it on VHS. But unless and until it is issued on DVD, opportunities for viewing have been limited. It is highly recommended viewing. Enjoy.

Aug 3, 2008

On Trusting Inner Knowing

Woman Meditating on Beach

I can't remember how we got on the topic the other day, but my husband put me in mind of a rather significant event in my childhood. I hadn't thought about this in years. But, it occurs to me that it's an instructional tale on the power of that sense of inner knowing that can be so pivotal in our lives. More importantly, it reminds me of how important it is for parents, like myself, to acknowledge that even very small children have powerful instincts that should be respected and protected.

I was 8 years old. We were visiting with relatives out west, when I had a painful accident. I was roller skating with another little girl, a neighbor of my relatives. I tripped over a piece of newspaper and went down hard. Certain that my leg had been broken, I refused to move. The little girl went and found my mother. My mother did what any parent would. She felt my leg, and, not feeling anything out of place, told me that my leg was fine and that I should try to stand up. I refused.

For a good half hour, we went on like this. My mother who was as gentle natured a person as has ever walked the earth, was certain that my ankle was, at worst sprained, and tried to convince me to get up off the ground and come into the house. I refused.

"It's broken," I said, over and over. "I know it's broken."

Finally, unable to convince me to even try to stand, my mother accepted the inevitable. An ambulance was called. The paramedics also felt my leg, and feeling nothing out of place, suggested I try standing. I refused.

When I was admitted to the ER and my leg was x-rayed, it could no longer be denied that my leg was, most definitely, broken. Not only was it broken, it was a compound fracture. It turned out that I had what is generally referred to as a "ski break." It's the kind of fracture that occurs when there is a combination of torque and impact. The main fracture spiraled around the bone three times, and from it there issued a multitude of little fractures.

The punch line? Had I attempted to stand on that leg, the entire bone would have shattered. It would have required major surgery and the bone would be held together with pins, to this day. As it happens, it healed perfectly. It took three months for the cast to come off and I endured months of physical therapy to rebuild the muscle, but it healed completely. So, completely, that I haven't thought about the incident in years.

I wish I could say that all such stories, in my life, end as happily. Many do not. For every time I have listened to and fought for what I inexplicably knew internally, I have failed to do so. The results have inevitably been disastrous. The lesson in every case has been to trust my gut instincts. Now, I hope I can remember that.