Dec 29, 2009

Sweat Lodge Tragedy Part of a Pattern



The homicide investigation resulting from James Arthur Ray's disastrous sweat lodge has turned up evidence of a pattern of illness and injury. In addition to the previously discussed suicide, there have been broken bones, loss of consciousness, vomiting, and other adverse events at Ray seminars.

In documents released Monday, a man Ray hired to build the sweat lodge told investigators that he was hesitant to assist with the ceremony for a third year because participants previously had emerged in medical distress, and emergency help wasn't summoned. Theodore Mercer said the latest ceremony was hotter than in years past, but Ray repeatedly told participants, "You are not going to die. You might think you are, but you're not going to die."

Mercer's wife, Debra, told investigators that one man emerged from the sweat lodge halfway through the October ceremony believing he was having a heart attack and would die. She said that instead of summoning medical aid, Ray said "It's a good day to die," according to a search warrant affidavit.

Ray also seems to have confused a ritual cleanse with a test of endurance. I've done sweat lodge ceremony. It's a profound physical and psycho-spiritual cleanse. It's not meant to test the limits of physical resistance.

Our ceremonies are about life and healing. From the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikaga (life within) when conducted properly. Today, the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge. It is much more than that. The term does not fit our real meaning of purification.

Inikaga is the oldest ceremony brought to us by Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). Nineteen generations ago, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota oyate (people) were given seven sacred rites of healing by a Spirit Woman, Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman). She brought these rites along with the sacred Canupa (pipe) to our people, when our ancestors were suffering from a difficult time. It was also brought for the future to help us for much more difficult times to come. They were brought to help us stay connected to who we are as a traditional cultural people.

The values of conduct are very strict in any of these ceremonies, because we work with spirit. The Creator, Wakan Tanka, told us that if we stay humble and sincere, we will keep that connection with the inyan oyate (the stone people), who we call the Grandfathers, to be able to heal ourselves and loved ones. We have a gift of prayer and healing and have to stay humble with our Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and with one another. The inikaga is used in all of the seven sacred rites to prepare and finish the ceremonies, along with the sacred eagle feather. The feather represents the sacred knowledge of our ancestors.

Not surprising, then, that a Sioux Nation treaty council is seeking legal remedy by demanding that the  fatal sweat lodge be prosecuted as a treaty violation.

This event brings to the surface the uneasy relationship between white eyes who embrace native spiritual traditions, as a path to wholeness,  and Native American tribes who seek to keep their practices from being cheapened and desecrated. James Arthur Ray, it's harder with you around.

In following news on this event, since its tragic occurrence in October, I'm inclined to think that the problem rests with a personality flaw, in the self-styled guru. As with so much of his brand of pop, new age ideology, there is confusion between focused determination and inner transformation. The two are not synonymous. Ray is clearly very driven and relentless force seems to be his answer to everything. Ignoring obstacles (or focusing on the positive, to put it in Secret parlance) is certainly a method. However, when those obstacles are pragmatic concerns like hyperthermia and dehydration, some attention to "the negative" is pretty crucial. But, consider that Rhonda Byrne, the primary writer of The Secret, thinks the key to weight loss is to "not observe" fat people. Perhaps Mr. Ray thought that not observing people fainting and throwing up on themselves would prevent the physical traumas around him from putting him in legal jeopardy. That could explain why he did not participate in attempts to provide aid to the sick and dying. Needless to say, in this case, that approach failed.

As followers around him staggered and collapsed inside a hot sweat lodge near Sedona, motivational guru James Arthur Ray seemed to ignore the unfolding medical crisis, according to statements given to investigators.

Ray repeatedly discussed death during the October ceremony, telling participants they would feel like they were dying, according to officials' reports released Monday. When a man tried to open the tent for air, Ray reportedly called him "sacrilegious."

In the end, three of the more than 50 participants in the sweat-lodge ceremony did die.


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Dec 23, 2009

Egyptian Alarm Clock

Giza Pyramids, Egypt


"When I'm in Egypt, and I look at the pyramids, I think, that's the real world." 
~ William Henry



Some years ago I recorded something in my journal that, like so many things I scribble in these notes, has taken me years to even begin to understand. An image emerged in my mind's eye of what looked like a mountain range, so I began to draw it. I drew the first peak. The second was a bit higher. Then my hand was forced down to draw a much lower, disproportionate looking third peak. The asymmetry of the drawing bothered me, somewhat, but it was a fair representation of what I saw in my head. Then I heard the following words, which I wrote under my funny looking mountain range. "Trapped in the wrong dimension." The asymmetrical mountain range looking thing became stunningly obvious one day, when I saw a photo of the pyramids at Giza, from that particular angle.  The phrase I heard I still don't really understand, but I have theories.





As I've mentioned previously, Graham Hancock's concept of us as "a species with amnesia" really resonates for me. I found an older interview with Graham Hancock on Coast to Coast with the legendary Art Bell. The whole interview is excellent, but the part that really struck me I've transcribed here:

I can tell you that many, many people, around the world today, have the sense of an awakening memory. There is a sense that the pyramids of Egypt are operating like a beacon drawing people towards them. And, imagine this: Imagine if you were the survivors, as I spoke before, of a lost civilization with a high wisdom and knowledge -- a knowledge that we do not have today -- and you believed in reincarnation. And not just believed; you knew that it happened, and you knew that you would be reborn 12,000 or more years, in the future. And, that you knew that part of the deal with reincarnation is that you do not remember past lives; that at the most you get these faint, haunting recollections that you do not clearly remember. Perhaps you would create an alarm clock for yourself. Perhaps you would create a beacon that would draw you towards it, and an alarm clock -- a symbolic alarm clock -- that would awaken those repressed memories of past lives.

William Henry has a similar take on Egypt's ability to wake us up to a reality that is more "real" than our current, transient experience on earth. In this Conscious Media Network interview, he explains his fascination with Egypt, and with its effect on the psyche.





Both Henry and Hancock express a certain urgency, and the need for those of us who hear this wake-up call to acquire the necessary knowledge. Hancock posits that there is a window of opportunity here, that we may miss. All I know is that the promptings to "remember" are getting louder, and that I also feel there is something (???) I'm supposed to do. Increasingly, I feel like the white rabbit, checking my fob watch.


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Dec 21, 2009

The Next Level



Graham Hancock had this video posted to his Facebook page, so I took a look at it. It's a neat little round-up of ideas on transformation and multi-dimensional awaremeness, from thinkers as diverse as Joseph Campbell and Joe Rogan.


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Dec 20, 2009

Mr. Deity and the Apology




The last episode of Mr. Deity introduced Eve. I posted it here. I thought it was cute, but I thought, at the time, it might tweak some people. Apparently, it did. In fact, it seems to have really pissed some viewers off enough that Brian Keith Dalton has come out with an apology. It's at the end of this most recent episode, "Mr. Deity and the Wrong Number." Like all things Mr. Deity, the apology is quite amusing, and straddles that fine line between the satirical and the offensive. Dalton makes the rather significant point that Mr. Deity lampoons a variety of stereotypes, and yet, it is only when a stereotype of a woman comes in to play, that all hell breaks loose. And, like so many stereotypes, there is some truth in Mr. Deity's Eve, and in the communication breakdown that ensues. I say this as a woman and a feminist. There are differences between men and women. There are differences in the way we communicate. Women can be indirect and, even, passive aggressive. Men can be obtuse and oblivious to metacommunication. John Gray built an entire cottage industry around these differences, and the trouble they can cause in male/female relationships. So, I thought Mr. Deity's depictions of an extremely yin Eve, and yang Adam, were clever. His conversation with Pat Robertson is also amusing, so enjoy!


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Dec 16, 2009

Time Monk Clif High on the Coming Context Shift



"A shift in awareness always causes transformation."
~ Virginia Sandlin


Clif High is making the media rounds again, in association with his latest report, and some changing time tables. Most notably, he says that we will be experiencing a "context shift," that was predicted for December 29, on or near December 19. That's this Saturday. A context shift, according to High, is when there is a rapid change in our mass awareness about an issue. (This would be a collective experience of what my former teacher and Cherokee Mystic Virginia Sandlin would call a "shift in awareness.") A previously predicted context shift had to do with the undocumented alien issue, the perception of which dramatically changed when massive demonstrations captured media and public attention. While he's not sure what issue is about to erupt into our conscious awareness, he suspects it will be economic and related to what he thinks is the inevitable "death of the dollar." Also of note, High's speculation on the real purpose the H1N1 vaccine (population reduction) and the weird, swirly thing that appeared over Norway.

High will be making other appearances. Notably, a prerecorded interview will air this Friday on Veritas.





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Dec 13, 2009

The Secret, a Sweat Lodge, and STILL MORE Tragedy




If you missed the Nightline coverage of James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge gone wrong (originally covered here), it is available for viewing on the ABC website. I didn't think I could be more shocked and horrified by this story than I already was. I was wrong. Now we learn that there is a pattern of gross negligence on the part of this self-styled guru -- whose appearance in The Secret catapulted him to fame -- and his company JRI. The death toll is even greater than the three who died as a result of that abomination of a sweat lodge. An earlier death at a James Arthur Ray seminar has now come to light.

Colleen Conaway plunged to her death, an apparent suicide, during a bizarre exercise, in which people who paid thousands of dollars to JRI, were dressed up as homeless people, stripped of their money and identification, and dumped in downtown San Diego. No one interviewed seems to know quite what they were supposed to learn from this experiment, in abject poverty, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't compassion. I say this, in part, because so little compassion was extended to Colleen Conaway or her family. Just as would later occur with Liz Neuman, the third sweat lodge participant to die, the family was not notified, by JRI. Both Liz Neuman and Colleen Conaway spent time listed as Jane Does; one critically ill in a hospital and the other on a slab in the county morgue.

Colleen Conaway's family has asked the San Diego police department to reopen the investigation into the death.

The family wants to know what role Ray's event may have played in her death. Conaway's sister, Lynn Graham said, "It could have been brainwashing. He's been known for heavy-handed tactics. She went from someone excited about life to someone who was completely alone in a span of two days. You can't put people in such an emotional state and then just dump them."

. . .

One detail the family is concerned about is that the event bus picked up everybody, but left without Conaway. It would be seven hours before Ray's group reported her missing.

So James Arthur Ray, and his staff, left a bunch of people in downtown San Diego with no money or identification, dressed in rags, like some of the most vulnerable people in the population, and did not bother to notice that one was missing, for seven hours.

The portrait of Ray that emerges from this story is very unappealing. He comes across as self-absorbed, egomaniacal, and completely lacking in empathy. In the Nightline piece, former employee Melinda Martin describes his behavior during the sweat lodge debacle, which was so horrible that paramedics, when they were finally called, assumed it was a "mass suicide."

Martin said she wanted to call for help, but Ray's staffers told her no.

"They told me that that wasn't something that would be done, because in the past, 911 had been called, and James got very, very angry at the person who called 911, so that had already been quashed. So I was in the mode of taking care of people," she said.

. . .

Martin said that while people were being dragged out from the tent in front of him, Ray made no mention of stopping the ceremony. She said she was on the side of the tent when Ray exited the sweat lodge and saw the pandemonium outside.

"He came out, and he stretched his arms up, and everybody hosed him off, and he's like, 'Hey, thanks,'" Martin recalled. "I just stopped and I said, 'How can you walk out of there with all of these people are down and they're -- they looked near death, and you guys can walk out there looking like you just spent the day in the spa?' It was incredible to me."

. . .

As Martin performed CPR on a dying woman, she said her boss simply stared.

So, what does this have to do with The Secret, other than James Arthur Ray's association with the popular book and film? Unfortunately, I think the mindset encouraged by The Secret sets the stage for such tragedy, for a number of reasons. The Secret encourages denial of negative experiences and focus on only "the positive." This can cause us to miss crucial, red flags like, say, people begging for water, and so delirious that they are wandering into red, hot coals.

More to the point, The Secret indulges the ego. Again, I want to be very clear that I'm talking about The Secret, not necessarily Science of Mind or similar disciplines, of which The Secret is derivative. In most of these disciplines we learn that when we are stating intention, we must caveat that it be "for the highest good of all." Shakti Gawain, for instance, teaches this phrase:

This, or something better, now manifests for me in totally satisfying and harmonious ways, for the highest good of all concerned.

If such a caveat was referenced in The Secret, I don't recall it. Any such concept, if even mentioned, was dwarfed by the relentlessly consumerist focus. It's all about what we want, want, want, and satisfying the impulses of the ego. In The Secret, we learn from Joe Vitale, that the universe is a great big catalog where we can order up the experiences, relationships, and "products" we desire.

In her November 25 broadcast, on the subject of gratitude, Christina Pratt discussed the Quechua concept of Ayni; a philosophy and practice in which we recognize the interconnectedness of all life. There is no way I can do justice to her entire explanation, and I highly recommend downloading the podcast, but I will attempt to transcribe her explanation of the contrast between pop new age techniques for manifestation, and a shamanic practice of manifesting in "right relationship" with the world.

One of the things I see, in a more, I don't know... new age, for lack of a better word, kind of practice today, where people are busily focusing their intention to manifest what they want... Well, the problem with that is there is no conversation with your soul and spirit in that, because most of us identify with ourselves from an ego/personality place. And that all we're doing is using spiritual principles of intention and focus and prayer and manifestation, to make manifest what we want. What if what you want would bring the downfall of mankind, in 10 generations? Would you maybe change what you want right now?... This is what I mean by using shamanic skills to make better quality decisions.... So that when we start to use these powers of manifestation and focus and prayer, that we're doing it in a way that has taken our place in the fabric of everything into consideration. So we're doing it from a place of all the spiritual principles; not just that one single spiritual principle that you can manifest your destiny -- that you can manifest whatever you want. I mean that by itself is grossly dangerous.

For all his use of native practices, I doubt highly that James Arthur Ray was very focused on how his work would reverberate, in the world, for future generations. He remained completely oblivious to how it was affecting participants, in the here and now, when their lives were imperiled. He did not consider how their families would be affected by being left in the dark as they died. That none of this demonstrated "right relationship" with the world, is fairly obvious.

Such tragedies occur when we are so invested in our egos that we think the universe is here to serve us, like a great big catalog of riches, rather than considering how we serve the universe, by bringing our light into the world.

In general, I think the idea of using the so called "law of attraction" to manifest, demonstrates a shallow understanding of the universe. I've explained fairly thoroughly why I think that. But, The Secret is the shallowest of the shallow. It requires no application of universal principles to manifest what you want if you're driven, ruthless, ego-centered, and are willing sacrifice people along the way. People have been manifesting their wants that way from time immemorial, and look at where it's gotten us. James Arthur Ray has amassed a lot of wealth, and according to numerous accounts, he has done so through the application of incredible arrogance. No one can avoid "attracting" that dark reflection, of our shadow nature. There are consequences to everything. James Arthur Ray may soon be coming face to face with exactly what he's manifested.


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Dec 9, 2009

Energy Allergies


Very interesting post on Lightworkers.com regarding "energy allergies."

As we raise our vibration we often can experience what is called an energy allergy. This happens as a natural growth process as we evolve, (especially for us empaths:-) But I have noticed many people even those who aren't light workers going through these shifts. These energy allergies can manifest in many ways and for many reasons. Most often the result is fatique. Sleepiness, headaches,anxiety, allergy symptoms, depression, and the list goes on. The often occur as a result after an event or realization that raises our consciencness. These realizations can be both postive or negative. We have all had it happen after a negative event when we find ourselves retreating to heal. After a positive event it happens as a result or being out of sync between our spirit and our soroundings. Often times they can be a result or a block in creative energies because of the limiting beleifs we are learing to let go of. When we raise our spiritual vibration the spirit longs to express itself in these new understandings. When we don't allow this energy to flow it results in the energy becoming stuck within us and these conditions result. It is extremely normal as we all take 3 steps forward then 2 back, so nothing to worry about or feel responsible for.

This one jumped out at me, because I am having a horrible allergy attack... for several days running, now. I have had these before, following major shifts. My sense of this has been that as we move to the next vibrational level, we can go out of sync with our environment. The result is a discomfort in our living (or work) space. For myself, I've always found that after I move up a vibrational level -- or a few of them at once, in some cases -- there can be a lag before my living space catches up to meet my new vibrational level. Until things catch up, we're out of sync. There a number of things you can do to reclaim your space. Cleaning is one. Dusting and vacuuming are fairly obvious, because even a very low level of dust can really set off allergies, when you're also in an "energy allergy" response. I've been dusting like mad, even though there is very little dust; much less than would normally bother me at all.

I've also found it helpful to use sage and other energy cleansing and renewing incenses; lavender, sweetgrass, cedar, frankincense, copal, sandalwood... That's if my sinuses can withstand the smoke. Right now, they can't. In that event, misting with water, or rosewater, is another good option. The goal is to clear out residual energy patterns that are longer appropriate to where you are. They will shift on their own, eventually. This just helps to speed things along.

I have, in some cases, had to consciously direct the energy. I remember one time in particular, some years ago. I was meditating and my guides drew my attention to my car. I was shown that while my apartment was back in sync, I had ignored the car, which I still had to be able to safely drive. So, I focused my attention on the car, and observed a spiral of light swirling up through it, for several moments, until it looked, energetically, bright and shiny.

The shifts since this summer have been fast, furious, and incredibly abrupt, in some cases. I keep finding myself reeling. This most recent shift has left me very out of sync. In addition to the allergies, I'm extremely sensitive to sounds and smells. As I have so many times throughout this ascension process, I feel like I have no skin; no defenses against even the most innocuous disruptions.

I know I'm not alone, on this one. I've talked to several clients who are having the allergy responses. So is my husband. December is not generally allergy season, so it's noteworthy. If you're having this problem, I hope these suggestions help; or feel free to suggest some of your own tips and tricks for moving through these shifts.


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Dec 7, 2009

Why the Tarot Works



Some years ago, I was perusing books in a Wiccan shop, when I overheard a conversation between the owner and a customer. She was looking at the many tarot decks in the glass case by the front counter. "Do these really work?" she asked.

The owner was deeply knowledgeable about western esoteric traditions, and had a fondness for tarot. I had heard him, on more than one occasion, give detailed explanations of the symbolism in complex decks like the Crowley-Thoth. Yet, he answered this woman very matter-of-factly. "A deck of tarot cards is just 78 pieces of paper with pictures printed on them." Not the answer she was expecting, I'm sure. Quite truthful, however.

Dec 3, 2009

The WM3: Good News & Bad News



First, the good news: The defamation case against Dixie Chick Natalie Maines was dismissed. Libel and slander are fairly hard to prove, in this country, because the litigant has to establish "malice." Terry Hobbs's legal team failed to do so.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2008, claimed Maines' comments were "malicious, libelous, slanderous and false" and sought damages.

But U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled Tuesday that Hobbs couldn't establish "actual malice" — that Maines knew the statements were false or that she made them with "reckless disregard" of the truth.

To me the larger point was that she said nothing untrue. She never accused Terry Hobbs of murder, as he'd claimed, and as was unfortunately reported by numerous sloppy reporters and bloggers. Every statement I read, from her, at the time, struck me as quite careful. Judge Miller found the same; that she'd based her statements on court documents, and did not embellish.

Miller noted Maines rejected changes to the letter she posted on the Web site because she didn't want to stray from information she'd received from the West Memphis Three's attorneys.

"All of the legal stuff is copied directly from the court filing and legal papers that were written by the defense team," Maines wrote to an e-mail to her manager, which was included in the court record. "I don't want to put any of that in my own words."

So, today we can appreciate a sensible court decision, with regards to a spurious law suit. The irony, though, is not lost on me. As hard as it is to sue a person for libel, in this country, it is apparently all too easy to convict children of murder, with absolutely no physical evidence, let alone logic, and leave them, to rot, in prison for years.

Now, the bad news: Compelling new witness testimony (previously discussed here) will not be considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court, in the appeal, from death row inmate Damien Echols.

Three women’s witness statements will not be considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court in deciding whether they’ll order a new trial for convicted murderer Damien Echols.

Justices denied a motion for staying Echols’ appeal and refused to consider new witness statements submitted for review earlier this month.

No written explanation accompanied the decision. Officials with the Arkansas Supreme Court in Little Rock said it is common for motion rulings not to have written explanations.

In November KTHV ran a three part series, on the case, asking, "Was Justice Served for the WM3 & the Victims?" It gives a pretty decent overview.



Also worth seeing is  a surprisingly thorough story on the appeals and the evidence.



Echols remains hopeful that once this goes to a federal court, he will be granted a new trial. I, like Natalie Maines, remain astonished that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and  Jessie Misskelley, are still in prison over 15 years later.

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Nov 27, 2009

Horn of Plenty

Cornucopia

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When we study sacred geometry, we begin to see the world of form differently. We gradually begin to recognize how these seminal shapes and proportions repeat themselves over and over, in nature. We also look at symbols, religious and otherwise, with new eyes. I had one of those moments of realization this morning, when I glanced at a Happy Thanksgiving post, on a blog. An image of a cornucopia, overflowing with harvest bounty, topped the page. I haven't really thought much about cornucopias since I was in grade school, tracing my hand to make Thanksgiving turkeys, and looking at pictures of happy "Indians," with their pilgrim friends. It had never occurred to me how profound a form the cornucopia is.

This symbol of the abundance, for which we give thanks each November, traces to ancient Greek mythology.

The cornucopia is a symbol of food and abundance dating back to the 5th century BC, also referred to as horn of plenty, Horn of Amalthea, and harvest cone.

In Greek mythology, Amalthea was a goat who raised Zeus on her breast milk. When her horn was accidentally broken off by Zeus while playing together, this changed Amalthea into a unicorn with 17 whiskers. The god Zeus, in remorse, gave her back her horn. The horn then had supernatural powers which would give the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for. This gave rise to the legend of the cornucopia. The original depictions were of the goat's horn filled with fruits and flowers: deities, especially Fortuna, was depicted with the horn of plenty. The cornucopia was also a symbol for a woman's fertility.

This magic horn, then, creates something out of nothing. It is a tool of manifestation. Like so many objects in mythical context, it is the geometrical form that is significant. Horns have a special place in myth and ritual, as objects of power, because their form is vortical. This vortex is derived from the golden mean spiral. According to sacred geometry, this is the very foundation of manifest creation.

Simply put, the Golden Mean Spiral is a doorway that weaves the ethereal and material dimensions together. In another context I would say that God left us one door of eternal mystery and exploration¾ the Golden Mean Spiral or the door of love.

The vortex unfurls from the void -- the vast potential of the unmanifest -- and animates creation itself.

In studying the Sacred Geometry of Creation, we first understand that creation takes place in what is known as "no time and space," and that it then enters into dimensionality through the intra-dimensional doorway known as the Golden Mean Spiral.

Why do we utilize Sacred Geometry? The purest answer is because it creates for us the frequencies of a controlled place of deep silence, the place of The Silent Watcher, that has no beginning or end. The Golden Mean is the doorway to this place known as "no time and space," where we can interact with Creation. It is the sacred doorway to the intuitive, the space to where we once again are God in action.



So, with our Thanksgiving horn of plenty, we are literally celebrating the divine mystery of creation itself. Through conscious interaction with these geometries and archetypes, we begin to reawaken to our true function as co-creators of the reality with inhabit.

White Stone Sculpture of Woman Carrying Cornucopia

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Nov 24, 2009

Mr. Deity Discovers that Eve is From Venus



The newest from Mr. Deity introduces the newly created Eve. (Adam is in post op, after losing a rib.) The deity and Larry rapidly discover the differences between female and male communication styles. Earlier we met Adam, (see below) and he is most definitely from Mars. Aah, fun with gender roles!




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Nov 21, 2009

A Christian Prayer for Obama

Pray for Obama T-Shirt


"Pray for Obama." At first glance it seems well meaning. After all, there were many such admonitions, from the Christian Right, to pray for President Bush. Prayer cards were even distributed to some deployed troops, committing them to pray for their Commander in Chief. Then we read the verse in question, Psalm 109:8. It isn't well meaning at all. And the Psalm gets worse from there. It is one of those dark passages in the Old Testament that belies idealized notions of Christanity as a religion of love and peace.

8. Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
9. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
10. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
11. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.
12. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
13. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
14. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

There is a very dark undercurrent to the Bible. Like most eruptions of the shadow, our first impulse is to split it off and deny it. As Diana Butler Bass explains on Beliefnet, Psalm 109 is a tough one for theologians to reconcile.

Psalm 109 belongs to a special category of the psalms known as "imprecatory" prayers--it is a lament in the form of petition to destroy one's enemies.  It is the personal prayer of an individual, someone who has been dealt an injustice by another--and usually more powerful--person.  The words of Psalm 109 are those of deep agony, the longings of a victim for retribution and justice.  This psalm is considered one of the most difficult of all the psalms--full of violent images of vengeance and death.   Many a biblical critic has struggled with its words--and not a few--including Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant theologians--recommend that it not be used in public worship, much less as a bumper-sticker political slogan.

I keep coming back to one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Campbell, who was no fan of the Bible, nor of Abrahamic religions, in general.

[The Bible is] the most over-advertised book in the world. It's very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.

The thing I see about the Bible that's unfortunate is that it's a tribally circumscribed mythology. It deals with a certain people at a certain time. The Christians magnified it to include them. It then turns this society against all others, whereas the condition of the world today is that this particular society that's presented in the Bible isn't even the most important. This thing is like a dead weight. It's pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can't break loose and move into a modern theology.

One of the great promises of mythology is, with what social group do you identify? How about the planet? To say that the members of this particular social group are the elite of God's world is a good way to keep that group together, but look at the consequences! I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today.

For me, the poignancy of Campbell's observation has never been so stunningly clear. The use of this piece of scripture comes against the backdrop of a campaign to make Barack Obama an "other," a member of a foreign tribe, and not a "real American." Some continue to insist that he was born in Kenya, despite repeated verification of his Hawaii birth certificate. Some of this rhetoric is downright frightening, with ominous hints at potential violence. Former evangelical Frank Schaeffer explains the urgency of concern in this interview on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow." (A complete transcript of the show can be found here.)





It may well be that use of Psalm 109:8 was not intended to be read beyond that line, by people who simply wanted him out of office; not dead. There is enough ambiguity to grant plausible deniability.

Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League agrees that the bumper sticker falls within acceptable political discourse.

For it to be considered hate speech, it “would advocate actual violence or cite scripture that was more clear in its message.”

But that doesn’t mean that it’s completely innocent.

“Are we concerned about real hostility towards [President Obama]? Absolutely,” says Ms. Lauter. “Is this a part of that movement? It may be, but in terms of this message itself, we would not criticize it.”

“The problem is you don’t know if people who are donning that message in a shirt or on a bumper sticker are fully aware of the quote or what follows. Obviously that message makes the ambiguity disappear. If they’re just referring to him being out of office, that’s one thing. If they’re referring to him being dead, that’s so offensive. It’s protected speech, but it’s clearly offensive.”

It is hard to miss the subtext, however, or to separate the one verse from its scriptural context. A good segment of the target demographic are fundamentalist Christians. They know the Bible far better than much of the populace.

The larger issue, which Campbell calls on us to consider, is how our core mythologies shape our culture. While this is not a theocracy, or a "Christian nation," there is no denying that the United States is underpinned by the Judeo-Christian beliefs that held sway at its inception. More to the point, we are still largely shaped by the rigid, Calvinist beliefs of our earliest settlers. This goes a long way to explaining the punitive, moral authority that permeates our social institutions, from our schools to our judicial system. The "Pray for Obama" campaign is a painful reminder of just how pressing this issue has become. Can we overcome the divisiveness, tribalism, and violence, inherent in our Judeo-Christian mythology?

Diane Butler Bass  turns to C.S. Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms for a viable answer; one which invites us to face the dark underbelly of these beliefs and bring them out into the light.

Lewis suspects that it may be best to leave such psalms alone. But then he says that we must face "facts squarely."

The hatred is there--festering, gloating, undisguised--and also we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it, or (worse still) used it to justify similar passions in ourselves (p. 22).

Lewis refers to these psalms as horrible, devilish, cruel, hateful, and evil. He believes that Psalm 109--and the poetry of its kind in the psalter--should point us back to the evil we carry within and teach us each how to behave with goodness, humility, and love.

According then, to the venerable C.S. Lewis, a "Prayer for Obama" is really a prayer for ourselves to go beyond "festering, gloating, undisguised" hatred. "If the Divine does not call to make us better, it will make us very much worse," he reminded his readers, "Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst."


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Nov 16, 2009

Immortality and the Quest for Eternal Life



I only just became aware of author and internet broadcaster Sonia Barrett. Some of her ideas are very compelling and worthy of consideration. The following is from the blurb for her book The Holographic Canvas:

The Holographic Canvas explores many possibilities one of which raises the question [sic] "is Earth as we know it but a matrix or system of programs? Is death then a necessary process or is it simply part of the matrix program? Is it then possible that the concept of dying will cease to exist once humanity uncovers the deception?" Sonia Barrett proposes that human bodies are vehicles not yet turned on but designed to make molecular modifications according to the vibration of our consciousness. She takes us on a journey of our existence in a holographic world, as she states "a virtual game; an assortment of illusions strung together by the brain and the mind. It's an exploration of the illusion of a solid world generated by fluid movements against a canvas of energy, all of which is taking place against the backdrop of the void." Barrett concludes that the answers are all tied into the forgotten past and like the single cell of a plant our history is encoded in our cells, DNA and the air we breathe.

Much of this material is covered in the Red Ice Radio interview embedded above. Enjoy!


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Nov 13, 2009

Sharon Osbourne, Susan Boyle, and Facing Our Shadow



I have this theory that celebrity news stories pull our eyes away from news of far more important, world changing events, because celebrities are, at bottom, just people whose very human foibles we can we relate to. Despite all their money and fame, the vicissitudes of their relationships and their little human dramas reflect the best and the worst in all of us. I was reminded of this recently, when news broke of a very unfortunate incident involving Sharon Osbourne and a microphone. I have posted the video of Osbourne's interview on Sirius Radio above, but I warn you, gentle reader, that it is not for the faint of heart.

Osbourne, who is a judge on 'America's Got Talent,' slammed the 'Britain's Got Talent' superstar's looks on Sirius XM's 'The Opie & Anthony Show.' She says Boyle was "hit with the f***ing ugly stick"....as opposed to the surgeon's scalpel?

Here is a partial transcript of her expletive-laced tirade. You can watch the entire thing below.
"I like everybody to do well. Even somebody that looks like a slapped arse. God bless her. It's like, 'You go girl'. She does look like a hairy arsehole. She is a lovely lady. You just want to say 'god bless' and here's a Gillette razor."

In case you've been living in a cave and missed the high drama of Susan Boyle's emergence onto the world stage, here is a link to the video that launched a small town spinster to heady stardom. I still can't listen to her sing that song without bursting into big, wet, sloppy tears. Of course, much of her success at winning over a worldwide audience was the irony of a plain featured -- dare I say it, homely -- middle aged woman, with a voice like a bell. That an issue was to be made of her appearance was inevitable. Cue the junior high school behavior of Sharon Osbourne.

In reading the comments on Osbourne's cringeworthy performance on The Huffington Post, disapproval of her cattiness is nearly unanimous. News of her recent apology, has garned little more sympathy or forgiveness. She disgusted people. She disgusted me. Then a funny thing happened. I showed the video to my husband. He was also disgusted, but he generously caveated that she was probably seduced by the rapt attention of the two DJs who were cackling away and egging her on. He allowed that it was, to a small degree, mitigating. He got me to thinking.

One of the funny things about being in a radio soundbooth is that it is simultaneously very intimate and totally public. It is easy to forget, for moments at a time, that you are talking to more people than those with whom you are conversing; that there is a large invisible audience. Something similar happens on computer bulletin boards and blogs, where we talk to our friends, periodically oblivious to how visible those pixels are to anyone with an internet connection. Thinking of it in that way forced me to consider the dynamics playing in that soundbooth, and there is a very particular dynamic that occurs when a woman is the center of male attention.

So I began to consider the possiblity that Sharon Osbourne's behavior was somewhat understandable. Then something else happened. I heard myself talking... to my husband that is. I heard myself questioning how Osbourne could possibly be so damned lookist, when she owed her career to her role "dragging around that animated corpse of husband." And when I was done ripping into Sharon Osbourne, we turned on the Food Network hoping for "Iron Chef," but instead being tortured by a few minutes of "Dinner Impossible."

"Oh no! Why does that guy wear his hair like Ed Grimley?!" I heard myself say. It would seem that I am not, in fact, above a bit of cattiness.

Celebrities reflect the best and the worst of us. Everything does. Constantly. It cannot be otherwise because the world is our reflection. And it is always easier to point at someone else's shadow, especially when we only know them through our televisions and computers. Facing our own is much, much harder.


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Nov 12, 2009

Mr. Deity Tries to Understand the Trinity



I'm getting caught up on my Mr. Deity videos. The above is one of the funniest ever, as God and Jesse try to figure out how they're the same person... but aren't. My favorite episodes of this show are the one's with Jesse (aka, Jesus), in part because the guy who plays him is really hot. Ooh! Can I say that? Mmmmm... Sacrilicious!

And now a word on the new YouTube: It's awful. Everything that made YouTube videos the most smooth, flexible, customizable, videos on the web went to hell when the Google merger completed itself. The newer videos -- maybe because they allow for the possibility of high def (???) -- are really bandwidth and processor intensive. All I know is that they don't play smoothly on my machine. They stop and start, the video and audio tracking go out of sync... And no, I'm not trying to play them in high def. So, I've been very frustrated trying to get newer content, like the newest season of Mr. Deity. That is, until I discovered, while looking over the Mr. Deity site, that they are available for download on iTunes. Much better! So, if you're having trouble getting the above embed to play smoothly, I highly recommend opening iTunes and searching for Mr. Deity. The podcasts are free and they play really smoothly, at least for me.

I love this mug, by the way. And Christmas is around the corner... hint, hint.




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Nov 11, 2009

Buddhism Meets Psychology, Confusion Ensues

Lotus Flower in the Morning Light, Sukhothai, Thailand

Buy at AllPosters.com


A hat tip to Shonin Justin on Ordinary Extraordinary for his point to this interview on ABC. Shonin Justin writes:

"Meet a doctor who thinks you can better understand the self by destroying it"

After the confusion about 'annihilating the self' is cleared up this is a very interesting story.

I'm not a Buddhist, but I am experiencing ego death, so I can fully relate to the healing potential of what Dr. Mark Epstein tries valiantly to get across to the interviewer. But mostly, I've been finding myself staring at lotuses more than usual, and I needed an excuse to post a pretty one.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to embed the video, so follow the link.


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Nov 9, 2009

The Power of Grumpy Thought

The Thinker

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Perhaps Dorothy Parker and H.L. Mencken were onto something. It may be no accident that some of the most incisive wits of literary history were curmudgeons. New research overseen by Professor Joe Forgas points to a connection between grumpy mental states and sharper analytical skills.

The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain "promotes information processing strategies".

. . .

Those in a bad mood outperformed those who were jolly - they made fewer mistakes and were better communicators.

Professor Forgas said: "Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world."

I may, at some point, tire of saying this, but psychological research keeps disproving the "power of positive thought" espoused in vehicles like The Secret. To every emotional state, there is a season...


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Nov 7, 2009

Time Monk Clif High on Pole Shift

Globe on Black II

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a series of entries on the Time Monks webbot project, and the accuracy of these forecasts. As I said then, what I was getting intuitively was pole shift, but there was little in the predictive linguistics of the Time Monks to validate that. Instead, I turned to the most recent information I could find from Drunvalo Melchizedek on the subject. What a difference a year makes. Recent material from Drunvalo, posted here and here, goes into more depth on pole shift and how it fits into the Mayan prophecies. Now comes a wealth of information from Time Monk Clif High on his near certainty that there will be a dramatic pole shift event tied to that 2012 date.

Clif has been making the rounds talking about his most recent report. There's lots of stuff to make us all very nervous on the collapsing economy, the potential "death of the dollar," and more, but what will probably be most chilling to people unfamiliar with this idea is the prospect of the magnetic poles reversing and solid land masses rolling around. His most in depth interview on the subject was the other evening on Rense Radio.





He has posted some supplemental material on Half Past Human to explain how he came to the conclusion that the data they've been collecting since 1997 points to pole shift, rather than some of the other interpretations they had posited. His analysis spans both the scientific theories and a range of prophetic material, from the Mayan Long Count Calendar to the ancient Vedic, Chinese, and Egyptian material.

Then there is the issue of the rapid, and oscillating climate changes here on earth, as well as the alterations of the climates on all the other planets in the solar system. And then there are the tremendous changes in the sun over this last decade. Which continue. Then there are the various huge levels of changes to the earth itself, such as the giant earthquakes, the resulting tsunami's, and other indications of major changes such as global glacial melt.

. . .

It is the sun spot cycle that concerns us humans, and other critters here on earth. The reason is that universe is composed of cycles within cycles within cycles at levels and complexity we may barely be able to perceive. These cycles include large cycles based on smaller cycles. One of these smaller cycles is our local sun spot cycle.

While our work at HPH has shown indications of a 'sun disease' since 1997, and this reference was to a 'disease of the sun' rather than a 'disease caused in earth life by the sun', within our data sets this language fell under the set of what we called "the big squeeze". This label was applied due to the many and repeated references to "magnetics gone wrong" in our data. It was our theory that the 'cause' for the 'big squeeze' was the alignment of the earth and the sun with the center of the Milky Way galaxy which is coincident with 2012. This necessitated the idea of new forms of energy from extra solar system sources in order to explain all the changes to the local planets and our sun. Such an understanding is wrong.

There is an understanding that provides for the current changes in the planets and the sun that does not require any external sources of energy. This understanding has to do with the totality of the sun spot cycles, and what causes them, and the larger cycles built upon them.


The upshot?

The impact of the magnetic discharge from the sun will overwhelm what is left of earth's protective magnetosphere and initiate both a pole and a crustal shift.


The page also has lots of pretty pictures and in depth info on the theoretical framework. Note that Clif is not a fan of the idea of a leap in consciousness accompanying this event, of the type Drunvalo predicts. For fairly obvious reasons, I prefer Drunvalo's take on the whole thing. I should add that while, again, I can't go into too much detail on this until I have more clarity and permission from my guides, what I have been shown is that we are going into a "time of magic." So, we shall see.

Additional Material:

I really enjoyed this video of Jay Weidner's take on the Time Monks webbot project.



This interview with Conscious Radio Network's Regina I found fascinating because Clif gets into more of the nuts and bolts of how his technology allows him to interpret the movement of the collective unconscious. As I discussed here, this is one of the most intriguing aspects of the webbot project for me. In his conversation with Regina, Clif validates my earlier perception that what he's able to observe by culling the archetypes in the linguistics is a very deep level of consciousness, far beyond the mental process. Here is Regina's written introduction to this fascinating podcast:

Sometimes, it's good to be aware of The Shape of Things to Come, even if it is from a report generated by a program that collates the language of our universal unconscious. Clif High (yes that is meamt to be with one 'f'), talks for over an hour with Regina about his background, his original purpose and current methodologies and what the data is revealing to him.


Still more recent interviews with the Time Monks are available on my YouTube Channel.


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Oct 27, 2009

Drunvalo: The Maya of Eternal Time




As discussed here, Drunvalo Melchizedek has been in close contact with the National Mayan Council of Guatemala and it's leader Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj for some years. This council, which is the head of all 440 Mayan tribes, has not put out a statement on any prophecy for 527 years. They are only now breaking their silence regarding the Mayan Calendar. Over the summer, Drunvalo was able to deliver a sanctioned message, via webcast. In this program, he discusses those elements of the prophecy that the council is ready to report. This includes events that have occurred -- such as the "blue star prophecy" -- as well as signs that they are still waiting for. He also explains the background of the crystal skulls and how the secrets they hold are in the process of being recovered by the Maya.

Those who are nervous about the date Dec. 21, 2012 can relax... sort of. According to Drunvalo, that's the one date the Mayans are certain the forecasted events won't happen. Instead, they say, we have entered a window they call "the end of time." The pending polar shift and other events could happen anytime between now and 2015.

I find one of the most intriguing parts of this broadcast in Drunvalo's explanation of the ceremonial work he participated in. Readers of Graham Hancock's Supernatural should be interested at his description of events during a ritual that took place deep inside a cave. Here is Hancock's description of the cave paintings at Pech Merle (p. 16):

Floating over the red foreground of the panel, the Ice Age mammals of the Frise Noire conspire in the convincing illusion of a three-dimensional array. Through the clever use of tricks of perspective, the impression is somehow conveyed that the closer figures have emerged from the rock face itself, while the ranks of other creatures beyond them seem almost to fade and disappear into its inner depths.


Attentive listeners to this webcast will notice a description of exactly the kind of experience those Paleolithic shamans were undoubtedly conveying, through their art, thousands of years ago. This is one of many reminders I have been getting lately that shamanism is the original, global religion of humanity.



Don Alejandro Cirilo

Oct 21, 2009

Drunvalo on the Mayan Calendar, Pole Shift, The Secret, and the Heart



This September interview with Drunvalo Melchizedek manages to cover a lot of ground in a fair degree of depth. He explains his fascination with and detailed study of sacred geometry, and where it has led him. It was sacred geometry which initially drew me to study and train in the Flower of Life with Drunvalo years ago. He explains these geometries, and how they underpin manifest creation, better than anyone, in my opinion.

Mostly this interview focuses on the present time and how it relates to the Mayan Calendar. Drunvalo has enjoyed a very special relationship with the Maya for many years. He has been saying for some time that none of the interpretations of the calendar, in wide circulation, have come from the Maya themselves, and are, therefore, incomplete and largely wrong. The Mayan council is only now beginning the process of bringing forth an interpretation consistent with their traditions, oral history, and hidden knowledge. He reports that they are distressed that we have been so focused on the doomsday scenarios, which they say are only one part of the prophecy. They say that it will involve some type of pole shift, which could be very disastrous, but they emphasize that the way to move through this is to stay in the heart, not the head, and it will actually be a very positive transformation of the planet.

Drunvalo goes into great depth about the importance of being in our hearts. By way of example he explains the deeper problem of The Secret. As I have said many times, the determination to be "positive" does not allow for wholeness, or oneness consciousness. Drunvalo explains it as being a problem of creating with the head (our thoughts) rather than our hearts. Whereas, our hearts are in wholeness, our brains are polarized. They are binary instruments, and he says can only create dualism. He points to the way the authors of The Secret manifested loads of money, but have also invited the dark reflection of that manifestation. Much of the money is tied up in litigation. (Litigation, and possibly criminal charges, are also likely for Secret contributor James Arthur Ray whose sweat lodge disaster has now resulted in a third death.) By focusing on our heart consciousness, Drunvalo explains that we can transcend duality and the seesaw effect of polarized creation, and this is where we will need to be to transition into the new reality, on the other side of this great shift.

Oct 20, 2009

Sandra Ingerman Interview



Very interesting interview with shamanic healer, psychotherapist, and author Sandra Ingerman. Her book Soul Retrieval is considered by many to be the seminal text on this cross-cultural, shamanic healing practice. In this interview she explains the mechanism of soul loss and the importance of retrieving and integrating these scattered pieces of self. She also discusses why and how so many of us have submerged our inner light, to live as cogs in an industrialized society, rather than living our soul's purpose.

Oct 13, 2009

Tide Turning in West Memphis Fishbowl?



There have been some new developments in the strange, sad case of the West Memphis Three. If you're not familiar with the history of the witch trial that put three teenage boys in prison over 15 years ago, you can find background in previous entries here and here. As reported previously, DNA evidence implicates Terry Hobbs; the stepfather of one of the murdered children. Now comes evidence that he lied under oath about not having seen the boys the day they were murdered. Three eyewitnesses have come forward, who place him with the children earlier that evening.

The claims are from Terry Hobbs' neighbors; a woman and her two daughters.

One states, "Between 5:30 p.m. And 6:30 p.m., I saw Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers playing in my backyard. I am absolutely, completely and totally positive that I saw Terry Hobbs hollering at Stevie, Michael and Christopher to get back down to the Hobbs' house at approximately 6:30 pm."

. . .

Meantime, you may be asking why the three women just came forward. They say they were never questioned by police at the beginning and were unaware, until now, of Hobbs' recent statement that he hadn't seen the boys the day of the murders.

. . .

The affidavit continues, "Following the murders, the police never came to interview me or my family. In fact, after the murders, I do not recall ever seeing any police vehicles on my street or seeing any police interviewing any of the people in my neighborhood."

If there was ever any question that the police did not do their due diligence in investigating the murders of the three eight year old boys, there you have it. They never even questioned Stevie Branch's neighbors. Well, they were a little busy interrogating Jessie Misskelley for 13 hours. I mean, why burn shoe leather when you have a mentally handicapped boy you can convince to tell you exactly what you want to hear?

One of the most troubling features of the West Memphis Three case is the way the entire town got swept up in a "Satanic Panic," that seemed to supersede any sense of reason. To outside observers, that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, could have been convicted, on such flimsy evidence, seems absurd. Thus, has the case become a cause for many people, including a number of noted celebrities; Henry Rollins, Eddie Veder, Natalie Maines, Trey Parker... The list goes on. Yet, with all the press attention, benefit concerts, etc., the town only seemed to dig its heels in deeper. That may finally be changing. The New York Times reports:

For years, outsiders have raised questions about the guilt of the three misfit teenagers, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who were convicted of the murders. But more recently, a steady dribble of new evidence has begun to seep into the consciousness of West Memphis, eroding the once nearly unanimous belief that those outsiders — including rock stars, HBO filmmakers and the creators of “South Park” — did not know what they were talking about.

First came reports that John Mark Byers, once considered by many observers to be a prime suspect, had started publicly supporting the West Memphis Three, and proclaiming their innocence. Then, the mother of Stevie Branch, Pam Hobbs, turned in evidence implicating her ex-husband, and saying she thought he may have done it. Slowly, skepticism, about the original verdict, seems to be growing, within the insular, little town of West Memphis.

Still, the trial remains a delicate subject in West Memphis and its county, Crittenden. The mayor of West Memphis, William H. Johnson, declined to be interviewed about it. Linda Miller, who owns a health food store with her husband and believes that the convictions were wrong, said she was wary of speaking her mind because the issue was so “polarizing.”

. . .

But a lack of open debate about the case does not mean that there are no deep, if quiet, misgivings about the convictions. From his living room recliner, Mrs. Bailey’s husband, Otto, offered his opinion. “I bet if you polled three-fourths of West Memphis,” he said, “they would say those boys had nothing to do with it.”


Oct 12, 2009

Happy Indigenous People's Day


Reconsider Columbus Day

From the moment a sailor aboard the Pinta sighted land from the sea, on October 12, 1492, the course of indigenous history was forever changed. Upon landing on what is now the Bahamas, once known as Guanahani, Columbus encountered indigenous peoples of the Lucayan, TaĆ­no or Arawak, nations. Peaceful and friendly, Columbus and his Spanish explorers manipulated their hospitality and mercilessly slaughtered, enslaved, and stole lands in the name of the Spanish crown. He wrote of them in his journal, "They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them."

In his four voyages to the Americas, traveling extensively throughout the Caribbean and Central America, each voyage became more deadly than the first. Within two years of his initial landing historians estimate that half of what is believed to have been 250,000 Taino people were massacred. Remaining survivors were either sold into European slavery, forced to mine gold for the Spaniards in the Americas, and many later died of disease.

. . .

What we have failed to realize in the United States is that Native American history is our history. If we are to call ourselves "Americans" we must honor and respect the first peoples of the Americas. So on this day, let us reconsider why we celebrate Columbus Day and not Indigenous People's Day.

Oct 11, 2009

The Secret, a Sweat Lodge, a Dreadful Tragedy



Two people have died and 19 others were hospitalized, in a sweat lodge ceremony that appears to have gone horribly awry. My heart goes out to the families of Kirby Brown and James Shore, and to those who are recovering in hospital. James Arthur Ray, "Personal Success Strategist" and contributor to The Secret, included the sweat in his Spiritual Warrior seminar.

Consider this a lesson in the dangers of dabbling. Ray claims to have studied with native shamans in Peru, the Amazon, and other places he doesn't "care to recall." He even claims to have "mastered" the techniques of these indigenous people. Somehow he seems to have missed this basic bit of wisdom: Don't cram 64 people into a sweat lodge.

Joseph Bruchac, an expert on Native American traditions and author of “The Native American Sweat Lodge,” said that number far surpassed the 8 to 12 typically present at such a rite. “It means that all these people are fighting for the same oxygen,” he said.

It also means it's very, very hot, because the body heat of all those participants has to be factored in. From early reports, it seems clear that the heat was dangerously excessive.

Authorities said 21 people were taken to hospital suffering from burns, dehydration, respiratory arrest and elevated body temperature after sitting in the sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat in Arizona. One of those people is in a critical condition.

. . .

Similar to a sauna, a sweat lodge, is an enclosed space where water is poured on heated rocks to cleanse the body. Used in Native American ceremonies the traditional lodges are made of willow branches and covered in canvas or animal skins. They are not meant to be air-tight and participants normally spend less than an hour inside.

However, authorities told the New York Times the James Ray's sweat lodge was covered in plastic and blankets. It is believed temperatures inside the lodge reached up to 49 degrees. [That's 120.2 degrees Farenheit.]

I have been very critical of The Secret, for, among other things, its glib, superficial approach to spiritual growth. This latest incident, involving a member of its brain trust, is a reminder that you can't just pluck things out of the context of spiritual traditions and repackage them as "self help" seminars, without risking psychic, emotional, and even physical injury.

That superficiality is readily apparent in the marketing copy for the seminar. I'd be wary of anyone claiming to teach any sort of warriorship or spiritual mastery, that won't require personal sacrifice.

There is no sacrifice—only greater and more magnificent results, wealth, adventure and fulfillment.

It would seem he gave the lie to that bit of slick marketing with his now deleted tweets, during the seminar.

JamesARay: Day 2 of SPW: "Ware must you be willing to give up to live the life you say is important to you?"

JamesARay: is still in Spiritual Warrior... for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?

Once again, once we know the "Secret" everything is really simple and painless... except when it isn't.

I picked through more of his site, and found more facile platitudes. There's this from his Practical Mysticism seminar:

Maybe you, like me, are tired of the so-called "spiritual individual" who is sick and broke all the time, or the "mystic hopeful" who can't carry on an intelligent conversation about real life.

Where, oh where, would motivational speakers be, without the mythical ne'er do well to use as a whipping boy? His disdain for the sick and economically disadvantaged is also highlighted on the home page.

Likewise, there are others who qualify as a creative genius, and they're physically sick all the time. That's not real wealth!

Then there are those who claim to be really "spiritual," and they're always financially broke. That's not wealth either!

Is it any wonder that so many people came away from The Secret feeling like their illness and adversity meant that they had failed somehow? If there's one thing I genuinely hope we learn as result of the economic downturn, it's to stop viewing poverty as a character flaw or spiritual weakness.

Many have criticized The Secret for its relentless focus on money. In the wake of this incident, I've seen much criticism of James Arthur Ray for charging nearly $10,000 for this training. I disagree with those who claim that real shamans don't charge anything, and that it's inherently wrong to accept remuneration for spiritual teaching. It is absolutely untrue that traditional shamans work for free. You can't compare tribes that live communally with the modern, western world and its economic system. Indigenous peoples use barter, which is just a simpler, more direct currency. Shamans and healers in many cultures receive produce, livestock, and other necessities as offerings for their work. That's a form of payment, and an exchange of energy that is wholly integral with their lifestyle. Trained, practicing shamans who live in our culture, require payment consistent with our economic system. There is nothing wrong with that. HOWEVER, $9,695.00 for a 5 day seminar is indefensible. It's hard for me to believe that this tragedy is, at bottom, about anything other than simple greed.


A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.


~ Alexander Pope in "An Essay on Criticism"