Feb 28, 2010

Johnny Depp Boosts Media Interest in the WM3

If you missed last night's 48 Hours Mystery episode on Johnny Depp and his public support for the West Memphis Mystery, video of the entire show is posted below. It covers most of the important elements of the case and has some really moving interviews. The show focuses almost exclusively on supporters of the WM3, not on the Arkansas court system that convicted them and continues to stand by the verdict. Probably because no one from the prosecution would talk to 48 Hours. The most telling statement in the entire show: "Prosecutors turned down our requests for interviews."

As I've noted previously, the prosecution and Judge Burnett have really dug in their heels. Media, celebrity, and public attention, have only hardened their resolve against the "second guessing" of outsiders. Arkansas courts have repeatedly rejected things like expert testimony on DNA and forensics that cut the legs out from under the case that convicted Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley. After all, they convicted them without any credible physical evidence. Why should physical evidence matter now?

There has also been a flurry of media attention preceding the airing of the show, from within CBS, but also print outlets. Depp has been subjected to some of the same celebrity bashing snark that Natalie Maines enjoyed when she made her public plea from the usual suspects. The New York Post reports that "Johhny Depp promotes kid's movie by discussing satanic murders."

Johnny Depp may have fallen through a rabbit hole. To promote his movie version of "Alice in Wonderland," he's advocating the release of three men convicted of murdering three boys in a suspected satanic ritual.

But their own Linda Stasi has a different take.

Think back 17 long years. Do you remember how every talk show was obsessed with the same hot topic -- teenage Satanism? Heavy metal, it was suggested, led to Satanism which naturally led to ritualistic murder.

Even though the FBI never had evidence of even one so-called Satanic murder, the national TV talk show atmosphere became very 17th-century Salem witch trials.

. . .

That "proof" came in 1993 with the brutal murders of three little boys at a creek in Arkansas and the hasty conviction of three teenage boys for the killings.

Why? Because one of the boys wore black, had crazy "metal" hair and looked like what the juvenile officer in their town thought a teen Satanist would look like.

There's also an excellent write-up in Salon defending Depp's interest in the case.

Forget the fact that the satanic sacrifice angle has been dubious from the get-go. Forget the lack of DNA evidence to tie the suspects to the crime. Forget, also, that Depp is not doing "48 Hours" to shill his movie. Yep, Johnny Depp wants to unleash devil-worshiping murderers on the children of America! PS, go see "Alice in Wonderland"!

Or maybe the famously press-shy Depp has other motives, like believing in the story. He's certainly in good company. Other celebrities who've advocated for the West Memphis Three include Eddie Vedder (who co-wrote the song "Army Reserve" with Echols), Metallica,  the Dixie ChicksHenry Rollins and Margaret Cho. Even "South Park" co-creator Trey Parker, who has made of career of skewering self-righteous stars and their doofy do-gooder public displays, has championed them. The mother of  victim Stevie Branch, Pamela Hobbs, has also asserted she believes in the innocence of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley.

Given all that evidence, perhaps Depp, the serious and committed actor, environmental activist and parent, is likely not also a fan of child-murdering Satanists. Perhaps one of the biggest movie stars in the world actually gives a damn about righting what is a bungled murder investigation at best and, at worst, a horrific miscarriage of justice in the American trial system. Perhaps he's so passionate about the issue that he's willing to go on a lurid television show to speak out about it. Maybe the guy whose movies so often charm and delight children actually cares about kids -- and not just the wide-eyed popcorn eaters who sit in movie theaters, but three little boys who died on a May evening in the Arkansas woods, and a trio of former misfit teens who've spent the past 16 years in prison for their deaths.

CBS affiliate WREG had a good sit down interview with John Mark Byers, the father of the slain Christopher Byers. Byers, who emerged from the Paradise Lost documentaries as one of the most colorful characters, expressing on film his homicidal rage at the WM3, has made news for his complete reversal and advocacy for a new trial.

There's not a lot of new material in any of these reports for people who've been following the case for years, but it should provide food for thought for those who are unfamiliar with this continuing travesty.

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Feb 25, 2010

Harmonic Wealth Author Pleads Poverty -- Updated

"James is not a wealthy guy." ~ Attorney Brad Brian on Larry King 2/4/10

What to do when you discover that the emperor's new clothes are shackles and an orange jumpsuit? But James Arthur Ray may be sporting the orange ensemble for a while, unless he can reach a new bail agreement.

Defense lawyers said Ray could not afford his bail, even though he told reporters he was worth $10 million a year ago. But his lawyers say Ray owes massive amounts to attorneys and other creditors – and he really has a negative net worth of $4.2 million.

Prosecutors asked for bail to be set at $1.5 million, but his attorneys say he can't even afford that. They're asking for a bail of few thousand dollars or ROR.

Alex Smyth testified that Ray's business is operating at a loss, employees were laid off, his properties are in foreclosure and that Ray essentially drained his bank accounts following the Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony in anticipation of high legal fees, not in an effort to flee. 

There are really only two possibilities here. Either James Arthur Ray is lying about his net worth -- forensic accountant Richard Lee Echols's conservative estimate was a net worth of $2.4 million -- or he's really broke.  The conundrum here for Mr. Ray is that whether he's hiding assets or he's too poor to post bond, it still adds up to fraud -- not the first time I've used that word in regards to the creators of The Secret.

No matter what he or his attorneys say, at this point, it sounds like doubletalk

“Despite misconceptions perpetrated in the media, Mr. Ray is not a man of significant assets and certainly not the millions reported in the press,” his attorneys wrote in documents obtained by The Associated Press from the court.

Well, who perpetrated the misconceptions? James Arthur Ray.

Ray himself has touted his wealth and success in numerous media interviews and on his Web site, including an estimated $10 million in revenue in 2009 and a seven-figure advance for his book, “Harmonic Wealth” that hit the New York Times Best Sellers List in May 2008.

He told “Fortune Magazine” for an April 2008 article that his financial goal was $21 million a year and that he was sure there were limits, but “I am not aware of them.”

Assuming Ray was telling anything approaching the truth about that income, what happened to all that "wealth?" There's no question that he's taken a financial hit. He's had to cancel all his seminars. I have little doubt that book and product sales are down due to all the bad publicity. Lawyers are expensive. No argument that he's in a financial crunch. But I find it a bit concerning that a successful financial guru, didn't know to put a little away. Or did he think that once he knew "the secret" he would never face another rainy day? 'Cause baby, it's pouring!

It looks more like he was living a profligate lifestyle, spending money faster than he "created" it. He built a facade of the success he promised his readers. He purchased multiple properties, all but one of which is in foreclosure. And the whole house of cards is collapsing.

There's a problem with setting yourself up as someone who knows "how the universe works." It's an awfully high bar. Eventually, the people who buy your books and take your seminars will notice that your method doesn't deliver on its promises. For all their investment, they're still not creating "harmonic wealth in all areas" of their lives, and neither are you.

Update:James Arthur Ray received a substantial bail reduction and should be released as soon as he surrenders his passport.

An Arizona judge has lowered the bond from $5 million to $525,000 for a motivational speaker charged with manslaughter for the deaths of three people, clearing the way for his release as early as Friday.

. . .

Darrow said Ray can post cash or a secured appearance bond, and ordered that he surrender his passport. Ray also cannot organize, supervise or conduct any sweat lodge ceremonies or other activities that might physically harm others.

The order does not restrict Ray from travel in the United States or specifically from conducting self-help seminars he built a business on, but he must first provide a written itinerary to his attorneys and to the court upon request.

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Johnny Depp: Free the WM3

Set your DVRs, folks. The case of the West Memphis Three will be profiled on 48 Hours Mystery this Saturday night at 10:00. It sure does take a lot of star power to draw national media attention to one of the gravest injustices in the history of American jurisprudence.

What do actor Johnny Depp and musicians Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder have in common? They all publicly support and believe in the innocence of three convicted men known as the West Memphis Three.

In an interview with "48 Hours Mystery," Depp advocates for the release of death row inmate Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who are all serving life sentences for the brutal murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., in 1993.

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Feb 23, 2010

Mr. Deity and the Awkwardness

Mr. Deity and Larry lunch with a very disgruntled John the Baptist.

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Feb 19, 2010

Money Myth Exposed

U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world's largest economy.

"Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…" said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. "You know what? It doesn't matter. None of this—this so-called 'money'—really matters at all."

"It's just an illusion," a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. "Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless."

. . .

For some Americans, the fog of disbelief surrounding the nation's epiphany has begun to lift, with many building new lives free from the illusion of money.

Okay... It's from The Onion, but a girl can dream.

Actually, I posted this because it's one of those really poignant, "funny 'cause it's true" things. Not the part about Bernanke suddenly losing his religion. That won't happen. But the simple truth is that our current monetary system is a giant, soul sucking illusion. Also true, people are waking up to that fact.

If you haven't seen the Zeitgeist movies, I recommend doing so. Not that I necessarily support all of their conclusions or proposed solutions. The movies have been very fairly, I think, described as slickly produced agitprop. But they do lend some insight into why our economic model... well... doesn't make any sense. Notably, they explain in graphic detail the fact that money, from the moment of its creation, represents debt; not work, not material goods, not gold (not anymore), not anything of actual value. Debt. It represents debt. This sets up an underlying paradigm that is truly alarming. I know that most economists reject that characterization of fractional reserve banking, but symbolism matters. It is how we create our reality.

I have pointed many times to Marianne Williamson's lectures on money, in which she explains that money is barter. "You give this. You get that." I have also described money as "an abstraction of goods and services." In an ideal sense, that is true. Unfortunately, under our current economic model, divorced from the gold standard or any other material backing, it is more accurately described as "an abstraction of debt." This is a serious, serious problem. We are dealing with a financial system that is entirely faith based.

One of the most outspoken thinkers on our unsustainable economic model is Daniel Pinchbeck. In recent articles and projects, he calls for a total re-envisioning of our financial paradigm.

Opportunities such as this one don't come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative. What is required, in my opinion, is not some moderate proposal or incremental change, but a complete shift in values and goals, making a polar reversal of our society's basic paradigm. If our consumer-based, materialism-driven model of society is dissolving, what can we offer in its place? Why not begin with the most elevated intentions? Why not offer the most imaginatively fabulous systemic redesign?

The fall of capitalism and the crisis of the biosphere could induce mass despair and misery, or they could impel the creative adaptation and conscious evolution of the human species. We could attain a new level of wisdom and build a compassionate global society in which resources are shared equitably while we devote ourselves to protecting threatened species and repairing damaged ecosystems. Considering the lightning-like pace of global communication and new social technologies, this change could happen with extraordinary speed.

In this Coast to Coast interview, Pinchbeck discusses his views in some detail. The interview is more broad ranging than that, focusing primarily on 2012 and his experiences with the archetype Quetzalcoatl.  But, the crumbling of our financial edifices appears to be an integral part of the great shift. (As I've previously noted, both Karen Bishop and Time Monk Clif High see us moving away from our current money based system; although their perspectives on this are quite different.)

One particularly compelling item actually forecasts the financial collapse of 2008. I missed this when I first listened to this interview -- probably because the event had not yet occurred. Pinchbeck points to the prediction of Carl Johan Calleman. The discussion starts near the end of video six. I also located the germane passage in Pinchbeck's 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. (p.391)

ALTHOUGH WE DO NOT KNOW how the Classic Maya interpreted the prophetic culmination of their Long Count, Carl Johan Calleman has elaborated a meticulously exact fractal model of time from the Mayan calendar, in which human consciousness evolves through nine "Underworlds," each twenty times faster in linear time than the previous one. Each underworld passes through a thirteen-stage process of alternating light and dark energy currents -- or seven "days" and six "nights" of creation -- culminating in a new level of realization. According to Calleman's model, sometime around the year 2008 -- the "fifth night" of the current underworld, ruled by the energies of Tezcatlipoca, the jaguar god of night and black magic -- our current socioeconomic system will suffer a drastic and irrevocable collapse.

One rather noteworthy synchronicity I'd like to point out: At the very end of the interview with Daniel Pinchbeck, a clearly knowledgeable caller gives an interpretation of the return of Quetzalcoatl. He associates it with the Venus transit and offers some analysis about how its reflective nature points us to oneness consciousness. In glancing over the latest info posted on the Zeitgeist website, I noticed that they call their action plan the Venus Project. Second on the list of its goals: "Transcending all of the artificial boundaries that separate people." Not reading a whole lot into that. Just thought it was a curious synchronicity.

And now, more on creating a new mythology of money from Daniel Pinchbeck:

Addendum: Yes. I know the above is extremely disjointed, tangential, and may even make absolutely no sense at all. I apologize. I am currently experiencing what I will henceforth term Ascension Related Fatigue or ARF. It involves, among other things, entire nights spent in endless, action-adventure dreams that leave me needing a nap after I wake up. Said naps include more exhausting, technicolor dreaming. You get the picture.

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Feb 16, 2010

Flower of Life Mandala

Just incredibly cool. I discovered quite viscerally, when I was training in the Flower of Life, that working with this seminal geometrical form is very, very powerful. This meditation video is really well done. Enjoy!

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Feb 14, 2010

The Year of the Heart

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." ~ C.S. Lewis

This year Valentine's Day coincides with the Chinese New Year. At our house, we'll be celebrating both; exchanging valentines over homemade Chinese food. It's fitting I think, because I decided a while back that I am calling 2010 "the year of the heart." This is not because of anything astrological. In Chinese astrology it's a tiger year, which is something different, entirely. So why am I calling this the year of the heart? Because of the massive changes I'm seeing in our heart chakras. And because it is crucial now that we begin to operate from our hearts.

Over the past month or so, I've seen these shifts in client after client. There are massive releases of energy from the heart chakra, and a feeling of expansion. In some cases those clients have been deliberately doing heart chakra work, because they have been moved to do so. In other cases, it's entirely unconscious on their parts. When I notice that many parallel experiences, I have to acknowledge the possibility that there is a larger, more general, transformation at work.

I've also noticed a number of psychics, channelers, and lightworkers talking about this pronounced shift in heart energy. Karen Bishop has reflected in some of her updates, including the most recent one, that part of the greater purpose of the horrific earthquake in Haiti was to open our hearts. Our heart chakras are opening, whether we want them to or not.

Some of the manifestations of this are uncomfortable. When our chakras open suddenly or dramatically, there is always fallout. Even when the initial experience in meditation or yoga, or some other discipline, is warm, tingly, and yummy, in the days, weeks, even months, that follow, we clear residual blockages and "guck." It can be physically painful. When the heart chakra opens like this, we can experience shortness of breath, chest pains, racing heartbeat, weepiness, and sudden anger, among other symptoms. (None of this is meant as a substitute for a medical diagnosis. Seek medical attention, if you think necessary... blah, blah, blah... you know the drill.) I should note that I am also, over the last couple of weeks, seeing a similar dramatic expansion in the third eye, which can result in headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity, sinus congestion/inflammation, ear pressure, ringing in the ears, and a general sense of overwhelm.

"And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then - the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!" ~ from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

So why do I say these shifts in the energy of our hearts is crucial, at this time? This is where it gets a bit more complicated. However you view this planetary shift -- that many believe will be an actual change in the dimensional frequency -- it is imperative that we begin to create our reality from our hearts; not from our heads. Yes, I know that sounds like a cliche, but I'm actually speaking quite literally. We tend to think of that emotional "heart energy" very figuratively. There is a good bit of empirical data that says otherwise; that our physical heart is actually a sensing, thinking organ; not simply a blood pump. The HeartMath Institute has been doing groundbreaking, clinical research on the heart, for many years. I first learned about HeartMath some years ago when I was studying the Flower of Life with Drunvalo Melchizedek. Drunvalo goes into some detail on operating from the heart in this excellent interview, which I posted a while back. In it:

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... 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. 

I discovered the Red Ice Radio interview, posted below, with Howard Martin of the HeartMath Institute, on YouTube a while ago. He gives a very grounded, lucid explanation of where their research has taken them, the tools they've developed for operating from heart consciousness, and how that relates to the planetary shift. I was particularly struck by his explanation of why the coming shift is completely inconceivable, from our current level of awareness.

I get asked in media interviews to describe, well, what is this new dimension gonna be like. And my answer to that is, to be honest, I don't know. And the reason I don't know is because it's completely new. And our tendency when we talk about new is we try to see new from where we are today. In other words, we try to put new clothes on what we already see.  And what we're moving into now is something we haven't ever seen before. It would be like someone coming up to a person, let's say, in the 1800s who's sitting on a horse and buggy and saying to them, there's gonna be new transportation in the future. And if the person on the horse and buggy was trying to figure that out, they probably would be seeing a better horse and a better buggy. But they wouldn't be seeing the airline industry, because they couldn't. And that's the exciting position we're in today. It's gonna be so different and so new that we really can't see it yet.

This, in part, is why we must begin operating from our heart center. Our brains simply cannot conceive of it. When we are brain centered, we need to understand everything. Things have to make logical sense. We need what Virginia Sandlin calls "mind cookies." Our hearts are wiser than that. It's time to embrace the possibility of much brighter future, without judgment, and with very open hearts.

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Feb 11, 2010

I Will Not Play in God's Domain

Isn't the budget a little tight for the Pentagon to be throwing millions of dollars at creepy, apocalyptic, science fiction scenarios?

The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.

As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”

A built in "kill switch." Well, I know I feel better. They're also going to program "loyalty" right into these creatures, so I'm sure nothing can possibly go wrong.

Of course, Darpa’s up against some vexing, fundamental laws of nature — not to mention bioethics — as they embark on the lab beast program. First, they might want to rethink the idea of evolution as a random series of events, says NYU biology professor David Fitch. “Evolution by selection is nota random process at all, and is actually a hugely efficient design algorithm used extensively in computation and engineering,” he e-mails Danger Room.

"I am convinced that God does not play dice." ~ Albert Einstein

And I thought this was freakin' wrong!

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has spent years developing a whole host of cyborg critters, in the hopes of creating the ultimate 'fly on the wall'.

Now a team of researchers led by Hirotaka Sato have created cyborg beetles which are guided wirelessly via a laptop.

. . .

They were implanted in the beetles when they were at the pupal stage.

Clearly I have been underestimating DARPA's capacity for B-movie caliber megalomania.

"We're science: We're all about coulda, not shoulda!" ~ Patton Oswalt

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Feb 9, 2010

Mr. Deity Tries To Find Time To Make Time

Mr. Deity discovers the whole physics, time, space, location thing... kind of complicated.

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Feb 7, 2010

Global Village, Global Oneness?

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee poses us an interesting challenge on The Huffington Post. Can we use the global communication potential of the Internet to experience unity consciousness with the world?

I remember when I first accessed the Internet in the early Nineties. I think that my children were using AOL and I went online to see what these "chat rooms" were. But although there was not much content in those days, I was struck by its potential and possibility. At that time I was having mystical experiences of the oneness that is present in all of life. In these moments I was made aware of the interconnectedness of all of creation, and how everything is a living expression of divine oneness. This first time that I went online I saw in that moment how the Internet could give the whole of humanity direct access to this interconnectedness and global oneness. All that is required is a computer and a connection.

Almost twenty years later the Internet is one of the central tools of our global connectivity. In the last few years it has radically changed our culture, how we communicate and access information. From laptops and cybercafes all around the world, even in unexpectedly remote locations, we are forming an interconnected whole, a network of human consciousness. And yet, although we are more and more immersed in this new form of communication, we do not appear to realize its deeper significance. There is the danger, that, as in the words of T.S. Eliot, we "have the experience but miss the meaning."

Well, we have definitely missed the meaning, if the meaning is deep connectedness. As one friend of mine discovered, when he was hit with a notional pie on Facebook by an old friend he'd been trying to have a real conversation with for weeks, the Internet is more about instamacy than intimacy. A communication tool is only as effective as its users. Besides which, the glut of information that is now at our fingertips is so overwhelming and distracting that it presents entirely new challenges to our ability to prioritize our interactions, in both the cybersphere and the face to face world. One could argue that our ability to have meaningful communication has actually atrophied.

Vaughan-Lee's objective is even greater, though, than the use of the Internet for meaningful discourse. He is looking to its potential to achieve mystical awareness; which is to say, experiential oneness. In this regard, I think the Internet is severely limited. It takes us out of ourselves, rather than deep into our core, or into the present moment. It is certainly useful for observing the collective consciousness. The Time Monks have developed the technology to forecast future occurrences by spidering the web and sifting for emerging archetypes. Their accuracy is pretty amazing. They can do this because all human beings are psychic and we are all tapped into a much greater, shared awareness, whether or not we're aware of it. We are all tributaries of the same great river, as my old friend Ralph Blum used to say. The Internet certainly makes more of those tributaries instantly visible. This does not automatically lead us to the great river, however.

Achieving those "peak experiences" of oneness consciousness requires a bit more effort for most of us, as Vaughan-Lee, himself, indicates. According to his bio, he is a Sufi teacher. Sufi is the mystical teaching in Islam. So he, no doubt, has undergone the learning/unlearning process that begins to break down the illusory world of duality, to take us into the mystical experience. I'm no expert on Sufism, but I did study for some years with Cherokee Mystic Virginia Sandlin, to that same end. For most of us, those experiences of merging with everyone and everything are brief and transient. They are, however, life-altering. It has nothing to do with how much of the world we can see before us, but with how we see it. It begins with acknowledging that oneness as a reality, rather than a symbol or platitude. Personally, I think it comes more easily when we are in the physical presence of earth's expressions, rather than pixels on a screen. I know many people who've had spontaneous experiences of oneness while communing with nature, for instance.

I would also remind Mr. Vaughan-Lee that the globe, while bigger than a breadbox, is still only a sliver of "all that is." We are one with all the universe, hence the name: uni (one) verse (turn). And the universe is not yet wired, to my knowledge. The earth is a microcosm of all that is; but then so am I. It is that awareness, that the smallest particle under my fingernail is a microcosm that contains the macrocosm, that awakens us to the mystical experience.

If we are to begin to experience our oneness through the wonder of satellites and fiber-optic cable, I would humbly suggest that we train our minds to view them as our reflections, just as we do with every other seemingly external object and person. To the mystic, the computer in front of me is "all that is" expressing as a computer. The person I chat with online is "all that is" expressing as the person with the silly, inscrutable nickname.

If we are to take Mr. Vaughan-Lee's challenge seriously, we have our work cut out for us. Internet communication, while vast in reach, is notoriously rancorous. I have personally encountered Internet users who insist that talking to people online isn't like talking to "real people," because they're just "words on a screen." This, presumably, justifies all manner of a verbal abuse. As one Time columnist put it:

The horribleness of commenters isn't really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway.

We tend to be far more gracious when we have to deal with people face to face, or eye to eye. As I wrote here, the presence of eyes seem to the be the deciding factor in locating our moral compass. They are the windows of the soul, after all. Eyes are also geometrical depictions of oneness. Looking one another in the eye, is an experience largely missing from Internet communication. So, I'm afraid, is the conscious experience of unity. I see no reason, though, that our computers and Internet relations cannot become focal points for expanding our awareness of that oneness. We could begin by reminding ourselves that cyberspace is "all that is" expressing as cyberspace. If the Internet could be a vehicle for expanding our awareness that far, it truly would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for which it has apparently been nominated. Mr. Vaughan-Lee has posed us an interesting challenge, indeed.

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Feb 5, 2010

James Arthur Ray's Not Guilty Plea -- Not!

Apparently, all the various and sundry news agencies have reported James Arthur Ray's "Not Guilty" plea. This was due to a toxic combination of sloppy reporting and fancy lawyering. He has not plead not guilty, because he has not yet entered a plea.

The confusion starts when Judge Warren R. Darrow asks if Mr. Ray has been informed of the charges against him.

Kelly answers, "I have, judge." Then Kelly jumps immediately into the following, preemptive statement, speaking rather quickly, "We've got a copy of the indictment, we've reviewed it with our client, we've waived its formal reading, his name is spelled correctly, we'd enter a plea of not guilty; request that a jury trial be preserved and the case management conference be set."

But Judge Darrow doesn't enter that plea of not guilty. And really, if you listen carefully to what Kelly said it was, "we'd enter a plea..." In other words, "we would enter a plea..." but he wasn't entering a plea at that time, because, this wasn't the time to enter any plea at all.

Judge Darrow's next words confirm this, "OK, and that's essentially what would be done at an arraignment; this isn't the arraignment, it's the initlal appearance. As I have indicated, I am going to set, or I have indicated to counsel [unintelligible] I intend to set the matter EDC, Early Disposition Court; however, I think that if the parties want to waive that, by an agreement, that can be considered an arraignment proceeding rather than an EDC proceeding, and there probably could be a waiver of that later hearing. But in any event, I'll note that, Mr. Kelly, but I'm not conducting the arraignment today. This is strictly the initial appearance, basically the proceeding that's required within 24 hours of arrest."

So either Mr. Kelly has no idea what hearing he's in or this is a slick attempt to misdirect the media in attendance. If it's the latter, mission accomplished:

ABC News:

Appearing in court in Arizona today to plead not guilty to three charges of manslaughter, [James Ray] is confronting what may be the biggest challenge of his life.


Self-help guru James Arthur Ray pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges connected with 3 deaths at a sweat lodge ceremony he led in Arizona.

Associated Press:

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray pleaded not guilty yesterday to three counts of manslaughter at his first court appearance since being charged with causing three deaths at an Arizona sweat-lodge ceremony he led.

The New York Times gets it right:

Mr. Ray was indicted on Wednesday. A formal plea would be entered at his arraignment, which is expected later this month, according to Dennis W. McGrane, the chief deputy county attorney.

The Times also gets to the heart of the matter:

Mr. Ray had recently taken his case to the court of public opinion, with his lawyers issuing lengthy letters last month providing their account of what happened and asserting that many damaging statements made by witnesses to the police were inaccurate or taken out of context.

Ray and his attorneys are ramping up the press offensive, kicking off the "James Ray is Not Guilty" media tour on GMA.

James Ray accepts responsibility for what happened in the Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge that led to three deaths, but that does not make it a crime, said one of his lawyers, Brad Brian.

"After this happened he immediately reached out to the families. We have been meeting with the families' lawyers. But again, that doesn't make it a crime. We think turning this into a criminal charge we think is unjust and we look forward to proving his innocence in court," Brian said on "Good Morning America" this morning. 

I was a publicist, after all. I know a little bit about how this works.

It's also an approach wholly in line with The Secret. It's almost like an affirmation. Mr. Ray and his attorneys are attempting to create the reality they want to manifest; a "not guilty" verdict. It's also blatantly manipulative and lacking in integrity. Something else that is totally in-line with The Secret. It's an attempt to ram through a certain reality by sheer force of will, rather than alignment with the greater good. That's the not-so-subtle distinction that makes The Secret an exercise in ego indulgence, rather a tool for spiritual growth.

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Feb 3, 2010

James Arthur Ray Indicted for Sweat Lodge Deaths

James Arthur Ray was arrested this afternoon for causing the deaths of three participants in his "Spiritual Warrior" retreat. I have been following this case pretty closely, since the news broke last fall. See here, here, here, and here, for background. Not much to say here, except that it's about time.

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray was arrested Wednesday afternoon on three counts of manslaughter for deaths that happened after a sweat lodge ceremony he led in northern Arizona last year. Ray was taken into custody on an indictment at his attorney's office in Prescott, and was to be booked into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde, sheriff's officials said. His bond was set at $5 million.

. . .

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

Two people - Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee - passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

Most of the coverage rehashes material from previous stories. As such, the ABC site has the most thorough round-up, because of they've done the most in-depth reporting on this case. Highlights include his thoroughly nonsensical defense of The Secret's blame the victim idiocy, in light of things like 9/11 and the Holocaust. Really. It's a great read.

More to come on this story as it develops.

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Feb 2, 2010

Could Religion Survive First Contact?

One could argue that shamanism has been surviving the discovery of Grey-like aliens going all the way back to the paleolithic era. But I don't think shamanism was what Ted Peters of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary had in mind when he conducted a survey on how religious people would weather the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Study participants were mostly Buddhists and Christians of various denominations.

None of the 70 Buddhists questioned thought that the discovery of ET would undercut their belief systems, although 40 per cent thought it could pose problems for other religions.

More Roman Catholics believed ET could pose a problem for their faith. Only 8 per cent of the 120 surveyed thought that their individual beliefs would be shaken, but nearly a quarter – 22 per cent – said it could adversely affect their religion. Even more – 30 per cent – thought it could threaten the beliefs of other religious people.

I should point out that the Vatican has already weighed in on this issue, and determined belief in aliens to be no threat to Catholicism.

The patterns were similar for the other Christian sects surveyed, including evangelical and mainline Protestants, but there was not enough data to draw firm conclusions about people of other religions, such as Hindus and Muslims.

What I find far more interesting than the question of how religion would withstand proof of alien life, is the total disconnect between what people can accept and what they think other people can accept. This disconnect becomes even more pronounced when we look at the next group; the non-religious.

Of the 205 people who identified themselves as non-religious (either atheists or those who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious), only 1 per cent thought it would affect their atheist or spiritual outlooks. But 69 per cent thought the discovery of ET could cause a crisis for other world religions. An average of only 34 per cent of religious people shared that belief.

That atheists and others who have rejected organized religion would perceive churchgoers as fairly close-minded and resistant to dramatic change, shouldn't really come as a shock, I guess. But the whole thing is a fascinating commentary on the nature of tribal behavior or "group think." We are always either rejecting or bending to the collective will of our communities; and few of us seem comfortable rejecting it, outright. Most people choose conformity, because it makes them feel safe. One of the things I hear a lot from my clients is that they can't talk to their friends or neighbors about their spiritual beliefs -- or God forbid, that they consult a psychic -- because people would think they were crazy. Maybe they would. Maybe they wouldn't. I decided a long time ago not to get too invested in what other people think. It's exhausting. But a lot of people are controlled by it. This study is not the first evidence I've seen that suggests that people are capable of much greater flexibility, in their thinking, than we give them credit for. Many of them are probably just too scared to admit it.

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Feb 1, 2010

Imbolc: Festival of Brigid (February 1 & 2)

Last night the Green Man walked through my door. For a split second, I thought him an intruder. Then I saw that his limbs were branches, he was covered head to toe with leaves, and he lumbered more than walked. But of course, Imbolc celebrations begin this evening, and what I sensed were the earliest ticklings of spring.

Imbolc is a word believed to be derived from the Old Irish i mbolg which translates as 'In the belly', referring to the pregnancy of Ewes - an event which coincided with the onset of spring. Initially celebrated on Februrary 1st, the festival of Brigit represented the point in the Celtic year that divided winter in half; where the crone aspect of the cold months recedes heralding the return of the young spring maiden. The festival of Imbolc celebrates the increasing strength of the new God, still within his child form, and a return of the maiden aspect of the Goddess in the form of Brigit. These traditions and associations of fertility and the connection to spring were further transliterated into the Christian celebration known as 'Easter'.

Brigit has long been associated with February and the return of Spring, going back further than the history of Christianity. In later years, Christianity converted this popular pagan holiday into Candlemas, retaining many of the ancient traditions and timeframe. Brigit became known as St. Brigid, a celebrated saint second only to St. Patrick in popularity.

Imbolc is a festival of waxing light - a time when the earth begins to see more sun - and purification. Brigid, being one of the most powerful feminine archetypes in Celtic history, was seen as a maiden goddess,rescued from the Cailleach (Hag) of winter by her lover Angus. This mythos of metaphor alludes to the first hints of spring and the new quickening of life after the long sleep of winter.

It isn't just Candlemas that preserves the light of this ancient rite. Nor, is it confined to the reinventing of yet another pagan goddess as a Catholic Saint. (Note that the Cross of St. Brigid is a kind of squared spiral, symbol of the creatrix, and alluding to the sacred geometry of the golden mean spiral from which organic matter springs.) The secular Groundhog Day has its roots in the same tradition, and is, not coincidentally, on February 2nd.

In its earliest incarnation, Groundhog Day was Imbolc, a pagan celebration associated with fertility and weather divination. The word, Imbolc is Gaelic, the language of the Celts. There is a strong association between Imbolc and Brigid, a Celtic fertility goddess. When the pagan holidays were transformed into Catholic equivalents, two new holidays emerged from Imbolc. One, Saint Brigid's Day (a.k.a. Saint Bridget's Day), was celebrated on February 1. Saint Brigid's Day honored an Irish saint, named after the Celtic goddess, who was a contemporary of Saint Patrick's.

The second holiday deriving from Imbolc was Candlemas Day and was celebrated on February 2 (Groundhog Day). Candlemas was the feast of Mary's purification and was marked by a candle procession. The ties between purification rituals and the month of February also hark back to the pagan era. Indeed, our very word, "February," which derives from Latin, unmistakably designates the month as a time for purification (februa means "expiatory offerings"). The Lupercalia, a pagan Roman purification ritual, took place in February.

But how did a groundhog become the symbol for a holiday that was marked by a candle procession? Well, the Romans, for instance, had celebrated a rough equivalent to our Groundhog Day in early February -- only a hedgehog was in charge of the weather divination, not a groundhog. And such beliefs survived the Christianization of Europe (going "underground," if you will), attaching themselves to Candlemas Day as folklore. European settlers in North America kept the pagan tradition alive, but substituted the native groundhog for the European hedgehog. Clearly, Imbolc and the older traditions have won out: today in North America, almost everyone in the general public has heard of "Groundhog Day," while mention of "Candlemas Day" would generally draw expressions of puzzlement!

To celebrate Imbolc, a feast is in order; preferably by the light of white candles. We are tending the eternal flame and celebrating the increasing light. Sounds lovely and I'm sure I'll enjoy it very much... just as soon as I finish shoveling the snow off the drive.

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