Mar 31, 2010

Modo Speaks for Me

As I said to a friend just yesterday, if I don't seem angry about the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, it's only because when I'm angry and disgusted, my tendency is to be flip. In that I must doff my hat to the queen of flippantry Maureen Dowd. Yesterday's column is right on target.

It doesn’t seem right that the Catholic Church is spending Holy Week practicing the unholy art of spin.

Complete with crown-of-thorns imagery, the church has started an Easter public relations blitz defending a pope who went along with the perverse culture of protecting molesters and the church’s reputation rather than abused — and sometimes disabled and disadvantaged — children.

The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday.

. . .

If church fund-raising and contributions dry up, Benedict’s P.R. handlers may yet have to stage a photo-op where he steps out of the priest’s side of the confessional and enters the side where the rest of his fallible flock goes.

Or maybe 30-second spots defending the pope with Benedict’s voice intoning at the end: “I am infallible, and I approve this message.”

The whole thing is a must read.

As I said on Sunday, what makes the church's tack particularly galling is that in resorting to this Nixonian assault on media critics, it insults members of its own flock and revictimizes the victims of horrific abuse. The Survivors Network explains:

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Wesley Crusher's Dark Night of the Soul

I just watched, for the umpteenth time, Star Trek Next Generation's "Journey's End." Despite some rather sappy, idealized attempts to depict Native American culture, it's a good episode. One of the things that strikes me, not for the first time, is its depiction of Wesley Crusher's spiritual growing pains. From the Wiki:

Meanwhile, Wesley has returned from Starfleet Academy for a vacation. He's out-of-character though, snappish and depressed and he appears even slightly ill, which really worries Dr. Crusher. He is rude to La Forge in the engine room. Dr. Crusher tries to talk to her son, but initially gets nowhere.

On the planet, Wesley comes in contact with Lakanta, an Indian holy man of sorts. He guides Wesley on a journey of self-discovery, in which he talks to his long-dead father, who tells Wesley that he is destined to go down a path different from his own.

It has me contemplating the stress associated with spiritual growth; probably because I was trying to explain this very issue to a client earlier today. One of the more painful lessons I've learned is that spiritual growth is not comfortable. This is something lightworkers have had to deal with for some years now, although the worst of what I call "lightworker syndrome" seems to be abating. Many "ascension symptom" lists have been presented by psychics and channelers over the years. For my money, the best and most comprehensive is Karen Bishop's, a version of which appears on the first page of her new site. Here are a handful of her observations:

* Have you felt in recent years and months, that you were stretching far beyond what you had the capacity to endure?

* Have you had many emotional ups and downs, strange physical aches and pains, many losses in the form of friends, jobs, family, finances, and much of anything else?

. . .

* Have you had anxiety, panic, or what feels like depression?

* Do you at times have strange and disturbing nightmares that are not normal for you?

. . .

* Are your emotions out of control from time to time (sudden weeping and sadness, or are you just plain over-emotional)? Do you ever feel lost and alone?

* Do you at times feel that there is nowhere left to go that remotely fits you anymore?

These emotional and physical disruptions are certainly not confined to those of us experiencing the lightworker phenomenon that started in the late nineties/early aughts. Similar experiences and worse have been recorded for millenia among spiritual seekers. From the "Dark Night of the Soul" of St. John of the Cross to the "divine madness" of Greek philosophers, it has long been known that spiritual breakthrough is not painless. Much of this has been well documented by Stan Grof in his books Spiritual Emergency and The Stormy Search for Self. It can involve the brutal ripping apart of the ego, to make way for the workings of spirit. This can make the spiritual seeker very, very cranky.

This is where I have been forced to part ways with the "love and light" yumminess of so much of the "new age" movement and why I shun The Secret. These movements present a very unrealistic presentation of spiritual growth. Worse, there is a lot of shaming of "negative" emotions and expressions, that can cause many spiritual seekers to go into denial and avoidance patterns. It can force us to be completely inauthentic.

I've always considered Star Trek: The Next Generation to be representative of the "new age" zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s. Though the mauve and seafoam green of the sets seems dated now, the show is like a little time capsule of what was for me a very heady time. But I was struck anew at how much I could relate to Wesley Crusher's agitation in this episode. A spiritual calling can make us really bitchy... Well, it can make me really bitchy. And while we sometimes need to apologize for inappropriate outbursts and behavior, it does not do for us to be told that those outbursts are somehow counter-spiritual. Quite the contrary. As with young Wesley, the irritability and agitation that can make us really unpleasant to be around can be indicative of a deeper spiritual calling and transformation process, and sometimes it just has to run its course.

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Mar 30, 2010

Pope's Homily Finds its Mark

While I was sickened by the self-serving rhetoric used by his Holiness on Palm Sunday, his remarks seem to have hit home with Archbishop Timothy Dolan. It's the Pope who's the victim to pitied and protected. In fact, he's now a martyr to the cause of harboring pedophiles... just like Jesus!

In remarks following Palm Sunday Mass, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York urged Catholics “to express our love and solidarity” for Pope Benedict, who, given the recent media onslaught over sex abuse allegations, is “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

. . .

“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI,” Archbishop Dolan stressed. “The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made – documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors – could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”

A glance at Matt Taibbi's blog this morning reminds me that this isn't Archbishop Dolan's first attempt at such tortured apologia.

One expects professional slimeballs like the public relations department of Goldman Sachs to pull out the “Well, we weren’t the only thieves!” argument when accused of financial malfeasance. But I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through Dolan’s retort and it dawned on me that he was actually going to use the “We weren’t the only child molesters!” excuse. Dolan must have very roomy man-robes, because it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly. But this is exactly what Dolan does; he bases his entire defense of the Church on the idea that others are equally culpable.

. . .

The most revolting part of this response is the last bit about how “no one knew… back then” the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the fact that child molesters cannot be allowed near children ever again once caught. Dolan is trying to get us to focus on the 1962 case, but the truth is that as recently as this last decade, the Church’s doctrinal office elected to proceed with church trials for less than 10% of the 3000 cases of abuse reported to them between the years of 2000 and 2010.

And just a few days after this blog entry of Dolan’s, the Times would come out with another story indicating that the current Pope, then a Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial. The inaction of Ratzinger’s office resulted in Murphy being allowed to die “in the dignity of the priesthood,” which was his wish as expressed in a letter to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in January 1998.

So while schools, parole officers, judges, lawyers and therapists may have been deficient in their understanding of child abuse back in 1962 (although I’m sorry — it could have been 1562, if someone molested my child and was allowed back in the priesthood, I’d be reaching for an axe), the Catholic church is alone among all of them in continuing to not get it since then. Despite massive public scandal over the course of what now is decades, they continue to deflect and shield child molesters as a matter of institutional routine.

From Archbishop Dalton's blog:

What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey.

Okay. It's malarkey. It's also a straw man, because no one has ever said it. I would defy Archbishop Dolan to find a single example anywhere of anyone claiming that sex abuse is the exclusive province of the Catholic Church. But it does fit the narrative of Catholic Church as unfairly persecuted victim very well.

What Archbishop Dolan and the Pontiff are bristling at is the media storm, which continues to gather momentum. There is a unique scrutiny of the Catholic Church, largely due to the scope of the problem, the church's role as a moral arbiter, but increasingly to its remarkable tone-deafness. The more the church deflects criticism, erects straw men, and blames others for its woes, the worse it will get. Pope Benedict signaled on Palm Sunday that he and his church are resorting to a siege mentality. Unless and until he shows more willingness to listen to critics, genuine contrition, and interest in meaningful reform, the siege will continue.

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Mar 29, 2010

Watching Creation

On Zak's recommendation I took a look at Andrew Sullivan's recent blog entries on the Vatican scandal. But I got distracted by this magnificent video depicting how sacred geometry expresses itself through nature. It's an elegant depiction of the Fibonacci sequence and the golden mean. Really lovely.

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Mar 28, 2010

Pope Starts Off Holy Week on Wrong Foot

Pope Benedict did not directly address the escalating abuse scandal in his Palm Sunday homily. But his oblique reference could not have been more offensive or inappropriate.

Jesus Christ, Benedict said in his homily, guides the faithful "toward the courage that doesn't let us be intimidated by the chatting of dominant opinions, towards patience that supports others."

I have little doubt his Holiness is feeling besieged from all sides but make no mistake. It's the clergy that's under the gun; not the laity. So it can only be the clergy he exhorts not to be "intimidated;" not the people. Once again, it's very clear where his sympathies lie. With church officials, including pedophile priests who have been sheltered and protected for decades. Not with the children, nor with the adult survivors of child abuse. Not with Catholic parishioners whose faith is being rattled daily by new revelations.

I cannot imagine a worse tone to set at the start of Holy Week. He would have done better to ignore the scandal than to use his pulpit to bash the church's critics, many of whom are good Catholics. Such divisiveness has no place in a sermon, let alone on one of the most important days of the church calendar.

Yesterday I read about Bernie McDaid who met with Pope Benedict two years ago to discuss the sexual abuse that had so affected his life.

McDaid left afterward believing Benedict was beginning to understand the scope of his church's corruption. He doesn't believe that today.

"Was it a PR move? Looking back at that now, I have to say it was," McDaid said of the meeting. "Everything they do is not about the children. It's about the church. It's always the church first."

If McDaid had any doubt about where Pope Benedict's loyalties lie and what his intentions are towards those who have raised issues with the church's handling of abusive priests, this open display of contempt towards Vatican critics make it abundantly clear they're going to get nowhere. He's positioned those with unfavorable "opinions" as an enemy he will continue to ignore.

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Mar 25, 2010

Is Sex Abuse a Christian Value?

I've been watching, with growing horror, the unfolding drama in the Catholic Church. The ongoing scandal over child abuse by clergy and attempts to conceal these crimes has again erupted dramatically into daily headlines. The furor now threatens to engulf even the Pope who has been personally implicated. This issue has plagued the church for years now. But the whole mess seems to be reaching a kind of critical mass.

While the Catholic Church is not alone in harboring abusers, the sheer numbers are disproportionate. New York Times contributor Peter Schneider is not the first to suggest that the church's celibacy rules provide cover to sexual deviants.

I would go further and suggest that an institution that lays claim to the moral high ground is inclined to bury its improprieties which causes them to fester. Many organized religions have been guilty of extending their benevolence more to offenders than to their victims in an attempt to hide their toxic secrets and maintain their positions of social leadership. Stealing attention from the Catholic Church's problems, allegations recently came to light of similar incidents within the Boy Scouts of America under the patronage of the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons). The Catholic and Mormon churches are two of the most vociferous arbiters of morality. Both invested heavily in promoting the passage of Proposition 8 which rescinded the law allowing gay marriage in California. Both are sponsors of Boy Scouts of America and have campaigned against allowing gays and atheists to participate. The Mormons threatened to pull their memberships if the Scouts changed their rules, which would have devastated the bottom line for the organization.

When it comes to sexual abuse in their own midst, these moral authorities have been strangely silent. Mormon Bishop Gordon McKewn withheld the identities of 17 boys, who Scoutmaster Timur Dykes admitted molesting, from police investigators. The "morally straight" Boy Scouts now stand accused of secreting away at least 1000 such "perversion files."

The crimes are horrible, but it's the cover-ups that impugn the integrity of entire institutions and effectively make their leaders co-conspirators. Had allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children and adolescents been immediately reported to the authorities, many of these serial predators could have been stopped. Instead they have been enabled by hierarchies more interested in protecting their reputations than children.

Cardinal Sean Brady could have put a stop to Rev. Brendan Smyth as early as 1975. Instead, Smyth went on raping children for nearly 20 more years.  

[Cardinal Sean] Brady, as a priest and Vatican-trained canon lawyer in 1975, said he interviewed two children about the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Rev. Brendan Smyth. He said both children were required to sign oaths promising not to tell anyone outside the church of their allegations.

. . .

Brady said it was the responsibility of his diocesan bishop, as well as the leader of Smyth's separate Catholic order of priests, to tell police. But he said the church didn't do this because of "a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy."

"Yes, I knew that these were crimes," Brady said. "But I did not feel that it was my responsibility to denounce the actions of Brendan Smyth to the police. Now I know with hindsight that I should have done more, but I thought at the time I was doing what I was required to do."

Smyth abused at least 90 children in Ireland, Britain and in U.S. parishes in Rhode Island and North Dakota from 1948 to 1993.

Brady was not alone in sheltering an abuser. Skeletons are clattering out of church closets all over Europe, including the German archdiocese where a pedophile priest was transferred and protected under the leadership of Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger. What he knew and when he knew it remains unclear, but it also appears that the Pontiff was one of the architects of the wall of secrecy that Brady and others maintained.  Ratzinger has operated under a cloud from the time he became Pope Benedict  XVI. A letter he wrote to bishops in 2001 was widely interpreted as a call for secrecy. Probably because it claimed the church had jurisdiction, that all cases of suspected abuse be reported to then Cardinal Ratzinger's office, and that such claims were "subject to the pontifical secret."

Church officials have argued that nothing in the letter precluded bishops from reporting incidents to police but it would seem that was not how many of those bishops read it.

Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has cited the document as evidence that the Vatican created a "wall of silence" around abuse cases that prevented prosecution. Irish bishops have said the document had been "widely misunderstood" by the bishops themselves to mean they shouldn't go to police. And lawyers for abuse victims in the United States have cited the document in arguing that the Catholic Church tried to obstruct justice.

. . .

The letter doesn't tell bishops to also report the crimes to police.

But the Rev. John Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, said it didn't need to. A general principle of moral theology to which every bishop should adhere is that church officials are obliged to follow civil laws where they live, he said.

Yet Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore in Northern Ireland, told a news conference this week that Irish bishops "widely misinterpreted" the directive and couldn't get a clear reading from Rome on how to proceed.

But in at least one instance, a case of a sexually abusive priest was reported to then Cardinal Ratzinger  and was ignored.

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

. . .

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

A recent letter from Pope Benedict to the Irish church has utterly failed to dampen the flames that threaten to consume the papacy.

No one really imagined that Benedict XVI’s pastoral letter to the Irish church, released Saturday would begin to reconcile the people of Ireland to the church that abused 15,000 children over decades. It did not.

. . .

Benedict’s letter was harsh. It called for discipline and self-reflection. But it did not take personal, or even Papal, responsibility for the scandal now mushrooming across the Atlantic. Nor did it make real recommendations about how to earn back the trust of the church in the West.

Those most effected by this abuse of trust, the survivors, expressed bitter disappointment in the letter.

Ireland's main group of clerical-abuse victims, One in Four, said it was deeply disappointed by the letter because it failed to lay blame with the Vatican for what it called a "deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children."

"If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," the group said.

The major problem with the Pope's letter is that in it he puts the responsibility on everyone but himself. While he rightly takes the Irish church to task for secrecy and being overly concerned with its reputation, he takes no responsibility for confusion created by his 2001 letter, let alone for his own inaction on cases that fell directly under his purview. He blames the secularization of society and Catholics for worldliness and a lack of piety. With an irony he clearly misses he even blames "a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures." It is an exercise in blame throwing or what Jung called shadow projection. In fairness, he has no choice but to delegate the blame because of the doctrine of Papal infallibility.  As Andrew Sullivan said recently, he can't admit the enormity of the errors because he would have to resign.

In the opinion of many of his critics, he has also not gone nearly far enough in assigning responsibility to other church officials. He has called for no resignations for those who participated in a cover-up he concedes was misguided. As for the bishops, they are also engaged in shadow projection.

Conservative Catholic bishops go further, saying that the sexual abuse committed by their priests is a general social problem, traceable not to the church but to the sexualization of society, to the zeitgeist, to the sins of the 1968 generation. The truth, they suggest, was that the evil had struck in all sectors of society. Others have warned of the dangers of a witch hunt, and some have even highlighted a new form of political correctness.

There are a few obvious flaws with this analysis. At least one of the church's prolific serial abusers, started committing these crimes well before the flower children corrupted us all so horribly. Brendan Smyth, referenced above, has admitted to crimes going back to 1948. Numerous accounts show a very long history of these abuses. As these charges continue to mount, it will get harder and harder for the church to blame society for its crimes.

Rome's chief exorcist made headlines recently when he projected blame onto the devil himself. Satan is running amok in the Vatican.

Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican", according to the Holy See's chief exorcist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon".

He added: "When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia."

From a Jungian perspective this could well be a case of shadow possession. This is when the disowned shadow erupts and overtakes the conscious mind. It could reasonably be argued that the Catholic Church has succumbed to a collective madness. It is definitely operating in a bubble and has lost all perspective. The pastoral letter and other signals from the Vatican all indicate that they think the answer to this crisis is more piety. Reinforcing the veneer of moral superiority will do nothing to disguise the rot that has now been graphically exposed.

For all its "secularity" and "sexualization," the modern world is far less tolerant of sexual assault. There is nothing new about sexual abuse, nor about it occurring in environments of apparent moral rectitude. As Louise DeSalvo explains in Virginia Woolf:  The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, Victorian England was rife with incest. As we have rebelled against such repression and embraced a freer sexual expressiveness, we have begun to openly address the theft of our sexual energy that occurs in sexual abuse and rape. Religious authorities seem more interested in turning back the clock on these advances and maintaining the sexual repression that invites sexual oppression and abuse.

I think it's very difficult for anyone who sets themselves up to be above reproach, let alone "infallible." It's a ridiculously high bar and forces exactly the kind of shadow repression that is doomed to erupt in scandal. It creates a very schismized world view. Such a black and white conception of the world literally invites evil... or even, say, demonic possession.

The Motherpeace Tarot recognizes this dark nature of moral authority in its description of the major arcana card, the Hierophant. In most decks the Hierophant is a positive card, but not in Motherpeace. It represents the repression of a more vibrant spirituality (and sexuality) and the rigidity of organized, patriarchal religion.

At its root, the word "hierophant" means bringer to light of sacred things. In the traditional Tarot, the Hierophant represents a priest or Pope, the paternal religious authority.... Representing a hierarchical view of religion, the Hierophant stands on a pedestal, raised up from the earth, above the common person. In the Motherpeace image, he has taken over the robes and skirt of the High Priestess, along with her breasts which symbolize her sacred power, but he has forsaken her "Sophia" or wisdom.... The authority of the Hierophant is based, in large part, on repression of women and the natural instincts that women symbolize.

That Hierophant archetype isn't too hot on children either. They're impulse driven and chaotic. "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Much of the abuse of children that has been revealed in the Catholic Church has been corporal punishment; some of it outright torture.

I am of the belief that these hierarchies are crumbling. The Catholic Church, in particular, will have to restructure into something both more humane and more achievable or continue to destroy itself in one revelation of hypocrisy after another.

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Mar 22, 2010

William Henry on the Barque of Millions of Years

This ten minute snippet of a William Henry lecture is surprisingly dense. In it he explores his theory of the correlation between the ancient Egyptian Barque of Millions of Years and the modern depiction of a wormhole. There are more images and some explanation of this theory on his blog here. This theory makes perfect sense to me. Like so much of Henry's work, speaks to images I've been seeing in dreams, meditation, and journeys, for years.

What struck me in particular about this presentation of the theory was the Barque image he chose; the Mesektet, or night, barque used by Ra.

Mar 20, 2010

Vernal Equinox: Return of the Maiden

Sometimes called Eostara or Ostara, from which the word Easter is derived, the Vernal Equinox -- when the position of the earth balances night and day evenly -- is the beginning of spring.

The Wheel turns again and with this turn comes the Vernal Equinox or Eostara. At this time the hours of daylight and night are balanced against each other. After this time, and until the Autumnal Equinox, daylight will have the ascendent [stet] influence. The goddess now wears the aspect of the Maiden of Spring and meets the young god, now the Youth of Spring, who was born into the world at Yule. Together, the coupling of masculine and feminine energies will plant the seeds of life and growth upon which all the continued survival of the world depends.

. . .
A sabbat of balance and beginnings. A traditional time to prepare for future planting and bless the seeds of physical, spiritual, and ritual gardens.

So the Vernal Equinox is celebrated as a time of germination. It is the early spring when things first begin to visibly sprout and grow. It is also one of those crystal clear correlations of paganism and it's hybridization with, or usurpation by, early Catholicism. In Welsh it's Gwyl Canol Gwenwynol.

The Spring Equinox defines the season where Spring reaches it's apex, halfway through its journey from Candlemas to Beltane. Night and day are in perfect balance, with the powers of light on the ascendancy. The god of light now wins a victory over his twin, the god of darkness. In the Welsh Mabinogion, this is the day on which the restored Llew takes his vengeance on Goronwy by piercing him with the sunlight spear. For Llew was restored/reborn at the Winter Solstice and is now well/old enough to vanquish his rival/twin and mate with his lover/mother. And the great Mother Goddess, who has returned to her Virgin aspect at Candlemas, welcomes the young sun god's embraces and conceives a child. The child will be born nine months from now, at the next Winter Solstice. And so the cycle closes at last to begin anew.

The customs surrounding the celebration of the spring equinox were imported from Mediterranean lands, although there can be no doubt that the first inhabitants of the British Isles observed it, as evidence from megalithic sites shows. But it was certainly more popular to the south, where people celebrated the holiday as New Year's Day, and claimed it as the first day of the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries. However you look at it, it is certainly a time of new beginnings, as a simple glance at Nature will prove.

There are two holidays of Christianity which get mixed up with the Vernal Equinox. The first, occurrs [stet] on the fixed calendar day of March 25th in the old liturgical calendar, and is called the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 'Annunciation' means an announcement. This is the day that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was 'in the family way'. Naturally, this had to be announced since Mary, being still a virgin, would have no other means of knowing it. The Church picked the Vernal Equinox for the event because it was necessary to have Mary conceive the child Jesus a full nine months before his birth at the Winter Solstice (i.e., Christmas, celebrated on the fixed calendar date of December 25). Mary's pregnancy would take the natural nine months to complete, even if the conception was a bit unorthodox.

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Mar 18, 2010

The Sweat Lodge Was Hot -- Official

Portions of the autopsy report on the deaths resulting James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge last fall have been released. It should come as no great surprise that the cause was heat exposure.

The autopsy showed that 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, NY, and 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee, both died of heat stroke, and were reportedly unconscious when emergency crews arrived at the site of the spiritual retreat near Sedona, Ariz.

The third person, 49-year-old Liz Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota, died after more than a week in the hospital form multiple organ failure due to hyperthermia from prolonged sweat lodge exposure.

During the Oct. 8, 2009 ceremony dozens of participants began feeling sick, vomiting and collapsing. Authorities believe self-help guru and motivational speaker Ray urged the attendees to push past their physical weaknesses, and shamed those who wanted to leave.

As I've previously written, this sweat lodge was abnormally hot, abnormally crowded, and abnormally long. It was also part of a pattern of highly questionable risk taking with seminar participants lives, over a period of years.

Much of the autopsy report is being withheld from the media, in part, because of requests from family members of the deceased. The trial to determine whether or not these deaths were caused by James Arthur Ray's negligence will begin in August.

When the judge returned from recess, he announced that 56 days would be established on the calendar, but he cautioned, "That may change."

The trial will run three and a half to four months, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day, four days each week, excepting weeks with holidays. The calendar calls for the trial to span from the first day Aug. 31 until Dec. 17.

So this will be a long and interesting trial.

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Mar 17, 2010

St. Patrick and the Snakes

I'm a always a little ambivalent about St. Patrick's Day. Being of largely Irish descent, I enjoy the day as a celebration of the culture, people, and spirit of Ireland. But St. Patrick's legendary conversion of the country's people to Christianity is not something I get terribly excited about. It has been suggested by many sources that his miracle, driving the snakes out of Ireland, is a metaphor for driving the indigenous, pagan practices from Irish culture. There is no way to know for certain, because St. Patrick's life is more mythologized than the legend of the leprechaun.

Today we raise a glass of warm green beer to a fine fellow, the Irishman who didn't rid the land of snakes, didn't compare the Trinity to the shamrock, and wasn't even Irish. St. Patrick, who died 1,507, 1,539, or 1,540 years ago today—depending on which unreliable source you want to believe—has been adorned with centuries of Irish blarney. Innumerable folk tales recount how he faced down kings, negotiated with God, tricked and slaughtered Ireland's reptiles.

The facts about St. Patrick are few. Most derive from the two documents he probably wrote, the autobiographical Confession and the indignant Letter to a slave-taking marauder named Coroticus. Patrick was born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D. His father was a Roman official. When Patrick was 16, seafaring raiders captured him, carried him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. The Christian Patrick spent six lonely years herding sheep and, according to him, praying 100 times a day. In a dream, God told him to escape. He returned home, where he had another vision in which the Irish people begged him to return and minister to them: "We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more," he recalls in the Confession. He studied for the priesthood in France, then made his way back to Ireland.

He spent his last 30 years there, baptizing pagans, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick's Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. (He did not banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Scholars now consider snakes a metaphor for the serpent of paganism. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.)

There is some evidence that serpent worship was practiced by the Druids; one of the ancient religious orders replaced by Catholicism.

It will probably be a matter of surprise to many, but it is a fact that even in Britain in ancient times Ophiolatreia largely prevailed. Deane says: "Our British ancestors, under the tuition of the venerable Druids, were not only worshippers of the solar deity, symbolized by the serpent, but held the serpent, independent of his relation to the sun, in peculiar veneration. Cut off from all intercourse with the civilized world, partly by their remoteness and partly by their national character, the Britons retained their primitive idolatry long after it yielded in the neighbouring countries to the polytheistic corruptions of Greece and Egypt. In process of time, however, the gods of the Gaulish Druids penetrated into the sacred mythology of the British and furnished personifications for the different attributes of the dracontic god Hu. This deity was called "The Dragon Ruler of the World" and his car was drawn by serpents. His priests in accomadation with the general custom of the Ophite god, were called after him "Adders." 1

In a poem of Taliessin, translated by Davies, in his Appendix No. 6, is the following enumeration of a Druid's titles:---

"I am a Druid; I am an architect; I am a prophet;

I am a serpent" (Gnadr).

From the word "Gnadr" is derived "adder," the name of a species of snake. Gnadr was probably pronounced like "adder" with a nasal aspirate.

This would place the Druids in good company. Great serpents weave their way through numerous world traditions; the Chinese Lung, the Naga serpents of Hindu and Buddhism, the Pythia channeled by Greek oracles, the serpent mounds of Native Americans, the feathered serpents such as Quetzalcoatl throughout Latin America and in the hieroglyphs of Egypt, where serpent power also emerges from the foreheads of pharaohs as the Uraeus cobra goddess Wadjet... The list goes on and on. The serpent is the original mother goddess and divine creatrix. That the pagans of Ireland would have revered the serpent simply puts them in context with the rest of the pre-Christian world.

From the Book of the Kells

Across Ireland there are hundreds of crosses, many of which can be proven to have pre-Christian origins, and many are entwined with images of serpents. The same is true of other locations, such as Malta we have just mentioned - although here the snakes are found upon ancient megalithic monuments. These are remnants of a pre-existent serpent-worshipping cult that we discovered existed across the known world in ancient times. In fact, the very reason that Ireland was said to be infested with serpents, was in reality a Christian code word for serpent worshippers. And Ireland has not been the only place infested and eradicated of serpent worshippers. Malta, Rhodes, India, Greece and many more have all at one time or another been laid waste of the serpent cult, so often misread as solar worshippers. The truth of the solar worship becomes obvious once one understands the beliefs of the serpent cults. They worshipped the esoteric or inner light of themselves or wisdom which was manifested in the sky as the sun and this light came about via methods pertaining to the inner serpent energies, [1] as they perceived them. These inner serpentine and solar linked visions were then manifested or physically represented in megalithic monuments, oral folktales and art.

The existence of this universal cult can also be discovered in other elements of the Irish and Celtic tradition. It is my view that Celtic Knotwork is entirely derived from the image of the serpent and this is prevalent across the Celtic world and especially Ireland. We can see influences of this in the spirals and other serpent shapes seen upon many of the world’s ancient monuments. In Scandinavian literature and stone art we can also see how the serpent appears, looking remarkably like Celtic Knotwork. In Roman and Greek wall paintings there are running spirals thought to be symbolic of the protective snake and emerging later on as Ivy or Vine, the symbols of the serpentine Bacchus and Dionysus.

A Neolithic vessel, now in the museum of Henan in China, shows a distinct correlation between the idea of the snake and the Knotwork. The idea of the Knotwork coming from the snake was probably discontinued due to Christian influence. The proof is simple; there is scarcely a design or ornament in Ireland from ages past that does not show the serpent or the dragon. There is scarcely a myth, a folk tale or a legend, which does not include the serpent. And these are not just pagan ornaments or myths - they also bled into the Christian world, or more simply, the Christians could not keep them out. So deep was the culture of the snake in the mind of the people and so entangled within the folds of the snake was the story of Christianity itself that no amount of tinkering could tear them apart.

All over the "civilized" world, people are reclaiming their serpent power and wearing it proudly.  Patti Wigington of explains how to make a "Spring Snake Wreath" to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate my Irish heritage I wear green; a pair of handmade snake earrings made of green glass that I bought at a craft fair years ago.

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Mar 12, 2010

Mr. Deity and Catholicism

Some of the funniest lines in Mr. Deity are the throw-aways. In this episode it's Timmy from R&D exclaiming "Oh, Dagon!" I'm not sure whether he's invoking the ancient Semitic god:

Or H.P. Lovecraft's monstrous envisioning which inspired this deeply weird tv movie:

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Mar 10, 2010

Of William Henry, the Capitol Dome, Stargates, and Battlestar Galactica

Posted below is a fairly recent interview with William Henry. For the discussion of the Capitol dome and stargate metaphysics, skip ahead to video 7. The first six are more focused on the Norway spiral and a somewhat paranoid read on the climate conference. I've discussed Henry's analysis of the Capitol dome and Brumidi's fresco previously here and here. Now that I'm back in the DC area, I'm determined to fight my way up I95 to visit the Capitol and see this for myself. Maybe I'll take the train. Time is a precious commodity.

In this interview Henry also points out that stargate images are turning up in art and sculpture all over the place and suggests that we could be having a collective awakening. I totally agree. But it was when I looked at the image of the dome above, that it clicked for me just how powerful a trigger that image is.

Mar 6, 2010

James Arthur Ray: Tweeting Through the Darkness

In an earlier post, I made reference to James Arthur Ray's "thoroughly nonsensical defense of The Secret's blame the victim idiocy, in light of things like 9/11 and the Holocaust." Allow me to elucidate. Here is the quote from ABC News:

In that interview, Ray defended "The Secret" against critics who asked if the victims of 9/11 or the Holocaust are to blame for simply thinking incorrectly.

"I know people of the Jewish faith and heritage who don't necessarily believe the Holocaust was bad," Ray said. "Now that might be shocking to you but I have people on record who have said, hey there's a lot of good things that came out of that, a lot of lessons, a lot of opportunities for the world. "

I don't personally know any Jews -- or anyone else really -- who would characterize the Holocaust as not "bad," so I really wonder who he's been talking to. But that's almost beside the point. Ray's answer dodges the question. One could certainly argue that every dark cloud has a silver lining and that the Holocaust did provide certain opportunities for growth, learning, and social advancement. But that has nothing to do with whether or not victims of horrendous adversity bring it on themselves with their "thoughts."

The question posed to Ray is one raised by The Secret's simple formula: Think and feel positive things and you will attract positive experiences. Think and feel negative things and you will attract negative experiences. Ray was certainly not the first proponent of the "law of attraction" to face that question, and I guess he answered it, or avoided it, about as well as anyone.

As I've discussed ad nauseum, in particular here, the paradigm set forth in The Secret is one doomed to fail even the most ardent proponents at some point in their lives. Bad things happen to good people; even when they're really "positive."

So now that the eternally optimistic Ray is facing an indictment for manslaughter and the implosion of his fortune, what does he do? How does he fit that experience into the philosophy on which he's built his career and reputation? More doubletalk like his Holocaust dodge. 

Now that he's been released on bail, Ray has taken to his Twitter account  and he's tweeting up a storm. He's emerged from his incarceration with a new appreciation for the workings of the shadow.

"If you can't embrace the dark you'll never dance in the light"
3:03 PM Feb 27th via txt

Very few understand that it's the dark that creates and gives birth to greater light. Read the book of Genesis again.
11:19 AM Feb 27th via txt

It's the experiences of the darkness that bring clarity to the light
9:08 AM Feb 27th via txt

Okay... So he's no St. John of the Cross. (Of course St. John of the Cross didn't have access to a microblogging format so his published works were a little more polished.) But now that James Arthur Ray has entered his dark night of the soul, has he learned anything new about how the "law of attraction" might explain his current predicament? It would seem not. As he tweets along, we learn that "conditions" in our lives don't seem to operate according to the "law of attraction."

Current conditions have NOTHING to do with cause... unless we thru our own ignorance of how the universe operates give them power.
12:59 PM Mar 3rd via txt

Whaaa? [Insert Jon Stewart spit take of your choice here.]

The Law of Cause and Efffect is misrepresented in the realm of conditions. Conditions have no primary cause only "secondary causes"
10:55 AM Mar 3rd via txt

We've discussed Universal First Cause as well as Relative First Cause, let's return to the differences btwn "cause" and "conditions"
8:13 AM Mar 3rd via txt

I looked. I couldn't find any of these distinctions between primary and secondary causes in any of his extant writings. Must be new. Hmmmm...

Many misunderstand "If you know the laws of the universe you'll never have challenges, difficulties, upsets" yet no tradition teaches this
11:00 AM Feb 28th via txt

That's true. I can't think of single religious or spiritual tradition that says knowledge will make your life a cakewalk. So where would people get that idea? Oh. I know. From The Secret and from a certain motivational speaker who contributed to The Secret, James Arthur Ray. They've been telling us for years now that if we can only learn to think properly, we can have exactly the life want; not the one the wheels of fortune thrust upon us.

Remember. The universe is really a great big catalog here to hand us exactly the life experience we want. Quantum physics tells us so. James Arthur Ray explains it all to you.

The Copenhagen interpretation states this. There is no objective reality. What does that mean? That means there is nothing outside of you that doesn't come from where? Inside of you. Everything is subjective. Subjective to whom? To you... The observer effect states that you always, always get what you're looking for...  What are you creating? What are you creating? Is it worthy of you? Because see, here's how it works. There's unlimited potential and possibility in the quantum domain. There's vibrant health and vitality and there's dis-ease... There's abundance and there's poverty... There's joy and there's pain. And the moment you place your attention upon a chosen intention: Boom! The particle is created and every other possibility collapses to zero. I hope you're thinking. Once that particle is created that is coming into form and what happens, there's a law in this dimension, the third dimension, called the "law of attraction." "Law of attraction" says what? Like attracts? Like. This particle is created and so another particle in resonance to it is attracted to it and another and another and another and another and... Boom! You've got a Mercedes. And that's how it works. That is how it works... "I'm not good enough." Particle! "I don't have enough education." Particle! "I can't lose weight. I'm big boned." Particle, particle, particle! [Emphasis mine.]

"This sweat lodge is going to kill people." Particle!... No. Scratch that. I think this is where we get into the primary, or is it secondary causes that create... or don't create "conditions." I think... Sweat lodges that kill people are not in the quantum realm... or if they are, they can't be created by our attention to our intention... I think I get it... The observer effect means you "always" get what you're looking for, unless you get several deaths from hyperthermia and a manslaughter indictment... Or something like that. It's a little confusing.

I looked through some of Ray's books to get clarity on this causative principle, and again, he seems to say exactly the opposite. Here's an excerpt from The Science of Success. (p.47)

Most of us are already familiar with this SuperLaw. It states that every effect must have a cause, and every cause must have an effect. Anything that is a "cause" is actually the "effect" of something that came before it. And that "effect" becomes the "cause" of something else. It is impossible to start a "new" chain of events. The SuperLaw shows us the universe is a perpetual and never-ending cycle. All the great religions and philosophies speak of the Law of Cause and Effect. They phrase it in a variety of ways:
  • What you sow, so shall you reap.
  • If you put a lot out, you get a lot back.
  • You can't get back something other than what you give.

And from Harmonic Wealth (p.185):

What you believe you'll achieve is the driving factor of your results: your lack of abundance in terms of money, peace of mind, relationships, physical health, or anything else. This is the cumulative effect of your current Total Belief System, which is exactly what it sounds like -- the totality of everything you believe, your habits, experiences, values, and assumptions. Most people try to change their results by dealing with the effects, throwing new solutions at the results, thinking they're going to change things. But if you want to change the results you must deal with the cause. You have to change what you believe.

One thing that I've noticed, when it comes to The Secret, is that they assiduously avoid discussion of "negative" results in your life. Once you understand The Secret and think positively, you'll attract positive results and your fortunes will change. (From whatever your story is, which they don't want to hear about.) They don't delve deeply into how we "attract" unwanted outcomes -- or how the Jews (and Gypsies, and homosexuals, etc...) may have "attracted" the Holocaust through their "thoughts." It would seem that pattern is holding. At least so far, it seems that Ray is not addressing what "thoughts" attracted his current legal troubles. He seems to be back to a world where negative "conditions" are beyond our control. He doesn't seem to be looking at the metaphysical causes of his predicament. More to the point, he's refusing to take any responsibility for the overtly physical and tangible causes of this disaster. He packed too many people into a very hot sweat lodge for too long and several of them died. Many more were hospitalized with symptoms of hyperthermia and dehydration. No mystery there, really.

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Mar 1, 2010

Satanic Panic and the WM3

I've been watching some of the extra footage from Saturday's 48 Hours Mystery episode, covered in full here. This interview with former FBI Behavioral Science Unit investigator Ken Lanning is really worth a look. As is fairly common knowledge now, the 80s media obsession with Satanic cults turned out to be much ado about nothing. Lanning investigated allegations of incidents and ultimately found no evidence of this practice occurring anywhere in the country. And absolutely no evidence of any Satanic ritual was ever found in connection to the Robin Hood Hill murders. Satanic ritual murder was the conclusion reached in West Memphis not because of any ceremonial objects or altars -- there were none -- but because of the gruesomeness of the crime. It was a way people could make sense of the inexplicable murder of innocent children.Then they focused on the person most likely to be a Satanist; the boy who dressed in black, listened to Metallica, and was, well, a little unusual.

Damien Echols

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