Jul 25, 2010

Esoterica



A new discovery at Stonehenge complex:

Scientists scouring the area around Stonehenge said Thursday they have uncovered a circular structure only a few hundred meters (yards) from the world famous monument.

There's some debate about what exactly has been found. The survey team which uncovered the structure said it could be the foundation for a circle of freestanding pieces of timber, a wooden version of Stonehenge.

Justice delayed is justice denied. James Arthur Ray will be free to sell internet conferences for another day.

Yavapai Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow has put off the Aug. 31 trial date for James Ray, the motivational speaker charged with the reckless manslaughter of three followers after a superheated sweat lodge experience.

Darrow has been dealing with a number of motions in the complicated case, but he has also been asked to take over a Prescott murder trial that is already under way and where a delay would force a possible mistrial. He says he will not be able to handle other than routine matters in the James Ray case until November.

. . .

Ray's defense has asked for a change of venue, saying Ray could not get a fair trial because of all the pre-trial publicity here. Attorneys have also filed a motion seeking to compel the disclosure of medical examiner's opinions on the cause of death and a request for sanctions.

The submissions include 78 exhibits and stretch for 488 pages. The length of the motions prompted the State to request that they be struck because of their length. While Darrow declined to throw out the requests, he did allow the State more time to review the matters and to file responses.

It's finally happened. Atheism has become a religion. Let's see... a formalized group ritual utilizing symbolic objects to affect a transformational process. Yep. It's a religion.

Wielding a blow-dryer, a leading atheist conducted a mass "de-baptism" of fellow non-believers and symbolically dried up the offending waters that were sprinkled on their foreheads as young children.

At the annual American Atheists Convention, one of atheism's premier provocateurs, Edwin Kagin, faced the crowd and raised high a hairdryer labeled "Reason and Truth."

. . .

Kagin said that many people have undergone de-baptism."Many have taken it as somewhat of a joke, but some have found it truly, if you will, a spiritually cleansing experience," he said.

The Vatican is cracking down on gay priests.

The Catholic Church in Italy, still reeling from the clerical sex abuse scandal, lashed out Friday at gay priests who are leading a double life, urging them to come out of the closet and leave the priesthood.

The Diocese of Rome issued the strongly worded statement after the conservative Panorama newsweekly said in a cover story and accompanying video that it had interviewed three gay priests in Rome and accompanied them to gay clubs and bars and to sexual encounters with strangers, including one in a church building.

One of the priests, a Frenchman identified only as Paul, celebrated Mass in the morning before driving the two escorts he had hired to attend a party the night before to the airport, Panorama said.

And it's soooooooo cute!

One of the world’s rarest primates driven to the brink of extinction by Britain's taste for tea has been photographed for the first time, scientists said.

The Horton Plains slender loris has been so elusive for more than 60 years scientists believed the wide-eyed mammal had become extinct.

It had only been seen four times since 1937 but was fleetingly spotted in 2002 by researchers who identified it by the reflection of a light shone in its eyes.

The Hadron Collider is closing in heaviest particle and may be closer to finding the Higgs boson.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have seen several candidates for the heaviest elementary particle known to science.

If the observations are confirmed, it would be a first for Europe; so far, the top quark particle has only been generated by one lab in the US.

Dr Arnaud Lucotte said the discovery could assist physicists in the hunt for the elusive Higgs boson, or "God particle".

A new time travel theory avoids the grandfather paradox. Of course that would make those Back to the Future movies a whole lot less interesting.

In the new paper, the scientists explore a particular version of CTCs based on combining quantum teleportation with post-selection, resulting in a theory of post-selected CTCs (P-CTCs). In quantum teleportation, quantum states are entangled so that one state can be transmitted to the other in a different location. The scientists then applied the concept of post-selection, which is the ability to make a computation automatically accept only certain results and disregard others. In this way, post-selection could ensure that only a certain type of state can be teleported. The states that “qualify” to be teleported are those that have been post-selected to be self-consistent prior to being teleported. Only after it has been identified and approved can the state be teleported, so that, in effect, the state is traveling back in time. Under these conditions, time travel could only occur in a self-consistent, non-paradoxical way.

“The formalism of P-CTCs shows that such quantum time travel can be thought of as a kind of quantum tunneling backwards in time, which can take place even in the absence of a classical path from future to past,” the researchers write in their paper. “Because the theory of P-CTCs relies on post-selection, it provides self-consistent resolutions to such paradoxes: anything that happens in a P-CTC can also happen in conventional quantum mechanics with some probability.”

A new computer program may be able to decode "lost" and decipher ancient texts.

A new computer program has quickly deciphered a written language last used in Biblical times—possibly opening the door to "resurrecting" ancient texts that are no longer understood, scientists announced last week.

Created by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program automatically translates written Ugaritic, which consists of dots and wedge-shaped stylus marks on clay tablets. The script was last used around 1200 B.C. in western Syria.

Written examples of this "lost language" were discovered by archaeologists excavating the port city of Ugarit in the late 1920s. It took until 1932 for language specialists to decode the writing. Since then, the script has helped shed light on ancient Israelite culture and Biblical texts.


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Jul 22, 2010

Mr. Deity: The Early Not Years Continue



More fun in the time before time. (You can tell because it's in black and white. ;-)


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Jul 20, 2010

Beneath the Pyramids



This Red Ice Radio interview is most interesting for the mythology Andrew Collins has connected to his discoveries. It might actually explain, well, everything. I've also appended an interview with the ARE who published his book on the subject.


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Jul 19, 2010

Esoterica



More reasons to appreciate the inestimable genius of da Vinci:

The enigmatic smile remains a mystery, but French scientists say they have cracked a few secrets of the "Mona Lisa." French researchers studied seven of the Louvre Museum's Leonardo da Vinci paintings, including the "Mona Lisa," to analyze the master's use of successive ultrathin layers of paint and glaze - a technique that gave his works their dreamy quality.

Specialists from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France found that da Vinci painted up to 30 layers of paint on his works to meet his standards of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40 micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair, researcher Philippe Walter said Friday.

Similar research reported last fall turned up Mona Lisa's eyebrows.

Pascal Cotte said Leonardo built the painting up in layers, the last being a special glaze whose optical properties increased the illusion of a three-dimensional face. Above the glaze Leonardo painted details such as the eyebrows.

Cotte said: "That could explain why the eyebrows have disappeared – they have faded because of chemical reactions or they have been cleaned off."

Physicists still searching for God particle as rumors of Higgs boson discovery prove false:

A spokesman for the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory told the Telegraph: "The rumour of evidence for the Higgs boson is just that: a rumour, with no factual basis.

"Beyond that, we don't comment on rumours."

Earlier, the laboratory's Twitter feed said: "Let's settle this: the rumors spread by one fame-seeking blogger are just rumors. That's it."

The rumours had been flying around the internet since a physicist and blogger, Tommaso Dorigo of the University of Padua, said that in a blog post that he had heard "two different, possibly independent sources" claiming that an experiment at the Tevatron had found convincing evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson.

There is new evidence that plants have intelligence. Some of us have always thought so.

Plants are able to "remember" and "react" to information contained in light, according to researchers.

Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.

Excellent write-up of the very real, very frightening prospect of a Carrington Event:

Over the past thirty years, Kappenman has accumulated a vast and compelling body of evidence indicating that sooner or later a major blast of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from the Sun, a space weather Katrina, will knock out the electrical power grid and bring society to its knees.

"Historically large storms have a potential to cause power grid blackouts and transformer damage of unprecedented proportions. An event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters we could face," he declares. A bluff, friendly man, half science nerd, half overgrown farm boy, Kappenman insists that solar EMP blasts the size of those that occurred in 1859 (before society was electrified) and 1921(before the power grid had developed to the point where it played any significant role) would today result in large-scale blackouts lasting for months or years.

. . .

"Electric power is modern society's cornerstone technology, the technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend... Collateral effects of a longer-term outage [such as would almost certainly result from a massive space weather event] would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration. The resulting loss of services for a significant period of time in even one region of the country could affect the entire nation and have international impact as well," says the NAS report.


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Jul 18, 2010

A Frakking Doodle?!!!



If anyone wants to know why people like Graham Hancock and, oh, I don't know, me, are so frustrated with academic archaeologists, look no further.

Cambridge University experts believe the crudely etched circles are the Neolithic version of a modern office worker's scribbles on a post-it note.

. . .

Christopher Evans, director of the university's Archaeological Unit, thinks the concentric circles were created by one of our early ancestors ''killing time'' as opposed to a work of art.

Mr Evans said: ''I think it was a doodle. I don't think it has any deep and meaningful religious significance.

''In this era of the Neolithic period they had a lot of time on their hands. It could show they were quite bored at times, but we don't know for sure.

''We do know when they weren't out harvesting or planting crops they had to find a way of killing time.

''There are Megalithic tombs with concentric circles like this carved into stones - the circles are a form of Megalithic art and typical of the grooved ware pottery of the time.

Yes, that's right. Neolithic peoples were bored. I'm sure that's also why they tossed giant rocks around to build things like Stonehenge. Never mind that the earliest known, and lavishly illustrated, megalith at Gobekli Tepi was actually constructed in the paleolithic era. So were hunter-gatherers bored, too? 

No deep and meaning spiritual significance... I'm sure that's why they found their way into tomb structures; because they were meaningless. You have to wonder if people like this even listen to themselves.

Concentric spirals like the ones at Newgrange are anything but meaningless. The spiral is the form of creation itself.




The spiral is the animating principle of spirit into matter. It is the shape of energy in motion. And according to numerous spiritual traditions, the spiral is also the form of spiritual evolution. It is the form and definition of Kundalini.

Kundalini means ‘coiled energy’ and it refers to a power which lies in three-and-a-half coils in the sacrum bone called the Mooladhara which is distinct from, and lies above, the Mooladhara Chakra. (It is interesting to note that sacrum if Greek for sacred.)

The first thing that popped into my head when I looked at this neolithic "doodle" was the stone Hermione lobbed at Harry Potter's head in Prisoner of Azkaban.




But I'm sure the carefully sculpted image of a coiled snake on that rock is just a meaningless doodle, too. J.K. Rowling... pfft... what does she know?

I was just last night reading William Henry's latest blog entry in which he notes the vortical nature in depictions of the Seraphim and how it is mirrored in Tibetan images of the rainbow body.

As I discuss in my new presentation, “The Journey Home: Stargates. Ascension. 2010”, my research has led me to the conclusion that the reason why the vortex-bodied Seraphim are so similar to the vortex-bodied lamas who have achieved the Tibetan Rainbow Body or Great Perfection is that they are the same beings. That is, as first proposed during the Renaissance, the Seraphim are humans who have completed their perfection into beings of light and pure love. I have proposed that they are stargate traveling time travelers.



I suppose it's possible that our neolithic forbears had no appreciation for the symbols they took the time and effort to etch into rocks. But as Hancock points out in Supernatural, evidence of symbolic thinking and art appears to have burst into existence in the paleolithic era. Elaborate cave paintings at Pech Merle, Lascaux, and other sites strongly indicate ancient shamanic practices and the possible use of sacred plants. In other words, they're indicative of a revolution in consciousness. Yet, academics like Christopher Evans would have you think that by the neolithic era, people were really dull and unimaginative. After toiling all day at the agriculture they'd invented, our ancestors, lacking cable television and Game Boy, just needed something to do with their hands.


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Jul 17, 2010

The Faith of Mel Gibson



Newsweek religion writer Gustav Niebuhr is wondering how to reconcile Mel Gibson's recorded outbursts of violent misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism with his religious fervor and devout Catholicism. To which I say, really? You have to ask?

The man belongs to a church that has for decades gaffed off the seriousness of physical and sexual abuse of children. Now that the Vatican has finally begun to focus its attention on the matter, it has simultaneously affirmed its longstanding position that women are second-class citizens. So we should be surprised that Mel Gibson was recorded saying his girlfriend deserved to be hit in the face while she was holding their infant daughter?

The Catholic Church also has a rather poor record when it comes to Jewish relations. Little things like the Inquisition and its ambivalent and anemic response to the Nazi Holocaust come to mind. Relations between the Vatican and Jews are notoriously strained which has required special outreach from both the current and previous pope. And some of Pope Benedict's recent moves like reviving the prayer to "remove the veil" from the hearts of Jews and convert them to Christianity have not gone over particularly well.

Then, of course, there are trifles like centuries of blaming the Jews for killing Jesus, although the Vatican was kind enough to grant Jews absolution for that heinous crime in 1965.

There can be little argument that Gibson is somewhat fixated on the Crucifixion itself. He even made a movie about it; a sort of Christian themed splatter film. Niebuhr even references the film and notes that it caused a stir.

Who can forget that Gibson, product and practitioner of a very traditionalist Roman Catholicism, stands only six years removed from making the most lucrative "Jesus movie" of all time? His "The Passion of the Christ" brutally re-imagined Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion. Many evangelical Protestants, among others, embraced the film, some seeing it as a proselytizing tool capable of winning new faithful. And Gibson, as marketer, surely benefited from a high-profile curiosity factor: Months before its opening, some American Catholics and Jewish organizations worried the film carried anti-Semitic overtones. (For the record, I disliked the film--strongly.) In the end, Gibson and his movie seemed to carry the day. Some critics wrote favorably; the American box office surpassed $300 million.

A scant two paragraphs later Niebuhr is still puzzled.

Indiscretions and worse often color the lives of Hollywood celebrities. But how many become notorious after making a globally-distributed testimony to their religious faith? O.K., the latest material is mainly allegations. But as it's presented in the news, the Gibson story eschews the typical conversion narrative, where the messy behavior comes first.

To this I can only say, back up and read what you just wrote. Many people had difficulty with the anti-Semitism in the movie itself. And many drew the obvious conclusion when Gibson threw his drunken, Jew-baiting, temper tantrum in the police station. His anti-Semitism isn't at odds with his faith-inspired art. It's of a piece with it.

Mel Gibson is a Catholic Traditionalist and his extreme views most likely echo those of his father, Hutton.

How influential is this Traditionalist movement, and what might it do with a multi-million-dollar war chest from Gibson? The publicity surrounding The Passion has fed all sorts rumours - particularly of an anti-semitic nature. Much of this has been provoked by the increasingly bizarre public comments of Gibson's 85-year-old father, Hutton. Gibson senior is a self-confessed anti-semite and Holocaust denier. In one recent radio interview, he claimed there were no Nazi extermination camps: "They [the Jews] simply got up and left! They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles."

He went on to claim: "They're after one world religion and one world government. That's why they've attacked the Catholic Church so strongly, to ultimately take control over it by their doctrine."

Gibson senior belongs to the extreme fringe of the Catholic Traditionalist movement which has gone so far as claiming that the Church in Rome has been taken over by a weird coalition of Jews and Freemasons acting for Satan. However such conspiracy theories are not representative of the Traditionalist movement as a whole.

It's break-away Traditionalists like Hutton Gibson that Pope Benedict hoped to appease by bringing back antiquated liturgy like the prayer for Jew's souls above.

But the Christ-killer meme isn't specific to Traditionalists or even to the Catholic Church. As Slate points out, it's actually Biblical.

There is a strong possibility that the Bible itself, in effect, distorted the history of the "Jewish" role. In other words, the argument from Mel Gibson and his defenders that his movie can't possibly be insensitive because it is based on the Bible ignores the probability that the New Testament itself may have offered inaccurate history.

This is, of course, a sensitive topic, too. For those who believe the Bible was not only inspired, but also fact-checked by God, the document is simply true. The debates of Bible scholars are just noise to them.

But the evidence is compelling that the New Testament either gave "the Jews" a bum rap or, at minimum, was written in a way that left it highly susceptible to misuse. If, as most scholars believe, Mark is the source for Matthew and Luke, the authors of those later Gospels sure seemed to add a lot of new, incriminating detail mysteriously missing from Mark, fueling the notion of Jews as Christ-killers.

Gibson's "messy behavior" isn't a regression from his "conversion." It's more likely an escalation of religion infused pathology that has been evident for some time. His religious views seem to be an organizing feature of his rage. In one of his tirades against girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, he specifically invokes her spiritual failings and those of his soon to be ex-wife.

"You have no fucking soul. And my soul is screaming because you don't have one to join mine!" he screams. "I left my wife because we had no spiritual common ground. You and I have none. Zero. You don't even f*cking try!"

Gibson's mega-hit "The Passion of the Christ" marked no Saul on the road to Damascus epiphany. It's gang-busters box-office does not signify redemption. Niebuhr seems to see only the best in religion and its ability to lift people out of their shadowy history. But religion itself has a dark side and the history of the Catholic Church is replete with shameful episodes -- not the least of which is ongoing and has been dominating the news. I'm sure his religious background is not the only reason for Gibson's fall from grace but it certainly hasn't been a deterrent.

Addendum: I am aware that Gibson's lawyers are claiming Grigorieva's tapes were edited. To paraphrase my husband, unless the missing bits make clear that he was running lines for an upcoming film role as a racist spousal abuser, I don't see how that changes anything. There is no conceivable context in which his verbal abuse and death threats are acceptable.


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Jul 16, 2010

Ordaining Women and Other Grave Crimes



Well, that went over like a lead balloon.

The Vatican finally released its new rules on the handling of sex abuse cases. With the updated document they've managed to disappoint survivor groups by completely "missing the boat" and, for good measure, to give women a stinging slap across the face.

The Catholic Church on Thursday revised its in-house rules on sex abuse cases, extending the statute of limitations for such crimes from 10 to 20 years past the victim's 18th birthday and speeding up the excommunication process for pedophile priests. But, curiously, the amended set of ecclesiastical laws also declares that any priest caught ordaining women will be designated as having committed a "grave crime," the same phrase used to describe the abuse of children.

Liberal Catholics pushing for church reform were shocked by the decree. "I find it appalling," Pat Brown, spokeswoman for British organization Catholic Women's Ordination, told AOL News. "To mention us in the same breath as pedophiles is disgusting and hugely insulting to women and the victims of pedophilia. Announcements like this really emphasize the need to keep campaigning for change in the church."

My first thought, when I read about this, was that I couldn't believe how tone deaf and out-of-touch the Vatican is. This looks like yet another buffoonish public relations disaster. Surely they had to know that whatever traction might have been gained by extending the statute of limitations, and other modest tweaks of their policy on abusers, would be completely lost in the maelstrom over this fresh insult to women. But sadly, I think this is what counts for strategic thinking in their senile, insular, little world.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of the Anglican Church's decision on female bishops; an affirmative decision that was not unexpected. With fewer and fewer young men choosing the Catholic priesthood, this actually provides something of an opening. Apparently the Vatican would rather try to swell its diminishing ranks by absorbing disaffected Anglican priests than ordaining women and catching up to the twentieth century... let alone the twenty-first. Such reactionary Anglicans and the increasingly regressive Catholic hierarchy are well matched. It's a Titanic move for both but at least they can go down together.


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Jul 13, 2010

Watching the Eclipse



The human population of Easter Island roughly doubled this Sunday for the best possible view of the total eclipse of the sun.

Tourists and scientists alike descended onto Easter Island to glimpse a solar eclipse that plunged parts of Latin America into complete darkness on Sunday.

The sky over the Chilean island was dark for a total of four minutes during the rare eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking light rays and casting a shadow.



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Jul 12, 2010

Sexy Jesus



The Portuguese edition of Playboy has signed its own epitaph with an issue too shocking for the parent company. A series of photos depicting Jesus with topless models has rather unsurprisingly angered many.

Playboy magazine is to pull the plug on its Portuguese edition after it ran a photo shoot featuring Jesus Christ among topless models.

The spread was ostensibly a tribute to Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, but Hugh Hefner’s headquarters have reacted with outrage.

The pictures show a long-haired, glowing Jesus watching two models in a lesbian clinch, standing next to a prostitute and looking over the shoulder of a woman reading a book.

A quick glance through the reviews for the book in question make plain that the controversy starts with the source material. The tattooed model playing dead on the cover put me in mind of another depiction of a "flawed, human" Jesus and his Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ.




Mostly, what the whole fracas brought to mind was our cultural obsession with a sexy but effectively neutered Jesus. We are always shocked,  just shocked, when Jesus is depicted as a sexual being and yet he is almost always represented in art and film as alluringly handsome.

I've been asking this question for a while now. Why is Jesus always hot? From Jesse, the stud-muffin of Mr. Deity fame, to the simple, sincere Jesus actor in Bill Maher's Religulous. We have no idea what the historic Yeshua looked like or even if he definitely existed. Such a Jesus was almost certainly a man of darker complexion than the iconic image so many of us grew up with.




Jesus is the quintessential unavailable man, driving poor Yvonne Elliman to distraction in Jesus Christ Superstar.




And what of poor Mary Magdalene, remembered through history (AD) as a prostitute even though there is zero scriptural foundation for that notion. It says something about the collective psychology of Christendom that we have sustained this inferred and insupportable narrative over the last couple of millennia about a gorgeous man who hangs around with a lusty prostitute but remains "pure" and even leads her to "purity." There is far more evidence, scriptural and otherwise, that Mary was a teacher as well, and possibly even the consort of Jesus. But that idea doesn't have much resonance. We prefer the idea of a corrupted woman (she had sex) and an incorruptible man who just happens to be totally hot. Because, of course, sex is always the woman's fault. We lead mere mortal men astray with our wiles, our serpents... and our tattoos, apparently.


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Jul 11, 2010

Esoterica



The neanderthal genome has been successfully sequenced and it is more heavily represented in human DNA than expected.

Between 1% and 4% of the Eurasian human genome seems to come from Neanderthals.

But the study confirms living humans overwhelmingly trace their ancestry to a small population of Africans who later spread out across the world.

Gladiatrix?

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a 'massive, muscular woman' who may have been a female gladiator during the Roman occupation of Britain.

. . .

Archaeological Project Manager Robin Jackson said: 'When we first looked at the leg and arm bones, the muscle attachments suggested it was quite a strapping big bloke.

'But the pelvis and head, and all the indicators of gender, say it's a woman.'

Steven Hawking is afraid of an alien invasion and now we know why. They're scary looking.

Stephen Hawking has taken advantage of the latest computer graphics to display his versions of ET, based on hard science, for a new documentary series, Into The Universe.

. . .

Among the theoretical aliens are terrestrial herbivores and carnivores, lizard-like predators with limb membranes that allow them to glide using venom-loaded stingers to bring down a two-legged herbivore that has a huge vacuum snout to suck up food.

A UFO sighting closed down an airport in China.

A CHINESE airport was dramatically closed after an ALIEN craft was detected by baffled air traffic controllers.

They spotted the UFO on radar screens forcing bosses to ground flights and divert planes away from Xiaoshan airport in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

His Holiness has replaced the disgraced Macial Marciel to run multinational Legionares of Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (July 9) appointed the Vatican's chief financial auditor, Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, to manage the powerful but scandal-scarred Legionaries of Christ order.

The decision comes after an eight-month investigation of the order founded in 1941 by disgraced Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who died in 2008.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, another disgraced priest has taken his congregation for $1.3 million.

The Rev. Kevin J. Gray was a popular priest who appeared to live humbly, forgoing a car and walking to Mass from another parish where he lived so that a Catholic charity could use his space at the rectory. Parishioners thought he had cancer and admired how he helped immigrants in his largely poor parish in Connecticut.

But after a routine audit of the church's finances turned up discrepancies, authorities began a criminal investigation that they say unraveled a secret double life of male escorts, strip bars and lavish spending on the finest restaurants, luxury hotels and expensive clothing, financed with money stolen from the parish.

The Church of England displays extreme cognitive dissonance on gay issue:

The Church of England may be on the verge of promoting a gay priest to bishop, a step that would widen the split over sexuality in the global Anglican Communion.

If that happens, it would appear to be a significant turnaround for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Church of England and the world's Anglicans, who recently imposed sanctions on the U.S. Episcopal Church for electing a lesbian bishop.

Flashback to one year ago:

The Episcopal Church has been removed from Anglican committees that engage in dialogue with other Christians and consider doctrinal issues, the latest fallout from the church's consecration of a lesbian bishop last month.

The Rev. Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, the worldwide fellowship that includes the Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch, outlined the demotions in a letter published on Monday (June 7).

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, proposed the removals last month after Episcopalians in Los Angeles consecrated an open lesbian as an assistant bishop. Bishop Mary Douglas Glasspool is the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, after Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was consecrated in 2003.

At least as loopy on women:

The contentious issue of women bishops will once again be debated by the Church of England's General Synod when delegates and bishops convene in York on Friday (July 9), years after the issue was first raised.

Maybe I've been indoctrinated by films like 2001 and Westworld but I can't help thinking of the truly horrible ways this could go wrong. Ewwwww......

Researchers have developed an intelligent robot that can navigate itself around a city’s streets and collect resident’s rubbish on demand.

An EU-funded project has resulted in a human-sized robot, called DustCart that balances on a Segway base and can navigate itself to stop outside your door when summoned.



Of course this could be worse.

In a handful of laboratories around the world, computer scientists are developing robots like this one: highly programmed machines that can engage people and teach them simple skills, including household tasks, vocabulary or, as in the case of the boy, playing, elementary imitation and taking turns.

. . .

Yet the most advanced models are fully autonomous, guided by artificial intelligence software like motion tracking and speech recognition, which can make them just engaging enough to rival humans at some teaching tasks.


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Jul 10, 2010

Total Eclipse



Fresh from my inbox, a good article on the current eclipse cycle. This is from astrologer Stephanie Austin and since I can't find the article posted on her website, I'm just going to post the whole thing as it appears in the email. The first paragraph really captures it for me. I've been completely wiped.

I also highly recommend listening to this lecture by Mary Lomando. It's on her podcast page under the heading Mary's Eclipse Update July 2010. (Wow. I just got the strangest tone through my head. By strange I mean different in character than I'm used to. Kind of pleasant actually; a low hum in my right occipital. Interesting.) But anyhoo... Back to the eclipse.

On June 26, we experienced perhaps the most powerful lunar eclipse to date. Those huge evolutionary tailwinds continue as we approach yet another extremely transformative eclipse, this one a total solar eclipse. If you have been feeling disoriented, spacey, headachy, and/or generally “off” lately, it is likely due to the intense cosmic energies bathing our planet and psyches right now. The electromagnetic grids supporting consciousness are changing. Our biochemical circuitry is being re-wired. Old programming, limiting beliefs, deep seated fears are surfacing to be purged. Clear your schedule as much as possible for the next few days (and beyond), and this Sunday especially; a quiet, receptive state facilitates integrating the big cosmic downloads and quantum upgrades available at this pivotal time. Be in nature, prayer, meditation, gratitude, humility. See everything as a mirror; integrate your shadow with courage and compassion. Listen closely to your inner guidance as to what to do, and not do, each moment.

Solar eclipses are extra powerful New Moons — and a total eclipse even more so. This eclipse forms on July 11 at 12:40 PM PDT at 19ª24’ Cancer. It will be visible primarily over the South Pacific, but deeply felt around the world. Cancer is the sign of the Great Mother, expressed in myriad forms: Gaia, Demeter, the Virgin Mary, Isis, Kali, Pele, Yemaya, Spider Woman, Kuan Yin, Tara and many others. The word “matter“ comes from the Sanskrit root “mat”, meaning “mother.” Cancer represents the yin, receptive principle, the creation matrix, that which births, supports, and protects all forms of life. This eclipse calls us to remember that there is no real separation between spirit and matter, that all life is sacred, and that we must bring the feminine back into balance with the masculine. We must learn to give as well as receive, to give back to the Earth as well as take. We must recognize the power of being as well as doing, the power of higher consciousness, the power of collaboration rather than competition. The events we see in our lives and the world are calling us to make a dimensional shift, away from greed, arrogance, and fear, into recognizing the power of the heart, the power of truth, and the power of Love.

The asteroid Juno is closely conjunct the Sun and Moon, highlighting the Juno/Hera archetype. Myths, along with languages, change as cultures and paradigms change. In Roman times, “juno” denoted the soul or animating spirit; its masculine counterpart was “genius". As patriarchy advanced, "genius" remained in common usage; "juno" fell out of use, as the feminine was deemed soulless. Juno's Greek counterpart, Hera, was the Great Goddess, independent and complete, without a consort, up to Hellenic times (8th century B.C.E.). Mythic attributes and origins morphed as the feminine was subordinated to the masculine; Hera was reduced from a Virgin Queen to a daughter of Saturn/Chronos; Saturn, originally a pre-Hellenic fertility aspect of the Great Mother, became Father Time and the ruler of the known universe. In modern times, Juno continues to symbolize the ongoing struggle for mutual respect, balance, and integration between the masculine and feminine. The fact that this eclipse occurs near the south node of the Moon emphasizes a collective need to release victimhood, and re-empower our relationship to the feminine--shifting our focus from conflict and destruction to that which is life supporting, all embracing, and creative. It also indicates that the goddess/earth wisdom we developed in past lives can be of great benefit and service now.

As the first water sign, Cancer represents the development of sensitivity and awareness of the ever-changing flow of feelings and needs. Along with the feminine, the element of water has been denigrated, both psychologically, and on a larger scale physically now, than ever before. Our feelings inform us as to what is healthy or harmful, what to go toward, and what to avoid. If we have been raised in families or cultures which suppress and deny the importance of emotions, we develop and carry a big backlog. As humanity’s evolutionary thrust moves from duality to unity, emotions and trauma which have been stored in the unconscious must surface for resolution and healing. Changes in the Earth and the Sun’s magnetic fields, along with cosmic impulses from our galactic core and beyond, make it more important than ever to continually monitor our feelings and intuition as a spiritual GPS. As we release what has been stored, we create from love rather than fear. A relatively simple but very powerful clearing technique, excerpted from the book by Leslie Temple Thurston entitled The Marriage of Spirit, is available at http://marriageofspirit.com/excerpts/chap11/index.html. Leslie will be offering a teleconference class on processing for these times on July 24-25; see the Resources below for details.

Water is the most dominant element on Earth; three fourths of our planet and our bodies are comprised of water. Like everything else, water is conscious; its ability to record impressions and respond to our thoughts has been documented by Dr. Emoto and other scientists. To learn about the amazing properties of water, watch the documentary entitled Water: the Great Mystery at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQfOyz4rofs. The BP oil disaster in the water of the Gulf of Mexico remains an open, gushing wound in the Earth’s crust, affecting not only the millions of plants, animals, and humans in that area, but all life on this planet. Watch the beautiful "Call to Heal the Waters" by First Nations elder Dave Courchene at www.unitywave.com and join the Third Wave to Restore the Gulf meditation on Saturday, July 17 at 4 PM PDT if you feel drawn to do so. For alternative sources of information about the extent and implications of this catastrophic event not being covered by the mass media, visit http://www.earthrainbownetwork.com/Archives2010/PerfectStorm20.htm.

The Harmonic Convergence of 1987 marked a world-wide shift in consciousness; July 17-18, 2010 offers a similar opportunity for a quantum leap. From Johan Calleman: “According to the ancient Maya, the creation of the universe is effected by nine waves. We are now approaching the end of the eighth wave and, on top of this, the activation of the ninth and highest level that will cap off the evolution of the universe. This ninth level of the universe is designed to generate unity consciousness. The manifestation of the unity consciousness brought by the ninth level will require an intention on the part of the human beings to co-create this. The Conscious Convergence, July 17-18, 2010, is for those that are willing to set the intention to create unity consciousness in the ninth wave of the Mayan calendar system.” For more on this crucial time and the impact of our choices, visit http://www.calleman.com/content/articles/ninth_wave.htm; watch a video of Dr. Calleman at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=475NGtUhl2E, and join with others at http://www.commonpassion.org/groups/conscious-convergence.

On July 11, 1991, there was a solar eclipse at 18°58’ Cancer and, more recently, on January 9, 2001 a lunar eclipse at 19°36’ Cancer–Capricorn, both close to the degree of this eclipse. While those eclipses and times were nowhere near as intense, they activated issues and areas which are once again front stage for each of us personally and collectively. What was happening in your life then? What is your heart and soul calling you to do now? Notice where you are choosing to spend your time and energy. What are you here for? To what do you dedicate your time, your energy, your life? Affirm your intentions daily, and especially on the day of the solar eclipse. When in doubt, breathe, pray, and remember: “Personal transformation can and does have global effects. "As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one." (Marianne Williamson).


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Religious Extremism and Anxiety



The point that will almost definitely be missed in this story, probably because of the way it's being promoted, reported, and perhaps even in how the study was conducted, is that the extremism isn't strictly of the religious variety.

A series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who were asked whether they would die for their faith or support their country going to war in its defence were more likely to say yes when they were in anxiety-provoking situations.

The anxiety-provoking situations included being given complex mathematical problems, considering a dilemma in one's personal life, or mulling over uncertainties in a relationship. In all the studies, people who had been exposed to the anxiety-inducing scenario were more extreme in their religious convictions and more enthusiastically attached to their ideals than those who had been in neutral situations. [Emphases mine]

This will undoubtedly be used as fodder by those who wish to characterize all religion as a crutch for vulnerable people and a way to manipulate them. But it seems to me that stressed people turn to authority figures; to any person or institution they think can provide unity and protection. Religion is a kind of ultimate authority for many people but it's not the only such force. This is something we certainly saw here in the US after 9/11 when flags were ubiquitous and Bush was at 90 percent approval. And it's something Hermann Goering understood well enough.

Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.... voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

I guess it's all in how you define "religion."


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Jul 3, 2010

Mr. Deity: The Long Awaited Prequel



Maybe it's just that I love a good creation myth, but I think this may be my favorite Mr. Deity episode ever. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Although I do think M. Night Shyamalan made two good, even great, movies, not just one. It's a small quibble but I stand by it.


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Pope Benedict: Asleep at the Switch?



A lengthy feature in the New York Times reminds us that while Pope Benedict (aka Cardinal Ratzinger) has been a radical on the sex abuse issue as compared with Vatican culture, by any objective standard, his efforts have been anemic at best. Some would say ineffectual. Much of the foot-dragging and inattention has been covered on this blog but the Times has turned up some stunners. Like the fact that some abusive priests who should have been laicized weren't simply because the Vatican was concerned about the growing priest deficit.

Another hint of his priorities came at a synod in 1990, when a bishop from Calgary gingerly mentioned the growing sexual abuse problem in Canada. When Cardinal Ratzinger rose to speak, however, it was of a different crisis: the diminishing image of the priesthood since the Second Vatican Council, and the “huge drop” in the numbers of priests as many resigned.

That concern — that the irrevocable commitment to the priesthood was being undermined by the exodus of priests leaving to marry or because they were simply disenchanted — had already led Cardinal Ratzinger to block the dismissal of at least one priest convicted of molestation, documents show.

“Look at it from the perspective of priestly commitment,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Cardinal Ratzinger’s and founder of the conservative publishing house Ignatius Press. “You want to get married? You’re still a priest. You’re a sex offender? Well, you’re still a priest. Rome is looking at it from the objective reality of the priesthood.”

And if we needed anymore evidence of Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos's incredible idiocy, we get it.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, then the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, set the tone, playing down sexual abuse as an unavoidable fact of life, and complaining that lawyers and the media were unfairly focused on it, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. What is more, he asked, is it not contradictory for people to be so outraged by sexual abuse when society also promotes sexual liberation?

That's right. There's no big diff between consensual sex between adults and the rape of children. And it's all society's fault anyway.

It would seem his Holiness is also more preoccupied with the laxity of social norms than with members of the clergy whose behavior is morally repugnant to the most of the secular world. With all the problems in his own church, his major priority is the secularization of the Western world.

When Ratzinger was elected to the papacy five years ago, many cardinals at the time said they had turned to him because they regarded him as the figure best equipped to respond to the crisis of secularization in the West, especially in Europe. His choice of name, “Benedict,” was in part a reference to St. Benedict, the founder of European monasticism.

In the intervening five years, a series of controversies and scandals during Benedict’s pontificate – most recently, the global sexual abuse crisis swirling around the Catholic church – has often obscured that aim, and arguably made it far more difficult to realize, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, the creation of a new council suggests that Benedict has not thrown in the towel.

During his homily this evening for a vespers service to open the annual feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict said he decided to create the new department to promote renewed evangelization of traditionally Christian nations “living through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’”

The Pontiff remains somewhat inscrutable; appearing to really "get" the seriousness of these sex offenses one minute and completely detached, missing pertinent meetings on the issue, the next. But again, what makes him remarkable is that he's been so alone amidst other Vatican officials in understanding that sexual abuse is a terrible, damaging crime. But whether he's still playing the game of internal politics or his priorities are genuinely screwed up, he's still coming out on the wrong side of this issue. He recently forcefully rebuked Cardinal Shoenborn for comments critical of the Vatican's continuing insensitivity to abuse survivors, such as Cardinal Sodano's "petty gossip" slur. As Terence McKieranan of BishopAccountability.org said of this misguided papal rebuke, "The pope is sending an unmistakable message to his bishops that in his administration, avoiding scandal still trumps truth."


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Jul 2, 2010

Esoterica



There are great many news items I read everyday that I haven't the time or inclination to write about in any depth but still like to pass on to readers. I put them in the sidebar under Headlines but no one seems to notice or comment on them so I've decided to do periodic roundups of the more interesting items.

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What do King Tut and Rasputin have in common? Missing penis.

Did someone sabotage the Egyptian king's mummy to hide his less-than endowed genitalia? A new report from The New Scientist presents the possibility of a anatomical conspiracy.

An unknown tribe in Papua New Guinea has been discovered. Once the missionaries and census takers find you, it's all pretty much downhill.

"Their houses are in trees, their life is stone age," said Suntono, head of Indonesia's statistics agency for the Papua region, adding the tribe built ladders to huts in tall trees.

After receiving reports from missionaries, census officials needed to walk for up to two weeks to find the tribe, after travelling by boat from the nearest permanent villages, but still only reached the fringes of their territory.

The Nevern Cross III always thought it was a little too convenient that Jesus happened to die on a cardinal geometric form revered by numerous pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures.

Jesus may not have died nailed to the cross because there is no evidence that the Romans crucified prisoners two thousand years ago, a scholar has claimed.

A legal setback for the Vatican as the Supreme Court declines appeal.

The Supreme Court won't stop a lawsuit that accuses the Vatican of conspiring with U.S. church officials to transfer a priest from city to city despite repeated accusations that the clergyman sexually abused young people.

And the Pope is bristling at the authorities in Belgium.

Pope Benedict XVI lashed out Sunday at what he called the "deplorable" raids carried out by Belgian police who detained bishops, confiscated computers, opened a crypt and took church documents as part of an investigation into priestly sex abuse.

Excavation of giant henge commences.

A site at Marden, near Devizes, rivalled Stonehenge and Avebury in its day, says English Heritage.

The group is about to undertake a six-week dig at the site close to the village, starting on June 28.

Unlike Stonehenge and Avebury, Marden Henge no longer has any surviving standing stones, but its sheer size is astounding.

Massive new crop circle found Britain's "UFO Capital."

The circular 90m (300ft) design, believed to represent the passage of the Moon and Sun, contains 193 rings, including six key circles and a seventh in the centre.

Secret messages in Plato's text claimed by British scientist.

In an extraordinary discovery, a British academic claims to have uncovered a series of secret messages hidden in some of the most influential and celebrating writings of the Ancient World.

The codes suggest that Plato was a secret follower of the philosopher Pythagoras and shared his belief that the secrets to the universe lie in numbers and maths.


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Jul 1, 2010

Dr. Rustum Roy on Real Science



The great religion/science debate on The Huffington Post continues with Dr. Rustum Roy doing his best impression of Émile Zola.

"J'accuse!" I accuse the sloppy media who have written on "science and religion" topics for generations with grossly imprecise and inaccurate statements amounting to crimes. As a practicing scientists for 60 years known worldwide for my science, I produce data, hard facts (not my opinions) to make my contributions to science, industry, and posterity. In the mass-press treatment of "science-religion" topics, I am insulted by the absurd confrontations engineered by black-and-white print and video media, and the ridiculous, self-anointed representations of the position of "science" we are exposed to, from the most esoteric brand of science.

Who can be said to speak for "science"? First emblazon on your mind that science must have experimentally verifiable facts as its data.

Surely not the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Sam Harris? Not one of whom qualifies as any kind of (hard) scientist. Stephen Weinberg or Stephen Hawkins, whom I respect enormously as brilliant experts in their fields, are distinguished enough in "science," but astronomy and cosmology are not classical science. (Search Google for the list of criteria by the Nobel laureate in Physics, P. Anderson.)

Ouch!

As I noted quite recently, evolutionary biology is largely considered to be a soft science, sure to cause Richard Dawkins substantial physics envy. Roy seems out to embarrass him in the locker room, but if you can get past the ego posturing in this piece, he makes some good points.

His criticism of the media's role is apt but doesn't go far enough. The way science is reported is appalling. Not only are the journalism standards for examining the credentials of scientists inadequate, as Roy notes, science stories are often transparently taken straight from press releases and copied down by writers who don't remotely understand the data they're reporting on. Someone in a lab coat said it so it must be breathlessly reported as a breaking development. But real science doesn't make for good headlines. It's a slow, rigorous process years in the making. It must be replicated and challenged and even if it's accepted as proven, further research may change or completely invalidate what has been long accepted. But where there is money to be made, like in medical and pharmaceutical research, media stenographers can always be found to reprint press releases as breaking news.

Roy also points out that there is some empirical data which supports spiritual beliefs and actual science types who have religious and spiritual beliefs. He mentions medical experiments in prayer with promising results and Jeanne Achterberg's research into the results of shamanic healing practices. As I wrote here, Yale trained psychiatrist Brian Weiss once rocked Carl Sagan back on his heels by pointing out that he had a solid body of research validating the past life memories of his patients.

As I've said, I think science v. religion is an artificial construct -- or as Roy put's it,  a "strawman debate" -- concocted by extremists from both camps. Some of history's greatest scientists, such Einstein, expressed deep spiritual as well as scientific wonder. Dr. Roy puts it thusly:

Real science and real religion (not theology) have done well together in describing overlapping views of reality. That is the biggest opportunity for 21st-century science.


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James Arthur Ray Almost Killed Me



But I'd go back.

Interviews with survivors of the deadly sweat lodge on Primetime: Mind Games concluded there; with the disturbing revelation that some of Ray's followers are willing to overlook the deaths of three people. That a man one of them describes as "full of himself" was, at the very least, extremely negligent, doesn't trump the benefits they've gained. Brian Essad, for instance, has been learning how to visualize more money to pay bills he can't afford because he's spent so much on Ray's seminars. But he's ready and willing to cough up more dough, even after having witnessed people breaking their hands karate choppoing bricks at another seminar with no medical staff to attend to their injuries. Papa needs a new pair of shoes so he's ready to let it ride.

Whether it's the high pressure sales tactics combined with good, old-fashioned cult "snapping" at Ray's seminars, the lure of promised "wealth" for those who learn to "play full on," or the truthiness of the "law of attraction," Ray still has followers. Others have left in disgust, though, and figures such as Ray's former employee Melinda Martin will be familiar from previous media appearances following the disastrous sweat lodge.

Ray declined to be interviewed for the segment which should come as no surprise. But there is generous use of footage from past interviews and seminars. The more I experience of his personality, the more disturbed I am.

Early in the show, this snippet of one of his seminars jumped out at me for a couple of reasons. Says Ray to a packed auditorium:

When I talk to you from perspective of science, you can't argue with it. Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, HEH!

The farcical nature of his attempts to apply quantum mechanics to material wealth, I have addressed previously. So, yes, I can argue with it. It's absurd. Equally offensive is that common assertion of which I've grown so tired: that "science" is an unassailable authority. This idea that, "It's been scientifically proven," is the table slapper that stops all debate debases the process of science itself. But more than any of that, what is up with that juvenile cackling? Subtext: Nyah, nyah, nyah. I'm smarter than you!

I will be writing more about Ray's power trips and mind games in future but the show provides a glimpse into his dangerous grandiosity. It covers the creepy "Samurai" game in which Ray played God with the power of life and death over people and the way face time with him is used to bait people into spending more money. Ray infantilizes his followers and forces them into a situation in which he is the only authority. This doesn't just build trust. It creates dependency. This would be dangerous even if he knew what he was doing as he led people in potentially dangerous activities. That he doesn't have a clue has cost four people their lives.

I was somewhat surprised to see that Primetime took aim not only at Ray but at The Secret and raised troubling questions about the "law of attraction." Dan Harris, who previously asked Ray to explain horrors like the Holocaust, is continuing to pursue some explanation of why bad things happen to good people. Unable to get Ray to agree to an interview for the show, he called into his webcast. A partial transcript of the call can be found in the article on the ABC site:

James Ray: So who do we have on the line, I apologize I don't have the name…but I know you are holding?

Dan Harris: Hi James. My name is Dan Harris, I am from ABC News. And my question is, If the Law of Attraction really works -- and you know how to use it, why have so many bad things happened to you and your followers?

James Ray: Well, you know Dan, um, Mickey, I think we need to flush Dan right, right on down the stream, because, um, that's -- that's not something that we are going to talk to here. And if you had been following along, you would recognize that part of going down the stream is getting in the rapids.

So another non-answer and a brush off. As I said here, that we learn and grow through life's ups and downs doesn't answer the question of how we manifest those downs with our thoughts. If life is just going to continue to be a mixed bag, what are people getting for the thousands of dollars invested in classes that are supposed to be helping them get all those "negative" thoughts and manifestations under control?

Harris also took that question to Joe Vitale who currently offers his sage advice during very expensive rides in his limo. Vitale was more straightforward in his advice for earthquake survivors in Haiti. They need to take responsibility for the kinds of negative thoughts that magnetize their reality. Apparently, when the Haitians opened their universal "catalog" they ordered up a devastating quake. Or perhaps Pat Robertson was right and it was that pact with the devil.

Harris also points out that Ray is not maintaining his physique, in as much as he is, using the "law of attraction," but with a "veritable pharmaceutical cornucopia" of weight loss aids and steroids. Ray claims he was prescribed these drugs for a medical condition. But wait a minute.

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

Ray has previously claimed that he hasn't had so much as a cold in years. This we're supposed to believe is because of his great "law of attraction" mindset and healthy diet. But now he claims that he has some ailment so serious it requires steroids.

I wish such hypocrisy was the worst of the crimes in this expose but it's not. The late Kirby Brown's mother Ginny says near the end of the show, "He needs to be stopped. How many more people have to die before he's stopped? He needs to be stopped." Hear. Hear.

The entire show can be viewed online here.


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