Jun 27, 2014

The Marion Zimmer Bradley Problem

Mists of Avalon photo MistsofAvalon_zps34395ba1.jpg

Hat tip to The Wild Hunt for this morning's disillusionment. I had been blissfully unaware of this controversy. Even though I have never been Marion Zimmer Bradley fan, I am well aware of her influence in both the fantasy genre and the pagan community. So learning that she was both an enabler and perpetrator of child sexual abuse is a little rough.

This is all the more painful because Bradley is, in many ways, a feminist icon. She introduced the divine feminine to a generation of readers and she paved the way for other female authors. The irony for me was all the more unsettling as moments before seeing this post, I had been reading yet another story on the never-ending sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and puzzling over whether there is more of a problem there than elsewhere. The Church, of course, says no and they're probably right. The larger problem is the ability and determination they've had to conceal it, creating an overarching abuse of power for which the entire institutional framework is responsible. But, there's also a kind of metaphorical power to the idea of such an incredibly patriarchal institution being responsible for the prolific theft of sexual power. We almost expect them to rape women and children. Representatives of goddess energy far less so, but there we are.

Many years ago a friend lent me her copy of The Mists of Avalon specifically because she knew I was deeply invested in goddess mythology. I didn't get far and promptly gave the book back. In retrospect, I can't honestly say why it didn't connect for me. It just didn't. But I've always respected the book's reach and power to touch lives.

I can still vividly remember how I felt when I learned that there was a Mother Goddess in ancient mythology. The one woman play presented at my college was terrible. The theater was nearly empty. The handful of women's studies majors around me, who were seeing it for credit, were falling asleep in their seats. I was transfixed by the power of realization. Suddenly the world -- things I felt and even things I had written -- made more sense. It was an organizing principle for me in a way that no other religion had been, neither my Christian background nor my Buddhist practice. In time my first goddess altar replaced the Buddhist one. I read and I read and I read. So, although I found Bradley unreadable, I well understand what a cool drink of water her writing must have been for people everywhere who were rekindling, as I was,  a memory of the divine feminine.

Jun 23, 2014

TED and the Diploma Mill Yoda

How did this squeak by TED's rigorous screening process?

By this I mean a TEDx talk written up in this feel-good piece in Mother Jones, a publication I thought had fact-checkers.

Ironwood State Prison resident Steven Duby served as MC for a bill that kicked off with Budnick interviewing Sir Richard Branson about the importance of, yes, second chances. (Branson once spent a day in "prison," he said, for failing to pay taxes. His mother was able to bail him out by mortgaging her house, Branson added, but not everyone has it so easy.) Among the acts was Illinois therapist and motivational speaker Sean Stephenson (above), who held the prisoners rapt with his tale of overcoming adversity. "When I was born, the doctors told my parents I would be dead within the first 24 hours of my life," he began. "Thirty-five years later, all those doctors are dead, and I am the only doctor that remains!"

Obviously, I agree that it's lovely that TEDx put together an event for prison inmates. I even agree that Sean Stephenson is a good speaker with an inspiring life story. But he is not a doctor. He admitted as much when he agreed to remove such verbiage from his website. My original post and our exchange in the comment section can be found here. Yet here he is, in the spring of 2014 still calling himself a doctor.

Jun 18, 2014

Chopra and Sheldrake

Try saying that three times fast.

This is a really compelling discussion, the kind you'll want to listen to more than once just to catch all the nuances. The first focuses primarily on Sheldrake's explanation of morphic fields. The second gets more into the unproven assumptions of scientific materialism as set forth in his book Science Set Free, aka. The Science Delusion.

Deepak Chopra and Rupert Sheldrake have both been major targets of the New Atheist protectors of all things scientistic. The details of their disenfranchisement by TED and its super secret science board can be found here. So of course I find particularly delightful Chopra's recounting of a debate with Richard Dawkins at about minute 9:00 in the second video. Add that to the growing list of Dawkins's strident assertions that fall well short of the mark.

Also in the player is an interview with Sheldrake's wife Jill Purce on the power of chanting. Enchanting! More information can be found here.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Jun 15, 2014

Whale Talk

When my daughter was a wee toddler, she used to pretend to talk on the phone. She'd grab any random object, rarely the toy phone for some reason, and begin to chatter. She'd pace around the room with, say, the remote control glued to her ear and she'd go on and on. They weren't words, really. She didn't even employ her limited vocabulary. What it unmistakably was was mimicry. She was a little me. Every gesture. Every inflection. It was unmistakably me talking on the phone to some friend. It was hilarious. And it sounded an awful lot like this beluga whale named Noc.

This article in Smithsonian Magazine makes for compelling reading. I am endlessly fascinated by cetaceans and have been since I was a child, particularly whales. In the fifth grade, I wrote a play about whaling for my social studies project. The whale won. It dragged the harpooners overboard. This was long before I'd read Moby Dick. That would not happen until I was in high school. I think I just liked the idea of the whale as protagonist -- that and the woman pretending to be a man (me) so as to seek a life of adventure. I've also been a feminist for as long as I can remember.

As an adult I've been whale watching many times and invariably see things you almost never see, like humpbacks opening their giant mouths right next to the boat to swallow the plankton they've trapped with their giant air bubbles. And mothers and babies breaching and playing. I've seen a lot of whales. And dolphins. They like to swim along with the boats. They wave. They chatter. They're adorable.

I've always felt a sense of communion with cetaceans. Sometimes I hear them in my head. It's not unusual to hear messages from whale consciousness or dolphin consciousness for my clients when I'm doing readings. I believe them to be highly intelligent. In fact, I think the whole conversation about whether they're as intelligent as humans misses the point. I believe they're probably much smarter. Definitely wiser. And yet they deign to interact with us. In fact they're very social.

Jun 6, 2014

James Ray's Crisis of Character

So what's on sale? The jacket???

I had hoped to never write about James Arthur Ray again. But then they let him out of prison. Try as I might I can't ignore the madness.

Connie Joy has really been keeping pace with his disturbing attempts to reboot his career. And well, he's on tour!

What will he be teaching in small, sad rooms in three whole cities? As near as I can tell, Murphy's Law. Yes, according to the new, less law of attractiony James Ray, no matter what you do, shit happens.

This is honestly the strangest pitch for one of these things I've ever seen. It starts out in a predictable manner, with a series of questions specifically engineered to make you feel like something is wrong with your life that you need this seminar to fix:

Does it ever seem that just when you feel like you’re
getting everything together… something else goes wrong?

Do you ever feel like you just get through one set of challenges,
And then the next shoe (or possibly bomb) drops?

Do you ever find yourself accomplishing what you desired
but there’s still something missing?

Are you possibly right in the dead center of
a difficult challenge or crisis in your Life,
Business, or Career right now?

Jun 5, 2014

Sea Change for Snakes in Ireland

What would St. Patrick say? Snakes, aka., Pagans, are becoming a visible force in Ireland. The Wild Hunt reports that openly Pagan Deirdre Wadding has claimed a Council seat.

On May 23rd, the 2014 Irish local elections were held, the first set of local elections since a major restructuring of local government was put into place earlier this year. In what seems to be a tumultuous outing, with small left-leaning parties and Sinn Féin largely benefitting, the People Before Profit Alliance gained 15 council seats across Ireland. One of those seats was won by Deirdre Wadding, on the Wexford County Council. Oh, and she just so happens to be openly Pagan, the first such candidate to be elected to office in Ireland.

“Cllr. Wadding, a long-term socialist activist, took the final seat in the Wexford district on Sunday night after a long, two-day count. A vocal campaigner, she has made her mark through her work with the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes and was approached by PBPA on the back of that. She polled an impressive 599 votes on the first count and picked up a number of large chunks of transfers later in the day. Laughing off the description of ‘white witch’, Cllr. Wadding said that she was one of 20,000 pagans across the country but, as far as she knew, was the only one now serving as a councillor. ‘I did ask the Irish Battle Goddess Morrigan for victory today and I have a crow’s feather in my hair as a reminder of her.’”

Wadding has been a visible part of a growing movement in a changing Ireland. Pagans of various stripes are becoming a real force in what has been for centuries a very Catholic country.