Jul 31, 2011

Christian Fundamentalist Caught Telling the Truth

Bradlee Dean

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is being sued for quoting Christian rocker Bradlee Dean word for word. The excerpt from his radio broadcast was aired during an August 9, 2010 broadcast and reads as follows:

"Muslims are calling for the execution of homosexuals in America. They themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination. If America won't enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that."

Dean does not dispute the accuracy of the quote. But despite the fact that Maddow also quoted his disclaimer -- "we have never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals" -- Dean argues that his intent was distorted.

Despite the very clear disclaimer by Bradlee Dean on his ministries website and elsewhere regarding the false accusation that he was calling for the execution of homosexuals, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and others seized on and accused Dean on her show of supporting the killing of homosexuals, as is the practice in some radical Islamic countries. This seriously has harmed Dean and the ministry, who pride themselves on respect and love for all people.

The transcript of Maddow's broadcast can be found here. (Scroll down for video.) Nowhere does she claim that Dean actually supports a death sentence for gay people. The only text from which such an inference could possibly be drawn is from Dean's own words. Maddow's "slander and defamation" of Bradlee Dean, for which he is suing MSNBC and Maddow personally for $50 million, lies in her use of his exact words in his own voice.

His biggest complaint against Maddow and the news network appears to be their liberal agenda.

The lawsuit is filed by attorney Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, in DC Superior Court and seeks in excess of $50 million in damages. However, money is not the issue. "This case is filed as a matter of principle," stated Klayman. "We need more Bradlee Deans in the world and hateful left wing television commentators must be made to respect not only his mission but the law," he added.

I found the use of the word "hateful" in this context particularly interesting because it strikes me as such a clear case of projection. It would be hard to describe Dean's message as anything but hateful, despite his protestations of love for gay people. You can read a more complete quote released by Dean and his organization You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministries here. (Boy, that doesn't sound too threatening, does it?) Not included in Maddow's excerpt was some blather about loving his gay friends who "nitpick" everything he says and some sharp words about President Obama's hypocrisy.

The problem with Dean's statement is that he is at cross-purposes with himself. He doesn't want to be perceived as calling for the death of his "gay friends" but he is openly gushing about Muslim extremists having the courage of their convictions. He describes them as "more moral" than Christians in America. He attributed the "raising up of a foreign enemy" who would call for the death of gay people to none other than God. That's hard to misconstrue. It's pretty blatant. But when it comes to the follow-through, he flinches. He can't quite bring himself to admit that a literal reading of the Bible would indeed call for the execution of gay people. And fundamentalist Christians claim to take "God's word" literally.

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." ~ Leviticus 20:13

That seems pretty straightforward to me.

The unfortunately named John Thomas of Philadelphia took it quite literally and murdered a gay neighbor the Biblical way -- by stoning. And yet, he was prosecuted for it. It would seem the American legal system is not in alignment with scripture -- a point I've made before.

There are actually numerous offenses that call for the death penalty in the Bible so Bradlee Dean is really cherry-picking. At least, to my knowledge, he has not similarly praised Muslim fundamentalists for killing adulterers or girls who've otherwise lost their virginity. That said, he has given voice to something many have long argued -- that Christian and Muslim fundamentalists have a lot more in common than they will usually admit to publicly.

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Jul 30, 2011

Irish Ambassador Headed for Prague

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As discussed, the relationship between Irish lawmakers and the Vatican have become so toxic that the Vatican withdrew its ambassador. Now comes news that Archbishop Leanza will be moved to Prague.

The Vatican has made a first move towards restoring relationships with Ireland and transferred Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza to the Czech Republic.

Leanza is seen as damaged after the Cloyne report crisis over sex abuse was allowed to occur on his watch and ineptly handled.

So once again, the Church is trying to defuse a sex abuse scandal with a game of rotating priests. And civil authorities are left staring into the gaping maw of an opaque and inscrutable bureaucracy.

The Irish government will also be waiting until the middle of next month for a Vatican response to the Cloyne Report.

The reply was initially scheduled for delivery next week but in the wake of the Taoiseach’s outspoken criticism of the Vatican in the Dáil and the subsequent recall to Rome of the papal nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, it has been decided more time is needed.

Holy See sources acknowledged that the writing of this reply will be an extremely “delicate” business. A sharp, pithy response would run the risk of the Holy See being criticised for not taking the Irish problem sufficiently seriously. On the other hand, a point-by-point analysis of all the issues raised in the report, which runs to 421 pages, could take years.

The Holy See would prefer to remain silent and issue no further statements.

. . .

“The Irish Government has asked for a response,” said a senior Holy See figure. “We respect all governments, so the Irish will get a response.”
[emphasis added]

So the Vatican will deign to respond to charges that it obstructed civil investigations into the sexual abuse of children. It took me several readings and a little time to absorb that. Were the Irish government not stridently demanding a response, the Vatican would think it perfectly acceptable to just blow the whole thing off.

There are other indications that the Vatican will not be conceding to any culpability in the numerous cases of unreported abuse, either.

THE papal nuncio is set to deliver a strong response to the Cloyne Report before the end of August, rebuffing the Taoiseach's accusation the Vatican undermined child protection guidelines.

Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza will present the Vatican's response to Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore.

. . .

The Vatican has been exasperated by reports claiming Archbishop Leanza was being moved to Prague in the Czech Republic as a mark of his disfavour with his superiors in Rome.

But sources in the Vatican last night suggested that Archbishop Leanza will leave Ireland at the end of the year as part of routine changes.

In other words, move along, folks. Nothin' to see here.

They also intend to put blame on the "weakness of Irish state monitoring of child abuse." Never mind that such monitoring has been made extremely difficult because of a shroud of secrecy imposed by highly placed Church leaders who don't agree or comply with reporting rules.

Almost lost in the drama of a row made very public by the Prime Minister Kenny's remarks, are hints that Ireland is in the throes of a seismic shift in its relationship with the Roman Church.

It was the first time in the past 17 years of pedophile-priest scandals in Ireland that parliamentarians have taken on the Vatican rather than local church leaders. Revelations of widespread abuse have eroded Catholic authority in a nation where the church still owns most schools and several hospitals, and state broadcasters still toll a twice-daily call to Catholic prayer.

A confidential 1997 Vatican letter — originally published by The Associated Press in January — instructed Irish bishops to handle child-abuse cases strictly under terms of canon law. It warned bishops that their 1996 child-protection policy, particularly its emphasis on the need to start reporting all suspected crimes to police, violated canon law.

Kenny said Catholic canon law had "neither legitimacy nor (a) place in the affairs of this country." He pledged to press ahead with new laws making it a crime to withhold evidence of child abuse — even if the information was attained during a priest's confession. The Catholic Church insists that the contents of confessions must never be revealed.

For the very Catholic country, such bold moves toward secularity must come as a shock to the Vatican. Most stunning is the possibility of laws that would breach the confessional. The Vatican's response will reportedly include insistence that the seal of the confessional is "sacrosanct."

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Tragedy in Sedona

Article first published as Book Review: Tragedy in Sedona by Connie Jay on Blogcritics.

On July 25, 2009, Colleen Conaway plummeted to her death in San Diego's Horton Plaza mall; an apparent suicide. She had no history of mental problems. She was by all accounts very happy with her life and her direction. So how did the Minnesota native meet such a sad and inexplicable fate so far from home? She was participating in a James Arthur Ray "Creating Absolute Wealth" seminar for which she had paid thousands of dollars.

The exercise was one in which seminar participants were directed to dress as homeless people and wander around downtown San Diego. They were not allowed to carry money, identification, or cell phones. In what would become a pattern for those who had the misfortune to be severely injured during James Ray seminars, Colleen Conaway spent many hours listed as "Jane Doe."

Connie Joy's daughter Erica participated in that same seminar and both Connie and her husband Richard attended the final dinner. None of them were aware that a participant had died. Only Ray and his closest staffers knew that Conaway was lying on a slab in the San Diego County morgue. And they weren't telling. People who asked about why she hadn't returned were told that she was fine but wasn't coming back to the seminar. It was over two months later, in the wake of yet another horrific tragedy on Ray's watch, that his long-time followers learned that the unnamed woman who had died in the mall that day was the seminar participant who had never returned from her homelessness adventure.

Less than two weeks after losing one of his students to a deadly fall, Ray had a select group of the high paying World Wealth Society members hiking a mountain trail overlooking Machu Picchu -- blindfolded. When concerned local tour guides tried to steer the hikers away from steep drops and around sharp turns, Ray became irritated at their interference. He was going to teach his students about the value of living life to the fullest by flirting with death and no one was going to stop him. As his group of students removed their blindfolds to take in the view from the cliff they were standing on, he asked, "Are you just taking up space or are you really living your lives?"

Ray's fascination with the theme of death was not new. But it seemed to increase rather than diminish after Colleen Conaway's inexplicable plunge. In early October, just over two months after her demise, Ray would lead his Spiritual Warrior seminar in Sedona, AZ, in which he relied heavily on death metaphors. And three people would die from exposure to extreme temperatures in a sweat lodge ceremony.

When Joy learned of the deaths of James Shore and Kirby Brown and that her good friend Liz Neuman was in critical condition in an Arizona hospital, she was shocked and saddened but not surprised. Joy had been trying to warn people about Ray's sweat lodge since she, herself, had gotten sick from the heat during Spiritual Warrior 2007. She knew the dangers of heatstroke and had long thought it was only a matter of time before someone was severely injured in one of Ray's super-heated sweat lodges.

In Tragedy in Sedona, Joy offers an insider's perspective on what led up to the tragic deaths and multiple injuries that resulted from a sweat lodge that was "too hot for too long." As World Wealth Society members, she and her husband Richard got as close to Ray as anyone but his closest staffers were allowed to get. She also saw that limited access diminish as Ray's star rose. Over a three year period, the Joys attended 27 of Ray's events as either paying participants or Dream Team volunteers.

Joy witnessed numerous injuries at Ray's events: broken bones, a punctured eyelid, and other medical emergencies, for which Ray took no responsibility and implemented few precautions. His recklessness escalated dramatically as his Oprah fueled popularity increased and he began packing his events to capacity. As the number of these incidents mounted the Joys posited that Ray would never really risk anyone's life because, if for no other reason, it would be bad for business. Besides, they knew that Ray was extensively trained by native shamans and other practitioners. Surely he knew what he was doing. But as his recklessness increased, they became less and less convinced that people were safe and increasingly concerned until the World Wealth Society trip to Peru shattered what was left of their trust.

The breaking point came when Joy learned that the hotly anticipated climb up Huayna Picchu would be on a schedule too tight to safely reach the top. Knowing that there was a history of injuries and deaths on the steep trails, the Joys went to work investigating alternative scheduling for participants who, like themselves, wanted to do a complete climb without risking their lives. Their interference in Ray's plans put them on a collision course with his ego. The result was a verbal assault from Ray that finally convinced them that he was not a spiritual leader who was living by his own teachings.

Ray's hypocrisy had been increasingly evident the Joys for some time. From the very first seminar, they'd recognized deceptive, hard-sell practices. The Joys, being realtors, had seen such tactics before and took them in stride. But over time they noticed that promises made during pitches for the very expensive World Wealth Society membership were changed or discarded completely. In Orwellian fashion, there was often no acknowledgment that many of the offerings were vastly reduced from what had been promised. Since the pitches were always verbal, rather than written, there was no way to prove the change had occurred.

In one telling exchange, Ray publicly excoriated a man for his wife's diligent note-taking during seminars. With increasing frequency, Ray would "flame" people from the stage for asking questions he didn't want to answer or as an opportunity to air grudges they didn't even know he was holding. It was something he did so effectively that many of his students were terrified to take the mic to ask a question and feared being called out. In this case, the offense in question was keeping a record of what Ray said, which he ironically described as not "paying attention" to what he was saying.

Most of Ray's sales pitches and promises were delivered when people were in a suggestible state. His upcoming seminars and packages were sold during other seminars where he would keep people on action-packed schedules that provided little time for sleep and few breaks. Joy even cites one instance when Ray began a pitch as he was leading them in a guided meditation. That was not the only time Joy, a trained hypnotherapist, noted that Ray was using stage hypnosis and/or NLP techniques to sell his events, but it was the most shocking. It was an egregious abuse of trust; one another participant referred to as "black magick." Sadly, Joy noted that it worked. She saw a woman she knew to have tight finances standing on line to shell out $60,000 for a World Wealth Society membership she could not possibly afford. Thankfully, the woman came to her senses before closing the deal. A very good thing because Ray's company had an ironclad no refund policy.

Ray's business practices were among many pieces of information excluded during Ray's manslaughter trial because they were "prejudicial." Jurors would not learn, for instance, that Ray's unwillingness to provide refunds meant that by the time participants received information packets and waivers that gave some, albeit very small, indication of the dangers posed by Spiritual Warrior, they could not have canceled without forfeiting nearly $10,000. Ray's lawyers were free to argue, however, that by signing the waivers, participants knew what they were in for. Jurors did learn that Ray's Dream Team volunteers had to pay for their own travel, lodging, and meals. They did not know, however, something Joy only discovered after Dream Teaming numerous events -- that the group rates offered to participants and volunteers were higher than the regular rates because Ray demanded substantial kickbacks from hotels.

After his contributing role in The Secret and his appearances on "Oprah" and "Larry King Live," Ray's monetary focus sharpened. He now spoke openly of his goal to be "the first billionaire in the spiritual arena." He claimed that he had become a millionaire as a byproduct of following his bliss but this was no longer good enough. He wanted to be billionaire as a way of "keeping score." Joy was floored.

It wasn't just his now open pecuniary focus that belied his spiritual aspirations. There were other unsavory indications of an ego spinning out of control.

Dubbed the "Rock Star of Personal Transformation," Ray relished the limelight. He relished the perks of wealth and stardom even more. Like Elvis's "Memphis Mafia," Ray's "Dream Team" volunteers were required, among other ignoble tasks, to let women know that he'd picked them out of the audience to join him for the evening. In one horrible case, Joy noticed a woman sobbing in the back of the hall. Joy's friend Edward, who was among the volunteer staff for the event, explained the incident. She had been thrown over when Ray changed his mind about which audience pick he expected to join him for dinner.

Ray, who taught that relationships were one of five essential pillars in a balanced life, seemed to have very odd ideas about them. He had said many revealing things about how he didn't believe that people were meant to be together forever and that having children was a vain attempt at immortality. He had been married and divorced and never intended to remarry. Yet he considered himself qualified to teach people about integrity in relationships.

Over time, Joy observed that Ray ran interference in other people's relationships. She kept finding herself separated from her husband Richard during events. During Spiritual Warrior, for instance, couples were split up and assigned same-sex roommates. It was a pattern that started to feel very deliberate, particularly when Joy was volunteering for Practical Mysticism and her daughter Erica was there as a participant. After exchanging a few words with her daughter, she saw Ray whispering to the staffer in charge of volunteers who then pulled Joy aside and gave her a talking to. Joy needed to stay away from Erica and let her "have her own experience."

That phrase, "let people have their own experience" was one heard from numerous witnesses during Ray's manslaughter trial. People who were concerned about the labored breathing and apparent incoherence of other sweat lodge participants, for instance, knew better than to interfere in the "experience" of people who were, in fact, dying. Prosecutor Sheila Polk argued that such rules actually trained people away from their natural instincts to try to help each other and to completely defer to Ray's judgment.

After reading Tragedy in Sedona, it occurred to me that it was also a way to discourage normal bonding between participants and ensure that communication during Ray's events was almost entirely vertical rather than horizontal. Too much interpersonal bonding threatened the hierarchy and Ray's position at the top of it. That sense was confirmed for me when I exchanged emails with Mary Latallade, who described for me her sense of isolation in the crowd; particularly when she was seriously injured during the the 2008 sweat lodge.

During the trial, the pressure Ray applied to men and women alike to submit to buzz cuts during Spiritual Warrior was a contentious issue. The echoes of Heaven's Gate and the Manson Family would be hard to miss. Defense attorneys worked hard to diffuse the potential impact on jurors of numerous women being shorn of their locks. Joy struggled with the decision of whether or not to shave off all her hair when she attended Spiritual Warrior in 2007. Ultimately, she accepted Ray's logic: "You are not your hair." Shaving their hair was presented as an opportunity to sacrifice ego. But Ray wasn't leading by example. He didn't have his own head shaved. Worse, when police searched his hotel room, they recovered an impressive stash of pharmaceuticals including steroids and Propecia.

In the forward to Tragedy in Sedona, psychiatrist Carole Lieberman points out that in one of Ray's books he describes the embarrassment he experienced as a boy when his mother would give him buzz cuts on the front porch in full view of laughing neighbor children. And here he was, years later, pressuring people to sit in a public area and have their hair shaved off. So was Ray shaming Spiritual Warrior participants into shaving their heads to experience humility or humiliation? Taken in context, humiliation is about the only explanation that makes sense.

During the trial, it became apparent that participants were humiliated and degraded in numerous ways. Many witnesses visibly flinched as they described flaming episodes when Ray would take any opportunity to publicly enumerate any flaws and air grievances. Some students were terrified of attracting his ire by such things as taking an unscheduled bathroom break. A good number of Spiritual Warrior participants were forced to remain perfectly still on the hard floor for hours, unable to scratch an itch, use the bathroom, or eat dinner, after being symbolically killed by a capricious "God" (Ray) during his twisted version of the Samurai Game. Many people testified to his telling participant Lou Caci to relieve himself inside the sweat lodge on the ground rather than leave the "sacred" space; something he clearly found degrading.

These condescensions from on high became more and more common as Ray's fame grew and he retreated behind body guards and away from any two-way communication with students. Mostly, he criticized them for "not playing full on" if they failed to meet the numerous physical and emotional challenges presented during events. During Spiritual Warrior he criticized them for wanting to leave the intolerable temperatures of the sweat lodge and many of them stayed against their quickly evaporating judgment.

Ray's abnormally hot and abnormally long sweat lodge reduced people to vomiting, paralyzing muscle cramps, babbling incoherence, and unconsciousness. None of that indicated a problem to Ray. In fact, it was the goal. In the aftermath of the 2009 lodge, the hottest he'd ever run, more participants than ever were in such these disabling states. It was a scene that some participants described as looking like a war zone. And as the realization dawned that a number of people were in life threatening distress and participants who were able began administering CPR, Ray sat in the shade with a cooling beverage, and observed the scene. When told by the firekeeper's wife that she needed a cellphone to call 911 because people weren't breathing, he shrugged. He was later seen chatting to someone other than 911 on a cellphone. As the ambulances started to arrive, he shambled back to his hotel room to shower and have a sandwich.

The picture of Ray that emerges from Tragedy in Sedona and in the many hours of courtroom testimony is not just that of an overblown ego. There are glimpses of something truly sadistic. Ray seemed to enjoy watching people do what he told them to do even when it was degrading... and when it was horrifically dangerous.

Ray is certainly not the first spiritual leader to exploit followers sexually and emotionally. He's not the first to accrue massive wealth at the expense of financially struggling followers. He's not the first to take advantage of volunteers. He's not even the first spiritual leader to conflate sacrificing the ego to God with submission to his leadership. What sets James Arthur Ray apart from the average flimflammer is that he was playing a game of chicken with other people's lives. How else to describe someone who would blindfold people on a dangerous a mountain trail and retool a traditional sweat lodge into an inferno so as to induce heatstroke for its mind altering affects?

Ray's students followed his lead because they trusted him to know what he was doing. He had established credibility with them by being a published author, by being part of The Secret, and by claims of having trained under established spiritual teachers and shamans in numerous traditions. But tales of his vast, multicultural training turned out to be lies. After the Joys had their final confrontation with Ray, the whole facade came crumbling down. In Peru, he'd hedged when his students wanted to meet the shaman he'd told so many stories about. Joy asked around and learned the man in question was not so much a shaman as he was a tour guide. Stan Grof, the psychiatrist who developed Holotropic Breathwork had never heard of James Ray until after he'd made headlines for his deadly sweat lodge. Grof's institute had no record of his having been trained to facilitate the breathwork. Most of his knowledge of shamanism came from Carlos Castaneda books; a fraud being led by a fraud.

For all her disillusionment, Joy writes without rancor, and with a sense of gratitude for what good came out of her experience with James Ray -- even though it came with a whopping $200,000 price tag. Tragedy in Sedona began as a chronicle of her journey of spiritual growth and healing. Ray stole from good teachers as well as bad and some of what she experienced was valuable; even transformative. It is, after all, the message not the messenger that matters.

Joy learned that she'd be writing a book when she was in Egypt on a World Wealth Society trip. While communing with the Sphinx, she was told that part of her destiny was to write a book. A math person and "digital" thinker, she never considered herself a writer. But her higher self knew she'd have an important story to tell and indeed she did. The driving narrative, the power of that story, more than makes up for any lack of linguistic flair.

For anyone who wants to understand how apparently intelligent, educated, and accomplished people could fall pray to Ray's long con, the book makes essential reading. Joy, herself, is such a person. Her vulnerability to Ray lay in some of her highest aspirations -- a longing to understand the workings of spirit, to align all aspects of her life with her spirituality, and to make a solid contribution to the world. Joy bridles against media reports that characterize Ray's followers as a "cult." She makes the point repeatedly that they were not "mindless cult" members. I would take issue only with characterization of cult members as mindless. Not even members of Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple, Hare Krishna, or other well known cults could be fairly described as "mindless." They were simply subject to a higher level of manipulation, even coercion, than Ray's organization offered at its height. All cults target smart, accomplished members because that's where the money is. They all target people with appeals to their idealism. And they all break people down by leveraging their insecurities, emotional vulnerabilities, and innate deference to authority, just like Ray.

Tragedy in Sedona makes essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how it is that three of the best and brightest wound up getting cooked to death in an abomination of a sweat lodge. It's a warning to pay attention to every red flag and not excuse or minimize questionable behavior from those in whom we invest our trust. Else we may pay with more than our wallets.

James Arthur Ray was convicted on three counts of criminally negligent homicide on June 22, 2011. An original sentencing date that would have eerily coincided with the death of Colleen Conaway, was changed to allow for more of the extensive legal wrangling that characterized the very long trial. A presentence hearing is currently scheduled for August 16th in which Ray's attorneys will argue for a mitigated sentence. Ray's multiple attorneys have also filed for a new trial claiming prosecutorial misconduct. The State has responded with a lengthy rebuttal and the defense attorneys have replied. Ray is also facing still unresolved lawsuits and possible legal action from the family of Colleen Conaway.

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Jul 25, 2011

Vatican Pulls Ambassador to Ireland

Departing Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza

Things have become so heated between Irish officials and the Vatican that the Holy See has recalled its ambassador. With characteristic tone-deafness, the Vatican cited "excessive reactions" to the priestly abuse scandal. At issue is the reaction of Prime Minister Enda Kenny who publicly rebuked the Vatican for its role in the cover-up as detailed in the recently released Cloyne Report.

During a July 20 parliamentary debate, Kenny said an independent judicial investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne "exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago."

"And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day," he said.

. . .

Kenny said that "this calculated, withering position" was "the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman church was founded."

He said that "the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who -- like me -- have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the state's authorities."

Referring to a tendency identified in the Cloyne Report to put the rights of accused clerics ahead of victims, Kenny said "clericalism has rendered some of Ireland's brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors" of abuse.

Vatican officials seemed determined to prove Prime Minister Kenny right. Their response to his remarks has been to, once again, minimize the problem and scold him for pointing out the elephant on the floor of parliament. The Vatican has been calling victims and their defenders excessive and reactive, in one form or another, for decades. Vatican authorities seem incapable of understanding how much pain and misery their actions and inactions have caused.

No doubt, because the Prime Minister echoed their incredulity and frustration, he has received an outpouring of gratitude and support from the Irish public.

In light of Judge Yvonne Murphy's findings on the Diocese of Cloyne, church officials would do well to issue a mea culpa, but the response has predictably been to deflect blame. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed disappointment at the reports failure to acknowledge all the new initiatives the church is taking under Pope Benedict's leadership to prevent future problems. Considering that the Cloyne report found multiple cases of abuse had been covered up as recently as 2008 -- when social services got involved -- perhaps now isn't the time to start congratulating the Vatican on its proactiveness.

At the heart of the scandal is Bishop John Magee who failed to report numerous instances of impropriety, including his own inappropriate conduct towards a "young" aspirant to the priesthood.

The commission was charged with investigating the handling of allegations made against 19 priests from 1996 -- when the church in Ireland first implemented child protection procedures -- to 2009. The commission found that "the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee."

"It is a remarkable fact," the report notes, "that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008."

Between 1996 -- when the Irish bishops introduced guidelines for mandatory reporting -- and 2005, the diocese failed to report nine out of 15 complaints against priests, which "very clearly should have been reported," the report said.

The report found further that the Vatican had been "entirely unhelpful" to Bishops who were trying to comply with the new required reporting guidelines. In particular, Vatican officials refused to grant the Irish guidelines approval, leaving Bishops with no clear policy to implement and the latitude to continue ignoring the problem.

Also faulted was Cloyne vicar general, Msgr. Denis O'Callaghan who doesn't approve of the entire concept of reporting child abusers to civil authorities. So he failed to report in even the numerous cases in which he believed abuse had occurred. In other cases of evident sexual abuse he seemed oblivious and obtuse.

Cloyne is not alone in its failure to address the problem. Three of Ireland's dioceses have now been subject to judicial scrutiny and found to have protected the church at the expense of children.

In light of the very fair criticism from public officials including the Prime Minister, the Vatican has chosen the cut and run approach. Rather than address the gaping wound in the hearts of devout Catholics in the devoutly Catholic country, the Vatican's response is to show its "displeasure" with Irish officials by withdrawing their ambassador.

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Jul 22, 2011

The Look On Her Face

Think of a woman who spent the previous evening contemplating the works of William Blake, Gustave Moreau, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who awakens the next morning to read a news item about how James Franco sold a piece of "non-visible" art for $10,000. This woman learned that the work conceptualized by Franco instructs the observer to imagine "Fresh Air" and was sold by the Museum of Non-Visible Art (MONA) which specializes in purely conceptual art -- pieces of paper that tell people to imagine various things. Now imagine the look on the woman's face.

This original work is offered free for contemplation on this blog. But for $10,000 I will print this out on a piece of paper and send it to you so that you can appreciate it in your home. Makes a wonderful conversation piece!

I'm currently working on my next non-visible piece called "Very Bored Rich People" but it's not quite ready.

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Jul 20, 2011

The Giving Tree is a Sap

As a child, I loved The Giving Tree. I read it over and over. As an adult, a feminist, and a gratefully recovering codependent, I've long since given the book a rethink. So much so that I won't expose my daughter to it. It's not allowed in the house. What I once thought of as a sweet and moving story with a  moral about the beauty of altruism, I realized one day is an appallingly sexist book filled with poisonous ideas about the role of women and of earth itself.

I don't know why the book struck such a cord for me. Perhaps it had something to do with my profound fascination with trees. Perhaps it was something more prosaic like my nascent codependency. The book presents a dangerous message, overall: Imbalanced relationships in which one person sacrifices endlessly for the happiness of another are an ideal state. In fact, happiness can be derived entirely from pleasing someone else. This is the very definition of codependency.

Codependency is not necessarily a gendered phenomenon. There are plenty of male codependents. But girls are actually acculturated to be codependent, even in families where alcoholism and other major dysfunction aren't the issue. If we don't get it from our families -- and my family was probably more progressive than most -- we get it from our communities, from our schools, from movies, from books... books like The Giving Tree.

Jul 17, 2011

Harry Potter Is Not a "Jock"

Hat-tip to Andrew Sullivan on the most wrong-headed analysis of Harry Potter I think I've ever seen, which, to my great surprise, comes from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. In addition to getting important plot points completely wrong, Marcotte reveals far more about herself than she does the Harry Potter series. Marcotte attempts to address the Harry Potter as "nerd" with "misfit" friends narrative. I don't know whose narrative that is but it isn't Rowling's, which Marcotte tangentially acknowledges before going on to debunk it anyway.

Harry, Marcotte explains, isn't a "geek." He's a "jock." While it's certainly true that Harry distinguishes himself as an athlete in the richly symbolic game of Quidditch, I think to call him a jock is a bit of a reach. Nor are athletes so feted at Hogwarts as to make such "jocks" the in crowd. The social structure is far more complex than that. There is no jock/geek dichotomy in the Harry Potter universe.

As Sullivan points out, Marcotte misidentifies both Harry and Ron as "stereotypically privileged." Ron is best known for coming from a poor family and relying on frequently embarrassing hand-me-downs. The wealthy Malfoys openly mock the Weasleys for their poverty. Harry is an orphan raised by relatives who treat him like Cindarella and his own hand-me-down clothes have the added benefit of being absurdly large because they come from his fat, bully cousin. He spends the first years of life consigned to a cupboard under the stairs. Neither of these boys' lives could be remotely described as privileged.

Jul 15, 2011


Monday evening during a rather intense thunderstorm I sat watching an albeit somewhat pixilated Kill Bill Vol. 1, for the umpteenth time, and noodling on the computer. I didn't realize just how a bad a storm it was until an incredibly loud crack of thunder shook the wall next to me and something shiny flew across the living room a couple of feet from my face. What I thought must have been a shard of glass from a broken window turned out be lightning. There was no damage at all to the window or to me. The tree outside the window, however...

Our phone lines also got a good jolt that night and we've been replacing things all week, starting with the router which was magically transformed into a paperweight. So I've been offline for a few days. Turns out that thing about turning off and unplugging all your appliances during thunderstorms might have some merit.

We've been learning a collective lesson about the frailty of our technological society. In our endless to quest to subdue and control nature, nature keeps winning. Just ask the good folks in Japan who thought loading up one of the most seismic areas on the planet with nuclear plants was a good idea. There's power and then there's power.

We were fortunate. I wasn't hit by a refracted lightning bolt. And we've been able to replace our damaged electronics without incurring too much expense. Mostly, I've been left with a sense of awe.

When I was taking pictures of the tree for the property manager, I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of the tree itself. Trees have always amazed me. I've been drawing pictures of them and writing poems about them since I was a child. They're one of the few things I've always been able to draw well. I drew trees with images of women woven into them and great serpent roots. I drew trees with open eyes.

My fascination with trees has grown over the years; the mythology and geometry. When I read Robert Graves's White Goddess years ago, I learned that many ancient cultures had elaborate mythical and cultural interrelationships with trees. Graves wrote extensively on the Beth Luis Nion alphabet and calendar of the Celts, for instance.

The Norse Yggdrasil is one of many "world tree" symbols; it's origins probably tracing back into its shamanic forbears. Trees are often used by shamans as entry points into non-ordinary reality because the roots go into the lower world, the trunk to the middle world, and the branches to the upper world.

When I first began learning about some of the deeper symbolism of trees it answered unasked questions that had been rattling around my subconscious: Why had I always been so entranced by trees? Why does the contemplation of them lull me into a state of reverie? Why of all the emanations of nature is it trees that I find so ineffable?

The tree is one of our most potent archetypes as a symbol of life and unity between the seen and unseen worlds; spirit and matter.

As I examined where the river of current had run down the tree into the earth, the myth that sprang to mind, though, was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There, Eve met the serpent -- the shining one -- who coiled up the tree, or spine. And, in one of those strange vignettes where myth merges seamlessly with the world of form, I learned that a neighbor who bears one of the many names of the great mother goddess was hit in the leg by one of those shining sparks of electricity that shot through so many of our windows that night.

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Jul 7, 2011

Fighting James Ray with James Ray

As I've mentioned previously, the James Ray letter-writing campaign is underway. As James Ray's supporters and family are requesting letters about what a great guy he is and how many people he's "helped," for the mitigation hearing, the prosecutors are also accepting letters about what a creep he is and how many people he's harmed.

In addition to the aforementioned letter from Karen Oritz, pleas have gone out from Ray's family members and even Ray himself. He has enlisted the help of one Tony Alessandra. Details on this can be found on Connie Joy's Facebook page and in this post from the Salty Droid. Here is Alessandra's appeal for support which includes Ray's assault on grammar and decency.

From: On Behalf Of Dr. Tony Alessandra 858-999-2119
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:06 PM
Subject: [CSPlink] Re: More on James Arthur Ray

…I just received this email from James Ray. He needs help from all those who really know him. I’ve volunteered to testify as a character witness in Aug.or Sept. prior to sentencing. ALL your letters will help his case.

From: James Ray
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 8:58 PM
To: Tony Alessandra (TA@Alessandra.com )
Subject: help James Ray

Tony I need as many letters of support as possible talking about the good I’ve done and WHY I SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE DOING MY WORK and get probation versus prison. Can you help me? How do they know me, what have I done for them or what have they observed me do, what do they know about my character, work ethic, contribution, WHY SHOULD I BE ALLOWED TO GET BACK AND CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY, ETC.
You mentioned that many speakers have made supportive comments to you, can you get them to write letters-the more the better. My lawyers want to give them to the judge to help sway his sentence. Have them send via email to nk@jamesray.com. Attachment with a signature is best but if not possible can be in the body of the email.

Thanks in advance for your help

James Arthur Ray

All caps are always such a nice touch. Stay classy, Mr. Ray!

I also love that Alessandra's three sentences aren't actually written by Alessandra but "on behalf of." He's a busy guy. I get that. He's got a lot of "certified professional" speechifyin' to do. So will he be testifying in person or will he have a proxy for that as well?

And what is a Certified Speaking Professional? I don't really know, but I'm betting it doesn't involve deep study in rhetorical analysis, Burke's pentad, or Aristotle's Poetics, like those of who actually went to school to learn public speaking had to learn. What struck me, though, looking at the police photo Salty posted on his blog is how prominently Ray has displayed his Certified Speaking Professional certificate. It's hanging on his wall of fame right next to his O cover and, um, some wolves. (???)

You know what's not displayed there? Any certificate from Stan Grof or Allied Ronin showing that he's certified in Holotropic Breathwork or the Samurai Game... because he's not. Conspicuous by its absence in the JRI offices is any evidence of his claimed credentials in the multitude of things he facilitated and taught. But he's certified to be a motivational speaker. He's definitely got his Certified Speaking Professional certificate.

But I digress.

James Ray's peeps -- or their personal assistants -- may or may not be sending letters and agreeing to testify to Ray's "CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY." But Sheila Polk intends to fight fire with fire and is receiving letters from those who have been harmed by James Ray. She has received a number of these letters and could, undoubtedly, use more.

Two people have posted their letters on their blogs and the posts are must reading. One is the personal recounting from a woman whom trial watchers will remember as one of the not shiny, happy people in the 2008 sweat lodge photos. The second is from a woman whose brief contact with Ray sent her into a suicidal shame spiral. It doesn't take Ray long to do lasting damage. He's really good at it.

Mary Latallade attended Spiritual Warrior complete with Ray's heat endurance challenge (aka. sweat lodge) in 2008. Sheila Polk zeroed in on the above image of Mary during the trial as evidence of the fact that all was not well at previous Ray sweat lodges. Ted Mercer testified to her total incoherence. Thankfully, she has recovered from her experience, although she is still trying to put the pieces together regarding what happened to her that day. She has no recollection of much of her experience. And the JRI staff was less than helpful in putting it into context.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to hear from Carry but I accepted her reply knowing that even if she wrote it herself, she was clearly coached to withhold any details about what happened. It would be a futile endeavor to demand answers. If I was at a hospital, I would have gotten lots of information, helpful information about my stay and care. I would have felt reassured that I was well taken care of in a safe and appropriate environment. I knew secrecy (to avoid negative publicity) was a strict JRI policy. I was just hoping to get any information that might fill in the gap of time that had lapsed. Honestly, I wanted my memory back. Instead, I got nothing or what felt equivalent to a door slamming in my face! Anytime you dealt with a JRI employee, for the most part they were courteous with a great big show-all-your-teeth smile on! I had to suck it up. Employees do not budge if they are told to do something a certain way for fear of being called out by James. The same level of professionalism, authority and loyalty was expected when you were chosen to dream team an event so I knew the deal.

I was disturbed, obviously, by much of Mary's post but what really tweaked me were her numerous references to secrecy and a "code of silence." She alluded to this "vow of secrecy" not only in terms of how Ray's students represent his events to the outside world but also to each other. I found this bizarre so I wrote to Mary who was kind enough to indulge my questions and to give me permission to share some of our conversation.

Mary's response to my initial question about how this policy of secrecy was expressed and enforced was more horrifying than I expected. She described for me a situation in which Ray loyalists reported up the chain of command when people had stepped out of line so that participants really didn't know whom to trust. Ray would then use open mic sessions to humiliate people he was mad at for any perceived slight. And she confirmed my suspicion that Ray was repurposing spiritual growth tools in ways that  were completely self-serving. For example "letting people have their own experience" was not simply about respecting healthy boundaries. It was a way to keep people isolated from one another. (As we know from the evidence presented at trial, it was also an excuse to leave unconscious people lying where they fell in the "hellacious" heat of the sweat lodge so that some of them had the opportunity to die without interference, you know, in their growth process.)

Ray discouraged discussion of any of the exercises until people "had time to process their experience." The problem with that is that most of  us process our learning experiences through discourse; particularly if we're having trouble understanding what's occurred. The result of this enforced "code of silence" is that it kept the majority of the communication moving vertically, rather than horizontally. It interfered with the development of interpersonal bonding between participants. Mary told me that she had "made a lot of great acquaintances."

All of this served to keep people dependent on Ray, rather than in a mutually supportive environment. And Ray's game was to keep people endlessly dissatisfied with what personal help they got from him or his staff. Ray, himself, was almost completely unavailable. That way participants would keep chasing him for the elusive rewards promised by the next event and the next and the next.

People who have studied cults will recognize the vertical communication and the spying by "loyal" followers. They will recognize the punishments for disloyalty and sharing secrets with outsiders. Again, I would never characterize JRI as a full-blown cult. But wherever groups coalesce, cultish elements can be seen to some degree. Often, it's completely unintentional. After months of listening to testimony and reading personal accounts by former students, I do not think what Ray was doing was unintentional. I think he set out to manipulate people and make them increasingly dependent,  disempowered, and willing to fork over huge sums of money.

The divide and conquer techniques employed by Ray are a pattern I've also come to recognize as common among sociopaths. Keeping the people in your sphere from communicating with one another keeps them from comparing notes and coming to important realizations -- like the fact that they're dealing with a sociopath. (I learned to recognize this little trick through hard experience. Don't ask.)

What Ray's events lacked in intimacy they more than made up for in instamacy. That is certainly not something that is unique to Ray. It's a common side effect of the intensity of short retreats. I can see parallels going all the way back to diocesan youth conferences I used to attend through my very upright Episcopal Church. And it is certainly something I've observed at many of the spiritual seminars I've attended. I was reminiscing earlier this morning about how much I hate the hugginess of a lot of these events. I wrote a bit about my views on social pressure to hug total strangers here:

Some years ago when I was taking a course with Drunvalo Melchizedek, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with what has been aptly termed the "instamacy" of spiritual gatherings. To put it simply, I'm not a hugger. This puts me distinctly at odds with the cultural climate of a lot of "new age" gatherings. To me, a full body press with another person is a rather intimate expression; one I reserve for people I feel personal affection for. That kind of affection usually develops over time. I feel perfectly comfortable hugging close friends and family, but rarely people I've just met. But, anyone who's ever been to one of these things can tell you, hugging total strangers is the norm. So, it became an issue. Drunvalo's response was to tell me that I would some day realize everyone I met was "absolutely" me. I think he was somewhat taken aback when I told him I already fully understood that, but it didn't change my views on the hugging culture a bit. While it was most certainly true that everyone in that class was "me," so is Charles Manson. I don't want to hug him either.

Imagine my horror when I opened up Connie Joy's Facebook page earlier this evening and learned that Ray not only insisted people hug total strangers but give them butt rubs. His purported reason for doing this? To sooth the muscle tension caused by sitting for so long in his courses. This is not just grossly inappropriate and a total disrespect of personal boundaries. (Don't you love the way Ray wants people not to interfere with each others' "process" and "experience" but does want them to molest each other?) It's also, once again, reckless and dangerous. What about people who've been sexually assaulted in the past who could be retraumatized by having total strangers grab their asses? Are JRI staff members prepared to help people whose PTSD is triggered by an exercise this stupid?

Recklessly opening up psychological wounds is Ray's modus operandi. Nothing is off limits when it comes to Ray getting what he wants. In the case of Jeanne Barkemeijer, what Ray wanted was her money. Well, he wants everybody's money, so that's no shock. But Jeanne wouldn't be talked into spending money she didn't have. After a remarkably naked attempt to get her to part with a monstrous sum, he brutally and publicly humiliated her. Her breathtaking letter and additional commentary are here.

Jeanne went to one of Ray's teaser events to thank him. She had enjoyed his book and his teachings had given her some hope of regaining her health. Her multiple allergies, fibromyalgia, and other health problems had left her walker dependent and on disability. When she approached Ray to thank him and shake his hand, he visibly recoiled. And then he started hard selling her.

When I reached out to shake Mr Ray's hand he looked at me, reached for my husband's hand and then crossed his arms. When I started to thank Mr Ray, I spoke five words ... at which point he interrupted me to ask if we'd signed up for any of his seminars.

When I started telling him we had no money and were unable to attend, he again interrupted me.

James Ray
"I'm going to do you a favor" he said, "Don't ever say that again, [that you don't have money] the universe is listening."

"But I don't have any money right ... (I was going to say right now)"

James Ray ... interrupting again ... now shouting

"But it's true."

James Ray ... shouting even more loudly
"Then borrow it!"

"I have no one to borrow from."

James Ray ... speaking in a loud and angry tone
"You mean to say your life is so miserable that you have absolutely no friends who can loan you money?"

Me ... quietly
"No, my friends are struggling to."

James Ray ... shouting
"You'll never be anything but a fat slob and looser if you don't attend my retreat."

Yes. James Ray is an unconscionable prick. And he openly loathes people for being sick, poor, or God forbid, overweight. (The steroid dependent, former body builder's contempt for overweight people is an open secret.)

Ray's hostility toward the sick and economically disadvantaged is something I've noted before. It's even evident in his published work. It's one of the first things that jumped out me when the sweat lodge debacle forced me to take a hard look at this particular member of The Secret brain trust.

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

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

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

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

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

Is it any wonder that so many people came away from The Secret feeling like their illness and adversity meant that they had failed somehow?

As I noted here, by James Ray's standard, Stephen Hawking is a cautionary tale.

I am weary of discussing the implications of self-help pundits and their negative messaging around any imperfection. I have railed for years against how emotionally punishing this is for people who don't happen to be perfect. Once again, Ray has raised the implicit hazards of the self-help industry into something radically explicit. I knew The Secret was dangerous. I didn't expect people to die because of it. I was proved wrong by James Ray. I didn't think a "law of attraction" guru would ever openly, publicly, and directly, humiliate a person for being sick and financially disadvantaged. James Ray proved me wrong on that score as well.

Ray has left tremendous wreckage in his wake. He has emotionally, physically, and financially wounded countless people. If you are one of those people, this is your opportunity to set the record straight and aid prosecutors in their attempt to counter the defense's mitigation strategy. I have little doubt that he's harmed more people than he's helped. Please send your letters to Sheila Polk, the District Attorney who successfully -- and brilliantly -- prosecuted Ray for some of his crimes.

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.

Jul 4, 2011

Juror Speaks Out on James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

The first press interview with one of James Ray's jurors has hit the street. The only big surprise for me in this story is that juror Phillip Lepacek found Luis Li "personable and entertaining." Well... I guess I found him somewhat entertaining but only in the most darkly comic sense. I'm far less surprised to learn that he was "taken aback by defense attorney Tom Kelly, who clearly stated to the jury that he didn't like its verdict."

I hadn't thought that insulting the jury would go over real well -- especially considering that they'd just rearranged four months of their lives to hear this case.

The upshot? Four of the twelve thought it was manslaughter. The other eight won the argument and the four let themselves be talked down to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. They also did not buy the organophosphate theory. Shocker!!

"There were millions of things afterward that just didn't add up to these poisons being there," he said. "Even though the defense didn't have anything to prove or demonstrate, if they could just get those samples and test them and say `Here it is.' So obviously I'm thinking there was none."

Dr. Matthew Dickson, who reviewed autopsy records and medical reports of the participants for the prosecution, gained major points with the jury because of his experience with heat-related illness and exposure to pesticides, Lepacek said.

Dickson testified he was 99-percent sure that heat caused the deaths, and that the signs and symptoms of the victims were inconsistent with exposure to organophosphates, a pesticide compound.

"It was a no-brainer there was heat," Lepacek said. "These people were baked."

Uh... yeah!!

Other fun facts: They didn't really trust the Hamiltons and thought they should have put a stop to this whole thing. (That seems fair.) And Lepacek thought Judge Darrow did a fantastic job of explaining the the legalities to the jury and gave them a lot of clarity.

Again, none of this comes as a surprise. I do think the jury did the best job they could with the information they were given. Personally, I think Sheila Polk did a fantastic job and I was convinced of manslaughter... but I have information that the defense successfully got excluded.

I also have to say that I do not think Judge Darrow was biased in this case. If he were biased he would have taken the out provided by the Brady violation. I think he's a former defense attorney... actually I know he's a former defense attorney. And while team Ray's courtroom tactics did not impress me, they do know the law and they made the right arguments to get things excluded. A lot of this is frustrating but having a judge who thinks like a defense attorney may prove not be such a bad thing if Ray's attorneys appeal, which they say they absolutely intend to do.

Lepacek seems to believe that Ray was a decent guy in a horrible situation. Wait 'til he learns all stuff that was kept from the jury. Which brings me to my next point: Letters are still being received by prosecutors for use in the mitigation phase. I hope to have more details on this soon and will post them when I do but this link on Connie Joy's Facebook page gives some of the information. Nancy Ogelvie is coordinating efforts to compile information for Sheila Polk from the many people who have been emotionally, physically, and/or financially harmed by James Ray.

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Jul 1, 2011

Kissing the Sun

With today's partial solar eclipse, we will complete another of what Lauren Gorgo calls sandwich cycles; two solar eclipses on either side of a lunar eclipse. And I agree with Gorgo that the lunar eclipse was a doozy.

How are you faring?

We did come up for a quick breath of air after integrating that noxious lunar eclipse, but only for a hot second before the solstice energy waves started to pull us under again.

This lunar eclipse was a doozy for many…in some cases it successfully cracked open core blocks and forced us to take a solid look at our foundations before we begin to build upon them. If your foundation was slightly damaged, most likely you spent the last 7 days repairing it. If the damage was severe or irreparable, you may have been suddenly forced to begin again…to dig up the existing foundation and lay an entirely new one. If you are one who is experiencing the latter, no worries...this is not a race. Everything is always exactly as it should be.

For all of us, the lunar eclipse provided a massive opportunity to release some deeeeeeep feelings of lack/unworthiness…we were given the chance to coddle those remaining loveless parts which, unfortunately meant revisiting some dark places in our past so that we could illuminate and reclaim those aspects of ourselves that we unknowingly left behind.

No argument. It's been intense and I've been awash in memory, nostalgia, and icky, toxic goo.  It has definitely been a time to face hard truths about ourselves and undertake the difficult work of loving them back into wholeness. And, at the same time, there's been a feeling of tremendous movement, shifting, and expansion. I've had the feeling for weeks that thing are about to kick into high gear and that many of the changes will be unexpected and surprising. It would seem Karen Bishop concurs. I got this in my email last night.

The energies have really kicked in of late and are creating massive amounts of movement within. Symptoms? You may feel like crying for no apparent reason, have a racing heart, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, and feel short-tempered. You may feel like you are losing it, feel acutely overwhelmed, or even as though no one is remotely making any sense.

Hectic, hectic, hectic, and busy, busy, busy are results of this fast moving energy which pushes most of everything in its path along at a very steady and rapid pace. We absolutely cannot keep up with the rapid creations now, and hence, may continually feel overloaded. Add to this the pushing of the energies themselves, and head pressure, neck stiffness, and overall PRESSURE all around are common results.

People we encounter may cut us off abruptly with a need to move away (not a very high level response with connection and unity the desired reality! --- creating even more confusion and sad hearts!), or continue to ramble on about their personal situations with a near hysteria at the core, if even so subtly (can't blame them...this energy is intense!)

Guilty as charged! I know I have been both weepy and bitchy -- not an attractive combination.

So, here's some information on the "stealth eclipse" of today, which will complete, at least, that cycle of strangeness.

If you miss the partial eclipse of the sun on Friday (July 1), don't feel bad; everyone else on the planet will likely miss it, too. But a touch of skywatching trivia makes it a rare event.

Friday's solar eclipse will occur over an extremely remote part of the world — an uninhabited region in the southern Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Antarctica. You could even call it a "stealth" eclipse since it will probably only be seen by a few penguins and leopard seals.

. . .

On June 1, a more impressive partial solar eclipse occurred over Earth's northern polar region, stunning skywatchers across Europe and Asia. Then, on June 15, a total lunar eclipse (the first of two in 2011) occurred, with the moon turning a blood-red hue for skywatchers across the Eastern Hemisphere.

And now we have a third eclipse, and the second partial eclipse of the sun. This trio of eclipses is possible because of the mechanics of the moon's phases, according to SPACE.com's skywatching columnist Joe Rao. [Infographic: How Moon Phases Work]

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