Friday, January 12, 2007

24. Logic and Emotion (Perceptions)

Though we have powerful minds and amazing technology, we are not really living in an enlightened age. Swamped with information and inundated by images that seem to tell us what to think, we are rarely guided in the how of thinking. Without realizing it, we may be tethered to unfulfilled promises of pleasure and success by our own unexamined acceptance of social structure, culture, custom, and environment. Is it any wonder that so many of us in this fast-paced world are feeling washed out by worry, anxiety, or a general feeling of malaise?

As we look back through time, it is not hard to see why so many different religions and spiritual systems have continually developed. No other binding force could be as strong as the acknowledgment of a common source. Sharing a similar belief system connects us to each other, regardless of what our beliefs entail.

Many belief systems promise spiritual enlightenment. We may agree with some and find others ludicrous or dangerous. But few are wrong per se; they merely vary in the ways they permit growth or impede it. Whether a particular belief disappears eventually, or gains wider acceptance, depends on its accessibility, practicality, and the amount of interdependence and autonomy it permits and encourages.

Our present system is ancient Aristotelian, external and deceptively easy to live by because it places almost all the weight of logic on sensual experience: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. If an idea or belief is not verifiable by presently accepted forms of logic, it is deemed inadmissible, unsubstantiated, or even unreal! Aristotle (logically) believed that logic and reason were the primary means with which humankind could reach the ultimate truth and that emotion or passion detracted from our ability to develop flawless logic. That’s not such an earth-shattering assumption! We all could suggest the same notion, as long as we acknowledge that a natural progression of thought must encompass all aspects of nature. Logic and reason are necessary in order to make sense of what might seem chaotic but without emotion, logic and reason have no reason to exist. Without emotion, there would be no creativity, no well from which potentiality might be drawn to be measured, weighed, and formed by logic and reason.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

23. Empathic Healing:

A Future Possibility?
There are stories of faith healing in most cultures, religions and eras, so it’s rather curious that we haven’t yet reached any sort of consensus on the possibility of developing such a power in the present. There is abundant evidence available showing that biofeedback is real and quite easily learned. We can raise and lower our blood pressure and heart rate; we can even alter our brain wave pattern once we are able to relate a particular frequency (ex. alpha, beta, theta) to our subjective feelings and state of mind.
We all know that our mind and body are attached.  We know that meditation is good for us, and that too much tension and stress is not; and yet there are some people (including members of the medical community) who still treat the subject of “therapeutic touch” as though it were only slightly more effective than trying nothing at all. In that state of mind, we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy, for disbelief dilutes any energy we might otherwise generate through belief, the very energy we need to develop this ability. 

When interest in a particular topic begins to increase, the subject at first seems to have few details.  It is vast and filled with generalities, superstitions and vague or undifferentiated information.  A "healing touch" might be called empathic healing but then it might get lumped in with words that suggest a superstitious foundation.  It might get mixed up with ideas of pre-scientific medicine, or of ESP, the laying-on-of-hands, shamans, witch doctors and medicine men, phoney faith healers, mind-readers and even fortune tellers. It's easy to turn away from an idea if the first images that spring to mind are of vulnerable or highly suggestible people falling in rapture at the feet of charismatic evangelists or hypnotists.

If such a visual is repugnant to us, we may become strongly sceptical of anything that hints at “faith” or “faith healing.” But before we disregard an idea, we must make sure that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We mustn't discard the subject just because we don't like someone elses explanation of it.  

Each of us has the ability to learn as much as we want about a subject and then to apply logic to our assessments.  And we need to look for satisfactory ways to explain what has yet to be understood or accepted in our current version of reality.

We'll call it FAB! (A what-if tale)
Earth Date: 17-September-2027

A group of scientists discovers that all human beings have the potential to heal others merely by focusing on them. But they also realize that out of the billions of people on Earth, they've identified only a few thousand who have managed to manifest this power and to use it. 
These healers are observed for decades but because of current attitudes (and their attendant technologies), researchers cannot find a way to explain this odd power or to reproduce it on demand. Eventually, their funding is cut and they must move on to other sources of intrigue.

As the years pass, hundreds of professional sceptics offer all sorts of arguments against the reality of such a power, implying that it was a trick or a case of mass hypnosis, and a soon-to-be urban legend. The farther away the events pass in time, the fewer people believe they ever occurred. But those who witnessed the phenomenon know it was real regardless of its resistance to present definition. They do not want the information quashed or obliterated by vocal non-believers, so how, they wonder, can they keep it safe?  What people or institution will protect the information as it is given for hundreds (or thousands) of years?  The Churches!  So they appeal to the leaders of all the ancient religions, asking that the information be held in safekeeping until the climate is conducive to understanding and development.
  • Superstition is a placeholder for that which we have not yet defined.
Earth Date: 15-June-3998
Almost two thousand years pass before the phenomenon, FAB, (“Frequency Adjustment & Balance”) is finally understood, explained, named and practiced. Of course, some of those future scientists might read the religious text relating to the subject of “supernatural or faith healing” and deride the religion (and we ancients) for being ignorant, unscientific, and superstitious.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

22. Empathy - A Neglected Psychic Power

Empathy is a powerful emotion we are encouraged to use and strengthen by the urgings of our own conscience and by our sense of interconnectedness. It is not something that needs to be taught directly nor can it be taught. The best we can do to instil empathy in children and in each other is to employ it ourselves, in our thoughts and in our treatment of life beyond the limits of Self. Empathy cannot be compared or judged. In fact, if we decide that someone else lacks empathy, we are doing little more than failing to have enough empathy ourselves!

Life can only be understood must be lived forwards.

Søren Kierkegaard

We cannot be the actor and watch the play at the same time, any more than empathy can be extended and viewed simultaneously. By its very nature, empathy is an out-flowing emotion, filled with the spirit of equality or “oneness”. If we are trying to catch a glimpse of our own power, we are “not all there” in the outflow, and empathy is shut off at the source, becoming a mere shell of mannerisms. Suddenly this potential union* becomes a craft of separation; the “coming together” becomes the “moving apart”.

Developing our empathic power isn't a means to an end (a way to regard our own power etc.). Engaging empathy is an end in itself, for in our full, unadulterated desire for others' peace of mind, regardless of how we might be judged, we already exist within a place of strength, though we may not recognize it at the time. When someone relates to us empathically (or empathetically), we are subtly aware that its awesome power and strength lies in its connection. This power is not exerted over us. It is not an emotion of division or judgment, ego or Self. It lies within the letting go of ego, and in the broadening of our views to include the well-being of others. Empathy is a magnificent power that invites us to put Self aside and to see life and each other in a strong and accepting way.

"A suitable explanation or a comforting word to the patient may have something like a healing effect which may even influence the glandular secretions. The doctor's words, to be sure, are “only” vibrations in the air, yet they constitute a particular set of vibrations corresponding to a particular psychic state in the doctor. The words are effective only insofar as they convey a meaning or have significance. It is their meaning which is effective. But “meaning” is something mental or spiritual. Call it a fiction if you like. Nonetheless, it enables us to influence the course of disease in a far (more) effective way than with chemical preparations. We can even influence the biochemical processes of the body by it. Whether the fiction rises in me spontaneously or reaches me from without by the way of human speech, it can make me ill or cure me.” Carl Jung

21. Mind Over Matter - Part II

Finely-tuned Frequencies

It's exciting to know we might one day develop telepathy and clairvoyance and other untold “psychic” powers, now only semi-formed in our consciousness; but we cannot hope to build these abilities if we ignore the powers and endowments we already possess. For instance, we have the ability to tune ourselves in to someone else's frequency and then to regulate that person's energy field, re-establishing a more rhythmic brain wave pattern (or disrupting that pattern). We might also describe this power as an “energy-regulation response”, turned on by benevolent will, or, as my old Webster's dictionary describes that same ability, “the power to enter into the feeling or spirit of others” (italics added).

But we tend to narrow all descriptions down to single words then either take our words and our powers for granted, fail to express them (give them form or reality) or use them miserly. In this case, the word is “empathy”.

Next: Empathy - A Neglected Psychic Power

Saturday, November 18, 2006

20. Second Nature
Learning Something New

To our infant human mind, anything in the tangible world truly seems possible; but gradually the daily routines of life and lifestyle, language and common emotion define our view of the world. Eventually, reality is solidified as a relatively narrow range of islands in an endless ocean of potentiality. The newborn's brain is packed with nerve cells and fully equipped to handle trillions of possible connections; but after two years or so, the brain gives itself its first haircut, leaving the branches that have been connected and used repeatedly, and dissolving those that have not. [See: Neurons and Synapses]

Much human potential, such as sight, must be developed very quickly if it is to become a part of reality. Light must reach an infant’s eyes by the first few months of age, at the latest. If by that time, no particles of light have passed through a child's retinas to stimulate the visual neurons in the brain and to connect to perception, those connections will never be made and that child will never see.

If a person is to acquire fluent language, he must hear it spoken before the age of eight years or thereabouts. To become articulate in a second language, the same early-exposure rule applies: the earlier, the easier. Anyone who has ever learned a second language after childhood knows how difficult it is, certainly a whole lot harder than learning the first. And even when a second language is mastered by an adult, it requires a lot more brain space than the first.

  • At birth, the cells in our brain have thousands more connectors (dendrites) than we seem able to use. The moment we are born, we are prepared to assess the world from virtually any perspective. However, once the terms of our existence are familiar, at approximately six years of age, the brain releases a chemical, which again prunes all unused connections.

  • We share 98% of our DNA with our primate cousins: the great apes, orang-utans, chimpanzees, et al. Reality diverges within that 2% into a world of differences.
  • It is said that a child loses 90% of his creativity in the first five years of life. It seems likely then, that there are many other natural human abilities, which must be practiced almost immediately, if they are to be developed and used at all.

How much viable human potential exists in the mind of an infant, beyond what we presently view as the limits of human ability? Until it is expressed, we do not know. We cannot know. And we may not hear or notice when it is expressed, if we have accepted too rigid a boundary around our own notions of reality.

When Second Nature overrides First Nature

If the emotional knowledge of a child's first nature suggests to him that worrying is a useless and wasteful mental past time, he may try to allow this into reality. If the adults around him acknowledge his reminder as innate wisdom, they not only benefit themselves but they help that child to strengthen his inner knowledge. On the other hand, if he is ridiculed or told he is wrong, he will learn to doubt his first nature and will probably learn to worry, for this is a highly practiced way of thinking in most modern cultures. Rather than developing the kind of attitude and beliefs that preclude worry, worry itself becomes second nature.

19. First Nature
Life on a Molecular Level

Our first nature, as a human being, is encoded in our DNA. Without our conscious interference, our heart pumps and blood flows, we inhale and exhale. We do not need to understand how our cells work in order to fight infection or store a memory for this is the job of our first nature, and is intelligence at cellular and molecular levels. Our first nature describes our common Earth-bound reality as well as the evolutionary position of our species. We share the same senses, the same skeletal structure, organs, appendages, and emotions; and with them, we try to evolve further, for our first nature is open to all directions and every potential. (Within/beneath/beyond our “first nature,” intelligence lies at atomic and quantum levels.)

While each of us might have our own theory about why we are here, none of us actually knows if there is some Big Metaphysical Purpose beyond what our powers of observation can tell us. All we do know for certain is that this is a wonderfully sensual world and if we are to enjoy its pleasures, we must refrain from irresponsibility and maintain our equilibrium. The harmony of our first nature (whatever its combination) compels us to develop a balanced perspective, so that all we create and embellish as second nature echoes that equivalence. It does not tell us how to do that because becoming is the trial-and-error nature of physical evolution, and the way in which constant variety is ensured.

18. Mind Over Matter - Part I

“man may have a non-material consciousness capable of influencing matter.” Eugene Wigner, July 1982 [Nobel Peace Prize for physics, 1963]

The idea of mind-over-matter (or mind within matter) is no doubt as old as the universe but its profound impact on the very stuff of life is rarely given the attention it deserves. Obviously, if any part of us has the ability to affect, change, alter and induce future reality, the form our reality takes will depend on the nature of our consciousness, our power.

Altering our present tangible reality is relatively easy. We are working on a macro level here so we can simply bulldoze a hillside or chop down more trees, pursue a goal blindly, or drink and drive and risk ending up dead in a ditch. The possible repercussions of many of our choices are usually evident because we can track them in real time.

But existing alongside our macro-motions, are micro-motions. Everything we feel, think, say or do has an effect on life (ie. on the form reality takes), if not on a macro-level, then on a micro-level, which is the future-in-formation. Every second of our existence has an immeasurable impact on reality, even when we are asleep. [See "Delta: Long Distance Information?" in a future post.]

Mr. Wigner suggested that we have a "non-material consciousness" capable of "influencing matter". It sounds wild! It might even sound preposterous. Could it be that one day we might actually be able to move objects simply by willing them to move? Could telekinesis actually be possible?

Why not?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Placeholder and Bridge

Some think (i.e. some believe) that "faith" is only about "believing" in something without substantial, identifiable, understandable proof of its existence.

(I believe that) faith is more about knowledge in the absence of belief.
Religion is the form of our beliefs. Faith is the formlessness of our intuitive knowledge.

Faith is a placeholder for what we may or may not be able to describe; and a bridge to what may one day be provable and proven.

And if you choose not to have faith?

Ask yourself just a few questions:

  • What if everything you have not learned or experienced yet, contains all the proof you could ever possibly want?
  • What if you just haven't arrived at the proof yet?
  • Would you feel any differently about life than you do now, if you were to be presented with indisputable proof of God and life beyond this one? Would you behave differently?
  • Would you see others or your own life in a differently way?
Do you live your life as if there will never be proof of an all-encompassing Universal Intelligence?

Do you live you life as if you will find proof around some corner one day - proof that you would not have been prepared to recognize if you had lived like some spoiled and quarrelsome child?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

17. Fusing Science and Religion

Those who speak of the incompatibility of science and religion either make science say that which it never said or make religion say that which it never taught. Pope Pius XI (1857 - 1939)
If asked to picture the quintessential scientist, many of us would probably imagine the almost-archetypal Albert Einstein, his fluffy white hair a-tangle; brown eyes warm with wisdom and good humour. Scientists, we hope, are like him: humble, highly principled mental-powerhouses searching for answers that will benefit all humankind. We can hope, but the fact is that scientists are of every stripe. Virtually all accredited scientists are employed or funded by commercial backers who expect results: new sources of profit.

If a pharmaceutical company is researching depression, for instance, the knowledge gained is being channelled through the intellect of the chemist, not the biologist or the neurologist, not the nutritionist, theologian, or the psychiatrist, but the druggist (though all may contribute data). How that information is disseminated depends on the ethics of each person involved. That is not cynicism, nor is it a criticism of pharmacists. Research costs money. Very, very few people are funded if no monetary gain can be imagined from their research.

Evolution means trying new possibilities, making mistakes and correcting them. One of the most fundamental blunders was the belief that questions of ethical excellence belonged in a separate category and therefore had no right to infringe on other categorized inquiries. To restrict the issues of morals and values to narrow jurisdictions of theology, philosophy, and metaphysics was plainly absurd. But that was the inferred premise of the old science: a belief that beliefs (and values) could be stripped away from science and its methodology, and that the Truth of Reality could be reached through “objective” observation. Ignored was the fact that scientists carry with them to their chosen field, their own blend of ethics and values, whatever they are, determining the very avenue of inquiry and affecting the direction and evolution of knowledge.

  • "It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature." Niels Bohr, Physicist
Old, Newtonian, or classic physics viewed the scientist as an observer who existed apart from, and had no affect on the object of observation, whereas quantum physics recognizes the scientist as an indivisible part of any observation. The “new physics” (new since 1900) hints at a universe so perfectly created that all knowledge and all potential is enfolded in underlying symmetries that give rise to the physical, tangible world. And yet, nearly a century later, many scientists and most non-scientists still think in causal and reductive terms. But the tide is turning; and the scientists of tomorrow are on their way. Let us hope that most of them have strong values.

As the late Carl Sagan wrote in his 1995 best-selling book “The Demon-Haunted World”, “... I know that the consequences of scientific illiteracy are far more dangerous in our time than in any that has come before.”

It is important that we are familiar with the trends of scientific knowledge, so that we may have an informed and confident voice as to how they are applied. Otherwise, we risk becoming little more than ignorant peasants who must dance to the beat of corporate technology's drum, no matter how frantic or erratic the pace.


It is as if we are playing “crack-the-whip” on an ice-skating rink. We are all at the end of Reality's rope with Science in the lead, searching for the First Cause, and the smallest component of Reality. Suddenly Science reaches the inescapable conclusion that it must change its perspective, its direction. Crack-the-whip!
As the wave of change spirals out to Reality, pity those on the very end of the rope, who have ignored both science and religion.

16. Here a Frequency, There a Frequency,

Everywhere a Frequency

  • A wavelength is measured from start of a crest (or trough) of one wave, to the same point on the crest (or trough) of the next wave.
  • Frequency refers to the number of wavelengths that pass a certain point in a given amount of time, and, is usually measured in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz).

We shall see what we can see

Our view of the world, and of life itself, is restricted to our ability to translate the infinite frequencies that surround us. With one sort of sensor, we can pick up electromagnetic energy that has a frequency of between one-half to three-quarters of a million billion cycles per second (5 x 1014 to 7.5 x 1014).
With a different kind of sensor we are able to detect mechanical energy that has a frequency higher than 15 to 20 cycles per second (or Hertz) and lower than 20,000 Hz. That frequency (15 – 20,000 Hz) is sound. The first range of frequencies is visible light—all the colours in the rainbow. And yet that is just the energy we sense naturally. It is not all that exists!

In the natural dimension (i.e. natural for human beings), our senses have built-in limitations, so our slice of perceived reality is extremely narrow. Anything that is smaller than a certain crucial size is invisible to us (ex. bacteria, viruses, certain algae and fungi). Detail is lost as an object moves farther away from us in space-time, so while everyone's eyesight varies, none of us can see a dust mite with our naked eyes. Neither can we see the rings of Saturn without visual aid, for in a natural healthy environment, we have no physiological need to notice this invisible world; it lives in balance with us. It is the wanting to see that motivates us to build powerful microscopes, telescopes, and particle accelerators.

There is a lot more “reality” happening than what we know about. We could stand right next to an elephant or whale, and not be aware that it is calling to a herd- or pod-mate a kilometre away, for both mammals have the ability to emit sounds so low, they slip beneath our threshold of consciousness. When a dog suddenly cocks an ear and listens intently to something we cannot hear, we can be reasonably certain that it is a frequency faster than 20,000 Hz. (a high pitched sound that we cannot hear). We cannot see (hear, touch, taste or smell) infrared light or X rays, radio waves or gamma rays, microwaves, ultraviolet light or brain waves but we know these various wavelengths are present because we theorized their existence through observation of the natural world, then looked for evidence of it, and for potential explanation. If our technology has shown us one thing, it is that reality (i.e. the present) depends on logical and complementary interaction between (what we see as) subject and object. The existence of something in the future rests on the nature of this interaction.

Just as astronomers speak of looking into the “past” when gazing at the stars, so it might be useful to think of looking at the microscopic world as a glimpse into the “future”, for the creatures that exist here are—from our point of view—preparatory Beings who permit (or prevent) life in the present. Just as the activity inside the brain manifests a particular observable reality, so the many organisms that exist are active in preparation or maintenance of our own tangible reality. If we imagine that certain small Beings (such as bacteria, insects and such) should be eradicated, we should give ourselves a little shake and balance this arrogant imagination by acknowledging that we cannot possibly know every last cause and effect, and may well be eliminating some vital part of our future.

Dust to Dust

  • Where life exists, it exists with purpose and complementarity.

A small animal seeks sanctuary in your garden where it spends its last hours beneath the aromatic branches of a cedar. There it dies. Since the animal's body is no longer needed in the present macroscopic world, microscopic bacteria begin immediately to dismantle the cells, making it easier for larger beings (insects) to do their thing. Only the most steely-minded (and stomached) among us would not feel nauseous if we were to come across a rotting corpse. But extraordinarily, considering how many birds and animals live around us, we rarely ever come across such sights, not only because passing life forms usually try to find private peaceful places to spend their final moments, but because entire societies of animals (birds, insects, bacteria etc.) work quickly, keeping the present quite cadaver-free.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

15. The Universe is Us

Protons, Neutrons and Electrons

Next Week:
- Here a Frequency, There a Frequency, Everywhere a Frequency;
- Fusing Science and Religion.

If I had studied physics in university, I might have enjoyed (much sooner) the coincidence of having a high school physics teacher named, Mr. Wheeler.
I would have known that there was another physicist of the same name involved with a pretty strange branch of science called, quantum physics: the study of the universe on a subatomic level. John Wheeler proposed that the word “observer” be replaced with the word “participator” for he and other physicists had realized that this is a participatory universe. Even the mere act of observation has an impact on what is observed.

Most of us learned that the atom consists of a positive nucleus (containing a positive proton and a neutral neutron), with one or more negative electrons orbiting around the nucleus like planets around the sun. The trouble with that is that those who study physics these days (even in high school) do not view the atom that way, so all the rest of us poor clods are working with a faulty mental model. In quantum physics, electrons are said to exist in orbitals or shells around the nucleus, somewhere in a cloud of probability. In effect, no one can say where the electron is precisely. That’s important to remember. (Beware though. That description is simplified and rather paraphrased.)

Mental Models

Our view of the world is affected by everything we learn. However, if what we learn is incomplete or inadequate, we may forfeit valuable lessons that can broaden and add texture and detail to our perspective. Yesteryear’s high school view of the atom was adequate to explain the electron’s actions, charge and relative position, but it’s a bit like visiting an amusement park for the first time in your life – after it has been closed for the night. You might be able to describe it fairly well but what would be missing would be the descriptions of the way The Scrambler twists and turns as it revolves, or the sounds of the laughter and screams of thrilled riders. The atom too becomes far more interesting when we see it in action.

The Energetic Atom

The negative charge of the electron is always equal to the positive charge of the proton, so a great positive charge inside the nucleus equals a great and equal negative charge outside it, shared among the electrons. (The calcium atom, Ca, for instance, has 20 protons and 20 electrons.) When the atom is at rest, the two complementary charges exist in equilibrium, bringing the total charge of the atom close to zero. This is its ground state. When the electrons are in their lowest energy state, they are found at their lowest orbitals.

When interacting with the right amount of radiation (i.e. light), electrons become excited by the extra energy they have absorbed and jump to a shell or level farther away from the nucleus. Then, emitting the excess energy, they fall back to their original level. Electrons in orbitals close to the nucleus require less energy to become excited, and therefore radiate less energy than electrons farther away from the nucleus.

[Remember this mental model when you read a future post on anger.]

The amount of energy released by the electrons of a particular atom, create its own unique spectrum, by which the atom is known. Since the spectrum is described in terms of its range of frequencies, an atom of oxygen has a frequency pattern that is distinct from the frequency pattern of an atom of carbon, nitrogen, gold, silver, iron, and every other element.

When eleven carbon atoms get together in a particular formation with 12 hydrogen atoms, two nitrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms (C11H12N2O2), we call that chemical compound tryptophan. This molecule is required for serotonin production (C10H12N2O), which is instrumental to our mental well-being. We get tryptophan from turkey, chicken, fish, dried dates, milk, cottage and other cheeses, bananas, eggs, avocados, nuts, peanuts, and legumes.

Friday, November 03, 2006

14. We Haven't Lost Our Awe

We've Just Misplaced It

What would we do without our refrigerators, stoves, and cars, MP3 players, DVDs and USB drives? And the internet, with its easy access to brilliance and nonsense is absolutely amazing. Who in history, besides us, has been able to answer our own questions in a matter of seconds?

Science has come so far and has created so much; it’s easy to assume that everything worth understanding has already been explained. But though we accepted Johannes Kepler’s and Isaac Newton's explanations of the universe, Max Plank, Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein and so many other great minds came along who added to previous observations, suggested expanded explanations and shed new light on the universal configuration, or at least cast the configuration into a different part of the spectrum. Upon their knowledge, we have built new versions of structured reality; but that does not mean we have figured everything out!

Somehow, we have misplaced our sense of wonder and relinquished our claim to the mysterious. Though most of us do not know how to build a car, a television, satellite or cell phone or how to extract plasma from whole blood, we know that someone else does. Consequently, our day-to-day interaction with the “known” deflates our sense of mystery. We may be impressed with our technology, and served by it, and it may even seem mysterious when we do not possess an understanding of how it works; but it is not truly a mystery for it is created, or explicated, by human beings and we all know we could understand if we wanted to learn.

Mystery, Sweet Mystery

We need all the mystery that exists in our lives, but sometimes we stop seeing it. We have come to think that mystery is only that which has so far defied all rational definition. Then we either pursue explanation or dismiss it as non-reality. We want to know if there is life on other planets because we do not know. Are there really black holes and wormholes in space and is there some equation that might explain the whole universe? We go on archaeological digs and try to unearth the secrets of the past; and we examine ancient prophesies for clues to the future, but we assess everything through the mind of today.

Did Atlantis ever exist? Are UFOs real? Some were excited about the “face” on Mars and yet what would have happened if it turned out to have been deliberately carved by some ancient cosmological culture? The subject would quickly be snapped up by those in connected fields and for a few weeks or months it might be the prime focus of radio and television talk shows, debates and news and science magazines. But eventually we would feel that it had been “explained” and we'd all fall back into our routines, wondering, “Are there any more artefacts on Mars?” And if there were? “ there anything on Europa???”

Solving a mystery, or at least finding reasonable explanations, always leads us to another level of mystery for our sense of incompleteness is also our evolutionary thrust. We have always wanted to know more, do more, experience more and we are forever asking “why” and “how”. Our search for the ultimate proof of God's existence has been continuous, as has our more recent search for the perfect equation that will explain the origin, and future, of the universe.

The Great Divide

Computers, carburetors, CAT scanners, nuclear reactors, guns, cloning, tailoring and dry masonry: all these objects and processes can be described or explained with equanimity for they mark their beginnings in the tangible world, as the creations or products of human observation and logic. If we lose our sense of mystery about our own inventions, we lose nothing; the understanding was ours for the learning. If the creations of our knowledge disappeared, we would still be here – able to create anew.

But trees, rocks, whales, water, lightning and crude oil, these and billions of others are wonders not of our own making and they retain their mystery even beyond our limited descriptions, applications and external observations, for they, like us, exist as complementary parts of this whole, we call the universe. Though we are capable of noticing, examining, experimenting, hypothesizing, and reasoning and concluding, we must constantly try to ensure that our interpretations of the natural world are offered with the greatest of caution. Description and supposition must never parade as resolution. And while we may decide how to explain photosynthesis or blood circulation, or offer ideas on why there's oil in the ground, we must be careful not to minimize the mystery that exists beyond our comprehension; for if the natural creations disappear, we will most decidedly disappear as well.

We must also be prudent with our own acceptance of explanations lest they strip away our awe and reverence for the things and processes they attempt to define. It is certainly not necessary to understand how the brain works in order to use it! Nor are we required to understand the “biology of prayer” for it to be effective.

  • We can use our explanations to enhance our sense of mystery, reverence and awe, or to diminish it. The choice is ours.

On a television program about “life after death”, I heard a doctor explain that certain brain chemicals and body processes contribute to the perceptions often present in a near-death experience. Essentially, she suggested that this experience is not actually “real” but only a product of the mind. Such insinuations are unfortunate, for explaining our perceptions in terms of molecular or cellular function is no different from explaining the universe in terms of quantum physics or describing a whole tree in terms of all of its various cells, parts, and processes. Everything can be brought down to a subatomic level of explanation but that does not make anything less real.

We can describe how a rose grows, how photosynthesis works, how the capillary action of the roots and stem draw moisture to its leaves but our understanding doesn't include an explanation of how that particular combination of atoms combined to form a rose in the first place, without our help. Evolution? No. That only explains how the plant may have changed, not how the very first rose began, nor why. It is at this level that mystery remains and retains our awe while we make all sorts of educated guesses. When we appreciate the natural wonder and mystery in our lives, we want to tread carefully, and to keep our senses acute, our thoughts sharp and our emotions balanced, so that we may appreciate and understand life with as much perspicuity and pleasure as possible.

We must take care not to let our search for “explanation” reach the point at which we no longer feel a sense of wonder and awe, for it is that sense which keeps us humble long enough to take care with our observations and our explanations, lest they lead us to arrogance and despair. No species can survive if it continually repeats its errors and passes those mistakes along to subsequent generations.

  • No words, equations or formulae equal what they describe.
  • All “explanations” are merely fingers pointing at the awesome intricacies of life and saying, “Wow!”
Dr. Wilder Penfield, in his experiments on the brain could locate many areas that the brain controlled but could not find the “I” that controlled the dialogue.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dominion Christian Centre - A Cult?

I watched a piece on CTV’s W-Five last night, about a Hamilton, Ontario “church” called the Dominion Christian Centre.

(The only information a subsequent internet search turned up was an August 31, 2006 story in the Hamilton Spectator about Mirella Brun del Re whose parents, Lucie and Renato kidnapped her from the suspected cult out of fear for their daughter’s psychological well-being. The story is repeated on the cult-warning website but there’s little else to be found.)

Mirella wouldn’t stay away from the church though and doesn’t seem to care about her parents’ and brother’s possible incarceration. Her brother Giancarlo, who’d always been Mirella’s best friend was close to tears a couple of times as he spoke of the changes in his sister. Mirella’s mother Lucie said, "The hate she developed towards the siblings, the family - the arrogance, the hate towards us. Like we didn't mean anything any more. She was in another world."

Watching Mirella, it was plain to see that she has blocked all emotion connected to her family. She spoke without a trace of compassion or understanding, but with utter indifference. It’s clear that she can no longer assimilate her feelings for her family with the feelings that Rigo and the group have engendered within her. On a gut level she may have objections to her pastor’s methods, rules, analogies or language, but because it’s all done in the name of God, she has allowed herself to become dependent on the group for this moral “high” and no longer knows how to function if she does not have easy access to it.

Rigo, of course, makes them think that their rapturous states of mind are evidence of God, when it’s really a state of mind that one can reach in far less dangerously dependent ways. The fact that he is using God is about as despicable as one gets. (The Rigos of the world might call it satanic if referring to someone else who was using such methods.)

I'd be interested to learn more about Peter Rigo. (He seems repellently familiar. Hamilton is not far way.) And what about his wife, Peggy? Was there a reason why she wasn't also featured? She too was listed as a pastor of the church. What’s her story?

Peter Rigo claims that he doesn’t force anyone to stay, but he uses the Bible to convince young people that it’s quite all right to abandon their families if they aren’t sympathetic to the dictates of the church. (Rigo mentioned Matthew 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.) [I wonder how he explains the Fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land…. (Exodus 20:12)]

It is obvious that he has some warped ideas about what it means to be a "Christian".

When he was demonstrating his disrespect of other churches - pretending that they compete for membership by saying, "our girls give better blow jobs than your girls do” (and “we get laid twice as quick at Christian school as you do at regular school”), some of his young congregants appeared embarrassed (though they also looked as if they were trying hard to be cool with his talk).

I don’t know about anyone else, but that particular remark – in its context – made my skin crawl.

His toilet talk teeters on the brink of perversion. From using a “bowel-movement” metaphor in describing those who attend church inattentively, to saying that if you don’t live according to the bible you might as well “wipe your ass” with it, to describing his former life as doing whatever his “dick” told him to do, he destroys any chance for invoking reverence and awe. (In what sort of hell is Peter Rigo dwelling and why does he need to take others with him?)

When he tried to dismiss the notion that his ‘church’ is actually a cult, once again he expressed disdain, pointing out that "all I can gather up…are a handful of young people and a couple of moms and dads. But I’ll keep working on it. We’ve got to get to the people with the money if we’re going to succeed.”

Of course I don't doubt that he would claim that he was being facetious, that he was only “mocking” the idea that his church is a cult. Clever sarcasm is one thing. Trying to conceal vile aspects of one’s personality within a mockery of what “others” “might say” is something else indeed. So is hiding one’s true motives behind “I’m only kidding” after a self-serving comment has been uttered. It’s a manipulator’s method and a coward’s act.

When some of his followers were interviewed in their top floor cafeteria, they admitted that the ‘cost’ of being a member was giving up the ‘outside world’ and friends and family (though one member called it a “privilege”).

I’m here seven days a week,” said one young man. “I love the place. I work around here. I eat here. It’s basically become my life – by my choice.” When asked if it was possible to participate as a part-time member, he half-laughed and said, “well you can but you would definitely feel like an outsider”.

Though the story was interesting, it left some questions unanswered, such as, do they charge for meals in their restaurant, or is it run as a co-op? Do they make a profit? Is that how D.C.C. followers spend their time when they’re at the church “seven days a week”? And if it is a for-profit enterprise, how is that profit spent?

I’m afraid that Rigo’s motivations have more to do with his own ego and lifestyle than with helping people to find strength in their beliefs. Let’s hope he fades away and that these young people (and the adults) keep each other strong when they decide to rejoin the world – and begin to actually practise their ideals.

I hope W-FIVE keeps an eye on this story and does a follow-up.

See also: The Stockholm Syndrome

Bookmark me for future posts: Beware Group Rapture;
Brain waves, Biofeedback and Balance;

Sunday, October 22, 2006

If you're visiting for the first time, the best place to start is here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

13. Systems of Thought

"I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's;

I will not Reason and Compare; my business is to Create."
William Blake, 1757 - 1827

Almost from the moment we are born, we begin to create our own reality. We know it's our own, as soon as we realize that everything else exists ‘outside’ our Self, that others have their own ways of looking at the infinite aspects of life, and when we come across our first subjective evidence that tells us that in this place, sometimes “bad” people prosper while “good” people suffer. This strange, disturbing paradox can cause untold frustration as we try to figure out how to incorporate all the apparent contradictions.

A “system of thought” (our perspective) is like a very personal construction of an immense metropolitan city. Inside the brain, there are billions of routes comparable to highways, streets, dirt roads, trails, and pathways. Which new trails we blaze, which roads we build, pave and maintain is our choice. Very early in our lives we discover that we can have thoughts of which no one else seems to be aware: silly thoughts, dreamy thoughts; loving, hateful, nonsensical, romantic or macabre thoughts. What’s more, no one else can prove what is inside our mind…until our behaviour begins to reflect our continuously constructed perspective.

As we live, we search for logic and proof, cause and effect, consolidating all experience and emotion into one unified system of beliefs. But after establishing a general way to get along in life, we can become complacent about what we think. We may no longer be alert to the fact that our thoughts are constantly under construction; we simply go along, discovering the results of our actions and doing our best to decide whether our behaviours contribute to our life or detract from it.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

12. Logical Belief does Not Always Equal Knowledge

...or Understanding.

Our thirst for knowledge is unquenchable; regardless of how we satisfy it, we always want to know more. Even when we are not actively pursuing knowledge, this “seeking” phenomenon cannot be stopped. It is there in our desire to see the ends of movies (not just the beginnings), in our attempt to fix problems and to discover the causes of illness. Nevertheless, while knowledge is required for survival, we can trick ourselves into thinking that it is possible to reach a state of complete understanding, and definitive proof of everything that is real.

Knowledge is a very limited commodity.

While potential knowledge is infinite, conscious logical knowledge is confined by the boundaries of time and experience. Even what we know and how we know it is defined by our own perspective and expectations, as well as our own variable environments. If we are satisfied with the knowledge we possess, we may be less open to new information. In that case, we may keep viewing our understanding from the same perspective, believing it to be an unchangeable truth until an opportunity arises that allows us to challenge our beliefs, or to add a new or different dimension to our perception.

Today always marks the zenith of our comprehension, for just as a child cannot imagine what the adult mind will know, we cannot know at this moment, what we may learn ten years from now. But we can be aware that our future knowledge is constructed of what we fill our minds today.

11. "Improvement": Beware your name is not "Greed"

  • The jungles and rain forests are disappearing, unnaturally quickly.
  • Oil spill after oil spill after oil spill poisons hundreds of thousands of living things, while rusting old nuclear submarines lie crumbling in the depths.
  • Chemicals are sprayed like crazy onto millions of landscapes and yards, washing down storm drains as soon as it rains, or being walked onto carpets, tiles and hardwood floors where little loved ones crawl and play and breathe.

We have not had time to assess the repercussions of our technology, or to circumvent the eventual damage that we will have caused by our refusal to face and correct our mistakes. It seems that the incredible confidence we once had in our species’ survival has become more fragile. Our very cells know that we have drastically changed the physical nature of our planet in a frighteningly short time, relative to the age of Earth, and even to humanity’s time upon it. Our confidence is waning. It must, but only for as long as it takes to redevelop that confidence on more solid ground.

  • Once in awhile it might be fun to put ourselves high on a pedestal, but we do ourselves a great disservice if we actually believe we belong there!

There have been too many errors made over the last century stemming from our ignorant, arrogant, and often-cruel exploitation of the natural world. The attempt, by science, to inject a calm, rational objectivity into our view of life, has been pushed to the extreme, creating the belief that a true distinction can be made between the emotional and the intellectual. But like every element that exists in the universe, perspective too is simply a single point on a continuum. And from what we can see in this three-dimensional world, the pendulum swings forth and back. Perspectives change.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

10 c) The Way We Look at the World

The natural world is infinitely more than an inanimate background, more than a mute, inactive witness to our lives. It is a vast, complex weave of interacting communities and societies, filled with living, sentient citizens; a multidimensional world pulsating with energy, freely flowing with life, our Self included. If we fail to see that, it is not because these communities don’t exist. Their invisibility is due only to our natural, human tendency to acknowledge our most obvious and familiar partnerships, long before we give a thought to the lives of Beings we can barely see, or to which we feel no direct connection.

We do not have a relationship with Nature; we are within Nature. We are Nature or at least a part of It. When *Australopithecus afarensis first walked, it was on a planet without human invention. Where humankind thrived, the air was clear, the water pure, the earth fertile and filled with a flowing balance of interrelated inhabitants. And it remained a perfect environment for **Homo habilis, ***Homo erectus, and eventually for us, Homo sapiens. In one form or another, humankind has survived nearly four million years. Technology and its pollutant by-products, on the other hand, have only been around for about one hundred years, 1/40,000th of our total time spent on Earth as a changing species.

Even a few generations ago, water in the North American Great Lakes was still sweet, pure, and potable; but technological progress has changed all that. In a relatively short time, the air around cities has become foul. Even in the countryside, air quality is deteriorating. Pristine land is put into mortal danger by being made the unresisting recipient of nuclear waste and human refuse—not only natural waste which returns easily to nature, but all our used and unwanted possessions, (our leftover paint, solvents, nail polish, plastic doohickeys and polypropylene thingamajigs.) Healthy vibrant living land is clear-cut, burned, and otherwise razed in the name of civilization and survival.


*Our ancient ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, walked parts of the Earth 4 to 3 million years ago.

**Homo habilis lived between 2.3-1.6 million years ago

***Homo erectus lived about 1.8 to 0.3 million years ago

10 b) Historical Prelude or End Days?

Change is coming as it always is; but if change has occurred in easily adaptive steps over the past century, or couple of millennia, it has also been steadily increasing its stride, and may be about to take a leap. The world is forever poised at the brink of transformation, but in an era of information and communication, we are easily able to see the signs of imminent change, for the signs are everywhere. More of us are becoming active in our desire for constructive resolution. More are being called back to a sense of spirituality. And more of us are losing our balance on our antiquated social scaffolding. Wherever we look, we see glaring examples of irresponsibility and greed, from the gaping financial chasms between the wealthy and the poor, to the clear-cutting of forests, a primary source of oxygen and wellspring of diversity. With a lackadaisical attitude toward the chemicals we spill into our oceans and atmosphere, and take into our own bodies, we drift along, accepting Reality on any old terms.

Is there anyone to blame?

The world changes radically from generation to generation, and each of us is raised in unique environmental realities. It is pointless to blame earlier generations for the problems we have today. Just as we want to live the lifestyle of our choosing, so did our historic counterparts. No one from the past is to blame, neither collectively or individually, for blame is a figment of our imagination, an attempt to reduce our own sense of responsibility, if only for the time it takes to assign blame. It is a fantasy in which we all indulge from time to time, until we stop to realize that each of us is born into social systems (cultures, families, etc.) that constantly exist “around” us, from our perspective. So we are obligated to make our primary choices based on what exists now, wherever we find it, and not on what we wish existed, or on what we fear might change.

It does not take a Nostradamus, an Edgar Cayce, or any other prophet, seer or psychic to predict that the Earth may become a very inhospitable place for Homo Sapiens. Of course, it might not happen for a few years, a few hundred years, or a few millennia. Or it could happen tomorrow! And in case we are tempted to believe that danger is not imminent, we must bear in mind that we have no way of knowing. What we do know is that no other species has altered the environment in so many ways, to such an extent – in so short a time.

As long as we continue to view Nature, as little more than a field of “resources,” and lesser species that exist to be exploited, overpowered, or “managed” by human beings, we will keep desecrating atmosphere, land, and water, with barely a twinge of conscience. Nature then will have no choice but to retaliate, possibly ripping us right out of the picture, according to our wildest ideas of Armageddon. But this is not entertainment; it is not a movie. Nor is it imagination. There has been a lot of heavy‑duty destruction going on for a very long time now, and we have been the sole cause of it.


10 a) Archaeological History

Much More than All We Have Ever Found

No matter how many primitive artefacts from the past we find buried in the earth, there have been billions of others that have not survived whether by deliberate disassembly, chemical breakdown or some other means. There is no way for us to know how many ideas and inventions have been halted through time for one reason or another. Maybe they did not benefit the entire species or were environmentally unsafe and consequently phased out. Or maybe our own science has not advanced enough to recognize archaeological evidence of former technologies.

A society, having come to the conclusion that it must develop harmonious relationships with the Earth and everything indigenous to it, will choose its creations, inventions and avenues of inquiry based on that commitment.

If such a society ever existed, it might well have conducted itself in a way that left behind no trace of its members or its technology.

“Wouldn’t such a society still be around if it was that evolved?” Some might ask.

It would if it didn’t change, but we know change is continuous. Members of a society can develop a very complex infrastructure in only a few generations, but if that infrastructure is not maintained, it will certainly disappear. Picture an abandoned parking lot. In a relatively short time, shrubs and trees begin poking their way through the smallest breaks in the concrete or asphalt. Once that happens, water seeps in and it’s only a matter of time until the surface is broken up and crushed under the living weight of nature. In a single generation, everything can change. If members of a once-healthy society became ill, that society would regress. It’s only natural.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

9. The Cutting Edge

It’s easy to believe that we are much too scientific to consider faith. We know too much, and we’re too sophisticated to slip back into such archaic ways of viewing life, or so we think! No matter what era we live in, we always presume that we are at our most knowledgeable point. We talk about living in a technologically advanced society. We speak of knowing and understanding more about the universe than people who lived in other periods of history. We allude to a sense of loftiness in our social, intellectual, and perceptual development; and to the notion that the people of today (ourselves included, of course) are more evolved than, and therefore, somehow, implicitly superior to those in other eras. And we bolster that path of logic by tracking lines of knowledge back through time to show that the past is a primitive form of the present, and that we are indeed living in yesterday's future.

Yet, that does not mean that development in a particular direction is inevitable. It merely spotlights the parts of reality that are traceable in that way, or, points to the parts that have little or no trail to the past, and so are considered new. There is a temptation to believe that our religion and politics have improved over time as well, and that today we are wiser and more knowledgeable and progressive than at other times in human history. But societal systems and cultures travel a meandering and multi-dimensional path through time, not a linear one. We do not build today squarely and solidly upon yesterday. Maintaining some beliefs and behaviours that have reverberated throughout human existence, hanging on to some simply out of habit, we develop new combinations of actions and ideas to address the present, leaving in the past, those that no longer seem relevant. We are all, therefore, living in a reality formed by the best and worst actions of our ancestors; and are creating through our current “modern” actions, a future culture different from the one that we imagine we’re developing or maintaining.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

7. Description:
The Problem Child of Thought

The problem with any attempt to speak of spiritual matters is that descriptions must exist in the physical world—the world of objects and actions, of words and time. As soon as we express anything as language, we risk inferring limitation even if that is not our intention. All we need to do is live, to know that there is an infinite number of possibilities.

No explanation or information should ever be viewed as complete, for words and explanations exist only as a secondary reality. They are a shallow incomplete reflection (without prejudice or judgment) of what we are at this moment, for the words that we use, and whatever explanations we choose, represent only a single static pattern of perception, a solitary tier of logic. It is fine to hold and examine it, as long as we remember that nothing exists in isolation, and nothing remains unchanged, especially perception and understanding, which are mutable, shifting processes. Each of us is living, experiencing, choosing, and being just as surprised by life as everyone else, so our reflections and expressions are changing: combining and focusing here, separating and blurring there.

Words are only a description of life, not life itself. We all have our own experience of reality, and our own notions of God (or notGod); each of us occupies the space we fill, whenever the place, and wherever that time might be, so no one can find another's belief system complete. The best we can do is share the common denominators that echo in all of us, and to believe in the value of our own existence, for we all hold our own combination of pieces of the same puzzle.


6. Words and Political Correctness

Although I deeply believe in the profound and healing effects of sensitivity, and I agree that we should not knowingly use offensive terms, our own compassion must extend to those less considerate to give them the benefit of our doubt. We must decide to have faith that in most cases, others mean no lasting harm. Words don’t hold the same significance or meaning to everyone. Another’s tone or expression may imply something malevolent to us, but in actuality, hold no lasting malice.

Much of the way we speak and present ourselves is a reflection of our immediate environment. It might not be identical to the expressions of those around us, but it is influenced by them. Obviously, the child who hears slang or curse words all the time is more likely to use them than is the child who rarely hears them. So, there’s no point in taking too much exception to the way people speak, or worse, using our own lack of understanding to justify our own unfairness. Most of our behaviour is a matter of habit. As for preference, well that’s an entirely different issue. It’s fine to prefer the company of people who don’t curse. It’s also fine to prefer the company of those who do. But let’s not get it mixed up with morality or with who is more or less worthy of our own integrity!

  • Even when there is cruel intent, words do nothing but describe the (likely temporary) state of mind of the person who uttered them.

  • If you have ever said anything in your entire life out of anger or stress that later you hoped would be excused and forgotten, then you must extend the same understanding and forgiveness to others.

Sincerely, Mr. Haney

Back in the 1960s, there was a character on television comedy, “Green Acres” named Mr. Haney (actor Pat Buttram), who was always trying to sell some worthless contraption or cheap, tacky novelty to his neighbours. In selling his junk, he'd say something like, it's genuine imitation wood or genuine plastic, pronouncing genuine as jen-you-whine, and drawing out the whine. One day I happened to say the word that way, and was surprised by my mother's amused, mock-cringing expression.

The word is pronounced, jen-you-whin, she informed me. When you say, jen-you-whine’,” she laughed, “You don't sound genuine!

This bit of information confirmed again that even the slightest bits of knowledge could enhance my appreciation, in this case, of comedy. Now I could see the character more clearly as the hopeful but inept con artist, which was even funnier than I had imagined. Since then, I've been continually surprised at how many people say, jen-you-whine. I wonder if we all watched the same sitcom and passed the pronunciation on.

A Gen–u–whine Para-dime Shift

Usually a rarely used word becomes a frequently heard word because the time is right for its context. Most of us know, whether intuitively or logically, that a massive change in thinking is imminent for we cannot sustain the type of cultures we have inadvertently created. I don’t think any of us were surprised when we began to hear the pundits predicting a “paradigm*” shift in thinking.

In school, I had always heard the word pronounced, “pair-a-dim” and being use to this pronunciation, preferred it, (not that I had any reason to use this word in everyday conversation). Though either pronunciation is correct and though most people seem to be pronouncing it, “pair-a-dime,” it still amuses me to hear it said that way because Mr. Haney always springs to mind. I can imagine him saying, “Yessiree, there’s gonna be a gen-you-whine para-dime shift.” I can also picture folks like me, turning away, believing he’s selling another lot of snake oil.

[*Paradigm: an overall concept accepted by most people; a standard or model]