Thursday, November 12, 2009

finally, ginseng!; questionable cucumber internet meme still intriguing

i am buying a sack of ginseng seed and setting up some guerilla gardens around certain of my communities' centers. it's $75/lb. i got a hookup through rural action. the king of the forest returns to share adaptogenic immortality with those of us savvy enough to respect! i cannot publicly divulge the sites, lest rogues come and stake out ground zero and sneak off with the roots. not that they'll be ready for a few years yet.

in other plant news, there is this rumor that cucumbers are not just the poor semite's bitter watermellon. this information is questionable (it claims to be from the NYTimes but it ain't on their site) but i do find munching on fresh cukes is a good way to keep cool and hydrated in the summer months

This information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their `Spotlight on the Home` series that highlighted creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don`t have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don`t have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don`t have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a `green` way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won`t leave streaks and won`t harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

water quality and the Temperance card

If you don't like the taste of a halogen gas that's toxic in micrograms, Bottlemania author author Elizabeth Royte advises for dechlorinating your tap water. The quickest way is to pour a body of water between two containers, back and forth for 5 repetitions. Tastier, purified water then remains after chlorine has evaporated out at an accelerated rate. The sound and tones of water falling in on itself as you practice guiding all the water in or between the cups. The scene reminds me of tarot card 14. I have been wanting to talk about tarot more and now it's time to start the conversation.

Successfully interpreting wisdom from a tarot card is based on, among other things, having thoughtfully lived through experiences that intuitively relate to what's on the card. Back in your past, (or in a story), is an experience that can serve as an entrance for your imagination to the event on the card. This information gets transmitted to you as impulses, thoughts, feelings, etc. As Buhner admonishes, don't tdiscount any data that comes to you during your seance. Lately when I offer a reading, I ask the querent to verbally describe what they observe happening on the card as a starting point. Then we discuss what both of us are feeling in response to the card. There never fails to be an outpouring of incite. Examining the symbol lore increasingly enriches theses discourse as I've heard more and more versions of the "Fool's Journey" from seasoned bards of various stripes.

"The Fool" is the first card in the major arcana sequence. Actually it is card 0, and in that sense eternal and utlimately non-existent. The picture usually shows a light-stepped traveler, walking down from the top of the mountain with a rose they've picked to give to the world below. (It's the path from Keter to Hokma) A small animal barks around their feet, perhaps just excited to be starting the journey, maybe trying to warn them of the noise and pain they will experience. Either way, the eternal boddhisatva Fool is cheerful and unlikely to be shocked into haulting.

"Continuing on his spiritual path, the Fool begins to wonder how to reconcile the opposites that he's been facing: material and spiritual (which he hung between as the Hanged man), death and birth (the one leading into the other in the Death card). It is at this point that he comes upon a winged figure standing with one foot in a brook, the other on a rock. The radiant creature pours something from one flask into another. Drawing closer, the Fool sees that what is being poured from one flask is fire, while water flows from the other. The two are being blended together!

"How can you mix fire and water?" the Fool finally whispers. Never pausing the Angel answers, "You must have the right vessels and the right proportions." The Fool watches with wonder. "Can this be done with all opposites?" he asks. "Indeed," the Angel replies, "Any oppositions, fire and water, man and woman, thesis and anti-thesis, can be made to harmonize. It is only a lack of will and a disbelief in the possibility of unity that keeps opposites, opposite." And that is when the Fool begins to understand that he is the one who is keeping his universe in twain, holding life/death, material world and spiritual world separate. In him, the two could merge, as in the vessels that the Angel uses to pour the elements, one to the other. All it takes, the Fool realizes, is the right proportions....and the right vessel."

On the Tree of life, Temperance represents the path between Yesod and Tiferet, the lunar and the solar aspects of God. Using your positive emotions (party to the 6th Sephirot, Tiferet) be the guiding force on your expression of erotic desire (housed in 9th Sephirot, Yesod) the path from the moon to the sun and it is part of the straight shot to Ultimate Reality. Submitting to desire out of love is the archetypal example. The other way I have found to look at this is, intelligently paying attention to one's instinctual impulses and following them through. BEING HONEST WITH ONESELF BECOMES MANDATORY DURING CRISIS, and after you get there lies an opportunity to make a holy habit of self-accountability. Exploring that subject is leading me into another path (that of the Hermit), 'tween Tiferet and Chesed. Outwardly that seems comically paradoxical, because I'm more intensely and convivially engaged with other humans than ever. It's internal alchemy of the psyche we're talking here, so no paradox. Talking more about that now would be an unwise decision, because over-analyzing a living prcoess over-emphasizes the intellect sphere (Hod) above the other means of experience, and that has been a blockage to further attainment for me that's decisively been removed to the composter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Badger -----> Athens

In a house with two buddies, gettin' exceedingly tight with 'em. Naybot comes to visit on the weekends, and time's such good repast midterms are here in the blink of an eye.

Michael Seiser turned me onto a concept from Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen : that is, run barefoot on loving, living turf and running becomes a tool of bliss knocking on the spillway of your bubbling springs of endorphins. Come in, come in! Having not run for awhile, yesterday I ran, quickly and with enough attention to smell the plants I ran by with new running partner Leia, for an hour plus! Was barefoot on the grass next to a rails to trail path that leads past campus and into the forest. My legs feel good, and yearn for stretching and more action. I'm giving 'em what they're asking for.

The newest fermentation creation is "natto", cooked then soybeans then fermented with Bacillus subtilis. That strain is from GEM Cultures:, and it costs less than the price of a decent fish taco. The critters pump out, among Vitamin B12, long-coveted by health-conscious vegans. The product itself is savory, strong, and smells bad to my unaccustomed nose. The golden, organic soybeans cost just over $1/lb. Throw it on that brown rice with a banana and soysauce and you got yourself a blissfoolish feast. It's gettin' pressed omnidirectionally onto all my friends, see me and you can be next in line.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

while exploring my body, I observe bipolarity, and a gestalt of info on future dwelling space comes through

At work and at home, I have been expending some effort at coaxing my mind to stay on task and in the present. I've also brought my heart and emotions to the game at the same time, like I've been talking about in the post before last. I find that more of my attention flows towards how I am feeling. I have big ups and downs. During my highs I access spurts of energy which I automatically, creatively channel, often to have conversation or go deeper into hobbies. Whether I am processing inside or dialoguing, it comes freely and clearly and cleanly. I imagine maintaining around where the mood feels great, as the upswing is stabilizing to a plateau. Dancing around that spot without going past there. Stress could be used to keep me in the zone even as I pedal forward, providing resistance so I pulse in that levitated state. In the past, though, I have repeatedly sped up with the gushy feelings, all the short way to a point of frenziedly propelling off-course. Nose diving, my integrity and willforces would scatter and the skeletal root of my ego gets exposed. The nourishing medium for my attention seemingly evaporated, Nuit's tits run dry and a void yawns from which all sensation begets a bafflingly intense mental anguish.

Am I bipolar? From reading "Bipolar Disorder Demystified" and learning about the symptoms, it seems that I may be. Knowing about dopamine deficiencies and such is the opportunity for developing a more effective treatment regimine. Looking back, I can crow at freeing myself from a threadbare, self-fulling belief. Painfully gasping for life like a fish out of water most of the time DOES NOT buy or earn feeling fresh or groovy. I'm gunning for that without detouring to hell. "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." Everyone has to deal with mood swings. I am and shall be tasting of this triumph! so mote it be. Zen Master Bo Mun's words are pertinent:

"There are two formal aspects to Zen practice: the killing sword and the sword that gives life. The killing sword means, how do we give ourselves to the situation? How, without repressing, do we let go of our condition, opinion, and situation and really offer ourselves to what's going on in the moment? For most of us that requires a fair amount of hard work. Sometimes it's painful and difficult. If we try to live that way all the time, only being "good" or only taking certain roles, most of us find that it doesn't work. We become brittle, irritable, out of balance. We do many things with such a charge behind them that we put ourselves in precarious situations.

The other aspect is the sword that gives life: the experience of empowering ourselves, doing things which come naturally, that we love to do and find fulfillment in. When we do too many of these things, most of us get a certain softness or flatness. There's no keen working edge to our practice. It's hard to believe in ourselves if we go too far to that side."

I like that: my mind has a cutting edge, and I ain't lettin' it slap and slash my thigh brain. I am working at a job whose results I ain't particularly attached to, and it is providing an arena for practicing with the killing sword. Turning it around and clearing my space for free loving happens at home, during play, at the beach, in altered states of consciousness...

With that, let's turn to the other topic. Lately, the structure of my future habitat is becoming clearer. Naomi's uncle Mark rented Garbage warrior, a documentary about the architect Mike Reynolds and his life's work, "earthships". Watch the vids below.

After seeing Garbage Warrior, I was wondering about homescale windmills for powering your home. This fella from Malawi, William Kamkwamba, is inspiring me. "When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called "Using Energy" and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home." Kudos, dude!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tami Brunk's astrology

I've been wanting a decent Occidental astrology page to peruse, and now, due to what I see as an allignment between the post on my July emotional growth, and her view of the cosmos's energies and their impact on human life, I'd like to link Tami in the sidebar. Except she doesn't have a page with her newsletter on it right now, so you'd have to e-mail her to get on her list at This is what the passage that seems to correspond truthfully with my post:

"Venus Enters Cancer and Galactic Edge—What is Being Birthed Through Us?

Just yesterday, on July 31st, Venus moved into the Sacred Hoop at 0 degrees Cancer. This area of the sky is Galactic Edge, marking the intersection point of the ecliptic and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. It is the space in the sky that looks outward from the center of our Galaxy into space. It is understood as an origination or birthing place—appropriate for the beginning stages of the Cancerian Sign of the Great Mother.

It is a beautiful time to take note of what aspects of your being are being birthed right now. July’s eclipses brought a lot of old shadow material up for many of us, hurt places from our past, old scars and fears that we have allowed to limit us and our experience of joy for far too long. We have worked so hard to release these things, we have done so well!

Now is the time to celebrate and nurture the vulnerable, unfolding newness emerging within us. What new spaces are opening up in our hearts, in our minds? How do we FEEL ourselves to be new and different at an energetic level? It is a good time to provide ourselves and those we love with plenty of nurturing, compassion, and tenderness. We would do well to apply the essential wisdom of Cancer—the innate knowing of how to nurture something—whether it is a child, a new aspect of self, a new desire, a new understanding—to develop into its fullness and uniqueness. Be kind, pay attention. We are growing into maturity in our own perfect time."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Farmer planning diesel tree biofuel"

September 19, 2006 - 2:54PM

So now there is no-til biobiesel, a gift from a tree. Maybe horses or oxen are better than the tractors this article imply. A tractor doesn't need to be fed every day because it's not alive, but maintenance is expensive on machines, they don't reproduce or make manure, and humans can have wonderful relationships with farm animals. That the trees are still alive and growing throughout being harvested amazes me, though. -BBJ
They say that money doesn't grow on trees, but a Queensland farmer believes fuel does.

Mike Jubow, a nursery wholesaler from Mackay, has begun importing seed from Brazil to plant diesel trees.

The tropical trees, which have the botanic name copaifera langsdorfii, produce a biofuel that can be tapped, filtered and used to power machinery such as tractors.

It is estimated a one hectare plantation could produce 12,000 litres of fuel a year - enough to make a small farm fuel self-sufficient.

Mr Jubow, who operates the Nunyara Wholesale Forestry Nursery and has been in the industry for 14 years, said he had heard about the trees from a colleague attending a forestry conference.

"I pricked my ears and thought 'This guy is having a go at me' but when I came home I got onto the net and typed in diesel tree and there it was," Mr Jubow said.

"I thought 'I've got to get seeds for this thing' and it's taken me three years to track them down."

He sourced the seed from Brazil and says the first seedlings would be available in late January.

The recommended method of growing them is to plant 1,000 trees on a hectare of land, preferably in a tropical area, then test them for their vigour, growth and yield about three years later, which ordinarily would lead to culling about half of them.

About four to six years later they would be measured again before culling them down to between 250 and 350 of the best trees, which would be inter-bred and harvested for seed.

Mr Jubow said a large mature tree would yield about 40 litres of diesel a year, which equated to about 12,000 litres per hectare of trees.

"It becomes astonishingly viable for a farmer to have a piece of his most productive land to get the tree up and running and then he can be independent from the fuel companies for the rest of his life," he said.

They are known to produce fuel for 70 years.

While the fuel cannot be stored for more than a few months it can be tapped.

But even if it is left too long, it thickens into copaiba oil, which is used in alternative medicines and fetches around $100 a litre in the United States.

And at the end of the tree's life, it can be milled to produce a light brown timber favoured by cabinet makers.

"There's nothing wasted on the tree," Mr Jubow said.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Love, darkness and light, and truth too

It's Saturday afternoon, the sky is grey but the flowers are bright on the lawn. Especially the Sonchus arvensis pictured here, which grows in everyone's lawn and is considered a nerve tonic. Naomi and I are relaxed and hanging out together in the upstairs study. Neither of us have work today, and we're both doing little personal projects and talking about them to one another. Pampering ourselves. It's very nice, and very chill.

Having fun while being relaxed has been a rare privilege in my life, recently. I have worked really hard in this relationship to be true to both people, and it's taken me into new inner territory where being truthful is scary. Scary, because I am being shown my scary, disowned faces and having to feeling their pain. Because I deeply love Naomi, any time that I act from a non-loving place or disconnected place, we both notice and I have light shown into whatever dark place inside me that the numbness or hate came from. Also, my qi kung practice has gotten to the point where I medidate on my different organs, each of which is a generator and storehouse of emotion. Djinns of the body, that communicate more easilly than plants when I thank and extend my love to them. I voluntarilly am extending my hand and my love to the freaky Badgers inside, and finding out what they need to reemerge as viable facets of my personality. It's given me fresh perspective on life.

Before this relationship, I thought that when I found my calling and followed it I would automatically be in the clear, because self-development just happened unconsciously. So I would stop being stressed out and individuate/evolve without having to pay attention and accomplish my life's mission. That was just the idea of my life, though, and no matter how much energy I pumped it up with it couldn't be corporeally real. That was when I was really depressed and I didn't want to look inside. Now I'm learning to paddle in emotionally choppy waters without capsizing, so the fear of intimacy with self and other is not so intense. So life is more intimate, and I have attention to give to other people and projects. Yes!

Staying in my head, even scheming planetary permaculture enlightenment, eventually leaves me in the darkness of my skull- besides the fleeting brilliance that dances over my third eye, who only sticks around if conditions are right. Opening my heart, to emotionally engage in communication with Naomi and other humans, not only analyzing with my intellect, that's what brings the light of the world inside. With the heart's fire, the Third Eye's light dances and pulsates into manifesting all change I wish to see.

God, I am thankful for Naomi's existence, and thankful too that I am so intimately sharing in it. Really connecting with her unique and beautiful experience, makes me understand its independent and equally valid and precious relaity. The ah-hah moments here have been hilarious and humiliating. Heart-stretching. I'm feeling more confidant and optimistic for settling down with community.

It's so interesting, Carrie, that you are into Stephen Buhner @ the same time I am. His words have helped me bring these ideas to consciousness and articulate my experience. Also, it's good to be writing again.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Semen is Latin
for a dormant, fertilized
plant ovum--
a seed.
Man's ejaculate
is chemically more akin
to plant pollen.
it is really
more accurate
to call it
mammal pollen.

To call it
is to thrust
an insanity
deep inside our culture:
that men plow women
and plant their seed
when, in fact,
what they are doing
is pollinating flowers.

Doesn't that change everything between us?

--by Stephen Harrod Buhner, from the book the Secret Teachings of Plants

It's yet another book that is blowing my mind, makes me feel like I'm on psychedelic drugs, clears and calms me like the tao te ching, explains chaos and fractals so I can see how mountains are alive and the possibilities are infinite, as are our responses to them. Yep.


Friday, May 15, 2009

What Makes Permaculture Different?

Someone over at the new Midwest Permaculture networking site asked, What makes permaculture different? Well, it's something I like to talk about (and if you know me, I don't talk much). So I tried to wait and give others a chance to chime in. But no one did, so there ya go.

I often feel like I'm gushing (virtually) when I start talking (typing) about permaculture. (And my daughter's tired of hearing about it!) But it IS terrific. Maybe we've just been programmed by our culture of blandness and disappointment to distrust anything that promises something better. And, permaculture is an OPEN system. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution. It can include any type of sustainable, life-affirming technique for doing stuff. It's a way of looking at things and thinking about things. It's not a farming style, not a gardening technique, not LEED building. It's all that and more!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Egypt orders slaughter of all pigs over swine flu

My brother Essam was telling me about this. Apparently, the people who raise the pigs are Coptic Christians. This community of Zabaleen, (which means "garbage people" in Arabic) lives in the shanty towns of Cairo; they sort out the organic refuse and feed it to their pigs for their food, and get money by sorting the rest of that 22 million person city's garbage. Of course the Muslim authorities in Egypt don't like their religion or their pigs, and Essam suggests this order is a political maneuver to make the Zabaleen disperse or starve. Bastards think they're gonna get rid of the Copts? They've been there a lot longer than the Muslims, and why the intolerance? That city's gonna get really trashy really quick w/o them, so besides being immoral it seems a very myopic decision. Essam is a fair trade burgher, and sells tote bags made out of recycled carpet from his Zabaleen brethren.

Egypt orders slaughter of all pigs over swine flu
By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef, Associated Press Writer Wed Apr 29, 4:49 pm ET

CAIRO – Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precaution against swine flu even though no cases have been reported here, infuriating farmers who blocked streets and stoned vehicles of Health Ministry workers who came to carry out the government's order.

The measure was a stark expression of the panic the deadly outbreak is spreading around the world, especially in poor countries with weak public health systems. Egypt responded similarly a few years ago to an outbreak of bird flu, which is endemic to the country and has killed two dozen people.

At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, scores of angry farmers blocked the street to prevent Health Ministry workers in trucks and bulldozers from coming in to slaughter the animals. Some pelted the vehicles with rocks and shattered their windshields and the workers left without killing any pigs.

"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" said Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in another part of Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"

Most in the Muslim world consider pigs unclean animals and do not eat pork because of religious restrictions. One Islamic militant Web site carried comments Wednesday saying swine flu was God's revenge against "infidels."

Pigs are banned entirely in some Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya. However in other parts of the Muslim world, they are often raised by religious minorities who can eat pork.

In Jordan, the government decided Wednesday to shut down the country's five pig farms, involving 800 animals, for violating public health safety regulations. Half the pigs will be killed and the rest will be relocated to areas away from the population, officials said.

In Egypt, pigs are raised and consumed mainly by the Christian minority, which some estimates put at 10 percent of the population. Health Ministry spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shaheen estimated there are between 300,000-350,000 pigs in Egypt.

"It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country's slaughterhouses," Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.

Global health experts said the mass slaughter of pigs is entirely unnecessary and a waste of resources. But Egypt's reaction was colored by its experiences with bird flu.

Bird flu started sweeping through poultry populations across Asia in 2003 and then jumped to humans, killing more than 250 worldwide.

Egypt was among the countries hardest hit. According to the World Health Organization, it has the world's fourth highest death toll — after Indonesia, Vietnam and China — and the largest outside of Asia. WHO has confirmed 23 deaths in Egypt and Egyptian authorities have reported three more deaths in recent weeks.

Chickens used to roam every dusty street in every village across Egypt, and many of its city alleys too. But when the disease first appeared here in February 2006, 25 million birds were killed within weeks, devastating the poultry sector and particularly the family farmers. Chickens nearly all vanished from sight, slaughtered, abandoned or locked away by a population increasingly aware of, and frightened by, the disease's stubborn grip.

The latest measure appeared designed to avert a similar panic.

Swine flu is blamed for more than 150 deaths in Mexico and U.S. health officials reported on Wednesday the first known death outside Mexico — a 23-month-old Mexican boy in Texas. It has spread to Europe, Asia and Israel, which shares a border with Egypt.

Experts suspect swine flu, a strange new mix of pig, bird and human flu virus, originated with pigs then jumped to humans and is now spreading through human-to-human contact. Health authorities have said you cannot contract the flu by eating pork.

"It is unfortunate," the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said of Egypt's decision. "The crisis today is in transmission from human to human. It has nothing to do with pigs," he told The Associated Press.

In the northern suburbs of Cairo Wednesday, health authorities killed 250 pigs and buried them. Angry farmers demanded compensation and provincial governors paid them around 1,000 Egyptian pounds (about $180) per head. The farmers asked for an official government decision to set a price for each pig slaughtered.

Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza told reporters that farmers would be allowed to sell the pork meat so there would be no need for compensation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pakistan's Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy

The believers in Islamic mysticism embrace a personal approach to their faith and a different outlook on how to run their country’s government

* By Nicholas Schmidle
* Photographs by Aaron Huey
* Smithsonian magazine, December 2008

In the desert swelter of southern Pakistan, the scent of rose­water mixed with a waft of hashish smoke. Drummers pounded away as celebrants swathed in red pushed a camel bedecked with garlands, tinsel and multihued scarfs through the heaving crowd. A man skirted past, grinning and dancing, his face glistening like the golden dome of a shrine nearby. "Mast Qalandar!" he cried. "The ecstasy of Qalandar!"

The camel reached a courtyard packed with hundreds of men jumping in place with their hands in the air, chanting "Qalandar!" for the saint buried inside the shrine. The men threw rose petals at a dozen women who danced in what seemed like a mosh pit near the shrine's entrance. Enraptured, one woman placed her hands on her knees and threw her head back and forth; another bounced and jiggled as if she were astride a trotting horse. The drumming and dancing never stopped, not even for the call to prayer.

I stood at the edge of the courtyard and asked a young man named Abbas to explain this dancing, called dhamaal. Though dancing is central to the Islamic tradition known as Sufism, dhamaal is particular to some South Asian Sufis. "When a djinn infects a human body," Abbas said, referring to one of the spirits that populate Islamic belief (and known in the West as "genies"), "the only way we can get rid of it is by coming here to do dhamaal." A woman stumbled toward us with her eyes closed and passed out at our feet. Abbas didn't seem to notice, so I pretended not to either.

"What goes through your head when you are doing dhamaal?" I asked.

"Nothing. I don't think," he said. A few women rushed in our direction, emptied a water bottle on the semiconscious woman's face and slapped her cheeks. She shot upright and danced back into the crowd. Abbas smiled. "During dhamaal, I just feel the blessings of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar wash over me."

Every year, a few hundred thousand Sufis converge in Seh- wan, a town in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province, for a three-day festival marking the death of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in 1274. Qalandar, as he is almost universally called, belonged to a cast of mystics who consolidated Islam's hold on this region; today, Pakistan's two most populous provinces, Sindh and Punjab, comprise a dense archipelago of shrines devoted to these men. Sufis travel from one shrine to another for festivals known as urs, an Arabic word for "marriage," symbolizing the union between Sufis and the divine.

Sufism is not a sect, like Shiism or Sunnism, but rather the mystical side of Islam—a personal, experiential approach to Allah, which contrasts with the prescriptive, doctrinal approach of fundamentalists like the Taliban. It exists throughout the Muslim world (perhaps most visibly in Turkey, where whirling dervishes represent a strain of Sufism), and its millions of followers generally embrace Islam as a religious experience, not a social or political one. Sufis represent the strongest indigenous force against Islamic fundamentalism. Yet Western countries have tended to underestimate their importance even as the West has spent, since 2001, millions of dollars on interfaith dialogues, public diplomacy campaigns and other initiatives to counter extremism. Sufis are particularly significant in Pakistan, where Taliban-inspired gangs threaten the prevailing social, political and religious order.

Pakistan, carved out of India in 1947, was the first modern nation founded on the basis of religious identity. Questions about that identity have provoked dissent and violence ever since. Was Pakistan to be a state for Muslims, governed by civilian institutions and secular laws? Or an Islamic state, governed by clerics according to sharia, or Islamic law? Sufis, with their ecumenical beliefs, typically favor the former, while the Taliban, in their fight to establish an extreme orthodoxy, seek the latter. The Taliban have antiaircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and squads of suicide bombers. But the Sufis have drums. And history.

I asked Carl Ernst, an author of several books about Sufism and a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whether he thought Pakistan's Sufis could survive the wave of militant Islam sweeping east from the region along the Afghanistan border. "Sufism has been a part of the fabric of life in the Pakistan region for centuries, while the Taliban are a very recent phenomenon without much depth," he replied in an e-mail. "I would bet on the Sufis in the long run." This summer, the Taliban attracted a few hundred people to witness beheadings in Pakistan's tribal areas. In August, more than 300,000 Sufis showed up to honor Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

Qalandar was an ascetic; he dressed in rags and tied a rock around his neck so that he was constantly bowing before Allah. His given name was Usman Marwandi; "Qalandar" was used by his followers as an honorific indicating his superior standing in the hierarchy of saints. He moved from a suburb of Tabriz, in modern-day Iran, to Sindh in the early 13th century. The remainder of his biography remains murky. The meaning of lal, or "red," in his name? Some say he had auburn hair, others believe he wore a red robe and still others say he once was scalded while meditating over a pot of boiling water.

In migrating to Sindh, Qalandar joined other mystics fleeing Central Asia as the Mongols advanced. Many of them settled temporarily in Multan, a city in central Punjab that came to be known as the "city of saints." Arab armies had conquered Sindh in 711, a hundred years after the founding of Islam, but they had paid more attention to empire-building than to religious conversions. Qalandar teamed with three other itinerant preachers to promote Islam amid a population of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

The "four friends," as they became known, taught Sufism. They eschewed fire-and-brimstone sermons, and rather than forcibly convert those belonging to other religions, they often incorporated local traditions into their own practices. "The Sufis did not preach Islam like the mullah preaches it today," says Hamid Akhund, a former secretary of tourism and culture in the Sindh government. Qalandar "played the role of integrator," says Ghulam Rabbani Agro, a Sindhi historian who has written a book about Qalandar. "He wanted to take the sting out of religion."

Gradually, as the "friends" and other saints died, their enshrined tombs attracted legions of followers. Sufis believed that their descendants, referred to as pirs, or "spiritual guides," inherited some of the saints' charisma and special access to Allah. Orthodox clerics, or mullahs, considered such beliefs heretical, a denial of Islam's basic creed: "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet." While pirs encouraged their followers to engage Allah in a mystical sense and relish the beauty of the Koran's poetic aspects, the mullahs typically instructed their followers to memorize the Koran and study accounts of the Prophet's life, known collectively as the Hadith.

While the tension between Sufis and other Muslims continued through history, in Pakistan the dynamic between the two groups has lately entered an especially intense phase with the proliferation of militant groups. In one example three years ago, terrorists attacked an urs in Islamabad, killing more than two dozen people. After October 2007, when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—a native of Sindh province with roots in Sufism—returned from exile, terrorists twice targeted her for assassination, succeeding that December. Meanwhile, the Taliban persisted in their terror campaign against the Pakistani military and launched attacks in major cities.

I had seen the extremists up close; in the fall of 2007 I traveled throughout northwestern Pakistan for three months, reporting a story on the emergence of a new, considerably more dangerous generation of Taliban. In January 2008, two days after that story was published in the New York Times Magazine, I was expelled from Pakistan for traveling without government authorization to areas where the Taliban held sway. The next month, Bhutto's political party swept to victory in national elections, heralding the twilight of President Pervez Musharraf's military rule. It was an odd parallel: the return of democracy and the rise of the Taliban. In August, I secured another visa from the Pakistani government and went back to see how the Sufis were faring.

Over dinner in a Karachi hotel, Rohail Hyatt told me that the "modern-day mullah" was an "urban myth" and that such authoritarian clerics have "always been at war with Sufis." Hyatt, a Sufi, is also one of Pakistan's pop icons. Vital Signs, which he founded in 1986, became the country's biggest rock band in the late '80s. In 2002, the BBC named the band's 1987 hit, "Dil, Dil Pakistan" ("Heart, Heart Pakistan"), the third most popular international song of all time. But Vital Signs became inactive in 1997, and lead singer Junaid Jamshed, Hyatt's longtime friend, became a fundamentalist and decided that such music was un-Islamic.

Hyatt watched with despair as his friend adopted the rituals, doctrine and uncompromising approach espoused by the urban mullahs, who, in Hyatt's view, "believe that our identity is set by the Prophet" and less by Allah, and thus mistakenly gauge a man's commitment to Islam by such outward signs as the length of his beard, the cut of his trousers (the Prophet wore his above the ankle, for comfort in the desert) and the size of the bruise on his forehead (from regular, intense prayer). "These mullahs play to people's fears," Hyatt said. " ‘Here is heaven, here is hell. I can get you into heaven. Just do as I say.' "

I hadn't been able to find a clear, succinct definition of Sufism anywhere, so I asked Hyatt for one. "I can explain to you what love is until I turn blue in the face. I can take two weeks to explain everything to you," he said. "But there is no way I can make you feel it until you feel it. Sufism initiates that emotion in you. And through that process, religious experience becomes totally different: pure and absolutely nonviolent."

Hyatt is now the music director for Coca-Cola in Pakistan, and he hopes he can leverage some of his cultural influence—and access to corporate cash—to convey Sufism's message of moderation and inclusiveness to urban audiences. (He used to work for Pepsi, he said, but Coke is "way more Sufic.") He recently produced a series of live studio performances that paired rock acts with traditional singers of qawwali, devotional Sufi music from South Asia. One of the best-known qawwali songs is titled "Dama Dum Mast Qalandar," or "Every Breath for the Ecstasy of Qalandar."

Several politicians have also tried to popularize Sufism, with varying degrees of success. In 2006, as Musharraf faced political and military challenges from the resurgent Taliban, he established a National Sufi Council to promote Sufi poetry and music. "The Sufis always worked for the promotion of love and oneness of humanity, not for disunity or hatred," he said at the time. But Musharraf's venture was perceived as less than sincere.

"The generals hoped that since Sufism and devotion to shrines is a common factor of rural life, they would exploit it," Hamid Akhund told me. "They couldn't." Akhund chuckled at the thought of a centralized, military government trying to harness a decentralized phenomenon like Sufism. The Sufi Council is no longer active.

The Bhuttos—most prominently, Benazir and her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—were much better at marshaling Sufi support, not least because their hometown lies in Sindh province and they have considered Lal Shahbaz Qalandar their patron saint. Qalandar's resting place became, in the judgment of University of Amsterdam scholar Oskar Verkaaik, "the geographical center of [the elder] Bhutto's political spirituality." After founding the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bhutto was elected president in 1971 and prime minister in 1973. (He was ousted in a coup in 1977 and hanged two years later.)

As Benazir Bhutto began her first campaign for prime minister, in the mid-1980s, her followers would greet her with the chant, "Benazir Bhutto Mast Qalandar" ("Benazir Bhutto, the ecstasy of Qalandar"). In late 2007, when she returned to Pakistan from an exile imposed by Musharraf, she received a heroine's welcome, especially in Sindh.

In Jamshoro, a town almost three hours north of Karachi, I met a Sindhi poet named Anwar Sagar. His office had been torched during the riots that followed Benazir Bhutto's assassination. More than six months later, smashed windowpanes were still unrepaired and soot covered the walls. "All the Bhuttos possess the spirit of Qalandar," Sagar told me. "The message of Qalandar was the belief in love and God." From his briefcase he pulled out a poem he had written just after Bhutto was killed. He translated the final lines:
She rose above the Himalayas,
Immortal she became,
The devotee of Qalandar became Qalandar herself.

"So who is next in line?" I asked. "Are all Bhuttos destined to inherit Qalandar's spirit?"

"This is just the beginning for Asif," Sagar said, referring to Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower, who was elected president of Pakistan this past September. "So he hasn't attained the level of Qalandar yet. But I have great hope in Bilawal"—Bhutto and Zardari's 20-year-old son, who has been selected to lead the Pakistan Peoples Party after he finishes his studies at Oxford University in England—"that he can become another Qalandar."

Musharraf, a general who had seized power in a 1999 coup, resigned from office a week into my most recent trip. He had spent the better part of his eight-year regime as president, military chief and overseer of a compliant parliament. Pakistan's transition from a military government to a civilian one involved chipping away at his almost absolute control over all three institutions one by one. But civilian leadership by itself was no balm for Pakistan's many ills; Zardari's new regime faces massive challenges regarding the economy, the Taliban and trying to bring the military intelligence agencies under some control.

In the seven months that I had been away, the economy had gone from bad to worse. The value of the rupee had fallen almost 25 percent against the dollar. An electricity shortage caused rolling blackouts for up to 12 hours a day. Reserves of foreign currencies plunged as the new government continued to subsidize basic amenities. All these factors contributed to popular discontent with the government, an emotion that the Taliban exploited by lambasting the regime's perceived deficiencies. In Karachi, the local political party covered the walls of buildings along busy streets with posters that read: "Save Your City From Talibanization."

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the new government is reining in the military's intelligence agencies, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. The Pakistan Peoples Party has long been considered an anti-establishment party, at odds with the agencies. In late July, the PPP-led government announced that it was placing the ISI under the command of the Interior Ministry, wresting it from the army—then days later, under pressure from the military, reversed itself. A uniformed president may symbolize a military dictatorship, but Pakistan's military intelligence agencies, ISI and Military Intelligence (MI), are the true arbiters of power.

In August, I got what I believe was a firsthand indication of the extent of their reach. Two days after Musharraf bid farewell, I began my trip to Sehwan for the urs for Qalandar, along with photographer Aaron Huey; his wife, Kristin; and a translator whom it is best not to name. We had barely left Karachi's city limits when my translator took a phone call from someone claiming to work at the Interior Ministry Secretariat in Karachi. The caller peppered him with questions about me. The translator, sensing something odd, hung up and called the office of a senior bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry. A secretary answered the phone and, when we shared the name and title our caller had given, confirmed what we already suspected: "Neither that person nor that office exists." The secretary added: "It's probably just the [intelligence] agencies."

We continued north on the highway into the heart of Sindh, past water buffaloes soaking in muddy canals and camels resting in the shade of mango trees. About an hour later, my phone rang. The caller ID displayed the same number as the call that had supposedly come from the Interior Ministry Secretariat.
"I am a reporter from the Daily Express newspaper. I want to meet you to talk about the current political situation. When can we meet? Where are you? I can come right now."

"Can I call you back?" I said, and hung up.

My heart raced. Images of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded by Islamic militants in Karachi in 2002, flashed through my mind. Pearl's last meeting had been with a terrorist pretending to be a fixer and translator. Many people believe that the Pakistani intelligence agencies were involved in Pearl's killing, as he was researching a possible link between the ISI and a jihadi leader with ties to Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber.

My phone rang again. An Associated Press reporter I knew told me that her sources in Karachi said the intelligence agencies were searching for me. I had assumed as much. But what did they want? And why would they request a meeting by pretending to be people who didn't exist?

The car fell silent. My translator made a few calls to senior politicians, bureaucrats and police officers in Sindh. They said they were treating the two phone calls as a kidnapping threat and would provide us with an armed escort for the rest of our trip. Within an hour, two police trucks arrived. In the lead truck, a man armed with a machine gun stood in the bed.

Another phone call, this time from a friend in Islamabad.
"Man, it's good to hear your voice," he said.
"Local TV stations are reporting that you've been kidnapped in Karachi."

Who was planting these stories? And why? With no shortage of conspiracy theories about fatal "car accidents" involving people in the bad graces of the intelligence agencies, I took the planted stories as serious warnings. But the urs beckoned. The four of us collectively decided that since we had traveled halfway around the world to see the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, we would do our damndest to get there, even if under police protection. After all, we could use Qalandar's blessings.

That evening, as the setting sun burned the color of a Creamsicle as it lit the sugar-cane fields on the horizon, I turned to the translator, hoping to lighten the mood.

"It's really beautiful here," I said.

He nodded, but his eyes stayed glued to the road. "Unfortunately, the fear factor spoils the whole fun of it," he said.

By then we could see buses clogging the highway, red flags flapping in the wind as the drivers raced for Qalandar's shrine. The railway ministry had announced that 13 trains would be diverted from their normal routes to transport worshipers. Some devotees even pedaled bicycles, red flags sticking up from the handlebars. We roared down the road in the company of Kalashnikov-toting police, a caravan of armed pilgrims.

The campsites began appearing about five miles from the shrine. Our car eventually mired in a human bog, so we parked and continued on foot. The alleys leading to the shrine reminded me of a carnival fun house—an overwhelming frenzy of lights, music and aromas. I walked beside a man blowing a snake charmer's flute. Stores lined the alley, with merchants squatting behind piles of pistachios, almonds and rosewater-doused candies. Fluorescent lights glowed like light sabers, directing lost souls to Allah.

Groups of up to 40 people heading for the shrine's golden dome carried long banners imprinted with Koranic verses. We followed one group into a tent packed with dancers and drummers next to the shrine. A tall man with curly, greasy shoulder-length hair was beating on a keg-size drum hanging from a leather strap around his neck. The intensity in his eyes, illuminated by a single bulb that dangled above our heads, reminded me of the jungle cats that stalked their nighttime prey on the nature shows I used to watch on TV.

A man in white linen lunged flamboyantly into a clearing at the center of the crowd, tied an orange sash around his waist and began to dance. Soon he was gyrating and his limbs were trembling, but with such control that at one point it seemed that he was moving only his earlobes. Clouds of hashish smoke rolled through the tent, and the drumming injected the space with a thick, engrossing energy.

I stopped taking notes, closed my eyes and began nodding my head. As the drummer built toward a feverish peak, I drifted unconsciously closer to him. Before long, I found myself standing in the middle of the circle, dancing beside the man with the exuberant earlobes.

"Mast Qalandar!" someone called out. The voice came from right behind me, but it sounded distant. Anything but the drumbeat and the effervescence surging through my body seemed remote. From the corner of my eye, I noticed photographer Aaron Huey high-stepping his way into the circle. He passed his camera to Kristin. In moments, his head was swirling as he whipped his long hair around in circles.

"Mast Qalandar!" another voice screamed.

If only for a few minutes, it didn't matter whether I was a Christian, Muslim, Hindu or atheist. I had entered another realm. I couldn't deny the ecstasy of Qalandar. And in that moment, I understood why pilgrims braved great distances and the heat and the crowds just to come to the shrine. While spun into a trance, I even forgot about the danger, the phone calls, the reports of my disappearance and the police escort.

Later, one of the men who had been dancing in the circle approached me. He gave his name as Hamid and said he had traveled more than 500 miles by train from northern Punjab. He and a friend were traversing the country, hopping from one shrine to another, in search of the wildest festival. "Qalandar is the best," he said. I asked why.

"He could communicate directly with Allah," Hamid said. "And he performs miracles."

"Miracles?" I asked, with a wry smile, having reverted to my normal cynicism. "What kind of miracles?"

He laughed. "What kind of miracles?" he said. "Take a look around!" Sweat sprayed from his mustache. "Can't you see how many people have come to be with Lal Shahbaz Qalandar?"

I looked over both of my shoulders at the drumming, the dhamaal and the sea of red. I stared back at Hamid and tilted my head slightly to acknowledge his point.

"Mast Qalandar!" we said.

Nicholas Schmidle is a fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. His book, To Live or To Perish Forever: Two Years Inside Pakistan, will be published May 2009 by Henry Holt.
Aaron Huey is based in Seattle. He has been photographing Sufi life in Pakistan since 2006.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

the lung sound is "zzzzz"

When Naomi and I got up for qi gung this morning, we were both feeling ill. Speaking for myself, I have a flu+sore throat with lots of phlegm and the toning the lung healing sound was helpful. Trying to balance between superman and leisure king, I pendulumed too far in the highly structured, active direction and got sick.

I became acquainted with the "six healing sounds" in our excellent intro book 100 Days to Better Health, Good Sex and Longer Life by Eric Yudelove. However there is a Zen nun in town who teaches free qi gung community and they suggested I go on youtube to hear how people who heard the sounds with their ears are making them. What good and simple advice it has turned out to be!

The lung healing sound, which I had been making as a soft "ssssssss" because I hadn't really grasped the sound sifu Eric was trying to pass on, is portrayed by Kemeticist Antiba King as "zzzzzzzz", pronounced as low as you can go. KC the Zen nun said you have to just find the lowness or highness of the syllable that makes you organ vibrate. Try "zzzzzzz" really low and you can feel your lungs vibrate.

When I did it, the most amazing thing happened. That damnable wad of plegm, rock solid and really gross and impossible to cough up, vibrated loose of its own accord! It worked like magic, now I can swallow without the acute pain of before and my body, +herbal cough drops and more rest tonight, will be back to spring in a jiffy

BTW, what is qigong? Wikipedia:

"Qigong (or ch'i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional cultivation practices that involve methods of accumulating, circulating, and working with qi, breathing or energy within the body. Qigong is practiced for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, as a medical profession, a spiritual path and/or component of Chinese martial arts.

The qi in qigong means air in Chinese, and, by extension, life force, dynamic energy or even cosmic breath. Gong means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of skill, so qigong is thus breath work or energy work.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Urban Coyote Attacks Fnord

The headline says, "Urban Coyote Attacks On Rise, Alarming Residents" but if the coyotes had their own wire services, their headlines would point out that "The U.S. Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services killed more than 90,000 in 2007." Funny, that statistic comes just after the statement, "Reducing the number of coyotes doesn't work, ... because the animals breed more and have bigger litters when their population declines."

But actually, the article is pretty sensible, and the experts point out that it's we hominids who are expanding into the coyotes' ranges, and that populations of their competitors, the wolves, "have shrunk." (No mention that we oh-so-civilized Americans enthusiastically tried to exterminate all the wolves!)

So then ... it sounds like we should learn to live with coyotes. After all, they've learned to live with us! There has only ever been ONE fatal coyote attack in the US--of a toddler in the 1980s :( --how many fatal DOG attacks have there been? How many fatal car attacks, I mean, accidents?

Speaking of synanthropic species, check out this video about crows. Fascinating.

Might noble savages of the new millennium learn from, and perhaps mutually benefit with, our wild animal companions?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

for the IRISH-Moorish-Orthodox-American

I was thinking about this document earlier, as a result of K and I attending the St. Patrick's Day Parade and High Fructose Free For All. It bears rereading. Of course, see also Ploughing the Clouds: the search for Irish soma--fascinating. Links: Google Books; Erowid Library; Council on Spiritual Practices.

--Donald D. Lollard


Manifesto of the BLACK THORN LEAGUE
by Hakim Bey
  1. According to orally-transmitted teachings of Noble Drew Ali, founder & Prophet of the Moorish Science Temple of America: -- Ireland was once part of the Moorish Empire; that is, the celts were Moslems, & there were black moors from N. Africa also present in Ireland. But the moors were expelled by militant Christianity -- this event is disguised in the legend of St. Patrick's expelling the snakes - for which reason the MST celebrates St. Patrick's Day, in a mood of irony perhaps, in expectation of an eventual Return.

  2. In Noble Drew Ali's system, celts are considered an "Asiatic race", & thus potential converts to Moorish Science. We consider NDA's theories to be racial but not racist, because (again according to oral tradition) they were based (at least in part) on spiritual affinity. "Europeans" who wished to Join the MST (including some of the later founders of the Moorish Orthodox Church) were declared to be really celts or "Persians" -- (which may have something to do with the oft-remarked similarity of Eiran and Iran).

  3. NDA's hidden history of Ireland may be taken as an esoteric metaphor -but it is supported in some surprising ways by archaeology & even "official" history. In the first place, the celts are an Asiatic race, or at least the most recent arrivals in the west from the mysterious "Hyperborean" heartland of the Aryans -- last of those nomadic migrations which settled India, Persia & Greece.

  4. Second: What is one to make of those early Celtic crosses inscribed with the bismillah ("In the Name of God", opening words of the Koran) in kufic Arabic, found in Ireland? The Celtic Church, before its destruction by the Roman hierarchy, maintained a close connection with the desert hermit-monks of Egypt. Is it possible this connection persisted past the 7th/8th centuries, & that the role of the monks was taken up by Moslems? by Sufis? in contact with a still-surviving underground Celtic Church, now become completely heretical, & willing to syncretize Islamic esotericism with its own Nature-oriented & poetic Faith?

  5. Such a syncresis was certainly performed centuries later by the Templars & the Assassins (Nizari Ismailis). When the Temple was suppressed by Rome & its leaders burned at the stake, Ireland provided refuge for many incognito Templars. According to The Temple & The Lodge, these Templars later reorganized as a rogue Irish branch of Freemasonry, which (in the early 18th century) would resist amalgamation with the London Grand Lodge. The Islamic connection with masonry is quite clear, both in the Templar & the Rosicrucian traditions, but Irish masonry may have inherited an even earlier Islamic link -- memorialized in those enigmatic crosses!

  6. It's interesting to note that Noble Drew Ali's Masonic initiations may not have been limited to Prince Hall or black Shriner transmissions, but may also have included some hidden lines connected to Irish masonry, & dating back to Revolutionary days in American history. It is known that many common soldiers in the British Colonial Army were masons affiliated with the Irish rather than the London Grand Lodge. This "class" difference -was reflected in the American Revolutionary Army, whose officers were "official" masons but whose private ranks tended to be "Irish".

  7. Historians sometimes forget that in the 18th century, in America, the Irish were generally considered "no better than Negroes". In 1741 on St. Patrick's Day in New York a riot broke out, involving a conspiracy which included Irish, African, & Native American men & women -- naturally "of the meanest sort." Some Irish conspirators were overheard to swear they'd kill as many "white people" as possible. The uprising failed & the plotters were executed. As the bodies of two hanged in the open air decayed in an Iron gibbet, "observers noticed a gruesome, yet instructive, transformation. The corpse of an Irishman turned black & his hair curly while the corpse of Caesar the African, bleached white. It was accounted a 'wondrous phenomenon'" (Linebaugh & Rediker, "The Many-Headed Hydra").

  8. Clearly the Celt & African were linked not only in the gaze of the oppressor class, but also in their own world-view -- as comrades, as somehow the same -- in a solidarity which extended to Indians & to other "Europeans" who fell beneath the level of the "respectable poor" into the category of slaves & outcasts. Racist feelings did not divide the 18th century poor & marginalized -- as would become the case under later Capitalism. Rather the marginalized of all races constituted an underclass & moreover, an underclass with some awareness of itself, hence with a certain power (the power of the "strong victim"). This consciousness might well have been developed in part by Irish-black "masonry" of some sort. And Noble Drew Ali might have known of this tradition, which he masked (or perhaps unveiled) in his parable of the snakes - & celebration of March 17th.

  9. In another interpretation of St. Patrick's anti-reptilism, the "snakes" he banished were in fact "druids", i.e. Celtic pagans. The snake may have been an emblem of the Old Faith, as it is for many forms of paganism, including African (Damballah) & Indian (the Nagas) -- & even for the Ophite Christianity of Egypt (Christ himself depicted as a crucified snake).

  10. Celtic pagan lore was embedded in the Romance traditions especially in the Arthurian material -- & here once again. we find ourselves in the world of the Arabo-Celtic crosses. For the romances are permeated with "Islamic" consciousness. In Malory's Morte dArthur & Eschenbach's Parzifal many Saracen (i.e. Moslem/Moorish) knights are depicted not as enemies but allies of the Celts -- & in the latter book the entire story is attributed to Moorish sources (which are now lost). Saracens, Christians, & crypto-pagans are united in a mystical cult of chivalry which transcends outward religious forms, & is emblematized not only in pagan symbols like the Grail & the Questing Beast, but even in such cultural borrowings as the lute (al-'ud in Arabic), or indeed the cult of romantic/chivalric love, transmitted from Islam to the west by Sufis in Spain.

  11. Ireland's contacts with Spain certainly extend back into the Islamic period, & the so-called "Black Irish" may have as many Moorish as castillian genes. Medieval Irish monks probably absorbed Sufism & Islamic philosophy along with the art of the illuminated manuscript -- witness the extraordinary stylistic resonance between the Book of Eells & the Kufic Korans of Omayyad Spain. If St. Francis could visit N. Africa & come back to Italy wearing a Sufi's patched cloak, so the Irish might easily borrow from Egypt & al-Andalus.

  12. All speculation aside, the Moorish Orthodox Church entertains its own esoteric interpretation of NDA's teachings on these matters. We heartily endorse his "elective affinity" theory of affiliation with a greater spiritual Celto-Asiatic "race". DNA counts for something, but soul for a great deal more. "Every man & woman their own vine & fig tree" (one of NDA's slogans) is not a matter of fate but of character, not of birth but of choice.

  13. In our historical/imaginative exegesis & unfolding of NDA's parable, we have uncovered a complex of heretical Islamic & Moorish cultural strands linking Celtic neo-paganism, esoteric Christianity, & the Arthurian cycle, thru Sufism & masonry, to the perennial libertarian struggle of the marginalized & oppressed peoples of the "Atlantic" world.

  14. We propose to embody this poetic complex in a popular chivalric order, devoted symbolically to the cause of "bringing the snakes back to Ireland" - that is, of uniting all these mystical strands into one patterned weave, which will restore the power of its synergistic or syncretistic power to the hearts of those who respond to the particular "taste" of its mix. We have borrowed this slogan from contemporary neo-pagans in order to symbolize the special mission our order will undertake toward Celtic-Moorish friendship. The BLACK THORN LEAGUE will be open to all, regardless of whether they are MOC members or not, providing only that they support this particular goal.

  15. "Black" in our title signifies not only the black banners of the moors but also the black flag of anarchy. "Blackthorn", because the tree symbolizes druid Irelands & is used to make cudgels. "League", in honor of the various Irish rebel groups which have organized as such. Other organizational models include such Masonic-revolutionary groups as the Carbonari, or Proudhon's anarchist "Holy Vehm", or Bakunin's Revolutionary Brotherhood. We also emulate certain anarcho-Taoist Chinese tongs (such as the Chaos Society)~~ & hope to evolve the kind of informal mutual aid webworks they developed.

  16. The League will bestow the Order of the Black Thorn as title & honor, & will hold an annual conclave & banquet on St. Patrick's Day in memory both of Noble Drew Ali's vision, & of those rioters of 1741 who conspired in low taverns to overthrow the State.

Bring The Snakes Back To Ireland!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You readers of N.S. may not know that I Badger am in a loving, romantic relationship. May you have the blessed pleasure of meeting her, my dear Naomi Larsson. I could see myself with this woman for ??,???, if fantasizing about distant futures was what I did for fun. In the meantime, here is an image. We are going to PowerShift and I can't wait to see her! Do not despair radixals, we will be planting trees in the spring and realize the self-defeating underefficacy that student activists working through the American political system so often implies. 10,000 youth getting psyched about a green economy is good vibes, though, will be interesting to observe and the Roots are playing! I anticipate standing up in the forums and sounding the call for increased leisure in our *new* economy. I had an ANXIETY attack with all my workload at school today. Minor anxiety. Got over it, took a nap. Leisure must be defended in this talk of helping poor people out of poverty with green jobs. Can you imagine working on the line at a fucking recycling plant?

The ground this time of year opens up to be filled, really it does. How else do you explain frost heave?! Well, here's another way that works but seeing this curious phenomena does get me excited, seeing the lawns erupting in boils that beg for innoculation with more lively seed.

Also, the pink lady slipper looks very much like a *coochie*. Just saying, and pretty much it serves a similar purpose in biological reproduction. Men, never mistake your semen for *seeds*... it's pollen if its anything. There's a fabled ginseng patch/PLS patch in some nearby woods and this May, the search is on! In secret. Also, mushrooms are big around here. Morels any minute now, maybe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scientists self-censor in response to political controversy

I was upset that people are being prevented from researching controversial topics by the stupid politics of our day. Also, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition saying that "scientists overall don't believe in God, and they don't want to be questioned," is irrelevant and misleading. Irrelevant because her conception of god excludes anybody else's metaphysical structure from legitimacy, and misleading because scientists do want to be questioned. That's the scientific method- you make a hyptothesis, test it, support or deny it with your data, and then submit it for peer review. Ignorance is her number one traditional value, hahaha. I'm tired of writing this fricking paper.

Monday, February 16, 2009

thesis freewrite

I am choosing to answer "Should 'hate speech' be censored by universities?" with this assigned rhetorical argument essay.

When students make arguments that seem hateful and threatening to any population of the the student body, the university's responsibility is to facilitate intelligent dialogue rather than censor, except in the case of genuine threats to the physical and intellectual integrity of students. One argument is that people who hold reviled positions on controversial topics often will mention taboo facts that need to be heard. "Hate speakers" need to be invited into and trained in the art of rhetorical argument; if they are not emotionally mature for this task, they could be assigned to academic probation along with something like Outward Bound.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

from wence came this hallmark holiday?

reprinted from From Werewolves With Love - History Of Valentine's Day
By Brad Steiger
FATE Magazine - February 2006

Everyone thinks they know the origin of Valentine's Day. According to the most commonly accepted story, Emperor Claudius of Rome issued a decree forbidding marriage in the year 271. Roman generals had found that married men did not make very good soldiers, because they wanted to return as quickly as possible to their wives and children-and they didn't want to leave them to fight the emperor's battles in the first place. So Claudius issued his edict that there should be no more marriages, and all single men should report for duty.

A priest named Valentine deemed such a decree an abomination, and he secretly continued to marry young lovers. When Claudius learned of this extreme act of disobedience to his imperial command, he ordered the priest dragged off to prison and had him executed on February 14.

Father Valentine, the friend of sweethearts, became a martyr to love and the sanctity of marriage, and when the Church gained power in the Roman Empire, the Holy See was quick to make him a saint.

The early Church fathers were well aware of the popularity of a vast number of heathen gods and goddesses, as well as the dates of observation of pagan festivals, so they set about replacing as many of the entities and the holidays as possible with ecclesiastical saints and feast days. Mid-February had an ancient history of being devoted to acts of love of a far more passionate and lusty nature than the Church wished to bless, and the bishops moved as speedily as possible to claim the days of February 14 through 17 as belonging to Saint Valentine, the courageous martyr to the ties that bound couples in Christian love.

February Is for Mating

Actually, there is no proof that the good priest Valentine even existed.

Some scholars trace the period of mid-February as a time for mating back to ancient Egypt. On those same days of the year that contemporary lovers devote to St. Valentine, men and women of the Egyptian lower classes determined their marital partners by the drawing of lots.

But the time of coupling that comes with the cold nights in February before the spring thaw likely had its true origin very near where Valentine supposedly met his demise.

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Wolf Charmer was called the Lupicinus. Perhaps hearkening back to prehistoric times, the Lupicinus may well have been an individual tribesman who had a particular affinity for communicating with wolves. As the tribes developed agriculture and small villages, it was necessary to have a person skilled in singing with the wolves and convincing them not to attack their domesticated animals. The Lupicinus had the ability to howl with the wolves and lead them away from the livestock pens. In some views, because he also wore the pelt of a wolf, the Lupicinus also had the power to transform himself into a wolf if he so desired.

Rites of the Lupercalia

The annual Lupercali festival of the Romans on February 15 was a perpetuation of the ancient blooding rites of the hunter in which the novice is smeared with the blood of his first kill. The sacrificial slaying of a goat-representing the flocks that nourished early humans in their efforts to establish permanent dwelling places-was followed by the sacrifice of a dog, the watchful protector of a flock that would be the first to be killed by attacking wolves.

The blood of the she-goat and the dog were mixed, and a bloodstained knife was dipped into the fluid and drawn slowly across the foreheads of two noble-born children. Once the children had been "blooded," the gore was wiped off their foreheads with wool that had been dipped in goat milk. As the children were being cleansed, they were expected to laugh, thereby demonstrating their lack of fear of blood and their acknowledgment that they had received the magic of protection against wolves and wolfmen.

The god Lupercus, represented by a wolf, would next inspire and command men to behave as wolves, to act as werewolves during the festival.

Lupus (wolf) itself is not an authentic or original Latin word, but was borrowed from the Sabine dialect. Luperca, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, may have given rise to secret fraternities known as the Luperci, who sacrificed she-goats at the entrances to their "wolves' dens." For centuries, the Luperci observed an annual ritual of chasing women through the streets of Roman cities and beating them with leather thongs.

Scholars generally agree that such a violent expression of eroticism celebrated the ancient behavior of primitive hunting tribes corraling captive women. Once a wolfman had ensnared a woman with his whip or thong, he would lead her away to be his wife or lover for as long as the "romance" lasted. Perhaps, as some scholars theorize, this yearly rite of lashing at women and lassoing them with leather thongs became a more acceptable substitute for the bloodlust of the Luperci's latent werewolfism that in days past had seen them tearing the flesh of innocent victims with their teeth.

As the Romans grew ever more sophisticated, the Lupercali would be celebrated by a man binding the lady of his choice wrist to wrist, and later by passing a billet to his object of desire, suggesting a romantic rendezvous in some secluded place.

Christian Marriage

One can easily see why the early Church fathers much preferred the union of man and woman to be smiled upon by St. Valentine, rather than the leering wolf god Lupercus. And, of course, they encouraged a knot tied securely by the sacred rite of marriage and blessed by the priest, rather than a fleeting midnight liaison.

By the Middle Ages, the peasantry in England, Scotland, and parts of France honored St. Valentine, but their customs seemed very much to hearken back to ancient Egypt and Rome. On the evening before Valentine's Day, the young people would gather in a village meeting place and draw names by chance. Each young woman would write her name or make her mark on a bit of cloth and place it into a large urn. Then each of the young men would draw a slip. The girl whose name or mark was on the piece of cloth became his sweetheart for the year.

This method of celebrating St. Valentine's Day quite often led to circumstances and situations that encouraged long-term and lasting relationships, blessed by the recital of marriage vows in the local church. If the young couple did not take the necessary steps to become bound in a church-sanctioned union, the parents of the respective "bride" and "groom" would actively arrange for the marriage sacrament to be observed.

It wasn't long before the peasant method of utilizing St. Valentine's Day to guarantee the next generation of field hands, construction workers, and merchants reached the ears of the upper classes, and the custom became popular among the young men and women of the aristocracy and the landed gentry. Since the prospect of arranged marriages between successful families meant far more to the upper classes in Europe than to the peasantry, parental supervision most often limited the interaction between their children to be "sweethearts" during Valentine's Day parties.

By the late 1400s, the upper classes of Europe and England would come together in homes to celebrate Valentine's Day and allow their young men to draw a "valentine" with the name of a member of the opposite sex, beside whom he would be seated at a lavish dinner party. Hostesses took advantage of the holiday theme to express the tradition in colorful decorative schemes.

Gradually, Valentine's Day came to be synonymous with the exchange of pretty sentiments, written in flourishes on scented paper and decorated with hearts, arrows, doves, and cupids-those little pagan deities maintaining their hold on the ancient holiday. By the early 1800s, young men were taking care to create symbols of their passion on elaborate cards that they could offer to "My Valentine."

Today's Customs

By the 1850s, Valentine's Day cards were being manufactured and sold commercially in England, and the custom of observing the holiday with cards to one's sweetheart became popular in the United States in the 1860s, around the time of the Civil War.

Today, of course, we have vast commercial enterprises centered around St. Valentine's Day, insisting that callow young men and seasoned husbands must buy their sweetheart a box of candy, a dozen roses, a diamond ring or necklace, or at least a five-dollar card. But don't let the slick advertisers fool you with all this talk of a saint named Valentine who was martyred for love. Remember that it all began with a hyped-up wolfman smeared in blood chasing the object of his desire with a leather thong.

One last word of advice: Forget the whip and stick with flowers and candy

Brad Steiger is a professional writer who deals with the strange and unknown.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thinking Critically about "Paintball: Promoter of Violence or Healthy Fun?"

1. My own view of paintball has been this: it's a militaristic rich kids sport that fosters a social acceptance of war in children. It does this by glorifying the physicality and the adrenaline rush, the strategy and the comraderie that soldiers must engage if they want to survive. This is my position, personally informed by the support of America's foreign policy and a fascination with killing machines in general, exhibite by my economically priviledged, paintballing classmates during highschool. Also I have played the sport, once, and succeeded in grasping some of Taylor's well-spoken examples from that experience. Ross Taylor's essay did little in moving my understanding over to his position, however. The largest addition to knowledge that I took away was new appreciation for why people are attracted to the game. "Paintball is a fun, athletic, mentally challenging recreational activity that builds teamwork and releases tension," says Taylor. So are a lot of other sports that do not precisely glorify war. Taylor offers no rebuttal to this. The points and evidence of what they enjoy about paintball were relatively strong, especially the around it being mentally challenging and building teamwork. However, the teamwork building of Fortune 500 companies who bond over paintball is a joke in that it buries his poorly thought out attempt to wrestle with the main controversy nagging the sport. Fortune 500 companies are an exemplary part of the military industrial complex that paintball trains us to live for. For Fortune 500 employees, paintball reinforces the twisted Social Darwinism that our economy is paritally based on.

2. Taylor's appeals to ethos are often strong but not entirely consistent. The strength of their tone and depth of experience lend credibility. He holds fun, competition, physical fitness, collaboration and mental challenge as values, all of which are easy for Americans to relate to. He also seeks to address certain criticisms, the two which he claims that opponents of their position commonly cite. These are the possible dangers and violence of the sport. For the safety issue,Taylor gives strong examples of why paint ball can be very safe. For example, reported eye injuries are very rare, and most people who are hurt this way were not wearing the appropriate eye protection. However, they stop thinking straight when it comes time to thoughtfully reflect on the violence issue. That paragraph is a jumbled mess, and it's the most important paragraph for defending the pro-paintball position. Taylor does not mention how paintball is used as a tactical exercise in the American military, which clearly indicates that it is used to promote violence. If I ever bear offspring, I would strongly object to them marrying anyone who doesn't understand the nature of violence. It should be obvious that forms of play which mimic mortal combat are instilling violence as a value in children. This lack of clarity really disrupts the ethos of Ross Taylor.

3. Pathos, the appeal to reader sympathy, is very effective in this piece. Taylor "goes there" with drive-by paintball shootings, which are probably sensationalized television news stories. He calls such individuals rare, bad apples. During my reading of Taylors description of the physicality of their sport, I found myself getting pumped up. The chest beating and "splendor and glory" Taylor feels is contageous.

4. The Logos of the argument (the appeal to reason with evidence)is mostly solid in this piece. Taylor clearly demonstrates that paintball can have the beneficial, positive characteristics of other common team sports, like soccer, ultimate frisbee, and pickup baseball. The problems grows from the critical lack of support for how paintball doesn't usually reward violence. One result of fragging somebody is "a nice dark bruise" (my emphasis). Purposefully damaging another organism is usually, rightly considered violent behavior. I realize the players agree to this, but a lot of humans and non-human organisms living in a war zone don't have the choice to opt out of their location, and this sport encourages war more than probably any other that's commonly played in this country.

5. Ross has validated half of their argument- paintball is a sport, sharing the essential, beneficial characteristics of other American sports. Paintball is not much more dangerous than any other contact sport that result in bruises. However, the rhetoric comes apart when Taylor defends paintball as aloof and separate from other violent human expressions.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Homework for Monday, January 26 freewrite coming into knowledge, understanding and wisdom

i want a lot of things from life. i have begun to question whether that is the best thing or not, and furthermore i am now questioning my question and my questioning. i want to evolve my life so that it is as happy, harmonious and sustainably so.

The hurdle to get to these is that i am hard headed. I bullishly pursue certain courses of action, and feel hapless sometimes in changing how I do things. Like the patterns of actvitiy in my past sometimes dictate what I do more than what i figure out is the best thing to do. Also, I feel like the environment I am in plays a huge roll in how I behave. So how does one get outside their old thought patterns and achieve, findoneself in, get to know and appreciate new thoughts? Creativity getting uncorked, if the soil is compacted, how can water and air get down into the non-existent pores of the soil? If my somewhat hard-headed, more robotic thinking may be compared to this soil, than it's obvious to me as a gardener. A hard clay pan of soil will benefit from nobody walking on it, compacting it further. In otherwords don't push on the hardheadedness further by applying more of the same thinking that has got you acting in rigid patterns. Next get some good, dead and decomposed organic material from and cut it into the parent soil, with a hoe or digging fork or shovel. And then get some plants in there! The new soil getting cut into the old clay is new experiences, being consciously intruded into the old experience and directly contradicting parts of it by its presence. Then plants coming into the soil, independent freely living organism, sunloving plants, captures Carbon from the air and builds roots with it, which push down into the new soil and eventually start to penetrate down deeper into the clay layer. Little cracks are opened, where the basic elements of water and air can bring the fire of oxygen respiration down into the soil. These new roots, what kind of plants should we plant in our head?

Other people seem happier and more harmonious even as they react novelly and appropriately to the situations of life. Schooling, what kind of pedagogy, what kind of teaching is going to make students come to vibrant inner life? Specifically, should certain books be censored from the curriculum and if not, why not?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Names and URLs for my English 151 class blogs

Wendy VanDellon

Chris Brausch
Kyle Damron
Daron Disabato
Peter Gaglio
David Ginley
Badger Johnson
Kyle Kaethow
Kendall Kidder-Goshorn
Kevin Kretz
Justin Marcinizyn
Michael Messmer
Brian Muehlenkamp
Kyle Raffel
Jacob Richardson
Jeff Scarbro
Jason Shaffer
Tanner Smith
John Stewart
Mitch Wilcox

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Intention Economy, by Daniel Pinchbeck

While exploring shamanism and non-ordinary states, I discovered the power of intention. According to the artist Ian Lungold, who lectured brilliantly about the Mayan Calendar before his untimely death a few years ago, the Maya believe that your intention is as essential to your ability to navigate reality as your position in time and space. If you don’t know your intention, or if you are operating with the wrong intentions, you are always lost, and can only get more dissolute.

This idea becomes exquisitely clear during psychedelic journeys, when your state of mind gets intensified and projected kaleidoscopically all around you. As our contemporary world becomes more and more psychedelic, we are receiving harsh lessons in the power of intention on a vast scale. Over the last decades, the international financial elite manipulated the markets to create obscene rewards for themselves at the expense of poor and middle class people across the world. Using devious derivatives, cunning CDOS, and other trickery, they siphoned off ever-larger portions of the surplus value created by the producers of real goods and services, contriving a debt-based economy that had to fall apart. Their own greed — such a meager, dull intent — has now blown up in their faces, annihilating, in slow motion, the corrupt system built to serve them.

Opportunities such as this one don’t come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative. What is required, in my opinion, is not some moderate proposal or incremental change, but a complete shift in values and goals, making a polar reversal of our society’s basic paradigm. If our consumer-based, materialism-driven model of society is dissolving, what can we offer in its place? Why not begin with the most elevated intentions? Why not offer the most imaginatively fabulous systemic redesign?

The fall of capitalism and the crisis of the biosphere could induce mass despair and misery, or they could impel the creative adaptation and conscious evolution of the human species. We could attain a new level of wisdom and build a compassionate global society in which resources are shared equitably while we devote ourselves to protecting threatened species and repairing damaged ecosystems. Considering the lightning-like pace of global communication and new social technologies, this change could happen with extraordinary speed.

To a very great extent, the possibilities we choose to realize in the future will be a result of our individual and collective intention. For instance, if we maintain a Puritanical belief that work is somehow good in and of itself, then we will keep striving to create a society of full employment, even if those jobs become “green collar.” A more radical viewpoint perceives most labor as something that could become essentially voluntary in the future. The proper use of technology could allow us to transition to a post-scarcity leisure society, where the global populace spends its time growing food, building community, making art, making love, learning new skills and deepening self-development through spiritual disciplines such as yoga, tantra, shamanism and meditation.

One common perspective is that the West and Islam are engaged in an intractable conflict of civilizations, where the hatred and terrorism can only get worse. Another viewpoint could envision the Judeo-Christian culture of the West finding common ground and reconciling with the esoteric core, the metaphysical purity, of the Islamic faith. It seems — to me anyway — that we could find solutions to all of the seemingly intractable problems of our time once we are ready to apply a different mindset to them. As Einstein and others have noted, we don’t solve problems through employing the type of thinking that created them, but rather dissolve them when we reach a different level of consciousness.

We became so mired in our all-too-human world that we lost touch with the other, elder forms of sentience all around us. Along with delegates to the UN, perhaps we could train cadres of diplomats to negotiate with the vegetal, fungal and microbial entities that sustain life on earth? The mycologist Paul Stamets proposes we create a symbiosis with mushrooms to detoxify eco-systems and improve human health. The herbalist Morgan Brent believes psychoactive flora like ayahuasca and peyote are “teacher plants,” sentient emissaries from super-intelligent nature, trying to help the human species find its niche in the greater community of life. When we pull back to study the hapless and shameful activity of our species across the earth, these ideas do not seem very farfetched.

In fact, the breakdown of our financial system has not altered the amount of tangible resources available on our planet. Rather than trying to re-jigger an unjust debt-based system that artificially maintains inequity and scarcity, we could make a new start. We could develop a different intention for what we are supposed to be doing together on this swiftly tilting planet, and institute new social and economic infrastructure to support that intent.
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books, 2002) and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). His features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Wired and many other publications. reposted from