Category Archives: history

“White wealth surges; black wealth stagnates”

While working on this post, I found myself struggling to explain to an elderly white friend that a certain young black right-wing icon is either an idiot or a con artist, and that she really did say that systemic racism doesn’t exist, and that it actually does. (She also says that global warming doesn’t exist.) He wasn’t having any of the facts I put in front of him. The conversation was quite a shock, as he is educated and intelligent, and I had not heard this sort of thing from him before. I wonder if he is consuming questionable news sources that he didn’t in the past.

Old white people, and everyone else, systemic racism is just not in question. It’s not abstract and it’s not theoretical. It’s right there in front of your face if you would only dare to look. And if you think only the South is the problem, I have two words for you: sundown towns.*

Americans are tragically ignorant about history. And if it’s history that makes us uncomfortable or asks us to do something differently, forget it. I mean we literally forget it.

I am asking you to remember a few things.

A very daunting recent article explained that the wealth disparity between white and black American families has not gotten any better over the course of more than 40 years. Not any better. We all know that economic inequality has gotten worse in our country, but we white folks may not realize how much harder our black neighbors have been hit. I hope the paywall doesn’t make it impossible for you to see it, because its 14 charts will hit you square between the eyes.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/04/economic-divide-black-households/

Here is what I particularly want you to look at:
 “In 1968, a typical middle-class black household had $6,674 in wealth compared with $70,786 for the typical middle-class white household, according to data from the historical Survey of Consumer Finances that has been adjusted for inflation. In 2016, the typical middle-class black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household, an even larger gap in percentage terms.”

My own family’s economic path

You can skip this next section and all its details if you like. I’m going to outline how things have gone for my own family’s finances over the past century. My point is that we have had the benefit of some built-in advantages as well as a good deal of dumb luck and a few smart decisions. Many of these advantages have been denied to black families.

My mother was born in 1924. Her parents were both immigrants from Slovakia with little education. My grandfather worked in a Pennsylvania coal mine. After his death, during the Depression, my grandmother worked as a live-in domestic, leaving her eldest daughter to take care of the other children. They didn’t have much. Most people didn’t.

My mother was the valedictorian of her high school class. To the best of my knowledge, her siblings did not finish high school. Her brother, like many teenage boys at the time, left home to wander and find work, so that he would not be a burden on the family. He ended up as a Navy pilot.

During WWII, my mother got a job at US Steel in the Youngstown, Ohio area. Due to a severe allergic reaction to the tiny bits of steel that flew around in the air in the mill, she was moved into an office job. This was a lucky fluke that let her keep her job when the men returned from the war and most of the women were laid off.

At that time, it was common to find a good middle-class job with benefits with no more than a high school education. My mother became an accountant, training on the job, and worked in that capacity at US Steel for 37 years, until the mid-1970s when the plant closed. She had enough years in to retire early with a pension, something that is no longer common. It wasn’t very much, but it made a huge difference to the rest of her life.

For many years, US Steel routinely paid women less than men for similar jobs, but the union negotiated equal pay, which as the sole breadwinner my mother needed badly.  The union also provided a scholarship which covered almost all of my bachelor’s degree.

As a single mother, she needed child care. My grandmother moved in with us, which was another crucial factor for our survival. Gram was not particularly warm and fuzzy, but she did take her job of caring for me seriously, and I was kept safe and well fed. Working a reasonable schedule and having this help, my mother was able to pay attention to reading to me and taking me on outings and trips.

In 1962 or thereabouts, my mother bought a house for about $10,000. That house went for only $13,000 when she sold it in 1987, the area was so depressed, but that gave her a little something to work with when she moved to Albuquerque to be near my husband and me and our soon-to-be-born daughter. She eventually bought a house here. Through some rather complex circumstances, I inherited it, and the tenant who lived there at the time of her death is still there. He can’t pay the full market rate, but the house is paid off and it works out.

You see where I’m going with this— the sums of money are small, but they accumulate and build financial stability and family wealth.

My husband’s parents were also second-generation Americans whose parents had a similar background to my mother’s. My father-in-law worked in the mill, and my mother-in-law had worked at a china factory for a while. Most people we knew were like that, working in manufacturing, usually at the same company for decades, ending up with decent pensions.

Now, to the next generation. Despite two degrees, I never had a reasonable income till I was in my 40s and had established my acupuncture practice; before that, I was a starving teacher of private music lessons. My husband taught school most of his working life. At first he was a band director, but the music programs kept being cut, and he ended up doing special ed. We were lower middle class for the majority of that time, I would say.

We left the extremely depressed Youngstown area, where my husband first band director job had been destroyed by cuts to school budgets, and moved to Albuquerque in 1984. We had almost nothing, but we were both able to get low-paid jobs in a music store and that got us started. That company went out of business due to extremely poor investment decisions on the part of the owner, again leaving us bereft. By that time we had enough private students and gigs to tide us over. Eventually my husband was able to get another job as a band director.

These jobs remained shaky. When our daughter was born in 1988, my husband had only a half-time position. We were trying to buy the house we had been renting, and the owners were willing, but the bank that held the underlying mortgage wouldn’t even return our phone calls, and loans were not easy to come by. Parents to the rescue! My in-laws, who had long since paid off their own modest house, gave us the $18,000 needed to pay off that mortgage so that the owners could then take back a real-estate contract and sell the house to us. That $18,000 doesn’t sound like much today, but back then it was a fortune equal to a year of our gross income. And it was another absolutely crucial step.

We lived in that house till 2002, at which time we moved into our present house, with my mother following a few months later. We rented our old house out, and she sold hers to a friend, also on an REC. That deal came to a bad end, and as I said, I inherited the house.

Late last year the tenants at our old house had to move— the same tenants all that time, who we were so fortunate to have— and we sold the house this spring. We put a lot into it over the years, but still came out well ahead.

Another stroke of good fortune was that my mother never needed to go into a long-term care facility. My husband was retired by the time she began to need serious care, and he was a wonderful help to her until she passed in early 2017. She had told us that she didn’t have much in the way of assets, but somehow, amazingly, she had managed to save about 4 times the annual sum of her meager pension and Social Security. (She had done some part-time accounting work into her late 70s, so had a bit of extra income, but even so, this was quite impressive.) I think she expected to need that money for medical costs and/or a nursing home, so she didn’t count it as disposable and was careful not to touch it. Between Medicare and the health insurance she still had after all those years from her US Steel job, most everything was covered, and we had no financial worries in wrapping up her estate.

The result of all this, thus far, is that although none of us ever had high incomes, we are living in a state of relative wealth and financial stability and are able to help others a bit. A major illness or other disaster could change all that, but we do have a cushion. 

In contrast, we’re all told that the majority of American families could not cover a $400 emergency expense. There are all sorts of factors that could be involved, but let’s think about some specific things that might have happened to a black family over time that would prevent them from accumulating wealth.

Social Security

Did you know that the Social Security program left out huge swaths of the population when it was originally designed? Social Security was not extended to some of the people who needed it the most, domestic and agricultural workers. It has often been written that this was intentionally done to exclude people of color.
https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1409&context=csd_research

https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v70n4/v70n4p49.html
This second article argues that the decision to exclude such workers was not racially motivated, since self-employed and government workers, as well as employees of churches and nonprofits, were also excluded. Perhaps, but whatever was in the minds of the designers, the effect was still to deny this income to a great many black and brown families, while most white families could receive it.

Domestic and agricultural workers are now covered, at least in theory, but for decades their families were further impoverished by the exclusion, over and above the fact that their incomes were low to begin with.

Home ownership

Home ownership is the main way families in the US build wealth. Black families have been consistently and systematically hampered in their ability to buy and keep houses and to choose where they want to live.

In case you are not convinced of that, here is a quick summary of the history of redlining, predatory loans and other ways African-Americans have been prevented from getting in on that vaunted American Dream:
https://www.zillow.com/blog/zillow-group-report/african-americans-homeownership/
The report states, “If white wealth remained stagnant, it would still take black families 228 years and Latino families 84 years to gain parity.”

https://www.epi.org/press/50-years-after-the-kerner-commission-black-americans-are-not-economically-equal/
“‘Black Americans have clearly put a tremendous amount of personal effort into improving their social and economic standing, but that effort only goes so far when you’re working within structures that were never intended to give equal outcomes,’ said economist Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.”

But what if, against the odds, you did build up some wealth? Say you’ve managed to put together a nice place to live, along with your family and friends. Then someone comes and simply tears it all down.
https://timeline.com/black-village-destroyed-central-park-6356723113fa

Or, as happened in the Tulsa massacre we’ve been reminded of this week, white people who resent your success can come and kill you and burn everything.

This is long enough already, so for now I’ll leave out other factors like health disparities, mass incarceration, and the effects of the so-called War on Drugs, which has been more like a war on poor people.

In many ways the ladder to success in this country has gotten slipperier and tougher to scale, and some of the rungs that used to exist have been broken. Insane health care costs, unaffordable higher education, the gig economy, and jobs without benefits, predictable schedules or sufficient hours to get by— all that hurts everyone except those at the very top (and if they thought more about it they’d realize it’s not great for them either). It’s not like any racial or ethnic group has it easy these days. It’s just that anything that whacks the population as a whole, like COVID-19, tends to whack black Americans harder.

We’re so used to this that it all seems normal and inevitable. It’s not, and it never was. If you can step outside your unconscious expectations for a moment, maybe you can begin to see the craziness. Imagine that you are visiting from Alpha Centauri, planning to have a look at the Grand Canyon. Someone tells you that an Earth person’s chances of living a decent life in many parts of the planet depend on the amount of pigment in the outer covering of their body. You say, “Get outta here! You’re kidding, right?” You can’t imagine that happening on your own planet (where everything sensibly depends on the number of tentacles on one’s head). You make a mental note to avoid this bizarre place for future vacations.

Humans take any excuse to look down on other humans. It seems to be ingrained. I suppose that at some time very, very long ago it was good for our survival and so the trait stuck. It is exceedingly bad for our survival now. We’ve got to stop it, and we’ve got to do that first within ourselves. But even while we’re struggling with that challenge, we can create systems that are more equitable and increase opportunity.

 

*And one more word: Levittown.
 “As well as a symbol of the American Dream, Levittown would also become a symbol of racial segregation in the United States, due to Clause 25 of the standard lease agreement signed by the first residents of Levittown, who had an option to buy their homes. This “restrictive covenant” stated in capital letters and bold type that the house could not “be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.”[10]

“Such discriminatory housing standards were consistent with government policies of the time.[11] The Federal Housing Administration allowed developers to justify segregation within public housing. The FHA only offered mortgages to non-mixed developments which discouraged developers from creating racially integrated housing.[12] Before the sale of Levittown homes began, the sales agents were aware that no applications from black families would be accepted. As a result, American veterans who wished to purchase a home in Levittown were unable to do so if they were black.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levittown,_New_York

 

More resources:

2017: https://www.zillow.com/blog/millennials-diversity-housing-209688/

2018: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2018/04/05/black-homeownership-is-as-low-as-it-was-when-housing-discrimination-was-legal/

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Filed under history, human rights, politics

What Are Viruses? In a Way They Are Us

Coronavirus structure. An artistic response to the last SARS epidemic, in glass. https://www.lukejerram.com/glass/gallery/sars-corona-virus

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the goddess Kali, having no idea how soon she’d be coming after us.

I also wrote about the interconnectedness of everything on the planet and everywhere, and how the dichotomy of humans vs. nature is false.

It turns out that even the dichotomy of viruses vs. us is false. We all learned in school that viruses are tiny beings that exist in a strange twilight zone between the living and the nonliving, and that they can’t reproduce without using the machinery of plant or animal cells. I hadn’t followed that thought to its conclusion, which is that since viruses must build themselves out of the materials of our own cells, they are in a sense made out of us. They, too, are inextricably entwined with ourselves.

This came up when I was looking for layperson-friendly articles to explain viral structures and functions to my readers and patients. Here is a source:
“Conserved and host-specific features of influenza virion architecture.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25226414

“Abstract: Viruses use virions to spread between hosts, and virion composition is therefore the primary determinant of viral transmissibility and immunogenicity. However, the virions of many viruses are complex and pleomorphic, making them difficult to analyse in detail. Here we address this by identifying and quantifying virion proteins with mass spectrometry, producing a complete and quantified model of the hundreds of host-encoded and viral proteins that make up the pleomorphic virions of influenza viruses. We show that a conserved influenza virion architecture is maintained across diverse combinations of virus and host. This ‘core’ architecture, which includes substantial quantities of host proteins as well as the viral protein NS1, is elaborated with abundant host-dependent features. As a result, influenza virions produced by mammalian and avian hosts have distinct protein compositions. Finally, we note that influenza virions share an underlying protein composition with exosomes, suggesting that influenza virions form by subverting microvesicle production.”

OK, that was not a particularly layperson-friendly paragraph, so let’s unpack it. First, what is a virus? It is simply a chain of RNA or DNA, which normally is covered by a coating or envelope of protein. A virion is the whole package of genetic material plus the coating that allows it to get into cells, that is, the infective form of the virus. Note that virions are pleomorphic— they can exist in different forms. We’ll come back to that.

Virions contain “substantial quantities of host proteins.” That’s the part where they’re made out of us. That’s also how we know what sort of host the virus developed in originally, and can tell that the current SARS-CoV-2 came from bats.*

But there is a deeper answer to the question “what is a virus?” and it is that a virus is information. That information is constantly transmitted between species, just as similar particles are generated and used by organisms within themselves. From the same paper as above:
“Spherical influenza virions are a similar size to exosomes, membrane-bound structures which also transfer protein and RNA between cells. By comparing separately-purified exosomes and virions we show here that they also have a strikingly similar protein profile – by many measures, an influenza virion is simply an exosome that has been enriched with additional components. Similarities have been noted between exosomes and a number of other enveloped viruses, most notably HIV, for which the ‘Trojan exosome hypothesis’ was proposed to explain virion budding as a subversion of cellular pathways for exosome biogenesis.”

I’m embarrassed to tell you that in decades of reading in medicine and biology, I had never learned of the existence of exosomes. It turns out that cells are constantly releasing exosomes, which are little packets of information in the form of microRNAs with coatings, very similar to viruses, and which can turn genes on or off and affect the functions of other cells that encounter them. This includes exosomes we ingest in our food!  This is one of the mechanisms by which substances in foods create benefits to our health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851829/
“Interspecies communication between plant and mouse gut host cells through edible plant derived exosome-like nanoparticles”
“It has been known for decades that people eating a variety of edible plants daily are the recipients of many beneficial health effects when compared to subjects that ingest fewer types of edible plants. Ingesting EPDENs from a variety of fruits and vegetables daily would be expected to provide greater beneficial effects for maintaining gut homeostasis than ingesting EPDENs from a single edible plant.”

Exosomes are even present in breast milk, providing a way to convey the mother’s immunity to the baby.

“With the recent discovery that non-coding microRNA’s in food are capable of directly altering gene expression within human physiology, this new study further concretizes the notion that the age old aphorism ‘you are what you eat’ is now consistent with cutting edge molecular biology.”
— Sayer Ji, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/amazing-food-science-discovery-edible-plants-talk-animal-cells-promote-healing

Indeed, you are what you eat, and you are also what you breathe in. Back to viruses. What gobsmacked me when I read all this is that I had seen very similar ideas way back in my youth, in the Seth material! It turns out that decades before these discoveries, the Seth entity (famously channeled by Jane Roberts) had been telling us the same things. And I had been thinking about his ideas when I first considered writing this post; for some reason they had stuck in my mind all these years. I didn’t expect to be able to find specific quotes, but the internet being such a magical place, I was able to come up with some right away:

“Many viruses INHERENTLY capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.”

“All viruses of any kind are important to the stability of your planetary life. They are a part of the planet’s biological heritage and memory. You cannot eradicate a virus, though at any given time you destroy every member alive of any given strain. They exist in the earth’s memory, to be recreated, as they were before, whenever the need arises.”

“Viruses appear to be “the bad guys,” and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These — and I am putting it as simply as possible — take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.”

“Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive — though it does — as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.

“You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.”

“Thoughts interact with the body and become part of it as viruses do. Some viruses have great therapeutic value. The physical body will often let down its own barriers to these, knowing they will counteract certain others that are not beneficial at the time.
So-called harmful viruses are ever-present within the body. You are very rarely vulnerable to any but a small percentage, though you carry within you traces of the most deadly of them all of the time. Viruses themselves undergo transformations completely unsuspected by medical men. If one virus disappears and another is found, it is never suspected that the first may have changed into the second; and yet through certain alterations of quite natural character such is the case.” [Remember the pleomorphic nature of flu viruses that we read about above.]

“More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.”

“There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses—in a fashion—again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient—but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.”

“The species is also always in the process of keeping within its genetic bank millions of characteristics that might be needed in various contingencies, and in that regard there is a connection, of course, between, say, viruses of many strains and the health not only of man but of other species.”

“The epidemics then serve many purposes — warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.”

Wow. If there was ever a time for biological outrage, surely it is now. 

Sayer Ji elaborates this “open-access” view of the biome in an article connecting it with our non-coding “junk” DNA and the Gaia hypothesis:

“This view also invites a complete re-visioning of the tree of life. Unlike the conventional model, where the DNA is hermetically sealed off within the lockbox of each species, evolving in isolation at a glacial pace, except for extremely rare horizontal gene transfer events (such as retroviral vectors that incorporate into the germline and become endogenized as endogenous retroviruses), the newer, more “open access” model would permit species to alter and affect another’s phenotype in real-time, along with potentially altering its long-term evolutionary trajectory by affecting epigenetic inheritance patterns. This speaks to a co-evolutionary and co-operative model, with all areas of the tree of life, co-developing in a highly complex and seemingly highly intelligent, carefully orchestrated manner.

… So, in the post-Genomic era, it is starting to look like the ‘dark matter’ of the human genome is eclipsing in importance the known, protein-coding sequences, which account for only about 1.5% of the DNA’s 3 billion base pairs. Why? Because it has been recently discovered that most of our genome (estimated 70-90%) is transcribed into non-coding RNAs. And why would this be so, if not for a purpose? Life does not concern itself with producing anything without reason.” [my emphasis]
https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/genetic-dark-matter-and-return-goddess

Please consider this very carefully. Species can affect each other’s structure and function in the moment, and they can affect each other’s evolutionary path by changing inherited traits, something that until fairly recently was considered laughable. And viruses are part of that web of communication. 

One might wonder why terrible diseases exist. Many explanations could be brought up, but it is important to remember that most viruses, most bacteria, most fungi do not create disease, and some actually prevent it. Among these are the viruses which kill harmful bacteria in our mouths, and of course the crucially needed bacteria that live in our guts. Like it or not, we are not so much individuals as communities in motion, ships carrying innumerable passengers and crew who must all work together to stay afloat.

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The Seth entity and many others remind us that disease and resistance to it are largely (or entirely) produced by our thoughts, both on an individual and a population level. This does not mean that we should stop our physical-world measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 or any other illness. Although the physical world is essentially an illusion, if you jump off a cliff, gravity will have something to say about it! We have to live in our shared reality and follow its rules. However, we can also use our thoughts to reduce the trouble we find ourselves in and to create new structures as we recover.

EFT teacher Dawson Church reports: 
“Three years ago, with a wonderful group of research colleagues, I studied the levels of immunoglobulin antibodies in people at a 2 day EcoMeditation workshop (with a lot of tapping) at Esalen (Groesbeck et al., 2018). Plus a weeklong EFT tapping workshop (including EcoMeditation; Bach et al., 2019).

“We found that the weekend retreat was associated with a rise in immunoglobulin levels of 27%! That’s a big increase in your body’s ability to fight off invading viruses!”

“While the coronavirus is a “novel” virus and we don’t know how well our existing antibodies work against it, we do know that it’s very useful to have 27% better general immunity!”

He can be found at https://www.eftuniverse.com/

Lynne McTaggart, well-known for her Intention Experiments and Power of 8 intention groups, is holding weekly Facebook Live sessions of applying group thoughts to mitigate the coronavirus crisis, as well as weekly group sessions to help with healing for individuals. https://lynnemctaggart.com/

EFT tapping, meditation, prayer, whatever you choose— you can use your coronacation time to improve your individual situation and the world. I sincerely hope that you are physically and mentally well and that you have enough material goods and finances to get by. If you don’t, please reach out for help in any way you can!

 

 

*‘But how did the outbreak occur? Solving this medical mystery is important to prevent future pandemics. What’s increasingly clear is that the initial “origin story” — that the virus was spread by people who ate contaminated animals at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan — is shaky.

‘Scientists have identified the culprit as a bat coronavirus, through genetic sequencing; bats weren’t sold at the seafood market, although that market or others could have sold animals that had contact with bats. The Lancet noted in a January study that the first covid-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the seafood market.’
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-did-covid-19-begin-its-initial-origin-story-is-shaky/2020/04/02/1475d488-7521-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html

**********************************************************************

Here is more of the relevant Seth material, with the quotes above in context. There was far too much to include in the body of the post. I found these passages at https://findingseth.com, https://www.wireclub.com/topics/philosophy/conversations/UmK3dAOnShBELwai0, and the Seth Quotes page on Facebook.

These books contain the quotes:
NoME = The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events
NoPR = The Nature of Personal Reality
TES = The Early Sessions
DEaVF = Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment
WTH = The Way Toward Health

“The viruses and infections were of course present. They always are. They are themselves fragments, struggling small fragments without intention of harm. You have general immunity, believe it or not, to all such viruses and infections. Ideally you can inhabit a plane with them without fear. It is only when you give tacit agreement that harm is inflicted upon you by these fragments.” -Seth, Early Sessions, Vol 1

“Give us a moment … In those terms, thoughts move far quicker of course than viruses. The action of the virus follows the thought. Each thought is registered biologically. Basically (underlined), when you have an immunity to a disease you have a mental immunity.
You think of viruses as evil, spreading perhaps from country to country, to “invade” scores of physical mechanisms. Now thoughts are “contagious.” You have a natural immunity against all thoughts that do not fit in with your own purposes and beliefs, and naturally (pause, groping), you are “inoculated” with a wholesome trust and belief in your own thoughts above others. The old ideas of voodooism recognized some of these concepts, but complicated and distorted them with fears of evil, psychic invasion, psychic killing, and so forth. You cannot divide, say, mental and physical health, nor can you divide a person’s philosophy from his bodily condition.”
—NoME Chapter 6: Session 841, March 14, 1979

“The patient, therefore, often feels relatively powerless and at the mercy of any stray virus that might come along. The facts are that you choose even the kind of illness that you have according to the nature of your beliefs. You are immune from ill health as long as you believe that you are.”
—NoPR Chapter 5: Session 624, October 30, 1972

“Many viruses INHERENTLY capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.
“If (certain viruses) are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become ‘deadly.’ Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain.
“Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.”
—The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Session 802

NoME Chapter 6: Session 840, March 12, 1979   5/52
[… 3 paragraphs …]
(When I arose early on the 26th so that I could wrap the proofs for mailing, however, I noticed that Billy [their cat] didn’t appear to feel well. Jane watched him while I went to the post office. He was no better when I returned, and as the morning passed we came to realize that he had a urinary problem. That afternoon I took him to the veterinarian, who kept him for treatment; the problem was serious; by then the cat was in great pain. Jane and I both wondered: Why Billy? Why should such a seemingly perfect young creature suddenly become that sick, for no observable reason? “We were shocked,1 no doubt about it,” I wrote in my notes for the 836th session, a private or nonbook one which Jane gave that evening. During the session Seth discussed Billy’s illness to some extent, while also giving the first “installment” of an answer to a longstanding question of mine: I was curious about the relationship between the host — whether human, animal, or plant — and a disease it might contract, one that was “caused,” say, by a virus. I’ll return to the question at the end of these notes.
[… 6 paragraphs …]
(“All viruses of any kind are important to the stability of your planetary life. They are a part of the planet’s biological heritage and memory. You cannot eradicate a virus, though at any given time you destroy every member alive of any given strain. They exist in the earth’s memory, to be recreated, as they were before, whenever the need arises.
[… 5 paragraphs …]
(Pause.) Viruses appear to be “the bad guys,” and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These — and I am putting it as simply as possible — take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive — though it does — as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.

NoME Chapter 6: Session 841, March 14, 1979   8/21
[… 5 paragraphs …]
The case was startling, again, because of the obvious suicidal acts. The poison was, after all, left as evidence. Had the same number of people been found dead (pause) of a vicious disease — smallpox or whatever — the virus involved would have been the villain. I want to discuss thoughts and viruses, along with the health of the body.
You think of viruses as physical, and of thoughts as mental. You should know that thoughts also have their physical aspects in the body, and that viruses have their mental aspects in the body. At times you have both asked why an ailing body does not simply assert itself and use its healing abilities, throwing off the negative influence of a given set of beliefs and thoughts.
When you think of thoughts as mental and viruses as physical, the question is understandable. It is not just that thoughts influence the body, as of course they do; but each one of them represents a triggering stimulus, bringing about hormonal changes and altering the entire physical situation at any given time.
(Pause at 9:16.) Your physical body … give us time … is, as an entity, the fleshed-out version — the physically alive version — of the body of your thoughts. It is not that your thoughts just trigger chemical reactions in the body, but that your thoughts have a chemical reality besides their recognizable mental aspects. I will have to use an analogy. It is not the best, but I hope it will get the point across: It is as if your thoughts turned into the various appendages of your body. (Emphatically:) They have an invisible existence within your body as surely as viruses do. Your body is composed not only of the stuff within it that, say, X-rays or autopsies can reveal, but it also involves profound relationships, alliances and affiliations that nowhere physically show. Your thoughts are as physically pertinent to your body as viruses are, as alive and self-propagating, and they themselves form inner affiliations. Their vitality automatically triggers (long pause, eyes open) all of the body’s inner responses. When you think thoughts, they are conscious. You think in sentences, or paragraphs, or perhaps in images. Those thoughts, as clearly as I can explain this, rise from inner components of which you are unaware.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(9:28.) Give us a moment … In those terms, thoughts move far quicker of course than viruses. The action of the virus follows the thought. Each thought is registered biologically. Basically (underlined), when you have an immunity to a disease you have a mental immunity.
You think of viruses as evil, spreading perhaps from country to country, to “invade” scores of physical mechanisms. Now thoughts are “contagious.” You have a natural immunity against all thoughts that do not fit in with your own purposes and beliefs, and naturally (pause, groping), you are “inoculated” with a wholesome trust and belief in your own thoughts above others. The old ideas of voodooism recognized some of these concepts, but complicated and distorted them with fears of evil, psychic invasion, psychic killing, and so forth. You cannot divide, say, mental and physical health, nor can you divide a person’s philosophy from his bodily condition.
Give us a moment … While I say all of this about thoughts and viruses, remember the context of the discussion, for new information and insights are always available to an individual from Framework 2, and the body does indeed send its own signals.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
The people who died at Jonestown believed that they must die. They wanted to die. How could their thoughts allow them to bring about their [bodily deaths]? Again, the question makes sense only if you do not realize that your thoughts are as physically a part of your body as viruses are (intently).
[… 5 paragraphs …]

NoPR Chapter 7: Session 631, December 18, 1972   7/23
[… 5 paragraphs …]
You must remember that you dwell always in a natural framework — which means that your thoughts themselves are as natural, say, as the locks of your hair. In what may seem to you to be an odd analogy I will compare your thoughts with viruses,* for they are alive, always present, responsive, and possess their own kind of mobility. Physically speaking at least, thoughts are chemically propelled, and they travel through the universal body as viruses travel through your temporal form.
Thoughts interact with the body and become part of it as viruses do. Some viruses have great therapeutic value. The physical body will often let down its own barriers to these, knowing they will counteract certain others that are not beneficial at the time.
So-called harmful viruses are ever-present within the body. You are very rarely vulnerable to any but a small percentage, though you carry within you traces of the most deadly of them all of the time. Viruses themselves undergo transformations completely unsuspected by medical men. If one virus disappears and another is found, it is never suspected that the first may have changed into the second; and yet through certain alterations of quite natural character such is the case.
So viruses can be beneficial or deadly according to the condition, state, and needs of the body at any given time. It is known that one disease can often cure another; sometimes, left alone, an individual will go from a serious disease through a series of less severe ones that are seemingly unrelated to the original problem.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(Pause at 9:58.) I am not suggesting that you not visit doctors or not take drugs of that nature, as long as you believe in the structure of medical discipline that the Western world has evolved. Your bodies have been conditioned to it through the use of such medications since birth. There are many casualties, but this is still a system that you have chosen, and your ideas still form your reality. No one dies who has not made the decision to do so — and no disease is accepted blindly. Put simply, your thoughts can be regarded as invisible viruses, carriers, sparks setting off reactions not only within the body but the entire physical system as you know it.
Your thoughts are as natural as the cells within your body, and as real. They interact with one another as viruses do. While you are in this reality there is no division between the mental, the spiritual, and the physical. If you think there is, then you do not sufficiently understand the spirituality of the flesh or the physical reality of your thought.
[… 5 paragraphs …]
It is natural to live after death, and natural to return the body to earth and [then to] form another. It is natural for your thoughts to be as quick, responsive, and alive as viruses. It is natural for you to have probable selves as well as reincarnational existences.

DEaVF1 Chapter 6: Session 906, March 6, 1980   10/39
[… 8 paragraphs …]
Subject: Viruses as part of the body’s overall health system, and viruses as biological statements.
Viruses serve many purposes, as I have said before.1 The body contains all kinds of viruses, including those considered deadly, but those are usually not only harmless, or inactive, but beneficial to the body’s overall balance.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(9:01.) In certain fashions (underlined), that system also keeps the body from squandering its energies, preserving biological integrity. Otherwise it would be as if you did not know where your own house began or ended, and so tried to heat the entire neighborhood. So some indispositions “caused by viruses” are accepted by the body as welcome triggers, to clean out that system, and this applies to your present indispositions.
More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.
(Still quietly, but at a good pace:) When a skunk is frightened, it throws off a foul odor indeed, and when people are frightened they react in somewhat the same fashion at times, biologically reacting to stimuli in the environment that they consider alarming. They throw off a barrage of “foul viruses”—that is, they actually collect and mobilize from within their own bodies viruses that are potentially harmful, biologically trigger these, or activate them, and send them out into the environment in self-protection, to ward off the enemy (more vigorously).
In a fashion this is a kind of biological aggression. The viruses, however, also represent tensions that the person involved is getting rid of. That is one kind of statement. It is often used in a very strong manner in times of war, or great social upheaval, when people feel frightened.
Now, your friend had been to the Olympics (last month, at Lake Placid, New York), and he was charged by the great physical vitality that he felt watching that athletic panorama. [Because of that, and for other personal reasons], he could find no release for the intense energy he felt, so he got rid of it, protected himself, and threw out his threatening biological posture: the viruses.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
(Pause at 9:17.) There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses—in a fashion—again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient—but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.
[… 12 paragraphs …]
1. Seth first mentioned viruses in the 17th session for January 26, 1964, when I asked him to comment upon the recent deaths of our dog, Mischa, at the age of 11, and of a pair of kittens Jane had obtained from the janitor of the art gallery where she worked part time. (The kittens had the same mother, but had come from successive litters.) I was 44 and Jane was 34, and in conventional terms both of us were still struggling—not only to learn about ourselves and the world, but to find our creative ways in that world. Seth’s answer to my question was more than a little surprising and saddening to us, and opened up a number of insights:
[… 1 paragraph …]
“The viruses and infections were of course present. They always are. They are themselves fragments, struggling small fragments without intention of harm. You have general immunity, believe it or not, to all such viruses and infections. Ideally, you can inhabit a plane with them without fear. It is only when you give tacit agreement that harm is inflicted upon you by these fragments. To some degree, lesser, dependent lives such as household pets are dependent upon your psychic strength. They have their own, it is true, but unknowingly you reinforce their energy and health.
[… 5 paragraphs …]

DEaVF2 Chapter 7: Session 906, March 6, 1980   1/34
[… 11 paragraphs …]
The species is also always in the process of keeping within its genetic bank millions of characteristics that might be needed in various contingencies, and in that regard there is a connection, of course, between, say, viruses of many strains and the health not only of man but of other species.

WTH Chapter 2: January 28, 1984   2/33
[… 9 paragraphs …]
— is instead the result of an exaggeration or overextension of perfectly normal body processes. You are not attacked by viruses, for instance, for all kinds of viruses exist normally in the body. There are no killer (underlined) viruses, then, but viruses that go beyond their usual bounds. We will have more to say about such issues later on in the book — for I hope to show you how certain feelings and beliefs do indeed promote health, while others promote an unfortunate extension or exaggeration of perfectly normal bodily processes, or viral activity.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
(Long pause.) People have been taught that their bodies are a kind of battleground, and that they must be in a constant state of readiness lest they be attacked or invaded by alien germs or viruses or diseases that can strike without warning.

NoME Chapter 1: Session 802, April 25, 1977   9/63
[… 4 paragraphs …]
Dictation: (Pause, one of many.) Now: To a certain extent (underlined), epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time — but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.
[… 8 paragraphs …]
Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.
[… 1 paragraph …]
The epidemics then serve many purposes — warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.
[… 1 paragraph …]
The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems — problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.
(Pause.) These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics — why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive — for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.
[… 17 paragraphs …]
They do not “worry.” They do not anticipate disaster when no signs of it are apparent in their immediate environment. On their own they do not need preventative medicine. Pet animals are inoculated against diseases, however. In your society this almost becomes a necessity. In a “purely natural” setting you would not have as many living puppies or kittens. There are stages of physical existence, and in those terms nature knows what it is doing. When a species overproduces, the incidences of, say, epidemics grow. This applies to human populations as well as to the animals.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
There are also “trial runs” in human and animal species alike, in which peeks are taken, or glimpses, of physical life, and that is all. Epidemics sweeping through animal populations are also biological and psychic statements, then, in which each individual knows that only its own greatest fulfillment can satisfy the quality of life on an individual basis, and thus contribute to the mass survival of the species.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
Many children, who, it seems, should have died of disease, of “childhood epidemics,” nevertheless survive because of their different intents. The world of thought and feeling may be invisible, and yet it activates all physical systems with which you are acquainted.
[… 1 paragraph …]
Love involves self-respect, the trust in individual biological zest and integrity. To that extent, in their way animal epidemics have the same causes as human ones.

https://www.wireclub.com/topics/philosophy/conversations/UmK3dAOnShBELwai0
from The Individual And Nature of Mass Events.–by Jane Roberts———–
—— “Unfortunately, many of your public health programs, and commercial statements through the various media, provide you with mass meditations of a most deplorable kind. I refer to those in which the specific symptoms of various diseases are given, in which the individual is further told to examine the body with those symptoms in mind. I also refer to those statements that just as unfortunately specify diseases for which the individual may experience no symptoms of an observable kind, but is cautioned that these disastrous physical events may be happening despite his or her feelings of good health. Here the generalized fears fostered by religious, scientific, and cultural beliefs are often given as blueprints of diseases in which a person can find a specific focus-the individual can say: `Of course, I feel listless, or panicky, or unsafe, since I have suchandsuch a disease.’
————— “The breast cancer suggestions associated with self examinations have caused more cancers than any treatments have cured. They involve intense meditation of the body, and adverse imagery that itself affects the bodily cells. Public health announcements about high blood pressure themselves raise the blood pressure of millions of television viewers.
—— “Your current ideas of preventative medicine, therefore, generate the very kind of fear that causes disease. They all undermine the individual’s sense of bodily security and increase stress, while offering the body a specific, detailed disease plan. But most of all, they operate to increase the individual sense of alienation from the body, and to promote a sense of powerlessness and duality. Your “medical commercials” are equally disease promoting. Many, meaning to offer you relief through a product, instead actually promote the condition through suggestion, thereby generating a need for the product itself.”

“Examine the literature that you read, the television programs that you watch, and tell yourself to ignore those indications given of the body’s weaknesses.

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2020 Vision

… is a joke that’s going to get old real fast, so I’ll try to use it quick before that happens.

A free-to-download version of the Kali Yantra from kalibhakti.com, empty of color and ready to receive your preferred reality.

I was going to write about the terrifying prospects we face in the next year and the next decade, and the way they’re battering mental health all over the planet. But you know about all that. What do we do with it? Here are a few musings.

Some interesting takes on how to cope with this apocalyptic Anthropocene era have crossed my screen in the past week. One was the “post-doom” concept espoused by Michael Dowd: “Post-doom: what opens up when we remember who we are, accept what is inevitable, honor our grief, and invest in what is pro-future and soul-nourishing.”
https://www.postdoom.com/

I heard about this in an interview by Steve Bhaerman, the alter ego of my guru Swami Beyondananda. 
https://omtimes.com/iom/2019/12/michael-dowd-post-doom/

It reminded me of the beautiful Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” in which a probe from a long-dead civilization causes Picard to experience the existence of a man who lived near the end, as the planet was being roasted by a malfunctioning sun. The people knew that soon there would be nothing left of their world, but they managed to retain their joy in living despite unimaginable tragedy.

Next I was introduced to “rewilding” by Micah Mortali, interviewed by Tami Simon:
https://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=IATE&episode=14107
Rewilding is a term for conservation efforts to return land to a wilder state, including the reintroduction of large predators, but Mortali was talking about human beings reconnecting to our natural environment, knowing ourselves as animals that belong within it. When Simon asked him how he would suggest that we deal with climate change, he said something I thought was striking and potentially very useful: we should go outdoors and be with nature, and pay attention, and the Earth will teach us what we need to do.

Mortali also pointed out something that it totally obvious but that people forget all the time, that we grew out of the primordial soup of this planet and we are entirely part of her, not separate. The dichotomy of “man” and “nature” is false. Thinking further, then, how is it that nature has led herself to a situation in which one segment of life on the earth threatens to destroy all the rest along with itself?

I remember that when I was a kid I heard adults talking about a time to come, not too far in the future, when the world would be shaken by earthquakes, terrible storms, upheavals of all sorts. They spoke as if this were inevitable and as if everyone knew it would happen. I have never been able to track down whatever they based this belief upon. Nostradamus, perhaps? At any rate, dang, here it is. I think I’ve always subconsciously expected it.

I was also exposed, from early childhood, to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, in which humanity would go through a period of worldwide crises (around the 1990s, in the Star Trek canon), then emerge into an age of peace, enlightenment and prosperity. He is not the only one to imagine this, as far as I know. My impression is that it forms a strong thread in the current human psyche.

Can we say that, logically, whatever is happening must be what is supposed to be happening? And will we create that golden age that is supposed to show up afterward?

I would love to think that God/the Universe/Mother Nature will take care of us and allow us to survive, along with taking care of all the other creatures. However, we know there have been repeated mass extinctions, where nearly all life was lost. This is something Earth has done from time to time, and no doubt will do again. Then things continue in a different form. I think often of the Hindu concept of the Kali Yuga, when things go downhill and are destroyed, to make way for a new cycle. I think also of the goddess Kali (which I just found out is a different word from the above) who performs the necessary act of destruction, without which creation cannot occur. While looking up other information for this post, I became fascinated with reading about her.

I am beginning to consider that Kali may be a perfect image for our time and our response to it. Though she is fierce and bloody, Kali is also the most loving of mothers, in her guise as Kali Ma, symbolizing the ground of being that underlies all that is. She is ultimate darkness not because she is evil but because she embodies all possibilities; she is the void which can give birth to all reality. As the force of Time, she both brings everything into being and causes everything to pass away.

If you have been reading my work for a while, you may remember a book that describes encounters with the Goddess in her dark form, Waking Up to the Dark. https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/ It seems that She, like any loving mother, stands ready to discipline her children when they get out of line, but also as our mother, she will not abandon us in our time of need.

So many people perceive deities and entities of various sorts that are either working to protect us and back up our efforts, or are doing their best to sow discord and undermine anything positive we manage to produce. (I have encountered a range of beings myself, but for the most part they’ve been of the helpful type.) Some feel a certain complacency about things being monitored from behind the scenes, while others may despair in the face of evil forces they think are overwhelmingly powerful, controlling us without our having any choice. But even the most fundamentalist among us believe that humans must take responsibility for carrying out the will of God. I am very much a proponent of “the Lord helps those that help themselves.”

I submit that whatever cosmic beings are working for our good or ill, or their own, we are not separate from them. In the end all of reality is made up of the thought processes of One Mind. We are no more nor less important than the other myriad components of that Mind.

A while back, as I told you, I asked my friend Fryderyk if there was any help from the spirit world coming to us. ‘I wondered if they have any involvement with trying to help our dire situation on our dying planet. He said, firmly, that this is the responsibility of those who live on the planet at present, that we wanted and intended to be here and deal with this, that it is “your burden.”’
https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2019/09/17/things-you-can-do-when-youre-dead-and-some-you-cant/

As hard as it appears, this is the logical conclusion. We are here, at this time, because we wanted and needed to be here. We are the ones willing and able to take on the greatest challenge humanity has faced. We may feel utterly inadequate to the task, but it is our task.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have to be. There is no one else.

 

While I don’t want to get overly exercised about these metaphorical ages, this very complicated explanation of the Yugas has some fascinating information about cataclysmic events within known historical periods. I think we can all agree that, one way or the other, the path of the Earth and life on it is more cyclical than linear.  
https://grahamhancock.com/dmisrab6/

 

https://www.hinduhumanrights.info/kali-as-the-yuga-shakti-the-power-to-create-a-new-world-age/
The gorgeous depiction of Kali with a tiny dragon on this site was made by Mei Huang: http://www.meihuangart.com/#/illustration/

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Our Lady burning

Delighted to see that these chandeliers still exist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame means so much to me that I used some of my photos of her as the theme for this blog. Like so many around the world, I was stricken and in tears during the fire on April 15. It turned out that things were not as bad as we feared, and at least this time it was an accident, not another willful act of destruction. But as I worked on writing about it, the church and other sites in Sri Lanka were bombed, with great loss of life, on Easter morning. I threw out what I had written before, and wrote this instead:

 

Our Lady burning

At Sacré-Coeur I felt nothing.
That gorgeous edifice towering on its hill,
seen from everywhere, unable to be unseen,
never moved me.
I read that it was made
to bring back the flock,
rekindle faith in the heart of France.
Imposed as it is imposing,
it floats above the city
without root, it seems to me.

Notre Dame is my place,
central, home to my soul,
“where God lives,” as a friend said,
and Saint Michel hovers nearby.
The power must have simmered there
long before those stones were cut.
From the depths it infuses them,
rises like sap through those square towers,
spirit soaring despite the attenuated tops.
Imperfect beloved, at times unwell,
she has been clothed with misplaced additions,
but her identity has endured, her significance,
through violation and neglect.

Here, it’s been a hard time that has not stopped.
On the same day there was a local burning;
a child dead, others hurt, homes lost.
A small building but great importance.
The week before, death after death,
other children, a strange paroxysm.
My friend murdered by someone close,
leaving her own children.
Our city reeling, impossible events,
then more impossible events.
And Our Lady burned, and it seemed
nothing could be counted upon.

But that was not enough,
because this is the world
and it has humans in it.
To add to the month of churches torched,
we must have bombs,
and now we use them on Easter,
and more children and more mothers
must be blown away.
because the founders of our faiths
never got through to us
and we think God only lives
in our own kind of house.

(In the book it says, “Jesus wept.”)

The humans inside the churches
have also killed, also violated.
Hearing of Notre Dame,
some said good riddance.
A man entered another cathedral
with gasoline.

 

Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame burned, by accident, on 4/15/19. On Easter, 4/21/19, a church in Sri Lanka was bombed during the morning services. All this followed arson attacks on churches and a social service organization in the south of the US. Here are some things others had to say:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/4/15/1850518/-The-Barbarians-at-the-Gate-Rejoice-on-Daily-Kos-at-the-Death-of-Civilization

https://www.wired.com/story/the-notre-dame-fire-and-the-future-of-history/

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/04/15/notre-dame-reminds-us-that-we-belong-to-one-another/

https://www.thenation.com/article/notre-dame-fire-muslim-france-islamophobia/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/notre-dame-in-the-french-imagination
‘At moments of enormous and historic loss, one seeks, perhaps foolishly or with false reassurance, for some sense of continuity, including the continuities of disaster and renewal.’
‘…Still, the cathedral belongs to everyone, and everyone is rooting for its restoration. The French leftist and staunch atheist Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote on Monday evening that, while he could not see the hand of God in the cathedral, nonetheless, “If it seems so powerful, it’s without doubt because human beings surpassed themselves in putting Notre-Dame in the world. Those who feel the emptiness of a universe deprived of meaning and the absurdity of the human condition see here the apotheosis of the spirit of thousands of women and men who worked over two centuries and eight hundred years.”’

http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/history-and-visit/article/the-origin-of-the-construction-of
(Sacré-Coeur will celebrate its 100th birthday this fall.)

And here are a few moments of heaven:
https://www.facebook.com/eleneguschdom/videos/vb.1579282359/10216830307341533/?type=3

 

Behind the cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In happier times

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The Blue Lady and Marian Apparitions

Photo of the sky over Conyers, GA in 1990, attributed to someone named Ferdinando. My Blue Lady looked a lot like this.

Last time, I told you about my vision of an entity I thought of as the Blue Lady. While looking for images that might convey something of what I saw, I came across this:

http://www.zeitun-eg.org/zeitoun1.htm

“For more than a year, starting on the eve of Tuesday, April 2, 1968, the Blessed Holy Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, appeared in different forms over the domes of the Coptic Orthodox Church named after Her at Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt.”

That is, for more than a year, something or someone appeared over St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. The something was a glowing form resembling a woman in long robes, with rays of light around her head. This apparition was often accompanied by others, including forms like white doves that came and went suddenly and flew without visibly flapping their wings. Sometimes the strange sights went on for over two hours. A great many people saw them, and quite a few striking photos and even movies exist. No matter how skeptical we may be or how uncomfortable religious imagery may be for a lot of us, this evidence is there to confront us.

Please take a moment to boggle at the pictures at the link above.  Here is an example.


And here are some more: http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Zeitoun.htm

Even for those of us who are accustomed to Seeing Things and knowing that others see even more, this is a freaky event to contemplate, especially since it involved so many observers at once. Blessed Mother sightings are not uncommon, though, and have been well documented over many decades.

I am curious as to whether the Blue Lady I saw had anything to do with this phenomenon. I’m also wondering whether the apparitions are related to the being described by Clark Strand in his book Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, which I reported on here: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/

Recounting Strand’s experiences, I wrote: “As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.”

I would like to know whether people in completely different cultures, not exposed to the Mary mythos, have similar visions. Certainly Mary has become conflated and entwined with the goddesses of other cultures, as we see in Our Lady of Guadalupe:

“Following the Conquest in 1519–21, the Spanish destroyed a temple of the mother goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the same site. Tonantzin (the beloved mother of the gods) was celebrated around each winter solstice which occurred on different dates, the winter solstice of 1531 occurred on December 12, 1531 according to the UNAM. Even many of the newly converted to Catholicism natives then continued to come from afar to worship there, often addressing the renamed native image, as if she were the Virgin Mary, which they had known as their Tonantzin.” [December 12, 1531 was the climactic day of the visions seen by the peasant Juan Diego.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

It would be no surprise if various peoples saw the image of the Mother in a guise familiar to them. As one of the Zeitoun website pages put it, “She sometimes made Her apparition with the Babe Jesus Christ in Her arms. It is not strange to see the Child Jesus Christ in an apparition; heavenly apparitions may take forms known to us, so that we can understand them.” The image of a powerful, all-loving, nurturing Mother is as fundamental to the human psyche as anything can possibly be, and She is real in at least a psychological and emotional sense. Perhaps seeing Her in so many times and places is to be expected.

That’s about as much as I can say about the visions themselves at this point. Your thoughts are welcome. I would especially like to know if you have experienced anything along these lines yourself.

I do want to add something about Her names. Often these apparitions are referred to by the acronym “BVM”— Blessed Virgin Mary. I have always been bugged by the Blessed Virgin concept. Virgin and Mother are incompatible archetypes! The story of the mother of Jesus being a virgin was added well after his death, and is based in Greek and Roman, not Jewish, mythology. The reason it bugs me so much is not only because it’s just plain not historically true, but because it seems to me to insult and repudiate women, and all of nature along with us. It is a perfect expression of a patriarchal culture that could not deal well with sexuality or human bodies. It’s as if God built the world a certain way, then decided that he had messed it up when He invented mammals and their means of reproduction.

Adyashanti’s interpretation made me feel a little better about this. He said the story means that the divine principle came directly into the world without requiring the duality of male and female, remaining one purely divine reality. Whatever. I prefer to contemplate the ancient image of the Mother without painting the unnecessary Virgin layer over her.

It would be wonderful to believe that Someone is watching over us with loving attention, and like any mom, will comfort us when we inevitably fall and get bruised. But perhaps, like any mom, she will set limits on our nonsense, and apply consequences. If only she could make us stop fighting with our brothers and sisters….


Still more photos of apparitions or purported apparitions:

Apparitions at another place in Egypt in 2009, still photos and video
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Warraq.htm

“Photographs of the Virgin Mary in the clouds”
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Virgin%20Mary%20in%20the%20clouds.htm

 

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Filed under history, mythology and metaphor, psychology, spirit communication, spirituality, the unexplained

Taking the Hill for Human Rights

At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others. Pope Francis insists that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths*, and everything falls apart whenever mercy is displaced by anything else or anything less. —Fr Richard Rohr

 

Pastor John Pavlovitz wrote in a recent post: “Whatever hill is worth dying on for you in this life, take it now.”
https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/07/03/pick-a-hill-worth-dying-on-america/

I realized right away that I knew which “hill” that was for me. Despite the progress of the past decade, the ability of LGBTQ+ people to work, to buy ordinary products and services, to adopt children, to live in a particular building or neighborhood, even just to live at all has been under heavy attack of late.

A couple of weeks ago I watched Hannah Gadsby’s high-impact one-woman show Nanette, which you absolutely should check out. In her native Tasmania, homosexuality was illegal until 1997!!!! I was 37 then, for freak’s sake! That was a sobering reminder of how fragile our situation is. In my relatively open community, it’s easy to forget how difficult things can be in so many parts of the world.

And of course that includes much of the US. The vice-president, may he soon be enlightened, is trying to establish a “religious liberty” office to make sure that anyone whose religion tells them to discriminate against those who are different in their sexual or gender identity can do so with complete freedom, the Constitution and legal precedent be damned. As Cornel West has said, “The fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything except Love Thy Neighbor!”

I often find myself imagining something like this:

Incredibly, because Americans insist on continuing to use the death penalty and it seemed to be under threat, last fall the US voted AGAINST a UN “resolution condemning the use of the death penalty as punishment for consensual gay relations.” The resolution passed anyway, but the US had sided with a group of countries known for human-rights abuses and against all of Europe and almost all of the rest of the Americas. We could have abstained. We did not.
https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/05/opinions/un-death-penalty-resolution-usa-lgbt-ghitis-opinion/index.html

This feels more and more like a crisis, one building inexorably, one that can’t be ignored. “If you aren’t finding your voice right now, don’t bother worrying about it again,” Pavlovitz wrote. “You won’t have one much longer.” So I am continuing to make whatever sounds I can.

The event that got me started thinking about writing this post was the death of Jeremy Reynalds, who founded the local help for the homeless organization Joy Junction. Friends commented about something I had forgotten: that Reynalds not only forbade LGBTQ+ folk from staying at his shelter, but even refused to take donations from such people. Wow. I wasn’t good enough for him to help me if I needed it, and even my money wasn’t good enough for him. I had a seriously hard time with this. It bugged me for days. It even contributed to some physical symptoms.

But later, I read that Reynalds had changed, which is a great relief and source of hope.  ‘“I’m much less judgmental than I used to be, and that’s made me a much happier person,” Reynalds said in 2016. “My mantra for the last eight or nine years is ‘Let God do the judging, and I will do the loving.’”
https://www.abqjournal.com/1197802/reynalds-leaves-legacy-of-helping-the-less-fortunate.html

Understanding why certain religious people are so set in their anti-LGBTQ stance runs one directly down the infinitely dark rabbit hole of biblical literalism. In researching background for this post, I came across the word “bibliolatry,” which refers to worshiping the written word above all else including real, living people and even the living traditions of one’s faith– not to mention the living Christ in whom one supposedly believes. To that, another kind of Christian might reply:

I understand that we all cherry-pick whatever agrees with our preconceived notions. However— something that has been said so many times, but it bears repeating since they Just Don’t Seem to Get It— if these people are going to insist that same-sex relationships are sinful because of their interpretation of a few words in Leviticus, why is it that they feel free to eat shellfish and wear polyester/cotton clothing and trim their beards?

I haven’t had any recent opportunities to ask this directly of an evangelical. Typical answers might be that this was written a very long time ago and that society has changed a great deal, and/or that Jesus superseded the Old Testament laws with the greater law of “Love one another.” One article, in explaining why we no longer execute disobedient children, simply stated, “The Old Testament Law is not in force today.”** Well, that was easy, wasn’t it.  Except that they’re saying it is.

In addition to this convenient inconsistency, they seem to have decided that the way God constructed nature and humanity is not OK, because they insist that biology is something quite different from what it really is. It probably won’t help to tell a person who believes the Earth is only 6000 years old to objectively observe the natural world, but even a cursory survey would quickly show that sexuality and gender are not binary, but exist along continua. Now, for religious people to question nature and find it lacking is to question and criticize the workings of the mind of God. Isn’t that blasphemy? How can that be acceptable to them?

Well, that’s why it’s so crucial for them to believe that sexual orientation is a choice. If homosexuality does NOT inherently exist in nature, but rather is invented by depraved or confused human minds, then there is no conflict with their chosen biblical interpretation. Likewise, if there is no such thing as an intersex or transgender child and the kids are only imagining it all, there is no need to revise rigidly prescribed gender roles. There are powerful incentives for them to wish reality away.

Somehow I have felt compelled to follow the rabbit downward and better understand the origins of this way of thinking. I hadn’t realized how recent a phenomenon biblical literalism is. Fundamentalists might like to think of themselves as part of an ancient tradition, part of the bedrock of Christianity, as the name implies, but this is not the case. Certainly it is not how most of us brought up in mainstream forms of Christianity were taught to think about the bible. We were taught in Catholic school that biblical stories such as the Adam and Eve myth were to be understood as allegories, and there is nothing at all modern or “liberal” about such an attitude. Very early authorities such as Philo of Alexandria and Origen*** wrote about just that way of understanding scripture, and their teaching was accepted for most of the past two millennia.

Dr. Kevin Lewis went so far as to describe literalism as heresy: ’The heresy of literalism as such is a modern, post-scientific phenomenon. Its beginnings can be traced in seventeenth-century Protestant orthodoxy, but it bloomed with twentieth-century Fundamentalism, when the modern world fully embraced the dynamic power of natural science. Scientific method crucially altered the Western mind. After Descartes we became principled skeptics, doubting in order to find out the truth. The notion stole into the religious mind that biblical narratives make proposals that only appear to compete with testable scientific findings (to test our faith) while ultimately, if miraculously, conforming to scientific truth.’

‘So rose up in history a reactionary Christian mind, panicked and defensive, straining to assert scientific proof (thereby establishing absolute certainty) for its Scripture and the articles of belief it wished to communicate. Thus did literalism teach the “letter” to drive out the “spirit” of the biblical writings, effectively misusing the text in order to promote a corrupted theological agenda. The effect is a rigid constriction of the inspiring Word.’
http://people.cas.sc.edu/lewiske/heresy.html

I have often said that if someone wishes to take scripture literally, they had better be able to read and write the ancient languages involved, fluently, and understand exactly how the words were used at the time those passages were written. Only then can they expect to have any idea what it is that they are taking literally. Some scholars try to do that.

A rather arcane article, “The Secret History of Leviticus” by Idan Dershowitz, showed up in the New York Times, interestingly enough. Dershowitz analyzed the text in detail to elucidate likely changes over the long period of time that probably elapsed as the book was rewritten into its present form. He points out that there were generally no known prohibitions against sex between men in earlier times, and that the prohibitions appear to have been absent in the earliest version of Leviticus as well, and to have been added later in the book’s history. 
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/21/opinion/sunday/bible-prohibit-gay-sex.html?action=click&module=Trending&pgtype=Article&region=Footer&contentCollection=Trending

An interesting case is a website written by Rick Brentlinger, who identifies himself as a gay Christian and an independent Baptist preacher. (I’m a little sorry to identify him by name, since I am about to harshly criticize him.)  I found it while looking for the meaning of the passages about homosexuality in the original languages. He has a rather different take on Leviticus, and on Paul, asserting that in both cases the prohibition is really against temple prostitution rather than same-sex relations in general. I can’t say whether or not he is accurate in his analysis, but it is an interesting perspective. One statement of his with which I wholeheartedly agree: ”Scripture cannot mean NOW/ What it did not mean THEN.”

Unfortunately, Brentlinger goes on to toe the literalist line, even stating in so many words that Adam was a real man and the first human. He rails against common practices like contemplative prayer and meditation, saying that only reading or hearing scripture is acceptable prayer. (It amazes me— how is one supposed to listen to God with all those words chattering in one’s mind all the time?) Yet he even slams Lectio Divina, in which one reads scripture in a mystical manner, intending to let its meaning manifest in a nonverbal awareness. Even the way other people read the Bible is not good enough for him! It seems to me that he is playing along with the game plan of the very people who oppress him and his. I can empathize a little, though. Otherwise he would have to separate entirely from his faith community and his home culture, I suppose, and that might be too much to contemplate. It seems that he is finding a way to be part of the groupthink and be himself at the same time.

At any rate, there is nothing at all that literalists can quote from Jesus’ preaching on homosexuality or other matters of sexual orientation or gender identity, because nothing is there, neither prohibitions nor permissions. There is that one story that can be interpreted as being tolerant of same-sex relationships, the one about the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant/companion and shows absolute faith that he can do it. Brentlinger does interpret it that way.

I wonder what the literalists think about the apocryphal books such as the Gospel of Thomas, and how they deal with the idea that some gospels were written through divine inspiration and some weren’t, when it is clear that ordinary humans chose which books to include in the canon. Some of those books were of inferior quality, but others were discarded because they didn’t fit the political power needs of the men who were in charge. And they were all men, of course. In the early days of Christianity, many individuals were preaching and transmitting their own revelations and insights, and some of the most famous were women. The powers that were felt the need to squelch all that, making us all poorer in the process. Some of the early writings have come to light in the past century, of course, and now we have a broader perspective that makes biblical literalism appear all the more ludicrous.

It was decided by some of those august Church Fathers, trying to hold their young organization together, that revelation had stopped at the death of the last apostle, and no one else was going to hear anything worthwhile from God! This connects with the suspicious attitude toward contemplative prayer and meditation— one must simply accept what has already been written, and heaven forbid that one might connect with the divine on one’s own. (Everything there is authoritarian at its core. And that, dear reader, has a lot to do with the love of fundamentalists for our current administration.)

I’ll end by bringing you back to John Pavlovitz, who had to broaden his thinking when he was exposed to people who were different from those he’d been brought up with— and then his brother came out as gay. ‘”It was a gradual deconstruction of my faith,” he says. “You look at one isolated area of the Bible, for example, then realize, Well, if that doesn’t mean what I was taught it meant, what other areas of my spiritual journey was I taking for granted? So you start digging into it, and you find yourself exploring all areas of your belief system.”’

And he claims some of that personal revelation, which doesn’t go over well with the kind of church he moved away from:
‘Some simply know in their gut, he says, that a religion of in-groups and out-groups isn’t what Jesus was preaching.’
https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/how-raleighs-john-pavlovitz-went-from-fired-megachurch-pastor-to-rising-star-of-the-religious-left/Content?oid=9664688

You know, if you’ve been reading my stuff, where I stand with regard to personal revelation. And so here I am, on my hill, where I intend to stay until it’s no longer necessary.

 

*Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 36-37.
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

**https://www.gotquestions.org/stone-rebellious-children.html

*** https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/rescuing-the-bible-from-literalism

This article also takes up archeological questions about the origin of the people of Israel, the supposed conquest of Canaan, and the exodus from Egypt. These are fascinating matters which also feed into our current political situation, but I’ll take them up at another time.

 

 

 

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Filed under history, human rights, politics, spirituality

“Captain, I’m afraid I don’t know where we are.”

If your threat ganglia pop out, there’s usually a good reason.

That line keeps repeating in my head.

As all good science-fiction should do, Star Trek: Discovery used fantastical but relatable metaphors to comment on our situation here and now.  The conceit of the Mirror Universe, the place Saru didn’t recognize when he made the statement above, was as good as any to explore the deep and pervasive sense of disorientation so many of us continue to feel.  (For those who missed it, the Mirror Universe– the one where, you might remember, Spock had a beard– was populated by the same beings as our own but was a twisted place where humans ran a cruel, xenophobic, racist empire based on war.)

Much of the first season of Discovery was deeply dark and very 2017-18.  It appeared that even Starfleet captains had renounced virtue in favor of expediency.  Of course it turned out that the brilliant but ruthless Captain Lorca was really a denizen of the evil universe’s Terran Empire, and had never been meant to represent Federation values at all.  But then, in desperation to survive against the Klingon onslaught, which was threatening the existence of Earth itself, Starfleet came to the brink of committing genocide, leading to this exchange:

Admiral Cornwell: “We do not have the luxury of principles!”
Michael Burnham: “That is all we have, Admiral!”*

In the face of destruction of our entire planet– a situation we DO face in real life– and against threats not only to any chance of democracy but to truth itself, is this valid?  Do we have any room to maneuver at all?  Can we survive without compromising our values?

The wide-eyed optimism of Star Trek, which has never died, says that there is always a better way.  To choose compassion over fear.  To choose the Federation values of peace, fairness, inclusiveness, and respect for those who are different. When trapped between unacceptable alternatives, to find a third path.

In Gene Roddenberry’s cosmology, things got a whole lot worse before they got better.  I remember some adults talking that way when I was a kid, around the time of Classic Trek, explicitly expecting that there would be an era of horrendous upheavals and destruction to live through, somewhere about now.  I don’t know what made them think that way, but they seem to have been correct.  One can hope that the calm really will come through after the storm, and that somehow it will all make sense.  Personally, my threat ganglia are still out and waving.

**************************************************************

About a week ago I wrote this, in response to people asking me for my thoughts about the current primary season.  Non-New Mexicans probably won’t care:

I’ve been wanting to write something about my choice of candidates for the gubernatorial and congressional primaries, in part to explain my thinking to myself. I am helping two campaigns, to the small extent that I have energy to do so. People I’ve spoken with are expressing a lot of confusion, because we have the blessing or curse of multiple decent human beings running. So let’s think a few aspects of the races through. I’m interested in the thoughts of others who may have come to a different set of conclusions.

I was a little bit concerned that I might be basing my choices on emotional reactions to my favorite candidates, so I have spent time thinking through the matter as dispassionately as possible.  [My Vulcan ancestry at work again.]  Yet, I have to say that my two candidates are nice, pleasant people to be around, and that is a big part of my support for them. At the same time, they’re tough and they don’t knuckle under. I think they’ve got the right combination of the two.

There’s no confusion with the governor’s race for me. I’ve been a fan of Michelle Lujan Grisham for years, and every time I have the opportunity to speak with her in person, I like her all the better. The last time I saw her was at the annual meeting of the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign on April 28. I had the good fortune to be getting out of my car at the same time she was getting out of hers, and we had a bit of a walk to get into the building, around two sides of a block, so I had her to myself for a few minutes. We discussed health insurers and some maddening issues for health care providers like me. Michelle has the health care wonk thing going on, having run the state health department, and that’s important for me. I know from previous discussions that she would try to get the superintendent of insurance to work more for the people and less for the insurers, and that she has some specific ideas about that.

The fact that she showed up for our meeting at all was big, of course. But this was bigger: When I asked her how an ordinary person could go about contacting her on a specific issue like the one we were talking about, she replied, “I work for you. Call me.” OK, that might not really happen very easily in practice. But the sentiment seemed real. I do believe that Michelle acts out of a spirit of service and that she does not put herself above her constituents.

One of the first things our representative did when she got to Congress was to try living on a food budget equal to that of a food stamp recipient, to see how real people can manage it. She reported on how difficult it was. This was when I first took real notice of her, and I immediately developed respect for her. In the past she’s done hands-on investigations like going undercover at a nursing home to expose abuse. She doesn’t take the easiest paths and sometimes she upsets those who are in charge. She is exceedingly tenacious, maybe to the point where she annoys some people; that’s a big reason why we finally got the cleanup of the Kirtland jet fuel spill going after so much dithering around. She knows how to build a coalition; that’s how a bipartisan group of female lawmakers broke the logjam on VAWA.

Jeff Apodaca did not show up at the Health Security meeting himself, but he did send two representatives, his wife and former candidate Peter DiBenedittis, who now works for him. Apodaca stated forcefully in the debate televised today that he would put a single-payer system in place in the state. That’s quite commendable, but he seemed to think he could do that all by himself, making me wonder if he really has much of an idea how state government works.

Apodaca has expressed a number of ideas that strike me as interesting, fresh, and utterly unrealistic. Yes, it would be totally great if we could pipe water from areas that often have flooding to those that have drought. (He suggested that if water were piped to Texas, the Texans wouldn’t need to take water from NM!) Maybe someday that could even be done. Is it a real-world, near-term solution for our desiccated state? Um, no. My impression is that he may not even realize that what he’s saying comes off more like science fiction than policy. Perhaps I’m being a stick in the mud (the long-dried mud, that is), and I should be more welcoming toward way-out-of-the-box possibilities, but I’d rather we would start with something we could actually get done, and soon.

There is something that disturbs me more about Apodaca, though, and that’s what I perceive as negativity and anger. His speech at the Progressive Summit in January struck me as one of the nastiest and most venomous presentations I’d ever heard from a candidate. I can’t remember the specifics of what he talked about, but he belittled others rather than lifting everyone up. He lost any chance at my vote there and then. That unpleasantness was on display in today’s debate, as well.

Joe Cervantes is more of a conundrum for the progressive Democrat trying to choose a governor. His TV ads include endorsements from people I really respect, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and my own beloved state senator, Mimi Stewart. He comported himself quite well in the debate this evening, and the fact that he represents Sunland Park, right on the southern border, makes his perspective especially useful in the present climate. I still have to go with Michelle, though, because of my personal experience with her and more importantly her broad experience in both state and federal government.

What we can’t lose perspective on: The candidate we pick will go up against Steve Pearce in the fall. If you’re bothering to read this, you probably realize how dangerous Pearce would be as governor— a man who, among all his other alarming qualities, believes that his wife should obey him because that’s biblical!

In 2014, we ended up with an incredibly weak Democratic candidate, Gary King, and Susana Martinez wiped the floor with him. Those who had any idea what was going on repudiated King at the party convention, but he was able to gather enough extra signatures to get on the ballot anyway. Name-recognition and fondness for his dad put him on top in the primary, but there wasn’t enough enthusiasm to take him through the general election. We can’t let this happen again. King is universally hailed as a nice guy, but niceness isn’t necessarily a great thing when it’s wishy-washy.

I can’t help remembering how it was in 2010, when then-lieutenant governor Diane Denish wrote out pages and pages of specific and actionable policy ideas while running for governor. She had plans up the wazoo. Her opponent, Susana, said practically nothing and appeared to have little idea what she was getting herself into. But she represented law and order, and Denish was tainted by the corruption into which Bill Richardson had sunk the governor’s office. We all know how that worked out.

Now we have to pull ourselves out of a different sort of morass. I agree with Mayor Tim Keller, who made the point many times during his own campaign that we have to do our own lifting and can’t rely on help to swoop in from somewhere else. But there are better and worse mechanisms we can use to get it done, and more and less knowledgeable and energetic people to lead as we do it.

****************************************************************

Rep. Lujan Grisham, when asked why she was giving up her seat in Congress to run for governor, said that with Washington so dysfunctional, the state and local levels are where things can get done. (Mayor Keller said something similar when he left his job as state auditor.) Yet, we still have to have someone warming those seats at the Capitol and at least attempting to do something positive. My choice for NM CD1 is Deb Haaland.

I’m not being a great help to any campaign, but I did get out and knock on doors in the past couple of days to get out the vote for Deb, my first experience of canvassing. Most people weren’t home, or at least didn’t answer— no surprise there. I had the privilege of walking a really lovely neighborhood, and even got to see one of the “spaceship” houses close up and talk with its very friendly owner. (If you’re a local, you know the two houses I mean.) The most heartening interaction today was with a guy who told me, “Oh, I’m a Republican. My wife’s the Democrat. But we still live with each other.”

Of course I had to explain why I was bothering to walk around with a Deb yard sign and why I had picked her out of the crowded primary field. Everyone knows by now that she’d be the first Native American woman elected to Congress. That is a major matter, since Indians have practically no representation in DC at all, and women are still quite underrepresented. Especially in this time of environmental peril, I do think it’s well worthwhile, even crucial, to include a Native point of view, and we need far more than this one individual to express it. But people want to know what else there is about Deb.

I could go on about renewable energy being a critical necessity for the state’s economy and the world, and her championing of it, or her support for universal health coverage. I could add that she’s had a broad range of experiences, rather than, for example, being a lawyer for her entire adult life. She’s known for working hard for progressive causes and candidates over the years, for always showing up. She showed up at Standing Rock with the water protectors, too. Growing up in a military family, although she did not go into an armed service herself, will give her perspective when the present administration pushes for war. 

But what originally attracted me to Deb was something very simple, a small gesture that made a lasting impression. I was at a gathering hosted by Equality New Mexico a couple of years ago, where I met her and also Santa Fe’s new mayor, Alan Webber. The room was crowded, and I was trying unsuccessfully to slip between bodies and furniture to get a glass of water. Deb saw this, filled a glass and brought it to me. She was the chair of the state Democratic party at the time, but she so didn’t make a big deal of herself. She was real and down to earth. She saw a need and literally filled it. That graciousness and warmth has characterized every interaction I’ve had with her.

In addition, Deb is my age and has been a small-business owner, so I see her as a woman like me. As a single mother of one daughter, she is like my own mother. Her daughter is an LGBTQ person (a different one of the letters from me) and I know Deb will always do whatever she can to protect us from discrimination and worse.

Having said all that, I’d be happy if we could hire all the primary candidates as a team (with one possible exception), because they all have considerable strengths.

It’s a little bit painful not to be able to support my city councilor, Pat Davis, in this primary. I have great respect for Pat and his work with Progress Now, and as with Deb and Michelle, he is always a delight to meet in person. He can articulate his position on issues with great clarity, and I’d say he won the debate that was televised a few days ago, though other viewers might disagree. However, whichever Democrat we elect in the primary has got to be able to win the general election in November, and I’m afraid Pat is too polarizing a figure to manage that. The unopposed Republican, Janice Arnold-Jones, is non-loony and also very articulate, and it’s possible that she could come off looking like the voice of reason, a comfortable and non-threatening choice.

It’s a burning question for all the Democratic candidates this year, at least the leftier ones— should we push as hard as we can for our progressive values, or try to be palatable to a broader swath of the electorate? I honestly don’t know. It’s looking, from elections that have already taken place, like strong progressives are doing quite well. Pat Davis decided to go for it with his “Fuck the NRA” ad, which was, shall we say, a bit surprising to the viewing audience. A former cop who has been shot himself, he concluded that being nice and polite was getting us nowhere, and I can’t fault him for trying to push the gun conversation in a more useful direction. He did get national attention. However, it’s possible that he committed suicide as a candidate, and that the audacious ad caused some people to stop listening to his usual far more measured and reasonable arguments. We’ll see more as this continues to play out.

I was very unhappy with Davis when he voted for the ART project, although he said he had come around to it reluctantly, and he did fight to get a stop put in my neighborhood, which was going to be left out. Worse, every day when I drive to my office, I curse his decision to make Zuni one lane. He pushed for the re-striping of the road in order to stop pedestrians from getting killed, and no one could argue with that as a reason, but with traffic getting backed up for blocks, cars using the bike lane for turns, and still no clear places for pedestrians to cross, I question whether Zuni really is safer for anyone. Early on, one of my patients was involved in a car accident, when another driver hit her while failing to merge where the road goes from two lanes to one at San Mateo, a poorly-designed area if you ask me. And this redesign was done while the ART construction was at its height and Central was virtually unusable. Zuni was never meant to be a major artery to begin with, as my former councilor Rey Garduno once told me— yet the ART proponents blithely assumed it could take on the extra traffic from Central, while reduced to one lane. Yeah, right. Pat Davis stands by his decision, since it was meant to save lives, but it seems to me that the Zuni situation is an example of not quite thinking things through. (End of Zuni rant.)

Damon Martinez’s enthusiasm about the ATF sting that was supposed to get the “worst of the worst” of local criminals and instead netted low-level guys, most of them black, entrapping and victimizing at least one harmless person and costing millions in the process, was enough to lose any chance at my vote.

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is probably a fine choice for this office, and she is supported by a lot of people I respect. My husband and I think that Deb’s range of experiences will be more useful.

I don’t know much about Damian Lara. As an immigration lawyer, no doubt he does excellent work. He too may seem relatively extreme to the general electorate— though again, maybe that could be a good thing.

Paul Moya speaks well and seems to have good ideas, but he’s very young and could use more experience for this national-level job.
*************************************************************************
I had a terrible time deciding about the lieutenant governor and land commissioner candidates. Both Rick Miera and Howie Morales would likely make fantastic lieutenant governors. I voted for Miera on the basis of his support for us Doctors of Oriental Medicine and our patients, as well as for the Health Security Act.  All the land commissioner hopefuls have useful experience and excellent ideas, though Garrett VeneKlasen gives the most detail about his plans.

So we have a wealth of strong, qualified, apparently sincere and decent candidates, but it’s a little hard to feel confident about the future of US government in general this year. I can only hope that we’re accomplishing something more than rearranging the Titanic’s furniture.

In any case, GO VOTE!

 

* The fates of the Klingons and the Federation are decided largely by a quartet of seriously badass women.  We have strong women on both sides in NM as well.  May the Burnhams among us prevail!

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25 Years with Fryderyk

As of today or possibly tomorrow, it’s been 25 years since the earth-shattering day when I first found myself in contact with Fryderyk Chopin.  At the time I didn’t realize how important this event was and I didn’t make note of the date.  I know it was a few days before Valentine’s Day.

https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/how-i-met-fryderyk/

While looking for a particular portrait to add to this post, I came across the photo (not painting) at left, which practically caused me to faint.  I would love to know what processes were used to create it.  The hair is a little on the dark side, and maybe the jaw has just a tad too much bone, but overall the likeness is stunning.  It brings Chopin instantly, dramatically, immediately into the present moment, where, for me, he always is.

And I’m going to leave my observance of the day at that.

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The Authoritarian Personality and the National Divide

‘In talking to right-wing authoritarians (RWAs) — in any situation — the first and greatest challenge is to reduce the level of fear and increase the level of trust. They cannot hear or see you at all until this happens.’ — Sara Robinson

I think it’s fair to say that a majority of Americans are completely boggled that so many of our fellow citizens are willing to believe so much crazy crap that is so utterly disconnected from reality. Just saying that they’re nuts is not helpful. Strangely enough, there is actual research to help explain why and how they are able to continue living in their alternative reality and steadfastly fend off any facts that might attempt to intrude. And it’s been around since before the last period of far-right fantasy hegemony.

I came across a very useful set of posts by Sara Robinson, who was raised fundamentalist and closed-minded but was able to transcend her upbringing, and who has a lot of understanding about how to communicate with those who are still inside the “Wall” of insulated post-factual unreality. So much became clearer for me. (Scroll down for links.)

Robinson was summarizing the work of John Dean— yes, that John Dean, from Watergate— who wrote Conservatives Without Conscience, which is based on the work of social psychologist Robert Altemeyer.  Although Robinson’s posts pertain to right-wing Americans, certain evangelical Christians in particular, the dynamics of authoritarianism are the same across cultures and religions.

“Research into ‘authoritarian personalities’ began in the aftermath of WWII, as scientists tried to figure out how otherwise civilized people succumbed to the charisma of Hitler and Mussolini and allowed themselves to be willingly led into committing notorious atrocities. The inquiry continued through Milgram’s famous experiments at Stanford in the early 60s; later, some of it became subsumed in the work of The Fundamentalism Project convened by Martin Marty at the University of Chicago in the 1980s and early 90s. Long story short: there is now over 50 years of good data on these people coming from every corner of the social sciences; but since almost none of this has been common knowledge outside the academy, nobody on the progressive side has really been putting it to use.”

The bully leads

The description of authoritarians who are on the leader side of the equation sounds eerily familiar in our present environment:
“High-SDO [social dominance orientation] people are characterized by four core traits: they are dominating, opposed to equality, committed to expanding their own personal power, and amoral. These are usually accompanied by other unsavory traits, many of which render them patently unsuitable for leadership roles in a democracy:
“Typically men
Intimidating and bullying
Faintly hedonistic
Vengeful
Pitiless
Exploitative
Manipulative
Dishonest
Cheat to win
Highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
Mean-spirited
Militant
Nationalistic
Tells others what they want to hear
Takes advantage of ‘suckers’
Specializes in creating false images to sell self
May or may not be religious
Usually politically and economically conservative/Republican”

“Dean notes: ‘Although these collations of characteristics…are not attractive portraits, they are nonetheless traits that authoritarians themselves acknowledge.’ In other words, these guys know what they are, and are often quite unabashedly proud of it.”

But these leaders wouldn’t get very far unless there were legions of authoritarian personalities on the follower side, and unfortunately there are. It seems that there are all too many people who want to be told what to think and what to do.  Robinson postulates that while the bullying leader types may be beyond the possibility of redemption, a lot of followers may have some openness to communicating across the divide.

I can easily sympathize with the desire to be given simple answers and clear directions. The world is so overwhelmingly complex nowadays, and our path forward seems so uncertain. Sadly, I expect that fundamentalism and authoritarianism will continue their ascent in the near future as climate change and population growth create even more conflict and pressures for water and other resources. They may even provide some sort of genuine protection against chaos, at least temporarily and in limited areas. However, this kind of mindset works against the innovative drive and mental agility that is needed most under fast-changing and stressful conditions.

Dedicated to the cause


“RWAs are sadly accustomed to subordinating their own needs to those of their superiors; in fact, one of the struggles we often see in recovering fundies is a complete inability to even acknowledge that they have needs of their own, let alone identify them, let alone act to meet them. They simply don’t know where to begin. Also, because their own authorities use guilt and shame to control them, they’ve seldom been allowed to see themselves as truly good and moral people.
“Giving an RWA permission to recognize, give voice to, and take action to satisfy his or her own needs is a powerful act. In affirming that they are not just allowed, but entitled (in the name of fairness) to feel their own emotions, own their own goodness, indulge a few harmless appetites, enjoy themselves, assert their boundaries, or stand up and say ‘no’ to overweening authority, you are being an enlightened witness to their true self — something many of them have seldom if ever had. In the process, you are also giving them a direct view over the wall. Often, it’s a view that they never forget, and will keep coming back to until they’re persuaded to go over it for good.”

Red Family, Blue Family

“The best writing on this I’ve seen comes from Unitarian writer Doug Muder, who has taken George Lakoff’s model of ‘strict father’ versus ‘nurturant parent’ politics one step further, and uses it to explain precisely how the right wing came to believe this preposterous notion…. Muder asserts that, while Lakoff’s right that family models are the right frame, the real dialectic is between families of ‘inherited obligation’ versus those based on ‘negotiated commitment.’ Go read the article, then come on back. We’ll be here.”

Here’s the article: “Red Family, Blue Family” https://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/politics/209.html
I strongly recommend that you read this. In fact, I implore you to read it. Lights will go on for you. For example:
 “The Inherited Obligation model, on the other hand, is ambivalent about the social safety net. On the one hand, it is good that people don’t just die when they have no one to take care of them. But on the other hand, the safety net weakens the network of familial obligations. A young adult who moves to the big city to seek his fortune doesn’t come home when he fails, he draws unemployment. Social Security and Medicare may provide an excuse not to take care of aging parents.
“…The Inherited Obligation model is likewise ambivalent about freedom. Freedom to fulfill your obligations according to your best judgment is a good thing. But the kind of freedom that releases people from their obligations is not. In the Negotiated Commitment model, a life without commitments is empty, and there can be no commitment without freedom.”
“Their demonic liberal is a person with no moral depth or seriousness. Convenience is his only true value. Words that we revere, such as freedom and choice, rebound against us: We like these words because we want to be free of our obligations and choose the easy way out.
“Just as married people sometimes imagine the single life as far more licentious and libidinous than it ever actually is, so people born into life-defining obligations imagine a life free from such obligations. The truth about liberals – that we more often than not choose to commit ourselves to marriage, children, church, and most of the other things conservatives feel obligated to, and that we stick by those commitments every bit as faithfully, if not more so – easily gets lost.”

Sometimes those on the left are accused of attempting to control and tyrannize others in the same way that the right does. That isn’t really characteristic of liberals, with their tendency toward fluidity and emphasis on choice:
  “As a final point: Dean’s book puts to rest once and for all the right-wing shibboleth of ‘liberal fundamentalists’ and ‘liberal authoritarians.’ Altemeyer and his colleagues have found, through decades of research, that authoritarians almost universally skew toward the far reactionary right on the political scale. This very much includes Stalinists and other ‘left-wing’ totalitarians: though these men used socialist rhetoric to create ‘Communist’ political orders, they’re classic examples of high-SDO leaders taking control by whatever means they had at hand, and using them to create archetypal far-right authoritarian states. Dean and Altemeyer make it clear that authoritarianism is, by long-accepted definition, overwhelmingly a right-wing personality trait.
“Dean is also emphatic that authoritarianism, in all its forms, is completely antithetical to both classical conservatism (he still considers himself a Goldwater conservative), and to the founding ideals of America. We must be clear: when right-wingers threaten liberals, they are directly threatening the seminal political impulse that created our nation. An operative democracy depends on having a populace that is open to new ideas, able to think for itself, confident in its abilities, willing to take risks, and capable of mutual trust. America was founded as the world’s first radically liberal state. History has shown us that the nation’s best moments, past and future, are created by people with a strong liberal orientation.”

(Note that standing up strongly for principles, such as equality of opportunity in jobs and housing, does not constitute tyranny.)

“Alt” authoritarians

Then there are those who reject established authority but believe in “alt” authorities without question. It’s easy and seductive to see oneself as part of a persecuted minority, a group that’s in the know and smarter than all those “sheeple.” Robinson’s “A Short Detour” section is about them:
“I’ve known way more than my share of these guys, since Silicon Valley is one of their primary native habitats. And my take is that they’re at least as driven by their burning desire to fit in as any other RWA. In fact, their feelings of victimization may be rooted in the belief that they were promised an acceptance in liberal intellectual circles that they intensely wanted but never really found. The most extreme ones were frighteningly bright and well-read, and usually also from very religious family backgrounds. Those two qualities alone guaranteed that it was going to be hard to find a niche among the better-rounded, more secular big city liberals. So they decided that, if they were going to be outcasts anyway, they could at least claim moral superiority. I may be a nerd, but I am RIGHT — the possessor of Ultimate Truth! — and that’s what really matters in the end.”

Why so many of them?

I’ve wondered why the authoritarian-follower trait has been so persistent in the human population, being that it involves so much unwillingness to face facts and thus to deal with real and immediate threats. There must be some advantage, or it wouldn’t exist. Authoritarians do know how to organize and come to agreement, for good or ill, and perhaps that confers an ability to respond more quickly to danger than a dithering, contentious group could, despite their propensity to live inside their imaginary constructions. (Even more than the rest of us, I mean.) Black and white thinking is faster and easier than taking all the grey into account. Perhaps group cohesion has been historically favored over innovation under adverse circumstances?

(Since to be a Christian is to see everyone as your neighbor, and to love your neighbor as yourself, it’s particularly perplexing to me to see that right-wing fundamentalists are so invested in being part of an in-group and demonizing everyone else.)

The most depressing thing about all of this is that Robinson wrote it back in 2006, so hopefully, but nothing seems to have changed, except to get worse. At least, that’s how it looks. I would love to see evidence to the contrary. Please tell me if you’ve got some.

 

Sara Robinson’s posts:

Cracks In The Wall, Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-i-defining.html

Cracks In The Wall, Part II: Listening to the Leavers
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-ii-listening-to.html

Cracks in the Wall, Part III: Escape Ladders
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-iii-escape-ladders.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part I: Divide and Conquer
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-i-divide-and.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part II: Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-ii-nothing-to.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part III: A Bigger World
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/tunnels-and-bridges-part-iii-bigger.html

Tunnels and Bridges, Part IV: Landing Zones
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/09/tunnels-and-bridges-part-iv-landing.html

Tunnels and Bridges: A Short Detour
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/09/tunnels-and-bridges-short-detour.html

 

 

 

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The Face in the Shroud

I intended to put this out on Easter, but as with so many things during this overwhelmed period of my life, I’m way behind. I did spend a good deal of Sunday reviewing research on this subject, finding that there was a lot more available than there had been the last time I looked.

Among the surprisingly many religious articles in my mother’s room, I found one that I’d given her myself. I bought it at the gift shop of the Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico. It’s a small card with the kind of double picture that changes when you hold it at different angles. One view is the familiar face found in the negative shot of the Shroud of Turin:

And the other is a reconstruction of the living face as imagined by an artist, whose name is not given:

I was so struck by the beauty and power of the artist’s conception portrait that I wanted a copy to bring home.

There is not much I can say about the Shroud of Turin that hasn’t been said already. I’m writing about it here because it is a source of continual fascination for me, as for so many others. It is one of the anomalous objects in the world that reminds us that reality is not at all what we’ve been told it is, and that we have far less understanding of what is “really” going on than we might like. No matter how one interprets the phenomenon, there is an irreducible amount of mystery. Something beyond the ordinary happened here. What exactly was it?

Here is a summary of the facts and questions about the Shroud, as my small knowledge of them permits:

We don’t know, no one can say for sure, who the Man in the Shroud really was. We can be sure of the meaning of some aspects of his image, though. What we see is a gruesome record, in literally excruciating detail, of the torture and murder of a man by the Roman state, in a way that myriad others were also tortured and murdered. This is what holds my attention above all. The terrifying injuries— the thorns piercing the scalp, the hundreds of tears made by the lash, the abrasions and bruises, the slash of the lance, and all that beyond the horror of the nails themselves— bear witness to the cruelty of human beings to their fellows. It would be difficult to believe if we did not see it right in front of us, right down to the still-obvious blood and body fluid stains. When I was a child, the nuns told us that Jesus being nailed to the cross was unusual, that most of those who were crucified were only tied to the wood. That was not true. What happened to this one whose sufferings we see so clearly in the Shroud happened to thousands.

We do know that the blood is type AB. It turns out that the Sudarium of Oviedo, the cloth said to have been used to wrap the face of Jesus when he was prepared for burial, is saturated with the same type of blood. Records of the Sudarium’s whereabouts over time go back about seven centuries further than those of the Shroud, lending weight to the contention that the Shroud is at least that old as well. Similarities in the placement of the stains as well as the blood itself point to the same origin as the Shroud. The shapes and contents of the stains indicate that the person whose head it covered died in an upright position, consistent with crucifixion. It must be the most historically important dirty rag on the planet.

We don’t know the age of the Shroud through testing of the cloth itself. Carbon dating done decades ago placed it in the medieval period, meaning that it had to be a fake, but since the cloth was much handled over the centuries, in addition to surviving fire and water damage, there is now agreement that it was too contaminated for carbon dating to be accurate. There is also a question about the part of the cloth that was tested, which appears to be a repair added later.

We know that pollen grains found in the cloth of the Shroud place its origin in the area of Jerusalem, and are consistent with the species of plants that would be used with a burial.

We know that the color forming the image is not paint or dye. There are simply no molecules of such things present. If the image was faked during medieval or any other times, it is very challenging to give an explanation of how the faking could have been accomplished. The contention that the Shroud is simply a fake just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The situation is more complex than that.

One theory is that a Maillard reaction, similar to the browning of bread in the oven, could have formed the brownish-yellowish image. This does not explain the holographic and X-ray like properties of the image, in which some structures that would have been behind others can be seen.

Similarly, the theory that the Shroud is an example of a medieval photograph is intriguing and more or less plausible, but it does not explain how details other than those on the surface of the body can be seen. (Although all the materials needed for photography were indeed available in the 14th century, there is no evidence that photographs were actually made anywhere at that time.) It also fails to explain the details of the wounds and patterns of bodily secretions. Neither a live body nor the corpse of a person who had died other than through this specific series of tortures would display these particular details when photographed.

So what do I think happened? I am agnostic. The most likely explanation, it appears to me, is one that raises still more questions. Some form of radiation emanated from this body and caused changes in the surface of the cloth, by a mechanism we don’t understand but may at some point be able to reproduce. I mentioned, when I described the events around my mother’s death, that a huge amount of heat was present around her body before she left it. Could a much more powerful burst of energy of some kind be released from a human body under certain circumstances? Could this perhaps have happened many times, but to bodies that were left peacefully in their graves so that we never saw the evidence? Have images like this one been imprinted upon many other burial cloths but crumbled away unnoticed in the earth?

And in this case, what happened to the body? Why was the Shroud not left in place with it? Was the body simply disinterred and moved— the obvious hypothesis— then wrapped in a fresh length of linen and buried elsewhere, with the original cloth kept as an object of veneration? Did it reanimate and walk away, as the stories say? Did it go poof and disappear in a burst of light, which formed the image?

It seems that there have been recorded cases of people who survived crucifixion, unlikely as that sounds. Could the Man in the Shroud have been one of these, and if he was Jesus, could that explain his apparent resurrection? The evidence in the cloth is against this, as the patterns of bleeding and fluid leakage look like what would be expected to occur postmortem. As far as anyone can tell, the man was dead when he was wound in the Shroud.

Is the Shroud a supernatural phenomenon, a miracle? To me, “supernatural” only means something that is natural but not yet understood. There has got to be a way of expanding our scientific understanding to encompass this phenomenon. Even if that might mean understanding how a physical body could suddenly transform into pure energy, which is one conceivable interpretation of the evidence. The physically-measurable electromagnetic signals in and around a human body, photons included, are fairly small. It’s hard to imagine how there could be enough light or other energy emitted to produce an image on a physical surface, but equally odd things have happened, and I don’t want to rule it out.

The one thing we know for sure, from studying the Shroud, is that we are creatures who have a gigantic ability to torment other members of our species. The only comfort I can find about this is that nowadays we at least give lip service to the idea that doing this is wrong, even as we keep doing it every day, all around the world.

But what I hope we’ve learned from this strange artifact is that we are also far less limited beings than we believe, and that possibilities exist that we’ve barely begun to grasp.

Article on the mysteries of the Shroud
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150417-shroud-turin-relics-jesus-catholic-church-religion-science/

A website giving an overview of what is known about the Shroud

https://www.shroud.com/menu.htm
The Sudarium

https://www.shroud.com/guscin.htm

A reply to Nicholas Allen’s “medieval photograph” theory
http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/orvieto.pdf

The evidence of plants wrapped with the shroud, through pollen samples and images
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990803073154.htm

Holographic studies of the image
http://shroud3d.com/home-page/introduction-holographic-observations-in-the-shroud-image-holographic-theory
‘While photography has the advantage of fixing an image in time and of concentrating it so that whichever angle you look at it from, it will remain the same, with the Shroud that is not the case. Moving around that table (lighting under an angle from one side only!), from a certain angle I saw this image so faded as if to practically disappear, while from others it seemed as if the figure WAS ALMOST OUTSIDE THE SHEET: it was, I repeat, an incredible emotion. At that moment I knew that this image was unique. I approached the face placing my camera at a distance of about 20-30 cm, aimed the camera at the face and saw…………………nothing in my viewfinder.” “And yet,” I said “I know it by heart.” I had to beg my friend to point to the position of the eye, because from a distance of 30 cm I could not see it. I could only see it as I moved away from it.’

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