Category Archives: nature

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.

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

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.

4 Comments

Filed under channeling, health and healing, history, nature, psychology, spirit communication

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/

2 Comments

Filed under history, mythology and metaphor, nature, spirit communication, spirituality

Katie Does Grief Counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most people, and maybe animals too, feel better if they know their deceased loved ones are OK.  In this sweet story, given to me by someone who has lived with many fine dogs, a beloved pet takes it upon herself to deliver the news of her death:

Katie Scarlett

My partner and I found a German Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy on Central Avenue. The puppy was trying to lick water from a puddle and tossing her head back with each lick. I ran to pick her up and saw that a very tight flea collar had grown into her neck. We rushed her to the vet and had it removed.

We named her Katie Scarlett because of her strong will to survive. Katie was severely dehydrated and malnourished. We thought she was about 3 months old, but the vet said she was closer to 6 months old and severely deprived of care.

Katie became the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever known. She was so careful with our grandkids, cats and other dogs. She was fiercely protective of our home and our family.

When her fur finally grew back, Katie was a beautiful brindle girl. We affectionately called her our “Jamoca almond swirl girl.” She slept on the foot of our bed for 15 years. We took her to work with us, camping, hiking, and swimming in the lakes, ponds and rivers.

As Katie aged, her hips began to cause her discomfort. We found alternative treatments so she could live life to the fullest pain free.

At the end of her 15th year, mobility once again became an issue. My partner knew that Katie was beginning her transition to the other side. Katie had always loved to sleep late, but she began to rise early and stare out the windows at the sky. It appeared she was seeing things not available to us.

My partner needed to go away for a few weeks and she was fearful that Katie might pass while she was gone. She spent time with Katie letting her know how deeply she would always be loved and how cherished she would always be. She told Katie if she had to leave, it would be okay. She assured Katie that we would miss her terribly but we would be okay and we would all be together again someday.

A week after my partner left on her trip, Katie left her tired earthly body behind. I was devastated and did not want to ruin my partner’s trip by sharing the sad news. I saw no need to tell bad news in a hurry.

Katie handled that for me. Late that evening, my partner called in tears. She told me Katie had come to her room and laid on the foot of her bed. As she reached to touch her, Katie flew away.

We do not die. We will all be together again. This life is but one of many. Katie was one of the very best blessings I ever received. I will be so happy to be with her again.

— Judy Talley

Leave a comment

Filed under animal behavior, nature, spirit communication

What Is This Qi Stuff, Anyway?

(Written for my colleagues on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day, 10/24/18, and posted on the website of the New Mexico Society for Acupuncture and Asian Medicine.)

The field is the sole governing agency of the particle. — Einstein


There is a school of thought that seems to be gaining currency in our profession lately, which says that the concept of Qi is nothing more than a quaint misunderstanding of what the ancient sages were really writing about, and that our medicine is really all about the nervous system and other purely physical aspects of the body.

This is simply not true.  In an apparent effort to align their work with biomedical science, these authors are actually ignoring a great deal of that same science, not to mention the experiences of myriad practitioners and patients. 

Let me start with typical human perceptions of the energetic field surrounding the body, the manifestation of Qi we think of most often.  While Qi can be complicated to pin down in terms of exactly what types of energy and what frequency ranges are involved, close to the body it’s very simple to perceive and to demonstrate. 

When I am scanning for active points or disturbances in patients’ bodies, the person on the table often says, with surprise, “I can feel exactly where your hand is!”  Of course they can, as this is a normal human ability.  When patients ask me what Qi is, or what is meant by Qi Gong, I have them try a very simple exercise: Hold your palms near each other, about a half inch apart.  Notice what you feel. A kind of pressure, a bit like the feeling of trying to bring two magnets together with the same poles facing?  Warmth?  Tingling?

Nearly everyone can perceive this immediately.  I’ve tried this exercise with hundreds of people when I’ve given presentations to groups, and only a couple have ever said that they didn’t feel anything. 

When I used to teach Reiki, I introduced the concept of the human biofield with another simple exercise.  One person would stand facing a wall, eyes closed.  Another person would walk up to them from the back.  The first person would raise her hand when she felt the presence of the other one.  This would happen consistently when the two were about four feet apart.

But although those effects are consistent and reliable, science likes objective, numerical measurements with instruments.  There are plenty of those to be had as well, and many of them have been done by researchers right here in the US.  That’s been going on for decades.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet the biophysicist Beverly Rubik, who has spent 40 years studying the human biofield, and was part of the group that coined that term.  Her current work is largely in the area of biophotons, the weak but important light emitted from the body in the ultraviolet range.  Among other things, she has studied the changes in biophoton emissions involved with healers and healees, showing that more light is emitted from the hands of healers when they are doing their work.  One instrument she uses to detect biophotons is the Bio-Well gas discharge visualization camera, which is available commercially and has clinical applications that could be useful in an acupuncture office.

She stated at the conference that as a child she could feel energy, but that “it was educated out of her.”  The biofield, she said, is proposed to be “a high-speed wireless communication system, a bridge between the mind and body.”

I had already encountered Dr. Rubik’s work in a 2016 online course, “The Science of Energy Medicine,” given by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.  Here are some quotes from her presentation there:

‘… I see the biofield as a complex dynamic standing wave within and around the body. Let me tell you more. You’re already familiar with the concept of standing waves from musical instruments, for example a wood instrument, a clarinet. There’s a standing wave when it’s being sounded, or the plucking of a string in a violin or a guitar. Once again, a standing wave is vibrating and rendering sound. Not only sound standing waves are possible. There are also electromagnetic standing waves, too.’

‘There was one main prediction from the biofield hypothesis, and that is that if we can shift the biofield, we can change the physiology and chemistry and move the body, the body mind, to a new steady state….’

Experiments have consistently shown that intention is of great importance in causing measurable energetic effects: ‘I come back to that old principle of Oriental medicine. Where mind goes, chi, or energy, flows, and the blood and flesh follow.  This is the bottom line when it comes to how we can heal ourselves. We must change our minds. Then there are shifts in the biofield, and then the flesh and blood is the slowest to change overall.’

You might wonder why, after four decades of work like this, the science of the biofield is not more familiar, even to those of us who deal with it every day. Dr. Rubik gave some reasons why it is not: ‘We have certain challenges in biofield science. We are dealing with complex dynamical fields that are actually very low-level that become difficult to measure and we have to use a variety of tools. There is no one singular tool that you can grab off the shelf that’s ready-made to look at the biofield, but rather a collection of different tools to understand and probe the biofield through different windows.

‘There’s also very little funding and no concerted effort. Unfortunately, the NIH has dropped the ball and it is not a lead agency. We have no leading organization that’s making a concerted effort to forward biofield science or its understanding in the frontiers of medicine, and I’ve long been an advocate of something I call a Human Energy Project [along the lines of the Human Genome Project].’

Here is an article in which Dr. Rubik gives a lucid overview of methods of measuring the biofield:
https://www.faim.org/measurement-of-the-human-biofield-and-other-energetic-instruments

Another researcher who started measuring the biofield, even earlier, was Valerie Hunt, who began as a scientist with no knowledge of or interest in esoteric or energetic matters.  She eventually developed new instrumentation that could detect immensely higher frequencies than had been measured around the body previously, in the range of hundreds of thousands of cycles per second.

‘My academic background is as a neurophysiologist, and I was also a registered physical therapist. I was working in electromyography and electrocardiography, and I was interested in the patterns of electromyographic energy in the body that were related to emotions. Eventually, I established a pattern of emotions connected with neurological energy. In the process, I was the first researcher to have a telemetry, electromyography instrument. This was when the first astronauts went into space. They had to have monitors of their basic health — the heart rate, the blood pressure, and the galvanic skin response — sent from space. They did this using telemetry, which is a radio frequency instrument system. It would send a signal on an FM frequency down to the earth, where NASA would record the FM frequencies and know what was happening to the astronauts.

‘When I heard about this, I got in touch with NASA and the young scientist who had first made that telemetry instrumentation, and I had him build for me the first telemetry electromyography instrument. This meant I could test a person using an FM frequency, a radio frequency, process the data through my instrumentation and record it. And when I did this I found the electromagnetic energy field.

‘This was in early 60’s, and I thought, “Oh my God, what have I got here?” So I brought in researchers from the university’s chemistry, physics, and engineering departments. I said, “What have I got, an artifact?” And they kept saying I didn’t, that my equipment was working fine. They tested everything, and finally I realized I was dealing with a new kind of energy in the body.’

https://healthontheedge.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/the-human-energy-field-an-interview-with-valerie-v-hunt-ph-d/

Dr. Hunt famously worked with the healer Rosalyn Bruyere, and was able to correlate her perceptions of the human aura with the readings made by her instruments.  In addition to making measurements of the biofield, she was able to create practical applications for healing.  She was still going strong on a number of projects when she died in 2014.

All of these electromagnetic emanations from the body are relatively weak.  How do we explain the much more extreme effects that can be produced by well-trained Qi Gong masters and some others?  That’s not at all clear, but the effects are incontrovertibly there.  For example, a fascinating series of trials by Mikio Yamamoto in Japan was reported by Lynne McTaggart in her seminal book The Intention Experiment, involving a master doing tohate, in which the master could push another person back several yards through sheer force of will and Qi, while the other was trying to resist.  The master was isolated in an electromagnetically shielded room on the fourth floor of a building, while his student was placed in a similar room on the first floor.  Neither the distance nor the shielding prevented the effect; in nearly a third of 49 trials, the master was able to push the student back.  (p. 53)

A nonexistent energy could not visibly, objectively move a body. 

Probably quite a few of us have felt a more mundane version of this kind of effect, being pushed back from the treatment table when a blockage in a patient suddenly released, maybe even feeling that we were “knocked across the room” by a considerable force.  How can the biofield, which seems so feeble when measured, create a force like that?  I don’t know of anyone who has answered that question in terms of biophysics, and it is urgently begging for an answer.  There has to be something more to Qi than the types of electromagnetism we have detected in and around the body so far.

At the conference where I met Dr. Rubik, I had an unusually dramatic experience of being strongly tapped between the eyes by someone who was not physically present.  It didn’t hurt, but it knocked me back a little, and everyone in the room saw that.  Some years ago, such a person pushed my whole body a few inches sideways on my chair.  You can’t help but be impressed when an invisible force moves you against (or at least without) your will.

The other issue with explaining Qi solely as a matter of electromagnetic fields is that electromagnetic effects rapidly diminish with distance, but Qi has no trouble at all being transmitted across any given amount of space.  The tohate experiments are a particularly vivid example of that, but many of us do remote treatments that are effective in a quieter way.  What, precisely, is being transmitted?  Or is that the wrong question?

Here, from the ACEP course, is Gary Schwartz attempting to deal with this issue:
‘Now, how do we explain effects that are taking place across 3000 miles or in London, which is what, 6000 miles from Tucson [where he is based]? Or Sydney, Australia, which is even further. Electromagnetic field effects are insufficient to explain that kind of data because the intensity of electromagnetic fields decreases with the square of the distance, and they are modified by all kinds of objects in the environment. That’s one reason why you need to consider higher level or more sophisticated theories of physics to be able to explain this.’

‘To say that a quantum field is involved in distance, which it may very well be, for example, does not mean that the electromagnetics are not involved in proximal things. You can have multiple layers of mechanism being operative at the same time. That’s why I use a staircase for the explanations so people can see this. The problem with skeptics and probably most of us is that we don’t look at the whole picture.’

So at this point, we are very clear about many aspects of the human biofield— which we can call a manifestation of Qi— but there are large and crucial holes in our understanding.

To be continued….

 

Leave a comment

Filed under health and healing, nature, physics and cosmology, the unexplained

Another Human Being’s Identity Is Not Yours to Dictate

(Rant Advisory! I am as upset about this as if it pertained to my own child, or to me.)

So very often I am reminded of the old song that goes “None of us are free if one of us is chained.” It adds, “And if we don’t say it’s wrong then that says it’s right.”

Sometimes the chains are kept locked by those who think of themselves as far beyond bigotry or intolerance.

In the past week I have encountered two attacks against transgender people that appeared on the surface to have some higher intention. Both were warmed-over versions of old arguments.  One came in the form of a supposedly spiritual look at gender identity through the lens of reincarnation, and the other purported to be a principled defense of the rights of women by a feminist group.

GIVE. ME. A. BREAK.

I could call out the “spiritual” thinker by name, but I’m not going to, because his presentation is not just his own but represents a turn of thought that is all too common. It’s been used against gay people, too. The idea is that if you are not comfortable twisting yourself to fit into a gender-binary, heteronormative life, it’s because you were a different gender in a previous life, and either through confusion or through willful stubbornness, you are still clinging to identification with that gender. If you persist, you are stupid and bad. You should just get over it and move on, and then you’ll be fine.

This is the exact same paternalistic crap promulgated by religious groups who insist that God made you either male or female and that’s that. God doesn’t make mistakes, and so if you don’t feel right in your body, you are going against God, and therefore you are sinful and bad.

I’ll get to the so-called feminists later. First, I want to take a look at exactly what God/nature/biology did make. Because we do have some actual facts to work with.

While it would be nice to have human reproductive biology all wrapped up in a neat, understandable package, the more we learn, the more we see that things are complex and fuzzy. “Male” and “female” are not definite categories with hard edges. I’m sorry if someone dislikes this, but it’s reality. Some easily accessible sources of information follow.

http://www.isna.org/faq/ten_myths/rare
According to this, about 1 in 2000 humans are intersex. Another source estimated 1.7% of births. That’s a lot of people. Some may never realize they are anything but typical male or female, or may only find out late in life. One person I’ve read about was a seemingly ordinary middle-aged man with a bunch of kids, who had an abdominal surgery and was found to have a uterus in addition to his full set of male reproductive parts.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001669.htm
There are a variety of possible intersex conditions, with varying appearances and health considerations, briefly summarized in this article.

If that’s not enough, take a look at the fascinating case of the guevedoces. A few weeks ago I learned about them in an excellent PBS program, Nine Months that Made You. In the Dominican Republic, about one in 90 boys have this condition, which has also been found in Papua New Guinea. They have XY genotypes like “regular” boys, but they lack an enzyme that is needed to develop male genitalia in the womb, so their parents think they are girls and raise them that way. At puberty, they have the usual surge in testosterone and become obviously male all of a sudden. Of course, they were biologically male all along.
http://www.pbs.org/show/9-months-made-you/
http://www.newsweek.com/rare-condition-causes-girls-become-boys-puberty-374934

So are we clear now that external genital configuration does not equal gender? Likely we’re not clear at all and I’m still going to get a big argument from those who insist on a binary world, but in that case, they’re going to have to register their objections with God, because this is the way nature is put together. A religious and/or spiritual viewpoint, it seems to me, would have to say that there must be a good reason for things to be this way. A purely materialist viewpoint would say the same— that nature has shaped human bodies and brains in a dazzlingly diverse variety because it’s been helpful to our survival.

Some might then point out that transgender people are not the same as intersex people, and that most probably have clear male or female genotypes or phenotypes. But there appear to be differences from cisgender folk in those cases too, albeit subtler ones. As far as we can tell, transgender people have brains that function more like the gender they say they are rather than the one indicated by their genital apparatus— though this too is complex and a bit fuzzy.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/

Here is a link to another useful PBS program.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/
What struck me most about it was that the kids decidedly look like the gender they say they are. That’s not a hard scientific fact, but to me, it reinforces the concept that there is a physical basis for being transgender.

I don’t pretend to understand much about these aspects of our biology, nor how they fit with how we become who we become when we enter a new life on this planet, or what choices we have or don’t have about our embodiment. My conjecture is that gender exists as a spectrum so that we can experience every permutation of it, but that’s not fact. What I know for sure is that it makes no sense to tell others how they feel inside themselves— either how they do feel or how they should feel. It’s illogical and it’s just plain mean. And when it’s coupled with a holier-than-thou or more-enlightened-than-thou message, it’s positively sickening.

Now, to the lawsuit filed by the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF. It’s the bathroom thing again, same as the extreme right’s fearmongering, strangely enough. They are insisting that “men” in women’s restrooms are a threat to women’s safety. I’m not going to rehash the reasons why trans women are no threat to cis women in this context (or anywhere else, really). You can find those all over. I’m only going to point out that trans women are not men. In their brains, the part of the human body that matters most, they are women. So denying ordinary human rights to those women cannot be feminism. Not in any way I can recognize it.

The latest post on WoLF’s Facebook page, in reference to the rule allowing kids to use school facilities consistent with their gender, states: “Girls’ rights to personal privacy and freedom from male sexual harassment, forced exposure to male nudity, and voyeurism have been eliminated with the stroke of a pen.” This makes my stomach churn. I am of course not a trans girl trying to navigate high school (which is hard enough for the rest of us), but reading this, I can viscerally relate to what they experience. It is terrifying. To be just a kid and know that others assume you are a sexual predator, when all you want to do is attend PE class and not get beaten up… to be hated and censured by “righteous” people one has never met… it boggles the mind and even more the heart. Imagine being, say, a second grader, too young even to have a concept of voyeurism or anything like it, having no idea why people are saying these terrible things about you.

(Please note that I don’t mean to ignore trans boys.  It’s just that WoLF seems to be targeting trans girls and women specifically.)

WoLF’s lawsuit clearly contradicts two of their main stated goals, and they seem to have no clue that this is the case. The home page of their website says: “WoLF is a radical feminist organization dedicated to the total liberation of women. We fight to end male violence, regain reproductive sovereignty, and ultimately dismantle the gender-caste system.” The total liberation of women has to include ALL women, not just the ones who look a certain way. Dismantling the gender-caste system (a laudable goal) has to mean completely dismantling, so that no gender is discriminated against.

Why should we settle for anything less?

 

It’s a great song:
http://www.altheaknight.com/None-of-us-is-free-if-one-of-us-is-chained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC2mmeA9CA8

7 Comments

Filed under health and healing, human rights, nature, politics, sexuality

More Healing Mandalas from CJ, and Her New Book on the Wolves!

Mandala055I am beyond delighted to tell you that CJ Rogers’ first book, Raised By Wolves: A Pack Odyssey has been published and is now available.  It tells the story of her first four years of living with and learning from the wolves.  She has a great deal more still to say about the couple of decades between then and now, and further books are in the works.

http://www.amazon.com/Raised-Wolves-Odyssey-CJ-Rogers-ebook/dp/B01BUI0TTM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458078390&sr=1-1&keywords=cj+rogers+wolves

You may remember that CJ is known as the Jane Goodall of wolves.  She knows them more intimately than perhaps any other human on the planet.  If you have any interest in wolves themselves, the development of early human societies and our relationship with canines, or the natural world in general, you will find a lot to think about here.

When I introduced you to CJ’s fascinating artwork a while back, for some reason I was unable to access the website that houses many of her mandalas, and all I had to show you was a few poor-quality photos.  Here is a look at the huge bounty of designs she’s done, including some new ones:

http://www.cjmandalas.com/

CJ was describing to me how life-saving this process of drawing mandalas has been for her during times of the most extreme pain and illness.  She has highly recommended that I try it, but my little attempts have not resulted in anything much so far.  Maybe you’ll have more success yourself?

CJ doesn’t have web access in the area of rural New Mexico where she lives, but please feel free to contact her through the website, and the message will be passed on to her.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under animal behavior, art, health and healing, nature, spirituality

Review: Waking Up to the Dark

rose at Notre DameWaking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age
by Clark Strand
New York, Spiegel & Grau, 2015

In the vision exercise called palming, you attempt to see complete darkness. The idea is that when the eyes and brain are struggling to see, the muscles overwork and the optic nerve is constantly irritated, so that even with your palms blocking out all light, you see persistent flashes. It can be a challenge to relax and let the darkness happen, but when you stop trying to see, you become able to see more clearly.

What would it be like to let complete darkness happen? What would happen if we turned out all the lights? What would it be like to truly rest?

Clark Strand’s thesis is that artificial lighting is the fundamental evil behind every form of human trouble, and that before electric lights came into use, humans did truly and deeply rest, reaching a state of grace every night that we rarely if ever experience in the modern world.

I had already heard of this, that people used to go to sleep early in the evening, wake and go about quiet activities for two or three of the wee hours, then sleep till dawn. Apparently there are many written references to the “first and second sleep.” There was also a fascinating experiment, described in the book, in which subjects were kept away from all sources of artificial light for a month, and they soon developed that same pattern of sleep.

Although it is still common to wake in the middle of the night, most usually at 2 or 3 am, now people are typically held to a schedule where this becomes a vexing and draining problem, and they lie there anxiously staring at the ceiling. Strand writes that this time has been called the “Hour of the Wolf” because of that distress, but he sees it as the “Hour of God.”

Throughout his life, Strand has awakened and walked outdoors during that hour, in all settings and all weathers. Even as a child he did this, and he claims that he has never gotten into any serious trouble. He never takes a flashlight— it seems that his vision is exceptional. He experiences darkness as a friendly and nurturing presence.

I can relate to this, even though it is more natural for me to reach the Hour of God simply by staying up till then, not by waking after a period of good sleep. When I was little my mother, also a night person, taught me not to be afraid of the dark, and told me that it was comforting and peaceful. I took that feeling in early, and I still have it. I partake sometimes of that clarity that Strand talks about, where suddenly thoughts come together in a new way, answers click into place, and poetry may arise out of the depths. Of course I am often doing this in an environment that includes electric light, so it is not quite the same thing.

Lately I have been reducing the intensity of light as much as possible, though; I started that even before reading this book. One aspect of that was my purchase of a Kindle, essentially an electrically-lit book. I’d been reading e-books on my laptop, and both the heat and the light generated were irritating at night. The Kindle is much gentler that way, and besides it uses less power.  A little way into the book, which I was borrowing, I decided to buy my own copy, and perhaps ironically, I bought the Kindle version, thinking how much Strand would disapprove of this self-lighting of his book. Yet, this allowed me to nestle in my bed, wrapped securely in the dark, like a child reading with a flashlight under the covers, instead of being flooded with the light I would need to read a print book.

(It must be noted that Strand’s book, even if only in print, could not have been produced or distributed without electricity and lighting.)

As valuable as Waking Up to the Dark is, in some ways it goes seriously wrong. Strand mentions teaching his kids about our prehuman ancestors, and he has apparently read a great deal about them, but it seems to me that he has missed some important understanding. If I read him correctly, he believes that the introduction of fire into our caves was the beginning of our sense of separation from the rest of Nature, and the hubris that causes us to want and expect dominion over her. (He even states, based on someone else’s book, that fire is responsible for the fact that humans reproduce year-round. I would be extremely surprised if there were any evidence for this, especially since our close primate relatives also mate at any time of year despite an utter lack of firelight.) The use of fire far predates the existence of Homo sapiens. Can we confidently attribute a modern human imbalance to people who were a completely different species, beings we know next to nothing about? What kind of hubris would that be? Strand also seems to ignore the fact that even now, people in traditional cultures feel themselves to be part of the natural world, co-equal with other creatures, not set above them. That must have been the norm everywhere in the relatively recent past, up till no more than a few thousand years ago.

I find it a bit confusing, too, to be told first that modern electric light is the root of all evil, and then that the trouble started even with ancient firelight. Discrepancies like this may stem in part from the fact that this book is based on years of recorded experiences, during which Strand’s ideas must have evolved and shifted. Strand reports that his wife, Perdita Finn, wove the book from material in his 59 notebooks about rising to walk at night. Perhaps a few threads were crossed or twisted in the process.

The last part of the book is focused on something that, despite my not-entirely-different experiences, gave me rather a turn. I referred to Nature as “her” above for a reason: that is what Strand encountered, or rather, who. 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.

When Strand realized it was time to understand Her destructive and terrifying aspects, he discovered an image of Kali. He describes the Hindu view of the Kali Yuga, a stage of destruction that is necessary in order for a new cycle of creation to take place. He sees this as natural and inevitable, but at the same time, he believes that we are bringing it about through our insanely imbalanced technological way of life. Turn out the lights, he says, and all will be well, because we then will understand how we should live and we will save ourselves and the earth.

But here is another source of confusion. “The night is a natural corrective to that most persistent and persuasive of all illusions: that human consciousness is the reason for the world.” (p.96) I understand what he means, but human consciousness is, at the very least, the reason for the world that we experience. There is nothing more fundamental than consciousness. Further, our consciousness is not separate from that of the planet and its other inhabitants. This is the very same interconnectedness that Strand says we will experience if we turn off the lights. Are human thoughts and activities truly in opposition to Nature and the Earth, or are they the working out of the path and destiny of the planet and actually in divine order? Complex arguments could be made about this. I tend to think that if something, anything, is happening, no matter how dire it looks, it is part of the overall Plan and would make sense if we could see the big picture.

A healer I know replied to this question by saying that Earth and its inhabitants are being hampered and interfered with by entities who benefit from our confusion and strife. A lot of people see things this way. I am much more aware of entities who do their best to help, but just because I don’t perceive a particular thing, I can’t prove that it’s not there. I do think that we are more than capable of screwing up massively on our own, even without anyone working to make it worse for us. And I have a hard time imagining anyone or anything more powerful than the Goddess herself. Even if She is only a concept, a construction of the greater Mind of humanity, as my materialist friends may postulate, She is a concept with immense energy, perhaps more than we have ever completely understood. “My body is the body of the world,” She said to Strand. “Your body is one with that body. What could there be to fear?” (p. 124)

On the more hopeful side of this idea of harmful entities, someone told me the other day that a channeler she knows had been told that as of the end of 2014, the “good guys” had removed a whole lot of those beings from our planet, and there was a big positive shift going on because of it. She used Pope Francis as an example of movement in the right direction. I don’t know— I’d like to think that’s true, but I don’t see much basis for it. Meanwhile, I await further guidance.

Which may have arrived already, two weeks ago, on the day I started writing this.

Bob decided he really needed to stop at DaVinci’s Pizza after Nia class, and I decided I really needed to work on this post, so by way of organizing my thoughts, I started to tell him about the visitations from the Blessed Mother in her many forms. I was about to open my mouth to say that Strand saw her as Mary when the sound system suddenly broke into “Silent Night,” the section that goes “round yon virgin mother and child.”

It was October 6. Everyone knows businesses don’t start playing Christmas music till Halloween! This was obviously a mistake, and was immediately replaced by some very ordinary hip-hop. Or it wasn’t a mistake at all, and it meant that She was listening.

Synchronicities have been coming thick and fast lately. I had my laptop with me, and I opened it to find an email from Steve Bhaerman, my dear old Swami, describing how he had lost his voice right at the beginning of his tour of the Southwest. He concluded that he needed to shut up and listen. “You need to listen to that still small voice inside… that’s still small, because you DON’T LISTEN. You need to stop the endless rat-a-tat-tat of thoughts, and listen to the silence.” Listen to the Silent Night. In the dark.

One might wonder where the Father and the Son in their own various guises fit in with the story— those in whose name the Mother’s lips were misguidedly taped shut. They haven’t gone away, but as Strand points out, fathers cannot produce sons without mothers, no matter how much the patriarchal religions would like to deny mothers their due. Yang cannot exist without Yin, as we all know, and there is nothing so Yang as our current America. Swami Beyondananda, who always travels with his wife, says that when a society is based only on masculine energy, we have a stag-nation, so we need the feminine energy to make a doe-nation in order to create the imagi-nation that builds the world.

When I read Strand’s chapter about the apparitions of Our Lady, as usual it was very late at night. I put down the book and turned in, and I could feel myself as partaking of that essential feminine principle, being, in myself, a source of creation. This principle lives in males as well. I’m not sure that we have to turn off the physical lights in order to find Her within ourselves and return to our Mother, whom we have never really left.

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

The photo above was taken when I visited Paris in the fall of 2010.  A rose– symbol of Mary.  Growing behind the cathedral of Notre Dame– Our Lady.  In the dark.

6 Comments

Filed under history, nature, spirit communication, spirituality

Identity and the True Self

By Mike Luckovich. http://www.gocomics.com/mikeluckovich/2015/06/02 (I did my best to look into getting permission to use this cartoon, but could not find out how. Go Comics does allow free sharing on Facebook etc., so I hope this is OK.)

 

 

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks! Looking at the news optimistically, despite the horrifying attacks that have occurred, I see tremendous opportunities for healing in the national conversations about race, gender, and sexual orientation. That is, the fact that we’re having the conversations at all is extremely positive.

I usually try not to jump into any of the rings of the media circus. I am way behind the news cycle with this post, because I’ve been cogitating for quite a while about what I want to say. All the headlines lately have to do with identity in one way or another, and that’s my subject today. It’s complicated, as you know, and I’m afraid that someone may come away from reading this feeling insulted or minimized, which is certainly not my intention.

I started on this back at the time earlier in June, which seems like ages ago, when everyone was talking about Caitlynn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal,* and we were endlessly treated to analyses of those two cases of identity change. I don’t normally pay any attention to celebrities-for-celebrity’s-sake; it wasn’t that long ago that someone had to explain to me who Kim Kardashian was, and I wasn’t clear how Jenner was related. (Argus Hamilton quipped that before Dolezal identified as black, she identified as a Kardashian-American.) But there has been some real usefulness in the confusion people have been expressing and in their attempts to work their way through it.

It seems like the group mind has concluded that it’s pretty much OK to change your appearance and who you say you are in order to fit with who you feel you are on the inside, but that it’s not OK to lie. That’s fairly simple. There’s nothing simple about identity, though.

The fact that same-sex marriage is now legal and recognized in all 50 states (Lord, what fun it is to type those words!) is one sign that our view of human identity is more flexible and tolerant than it used to be. The lowering of the army of northern Virginia’s battle flag in some Southern states is another. The burning of African-American churches—six of them in four states in just the past week— following the murders at the church in Charleston is a sobering sign that the opposite is still true.** We have a long, long way to go.

From a biological viewpoint, race is nonexistent, and gender is fuzzy. Each of us contains multiple lines of ancestors and multiple genetic potentials. Why shouldn’t identity be large enough to contain those multitudes? I am so accustomed to switching roles in the course of a day or a week that it’s hard to imagine being limited to existing as any one thing. I wonder if we can or will get to a point where being intentionally multiple will be seen as normal.

In the matter of race, it seems inevitable; there are more and more mixed-race people all the time (all of us are mixed-race, of course, but I mean those for whom it’s an overt identity), so surely everyone will get more and more used to that. Genetic studies have shown how closely everyone on the planet is related, and that fact will most likely become more widely known.

With regard to gender, I wonder what would happen if our concepts of male and female expanded enough that a boy who feels like a girl could be comfortable remaining identified as a boy while expressing feminine aspects without restriction. That is, I wonder if trans people would feel less pain and less need to transition if society got over the idea of gender being binary and opened up the possibilities. But I am fortunate in that my own identity is not painful and is not being forced on me in any way, and I cannot speak for anyone else.

I read an impassioned essay from June 9 by Fr. Robert Barron, who strongly criticized trans people for saying that they are mentally one thing and physically another.+ He wrote that the Church has always seen the material body as good (which doesn’t sound to me like the Catholic Church I was brought up in), with identity being a characteristic of the body and not just the mind. “Moreover, the mind or will is not the ‘true self’ standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.”

Since I am very much aware of the existence of human beings who are not currently living in bodies, I find this point of view astonishing. I wonder what in form Fr. Barron imagines humans to exist in his version of heaven, where physical bodies must be irrelevant. I don’t mean to say that the mind should be set against the body, but it is clear that the body cannot be the “true self.”

Speaking of a council that was apparently convened in Rome the week before, he said that he was particularly bothered by “the claim that the secret council was calling for a ‘theology of love’ that would supplant the theology of the body proposed by John Paul II.++” Christians espousing a theology of love? Shocking! Certainly no basis in the New Testament. No idea where they could have gotten such stuff.

If I had the chance to converse with Fr. Barron, I might ask him how his body-centered spirituality deals with the fact that the body is always changing and does not have “distinctive form” or “finality.” The many, shall we say, gifts of middle age put this fact in front of me every day. For example, my vocal range has changed enough to cause a new label to be applied to my voice, one that feels like it doesn’t belong to me, and I am trying to gracefully let go of the old one. It would be silly to get overly involved with concepts of having to sound a certain way or having a certain hair color or even being a certain height, because those are going to be different, and sooner rather than later. My mother, at age 90 1/2, has been expressing surprise that her body is changing so quickly and dramatically. My elderly patients and friends often say things like that, but add that they feel exactly the same on the inside as they always did.

On the spiritual level, none of our outer identifiers, the things other people see when they look at us, have any real meaning at all. I don’t have to tell you that body shape, size, color and the like are not who you really are. But let’s go a bit further. Some philosophers say that there is no “real you” at all.

Brian Hubbard, husband of Lynne McTaggart, wrote the book Time-Light, describing his theory that what we think of as our personality is nothing more than an accumulation of experiences we have not sufficiently understood, that stick to us and make us “time-heavy.” He claims that he got over his persistent depression by letting go of the past and returning to a state much like that of a small child.

Brent Phillips, a healer and teacher whose work I encountered a few months ago, is one who insists that the you that manifests in the physical world is only a kind of fictional character— he likes to use Harry Potter as the example. When you look further and further inward, he says, you find that “no one is home.”

I have been very uncomfortable with this concept that there is nothing and no one at the center of a person. Not because I particularly want to cling to my own existence; in fact, I feel empty of it much of the time, as if there is someone talking and doing various things, typing this right now, but “I” am not particularly identified with that being, and even the “I” that is observing its activities does not feel fundamental. The problem is that I, whatever I that means, directly experience a something in a human being, some irreducible spark behind all those characters in their shifting roles. That something exists in animals as well. At the core of all is an awareness. That is what’s home.

A long time ago I heard a talk by the Dalai Lama in which he was asked what the nature of consciousness really is. I remember him saying that it is a “luminous I.” Now I can’t find that quote anywhere, but I’ve found standard Buddhist references to consciousness as being “luminous and knowing.” Consciousness is the thing that illuminates, meaning that it lights its objects so that they can be apprehended, and it is the thing that knows, independent of what is known. At least, that is my best effort at understanding this. And the awareness that is found at the center of everyone is the same awareness that is found at the center of everyone else. This gets tougher to grasp. If one follows along through Phillips’ teachings, it becomes apparent that he too is talking about this universal awareness, not truly saying that there is no one home anywhere.

Universal awareness has found a staggering variety of ways to express itself, and I find that to be a tremendous joy. The “luminous I” is free to manifest as any physical appearance, any set of interests and talents, any gender or sexual orientation. The objective human mind sets limits, but in reality there are none.

 

*For those who have been living on Mars or who may read this in the future when these names have faded into history: Caitlynn Jenner is the name of the person who used to be the Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner before she transitioned. Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who changed her appearance and identified as black, and who led a chapter of the NAACP before she was outed as white by her parents.

**http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2015/06/26/string-of-nighttime-fires-hit-predominately-black-churches-in-four-southern-states/

+http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/bruce-jenner-the-shadow-council-and-st-irenaeus/4785/
Fr. Barron uses Jenner as a reason to attack his real target, Gnosticism, which he trashes viciously, and which he appears to understand poorly, as seen in his use of the term “the Gnostic heresy” at this late date. It seems, also, that he has more of an issue with dualism than with Gnosticism; he conflates the two, and this is misleading. But all that is a subject for another day and probably a very long post.

++ http://www.jp2.info/Theology_of_the_Body.pdf
Here is a summary of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body.”  I had not heard that term before, but I was all too familiar with his resistance to contraception and to any kind of sex outside of marriage (not to mention an equal role for women within the church).  I always admired John Paul II overall, but he went much further than I realized with these ideas, which seem to me to dismiss and denigrate the body’s biological needs just as Catholicism has done for centuries.  I am deeply saddened by words such as this:  “Therefore, in such a case, the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.” “If the procreative aspect of conjugal union is excluded, then that truth of the person and of the act itself is destroyed.”   There is no room at all for those who are anything other than heterosexual and monogamously married, nor even for those of us who have been sterilized for medical reasons or who have undergone hysterectomies!  This does not reflect the reality of nature on this planet.
  And for a celibate old man to suggest that since I had a tubal ligation in my late 20s, in all these years my husband and I have not experienced “an act of love,” is beyond offensive.  I am well and truly ready for a theology of love to replace this one.

3 Comments

Filed under human rights, nature, politics, spirituality

Bonding with Complex Creatures

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrot

“Two colorful parrots from Jurong Bird Park of Singapore.”
(Image of macaws from Riza Nugraha on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Our local PBS channel reran a 2013 Nature program, “Parrot Confidential.”  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/parrot-confidential-parrot-confidential/8496/  It’s about the fascinating complexity of parrot brains and behavior, and makes the point that birds in the parrot family are wild animals that in many ways are unsuitable as pets. They have been extremely popular, though, and huge numbers of them are homeless refugees in the US, because people buy them and then find themselves unwilling or unable to keep them. A great many have been poached from the wild, and in an attempt to prevent that from happening, bird lovers have bred them domestically. Eventually this turned out to be compounding the problem, so breeders shut down their operations, and now everyone who wants a parrot is strongly encouraged to adopt one from a shelter. Habitat loss as well as poaching has threatened parrots in the wild, with the ironic result that their numbers in their native countries are decreasing even as shelters here are bursting at the seams.

But pet parrot overpopulation, while I want to spread the word about it, is not my main subject for today. I guess my subject is “bonding with complex creatures.” It seemed to me, when I watched the program, that the parrot experiences could teach us a great deal of what we humans need to understand about relationships.

One of the difficulties, and at the same time one of the joys, of living with a parrot is its deep attachment to its human companion. [Disclaimer: I do not live with a parrot and never have— I only know about this from observation.] The program explained why this is so. Parrots spend virtually all their time with their mate, and the human becomes a mate substitute and is also expected to give 100% attention. This is likely not what the human expected.

Among the parrots featured by the Nature team was a yellow-naped Amazon named Basil. He had done well with his human family for his first four years, bonding especially strongly with the husband, until he hit puberty. Then suddenly it was no longer okay that the husband was away a lot on business. The wife and kids became Basil’s targets, with the wife getting the brunt of his wrath. He would actually fly at her and attack her, and had to be locked in his cage to protect her and the children.

Parrot-Confidential-Basil1At one point during this period, the family wanted to take a vacation. They had friends who also had a male yellow-naped Amazon, and they asked to leave Basil at their house. Neither bird had ever had the opportunity to interact with another of his kind, and as soon as they met, they were best friends.

Two weeks went by, and Basil’s family returned. They put him in his cage and started out the door, and as they were leaving, the other bird, Coco, began to scream, with total clarity, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” (And some people say that birds can’t use human language appropriately.) Well, no one could hear that heartrending sound and not be moved. They immediately brought Basil back, and it was decided that he would stay and be adopted by Coco’s family.

I was much moved by Coco’s pleas myself, and it seemed to me that what he was saying was something fundamental to all of us. More and more I think that relationships boil down to something very simple. Most creatures with some degree of awareness want to bond with others of their kind, or failing that, others of some kind.

If you put someone in a cage, they will not be at their best. One of the experts said that sometimes he is asked what the right size of cage for a macaw is, and he replies that it’s 35 square miles, their range in the wild. There is no right-sized cage, he said. For anyone, probably.

If you expect someone to act in a way that is contrary to their nature, your expectations will not be met. We were told that people ask for a bird that sings, that is quiet, and that doesn’t bite, and that there is no such species.

The main character in this presentation was Lou, a cockatoo who had been left alone to starve in his cage when his family’s house was foreclosed upon. The humans had just up and left him in the empty house. Fortunately, the neighbors noticed that something was amiss, and they had animal control come and look into the situation. The very traumatized and timid Lou was taken to a shelter filled with dozens of other cockatoos. He had to be quarantined for a month, and then he was placed into the aviary, still in his cage in order to protect him from possible aggression. When the staff finally decided it was safe to open his cage, he climbed to its roof, and a beautiful scene ensued. One of the females, Princess, sidled over to Lou in the most non-threatening and gentle way, with her back to him, as if to say, “Don’t mind me, not trying to bother you, just cleaning my wings over here.” Lou seemed to light up, and a moment later the two were preening each other’s neck feathers and clicking beaks as if they’d been together forever.

Humans make everything about relationships incredibly more complicated, with all sorts of arbitrary rules. I wonder if we could try just settling down with each other sometimes and sharing a nice piece of fruit or something.

 

We think of the natural world as a place of ruthless competition, but as Lynne McTaggart made clear in her book The Bond, cooperation is more prevalent and more beneficial. It can be shown rigorously, through game theory, that cooperation generally leads to the best outcomes for all. Many times, though, altruism seems to gain an animal nothing in particular except perhaps a pleasant feeling. McTaggart began the book* with an example of not a dog-eat-dog but a dog-help-dog story. It seems that her own dog was crazy about the dog next door, and although there was no advantage to be had for mating (both dogs being fixed), or anything at all other than friendship, he shared food and toys with her whenever he got the chance.

I know not every kind of animal enjoys company like this, but through the magical power of Facebook videos, I’ve marveled at the variety of animals who do. Even creatures as “unintelligent” as tortoises interact with other animals in fascinating and complex ways. Every species from bats to wombats seems to appreciate care and snuggling under the right circumstances. Humans are no different.

*http://thebond.net/ I went to find a link to the book for you, and found that there are other related materials available. Haven’t checked these out as yet.

______________________________________________________

After working on this post during the afternoon, I attended a web meeting of a new organization that’s trying to form, based on Alex Loyd’s book Beyond Willpower. The central idea of the book is extremely simple: You can have love, or you can have fear. If you act out of love, things will generally go well, and if you act out of fear, they will tend to go badly. At the time that the book was published, earlier this year, I was encountering this idea over and over in various places. I don’t think there is a more important concept anywhere. It transforms everything. The group intends to help spread the transformation.

Aggression and other negative behaviors have fear at their core. There is fear of abandonment, for example, at the bottom of the violence Basil the parrot visited on his family when his preferred human was not at home. Humans have the choice to think more clearly about the reasons for their behavior and to change it for the better.

http://beyondwillpowertogether.com/

4 Comments

Filed under animal behavior, nature, spirituality