Could anomalous perceptions, which have persisted across societies and throughout history, have a similar legitimacy? And, if so, what would we stand to learn about perception itself, or memory, or imagination, or empathy, or any of the myriad of other factors that make us human? [via mmothra]
Japan had a samurai warrior tradition that reflected qualities of fearlessness, mastery and loyalty. So it is instructive to appreciate how this tradition was distorted by technolgies of modern warfare and a strident nationalism. The Chinese were de-humanized by the Japanese and the brutal training that Japanese soldiers received helped to de-humanize them as well. As Japanese soldiers marched from Shanghai to Nanking in 1937 some of them sent reports back to their home towns of their sportsman-like competition to see who could behead the most Chinese. Once the Japanese reached Nanking, and overtook that city, they performed horrific acts of torture, rape and mass murder on innocent Chinese civilians. These action hardly reflected the nobility of the samurai tradition.
The soul knows the difference between soldier and civilian. Because mass war does not easily distinguish the two, soldiers incur not only physical wounds, but spiritual wounds as well. If PTSD is an identity disorder, it may also well be a loss of soul. Edward Tick says, "Ancient peoples and traditional societies recognized soul wounding and soul loss, as authentic conditions. Their shamans and spiritual healers practiced many forms of soul healing and retrieval."
It is very difficult for the uninitiated to understand what the Burning Man festival is, much less how it has anything to do with the “real” world. You need to actually leave “the Playa” and go back to the respective urban centers from which most of the festival’s participants hail to see the ethos in action. For even though Burning Man itself is only ten-odd days out of the year, and despite popular conceptions of the festival as an annual bacchanal for West Coast hedonists, if you ask a Burner they will tell you it’s about so much more. They will tell you that it is about a new set of cultural values and a new way to approach art and community. They will also (naturally) tell you it is about the expansion of consciousness.
The lifestyle and value system that is transmuted from the cultural crucible of the Black Rock Desert to the day-to-day lives of Burners hither and yon comes home to Chicago via the people of Entheon Village, a community of artists and activists brought together a few years ago by Burning Man, who have since worked hard to become largely self-sustaining. Rather than relegating Burning Man to a yearly respite from point-and-click drudgery, these folks, in a manner of speaking, live the Man day in and day out.
At 78, Robert Pirsig, probably the most widely read philosopher alive, can look back on many ideas of himself. There is the nine-year-old-boy with the off-the-scale IQ of 170, trying to work out how to connect with his classmates in Minnesota. There is the young GI in Korea picking up a curiosity for Buddhism while helping the locals with their English. There is the radical, manic teacher in Montana making his freshmen sweat over a definition of 'quality'. There is the homicidal husband sectioned into a course of electric-shock treatment designed to remove all traces of his past. There is the broken-down father trying to bond with his son on a road trip. There is the best-selling author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, offering solutions to the anxieties of a generation. And there is, for a good many years, the reclusive yachtsman, trying to steer a course away from cultish fame.
A Closer Look
In a discussion of moral panics, sociologist Robert Bartholomew points out that a defining characteristic of the panics is that the “concern about the threat posed by moral deviants and their numerical abundance is far greater than can be objectively verified, despite unsubstantiated claims to the contrary.” Furthermore, according to Goode and Ben-Yehuda, during a moral panic “most of the figures cited by moral panic ‘claims-makers’ are wildly exaggerated.”
The BBC reports that Psilocybin -- found in magic mushrooms -- seemed to help some patients who "experienced transient relief from their OCD symptoms and one entered an extended period of remission lasting more than six months."
The apparent happiness of Africans, against all horror, seems to derive from a sense of connectedness, or as the Zulu put it, "ubunto." This word is often translated to mean community, but one of them gave me what I think is a more accurate definition: "I am because we are; we are because I am."
In other words, their pursuit of happiness seems more successful than ours because it is not a solitary endeavor. African happiness is a joint enterprise, something that can only be created by the whole. I am happy because we are happy. Much contentment arises from a sense of family, community, and connectedness.
Such virtues are in dwindling supply in America. Two thirds of all our first marriages end in divorce. The war between children and parents has never been uglier (since it is now concealed, rather than public as it was in the '60's). We think AOL and the local mall are communities. We think that Disney, the corporation, is a story-teller. And, to the extent, we are connected at all, it is largely by mass media like television, which, as Bertrand Russell pointed out, "allows thousands of people to laugh at the same joke and still remain alone."
Imagine an evening spent peering through the suburban windows of America. Think of the faces you would behold within, lit pale by the flickering blue bath of electrons Big Content blasts out for their "entertainment." Slack-jawed and silent, one hand gripping a Bud, the other in a bag of Fritos, they watch other "people" pass through contrived "ordeals" and imagine themselves pursuing happiness.
But they are not pursuing happiness. They are seeking what I call The Zone, a mental and emotional condition where nothing happens. Nothing can happen except for the most rudimentary necessities of life and manufactured entertainment. When Zoned, they are left alone. They are being granted a twisted kind of peace.
American citizens don’t seem to be inclined to give up their TV viewing, despite the fact that giving up most of their viewing would free them up to monitor their government and to advocate for needed changes. According to the Nielsen Media Research Study released in September 2006, the average American household watched television more than 8 hours per day during the 2005-2006 television year. Individuals watched an average amount 4 hours and 35 minutes per day To watch TV for 4 ½ hours per day, every day, is virtually the same amount of time many people dedicate to working full time jobs (37.5 hours/week x 50 weeks).
"Our results suggest that chills depend very much on our ability to interpret the music," said Oliver Grewe, a biologist and musicologist at the institute. "Music is a recreative activity. Even if it is relaxing to listen to, the listener has to recreate its meaning, the feelings it expresses. It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music."
What one simple problem could you eliminate – let’s say using magic – that would fix virtually every other problem in the world?
You might say that poverty is the biggest single problem. There’s a good argument for that. But I’m reasonably sure that if everyone on the planet suddenly became a billionaire we’d still be fighting over who has the best God. And before long a copy of Windows would cost a billion dollars and Bill Gates would have all the money back. That magical fix wouldn’t last.
You could magically make all forms of energy clean and plentiful and free, or eliminate disease, or create a machine that produces unlimited food from pollution. But not one of those solutions would fix ALL of the problems in the world.
The medical community traditionally has relied on potent drugs to relieve severe pain. But in a number of academic settings across the country, health-care practitioners are adding another therapeutic weapon to the mix -- they're helping patients harness the healing power of their own imaginations.
The use of guided imagery, or mental images, to evoke physical benefits is perhaps the oldest form of therapy known to man, explained David E. Bresler, a founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery in Malibu, Calif. In fact, imagery is woven into the fabric of many ancient cultures' healing rituals, he said.
Today, academic researchers are studying guided imagery's use as an adjunct to more traditional medical treatments.
The key to modern life is strategic ignorance. There are so many things we don't know about our lives and that, frankly, we don't want to know. We don't know much about the basic things that sustain us. We are clueless "end users" in elaborate industrial supply lines. Energy comes from distant power plants and oil refineries and pipelines and electrical grids, but we don't think about them when we flick on a light or turn the key in the ignition. We live in a world we didn't make, by rules and customs and laws we didn't invent, using tools and technologies we don't understand.
Even as science teaches us, constantly, that we are part of the fabric of life, that we have a common genetic heritage with all other living things, we continue to hold nature at arm's length. Predation and cultivation and gathering and even preparation of food have all been outsourced.
Meat in the store has been carefully butchered and wrapped to obscure any association with an actual animal (hence the counterculture movement toward "food with a face"). Novelist Arthur C. Clarke said that when a technology becomes sufficiently advanced it becomes indistinguishable from magic, but he didn't go far enough: The final advancement comes when the technology ceases to register at all. Electricity, accessed through an outlet, becomes an intrinsic property of residential walls, as are the drywall and the studs. Power comes from a switch. We have the consciousness of small children. We can conjure power at will. It's a dream world, but one that might not be sustainable.
CAVEAT: The eco-community featured in this article, Earthaven, is a mere half hour from Asheville. I know a few fine folks there, including my great friend Marjorie who intends to homestead there soon.
Looking at our own world, we already see scientists modelling life and the world on computers. We have gamers controlling their avatars on The Sims. The upcoming game Spore takes it one step further. And cloning and genetic modification are slowly becoming more accepted. We're already playing god. When computers be sufficiently powerful, we'll still be playing god.
There's no reason to assume that other technologically advanced civilizations will behave any differently. And even if such a thing was sanctioned, individuals or groups will still be able to find ways around such rules and control.
Our brains love pattern. They have been ‘coded’ to find patterns and cling to them. We are constantly searching for the patterns of life – patterns to make experience predictable and familiar. We cling to these patterns even if they are unpleasant. The woman, who gets beaten by her husband, returns to him again and again, because it is familiar and unpredictable. To change is to risk facing the unpredictable – even if it promises to be more satisfying. Predictability is a stronger provider of psychological security than comfort and safety. (Also, while she is being beaten, someone is showing an ‘interest’ in her. There is physical contact with life.) She may only reach her turning point after nervous breakdown or near death experience. Shamans realised that extremes like these may be necessary before change is embraced. They consequently designed rituals of extraordinary trauma, to facilitate unequivocal turning points. It is a bit like getting the alcoholic to have an undeniable experience of hitting rock bottom, long before his mind/body actually does.
With the knowledge of the natural processes of change and the algorithms to facilitate people, or yourself, through informational fields (space and time), a ritual can be designed.
Another way of saying this is: Effective ritual is essentially the construction of heuristics that collapse long-time evolutionary time into short-term production time.
Here I must challenge the commonly held idea that repetition will eventually forge unconscious competency. I am of the opinion that ritual is about intensity rather than repetition.
See, that's ba-waa-ji-g^'n. He comes and visits you when you're asleep. He comes into your spirit. We couldn't tell what your spirit and what his spirit, the two spirits, are talking about when you are dreaming, but you know they're they're there. You still know they're there, and that makes you wake up slowly and you begin to wonder what he was there for. Maybe it's a warning, maybe it's a message from some other people or somebody. Maybe you're on a danger line... or something. He likes to talk to you when you're asleep, but he won't wake you... They haven't anything much to say, and you know very well that you're going to get the right answer. . . . You don't have much to say [either], and you don't know what you are going to say. In fact, you're dreaming. But there are a lot of things that you could talk about. Once in awhile I talk to people in my dreams. But I don't know what I'm saying to them. I forget. But sometimes you keep a memory of your dream. It will stay with you a long time, if it's serious. I don't talk much though in my dreams. And you can't talk to your spirit when you're awake because, you see, he's done on earth. You can talk to him, but he won't talk back. When a person's done on earth, he won't talk. But your a spirit that's living and when he comes and sees your spirit, then maybe they can talk, while you're sleeping. When you're awake he won't talk to your spirit. Your spirit is your spirit, ba-waa-ji-g^'n.
Global Orgasm, a winter solstice event conceived to "effect change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy," takes place on December 22.
This is one of those projects that can only have global impact because of the internet. You just couldn't get the word out to all the people open to this sort of thing without the technology -- and without the culture that has shaped around this technology.
The man is most certainly still with us, despite recent scares. Most awesomely, Wilson was on the receiving end of something like $70k raised by the blogging community to provide him some comfort as his sunset approaches. Viva fnord!
The emotional lives of human beings are a complicated mixture of rapidly elicited, semiconscious reactions to interpersonal signals and a slower, more articulate reflection on what we feel, how we felt earlier, and the appropriateness of those feelings. Goleman proposes two relatively distinct brain pathways to explain this mix: a "low road" for the rapid processing of interpersonal signals, be they cries of distress, flirtatious smiles, or the clasp of a comforting hand; and a "high road" that permits a more reflective awareness, communication, and regulation of our emotional experience.
Thoughtback: I've advocated a similar idea based on the evolutionary development of the brain, from the "lizard brain" (highly reactive, bio-survival triggered), the "simian brain" (territorial establishment, base social structures), and the human brain(s) (development of sophisticated filters and constructs). Of course, these ideas aren't new, and the concept is that certain stimuli create automatic arousal in these areas and responses may be conditioned by the threat/benefit level which is processed by these evolutionary nodes.
It would be thrilling, wouldn't it, to look up one day and realize that the most hopeful of proverbs became literally true, with every cloud in the sky framed by a magnificent nimbus of pure silver. People all over the Earth - Aleutian fishermen, Bedouin tribeswomen, French harlots, Donald Trump - would walk out of their homes to witness the miracle. Then, pretty soon, we'd all start dying. Badly.
Gaseous silver would liquefy and fall as rain, contaminating our water. Silver is a heavy metal, and, like all heavy metals, it is toxic to humans. In the case of silver, death would be preceded by a condition known as argyria, in which the skin and eyeballs turn a bluish gray. Humans would begin to resemble the classic image of the Martian. Then would come heart, brain, kidney and bone disease, followed by confusion and dementia, which would be a blessing, really.
"This 18th century compendium, drew on 17th century alchemical sources such as Adrian von Mynsich, with mystical pieces from Valentin Weigel, and Abraham von Franckenberg's works on Jacob Boehme. It was an important and influential source of Rosicrucian ideas, albeit filtered through an 18th century perspective." [more]
Answers: "Yes," "No," "Maybe," and "It all depends..."
One of the reasons it is unclear whether or not animals may properly be said to be conscious is that the term has no universal definition as applied to humans. Is consciousness equivalent to awareness? To attention? Cognition? Perception? Memory? Imagination? All of these? Much more? To attempt to apply a vaguely-defined term to non-human species merely compounds the confusion and makes it a virtual certainty that any attempt to answer such a question is a waste of time. The topic has become virtually taboo in serious science, with most investigators polarised into opposing camps of "definitely so" and "no way!" Believers in one group vehemently reject the results of the other, and no one seems able to mount a convincing case; but that is not to say that scientists (and others) have stopped making the effort. Few topics today are as divisive as the role non-human animals play in ideas about religion, society, law, morals, research and even in the home. On the one hand are the Cartesian groups, who feel that animals exist merely to serve their masters, namely humans, in whatever way possible - whether furthering the bounds of human knowledge or acting as dinner. On the other hand are the Animal-Liberation-Front-type militants who firebomb property, issue death-threats to researchers, and turn animals loose in habitats into which they do not fit, wreaking havoc all around. Surely a middle ground exists?
The world you see around you appears perfectly stationary, even though your eyes dart back and forth two to three times every second in little hops called saccades. For more than a century researchers have assumed that the brain must keep track of the impulses that cause these tiny motions, so as to subtract their effect from our visual awareness. Now researchers have identified a circuit in the monkey brain that seems to play this role.
Ignoring the motion of our eyes allows us to focus on changes in our environment. The alternative would be chaos, says brain researcher Robert Wurtz of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. "It's almost as if you have a movie camera on top of a bronco and it's jumping around," Wurtz says. "If you watched the movie it would make you sick." Researchers believe the brain solves this problem through a process called corollary discharge. Every time the brain sends the eyes a signal to twitch, it sends a copy, or corollary signal, to another location in the brain, sort of like the way your e-mail client sends copies of your e-mails to their own folder, Wurtz explains.
The Tarot deck contains archetypal symbols that can be related to the analytical psychology of the Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung. The Tarot deck, especially the major arcana or trump cards, can be used effectively in therapy. The client, with the assistance of the therapist, conducts a reading or uses several cards to tell a story and then discusses possible meanings of the symbols in his or her own words. The therapist then relates the symbolic meanings given by the client to the client's problem in much the same manner as in Jungian dream analysis. This therapeutic process can be explained by using a chaos model. Using a chaos model of therapy, a period of psychic instability is deliberately induced by the therapist through stimulation of the imagination via the Tarot symbols. Concentration on the Tarot symbols induces bifurcation points that the therapist then uses to direct change toward desired attractors. This is similar to the well-known techniques of paradoxical communication, paradoxical intervention, and prescribing the symptom, all of which induce a temporary condition of psychic instability that is required for a bifurcation.
...This horror story occurs in a book thought to be revealed by a God who is fundamentally good and eternally just, one who rewards whom he wants, humiliates when he wants, is jealous when he feels like it, and compassionate when he doesn’t feel like being jealous. He is a lot like the trolls your grandmother told you about, only he lives in the sky, not under a bridge, and he plays tricks on people rather than goats. This God proves his might by exalting his people over other people, except in those (frequent) cases when it becomes necessary for him to spank his elect so severely they perish at their enemies’ hands. Then their enemies, with his blessing, take away their land, destroy their temple, and send them penniless into dispersion. This God seldom brings you presents; almost always sticks and lumps of coal, for which nonetheless you have to say thank you.
The climax of this way of thinking, all deference to the maligned Mel Gibson, is the image of a God so brutal that he inflicts pain, bloody suffering, and death on his innocent son as a vicarious way of venting his anger against the sinfulness of his chosen people. Christian theology may try to disguise this bottom line, or find an ethical tradition to replace it. But it is the core teaching of the Bible that this is the way God acts; this is the way God is. The Christian bifurcation of the “angry” Old Testament God and the “forgiving” and compassionate God of the New systematically overlooks the fact that only in the Christian Bible does God evolve into an abusive father who arranges the death of his own son as an covert means of regaining the fealty of a race he sold into sin in the Garden of Eden. Nor am I exaggerating the traditional theology on this point; almost all the church fathers from the time of Irenaeus onward saw the sin of Adam as creating a game of chess which God could only win by resorting to deception: fashioning a second man, like Adam, who could cheat death of its right to his human soul by being quintessentially (but “invisibly”) divine. Bluntly, God “pays” the devil, who “owned” us after the fall, a human life to let us go (Irenaeus, V.1.1.); but the devil could not take the God-man and gets caught out by his greed. This is sometimes called the “ransom” theory of the atonement.
I would maintain that a healthy (i.e. substantial) amount of denial is therefore genetically heritable, that it allows us to blithely go on (despite reading Beckett) and to ignore the basic sadness and desperation of life. We can live in an illusion — in fact we are genetically predisposed to do so. These illusions can be small — I am just as good at catching game as Bob, my rival, for example — or they can be very large — that death is not the end and that I will be rewarded for my faith and Bob, the apostate, will rot in Hell.
Either way, they allow me to go on, to persevere in the face of unlikely odds or limited chance of success. We have evolved to be less rational that one might think, and to be slightly more delusional and even stupid.
Thousands of Buddhists gathered in India's western city of Mumbai on Sunday to lay to rest part of the ashes and bones of Lord Buddha in a ceremony resurrected after almost 2000 years.
Monks in flowing orange robes chanted hymns from scriptures as the remains were lowered into a shallow pit on top of a 90-ft (27 metres) high stone dome, as part of celebrations to mark the 2250th anniversary of the spiritual leader's enlightenment.
Organisers of the ceremony said this was the first time in around 2,000 years that Buddha's mortal remains were being enshrined.
"The relics now kept in this magnificent pagoda came from an ancient dome discovered during an archaeological expedition in south India in early-1900s," Acharya S.N. Goenka told reporters.
After Buddha's death, his remains were divided and kept in eight separate domes built by his disciples across Asia.
In 1997 Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her novel "The God of Small Things". In 2004 she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.
The film examines the widely unregarded worlds of Anthropology and Geopolitics in a very dynamic manner, and is probably stylistically quite unlike any documentary that you have previously seen.
It covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation. It is particularly hard hitting when it comes to the United States and western powers in general.
Its unconventional style has proven to be very successful in engaging younger viewers - many of whom find more traditional content dealing with these subjects quite dry and uninteresting. It is almost in the style of a music video, featuring contemporary music (lush, curve, love & rockets, boards of canada, nine inch nails, dead can dance, amon tobin, massive attack, totoise, telepop, placebo and faith less) overlaid with the words of Arundhati Roy, and images of humanity and the world we live in today.