Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Guidance Regarding 2012

Readers of Quantum Spirit probably know I have great respect for physicist and consciousness-explorer Peter Russell, several of whose videos I've posted here before. Here are his recent comments and observations about the coming of the year 2012. The video features many beautiful nature images and I encourage you to listen to the entire 7 minutes. The key part ~ his advice and guidance ~ begins at about minute 4. Here are Russell's words regarding this video on his website, which is well worth visiting.

2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar's 5125-year cycle, leading many to prophecy this as a time of great change—for some the end of Western civilization, for others a time of transformation and renewal. Whatever may or may not happen in 2012, it is clear that we are living through a critical period of human history, and the need for a widespread shift in human thinking and values is becoming increasingly apparent. From this perspective, 2012 is a symbol of the times we are passing through. It represents the temporal epicenter of a cultural earthquake, whose reverberations are getting stronger day by day.

Peter Russell's website is an informed, fascinating and fun reservoir of articles, meditations, videos and more. I encourage you to visit it by clicking here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A View of Our Rapidly Changing World

Nothing, I believe, has greater impact on our world today than the reach of web-based technology into our lives. If you doubt it, please spend 4 minutes viewing the statistics presented in this video. And if you're one of the many people who feel the world is racing by at incredible speed ~ that the so-called "Quickening" is here ~ this could explain why.

To avoid the cropped screen effect, you're better off going directly to this link.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Sunrise at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice, 2003.

[Today is the Winter Solstice, one of the most venerated days throughout recorded history. Here, I’ve selected several paragraphs of interest from the relatively lengthy Winter Solstice write-up on Wikipedia.]

The Winter Solstice occurs when the earth's axial tilt is farthest from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. For most people in the high latitudes this is commonly known as the shortest day and the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. The seasonal significance of the Winter Solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.

. . . The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen.

. . . The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.

. . . Since 45 BCE, when the 25th of December was established in the Julian calendar as the winter solstice of Europe, the difference between the calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days) moved the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice forward approximately three days every four centuries until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar, bringing the northern winter solstice to around December 21. Yearly, in the Gregorian calendar, the solstice still fluctuates slightly but in the long term, only about one day every 3000 years.

. . . Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. In Greek mythology, the gods and goddesses met on the winter and summer solstice, and Hades was permitted on Mount Olympus. Also reversal is another usual theme as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals.

Click here for the Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Darkening of the light. In adversity
It furthers one to be persevering.

One must not unresistingly let himself be swept along by unfavorable circumstances, nor permit his steadfastness to be shaken. He can avoid this by maintaining his inner light, while remaining outwardly yielding and tractable. With this attitude he can overcome even the greatest adversities.

In some situations indeed a man must hide his light in order to make his will prevail in spite of difficulties in his immediate environment. Perseverance must dwell in inmost consciousness and should not be discernible from without. Only thus is a man able to maintain his will in the face of difficulties.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Meditation for Flu Season

Painting "The Philosopher in Meditation" by Rembrandt, 1632.

I’m gaining a greater appreciation for German-born spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle as I now re-read his landmark The Power of Now after putting it down several years ago. Today I read some easy instructions Tolle says can strengthen your immune system. So, in the spirit of the (flu) season, I pass them along:
There is a simple but powerful self-healing meditation that you can do whenever you feel the need to boost your immune system. It is particularly effective if used when you feel the first symptoms of an illness, but it also works with illnesses that are already entrenched if you use it a frequent intervals and with an intense focus. It will also counteract any disruption of your energy field by some form of negativity. However, it is not a substitute for the moment-to-moment practice of being in the body; otherwise, its effect will only be temporary. Here it is:

When you are unoccupied for a few minutes, and especially last thing at night before falling asleep and first thing in the morning before getting up, “flood” your body with consciousness. Close your eyes. Lie flat on your back. Choose different parts of your body to focus your attention on briefly at first: hands, feet, arms, legs, abdomen, chest, head, and so on. Feel the life energy inside those parts as intensely as you can. Stay with each part for fifteen seconds or so. Then let your attention run through the body like a wave a few times, from feet to head and back again. This need only take a minute or so.
After that, feel the inner body in its totality, as a single field of energy. Hold that feeling for a few minutes. Be intensely present during that time, present in every cell of your body. Don’t be concerned if the mind occasionally succeeds in drawing your attention out of the body and you lose yourself in some thought. As soon as you notice that this has happened, just return your attention to the inner body.
As for the “inner body” he refers to, I liked his explanation, which is something I believe we all experience at times:
Whereas the outer body normally appears to grow old and wither fairly quickly, the inner body does not change with time, except that you may feel it more deeply and become it more fully. If you are twenty years old now, the energy field of your inner body will feel just the same when you are eighty. It will be just as vibrantly alive.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Amazing Archival Footage

I find this video to be an amazing trip back through time. It was filmed on a trolley in 1905, traveling along Market Street in San Francisco. Seldom have I been able to view such an array of people, fashions, and vehicles in an everyday setting. It's particularly nostalgic when you realize that only a year later ~ in 1906 ~ this entire area was obliterated in the San Francisco earthquake and accompanying fires. (The musical accompaniment may not have been my personal choice, but it does seem to work in a strange way.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Musical Interlude ~ A 17th Century Cantata

Don't underestimate the 1600s when it comes to incredible, spirit-lifting music. Here's a 4-minute chamber cantata from Luigi Rossi (1597-1653) joyfully played by the European group L'Arpeggiata that's guaranteed to thrill.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Does Shroud Contain Jesus' Death Certificate?

Medieval manuscript page depicting Jesus's burial with shroud.

The mysterious Shroud of Turin is back in the news this week, this time with an argument for its authenticity as the death shroud that covered Jesus from the period following his crucifixion until his resurrection.

In October, scientists pronounced the shroud as a medieval forgery after they duplicated an imprint onto linen using materials existing in the 14th Century. A 1988 carbon dating of a fragment of the cloth has dated it to the Middle Ages, when the initial forgery is claimed to have occurred.

Now, however, a Vatican scholar says she has deciphered Jesus’s “death certificate” from writing obscured on the shroud, by implication placing its origin back to the time of the resurrection.

"I think I have managed to read the burial certificate of Jesus the Nazarene, or Jesus of Nazareth," says Dr. Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican secret archives. She said she reconstructed it from fragments of Greek, Hebrew and Latin writing imprinted on the cloth together with the image of the crucified man.

The letters, barely visible to the naked eye, were first spotted during an examination of the shroud in 1978, and others have since come to light.

According to the London Times:
Some scholars have suggested that the writing is from a reliquary attached to the cloth in medieval times. But Dr Frale said that the text could not have been written by a medieval Christian because it did not refer to Jesus as Christ but as "the Nazarene." This would have been "heretical" in the Middle Ages since it defined Jesus as "only a man" rather than the Son of God.

Like the image of the man himself the letters are in reverse and only make sense in negative photographs. Dr Frale told La Repubblica that under Jewish burial practices current at the time of Christ in a Roman colony such as Palestine, a body buried after a death sentence could only be returned to the family after a year in a common grave.

A death certificate was therefore glued to the burial shroud to identify it for later retrieval, and was usually stuck to the cloth around the face. This had apparently been done in the case of Jesus even though he was buried not in a common grave but in the tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea.
Frale ~ best known for her studies of the Knights Templar ~ said she had deciphered "the death sentence on a man called Jesus the Nazarene. If that man was also Christ the Son of God it is beyond my job to establish. I did not set out to demonstrate the truth of faith.”

Click here for the London Times article.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Context: Follow Your Bliss

Medieval depiction of the Wheel of Fortune.

This morning I was re-reading a transcription of the landmark 1988 televised PBS series The Power of Myth where one of America’s leading mythologists, Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), was interviewed by Bill Moyers ~ a series that helped popularize Campbell and his well-known advice to “Follow your bliss.”

Campbell’s original message has been subject to distortion over the years, so here’s a verbatim explanation from The Power of Myth. In a discussion on sacrifice and bliss, Campbell first uttered the phrase and then Moyers followed up:

Moyers: What happens when you follow you bliss?

Campbell: You come to bliss. In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There’s the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. For example, if you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above, going down, or at the bottom, coming up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. That is the sense of the marriage vow ~ I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty: going up or going down. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth that you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you. That is following your bliss.

Moyers: How would you advise somebody to tap that spring of eternal life, that bliss that is right there?

Campbell: We are having experiences all the time that may on occasion render some sense of this, a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depth.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Startling Social Experiment on Beauty

In the Washington DC metro station one chilly morning, a young man played six classical pieces on a violin, with his case opened to accept donations.

During the 45 minutes he played, just over 1,000 people passed by.

He played for three minutes before a man paused to watch. After seven minutes, a woman dropped the first dollar into his case. After 10 minutes, a three-year-old boy stopped to listen but his mother tugged him away ~ an act repeated several times with children and their parents.

At the end of the 45 minutes, the musician had collected $32. He left without collecting a single applause.

The musician that morning was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists. He had been playing some of the most intricate violin music ever written ~ including the “Chaconne” from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor ~ on an 18th century Stradivari violin valued at $3.5 million. Two days earlier, the young virtuoso had sold out Symphony Hall in Boston at $100 a seat.

The metro-station performance was part of a 2007 experiment sponsored by the Washington Post about people’s perceptions and priorities. The question: In a commonplace environment, at a regular hour, do we perceive and appreciate beauty?

Click here for the complete Washington Post article.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are Dreams a Tune-Up for the Coming Day?

For years I’ve been fascinated by our nighttime dreams and have researched the topic enough to know that, essentially, nobody knows much about what we dream or why we dream it. Still some theories ~ most of them stemming from psychological research ~ are more widely accepted than others.

Now, somebody’s really rocking the boat. Harvard psychiatrist and sleep researcher J. Allan Hobson contends the main function of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep ~ which is when dreaming usually occurs ~ is the brain warming its circuits in anticipation the sights and sounds of the coming day.

“It helps explain a lot of things, like why people forget so many dreams,” Hobson told the New York Times. “It’s like jogging ~ the body doesn’t remember every step, but it knows it has exercised. It has been tuned up. It’s the same idea here: dreams are tuning the mind for conscious awareness.”

According to the Times article:
These novel ideas about dreaming are based partly on basic findings about REM sleep. In evolutionary terms, REM appears to be a recent development; it is detectable in humans and other warm-blooded mammals and birds. And studies suggest that REM makes its appearance very early in life — in the third trimester for humans, well before a developing child has experience or imagery to fill out a dream.

Scientists have found evidence that REM activity helps the brain build neural connections, particularly in its visual areas. The developing fetus may be “seeing” something, in terms of brain activity, long before the eyes ever open — the developing brain drawing on innate, biological models of space and time, like an internal virtual-reality machine.

Full-on dreams, in the usual sense of the word, come much later. Their content, in this view, is a kind of crude test run for what the coming day may hold.
None of this is to say that dreams are devoid of meaning. Anyone who can remember a vivid dream knows that at times the strange nighttime scenes reflect real hopes and anxieties: the young teacher who finds himself naked at the lectern; the new mother in front of an empty crib, frantic in her imagined loss.
But people can read almost anything into the dreams that they remember, and they do exactly that, according to the Times. In a recent study of more than 1,000 people, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard found strong biases in the interpretations of dreams. For instance, the participants tended to attach more significance to a negative dream if it was about someone they disliked, and more to a positive dream if it was about a friend.

In fact, research suggests that only about 20 percent of dreams contain people or places that the dreamer has encountered. Most images appear to be unique to a single dream.

Click here for the complete New York Times article.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Most Important Rule

Since I was a child, the “golden rule” has been important to me. Even at a young age I considered it the one rule of conduct that made perfect sense. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What could be clearer, less complicated?

But its simplicity is deceptive. Behaving consistently in accord with the golden rule is hard work, drawing upon deep reserves of compassion and humility. I have not always been successful in practicing it.

If you can take the time, please consider this 9-minute video to be a brief sermon by one of the world’s premier religious historians, Karen Armstrong. Right up front she notes that every major faith in the world has its own version of the golden rule, and then she adds:
“If we don’t manage to implement the golden rule, globally, so that we treat all peoples ~ whoever and wherever they may be ~ as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.”
I fear she's right.

(Incidentally, the “Ted” she speaks of is the Technology, Entertainment, Design organization, helping the world’s foremost thinkers to get their message out to a broad audience.)

'Be Fruitful and Multiply'

Immaculate Conception by Francisco de Solis, 1682.

Researchers are finding strong correlation between teenage birth rates and the prevalence of religious beliefs in particular states within the US. The lack of contraception ~ not the lack of abortions ~ appears to be the reason.
"Our findings by themselves do not, of course, permit causal inferences. But, if we may speculate on the most probable explanation, we conjecture that religious communities in the US are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself," says Joseph Strayhorn, an adjunct faculty member with Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh.
Researchers used data from the Pew Forum's US Religious Landscapes Survey and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine state-level effects of belief on teen birth rates.
"The magnitude of the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate astonished us,” Strayhorn said. “Teen birth is more highly correlated with some of the religiosity items on the Religious Landscapes Survey than some of those items are correlated with each other."
The religiosity of a state was determined by averaging the percents of respondents who agreed with the eight most conservative opinions possible in the Religious Landscapes Survey, such as ‘There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion’ or ‘Scripture should be taken literally, word for word.’”

Click here for the ScienceDaily article.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Musical Interlude ~ "We Are All Connected"

This video strikes me as odd and yet beautifully meaningful, with the words of prominent physicists put to popular music. It’s part of the “Symphony of Science” being created by John Boswell using clips from Nova, Cosmos and other television programs. This 4-minute piece uses astrochemist Carl Sagan, quantum physicist Richard Feynman, “Science Guy” Bill Nye and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and is titled “We Are All Connected.”

Watch it, absorb it, and you won’t forget it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

World Peace Depends Entirely on "Know Thyself"

S.N. Goenka, now 85, here presents a familiar message that we all need to be frequently reminded of: Peace and harmony ~ even on a global scale ~ must begin inside of you, the individual. Goenka is one of the world's foremost teachers of Vipassana meditation and here is shown speaking at the United Nations in 2000. This is a much-needed, 4-minute reminder. If you like it, there's a deeper, 11-minute clip also on YouTube.

Number 58 ~ THE JOYOUS

The Joyous. Success.
Perseverance is favorable.

The joyous mood is infectious and therefore brings success. But joy must be based on steadfastness if it is not to degenerate into uncontrolled mirth. Trust and strength must dwell in the heart, while gentleness reveals itself in social intercourse. In this way, one assumes the right attitude toward God and man and achieves something. Under certain conditions, intimidation without gentleness may achieve something momentarily, but not for all time. When, on the other hand, the hearts of men are won by friendliness, they are led to take all hardships upon themselves willingly, and if need be, will not shun death itself, so great is the power of joy over men.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is Rudeness the Legacy of Regional Disease?

If you travel much at all, you know some parts of a country are populated by mostly friendly people and some parts … well, you’re glad to be just passing through. Now, biologists are showing that a geographical history of disease has a big bearing on how welcoming people are to strangers.

According to Smithsonian magazine:
In a series of high-profile papers, biologists Corey Fincher and Randy Thornhill, both at the University of New Mexico, and Mark Schaller and Damian Murray of the University of British Columbia argue that one factor, disease, ultimately determines much of who we are and how we behave.

... Consistently, in regions where deadly diseases are more common, people are more xenophobic, more strongly focused on the welfare of their group, and less likely to be nice to strangers. Where diseases are more prevalent, individuals are less open to meeting strangers and to new experiences. Where diseases are more prevalent, cultures and languages differ more from one another. Sure enough, all of the scientists' predictions seem to hold, or at least to not be easily refuted. If you meet someone who is wary or even openly hostile to you, who bows or shake hands rather than kisses and in general keeps their distance, chances are they come from someplace with a terrible prevalence of disease.
In writing the article, Rob Dunn ~ himself a biologist at North Carolina State University and the author of "Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys" ~ concludes:
In the meantime, we go on living our lives, imagining that we decide for ourselves who we are and how to act. But when the flu comes back this fall, watch your neighbors. Watch to see if their actions change. If Fincher and Thornhill are right, wherever the flu strikes, people will become more wary of strangers. Hands once extended freely will search for pockets. Where the disease is worst, the changes will be most rapid and extreme. Whole countries may even shutter their borders. Because while it is very hard to predict the evolution of H1N1 and the deaths it will cause, at least to Fincher the changes in our own actions may be more foreseeable. We are like small boats, pushed and pulled in the tides of disease.
Click here for the Smithsonian article.

Study Projects Some Evolutionary Traits

Human evolution remains in the news these days, and seems less to do with Charles Dawin’s 200th birthday than with some significant new studies being released by prominent biologists. For example, Yale University evolutionary biologist Stephen Stearns recently led a team focusing on women’s fertility in Framingham, Massachusetts, including some interesting evolutionary predictions.

"Variations in reproductive success still exist among humans, and therefore some traits related to fertility continue to be shaped by natural selection," Stearns says.

According to Time Magazine:
Stearns' team examined the vital statistics of 2,238 postmenopausal women participating in the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked the medical histories of some 14,000 residents of Framingham, Mass., since 1948. Investigators searched for correlations between women's physical characteristics — including height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels — and the number of offspring they produced.

According to their findings, it was stout, slightly plump (but not obese) women who tended to have more children — "Women with very low body fat don't ovulate," Stearns explains — as did women with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using a sophisticated statistical analysis that controlled for any social or cultural factors that could impact childbearing, researchers determined that these characteristics were passed on genetically from mothers to daughters and granddaughters.

If these trends were to continue with no cultural changes in the town for the next 10 generations, by 2409 the average Framingham woman would be 2 cm (0.8 in) shorter, 1 kg (2.2 lb.) heavier, have a healthier heart, have her first child five months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later than a woman today, the study found.
"That rate of evolution is slow but pretty similar to what we see in other plants and animals. Humans don't seem to be any exception," Stearns says.

Click here for the Time Magazine article.

Parallels with the Civil War?

Given the extraordinarily divisive political nature of our country today, I'm intrigued with this astrological reading on the United States by British astrologer Liz Greene. She’s one of the world’s most well-known astrologers, author of several best-selling books on the subject, a practicing Jungian analyst and co-director of the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London.

She based this 2005 reading on the Sibly chart ~ derived from eye-witness accounts of the signing of the Declaration of Independence ~ that puts the birth of the United States precisely at 4:50 p.m. on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. Greene's reading covers the period in the U.S. from 2008 to 2024.

Here’s what I found interesting:

In the horoscope of the United States, Pluto, as it moves through Capricorn, is opposing the Sun in the natal chart, reflecting major and irrevocable changes on many levels. This aspect has occurred only once before in American history, during the period of the Civil War. Although it is not intrinsically an aspect of war, it challenges the deepest definitions of what constitutes nationhood, and raises many issues of autonomy and the way in which the government is structured and how much authority it may or may not exercise.The deeper issues underlying the Civil War concerned not only human rights, but also the autonomy of the individual states comprising the nation, and these issues may once again rise to the surface as new ways of defining the national identity are proposed.

She goes on to describe some other astrological attributes of the U.S., then concludes with:

Whether or not you favour these changes personally, it would seem that a time has arrived when there is a great new opportunity to affirm the values and ideals of the original founding of the nation, applicable not only to government and to foreign relations, but also to the land itself and the resources inherent in it.

Click here to read the full chart.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Brain's Release of Endorphins Causes Placeo Effect

New research suggests that placebos work because your belief system tells your brain to block the pain or discomfort. In the study, researchers found that when patients expect a treatment to be effective, the brain area responsible for pain control is activated, causing the release of natural endorphins.

These endorphins then send a cascade of instructions down to the spinal cord to suppress incoming pain signals and patients feel better, regardless of whether the treatment ~ a pill or some other medical intervention ~ had any authentic direct effect.

According to the London Times:
The sequence of events in the brain closely mirrors the way opioid drugs, such as morphine, work ~ adding weight to the view that the placebo effect is grounded in physiology.

The finding strengthens the argument that many established medical treatments derive part of their effectiveness from the patients’ expectation that the drugs will make them better.

The latest studies on antidepressants suggest that at least 75 per cent of the benefit comes from the placebo effect. GPs also observe that patients report feeling better only days after being prescribed antidepressants, even though the direct effects take several weeks to kick in.
In the study, published this week in the journal Science, the spinal cords of 15 healthy volunteers were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The scan examined the dorsal horn, which transmits pain signals coming up through the spinal cord into the pain-related areas in the brain.
During the scan, the volunteers received laser “pinpricks” to their hands. The volunteers were told that a pain-relief cream had been applied to one of their hands and a control cream to the other. But unknown to the volunteers, an identical control cream was administered to both hands.

When people believed that they had received the active cream, they reported feeling 25 per cent less pain and showed significantly reduced activity in the spinal cord pathway that processes pain.
“We’ve shown that psychological factors can influence pain at the earliest stage of the central nervous system, in a similar way to drugs like morphine,” said Falk Eippert, of the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, who led the study.

Click here for the London Times article.

Fingerprint Says Painting May Be By da Vinci

A portrait of a young woman ~originally believed to be a 19th century German painting ~ may actually have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, said that a fingerprint on the canvas has convinced art experts that it's actually a Leonardo.

One London art dealer now says it could be worth more than $150 million. If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years.

According to the Associated Press:
Biro said the print of an index or middle finger was found on the artwork and that it matched a fingerprint from Leonardo's "St. Jerome" in the Vatican. Biro examined multispectral images of the drawing taken by the Luminere Technology laboratory in Paris. The lab used a special digital scanner to show successive layers of the work.

"Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," Biro said. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint."
Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence had experts believing they had found a Leonardo as early as last year. The discovery of the fingerprint now has them convinced.

"I would say it is priceless. There aren't that many Leonardos in existence," Biro said.

Click here for the Associated Press article.
Photo shows location of the fingerprint on the canvas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Humans Are Evolving at Supercharged Pace

Evolutionary opener from Space Odyssey 2001.

You may think humans haven’t evolved for millennia, but new genomics data describes the past 40,000 years as a period of supercharged human evolutionary change, driven by exponential population growth and cultural shifts.

A team led by University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks has estimated that positive selection just in the past 5,000 years alone ~ dating back to the Stone Age ~ has occurred at a rate roughly 100 times higher than any other period of human evolution.

Many of the new genetic adjustments are driven by changes in the human diet brought on by the advent of agriculture, and resistance to epidemic diseases that became major killers after the growth of human civilizations.

"In evolutionary terms, cultures that grow slowly are at a disadvantage, but the massive growth of human populations has led to far more genetic mutations," says Hawks. "And every mutation that is advantageous to people has a chance of being selected and driven toward fixation. What we are catching is an exceptional time."

According to a University of Wisconsin press release:
While the correlation between population size and natural selection was a core premise of Charles Darwin, Hawks says the ability to bring quantifiable evidence to the table is a new and exciting outgrowth of the Human Genome Project.

The researchers identify recent genetic change by finding long blocks of DNA base pairs that are connected. Because human DNA is constantly being reshuffled through recombination, a long, uninterrupted segment of LD is usually evidence of positive selection. Linkage disequilibrium decays quickly as recombination occurs across many generations, so finding these uninterrupted segments is strong evidence of recent adaptation, Hawks says.

Employing this test, the researchers found evidence of recent selection on approximately 1,800 genes, or 7 percent of all human genes.
The biggest new pathway for selection relates to disease resistance, Hawks says. As people starting living in much larger groups and settling in one place roughly 10,000 years ago, epidemic diseases such as malaria, smallpox and cholera began to dramatically shift mortality patterns in people.

Click here for the Daily Galaxy article.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Likely Site of Fabled Labyrinth is Found

Ancient vase depiction of Theseus slaying the Minotaur.

A team of Greek and English scholars believe they have discovered a likely location for the site of the ancient Labyrinth, the legendary maze where the mythical Minotaur supposedly roamed. The elaborate network of underground tunnels is in an old stone quarry near the town of Gortyn, formerly the Roman capital of Crete.

For the last century, the town of Knossos ~ about 20 miles from Gortyn ~ has been touted as the location of the Labyrinth. According to London’s The Indepdendent:
Nicholas Howarth, an Oxford University geographer who led the expedition (to Gortyn), said there was a danger of Gortyn being lost from the story of the Labyrinth because of the overpowering position that Knossos had taken in the legend, a position fostered by Arthur Evans, a wealthy English archaeologist who excavated the site between 1900 and 1935.

"People come not just to see the controversial ruins excavated and reconstructed by Evans, but also to seek a connection to the mythical past of the Age of Heroes. It is a shame that almost all visitors to Knossos have never heard of these other possible 'sites' for the mythical Labyrinth," Mr Howarth said.
Visitors to Knossos are told the site was almost certainly the home of the legendary King Minos, who was said to have constructed the Labyrinth for the Minotaur, a monster resulting from the mating of the king’s wife with a bull.

But the caves at Gortyn ~ known locally as the Labyrinthos Caves ~ are nearly three miles of interlocking tunnels with widened chambers and dead-end rooms, closer to the ancient descriptions of the Labyrinth.

"Going into the Labyrinthos Caves at Gortyn, it's easy to feel that this is a dark and dangerous place where it is easy to get lost,” Howarth says. “Evans' hypothesis that the palace of Knossos is also the Labyrinth must be treated skeptically."

Click here for the article in The Independent.
Post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2012: And So the Hysteria Begins

Conceptual artwork by Barbara McGunigal.

The countdown has 38 months left until December 21, 2012, and already low-grade hysteria about the end of the world is occurring. According to the Associated Press in a 2012 status report:
At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" website, says people are scared.
"It's too bad that we're getting emails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up."
Triggering this unfortunate example, of course, is the ancient Mayan calendar, which already is the source of considerable debate.
The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy. Its Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.
"It's a special anniversary of creation," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they're just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six."
For the blissfully ignorant, Monument Six is a stone tablet found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s. Parts of the tablet were stolen upon its discovery, but the remaining parts contain the equivalent of the date 2012. The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.

The Associated Press article recites some of the arguments from believers and non-believers and is just a hint of what we can expect from the media over the next three years. I’d say the kickoff for the real hysteria will be the opening next month of the movie “2012,” with its incredible special effects depicting earthquakes, meteor showers and a killer tsunami.

Click here for the Associated Press article.
Click here for a “Year 2012” blog with lots of links.
Click here for more artwork by Barbara McGunigal.

"The Universe Loves Gratitude"

The so-called Law of Attraction and use of "affirmations" both get a lot of harsh criticism these days, but my experience is that there's something valid about both. It may be something as minor as the fact that life is better if you can be positive instead of dwelling in a world of negativity. Or it may be something as major as creating shifts in physical levels of vibration that put you in sync with similar vibrational patterns and therefore attract more of the same, as stated in basic physics.

Either way, my belief is: What's the harm?

And one of the most effective proponents of positive, affirmative thinking is Louise Hay, who's living proof of what she teaches. If you like this 5-minute clip, I have a couple more of her clips on Quantum Spirit ~ just click on the Louise Hay label below.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Could the Higgs Boson Travel Back in Time?

The Hadron Collider's superconducting solenoid magnet.

There’s been no shortage of bizarre hypotheses surrounding the Large Hadron Collider located near Geneva, but the New York Times this week publicized the strangest of all. In essence, if the $9 billion collider can actually produce the Higgs boson, it could ….

Well, here’s the way the Times put it:
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.
The scientists in question are Holger Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan.
“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them."
If you’re a fan of science fiction or even of science that’s stranger than fiction, you’ll no doubt be intrigued with what Nielsen and Ninomiya say on the matter.

Click here for the New York Times article.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brain Has Electrical Surge Just Before Death

In the moments before death, the human brain surges with activity, which some researchers believe may be related to near-death experiences (NDEs).

Seven patients dying from critical illnesses recently were studied by doctors at George Washington University. Moments before death, the patients experienced a burst in brain wave activity, with the spikes occurring at the same time before death and at comparable intensity and duration.

Writing in the October issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine, the doctors theorize that the brain surges may be tied to widely reported near-death experiences which typically involve spiritual or religious attributes.

According to Discovery News:
At first, doctors thought the electrical surges picked up by electroencephalographs were caused by other machines or cell phones in the rooms of dying patients, lead author Lakhmir Chawla told Discovery News.

"We thought 'Hey, that was odd. What was that?'" Chawla said. "We thought there was a cell phone or a machine on in the room that created this anomaly. But then we started removing things, turning off cell phones and machines, and we saw it was still happening."

The doctors believe they are seeing the brain's neurons discharge as they lose oxygen from lack of blood pressure.

"All the neurons are connected together and when they lose oxygen, their ability to maintain electrical potential goes away," Chawla said. "I think when people lose all their blood flow, their neurons all fire in very close proximity and you get a big domino effect. We think this could explain the spike."
Brain researcher Kevin Nelson at the University of Kentucky, who studies near-death experiences, said it's well known that when the brain is abruptly deprived of blood flow it gives off a burst of high voltage energy. "It's unlikely with conventional brain wave recordings during death that they're going to see something that hasn't been seen already." he said.

Chawla and colleagues want to follow up their case study with a larger pool of patients outfitted with more sophisticated brain activity sensors.

Click here for the Discovery News article.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Man is the Great Danger"

In this one-minute clip, the famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) warns us about ourselves. "Man is the great danger," he stresses, "and we are pitifully unaware of it." While his assessment is harsh, his words are wise in encouraging much more study of the human mind and its capacity for evil. For only through a better understanding can we, as the human race, improve.
Number 6 ~ CONFLICT

Conflict. You are sincere
And are being obstructed.
A cautious halt halfway brings good fortune.
Going through to the end brings misfortune.
It furthers one to see the great man.
It does not further one to cross the great water.

Conflict develops when one feels him or herself to be in the right and runs into opposition. If one is not convinced of being in the right, opposition leads to craftiness or high-handed encroachment, but not to open conflict.

If a man is entangled in a conflict, his only salvation lies in being so clear-headed and inwardly strong that he is always ready to come to terms by meeting the opponent halfway. To carry on the conflict to the bitter end has evil effects even when one is in the right, because the enmity is then perpetuated. It is important to see the great man, that is, an impartial man whose authority is great enough to terminate the conflict amicably or assure a just decision. In times of strife, crossing the great water is to be avoided, that is, dangerous enterprises require concerted unity of forces. Conflict within weakens the power to conquer danger without.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Familiar Situations Provoked Athens' Downfall

Artist's conception of Athens in its glory.

Ancient Athens imploded during the 4th century BC amid a crippling economic downtown as its army fought unpopular wars on foreign soil and immigrants surged across its borders.

Cambridge University professor Michael Scott in his new study entitled From Democrats to Kings, contends that the collapse of Greek democracy and of Athens in particular offer a stark warning from history which is often overlooked.

"In many ways this was a period of total uncertainty just like our own time," Scott told "There are grounds to consider whether we want to go down the same route that Athens did.”

According to
It was not the loss of its empire and defeat in war against Sparta at the end of the 5th century that heralded the death knell of Athenian democracy ~ as it is traditionally perceived. Athens' democracy in fact recovered from these injuries within years. Instead, Dr. Scott argues that the strains and stresses of the 4th century BC, which our own times seem to echo, proved too much for the Athenian democratic system and ultimately caused it to destroy itself.

"If history can provide a map of where we have been, a mirror to where we are right now and perhaps even a guide to what we should do next, the story of this period is perfectly suited to do that in our times," Dr. Scott said.

"It shows how an earlier generation of people responded to similar challenges and which strategies succeeded. It is a period of history that we would do well to think about a little more right now ~ and we ignore it at our peril."
The name of "democracy," for example, became an excuse to turn on anyone regarded as an enemy of the state. Scott's study also marks an attempt to recognize figures such as Isocrates and Phocion ~ sage political advisers who tried unsuccessfully to steer Athens away from crippling confrontations with other Greek states and Macedonia.

Click here for the article.
Post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.

Friday, October 9, 2009

When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bombing the Moon

Anyone with even a brief exposure to astrology knows how vitally important the Moon is to this arcane practice, so it makes sense that the astrological community might be upset with NASA’s plan to bomb the Moon tomorrow morning in search of traces of lunar water. (If you haven’t heard about it, here’s NASA’s explanation.) One of the most cogent analyses appeared yesterday from respected astrologer Melody Scott Zindell of Boulder, Colorado. Here are some snippets she posted on her blog under the title "Bombing the Moon and Karma." It's best read in its entirety.

The chart for this event is strikingly graphic. In astrology, the Moon correlates with the sign Cancer, and the nodal axis of the Moon is what is being referred to when we use the terms North and South Nodes. This event chart shows Mars conjunct the South Node in Cancer at 26 degrees. Mars is the archetypal warrior. It is how we get what we want and governs anger and aggression.

. . . This event may be a karmic gateway that really shakes things up. In astrology, the Lunar Nodes have always been associated with karma. We are not born blank canvases to be painted on by others. We come in with definite personalities, gifts, challenges and lessons we seem to be fatefully pulled to learn.

. . . The last time the Nodes were in this same position (late 1990) the Persian Gulf War was started and the World Wide Web was taking off. We also had the largest deployment of women in military history. The cycle before that (late April 1972) Nixon authorized a massive bombing attack with the Vietnam war, privately saying, “The bastards have never been bombed like they're going to bombed this time.” Protests against the bombings erupted in the US. This is also the summer that terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and the attempted assassination of Gov. Wallace. This time around war and the threat of war abounds while we go off planet with our aggressive orientation and bomb the Moon.

Click here for Melody Scott Zindell's blog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nonsense Can Lead to Finding Unseen Patterns

Illustration for Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky."

Nonsense and anomalies can befuddle us, but out of our confusion can come some of our most creative thinking. New research is showing that, faced with nonsensical situations, our minds seek patterns we would otherwise might have missed.

“We’re so motivated to get rid of that feeling (being perplexed) that we look for meaning and coherence elsewhere,” Travis Proulx of the University of California tells the New York Times. “We channel the feeling into some other project, and it appears to improve some kinds of learning.”

According to the Times:
Researchers have long known that people cling to their personal biases more tightly when feeling threatened. After thinking about their own inevitable death, they become more patriotic, more religious and less tolerant of outsiders, studies find. When insulted, they profess more loyalty to friends — and when told they’ve done poorly on a trivia test, they even identify more strongly with their school’s winning teams.

In a series of new papers, Dr. Proulx and Steven J. Heine, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, argue that these findings are variations on the same process: maintaining meaning, or coherence. The brain evolved to predict, and it does so by identifying patterns.

When those patterns break down — as when a hiker stumbles across an easy chair sitting deep in the woods, as if dropped from the sky — the brain gropes for something, anything that makes sense. It may retreat to a familiar ritual, like checking equipment. But it may also turn its attention outward, the researchers argue, and notice, say, a pattern in animal tracks that was previously hidden. The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.
Brain-imaging studies of people evaluating anomalies, or working out unsettling dilemmas, show that activity in an area called the anterior cingulate cortex spikes significantly. The more activity is recorded, the greater the motivation to seek and correct errors in the real world, the research suggests.

Click here for the New York Times article.

Deforestation May Have Destroyed Mayan Culture

Mayan mural depicting the god of maize.

Using computer-based simulations and space-based imaging, a NASA-funded project is providing strong evidence that the once-vibrant Mayan culture destroyed itself through extreme deforestation.

"They did it to themselves," says veteran archeologist Tom Sever. According to NASA sources:
A major drought occurred about the time the Maya began to disappear. And at the time of their collapse, the Maya had cut down most of the trees across large swaths of the land to clear fields for growing corn to feed their burgeoning population. They also cut trees for firewood and for making building materials.

"They had to burn 20 trees to heat the limestone for making just 1 square meter of the lime plaster they used to build their tremendous temples, reservoirs, and monuments," explains Sever.

. . . "By interpreting infrared satellite data, we've located hundreds of old and abandoned cities not previously known to exist. The Maya used lime plaster as foundations to build their great cities filled with ornate temples, observatories, and pyramids. Over hundreds of years, the lime seeped into the soil. As a result, the vegetation around the ruins looks distinctive in infrared to this day."
Drought also made it more difficult for the Maya to store enough water to survive the dry season. "The cities tried to keep an 18-month supply of water in their reservoirs," says Sever. "For example, in Tikal there was a system of reservoirs that held millions of gallons of water. Without sufficient rain, the reservoirs ran dry."

For 1200 years, the Maya dominated Central America. At their peak around 900 AD, Maya cities teemed with more than 2,000 people per square mile ~ comparable to modern Los Angeles County. Even in rural areas, the Maya numbered 200 to 400 people per square mile.

Click here for the NASA article.
Post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Monster in the Sublime

The mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-87) was a true sage. I’ve known of very few people who could collect such a vast array of knowledge from many cultures and still weave the diverse strands together into a meaningful, spiritual fabric.

Here he discusses the meaning of sublime, reminding us that, even in the sublime, there are monsters. And these monsters may in some way contribute to our bliss.

Listen and ponder.

{ I regret that the Joseph Campbell Foundation has ordered video clips from his "Power of Myth" series to be removed from YouTube. I'll keep this post here, however, because some of you made comments. I wish the Foundation had not deprived us of the man's wisdom in this way.}

Scientists Accurately Reproduce Shroud's Image

One of Christendom’s most revered relics ~ the linen shroud that allegedly covered Jesus after his crucifixion ~ was dealt a blow Monday when scientists announced they could reproduce the mysterious image of a wounded man, using techniques available in the 14th century.

The Shroud of Turin is believed by man to bear the figure of a crucified man, with blood seeping out of his wounds in his hands and feet. The shroud’s believers contend the image was impressed into the linen fibers supernaturally at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

The Italian Committee for Checking Claims on the Paranormal said Monday that new evidence points to the shroud as being a medieval forgery. According to the Associated Press:
In 1988, scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine it was made in the 13th or 14th century. But the dispute continued because experts couldn't explain how the faint brown discoloration was produced, imprinting on the cloth a negative image centuries before the invention of photography.

Many still believe that the shroud "has unexplainable characteristics that cannot be reproduced by human means," lead scientist Luigi Garlaschelli said in the statement. "The result obtained clearly indicates that this could be done with the use of inexpensive materials and with a quite simple procedure."
Garlaschelli said in an interview with La Repubblica daily that his team used a linen woven with the same technique as the shroud and artificially aged by heating it in an oven and washing it with water. The cloth was then placed on a student, who wore a mask to reproduce the face, and rubbed with red ochre, a well known pigment at the time.

The shroud is first recorded in history around 1360 in the hands of a French knight ~ a late appearance that is one of the reasons why some scientists are skeptical of its authenticity.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Number 61 ~ INNER TRUTH

Inner truth. Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.

Pigs and fishes are the least intelligent of all animals and therefore the most difficult to influence. The force of inner truth must grow great indeed before its influence can extend to such creatures. In dealing with persons as intractable and as difficult to influence as a pig or a fish, the whole secret of success depends on finding the right way of approach. One must first rid oneself of all prejudice and, so to speak, let the psyche of the other person act on one without restraint. Then one will establish contact with him, understand and gain power over him. When a door has thus been opened, the force of one’s personality will influence him. If in this way one finds no obstacles insurmountable, one can undertake even the most dangerous things, such as crossing the great water, and succeed.

But it is important to understand upon what the force of inner truth depends. This force is not identical with simple intimacy or a secret bond. Close ties may exist also among thieves; it is true that such a bond acts as a force but, since it is not invincible, it does not bring good fortune. All association on the basis of common interests holds only up to a certain point. Where the community of interest ceases, the holding together ceases also, and the closest friendship often changes into hate. Only when the bond is based on what is right, on steadfastness, will it remain so firm that it triumphs over everything.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Myth of Individual Entities

Bruce Lipton is a recognized expert in epigenetics. Here he presents a provocative concept concerning human evolution, demonstrating how the major evolutionary advances have concerned groups of entities, not individual entities. If true, the implications for humans are enormous. Take three minutes to hear what Lipton says.

His newest book is Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Titan's Tragedy Predates Titanic's

One rendition of the cover of Robertson's 1898 novel.

Here’s one for fans of prophetic writings. Today’s the birthday, in 1861, of Morgan Robertson, whose 1898 novel foretold in uncanny detail the sinking of the Titanic. In his book ~ originally titled Futility ~ the ocean liner was named the Titan.
  • Both ships sink on an April night in the North Atlantic, each after striking an iceberg.
  • Titan is 800 feet long, the Titanic was only 83 feet longer.
  • Titan weighs 45,000 tons, Titanic 46,328.
  • Both are filled with the cream of high society from either side of the Atlantic.
  • Both carry too few lifeboats. And in each case, the loss of life is appalling.
According to Wired magazine:
Whatever fame or notoriety accrued to Robertson for his prescient novel, which was republished in the wake of Titanic’s sinking in April 1912 (and retitled The Wreck of the Titan), it apparently wasn’t enough to overcome his inner torment. Robertson is believed to have committed suicide in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotel room in 1915, although an accidental overdose of the dubious over-the-counter medication protiodide is occasionally given as the cause of death.
Robertson also demonstrated his knack for forecasting events in a collection of short stories published in 1914. The book includes “Beyond the Spectrum,” which describes a future war between the United States and Japan, which is ignited by a Japanese surprise attack on American shipping, but not Pearl Harbor.

Click here for the Wired article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schizophrenia May Reside in Our DNA

DNA double helix, potentially harboring mental illness.

New genetic studies suggest that sections of our genetic code affect a person's risk for developing the schizophrenia. In three separate studies, researchers found that code involved in brain development, memory and the immune system may contribute to this puzzling disease.

The findings are important because schizophrenia has been so hard to study, says Kari Stefansson, CEO of the Icelandic company deCODE Genetics and an author of one of the studies. One reason is that schizophrenia doesn't occur in animals.

"It's a disease of thoughts and emotions, the two functions of the brain that define us as a species and define us as individuals," Stefansson told NPR.

Scientists have tried for decades to find differences between the brains of typical people and those with schizophrenia, but without much success. So Stefansson and a consortium of researchers from around the world decided to look for subtle differences in the genes of thousands of people. Some had schizophrenia; some didn't.

One place the studies found a clue about what might be going wrong in the brains of people with schizophrenia was in a gene responsible for a protein called neurogranin, which can affect memory and thought.

Click here for the NPR “All Things Considered” article.