Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UFOs from Middle Ages to Modern Times

I remember the thrill I felt from the 1960s well into the 1990s at the prospect of UFO sightings and alien abductions. To me they suggested something unknown, enchanting, and perhaps miraculous about the world we inhabit. They were proof that we couldn’t understand ~ couldn’t “prove” ~ everything that happened around us.

In contrast, this last decade has been a drought of UFO excitement. Most of the UFO information we encounter is recycled from past decades, and anyone who openly accepts the idea of UFOs or aliens is greeted with heaps of scorn and ridicule, except on the History Channel. That’s why I’m glad to see a new book by Jacques Vallee, a French astronomer and leading commenter on UFO phenomena. Vallee always has taken the broad view ~ including the possibilities of archetypal symbolism or other-dimensional activity ~ to better understand UFOs, and seems to be expanding his perspectives even more with Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times.

Here is a portion of his recent interview on about the new book.
Why is the idea of ancient UFO sightings a controversial one?
Most UFO believers believe the phenomenon began in 1947, when a civilian pilot named Kenneth Arnold saw several objects that he described as behaving like saucers skipping on water. And he saw them from his plane flying over Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington. And that was the beginning of the flying saucer era in the media. I came to a point where I wondered when the phenomenon had begun, and I found a lot of material describing objects that seemed to behave the same way [as UFOs] and entities [resembling aliens] that dated back to the Middle Ages. At that time they were called angels or demons or leprechauns or elves or fairies and so on. So I published a book called "Passport to Magonia" that caused something of a scandal with the believers, because I was shaking that idea that UFOs were a recent phenomenon.
Stephen Hawking has discounted reports of UFOs by suggesting they only appear to "cranks and weirdos?" Why don't you think these ancient witnesses were just delusional?
Because delusions have their own pattern, and these don't seem to fit them. A delusion is usually single-witness and there are many multiple-witness cases in the book. You also have authority figures, astronomers and well-known people making claims. You have Michelangelo seeing a triangle with three lights of different colors in the sky and making a painting of it. It's staggering when you hear modern scientists saying only idiots and crazy people report UFOs. The consuls in ancient Rome made a law that they had to have an annual report on any unexplained aerial phenomena. They were not looking for UFOs, they were looking for astrological warnings of famines, or revolutions and wars and death of emperors and that type of thing. Many of them were copied by historians, and they have survived. 
Click here for the complete interview.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Same Birth Chart, Similar Lives

People who question the basis of astrology—and there are plenty of them due to today’s sweeping misrepresentations of all things astrological—frequently raise the question of characteristics bestowed upon individuals at the time and place of birth. They wonder, for example, about two people born at the same time and same place. There are some anecdotal legends regarding the situation, but one of the most famous and well-documented examples I’ve run across is cited by historian Benson Bobrick in his 2005 book The Fated Sky: Astrology in History. And I quote:
One such famous case involved an English subject and his king. On June 4, 1738, in the parish of St. Martins-in-the-Fields, two boys were born less than a minute apart. One was William Frederick, later crowned George III, King of England; the other, James Hemmings, an ironmonger’s son. Widely separated by class, yet bound to a parallel fate, these two men, each in his own social sphere, lived out the edict of his stars. In October 1760, when George III succeeded his father on the throne, thereby fulfilling the purpose to which he was born, Hemmings took over his father’s business. Both men were married on September 8, 1761, fathered the same number of children (even, weirdly, the same number of boys and girls), suffered the same accidents, succumbed to the same diseases, and died within less than an hour of each other on Saturday, January 29, 1820.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Exchanging Vibration for Linear Time

Here the channeled Abraham-Hicks points out the importance of tweaking the way we view the world around us. The emphasis is away from linear time/space matters and focuses instead on emotional and vibrational aspects of our beliefs. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Research Reveals Clues to Phobia Creation

Scientists experimenting with images of tarantulas have concluded that the human brain responds differently to threats based on proximity, direction and how scary people expect something to be. While those conclusions are totally obvious, the recent experiments are revealing specifically what parts of the brain are involved in identifying and magnifying human fear.

Researchers in Cambridge, England used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track brain activity in 20 volunteers as they watched a tarantula placed near their feet.
"We've shown that it's not just a single structure in the brain, it's a number of different parts of the fear network and they are working together to orchestrate the fear response,” Dean Mobbs, who led the study, tells Reuters News. "It seems that when a spider moves closer to you, you see a switch from the anxiety regions of the brain to the panic regions." 
Volunteers were actually watching an elaborately rigged video of a tarantula which they believed was near their foot, since getting the spider to do the same thing for each volunteer would have been impossible.

The scientists also asked volunteers beforehand how scared they thought they might be of the tarantula. They found that those who thought they would be most scared had a false impression afterwards of how large the spider was. This so-called "expectation error" could be the key to people developing a phobia ~ an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain things, people, animals or situations.

"This may be one cognitive mechanism by which people acquire phobias," said Mobbs.

Click here for the complete Reuters article.
Click here for a Business Week article on the topic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writer Ponders Wiltshire's Crop Circles

Crop circle discovered in August in Wiltshire.

Here are excerpts from an interesting article appearing recently in the London Telegraph, written by Clive Aslet, a skeptic. The article describes his reactions to some of the new scientific findings.

. . . The archaeological features of this part of Britain are unique: only in southern England do you find white horses etched into hillsides, and there is no equivalent elsewhere to mysterious Silbury Hill. Crop circles are found in other parts of the globe, but not many. The 55 that have been spotted so far this year in Britain – mostly in Wessex – are more than half the total number observed throughout the world.

. . . Soil samples from beneath the circles that have been sent off for analysis in the States have apparently revealed traces of silica, suggesting exposure to intense heat – yet for so short a time that the crop does not burn up. Nevertheless, the wheat itself appears to be changed. Plant grain from a crop circle and it will grow taller and stronger than control samples, she insists, as though genetically modified.

It is widely believed in the crop-circle community that the shapes appear fully made, in a flash of light that illuminates the whole valley. “We don’t know where the energy comes from,” says Blake.

. . . Crop circles first appeared – or, as Blake would have it, were first noticed – in the Eighties. After a decade of speculation, during which it seemed that no human agency could be responsible for these miraculous designs, two men in their sixties stepped forward. Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed responsibility for a spectacular hoax, perpetrated not with sophisticated or extraterrestrial technology, but homespun equipment such as a plank and a length of rope. A baseball cap with a circle of wire attached to the visor provided a sight that could be aligned with an object on the horizon to keep the design steady. Case closed.

Well, not quite: certainly not to a community supported and reinforced by the internet and dedicated to finding alternative explanations. “We know that there are fakes,” says the study group’s bubbly administrator, Clare Oatley. “But as somebody said: ‘Just because a faker can copy a van Gogh, doesn’t mean that van Gogh didn’t exist.”’

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Isaac Newton Was Secret Alchemist

It turns out Sir Isaac Newton ~ one of the most influential scientists in history ~ was a closet alchemist. In fact, he was a passionate practitioner of alchemy for over three decades, according to Indiana University professor William Newman.

According to Discovery News:
Newton invented calculus, described the law of universal gravitation and built the first reflecting telescope. Just a few resume highlights for someone considered to be the most influential scientist in history.
That's why alchemy is a strange hobby for someone who clearly mastered the scientific method. Alchemy involves transmuting one element into another. Only not so much focusing on chemical reactions, as invoking spiritual and philosophical approaches.
Alchemy is now considered a pseudo-science. But even during its height, critics such as Chaucer characterized alchemists as charlatans, and it was banned by Pope John XXII and King Henry IV.
But before you think less of Newton, consider that most experimental scientists of the 17th century believed in it too. Professor Newman also counters that alchemists of the time were more similar to chemists than wannabe magicians. They helped create new drugs, brighter pigments and improved booze distillation.
Newton's involvement in alchemy was never fully secret, more like neglected, Newman believes. Only recently have science historians fully analyzed Newton's extensive writings on the subject.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Data Contradicts Mayan Calendar End Date

The Mayan Long Count calendar likely doesn’t end on December 21, 2012  ~ the date hyped by many apocalyptic thinkers ~ according to new research into the technique for translating the ancient calendar into Gregorian calendar years.

The research also contends that the actual end date of the Mayan calendar is essentially unknown within at least a 100-year span. In fact, the Mayan calendar may have already ended.

According to LiveScience:
A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.) 
The Mayan calendar was converted to today's Gregorian calendar using a calculation called the GMT constant, named for the last initials of three early Mayanist researchers. Much of the work emphasized dates recovered from colonial documents that were written in the Mayan language in the Latin alphabet, according to the chapter's author, Gerardo Aldana, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California.
Later, the GMT constant was bolstered by American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, who used data in the Dresden Codex Venus Table, a Mayan calendar and almanac that charts dates relative to the movements of Venus.
"He took the position that his work removed the last obstacle to fully accepting the GMT constant," Aldana said in a statement. "Others took his work even further, suggesting that he had proven the GMT constant to be correct." But according to Aldana, Lounsbury's evidence is far from irrefutable.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Astronomers Find 800 Trillion More Suns

Galaxy cluster, with older galaxies circled in yellow and younger in blue.

Astronomers have discovered the most massive galaxy cluster ever found, containing several hundred galaxies and a mind-boggling 800 trillion suns. Scientists at the South Pole can view the cluster as it appeared 7 billion years ago, when the universe was half its current age and before our solar system existed.

Despite its enormous size, the galaxy cluster ~ named SPT-CL J0546-5345 ~ was unseen until astronomers looked for distortions in the cosmic microwave background.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An Adventure in Magnitudes ~ The Power of Ten

I’d been thinking lately about the enormity of our universe, especially the concept that our universe is only one of many. Today I learned about this 10-minute film called “The Power of Ten.” Called an adventure in magnitudes, it begins on a picnic blanket near Chicago’s shore of Lake Michigan, then takes us to the farthest realm of our universe, moving 10 times farther out every 10 seconds. Then, in an interesting turnabout, it moves inward, back to the picnic blanket and into the atomic structure of a cell in the man’s hand.

As the Hermetic adage goes … “As above, so below.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Far From Brutes, Neanderthals Had Compassion

Neanderthal reconstruction in Prehistoric Museum of Halle, Germany.

New research indicates Neanderthals displayed “a deep seated sense of compassion” and were not the dumb brutes often depicted in archaeological lore.

“Compassion is perhaps the most fundamental human emotion,” researcher Penny Spikins of the University of York tells Discovery News. “It binds us together and can inspire us but it is also fragile and elusive. This apparent fragility makes addressing the evidence for the development of compassion in our most ancient ancestors a unique challenge, yet the archaeological record has an important story to tell about the prehistory of compassion."

Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four-stage model for the development of human compassion:
The first stage began six million years ago, according to the scientists, when the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees experienced the initial awakenings of an empathy for others and motivation to help them, perhaps with a gesture of comfort, or moving a branch to allow them to pass.
The second stage from 1.8 million years ago sees compassion in Homo erectus beginning to be regulated as an emotion integrated with rational thought. Care of sick individuals represented an extensive compassionate investment while the emergence of special treatment of the dead suggested grief at the loss of a loved one and a desire to soothe others feelings, the researchers conclude.
The third stage, based on findings from Europe between around 500,000 and 40,000 years ago, sees humans such as Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals developing deep-seated commitments to the welfare of others illustrated by a long adolescence and a dependence on hunting together. There is also archaeological evidence of the routine care of the injured or infirm over extended periods. These include the remains of a child with a congenital brain abnormality who was not abandoned, but lived until five or six years old. The researchers also note that there was a Neanderthal with a withered arm, deformed feet and blindness in one eye who must have been cared for, perhaps for as long as twenty years.
In the fourth stage, the scientists say modern humans starting 120,000 years ago extended compassion to strangers, animals, objects and abstract concepts. 
“We have traditionally paid a lot of attention to how early humans thought about each other,” Spikins adds, “but it may well be time to pay rather more attention to whether or not they ‘cared.’”

Click here for the complete Discovery News article.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Research Discovers Pathways for Neurotransmitters

Depiction of a neurotransmitter.

New research showing that the neurotransmitter serotonin uses a special pathway to regulate biological functions could greatly affect future therapies for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

The Scripps Research Institute study published in the October 6, 2010 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience contends serotonin has significant influence over control of perception, cognition, sleep, appetite, pain, and mood.

"Our study shows that while both serotonin and hallucinogens act at the serotonin 2A receptor, serotonin utilizes a very specific pathway and its actions are independent of those produced by hallucinogens," says Laura Bohn, an associate professor on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute. "Future drug discovery efforts to identify lead compounds for treatment of depression may consider focusing upon those that only engage that pathway. This work may also lend insight into the mechanisms that underlie the hallucinations that occur in schizophrenia."

This may be particularly important for the treatment of depression because traditional therapies ~ focusing on elevating serotonin levels ~ can sometimes produce serious side effects such as hallucinations, and is especially serious when antidepressants are mixed with monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Click here for the complete article.

Sea Census Finds Many Species Thought Extinct

The newly discovered Ceratonotus Steiningeri copepod.

The first global picture of life in the oceans was released this week. Some 2,700 scientists spent 9,000 days at sea to compile the Census of Marine Life, and they admit they have only scratched the surface of oceanic diversity.

In all, some 250,000 marine plant and animal species have now been formally described, out of the 1 million thought to exist.

"There are three to four unknown species for every known," says Paul Snelgrove of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John's, Canada.

The Census has so far added 1,200 new species to the tally, though that is likely to rise as over 5,000 more organisms that were collected have yet to be studied or named. The new species include several that were thought to have disappeared, such as the "Jurassic shrimp” thought to have died out 50 million years ago.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2012 ~ Epicenter of a Cultural Earthquake

Anyone following my Quantum Spirit blog for any length of time probably knows I have great respect for author and physicist Peter Russell. Here is his take on 2012, entitled "2012: Temporal Epicenter of a Cultural Earthquake."

I encourage you to view it for its profound insights into taking advantage of the changes that may already be entering our lives.

The script for his video appears on his blog "Spirit of Now." Here are the concluding paragraphs.
People sometimes talk about the winds of change. I think we’re heading into a storm of change. The question is how can we prepare ourselves for this, how can we cope with an increasingly unpredictable world?
We can get some clues by looking at what helps a tree survive a storm. 
First, it needs strong roots, so it does not blow over. Similarly, we need to be able to remain stable so that we are not shaken by every unexpected change. If we loose our inner balance, if we react emotionally to everything that happens, we end up getting more stressed and more likely to burn out.
Second, like a tree we also need to be flexible. We need to be able to move with the flow of change. This means letting go of past assumptions. We need to learn to think more clearly, allow new ideas in, let deeper intuitions and feelings come to the surface.
And third, just as a tree is much better off if it is protected by other trees in the forest, so too we will be much better able to withstand change if we have a strong sense of community. We need to care for each, support each other in times of need. We need to develop greater care and compassion, to open our hearts to kindness, and have our vision guide us in these turbulent times.
A longtime advocate of meditation and consciousness studies, Russell is author of several books including From Science to God, Waking Up in Time, The Consciousness Revolution, and The Brain Book, among others.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Study Shows Meditation Improves Attention Span

Ancient mandala with meditation symbols.

Inspired by Buddhist meditation techniques, researchers have determined that meditation improves people’s attention span and in distinguishing small differences in what they are viewing.

The recent study involved selecting 60 participants, then sending half of them to a meditation retreat while the rest waited their turn ~ and essentially functioned as the control group. All 60 were experienced meditators. The retreat for the study lasted about three months.

According to ScienceDaily:
At three points during the retreat, participants took a test on a computer to measure how well they could make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention. They watched a screen intently as lines flashed on it; most were of the same length, but every now and then a shorter one would appear, and the volunteer had to click the mouse in response. 
Participants got better at discriminating the short lines as the training went on. This improvement in perception made it easier to sustain attention, so they also improved their task performance over a long period of time. This improvement persisted five months after the retreat, particularly for people who continued to meditate every day. The task lasted 30 minutes and was very demanding. 
"Because this task is so boring and yet is also very neutral, it’s kind of a perfect index of meditation training," Katherine MacLean of the University of California and one of the authors of the study, told ScienceDaily. "People may think meditation is something that makes you feel good and going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That's what people think until they try it. Then you realize how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted."

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Earth's Volcanic Sites Reveal Planetary Pulse

Scientists are theorizing that several volcanic hot spots may be Earth’s planetary pulses, beating at a rate of five to 10 million years. Researchers in Norway, Hawaii and Australia suggest that the regular fluctuations originate in the Earth’s core, travel up through the mantle and create eruptions on the planet’s surface.

According to Discovery News:
Among the most famous hot spots are Hawaii, Yellowstone and Iceland. All of these sites have long histories of eruptive pulses that have burned through the slowly moving crust above like a cutting torch -- leaving a long, telltale wake of dead volcanoes made of progressively older rocks.
This is in contrast to other sorts of volcanoes, which are caused by shallower things, like one tectonic plate being shoved under another, then melting.
“Hot spots remain some of the greatest enigmas in earth science,” commented geologist Mike Coffin of the University of Tasmania, Australia. “Plate tectonic theory does not explain them.”
Some of these hot spots have been linked to vast eruptions that, in turn, are suspected of affecting some of the greatest mass extinctions in the history of life on Earth.

Click here for the Discovery News article.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Robert Walter, Joseph Campbell Foundation

Robert Walter, president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, talks about the consciousness-jarring impact of visions. In an elevated state of consciousness, these events can be spiritual blessings. But when we return to the mundane state, they can be negative. Sublimating them has led, Walter says, to creation of much of our mythology, literature, and religious teachings.

Götterdämmerung & Propaganda

I admit to seriously mixed feelings of fascination and revulsion when I watch this 8-minute 1941 German film entitled Stukas. Richard Wagner is among my Top Five favorite composers and here we see the remarkable curative strength of music, specifically from his 1876 Ring-cycle opera Götterdämmerung.

Trouble is, the miraculously cured patient in the film is a clinically depressed Nazi pilot who is hospitalized and then hears the soaring strains of Wagner’s music. The pilot is miraculously rejuvenated, rejoins his cheering squadron and takes to the air again to continue the Reich’s merciless bombing of Britain.

This clip’s Götterdämmerung music is worthy here, but I offer Stukas more as a clear example of how propaganda is structured and the type of story it tells. We live in an age where the propaganda is subtler, but it’s undeniably present, especially on some cable networks. Beware.

Thanks to Alex Ross, author of the excellent book The Rest is Noise, who earlier posted this film on his blog at 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Evidence Indicates Rapid Pole Shift

Just before we entered the new millennium in 2000, a flurry of books touted the apocalyptic prediction of a “pole shift,” where Earth’s magnetic pole would move from north to south with untold catastrophic damage. Originally discredited by most people as an outlandish scare tactic devised to sell books, the concept of shifting magnetic poles seems now to have much more scientific credence ~ though the pace is different and the effects not necessarily so dire.

Not only do pole shifts actually occur, but they happen rapidly in a geomagnetic sense, as new geological findings near Battle Mountain, Nevada, show. The new discovery reinforces similar findings in 1995 at the Steens Mountains in southeastern Oregon.

Describing the new Nevada find, Science News states:
Magnetic minerals in 15-million-year-old rocks appear to preserve a moment when the magnetic north pole was rapidly on its way to becoming the south pole, and vice versa. Such ‘geomagnetic field reversals’ occur every couple hundred thousand years, normally taking about 4,000 years to make the change. The Nevada rocks suggest that this particular switch happened at a remarkably fast clip.
The Nevada find indicates the magnetic pole shift occurs at about one degree a week, while the Oregon evidence indicates up to six degrees a day.
Researchers aren’t sure why the geomagnetic field reverses itself. Many think it must have something to do with what creates the field in the first place ~ convective motions of liquid iron in the planet’s spinning outer core.
The last stable reversal occurred 780,000 years ago, according to Science News. Some geologists argue Earth is overdue for a reversal and might even be entering one now, as the geomagnetic field has been getting weaker over the past 150 years or more.

Click here for the complete Science News article.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Transforming Fear

Picasso's 1937 painting, Guernica.

Robert Sardello calls himself a spiritual psychologist and his beliefs are rooting in the thinking of both Austrian philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner and Swiss psychological sage Carl Jung. There’s something about Sardello’s writing that awakens parts of my soul. When I read him ~ I’m now in my third Sardello book ~ it’s as if a deep-toned gong is being struck, sending out reverberations of truth.

I would not classify his 1999 book Freeing the Soul From Fear as your standard self-help book. His discussion of personal fear goes well beyond the familiar descriptions, and many of his observations of fear in today’s world are profound. Here’s a small sample:
Fear constitutes a much larger and more comprehensive presence than has yet been realized. Beginning in the nineteenth century, therapeutic psychology sought to identify the symptoms related to this phenomenon. The types of fear recognized included hysteria, behind which some trauma, real or imaged, was always to be found; shell shock or combat neurosis, now commonly called post-traumatic stress syndrome, which was first investigated after World War I; abuse and domestic violence; fear of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or fire; individual phobias such as panic attacks, anxieties, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. 
The reality of fear is far more wide-ranging, however. Working with victims of trauma does little to impede the larger presence of fear in the world. The goal is to become more conscious of what we are dealing with and to recognize that different fears require different capacity of soul to overcome them. The need is not to remove fear from the world, but instead to develop in ourselves the psychic capacity to confront its destructive power. In this realm, consciousness, coupled with love, is everything. Enlarging consciousness to include an awareness of soul allows a healthy struggle with fear, and love makes possible its transformation, not just within ourselves but also within the world.
I’ve not yet finished the book. His overall message, at this point, promises to be optimistic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Musical Interlude: "Teach Me to Dance"

Here's the wonderful dance scene from Michael Cocoyanis's film adaptation of Zorba the Greek, the 1946 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The story concerns the interplay of our earthy selves with our intellectual selves, represented by Alexis Zorba (played by Anthony Quinn) and Basil, a young English-Greek intellectual (played by Alan Bates), respectively. 

At one point in the book, Zorba recounts: "I felt once more how simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roasted chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness, is a simple and frugal heart."

In this famous scene, Basil ~ learning from Zorba how to enjoy life in all of its beauty and tragedy ~ asks Zorba to teach him to dance.

Click here for more about the book.
Click here for more about the film.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Want Premonitions? Loosen Up

In his fascinating new book, Larry Dossey ~ a physician who strives to bring scientific understanding to the realm of spirituality ~ discusses the nature of premonitions, focusing on recent research into their nature and causes. His book is The Power of Premonitions, and one of my favorite parts is Dossey’s advice to those who want to be more open to premonitions:
So here’s my advice for those who wish to be premonition-prone: court difference, variety, and ambiguity in your life. Relax and let go. Don't try too hard. Give up your pet ideas of how the world should work. Dabble in poetry; play with metaphors; shun literalism. Avoid habits, ruts, and routines. Make a place for variety, risk, novelty, playfulness, generosity, and mystery in your life. As Rumi advises, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Don‘t be too attached to results, because this will lead to an attempt to control and manipulate outcomes, which is toxic to the openness and flexibility you are seeking. If you do these things, you will probably discover that the universe meets you more than halfway, perhaps with premonitions as its calling card.
Seems to me to be a good recipe, in general, for leading a richer, more fulfilling and more interesting life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Triskaidekaphobia Has Several Ancient Sources

Norse god Loki from 17th century Icelandic manuscript.

For sufferers of triskaidekaphobia ~ dread of the numeral 13 ~ last Friday was the 2010’s most unlucky day. But it was the only Friday the 13th for the entire year, while 2009 had nine of them, the highest number of Friday the 13ths possible on the Gregorian calendar.

National Geographic News explores the topic in an article quoting from the book Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun by folklore historian Donald Dossey. In his book, Dossey explores both the origins of the unlucky sentiments regarding the number 13 and of Fridays.

According to National Geographic News:
Dossey traces the fear of the number 13 ~ aka, triskaidekaphobia ~ to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, Norse mythology's heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous god Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. "Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," Dossey said.
There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.
As for Friday, it's well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.
Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.
Some people are so paralyzed by Friday the 13th superstitions that they refuse to fly, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip, the article states. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Dossey.

Click here for the National Geographic article.
This post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Number 29 ~ THE ABYSMAL

The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

Through repetition of danger we grow accustomed to it. Water sets the example for the right conduct under such circumstances. It flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions. Thus likewise, if one is sincere when confronted with difficulties, the heart can penetrate the meaning of the situation. And once we have gained inner mastery of a problem, it will come about naturally that the action we take will succeed. In danger, all that counts is really carrying out all that has to be done ~ thoroughness ~ and going forward, in order not to perish through tarrying in the danger.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cosmic Rays Striking Earth in Puzzling Pattern

IceCube "skymap" showing varied cosmic ray intensity.

Cosmic rays ~ energy particles thought to originate in distant dead stars ~ are bombarding Earth in a pattern scientists find puzzling. They're are not arriving uniformly from all directions, but in an overabundance from one part of the sky and scarcity from another.

This odd pattern was detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory still under construction in Antarctica and intended to detect other exotic particles called neutrinos.

“IceCube was not built to look at cosmic rays ~ they are considered background,” University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Rasha Abbasi tells LiveScience. “However, we have billions of events of background downward cosmic rays that ended up being very exciting.”

Previous studies have found a similar lopsidedness in the sky over the Northern Hemisphere, but this was the first time scientists saw that the pattern extended to the southern sky visible from Antarctica.

“At the beginning, we didn't know what to expect,” Abbasi adds. “To see this extending to the Southern Hemisphere sky is an additional piece of the puzzle around this enigmatic effect ~ whether it's due to the magnetic field surrounding us or to the effect of a nearby supernova remnant, we don't know.”

Click here for the article.
Click here for similar 2008 NASA article.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bede Griffiths on the Power of Surrender

In this 3-minute video, Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) relates his profound experience of surrender, loss of fear, and gaining of unconditional love ~ a condition he believes exists within each of us. He studied at Oxford under C.S. Lewis, became a Benedictine monk and priest and moved to India in the 1950s to build a monastery. In India, he also aligned himself with Hindu beliefs and became a proponent of Vedanta-inspired Christianity. His teachings have inspired millions ~ including me ~ for nearly a half-century.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Face" on Mars Now Shown to be Just Rocks

New close-up of rocky outcropping that created the "face."

A massive shape on the surface of Mars in the likeness of a human face spawned countless conspiracy theories in recent decades, but modern technology now confirms it is simply a large, rocky hill in a Martian desert.

Back in July, 1976, the famous "face" photo was taken by the American Viking 1 Orbiter. Within days, enthusiasts were convinced the face was man-made or had been built by Martians aeons ago as part of an ancient civilization. There were many theories about the presence of the human-like face, and nearly all concluded that NASA was part of a huge cover-up to conceal the face’s true origins.

Now a new photo ~ taken with NASA’s high-definition HiRISE camera and released last week ~ reveals the craggy rock formations that create the effect of human features.

According to the London Mail:
This is the closest-ever image of the famous outcrop which should, once and for all, scotch the conspiracy theorists who believe that the 'face' is conclusive evidence of intelligent life on Mars. 
Today's image was taken by HiRISE from on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which can pick out incredible detail from 300 kilometres above the planet’s surface. The rocky formation is known as a mesa, a large rocky outcrop with a flat top and steep, cliff-like sides. The Face’ mesa is in the Cydonia region and is a couple of miles long and a few hundred feet high. 
. . . NASA even added to the theory by referring to the picture's human likeness in the caption it added to the photo when it first released it to the general public. The outcrop looked a little like a face, complete with eyes, nose and mouth, because of the angle of the sun and its cratered surface, and NASA happily pointed this fact out.
Seeing human faces in inaminate objects is known as "pareidolia" and is why so many people see what they believe is the face of Jesus in tea leaves, clouds and even burnt toast, the Mail pointed out. Carl Sagan believed humans are 'hard-wired' to find human faces wherever possible as part of our survival instinct.

Smaller photo shows the famous Martian "face."
Click here for the complete article and a video.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lake-Chain Plan Would Convert Deserts to Cities

Artist's conception of a chain of desert lakes.

A plan to convert millions of square miles of earth's desert into inhabitable land is being developed by Shimizu Corporation of Japan. Called the “Aqua-Net,” the plan calls for a string of manmade lakes to be built across earth’s arid regions, giving rise to a network of new cities.

According to
The idea involves the building of interconnected lakes in the desert. These 18-mile-diameter lakes would be connected by canals fed from the ocean. The lakes would include built islands that could serve as homes for cities teeming with people. Supposedly, this would work because water from the lake would cool the cities, making them livable. There would also be arable land, theoretically, after this cooling above the desert lake islands. The cities would be powered by satellite power stations, and by the sun. 
Of course the plan is not without substantial challenges:
One of the biggest draw backs is that the lakes would be filled with seawater. While the salt water would provide the opportunities for water-based wildlife, and even for biomass development, it doesn't provide much opportunity for drinking. However, Shimizu plans that the some of the water would be desalinated, and thus made fit for human consumption and for irrigation of crops.
Shimizu is a large construction firm currently involved with a plan called the “Luna Ring” to build a wreath of solar cells around the moon to generate electricity and send it to earth via microwave transmission.
Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

'Spacequakes" Disrupting Earth's Magnetic Field

Spacequakes contribute to auroras in the night sky.

Called “spacequakes,” bursts of plasma flying off of the sun are disrupting Earth’s magnetic field with the strength of a sizeable earthquake, according to new scientific evidence.

“The total energy in a spacequake can rival that of a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake,” Evgeny Panov of the Space Research Institute in Austria tells the Christian Science Monitor. He is first author of a paper reporting the results of a study on spacequakes in the April 2010 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

NASA’s THEMIS space probes discovered the precursors of spacequakes in 2007. According to the Monitor: 
The action begins in Earth's magnetic tail, which is stretched out like a windsock by the million-miles-per-hour solar wind. Sometimes the tail can become so stretched and tension-filled, it snaps back like an over-torqued rubber band. Solar wind plasma trapped in the tail hurtles toward Earth. 
On more than one occasion, the five THEMIS spacecraft were in the line of fire when these “plasma jets” swept by. Clearly, the jets were going to hit Earth. But what would happen then? The fleet moved closer to the planet to find out. 
“Now we know," said THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. “Plasma jets trigger spacequakes.”
Research shows that the plasma jets crash into Earth’s geomagnetic field some 18,600 miles above the equator. The impact sets off a rebounding process, in which the incoming plasma actually bounces up and down on the reverberating magnetic field. The first bounce is a big one, followed by bounces of decreasing amplitude as energy is dissipated in the carpet.

Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Grief is Next Target for Antidepressants

"Grief Out of Darkness into Light" by Jozef Israels (1834-1911)

Advocates of a pharmaceutically mediated society are making strides into yet another area of human experience ~ grief, especially following the loss of a loved one ~ they now consider suitable for treatment with antidepressants.

A recent article from National Public Radio describes the debate stemming from the new draft of psychiatry’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that opens the door for grieving to be considered as major depression and treated accordingly.

On one side are the advocates for treating grief with drugs and therapy:
"I'd rather make the mistake of calling someone depressed who may not be depressed, than missing the diagnosis of depression, not treating it, and having that person kill themselves," says Dr. Sid Zisook, one of the psychiatrists who has argued for removal of the bereavement exclusion. "I mean, [pain] is a normal consequence of breaking a bone. But that doesn't mean that we don't treat the pain. We treat the pain vigorously."
Then there the opponents who see grief as a natural process:
Dr. Allen Frances, the famous psychiatrist and a former editor of the DSM, says that more and more, psychiatry is medicalizing our experiences. That is, it is turning emotions that are perfectly normal into something pathological.
"Over the course of time, we've become looser in applying the term 'mental disorder' to the expectable aches and pains and sufferings of everyday life," Frances says. "And always, we think about a medication treatment for each and every problem."
Advocates say that treating grieving people as depressed will affect about a third of the bereaved.

Click here for the complete NPR article.

Monday, August 2, 2010

In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.

When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.

The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn't glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as stone.

Physicist David Peat

David Peat (born 1938) is one of my favorite physicist/philosopher/authors and was for many years associated with physics legend David Bohm. In this brief clip, Peat discusses Bohm's theory of the implicate and explicate orders. This theory crops up in many different disciplines and is thought by many to hold the secret of everything from ESP to a materially and spiritually unified universe, and the final uniter of Newtonian and quantum physics. Peat lives in Italy, which explains the opening slide being in Italian.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trove of Unpublished Kafka Writings Held by Court

The writings of Czech author Franz Kafka for many years have tantalized me, and in college I did an independent study of his perplexing short-stories and novels ~ which is why I and much of the literary world watches with interest the fact that 10 safety-deposit boxes of his never-published writings now have surfaced.

According to the Associated Press:
In the past week, the pages have been pulled from safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich, Switzerland, on the order of an Israeli court over the objections of two elderly women who claim to have inherited them from their mother. 
The case boils down to the interpretation of the will of Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and publisher. Kafka bequeathed his writings to Brod shortly before his own death from tuberculosis in 1924, instructing his friend to burn everything unread. Brod ignored Kafka's wishes and published most of what was in his possession, including the novels "The Trial," "The Castle" and "Amerika." 
But Brod, who smuggled some of the manuscripts to pre-state Israel when he fled the Nazis in 1938, didn't publish everything. Upon his death in 1968, Brod left his personal secretary, Esther Hoffe, in charge of his literary estate and instructed her to transfer the Kafka papers to an academic institution.
Instead, for the next four decades, Hoffe kept the papers in her Tel Aviv apartment and in safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich banks.
"Kafka could easily have written a story like this, where you try to do something and it all goes wrong and everything remains unresolved," said Sara Loeb, a Tel Aviv-based author of two books about the writer. "It's really a case of life imitating art."

Click here for the AP article.

Impulsive Behavior Tied to Excess Dopamine

Bright areas of this brain cross-section show elevated levels of dopamine.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University say high levels of the brain chemical dopamine contribute to impulsive behaviors, creating problems in acts from shopping to substance abuse.

“Think of it as very similar to how a thermostat works,” researcher Joshua Buckholz told NPR. Sensors in the lower-middle part of the brain ~ called autoreceptors ~  tell the midbrain to start pumping dopamine or stop, but new research shows the autorecptors of highly impulsive people aren’t functioning properly.

Other researchers believe there's more to impulsiveness than the dopamine thermostat, according to NPR. “This is not a very huge effect,” says Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. He thinks other brain chemicals with their own thermostats also play a role.

“I think that there is a circuitry of self-control that's fundamental to many, many aspects of living,” agrees Edythe London, a psychiatrist at UCLA. She says understanding the dopamine thermostat and other factors may lead to successful treatments for addiction and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Click here for the NPR article.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Touch Not Necessarily Related to Actual Body

Neuroscientists are exploring profound implications of non-locality ~ the concept that our perceptions of events and sensations are not necessarily anchored to our physical beings in the here and now ~ though further investigation into phenomenon such as the “rubber hand illusion.”

According to
A number of earlier studies showed that if a rubber hand is positioned such that it extends from a person's arm while her actual hand is hidden from view, and both her real hand and the rubber hand are stroked at the same time, she seems to feel the touch in the location where she sees the rubber hand being touched. This effect and the experienced 'ownership' of the rubber hand is the “rubber hand illusion.”
Now, neuroscientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, are investigating the relationship between bodily self-consciousness and the way touch stimuli are spatially represented in humans. They’ve determined that sensations of touch can be felt and mislocalised when people view “virtual” representations of their bodies.
In their previous research, Professor Olaf Blanke's lab at the EPFL found that the consciousness of one's own body (the sense of self-identification and self-location) can be altered in healthy people under certain experimental conditions, yielding similar sensations to those felt in out-of-body experiences. In this new study, Aspell and colleagues in Blanke's lab used a crossmodal congruency task to determine whether there is a change in touch perception during this illusion.
Such data reveals that brain mechanisms of multisensory processing are crucial for the “I” of conscious experience and can be scientifically manipulated in order to potentially animate and incarnate virtual humans, robots, and machines.

Click here for the complete article.