Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mid-Term Elections on the Planet of the Apes

“The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours”
– Timothy Leary

Welcome to the politics of the Apes
As the corporate fueled and media driven mid-term elections come to a well orchestrated (and highly produced) climax, critical thinking citizens are left… scratching their heads. This is because critical thinking does not appear to be considered relevant to the political media machine. Critical thinking is the process whereby an individual identifies problems, gathers and interprets available data; evaluates outcomes; raises questions and communicates effectively with others in order to achieve successful results. It is a process of reflective judgment.

Quite the contrary, the pop-political mechanisms of Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, etc. have gone in the opposite direction toward ignorance and folly. Our political process, such as it is, has reached a fevered pitch as November 2nd arrives. To site one example… recently an activist with MoveOn (.org) had her head stomped on by a Tea Party-esque supporter of Rand Paul. It is clear we are witnessing new levels of violence and intimidation in our political campaigns.

As we know, violence is usually fueled by ignorance and fear. It is in the political media machine’s best interest to promote knee-jerk reactions in the populace, for these institutions consider the public to be consumers, not citizens. They want a population that is just smart enough to perform all of the menial tasks needed to keep our service economy limping along, but not smart enough to see through the fear-mongering that keeps the military-industrial complex in business. If we’re ignorant enough and frightened enough, we’ll continue to vote for saber rattling politicians who are in the defense industry’s pocket.

Is it not critical thinking… the process of reflective judgment… that separates humans from the rest of earths great apes?

Politics of the soul
There are other, more esoteric attributes that we humans cherish as essential in our uniqueness among earth’s (domesticated) primates. It is the ability to reflect upon the divine spark within each of us… our spirit or soul… and to understand this spark to be our personal connection to universe. Our socio-economic-political reality is but a surface reflection of this deeper, more developmentally consequential aspect of our psyche, both individually and as a species. Within this context, our political turmoil could be seen as a symptom of a deeper ailment.

The symptomatic and troubling trend toward violence and confusion may be a manifestation of an "ignorance" or "poverty of the soul." The term "Ignorance" is here used in the sense of ignoring our spiritual nature… and "poverty" as a lack of spiritual substance in our daily lives. This sorry state of affairs is a result, in part, of the concerted effort of the political media machine, as well as other entities, to keep us in a continual fight/flight psychological state. In other words… our ignorance of the soul is part of the master plan of the socio-political powers that be. Recent changes enacted by our own judiciary have made it possible for corporations to buy and sell our political process.

It needs to be clear at this juncture that primary responsibility of our spiritual impoverishment rests with each of us. The relationship between self and universe is an intimate one that requires no outside interference, except in an advisory capacity and by invitation. We understand that our spiritual growth necessitates the desire to evolve and the expenditure of effort on our part. The original intent of the founders of this nation was to insure that each of us had the liberty to pursue spiritual evolution, as we see fit. Collectively, this was identified as a “more perfect union”.

Civic Responsibility
Back to the political media machine, as well as the other entities referred to earlier. They will pursue their agenda in this election cycle. Assuming the premise that political reality is but a symptom of a collective troubled soul, this does not suggest that we ignore the surface issues. We must attend to the symptom in order to deal with the cause. Additionally, it is our responsibility to safeguard our personal liberty.

Therefore, the US mid-term election is shaping up to be a referendum on civil liberty, not some trumped up economic imperative. The mechanism, the overt power to insure civil liberty is, of course… the vote. Cast your ballet for soul liberty. Don’t let cynicism and apathy deter you from this most important affirmation of personal freedom. The reality is that one vote can change the world… even if it is a change within your soul and hence your version of the world. That is where change… evolution… spirit… is most effective.

Friday, October 22, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…

As the year 2010 wanes, the days grow shorter and the shadows grow longer. As the growing season comes to a close, harvesters gather the year’s bounty. As deciduous trees transform into red and gold, only to lose their foliage at the onset of autumn… as the darkness of winter advances… an ancient celebration approaches. On the night when the veil between the world of the living and the dead grows thin, a grateful populace prepares offerings for the dearly departed.

All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween is upon us...

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts… who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new-year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was pierced and visitation from the “other side” was possible.

"During this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, this side lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere sometimes maliciously, in their affairs"- (Celtic Mythology, p. 127)

On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Modern Celebrations around the world

The Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as "Yue Lan" (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time when it is believed that spirits roam the world for twenty-four hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money at this time, believing these images would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts.

In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bonfires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion "boats of the law" from paper, some of which are very large, which are then burned in the evening hours. The purpose of this custom is twofold: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the "pretas" in order that they might ascend to heaven. "Pretas" are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were consequently never buried. The presence of "pretas" among the living is thought by the Chinese to be dangerous. Under the guidance of Buddhist temples, societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the "pretas," which includes the lighting of lanterns. Monks are invited to recite sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.

The Americas
Among Spanish-speaking nations, particularly Mexico, Latin America, and Spain, Halloween is known as "El Dia de los Muertos." the days of the dead, a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31 and culminates on November 2. This is an ancient festivity that has been transformed throughout the years. It was originally intended in prehistoric Mexico to celebrate children and the dead. Mexican families remember their dead and the continuity of life. It is a joyous and happy holiday...a time to remember friends and family who have died.

Officially commemorated on November 2 (All Souls' Day), the three-day celebration actually begins on the evening of October 31. Designed to honor the dead who are believed to return to their homes on Halloween, many families construct an altar in their home and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, fresh water and samples of the deceased's favorite foods and drinks. Frequently, a basin and towel are left out in order that the spirit can wash prior to indulging in the feast. Candles and incense are burned to help the departed find his or her way home. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce.

Relatives also tidy the gravesites of deceased family members, including snipping weeds, making repairs and painting. The grave is then adorned with flowers, wreaths or paper streamers. They bring picnics and sit around the grave sites sharing stories of the departed and feasting on foods such as spicy meat dishes, batter bread and lots of sweets; some shaped like skulls. The abundance of food, drink and good company creates a festive atmosphere along with recognizing the cycle of life by the interaction of the living with the dead. Some of these gatherings may even include tequila and a mariachi band although American Halloween customs are gradually taking over this celebration.

In Mexico during the Autumn, countless numbers of Monarch butterflies return to the shelter of Mexico's oyamel fir trees. It was the belief of the Aztecs that these butterflies bore the spirits of dead ancestors.

In the villages, parades are held. People dress as skeletons and dance in the streets. Often, a live person is placed inside a coffin which is then paraded through the streets while vendors toss fruit, flowers and candies into the casket. Home feast are held and loaves of bread, "Bread of the Dead" are given. Inside the loaves are sugar skeletons or other items of death motif. This gift is more prized if the skull or skeleton is embossed with ones own name. The families also attend candle lit ceremonies in church and offer prayers. The whole celebration is about life from beginning to end.

In Ireland, which is considered to be where Halloween originated, the day is still celebrated much like it is in the United States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were centuries ago, and all over the country, children get dressed up in costumes and spend the evening "trick-or-treating" in their neighborhoods. After trick-or-treating, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At the parties, many games are played, including "snap-apple," a game in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree and players attempt to bite the hanging apple. In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts, with candy or pastries as the "treasure." Children are also known to play tricks on their neighbors, such as "knock-a-dolly," a prank in which children knock on the doors of their neighbors, but run away before the door is opened.
English children made "punkies" out of large beets (which they call beetroots), upon which they carved a design of their choice. Then, they would carry their "punkies" through the streets while singing the "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money. Halloween became Guy Fawkes Night and moved a few days later, but recently it has been celebrated on October 31, in addition to Guy Fawkes Night. In some rural areas, turnip lanterns were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween night.

A word of caution
So as you, dear revelers in the macabre, prepare yourselves for an evening of merriment… be forewarned. Who knows what you will encounter on this most supernatural, this most pagan of nights? Who knows what you invite when you celebrate the shadow?

May your treats be many and may your tricks not be more than you bargained for…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Disclosure - Pt 1 (updated)

Last week the UK’s Sunday Times reported that the United Nations had appointed Earth's first planetary ambassador to facilitate “official” contact in the event of extra terrestrial communication or visitation. The U.N.’s selection was Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, who heads the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA); a branch of the General Assembly, established in 1962. The office is responsible for promoting international co-operation and peace in dealing with outer space, and includes topics such as satellite navigation and space debris. During a talk Othman had previously given to fellow scientists, she said:

"The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination."

Shortly after the story broke, professor Othman denied the appointment. In an email from Othman herself, she is quoted as saying: "It sounds really cool but I have to deny it." According to the Sunday Times, Othman was expected to tell an upcoming Royal Society conference that as the detection of extraterrestrial life is more likely than ever, the UN needs to be ready to co-ordinate humanity's response.

In the same week, Senate Bill 3729, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, has passed the House (YEA 304; NAY 118), funding NASA for another three years, per president Obama’s signature. Long time space exploration enthusiast Rick Tumlinson, co-Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, is quoted as saying: "Getting NASA back to exploring the Far Frontier of space from the Moon outward and allowing the private sector to take over the now relatively routine job of carrying people and payloads in the Near Frontier is exactly the right way to proceed as we move into the 21st century.”
Also in the same week… astronomers from the University of California and the Carnegie Institution of Washington reported that a recently discovered planet Gliese 581g can support life. Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC says that the planet is potentially habitable… a number of species of bacteria found on earth could survive and flourish on it... One scientist has even gone so far as to speculate the odds of life existing on 581g are "one-hundred percent".

It is strange to see this much media coverage, being generated by the mainstream scientific and political community, concerning so many aspects of extra terrestrial contact. It is even stranger to see these very reputable organizations treat what once was a “fringe topic” with genuine and pragmatic consideration. In one week we have seen diplomacy, economy and last but not least… probability… of extra terrestrial contact taken very seriously by those who only a few years ago found the subject laughable.

The various scenarios wherein a government or group of governments announces to the world the existence of life outside of earth’s gravity well have been commonly described by those interested in such things as “Disclosure.” There are many connotations associated with this term. One important aspect of disclosure is the concern over “collective trauma” of the general public in reaction to such an announcement. It has been postulated, by the above mentioned organizations (and others), that humanity as a whole could not take the shock of the knowledge of life beyond our planet. Apparently, the political “powers that be” are concerned that such a disclosure would bring into question the very fabric of humanity’s world view. They are afraid that the public may lose their faith in their religious beliefs and institutions, or worse… lose faith in their political systems.

In regard to the last concern… it is too late. The reality is that blind faith in earth’s political systems is already long gone.

Post Contact
The interesting question becomes… what will an exo-political world look like? Would the definitive discovery of bacterial life on other planets such as Gliese 581g be a planetary game-changer for humanity’s collective conscious? Once it is determined that life… any form of life… is present elsewhere in universe, everything changes. The moment we know that we are not alone… universe becomes a reality that is teaming with life. It does not matter if our neighbors are a simple bacteria or almond eyed humanoids… if life exists elsewhere… it exists everywhere.

It is understandable that the political powers that be are concerned. The rascally tricks that they have used for centuries to keep the masses under control will no longer apply. The old party lines designed to keep us asleep and dreaming, the old “pie in the sky, bye and bye” will no longer stand up under the scrutiny of a life-filled universe. Even the Vatican is beginning to test the waters of acknowledging the existence of life elsewhere in the cosmos.

In these exciting and changing times, we must remember that it is the nature of politicians (of all types) to follow. We should not expect them to lead, as historically politicians react to changing conditions after the political dust has cleared. Leadership must come from us… individuals with the ability to grasp evolving realities and respond accordingly. Remember… in an evolving universe, he who stands still… moves backward!

Note: In regard to first contact… the Hedonic Engineering Department @ Tek-Gnostics has compiled a brief position paper entitled:

The film by award winning director, Terje Toftenes... "The Day Before Disclosure" can be viewed at the link below...

The Day Before