Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nobody For President Pt 1 - "Nobody can make America great again!"

“If you want to discuss politics… you have to get down on all fours.”

- Timothy Leary 

The Carnival-of-Horrors sideshow that has been the US presidential primary elections has been one big-ass, macabre and sordid spectacle. It has left the two major political parties… the Grand Old Party (aka: the republican party), as well as the democratic party in tatters, as both the RNC and the DNC have completely lost control of their national nominating process. The American press has fared no better as they sit, shell-shocked… while the traditional fourth estate crumbles under its own weight and into its own decay.

Amid this unprecedented turmoil, the American public is left scratching its collective head… Hillary, the better half of the "Clinton Cabal" is teetering as the only traditional political candidate left standing. This is not reassuring. Meanwhile, Bernie’s optimism and the Donald’s pessimism don’t seem to smell quite right. Both, each in their own... shall we say... unique way, have called out the status quo’s innate corrupt nature. 

On the Left, Bernie has captured the American youth’s imagination and mobilized them, as well as many progressives, by revealing that the PTB banking (and campaign financing) swindle will leave them holding the proverbial bag. Feel the Bern yet? Over in the conservative corner of the madhouse, Donald’s ignorant and confusing rhetoric seems hell-bent on burning down the house, all together.

In these days of political disarray and dysfunction, what is a sane person to do? The obvious choice… a candidate arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of a deteriorating, deranged political process… the candidate who's time may have finally come at last...
No... not Cthulhu... the only reasonable choice, the only safe and sane choice is… Nobody. 

After all, Nobody is clearly the best candidate… Nobody has all the answers!!!
Nobody keeps his election promises... 
Nobody cares…
Nobody is a candidate we can count on…
Nobody listens to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
Nobody will make the American political process great again! 
Nobody will love you when you're down and out. And if that weren’t enough… Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom!

Finally… in American politics of power… we can Trust Nobody!!! 

So as the 2016 general election approaches, the time has come to stand up and support the only candidate who, if elected, should have that much power... Nobody!!!

As the prudent citizen mobilizes in support of Nobody... a cautionary note...

This campaign is about active participation in the political process. We all know someone who espouses their clearly superior and "above it all" opinion on how broken the system is... only to proclaim that they are not voting in the upcoming election. They then proceed to sit back, smug in their lethargic self-righteous superciliousness. Such is the ultimate civic cop-out

In the wake of the concerted effort by the GOP to shamelessly obstruct the voting rights of millions of traditional Democratic populations, 38 states introduced legislation designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process. In this orchestrated and brazen gambit to steal the voting rights of such "undesirable" (in the minds the neocons) sectors of our population, such as students, the elderly, Black and Hispanic American citizens... we are all, each of us... witness to the attempted elimination of all voting rights. In these dangerous times... our very right to vote is being placed in jeopardy.

After all, if the neocons can't trust the people, they should eliminate them and impose a new people!

Flawed as the process is... don't sit on your hands at home. Participate in what is left of the democratic process. A vote for nobody is still a vote. A write-in vote for nobody is far more of an authentic and powerful statement than not bothering to vote at all.

 "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." 

– Plato

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Conspiracy of Ravens

It is exceedingly interesting to see what events or experiences capture people's attention. It reflects their tendency of consciousness. In this fast-paced world, most people pay attention to… other people. As most communication between humans is non-verbal, these signals are received in a variety of ways. Some pay attention to other’s eyes… the windows to the soul. Others observe body posture. Still others read auras, the subtle energy nexus, surrounding the body.

Many, who are insightful and observant, go beyond the individual and pay attention to culture-wide signals. They observe the “Zeitgeist” or the spirit of the times. Within the synchromystic realm of observation, specific pop-cultural signs are recognized as having meaningful significance. Perceived signals from a variety of mass media, such as film or television, resonate with insightful epiphany in the minds of the synchromystics. As such, their attention is placed upon the machinations of media… the cerebral world of words and imagery.

One of my very favorite bloggers and author of Our Gods Wear Spandex… Christopher Knowles... over at the Secret Sun, had recently recognized and reported on a significant gathering of birds: Quiscalus quiscula …commonly known as Grackles. Chris had a meaningful encounter with… the birds. The context in which Chris described his encounter was one of signs and portents. The fact that Chris paid attention to this phenomenon illustrates a certain level of intuitive consciousness. More precisely… a specific type of intuitive consciousness.

Chris’s awareness tended toward reading the signs delivered through the medium of nature. He “paid attention” to the subtle signals conveyed by the natural world… by the peculiar gathering or flocking of the Common Grackle. In this case, the communication was anything but common. Such attention takes the form of spiritual insight and the Grackles Chris observed, assume the role of Totem. An Animal Totem is an important symbolic entity recognized by the observer, and used to get in touch with specific sympathetic qualities found within said animal… which the observer aligns, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward.

Throughout the ages, birds have been harbingers of fortuitousness... of consequence. Owls, crows and especially the crow’s big brother… the Raven… have foretold of ominous events. It is widely known that a gathering of crows is known as a "murder of crows." It may not be as well known that a gathering of Ravens is called a "Conspiracy of Ravens."

On May 7th, just before dusk, I was roused from my Saturday evening reverie by a god-awful racket, coming from my back yard. At first, I assumed this commotion to be those rascally Scrub Jays… stealing catfood. Slipping out the sliding glass door, onto the back deck, I soon realized that this was no mere catfood heist.

Situated on the edge of a mountainous watershed, my neighborhood is full of towering conifers… Douglas Fir, Incense Cedar, Ponderosa Pine. What I suspected to be Scrub Jays, proved to be a growing gathering of Ravens. There were 50 or 60 flocked in several large Cedars. More were kiting in to perch as the sky darkened. They were squawking and gurgling and carrying on as even more ravens sailed in from the mountain, till at least 150 birds were... conspiring. That may not sound like a lot of birds… but ravens are large creatures and as they conversed… now perching… now circled above the cedars… this conspiracy was quit impressive.

The common raven (Corvus corax) is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids (crow family). At maturity, the common raven averages 25 inches in length and 2.6 pounds in mass. Common ravens can live up to 21 years in the wild, a lifespan exceeded by very few species. Young birds may travel in flocks but later mate for life, with each mated pair defending a territory. Amazing feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent.

Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years. Over the centuries, they have been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or “Trickster” god.

Whatever was going down within their realm, these ravens were loud and rowdy. As darkness fell, the Conspiracy of Ravens appeared to come to terms with whatever issue that had gathered to discuss. I had been watching the conspiracy for around twenty minutes. I stood, transfixed as they suddenly took wing. Within a minute, the entire conspiracy was gone… back up to the mountain from whence they came. 

I am still amazed by this incident and continue to process it.

Like Chris’s Grackle incident (which by Chris’s account, evolved into an encounter with another Trickster totem, the Fox… but that is another story), I have long affiliated with the Raven as one of my totems. They have come to me at times of consequence, throughout my life. Another of my favorite bloggers and author of Star.ships: Gordon White, over at Rune Soup had this to say about paying attention to animal totems…

“It would be safe to say that a majority of totem animals have a physical representation that their human counterparts are at least passingly familiar with. Totem animals can often serve as a way to amplify or enhance your relationship to your immediate environment. This is both fine and worthy. And even when you’re not engaging in this way, animal ‘wisdom’ at its most superficial level is about matching a trait or behaviour displayed in the wild to a lesson in your own life.”

Again, it is exceedingly interesting to see what events or experiences capture people's attention. To commune with other species is an ancient, time-honored, magical practice. Those who have a certain affinity for specific non-human species, display a certain generous or inclusive consciousness. The Lakota people have a phrase for this awareness… Mitákuye Oyásin.

Mitákuye Oyásin is a phrase that reflects the world-view of interconnectedness held by many indigenous peoples of North America. The phrase translates in English as "all my relatives" or "we are all related" or "all my relations." It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.

So it is that we welcome and honor all our relations… the two-legged, the four legged, those who crawl and those who fly. We learn from these… if we take the time to listen. Together, we all describe and share this crazy zeitgeist we are all living in… interesting times, indeed.

Update: Winter, 2016

I have been haunted by this post. The mysterious conspiracy of the Raven Clan that night proved to be a prophetic event, in the traditional sense of such portents. It was as if the Ravens were drawn to and spiraled around… rode, or surfed upon (just as large birds often ride swirling updrafts)… a vortex of energy. It was as if the birds had tuned into this occurrence energetically… and rose up with it… riding the psychic thermals.

Traditionally, the Raven archetype has been, among other things, considered a harbinger of death. Several weeks after the Conspiracy of Ravens incident, I noticed a moving van parked in front of our neighbor’s house. Our respective homes shared the towering conifers. The elderly woman who lived there was the very picture of grandmotherhood. Warm and welcoming, she was well liked in our neighborhood. In the ensuing days, there was much activity next door.

Several days later, noticing our neighbor’s granddaughter out front, I took the opportunity to check in. Indeed, our neighborhood grandmother had passed. At the time, and out of respect, I didn’t inquire about the exact date of her passing, although I gathered that it had been several weeks. We exchanged pleasantries and I express condolences.

They say that funerals are for the living… For me, the Conspiracy of Ravens took the form of “spirit guide” in taking grandmother home. This thought, like many such notions… in such times… is one of comfort. And isn’t this where the ancient beginnings of ritual are born?

- J♥

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Microdosing... the new Psychedelia

As many among you may know... and according to the likes of Rolling Stone and Forbes magazines... a recent trend in Psychedelia is "Microdosing." Microdosing refers to taking a much smaller dose, about 10-15 micrograms or about 1/10 the standard dose of LSD ...and is thought to confer a much weaker effect on your body, just the amount to produce mild euphoria, energy lift or added insight, without allowing you to feel like you are “tripping.”

The following excerpt is from an article entitled: Microdosing: The Revolutionary Way of Using Psychedelics ...which appeared in the HighExistence website...

Today we are witnessing the birth of a truly remarkable epoch. With the psychedelic renaissance well under way, consisting of new fascinating research, the coming out of thousands of individuals and the introduction of many, hitherto unknown, psychoactive plants steeped in their cultural context of healing and initiation, we are now facing some new and interesting questions.
  • What types of consciousness are possible, and how are we to navigate these?
  • Which plants and substances are beneficial in which situations?
  • How are we to make sense of these shamanic wisdom traditions, as our own euro-shamanistic traditions and the Eleusinian mysteries seem to be lost in time forever?
  • And how can we develop new ways of healing, new rituals embedded in cultural meaning that are able cure our current “collective insanity“?

I think one of the more fruitful directions we can take is towards is microdosing.

Microdosing is taking sub-perceptual doses (6-25 microgram LSD, 0.2-0.5 gram dried mushrooms, 50-75 microgram mescaline HCL) while keeping up with ones daily activities, engaging in extreme sports, appreciating nature or enhancing one’s spiritual practice.

As we repeatedly stress on HighExistence, psychedelics must be approached with reverence and caution. We believe that in a loving context, psychedelics are powerful medicines with tremendous potential, but there are a number of physical and psychological safety concerns that one should consider before journeying with psychedelics. Please, please do plenty of research, and do not take psychedelics if you have reason to believe that they will not jibe with your personality or particular mental baggage. The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid is an exceptional free resource, and we recommend reading it, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ before ever dabbling in these substances.

Editor's Note: Tip o the hat to Agent 87 for bringing the above video to our attention. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The BIG E & little e of Enlightenment

Dr. Andrew Newberg is the director of research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and a physician at Jefferson University Hospital. He is board certified in internal medicine and nuclear medicine. Andrew has been asking questions about reality, truth, and God since he was very young, and he has long been fascinated by the human mind and its complex workings. While a medical student, he met Dr. Eugene d’Aquili, who was studying religious experiences. Combining their interests with Andrew’s background in neuroscience and brain imaging, they were able to break new theoretical and empirical ground on the relationship between the brain and religion.

What follows is an article he published over at Big Think. We reproduced the article in its entirety for your reading pleasure... Enjoy...

How Enlightenment Changes the Brain — And How Easily You Can Achieve It

- by Andrew Newberg

Enlightenment is a traditionally mystical and slippery concept, but when it is subjected to the rigors of empirical analysis, there is a lot to be learned about our brains and ourselves. Dr. Andrew Newberg, who has put enlightenment through a battery of scientific tests, says there are actually two kinds of enlightenment: lowercase-e enlightenment, which changes our opinions about the world, and Enlightenment, which changes our essence, i.e. how we think of life, death, God, etc.

Capital-e Enlightenment is notable because of how people report the experience anecdotally and how it changes the brain. Whatever sensation accompanies the experience of Enlightenment — whether light, or music, or color — it tends to be the most intense experience a person has had with that element. And this intensity is reflected in the brain's limbic system, which processes emotion, and its parietal lobe, which organizes our sensory information to create sensations of time, space, and self.

When people experience Enlightenment, they frequently report losing their sense of self, and scientific analysis confirms that brain activity is a driving cause of this sensation. And while Enlightenment is typically associated with religious individuals like Mother Teresa or the Buddha, people from all walks of life experience essence-changing events — sometimes just walking down the street, says Newberg.

What's more, these experiences can be purposefully induced through the use of pharmacological substances like LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms. And while these experiences may seem aberrant from so-called real life, Dr. Newberg argues that we come hard-wired ready to have them. Perhaps Enlightenment experiences are like a pair of glasses, he says: we are born into the world with bad vision until we experience corrective lenses. Whether these lenses are applied to our eyes or to our brains may matter little in an epistemological sense.

When we start to think about enlightenment we try to divide it into two basic ideas about enlightenment. And one is what I usually refer to as the small E enlightenment experiences and these are the kind of experiences that people have a number of times through their life. It may be kind of the sudden epiphany about how to resolve some problem at work or solve an issue with a relationship. Some issue you’ve been working on for a long time and you suddenly figure it out and you kind of understand things in a different way for the first time. But that’s the little E experience. And the big E experiences are usually those experiences that are kind of are life changing. They’re mind blowing. They change everything about the way you think, about the world, about life, about death, about spirituality. Whatever it is it changes everything about who you are. 

For example one of the experiences that people often have is a very profound sense of an intensity of the experience. The experience is the most powerful experience they have ever had. And if there’s specific elements within it, if it’s something that they’ve seen, if it’s some vision of light or something like that - it’s the most beautiful light that they’ve ever seen. It’s the most beautiful music they’ve ever seen. It’s the most intense feeling of love that they’ve ever seen. So whatever it is it’s this very, very powerfully intense experience. 

We can look at the areas of the brain that help us to determine which things in our lives are particularly important, are particularly intense to us. This usually occurs within an area of our brain called the limbic system, which is the emotional areas of our brain - particularly areas such as the amygdala and the hippocampus - which light up. They go crazy when something really important happens in our life.

The limbic system also helps to write things into our memory. So when something happens in our life and thousands of things happen to us every day we don’t remember most of them because they don’t trigger that kind of a response. But if we get into a fight with somebody we’ll remember that for a while because it was very emotional to us. So when people have these intense enlightenment kinds of experiences not only do they feel incredibly real at the moment but they are remembered almost for the entire lifetime of the person that they keep coming back to that experience and they always remember this experience as being that life changing moment that from that point forward everything was different.

Another core element of these experiences for example is a feeling of unity, connectedness, oneness. So the people will often say, “I felt connected with everything in the universe. I felt one with God.”

There’s an area of our brain, a parietal lobe which is in the back of our brain and this normally takes all of our sensory information and helps us to reconstruct a sense of ourself and how that self relates to the world in some kind of spatial way. Well we found that this area of the brain in particular starts to quiet down when people have these profound experiences of oneness or unity. Now this makes a lot of sense. If it’s trying to create your sense of self and your sense of space if it starts to shut down well you lose your sense of self. You lose your sense of space.

And I suppose ultimately one of the most important aspects of the enlightenment experience is its permanence is that it rearranges the way our brain works for the rest of our lives. So when people have that experience and they suddenly now realize what their beliefs are in spirituality or their beliefs are about life or death or whatever there’s some incredible change that occurs perhaps in many different areas of our brain that really rearranges the way the person thinks, the way they feel, the way they behave in life.

And one of the real key areas, one last area I’ll mention at the moment is one of the key areas that seems to be involved in that is a very central structure called the thalamus. And this is located deep inside the brain. Some people think that the thalamus is actually the seat of consciousness and it actually takes a lot of our sensory information and sends it to the different parts of our brain and it helps different areas of our brain communicate with each other. Well this is an area that seems to be dramatically changed by these kinds of practices and experiences. So if you think about it if the thalamus is changed it’s really changing a person’s overall perceptions of reality, the way they think about reality, the way they sense reality and ultimately the way their brain interacts with that reality.

These are not experiences that are happening only to the Mother Teresa’s of the world and the Buddha’s of the world. These are experiences that are happening to everyone. These are just regular people. These are people who go to church. They’re people who are religious, people who are not religious, people who are agnostic, people who had a drug- induced experience, people who were meditating. And my favorite some of them were just people basically walking down the street or driving their car down the street and the experience just hit them. 

As a neuroscientist if you look at everybody’s brain we all have a lot of the same basic structures in the same basic ways. We have our frontal lobes and our temporal lobes and our limbic system. And even when you look at brain scans usually we’re not more than five or ten percent different from each other. So we all have kind of the same basic circuitry, which makes me think that the ability to have these kinds of experiences is within all of us. It’s just a matter of how one activates it and whether one activates it through a very traditional religious path or some other more unusual path. 

When you start to think about how to induce these kinds of experiences one of the things that to me is very interesting is that we tend to look at kind of the more modern technologies and there’s a device called transcranial magnetic stimulation which sends magnetic waves into different parts of the brain. There’s been some work by other investigators who have tried to see if different electromagnetic waves into areas like the temporal lobe along the side of the brain help to induce these kinds of experiences. But for thousands of years people have found ways of inducing these experiences. And you go back, you know, into the shamanic traditions and people using mushrooms and peyote and ayahuasca and all these other kind of pharmacological, if you will, substances. And people have induced various physiological changes in their body by not eating for a period of time, not sleeping for a period of time, going into some kind of cave or doing some sort of sleep deprivation process, or sensory deprivation process.

And it’s interesting because in our kind of Western modern way of thinking about things we do tend to think about this as, you know, you push a button or that this is some sort of artificial stimulation of these experiences. For example a shaman who takes some mushrooms to get into a spiritual state, that shaman doesn’t look at that whole process as being artificial. That shaman basically looks at it as, “This is what I need to do to get my brain to another level so that I can interact with the spiritual world.”

And part of the way I always think about it as a guy who wears glasses and doesn’t see very well. When I wake up in the morning the world’s a very blurry place. I put my glasses on and the world becomes clear. So what if it is that transcranial magnetic stimulation or drugs or, you know, meditation. What are these are like basically putting on glasses for your brain to see the world in a clearer way, in a different way but that really was always there in the first place? So there’s some very interesting and important epistemological questions about the realness of these experiences irrespective of how they actually wind up getting started and how they become induced in that particular individual.

But it also raises another kind of larger picture question and I challenge my own students a lot about this which is where do all of our experiences come from when you think about it from the perspective of the human brain? And what I mean by that is is that if you look at what’s really going on and what’s going on whether or not I’ve got a drug in my brain or not.

For a neuron to fire at all sodium and potassium ions are crossing back and forth across the membrane and it depolarizes the neuron and it fires. So there’s these ions that are moving across a membrane. They cause electrical activity which can be measured. That causes the neuron to turn on its metabolic interface so we can see increases in metabolic activity and how it’s using energy. And then there’s the release of all different kinds of neurotransmitters and serotonin and dopamine that move across this little synaptic cleft and activate another neuron. 

So where in all of this does the thought occur? You know where is our thought? Where is our experience of the world? When we say we see something, we feel something, we think something where in all of that is that really happening? And so if I give a person a drug or if a person meditates or whatever it is they’re doing, you know, how do I ultimately link that back to what’s going on in the brain itself and how reductionistic can we ultimately be? Or is it possible that our brain is merely just kind of receiving all of this information and certainly, you know, if you go through a kind of Buddhist or Hindu perspective on a lot of this, consciousness is all around us and our brain is more like a radio receiver that taps into this universal consciousness for a period of time while we’re here on earth and then goes back to that universal consciousness when we go away.

So we don’t know and the bottom line is is that neuroscience is going to have a lot of difficulty ultimately being able to isolate exactly where these experiences are and how drugs or whatever it is that a person is using or doing to induce some kind of experience how that really is having an effect and where those experiences truly come from.