Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Intelligent Design

Intelligent design is a theory that has been argued back and forth for years. In response to the theory of evolution, fundamentalist Christians (who in my opinion are really materialists in denial) and some scientists who pretend not to be motivated by religious considerations have asserted that certain features of animals (eyes for example) are too complex to have evolved through random mutation combined with natural selection. Some of these same people argue on a larger scale that the fundamental constants of physics, had they been different, would not have allowed for a universe capable of supporting life. Since the chance of these constants all holding the values they do is infinitesimal, they must have been determined by a supreme being. This is called the strong anthropic principle if I remember correctly. My position is that neither of these arguments are worth fighting over because, even if valid, they do not prove exactly what the people who use them want to prove.

Let's talk about intelligent design first. Does this argument prove the existence of God? If valid, it would prove the existence of a being much more powerful than us. Is that the same thing as God? To ask the question is to answer it. (Hint: Maybe.)

Now let's talk about the anthropic principle. It seems to me that the argument assumes that the fundamental constants of physics could have been different. But let's assume the argument is valid. It would prove the following:

  1. There is an entity somewhere that is vastly more powerful than we can even imagine.

  2. We shouldn't be calling the universe the universe, because there's obviously something outside of it manipulating constants.

  3. The common anthropomorphic concept of God obviously doesn't apply to such a being.

Now those of you who are recovering materialists can forget everything I just said, because it doesn't make any difference to us. Only the common anthropomorphic concept of God requires proof. That's not our idea of God, because it is intrinsically dualist (and therefore materialist in denial) at best. Our concept of God, to the extent that a concept can even be made out of it, is something that is above, beyond and includes the physical universe as we know it. So we don't need to worry our little heads about these "scientific" theories.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Go See a Kid's Movie for Christmas

I went to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium last month. As you may expect, my wife and I were the only people there who didn't bring any children. This is unfortunate because, despite being themed as the standard kid's movie with a bunch of magical stuff that never happens in real life, the movie is really about self-transformation, something all of us need. In the course of the movie, all four of the major characters undergo a major transformation or personality change. Also, the title character is probably an alchemist, although alchemy isn't mentioned directly.

Anyway, go see the movie. Magic isn't just for kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dante: An Alternative Interpretation

Many of you have read Dante's Inferno in school, and probably remember it as a ghastly description of ironic punishments for various sins. Of course, there are two other sections of the Divine Comedy describing purgatory and heaven, but people don't seem to talk about those as much for some reason. But what if this great work was not intended to be taken literally?

My interpretation is that hell, heaven and purgatory as described in the Divine Comedy actually refer to states of mind as opposed to physical locations. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is what Dante really meant. I am quite sure, however, that if it was what he meant, he couldn't say so openly, at least not if he didn't want to experience a fiery death at the hands of the inquisition.

Let's start with the inferno. In my view, the inferno is life experienced by materialists and dualists, people who either believe that the material world is all that exists, or believe that the spiritual world is separate from the material world. Some of these people suffer through life as a result of their sins and desires; others live a basically good life as a result of their virtue, but their world view functions as a strict limit on their experience.

For those who believe that there is something more than atoms and energy, but that the something more is not separate from our existence, there is still the matter of getting rid of the baggage I mentioned in earlier posts. Hence, purgatory has the function of "burning" away the beliefs and concepts that prevent us from realizing the unity underlying all things.

That leaves heaven, where the unity is experienced directly in varying degrees. I have read that there have been and even now still are people who have had this experience. Our ultimate goal as recovering materialists is to experience this world for ourselves.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Book Review: American Gods

I just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Reading this book reminds me of doing the Walk-a-thon when I was thirteen. I walked twenty miles around downtown Detroit to raise money for something or other. It was a lot of fun, and I feel like I'm a better person for having done it, but I have no intention of doing it again anytime soon. It's not that the book was boring or unpleasant; it's just that almost 600 pages of both the best and the worst qualities of humanity makes for a rather intense experience.

I won't say much about the book because I don't want to spoil it for any of you. The main character's name is Shadow; if you think the name has some kind of Jungian significance, I will totally agree with you. If you read the book, and I hope you will, please remember the word "transformation."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

About Channeling

I've read a few channeled books. My first impression is that they remind me of Sturgeon's Second Law: "90 percent of everything is crap." But there are some worthwhile channeled books. A Course in Miracles and the Conversations with God series are two of my favorites.

Now, are these books really dictated by advanced beings, or are the human authors just making them up? There's a relevant scene from Monty Python's the Meaning of Life where a British Army officer has had his leg bitten off by a tiger during a war in South Africa. The search party runs into two men in a tiger suit. After a bit of interrogation by the officers, the officer whose leg was lost says: "It doesn't matter why they're dressed as a tiger. Have they got my leg?" In the case of channeling, it doesn't matter who is really speaking; have they got anything useful to say? From that perspective, it doesn't really matter if Ramtha actually was a 20,000 year old warrior prince from Atlantis, or the creation of a middle-aged woman. The important thing is, does he/she have anything useful to say? I suggest reading any channeled books from that viewpoint and not paying any attention to the author's personal history.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Happened at the End of Matrix Revolutions?

Near the end of Matrix Revolutions, Neo has a final showdown with Agent Smith. After destroying Agent Smith from within using some kind of light he got somewhere, Neo appears to be dead? So what happened?

My take on it is this: Neo returned to the source. The Oracle mentioned that there was another world beyond/behind the "real world" and that Neo ended up in the holding station because he found it before he was ready. After defeating (or assimilating) his shadow side, Neo was ready.

There's something else interesting about the series. For most of the second and third movies, Agent Smith had been running amok, taking over bodies in both the matrix and the "real world." So when Neo exploded Smith's body with light, what happened to the other instances of the agent, and the bodies they inhabited? I'll let you decide for yourself, but those of you who have been following my posting may have guessed my opinion.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Paranoia and Conspiracy Theory Reconsidered

Do you ever feel like everyone is in favor of you? Like everyone is out to help you? Like the whole world has a conspiracy to make your life marvelous? What?? Oh, I've got it backwards. Everyone is supposed to be against you, out to get you, et cetera. Well, if that's what you really want, OK, but I think there may be a better way.

Before I tell you about it, assuming you haven't guessed already, I've talked a lot in my previous posts about getting rid of our baggage. That is, getting rid of beliefs and ideals that don't really work for us. But I haven't talked about what to replace them with. Until now.

Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia by Rob Brezny (ISBN 1-58394-123-1) gives us an alternate point of view. It is dedicated to the belief that the universe is conspiring in our favor. It's a delightful book with nice artwork and useful exercises. One of my favorite features of the book is what it calls a "Homepathic Medicine Spell." A list of unfortunate world events is listed in a circle surrounded by symbols of enlightenment. It's a poor man's evocation ritual. For those who don't know, an evocation ritual involves summoning a demon inside a magic circle. I haven't tried it, and quite frankly, have no intention to. This way is much easier and safer, from what I've heard.

But why pronoia? Well, you're going to have a belief about how the world works, one way or another. Also consider that your belief systems affect your life, at least in the sense that they determine your actions, and therefore the results. The choice is yours, of course, but think about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sedona, Arizona

I just got back from Sedona, Arizona yesterday. My main reason for going was the scenery, and my desire to go somewhere cool for my 40th birthday instead of dodging surprise parties. The flight arrived at about 6, and it was close to 7 by the time we got our luggage and the rental car. After a two-hour drive in almost total darkness (once we got out of Phoenix there were no streetlights), we arrived at the hotel. We couldn't see much except for a few stores across the street. The next morning, however, I stepped out of the hotel for a smoke and was treated to a sight similar to what you see next to this article.

Once we got into town, I saw a few new age stores and crystal shops, and downtown has some nice restaurants and stores. I also saw a sign for "Vortex tours." After seeing a few more references to vortexes, I decided that some investigation was in order. Apparently vortexes are centers of spiritual energy often associated with scenic locations. A recovering materialist will take that with a grain of salt, but not dismiss it entirely. Certainly, looking at the mountains was an uplifting experience, especially on the jeep tour that we took. The tour guide told us that so far the only scientific evidence about vortexes was a 2% increase in the magnetic field. We recovering materialists know, however, that science has a major blind spot in that only things that can be measured by our scientific instruments count for anything. Does that mean that there's really something to these vortexes? I'm reserving judgement.

While we were there, I picked up a copy of Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (ISBN 0-440-20488-7). The book is about a modern-day adept. I'm not using the word messiah because it has too much baggage associated with it, which is probably why the author did use it. The word adept is more accurate to describe the two main characters of the book, who give rides on old airplanes to people for a living. I assume here that the book is a work of fiction possibly based on a true story, and that the two main characters didn't really walk on water. The important thing is the message of the book: that anyone can become an adept by letting go of their baggage and expanding their imaginations.

The book raises an interesting issue which I've touched on before. It offers a new translation of Jesus' parable of the mustard seed: "If you have imagination as a grain of sesame seed...all things are possible to you." The explanation given in the book is that they didn't have a word for imagination back then, and faith was the closest word that seemed to match. When I read that, I wondered if that was a common problem with books written back then. Of course, it could simply have been a mistranslation, or some scribe who was copying the text thought "they couldn't possibly mean that" and changed it into something that made more sense. This again highlights the need for a symbol system. The word "faith" can be translated many ways, but a blue feather is always a blue feather.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Book Review: Tarot Awareness

The commonly accepted purpose of Tarot cards is divination, also known as fortune-telling. The cards are shuffled, and dealt in one of a number of layouts. The reader then looks at the cards and their positions for answers to the question at hand. The Golden Dawn literature suggests that this is also useful as an exercise for the imagination and intuition.

There are two other uses for Tarot cards that I know of. The first is as a repository for ancient knowledge. The story goes that just before the Romans took over Christianity and burned the library at Alexandria, a group of sages saw it coming and decided that they would preserve their knowledge in a disguised form. The idea was that no one would suspect a card game of containing secret wisdom. Also, there is a precedent for this. Dante's Divine Comedy hints at having a secret meaning, which I will discuss in a later post. What counts against that theory is that no Tarot deck is known to pre-date the middle ages. In fact, the most popular deck (the Rider-Waite) only dates back to the early 20th century. Also, no one agrees on the correct design of the deck or the proper order of the major arcana cards (the 22 cards with Roman numerals and descriptive names).

The third use is as a self-contained symbol system. That's where Tarot Awareness, by Stephen Walter Sterling comes in. The book provides an excellent introduction to the major arcana cards as interpreted by B.O.T.A. There is an interpretation of each card, along with a guided visualization illustrating the principles given in the interpretation. As such, it could serve as a useful supplement to B.O.T.A. work. The minor arcana is also covered, although not in as much detail, and instructions for doing a reading are also included.

A brief quote from the introduction will explain why the word "Awareness" is in the title:

The intent of Tarot Awareness is to help the seeker remember that Consciousness, the Energy that knows Itself, permeates the subtleties and activities of all (emphasis in original) our life. When the seeker knows that we "live and move and have our being" within Spirit, Consciousness -- God, the view of the Landscape becomes luminously clear, and then we apprehend the world from a non-egoistic perspective.

Well, that's what it's all about isn't it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Book Review: Persephone Unveiled

Before the Golden Dawn, before the Rosicrucians, possibly even before the Masons, there was a mystery school in ancient Greece. Since, like most mystery schools, initiates were subject to oaths of secrecy, we do not know what was taught in the school. Persephone Unveiled by Charles Stein investigates the matter. Just to give you an idea of what is involved, I'll give you this quote from the book:
The Eleusinian Mysteries were believed to bestow a privileged afterlife upon those who participated in them. At the climax of the rites performed there, Persephone herself flashed before the celebrants in her form as Queen of the Dead and stimulated an experience so penetrating that the afterlife and death itself were said to hold no further terrors for them.

Powerful stuff, if you ask me. Now, for those of you who don't have Bulfinch's Mythology memorized, I'll give you a brief summary of the story and a hint at an esoteric interpretation: Demeter, the Greek earth goddess, had a daughter named Persephone, who was carried off by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. Demeter was naturally quite pissed and decided to make all the crops stop growing until she got her daughter back. No crops meant no worshipers, so the other gods intervened and a bargain was made. Persephone would spend half of the year on earth with Demeter and half of the year with Hades in the underworld. Now the hint: Demeter could be said to represent the universal soul, and Persephone the individual soul.

The book explores in depth what is known about the mystery school. There is also some speculation about the ceremonies involved. The author conjectures that a psychedelic derived from a naturally occurring fungus may have been involved. An interesting theory, but those of you who have read The Biology of Belief (ISBN and review to be provided later, as soon as I find the damn thing) know that mind-altering drugs are only effective because the molecules fit into receptors in our nerve cells for naturally-produced neurotransmitters that perform the same function. So, given the right setting, the same experience could have been produced without the drugs. So Just Say No!

There is also a chapter about the philosopher Parmenides. You'll like Parmenides, once you get to know him. I have another book about him, which I'll tell you about later. He was not the cold logician he is commonly portrayed as. I think he would have been just as much at home on a mountaintop in Tibet as in his native Italy. Another chapter explores the effects of the work on identity.

I would recommend the book not only for the mythology, but because the rites seem to be a source for the Golden Dawn tradition.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book Review: Good Omens

The end of the world is coming, and it will be ushered in by the Antichrist in the form of an 11-year-old boy in rural England. An angel and a demon are in charge of laying the groundwork. However, neither of them wants to see the world end because they like it here. The four horsemen have upgraded to motorcycles. Did I mention that the demon happens to be named after the most controversial figure in occultism? All this, and more in Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman.

My favorite funny part of the book: the angel inhabiting various bodies in an attempt to return to the scene of the "festivities" after being banished by a "witchfinder" who has mistaken him for a demon. There's another scene where a group of Hell's Angels decides to accompany the four horsemen to where the apocalypse is supposed to start.

Of course, the book isn't on my blog just because it's funny. At one point in the story, the end of the world begins to happen because the preteen antichrist decides that the adults have ruined everything and that it would be best to get rid of everybody (except his three closest friends) and start over. Reading this reminded me of my preferred theory about the book of Revelation: that it is an allegorized description of an initiation ritual. The intended result of any initiation ritual is that the world looks somehow different to the person who has just undergone the ritual and is therefore beginning a new life.

Not to give any more of the plot away, but another interesting point is raised toward the end. People who take things literally will be looking for a world war and various disasters. That may be what it will take for some of us to wake up. But what if there's another way?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What is Freedom, Anyway?

The other day I made an observation to a coworker about drugs. I said something to the effect that mind-altering drugs bought at the drugstore with a prescription from a doctor are acceptable, but mind-altering drugs bought on a street corner are not. At that point he assumed I was trying to argue for legalization, which normally would have been a valid assumption. In the midst of the argument, I ended up saying: "It doesn't matter. What we have is probably the best we can do right now."

Why did I say that? Let's start with an axiom: our actions are determined by a combination of our values, our belief systems and our perceived environments. Our environment is what it is; we have a bit of latitude in how we perceive our environment, and there are some things we have control over, but for the most part it's a given. That leaves our values and our belief systems. How many of us really have our own values and belief systems?

Just to clarify, by belief systems I don't only mean things like religion. I also mean things like "is global warming caused by humans?" and "does dietary fat and cholesterol cause heart disease?" Yes, the answers to these questions are facts, but unless you've examined the research for yourself after at least learning the basics of the field and having a solid grounding in scientific method, you only have a belief system, and not even your own belief system.

For most of us, we have a combination of what our parents taught us, what we learned in school, and the information given us by the media. Even if we question it, we often end up with an alternative that was also given to us by someone else. So, does it make sense to talk about freedom at all?

For some of us (and you know who you are) the answer is yes. For the rest, the answer is not yet. Before the vast majority of us (the writer included) can have any real idea of freedom, we must examine our belief systems and our values and decide for ourselves what makes sense. But before we can do that, we must recognize that what we have right now is not our own.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Review: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg

There's a scene in The Matrix where Neo and Morpheus are standing in a dojo. Morpheus explains that it is actually a computer simulation, and that, like any simulation, there are rules. "Some of these rules may be bent; others may be broken." I was reminded of this scene when I read the chapter "don juan and jesus" in The Crack In the Cosmic Egg by Joseph Chilton Pearce (ISBN 0-671-80621-1). Here's a relevant quote:

Don Juan and Jesus consider the world to be an arbitrary construct, not an illusion as in the East or a fated absolute as in the West...Don Juan and Jesus believe the materials of the world to be subject to dramatic alteration and reorganization by an activity of the mind.

Mr. Pearce also recounts an incident in his college years where for some reason he was able to press the lighted end of a cigarette against his bare skin without getting burned or blistered. The book could be said to be an exploration of the implications of that experience. Other paranormal phenomena are also touched upon. Those among us who are recovering materialists will have trouble with his theories about the laws of science unless we are pretty far along in our recovery, so this book is not recommended for newbies. On the other hand, if you have an open mind, and a few cracks in your model of the universe don't bother you, it will be a very interesting read.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book Review: The Tyranny of Words

The Tyranny of Words by Stuart Chase (ISBN 0-15-692394-7) raises an interesting issue. The author points out that for most words (the exception being words that denote things to which one can point), everyone has their own idea of what each word means. As an example, ask a few people what freedom means to them. The problem with this is that if you say something to someone, because they have their own idea of what each word means, they won't understand you, but because they think they do, they won't ask for clarification.

As an example, if someone were to say "They hate us because we're free," a listener who thought of freedom as meaning the right to do whatever one wanted as long as no harm was done to other people or their property would have a different understanding of what was said, as opposed to a listener who thought of freedom as meaning that we (as a nation) don't have to take orders from any other nation. The two listeners would each believe that they understood the statement, but would have very different ideas about what the statement meant, and wouldn't even know that they understood it differently.

Now why does this matter to us? Those of us who have read anything by Plato will agree that this was a known issue even back then. Of course the age of Plato was the same time period when many classic works, including the Bible, are thought to have been written. Since the ancients knew they would be misunderstood if they tried to convey their wisdom in literal terms, they needed an alternative method of getting their message across. Metaphor, simile and allegory have the advantage of being able to use words that refer to things that can be pointed at. A writer could say "the Israelites escaped from bondage in Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years before reaching the promised land," and the literal meaning wouldn't change much over the years. As a result, the metaphorical meaning wouldn't change either.

So my theory is this: any writing dated before the 19th century which appears contradictory, impossible, or immoral taken literally may in fact have a symbolic meaning that makes sense. Our job is to find that meaning.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Materialists Anonymous

Hello, everyone. My name is Larry, and I'm a recovering materialist.

If you are also a materialist and want help, "A Beginner's Guide to Reality" by Jim Baggott (ISBN 1-933648-04-X) is a good place to start. The book covers three questions: 1) Is Money Real? 2) Are Colors Real? 3) Are Photons Real? The answers may surpise you.

The author of this book is also a materialist, but that may just be because he thinks the only choices are materialism and dualism. For that reason, if you are a materialist when you start the book, you will still be one when you finish, but you at least will have a better understanding of the issues involved. You can then move on to the other books I've discussed, or you can read books by some of the philosophers referenced in Baggott's book: Plato, Aristotle, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. An interesting exercise would be to read those philosophers under the theory that they know something that they are either unable or unwilling to express explicitly, and therefore use metaphor extensively in their works. (By the way, you should also try this exercise with Dante's "Divine Inferno.")

Saturday, July 7, 2007

An Oversimplified Model of the Universe

For this exercise, you will need a blank sheet of paper, a compass and a ruler. First, draw a circle of any size on the paper. Next, draw a point at the center of the circle. Finally, draw a line connecting the center of the circle to any point on its circumference. You have now drawn an oversimplified model of the universe.

The center of the circle represents the source of all things. Call it God if you want, or the infinite, or zero point. The circumference of the circle represents the physical universe. The line connecting the center to the circumference is you. An adequate model would involve at least 4-dimensional space, but you get the idea.

For more details, read "Jesus and the Lost Goddess" by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (ISBN 0-609-60767-7). Check your literalist interpretation of Christianity at the door.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Start Here

The Power of Myth (ISBN 0-385-41886-8) by Joseph Campbell, is of course, an excellent introduction to mythology and why it still matters. It also serves as a very good introduction to comparative religion, as it covers not only the "Big Three" of western civilization (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), but also Eastern and even Native American religious thought. For example, one of the highlights of the book is a delightful story about Indra's castle.

What may not be readily apparent is that the myths not only represent things that may happen in our lives, for example the quest and the coming of age, but also things that could or should happen, like spiritual development and what I will call for expediency's sake "enlightenment."

Even though I reviewed a couple of books before this one, the seeker of wisdom will do well to read this one first.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Matrix Reconsidered

Let us consider the model of reality as portrayed in the Matrix movies. In this model, all sensory inputs are supplied to us by a computer modeling an imaginary world designed to keep us busy while we supply heat and energy to our AI controllers.

Now, let's make a couple of modifications to this model. First, in addition to sensory inputs, thoughts and emotions will be supplied by the computers in addition to (best case) or instead of (worst case) our own. Second, to improve scalability, some (or most) of the data processing is offloaded to the client machines, or in other words, our brains. Appropriate programs are downloaded to our brains and the physics affecting "nearby" objects is processed locally. Other programs could be run locally, but because the downloaded programs provide a strong "disincentive for doing so, there is little need on the part of the AI controllers to monitor local programs.

Replace the AI controllers with reptilian creatures from another dimension and we now have the model of reality as given by David Icke's book "Infinite Love is the Only Truth; Everything Else is Illusion." (ISBN 0-9538810-6-7) Some of you who have read Icke's other books are probably thinking, "Yes, but what about the lizards?" Forget about the lizards! They can best be considered as a metaphor for the AI controllers I mentioned above. They just happen to look like lizards to those of us who can see them. It doesn't matter in the least. The entire point of the book is that the lizards have no real power over us except to the extent that we run their downloaded programs on our brain computers.

That said, I have the same complaint about this book as I have about the rest of his books: too much space devoted to preaching to the choir about the Illuminati control network and not enough detail about what to do about it. If you've read his other books, you could probably just read chapter three ("Downloading Reality") and chapter ten ("Logging Off") and not miss anything important. On the other hand, you'll probably find the book well worth the money for just those two chapters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book Review: The Christ Conspiracy

The Christ Conspiracy: the Greatest Story Ever Sold (ISBN 0-932813-74-7) by Acharya S asserts that the historical Jesus never existed and that Christianity as we know it is was created by the Romans to become the new state religion. Plenty of evidence is given to support the assertion, including quotes from early clergy members and other Roman writers. It also documents that many attributes of the Jesus story, for example the virgin birth and the resurrection, existed in other religions before Christianity.

This book has a difficult mission in that the people who most need its message will be the least likely to pick it up in the first place. Those who do will be turned off by the first few chapters, which seem to be beating a dead horse after the first few pages. It also gives the impression of the author being just another bitter atheist. If you'll visit her website ( you'll see that she's at least not really an atheist (although I'm not sure if
she's bitter).

Other interesting subjects treated by the book include little-known references to astrology in the Bible and evidence of a global culture in prehistoric times.

I would recommend reading her book if you're interested in the subject matter, but the material on her website seems to me to be more worthwhile.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why I'm Here

The idea that the major world religions have a common source and goal is not new. I discovered the idea in the course of my research. My contribution, if I have one to make, will be to compile the relevant sources and put out the information in a 21st century format.

What these religions are ultimately pointing at cannot be adequately described by words. If it could, it would have been common knowledge long ago. Therefore, a strict literal interpretation of any scripture is not suitable for our purpose. We will be reading between the lines, and remembering that the map is not the territory.

Also, I have found that the search for truth causes a change inside ourselves that makes life more meaningful and rewarding. I hope that proves true for you as well.