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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Wednesday, July 23

to receive different energies

In Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World: The Psychology of Political Behavior, there is a section titled "Radovan Karadzic: Poet of Death" (p. 172). It begins by noting that "a principle architect of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia was a psychiatrist -- a disturbing echo of the Nazi doctors..." He was also evidently a poet. A few pages later we get this...
Karadzic's poems reveal his embrace of myth, demonstrating a fusion of his personal Homeric myth with a collective myth of greater Serbian redemption. Karadzic identifies himself with Serbia and views himself as having a heroic role in Serbian history. His grandiose self-image is reflected in his poetic reference to his name: "Since people were not allowed to call God by his real name they called him Radovan," that is, "he who brings joy." In several of his poems he seems to identify himself with the deity.
A bit further down the same page, the author writes...
Karadzic ruefully acknowledges this premonitory prophetic quality, and speaks of if it arising out of his sense of being "trapped in the depths of historical mire," and of his poetry as representing his answer to his sense of confusion and torment.
I'm just guessing here, but that last bit makes me think Karadzic was probably familiar with the "Traditionalist" spew of Rene Guenon and Julius Evola, as well as with the ahistorical longings of Mircea Eliade's fascist religiosity.

But poetry and religion were clearly not enough for the joyous Radovan.

On July 23, The New York Times reported...

Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested Monday in a raid in Serbia that ended a 13-year hunt.
Thanks to Frank Paynter for alerting me to the "softer side" of this genocidal butcher. The Guardian ran a story on July 22 titled Radovan Karadzic: Online purveyor of alternative energies, which translated bits of the website he maintained.
"We are energetic beings," the Serbian-language site begins. "Numerous energetic processes in us, which all the functions of our body are dependent upon, are caused by the energy of the higher source (cosmic energy, prana, mana, organic energy, quantum energy, the Holy Spirit). They flow in us and around us and they are our highest good and the source of health and our wellbeing."

The same day, Reuters posted a story titled Karadzic lived as long-haired, New Age doctor...

As the soft-spoken Dr Dabic, Karadzic held lectures and wrote articles comparing popular meditation techniques with 'Orthodox Meditation' a silent technique practiced by monks in Orthodox monasteries.

He was also interested in healing through the optimal use of 'vital energy', a quasi-mystical, non-physical dimension of the body, similar to the Chinese notion of 'Qi' and the Indian concept of the 'chakra' centres of energy in the body.

"He was very religious," said a woman who works at the magazine and knew him. "He had his hair in a plait in order to be able to receive different energies. He was a very nice man."

The photographs and captions below are from the New York Times slideshow: The End of a Manhunt.

“ Wanted since 1995, Mr. Karadzic [right]
disappeared from the public eye for at least
a decade. He is said to have eluded arrest
so long by... disguising himself as a
Serbian Orthodox priest. ”

“Clothed skeletons at the site of the
massacre. The remains were on a
hilltop west of the town.”

“Bosnian refugees from Srebrenica mourned
the victims of the massacre at a refugee camp
at the Tuzla airport in Bosnia in the days after
the killings in 1995.”

“Mourners attended the mass burial of
610 victims of Srebrenica in July 2005,
to commemorate the 10th anniversary
of the massacre.”


NAMASTE!



Saturday, July 5

we have always lived in the castle

Andre Breton was among the originators of Dada, and the founder of Surrealism. In his magisterial study, The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry (p. 835), Henri Ellenberger tells this story about him...

As a medical student, Andre Breton was mobilized to work in a military psychiatric unit. Among his patients there was a man who had stood on a trench embankment during battle and, like a policeman directing traffic, had "directed" the flight of the shells around him. The man was convinced that it was a simulated war, with fake weapons, and faked wounded and dead; a proof was that he had always escaped injury. Breton was impressed to see how a young and well-bred person, who appeared lucid, could live in a fantastic world to such a degree.
Well-bred and lucid myself (making certain allowances, and if not young), I am also impressed -- though granted, living in a much larger fantasy, and fantastic to a far greater degree. No, "impressed" is hardly strong enough. I am, to say the least, amazed.

But that's not how I found that story. I got there searching for a particular slice of background about Herbert Silberer, an early member of Freud's circle in Vienna. In the same paragraph, Ellenberger continues...

Once he heard the words: "There is a man cut in two by the window," and he saw the corresponding image. Breton seems to have been unaware that this type of dream had been thoroughly investigated by Herbert Silberer, who had shown that the hypnagogic image was a symbolic representation of the state of the dreamer who was halfway between the states of waking and dreaming.
The reason I was researching Silberer will emerge. But perhaps this is as good a place as any to insert a passage I found in his Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism (Kessinger Publishing reprint, 2006, p. 151).
The service of having rediscovered the intrinsic value of alchemy over and above its chemical and physical phase, is to be ascribed probably to the American, Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who published his views on the alchemists in the book, "Remarks upon Alchemy and the Alchemists" ...
Because, you see, it was in Ethan Allen Hitchcock that I was primarily interested, about whom Silberer says a page later, "The discoveries made by Hitchcock are so important for our analysis, that a complete exposition of them cannot be dispensed with."

These are clearly precursors to -- and undoubtedly sources of -- Carl Jung's later fascination (nay, obsession) with alchemy. In the case of Hitchcock, I would have to say "much later," as Ethan Allen Hitchcock was an advisor to Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Were I not opposed in principle to the overuse of exclamation marks, I would add several to that last sentence.

That Wikipedia page also adds that "Hitchcock was a Rosicrucian and a member in [the] Washington D.C. club along with Lincoln."

Along with Lincoln? (making an exception: !!!)

Is this one of those weird internet conspiracy theories we hear so much about infecting the populist online encyclopedia? Or am I just impossibly naive about these matters? Clearly, some more digging was in order.

Well, here's something.

President Lincoln possessed no directive, authoritative power, due to his public office, and was under the Law of Silence. General Hitchcock did possess authority and made no effort to hide the fact that there was an active center of the Fraternitas in Washington, DC, which he and other members attended. The three: Abraham Lincoln, General Hitchcock and Dr. Randolph were known as The Peerless Trio, or Unshakable Triumvirate.

Well... not very convincing, as that appears on a site called "soul.org" (pardon my skepticism). It is glossed by a note that says: "Refer to the book about General Hitchcock, Fifty Years in Camp and Field, p.484." While this book does indeed exist, searching it for "Law of Silence," "Fraternitas," "Peerless Trio," and "Unshakable Triumvirate" yielded precisely nothing. Oh well. So as far as I can determine without much deeper research, the jury is out on Abe's alleged Rosicrucianism.

However, I found something far more credible in Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography, which Publishers Weekly calls a "richly documented and sympathetic study." Library Journal calls it "the definitive account." These assessments are important to note, so that the following is not taken as gratuitous bad-mouthing.

Her introduction to spiritualism had probably taken place first in Lexington from the household slaves and then in Springfield from the white prophets who appeared in the Midwest during the early 1850s. Thereafter rarely a season passed without a spirit conveyer standing on the stage of the Masonic Hall and answering, with suitable melodrama, immensely difficult and intimate questions about the local persona being exhibited. As early as 1842, when the Lincolns boarded at the Globe, a mesmeriser using some sort of apparatus had drawn electrical power from the heavens and cured the spasms of a fellow boarder's facial tic....

No matter when Mary Lincoln became a believer, by 1862 she had so many spiritualist friends that she lacked only a medium for a séance -- and had that sometimes.

But the way I found this Lincoln connection was by poking around in a chapter titled "Swedenborg's Sanity" in Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic (Yale University Press, 1948), where author Signe Toksvig writes on page 157...

In brutal brevity: Was Swedenborg insane?
The book's later (1983) publication by the Swedenborg Foundation provides a big clue that Toksvig answers that question in the negative. Note that the closer one gets to Swedenborg, and to all that has devolved from him -- via, for instance, Blake, Emerson, William James, et al -- the more elastic become definitions of "sanity." But never mind that. On page 160, we get this...
...another champion of Swedenborg's sanity was Ethan Allen Hitchcock, the scholar (and incidentally soldier) who was called to be President Lincoln's and Secretary Stanton's adviser during the Civil War. Hitchcock wrote a clear and well-documented book, in which he noted the similarity of many of Swedenborg's ideas and expressions with those of the "hermeneutical" writers -- the very ones whom Swedenborg once had stigmatized as "occult" -- writers who in all ages out of the Kabbalah, nature mysticism, and various kinds of Neoplatonism had constructed "secret" systems, sometimes crudely "magical," sometimes of elevated religious philosophy, disguised from heresy hunters by "occult" terms.
btw, the "well-documented book" was Hitchcock's Swedenborg, A Hermetic Philosopher. Despite this argument for the Swedish seer's alleged sanity, Toksvig had previously told us (p. 156)...
In 1746 after a year's social experience with spirits, [Swedenborg] noted privately that, "in company with other men, I spoke just as any other man, so that no one was able to distinguish me either from myself as I had been formerly, or from any other man; and, nevertheless, in the midst of company I sometimes spoke with spirits and with those who were around me; and perhaps they might have gathered something from this circumstance."
Gathered something? You think?

But none of these concerns about possible psychosis seems to have discouraged Henry James, Sr. (father of Henry, the writer, and of William, the <koff> psychologist), who recovered from his spiritual "vastation" of 1844 by deeply devoting himself to the twisty wisdom of Emanuel Swedenborg.

In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson -- who introduced Henry, Sr. to his pal Thomas Carlyle (see Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question) and stood as Godfather to the precociously paranormal little Willie (see The Varieties of Religious Experience) -- included Swedenborg as one of only six so-called Representative Men (full text here) in his essay Swedenborg or, The Mystic.

As happens in great men, he seemed, by the variety and amount of his powers, to be a composition of several persons,—like the giant fruits which are matured in gardens...
Well, at least I can agree with that much.

Oy.

----

I've taken you through all this backwards, of course. But it shows, I think, that we have always lived in the castle. Which is to say, Shirley Jackson and Kafka aside: America, in its soul and essence, has always been completely barking mad.



Friday, July 4

happiness is a warm gun

Astute reader and frequent provider of nifty news items, Austin Kelley, just send me a pointer to an AlterNet article posted today titled The Science of Happiness: Is It All Bullshit? It's about the appearance on The Daily Show (posted 8/10/2007) of Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. Unfortunately, the article isn't very insightful.
Compared with the dangerously dehumanizing stuff in the mental health business, positive psychology is so innocuous that I almost felt sorry for Ben-Shahar.
Well, sorry no, but thanks for playing.

Better to watch the interview itself. Comedy Central prefaces the video with the note: "Jon is amazed that professor Tal Ben-Shahar gets away with teaching happiness at Harvard."

As most of you know, Positive Psychology is a subject "dear" to my heart, and about which I've written previously in a post called Positively Fourth Street. Have a look at that too. There's more to come on this front. One of these days.

NOTE: For best results, play this concurrent with the above.



Tuesday, July 1

monkey see

I don't often quote this much at a whack, but when you read it you'll see why I made an exception. I've only read as much as I'm giving you here, but I do want to read more. Perhaps you will too. The book is titled The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics, and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments, and the rest of the Prologue is here.

Ready? OK, here's how it starts...

There was once a famous population of Japanese monkeys — the irrepressible macaca fuscata — living on the island of Koshima in 1952; incidentally the year I was born. Scientists provided the monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand, and observed that they generally seemed to relish the new treat in spite of a certain unpleasant grittiness. One day an enterprising young primate named Imo discovered that if she took her potato down to the water's edge, she could rinse off all the dirt and enjoy a much tastier meal.  Imo taught her mother and playmates the trick, and gradually, over the course of six years, one monkey after another adopted the practice.

Then in 1958, a remarkable event occurred: the number of potato-washing monkeys reached what is called a "critical mass," and suddenly, not only did the entire monkey population on Koshima Island start performing the new procedure, but all of the monkey populations on neighboring islands spontaneously began washing their potatoes as well!

"The Hundredth Monkey" became the name futurists used for this unusual phenomenon, and they extrapolated from monkey-experience to show that this is also the way the human community makes dramatic, collective paradigm shifts into new ways of thinking, being and behaving.  Once a critical mass of people have transformed their essentially materialist world-view to a spiritual one, for example, the entire population of the planet will spontaneously choose to come along for the ride.  The dirty sweet potato of being a self-centered, acquisitive, power-hungry creature, blindly bent on the destruction of life as we know it, will be gently washed in the stream of loving-kindness, peacefulness and the desire to serve God and humanity, ushering in a Golden Age of peace and prosperity for all people.   

***

Fat chance.  Not with the likes of me around.  I am the 99th Monkey.  If you don't get me, you don't get your critical mass, and it screws up the whole works.  I seem to be single-handedly holding back the Great Paradigm Shift of the Golden Age through my simply continuing to be a resistant little putz most of the time.  My apologies.

(If it makes you feel any better, I recently heard somewhere that this whole story about the monkeys and the potatoes is not true, that it didn't really happen that way at all. That really annoyed me, considering that I'd just based a whole book on it.)

***

I met Ram Dass, my first spiritual teacher, in 1975 in New York when I was 23 years old, several weeks after completing the est training in Boston, which was several months after having spent one and a half years screaming my head off in Primal Therapy.  I was desperately trying to cure myself of being me, a futile pursuit that would continue for three decades, and would take me all around the world to meet shamans, healers and gurus, stay in ashrams and monasteries, sit for long hours on meditation cushions, chant in foreign tongues, and live up to 40 days in primitive huts on solo retreat.

I experimented extensively with psychedelic drugs, ancient spiritual techniques and outrageous new ones.  I was massaged, shiatsu-ed, and rolfed, took hundreds of consciousness workshops, human potential seminars, and self-improvement courses, sat with psychics, channels and tarot readers, experienced Primal, Gestalt, Bioenergetics, Object Relations, generic talk therapies and anti-depressants. And that's the short list. (The complete one gets embarrassing.  Suffice it to say that it includes learning the Tush Push exercise in a Human Sexuality weekend — you don't want to know — as well as having an obese female therapist sit on my head at Esalen Institute, so I could re-experience being smothered by my mother.)

As Editor-in-Chief of the New Sun Magazine in the ‘70s and the Wild Heart Journal more recently, and through being a freelance spiritual journalist, it has often been my job to do all these things. Like a scout sent ahead to report back, I often saved others a lot of time: "You don't have to go deep into Brazil to do all-night rituals involving the ingestion of ayahuasca, chanting in Portuguese to Oxum, the Mother of the Waters, and throwing up out of a church window at four in the morning — I already did that." 

[more...]



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