Margaret Starbird on Bloodline of Jesus

Katia writes:
There is alot of hype now about “blood descendants” of Jesus and Mary Magdalene currently walking the earth, claiming to have the holy blood and holy grail flowing in their physical veins rather than their spiritual and mental veins.  The following is an important point Margaret Starbird made last week which I felt compelled to crosspost all over the place. 
______________________

Kelly Fleming on the yahoogroups forum Magdalene-list asked:

“What reference to today, at this time, this moment, would an ancient brood of kiddies and wife reveal?”

______________________

Margaret Starbird responds:

It’s NOT about an ancient brood of kiddies, Kelly. It’s
about balancing the masculine and feminine as partners on
a planet that has, at it’s heart, a Partnership or Union
model for life. Claiming that Jesus was married is a way of
insisting that he was FULLY human, “like us in all ways but–
sin.” It also enables us to image the Divine as “Complements”–
the union of the Logos and Sophia, the first “emanations” of
the unseen “HOLY ONE.” Ultimately it takes us back to something
akin to “wave” and “particle” theory–and it helps to heal the
wasteland caused by the hegemony of the masculine/solar principle
on our planet (playing itself out in the “desert” as we speak–
all the while praying that it won’t blow up the entire planet!).

This is the “gist” of the book I wrote about the symbolic numbers
in the New Testament. The “celibate god” ruling from a celestial
throne becomes the “wounded fisher king” of medieval legends–
precisely because he has not partner (his wound it to the “thigh”).
When the “Grail” (feminine partner!) is restored, the waters
begin to flow and the wasteland is healed.

peace and light,
Margaret
www.margaretstarbird.net

Are we obsessed with apocrypha?

This article (below) says people are obsessed with apocrypha lately — mostly thanks to Dan Brown’s book.  But, the author claims, we haven’t really learned anything new or “secret” about Christianity.  It’s still the greatest story ever told — or sold.  I don’t agree.  I think the apocrypha and the other gospels have shown us earth-shattering material about our Christian goddesses for one thing.  We know about Sophia, Mary the Mother and Mary the Magdalene (the “Great”).  Most of you reading this were probably into alternative Christianity way before Dan Brown’s book.  DaVinci Code just let the rest of the world know what our little niche had been “obsessing” over for years.  Right?  This article is also about that hidden family of Jesus’, and says the documentary dude claims Jesus had THREE sisters, not two. There are also the four brothers named in the Gospels.  Here’s the article……
Katia

Details may change, but it’s still the greatest story ever told
UK Sunday Times

Our current obsession with apocrypha is not really turning up much that’s new or secret, says Peter Stanford.
 
It is billed as “the conspiracy that Dan Brown missed”, and the shadow of The Da Vinci Code certainly hangs heavy over Channel 4’s Christmas documentary The Secret Family of Jesus. Ever since Brown’s book became a publishing sensation, with its “revelation”, based on allegedly secret gospels, that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had spawned a dynasty, there has been an unholy rush to repackage the racier end of biblical scholarship for a popular and curious audience.

So the Channel 4 show, fronted by Robert Beckford, an unorthodox theologian with dreadlocks, is just the latest attempt to turn on its head the basic Christian narrative by reference to various texts, written soon after Jesus’s death and telling of his life, that did not make it into the Authorised Version. Earlier this month, the BBC broadcast The Lost Gospels, with the trendy Anglican vicar Pete Owen-Jones, a cross between Indiana Jones and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, hitchhiking round Egypt and the Holy Land to examine ancient accounts sidelined by the official church for centuries. Rageh Omaar has been on BBC4 with The Dead Sea Scrolls, airing conspiracy theories that the church has sought to cover up anything that contradicts its story of Christ’s life and times.

Meanwhile, Hollywood’s new take on events in Bethlehem 2006 years ago, The Nativity Story, owes something to the prominence given in the extra-canonical texts to John the Baptist as more Jesus’s equal than his warm-up act. And the latest novel by the distinguished New Zealand writer CK Stead, My Name Was Judas, draws on the recently rediscovered Gospel of Judas to provide an alternative account of the build-up to the betrayer’s kiss.

What underpins all these accounts — as it did Brown’s pioneering thriller — is the revelation that Christianity has played fast and loose with the details of its founder’s message and life. We now learn that popes, bishops and priests, supposedly models of propriety and holiness, have been making it up as they go along. They have carried out, in the process, one of the biggest cons in history by expunging all other accounts of Jesus’s ministry than the ones that reinforce their own prejudices.

These parallel narratives, collectively known as the Apocrypha or Gnostic gospels, were, history tells us, destroyed by order of the church fathers in Rome in about the 4th century. But, since the end of the 19th century, they have started to turn up again, often unearthed by archeologists working in the Middle East. The most spectacular find came in 1945, at Nag Hammadi, in upper Egypt, where a shepherd dug up a sealed jar containing ancient papyrus scrolls of gospels by Mary Magdalene, Thomas (previously simply the doubting apostle in the Good Book) and Philip.

Using those and more recent archeological finds, The Secret Family of Jesus rearranges the seats at the family table in Nazareth. John the Baptist is up there at the head of the table, shoulder to shoulder with his cousin, Jesus. There are two other brothers, Jude and James, the latter destined to run Jesus’s church in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion as a home from home for disgruntled Jews before Saints Peter and Paul disinherited him and moved God’s business address on earth to Rome. And, inevitably, because of the legacy of Brown, there’s Mary Magdalene, the daughter-in-law the Vatican prefers to shun, rather as the royals try to pretend Fergie doesn’t exist.

One site that Beckford visits in The Secret Family of Jesus is the ruins of the ancient city of Magdala, once a community of 40,000 people, but today shut away, he alleges, “by the church”, behind fences and locked gates, in case anything incriminating is found in the rubble. Beckford notes that, just down the road, the remnants of Capernaum, supposedly the home of St Peter, are now a popular pilgrimage destination. The official cover-up, he suggests, continues to this day.

Well, yes and no. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, is certainly no great fan of women. It has, indeed, shown an almost pathological urge, over the centuries, to paint Mary Magdalene as a second Eve, an example to women of how not to behave, especially when set against the manifold feminine virtues of the Virgin Mary. Christ’s mother, by contrast, features little in the Apocrypha. She was no doubt too busy at home, looking after her other children — for, as Beckford points out, even some “official” Gospel texts in the Good Book make reference to her four other sons and three daughters.

Of course, this wave of feverish speculation around the alternative gospels has its drawbacks. First, many of the revelations plucked from them over the past couple of years are essentially old hat, because scholars have been picking over the texts for 100 years now. When David Jenkins, the erstwhile Bishop of Durham, caused headlines back in 1984 by questioning the literal truth of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Jesus, it was pointed out that he was only saying publicly what had been discussed in the common rooms of theological colleges for decades, some of it influenced by the Gnostic gospels, which often make no mention of Jesus rising from the dead.  
 
What has changed in the past two decades is that, thanks to the efforts of Brown and others, the evidence on which such academic speculation was based has now been shared in its entirety with a lay, secular and often skeptical audience. The information itself isn’t new. It is just the presentation.

Second, the shock value of these new perspectives depends heavily on the notion that (a) they are more reliable than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and (b) the four Evangelists present a single, unified, unambiguous version of Jesus’s life and teachings. Or, at the very least, that that is how the churches have presented them. There are no grounds for assuming that the alternative narratives are any more or less true than the Gospels we have. They are simply different in some respects (there are huge overlaps, seldom commented on). Indeed, if one were to judge past church leaders benignly, one might conclude that they chose the texts they did for inclusion in the New Testament, not because of some devilish plot to twist Jesus’s memory to their own advantage, but rather because they believed the writings they selected to be more authentic than the ones they discarded.

Then there is the small matter that the four “official” Gospels in the New Testament endlessly contradict one another. They raise enough questions to keep us going for a very long time, and can scarcely, therefore, be dismissed as the productions of a team of ecclesiastical spin doctors. Since it’s Christmas, let’s take the example of the Nativity. Mark and John don’t mention it at all. Matthew, for his part, doesn’t go into much detail, preferring to spend almost a whole chapter linking Joseph to the Old Testament figures of David and Abraham. That is in line with a practice, seen often in the New Testament, of embellishing Jesus’s life with details that show him as linked to the prophecies and prophets of the Old. There’s no census, no stable and no shepherds in Matthew. In fact, the traditional infant-school play would be mercifully short if based on his telling. Luke, by contrast, includes them all. But the three kings are only in Matthew. And one of Christianity’s favourite ideas — namely, that Joseph was an old man, not really up to wanting to sleep with his young wife, happy for her to be consorting with the Holy Spirit, and with grown-up kids of his own (hence the reference elsewhere in the “official” Gospels to Mary’s other children) — is nowhere to be found at all. It gets an airing only in the Apocryphal Gospel of James, precisely the sort of document the church is said to be so anxious to suppress. So, the alternative versions really have the capacity to set pulses racing only if the Gospels in the New Testament are labelled as gospel truth. The church certainly used to label them as such. When I was growing up Catholic in the 1970s, children were strongly dissuaded from reading the Bible. We needed, we were told, a priest to interpret it for us. Just in case we came across awkward elements such as Mary’s other children. But the reality today, as even a Jesuit professor from the Vatican’s Bible Institute admits on screen in The Secret Family of Jesus, is that the church long ago ceased to claim that every word and detail in the New Testament is sacrosanct. If you want to dispute almost any item of church teaching or dogma, you can find plenty of evidence in the Gospels we already have in the Bible to back you up. Christianity, for instance, is infamously uptight about sex, but Jesus utters scarcely a word about it in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

This is not to say that the Apocrypha are not fascinating, tantalising and useful for building a more accurate picture about the circumstances and the factions that surrounded Jesus and the movement that turned his memory into a global force. But we need to be more precise about what they are and what they aren’t. What irks about Beckford’s presentation, therefore, is the underlying claim that, because more gospels have suddenly turned up, we can bin the ones we’ve already got. That is as manipulative of the truth as the early church fathers. Or even Dan Brown.

From http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2101-2517420,00.html

 

Jesus’ secret brothers & sisters – Painting


Now this is one gorgeous ancient portrait of the holy family.  The colors are stunning. Wish it showed Jesus’ sisters, too.  At least we get a look at one sibling.  See below… (and please peruse my ponderings at the end)

 

Documentary claims Jesus had ‘secret’ siblings
ANI
London, December 23, 2006

Author Dan Brown caused an uproar when he suggested in The Da Vinci Code that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a family.

However, a never seen before ancient portrait suggests that though Jesus may have had a family, it might not be the one Brown suggests.

The portrait, which was discovered deep in the wilderness of the Judean desert, in a remote part of the Holy Land in an ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St Gerasimos, has a highly unusual portrait of the Holy Family, for along with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it also shows the presence of a fourth member – a young man.

And what makes this young man’s presence even more interesting, is the fact that though simply clad in a dark robe and carrying his belongings on a stick, there is a golden halo which envelops his head.According to a controversial Channel 4 documentary, the man’s name is James, and reason why he is included in the picture, is because he happens to be Jesus’ blood brother.

James’ inclusion in this picture is a clue to a real-life church conspiracy to cover up the fact that Jesus did have a hidden family – his siblings: James, Joses, Simon, Jude (sometimes referred to as Judas), Salome and young Mary, reports the Daily Mail.

Dr Robert Beckford, a committed Christian and reader in theology at Oxford Brookes University as well as the man behind the new findings also reveals in the documentary that the Bible itself mentions Jesus’ siblings with a reference in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, where when Christ preaches at the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, the citizens question his claim to be the new Messiah with the words “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and his brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas? And are not his sisters here with us?”

Dr Beckford further supports his argument with a passage from the gospel of St Mark in which Jesus’ family go searching for him one day when he is preaching.

“A multitude was sitting around him and they told him: ‘Behold your Mother, your brothers and your sisters are outside looking for you.’ ”

The documentary also suggests that not only did Jesus’ siblings apparently play a crucial role in the founding of Christianity, but that their teachings were so much of a threat to the official church that it ruthlessly tried to eradicate them from history by rewriting Christ’s life story, fabricating his place of birth, falsely crediting him with creating the Lord’s Prayer and even inventing the idea that his mother Mary remained a virgin throughout her life.

It also implies that James, the man in the portrait, was the one chosen by Jesus to lead the church after his death, and not St Paul, as is commonly believed.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1877615,001100020016.htm

Did Jesus Have a Secret Family?
By DAVID LEAFE 22nd December 2006, The Mail

A family affair: the painting shows Jesus on the shoulder of Joseph, followed by Mary and, behind her, what is now claimed to be Jesus’s brother, James.

Is the man on the left of this picture the key to unlocking a mystery even bigger than the Da Vinci Code…and the proof that Jesus had a secret family? 

Deep in the wilderness of the Judean desert, in a remote part of the Holy Land which has changed little since Biblical times, there stands an ancient Greek Orthodox monastery with a highly unusual portrait of the Holy Family hidden in its chapel. 

Showing the young Jesus being carried on the shoulder of Joseph, while his mother Mary rides behind them, it appears similar at first to the thousands of other such images painted over the centuries. 

This is a picture you are unlikely to see on any Christmas card, however, for next to Jesus, Mary and Joseph there is a mysterious fourth figure – a young man with a golden halo who is wearing a simple dark robe and carrying his belongings on a stick. 

His name is James and, according to a controversial Channel 4 documentary to be screened on Christmas Day, his inclusion in this picture is a clue to a real-life church conspiracy as disturbing as anything dreamed up by Dan Brown in his bestselling religious thriller, The Da Vinci Code. 

In that novel, Brown speculates that Christ was married to his loyal follower Mary Magdalene and that they had a daughter together. However, it seems the novelist may have missed the point. 

According to Monday’s programme, Jesus did have a hidden family, but they were not a wife and daughter – rather his brothers and sisters: James, Joses, Simon, Jude (sometimes referred to as Judas), Salome and young Mary. 

These secret siblings apparently played a crucial role in the founding of Christianity, but their teachings proved too dangerous for the official church. 

Taking over their movement, it tried to eradicate them from history by rewriting Christ’s life story, fabricating his place of birth, falsely crediting him with creating the Lord’s Prayer and even inventing the idea that his mother Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. 

Presented by Dr Robert Beckford, a committed Christian and reader in theology at Oxford Brookes University, the claims will outrage many Christians and particularly Roman Catholics, for whom the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin is a key part of their faith. 

However, Dr Beckford says the Bible supports his arguments. 

For evidence that Mary had other children besides Jesus, he points to the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. 

This describes Christ preaching at the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth where the citizens question his claim to be the new Messiah. 

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and his brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?” they demand. “And are not his sisters here with us?” 

Christ’s family are also mentioned in the next gospel, in which St Mark relates how they go searching for him one day when he is preaching. 

“A multitude was sitting around him and they told him: ‘Behold your Mother, your brothers and your sisters are outside looking for you.’ ”

Over the centuries, theologians have concocted various theories to explain away these references. The most common is the view accepted by the monks of the St Gerasimos monastery which houses that intriguing painting of the Holy Family. 

They do not know who painted the picture or when, only that it dates back many hundreds of years, but they are clear about the relationship of James to Jesus. 

They believe Joseph was a widower who had children from his first marriage when he met Mary and that James and his siblings are only Jesus’s half-brothers and sisters. 

If true, this could explain why there are so few pictures of these shadowy half-siblings who, as relatively minor figures, would not have merited inclusion in those pictures which illustrated the most important people and events in Jesus’s life. 

However, Dr Beckford has a more sinister theory as to why the glimpse of James in the St Gerasimos picture is so rare. He believes that the early clerics suppressed such portraits because they knew these were Jesus’s full-blood brothers and sisters. 

The same censorship is apparent in the Gospels, he argues. As we have seen, both Matthew and Mark mention Jesus’s family briefly, but although the Gospel of Luke drew heavily on these earlier works, it does not mention any other children of Mary and Joseph. 

Dr Beckford maintains that the reasons for this censorship can be found in a vicious power struggle among the early Christians in the years after Christ’s death in approximately 33AD. 

The Gospel of John suggests that Jesus asked his disciple Peter to take care of his flock and, indeed, it is Peter who is traditionally regarded as the first leader of the Christian church. 

Yet at least four different documents written by reputable historians of the time, but not included in the Bible, suggest that Christ wanted his eldest brother James, and not Peter, to lead his church. 

This is clear from the writings of Hegesippus, a respected early chronicler of the Christian faith, who is believed to have lived between 110AD and 180AD. 

“The succession of the church passed to James, the brother of the Lord,” he said. 

As the first Bishop of Jerusalem, James had an arch-rival in the apostle Paul, whose teachings differed from his in one key respect: the issue of whether Jesus really was the son of God. 

Like Jesus, James was a Jew and, in line with Old Testament prophecies, he believed that Jesus was an ordinary man chosen by God to lead his people. This was very different to the idea championed by Paul that Jesus was a divine being, born of God himself. 

Although Paul never met Jesus and based his beliefs on a series of mystical visions, his ideas quickly gained popularity as more and more Gentiles joined the movement and the Jewish-Christians led by James soon found themselves outnumbered. 

Then the Jewish-Christians suffered two very serious setbacks. 

In the year 62AD, James was stoned to death on the orders of the Jewish High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem, who was jealous of his influence. 

Just five years later, the Romans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the great temple itself, robbing James’s followers of their headquarters and the focus of their faith. 

Parading the temple’s sacred treasures through the streets of Rome, the marauders sold off the looted gold to pay for the building of their city’s most famous landmark – the Coliseum. 

The downfall of James’s Jewish Christianity was complete, and when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire in the 4th century AD and the church fathers began to compile the New Testament, they set about obscuring the existence of James and Jesus’s other brothers and sisters. 

At the same time, many of Paul’s teachings became enshrined in official church doctrine, including the belief that salvation could be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God. 

According to Dr Beckford, this idea was perhaps more palatable to the establishment because it could be interpreted, wrongly, to mean that the rich and powerful could redeem themselves through this belief alone, without any need to change their lifestyle. 

Having settled on this doctrine, Dr Beckford believes that the church then began altering the details of Christ’s life to support the idea that he was a divine being. 

He says there is virtually no evidence in the Bible for the assertion that Mary was a perpetual virgin, but the early church elevated her to this status since it seemed more fitting for the mother of God. 

They also set about changing the circumstances of the Nativity itself. 

For 2,000 years, the traditional Christmas story has related how Jesus was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem, after Mary and Joseph travelled there from Nazareth to register for a Roman census. 

However, Bethlehem is 90 miles away from Nazareth, and Dr Beckford questions whether a woman who was nine months pregnant could really have undertaken this arduous four-day journey on a donkey. 

He points out that there is another town called Bethlehem which is in Galilee. In 1992, building works there revealed the ruins of a 6th-century church – built on top of the kind of natural cave in which many scholars believe Christ was born. 

Since this Bethlehem is only four miles from Nazareth, Dr Beckford believes this cave is more likely to have been the genuine site of the Nativity, but that the church fathers had good reason to suggest that Christ’s birth took place in its now celebrated namesake instead. 

In this, they were fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy which stated that the new Messiah would be a descendant of King David, and this meant he had to be born in the same town as David – in the Bethlehem near Jerusalem. 

In their attempts to establish Christ’s divinity, Dr Beckford claims that the early church fathers also played down the role of one of the most important figures in the Christian movement, the prophet John the Baptist. 

He cites the passage in the Gospel of Luke which introduces the Lord’s Prayer. “He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him: ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’ ” 

This translation from the Greek suggests that the disciples are referring to the act of praying in general but it could equally be interpreted to mean: “Teach us the prayer that John taught his disciples.” 

The idea that John was the creator of the Lord’s Prayer raises a possibility which was unacceptable to the early church and which remains unacceptable for many Christians today: that John was Jesus’s teacher rather than Jesus being John’s teacher. 

According to Dr Beckford, the Bible editors did all they could to reject this notion, as is apparent in the Biblical accounts of Jesus’s baptism. 

The fact that John baptised Jesus is clear from the Gospel of Mark, the first to be written. But Matthew, the second oldest gospel, introduces a line in which John protests that he is unworthy of this task, while the other gospel writers, Luke and John, make no mention of John the Baptist’s role at all. 

Like Dr Beckford’s other ideas, this will no doubt be the subject of scholarly debate for many centuries to come. However, he insists that, away from the ivory towers of academia, his arguments have a very real significance for how Christians live their lives today. 

In emphasising the belief that Jesus was God’s son, he warns that Christianity risks losing sight of its original message, as preached by James. 

This focused on the need to serve God not only through abstract worship and prayer, but also in our everyday actions, and this is perhaps something we should remind ourselves of as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth once again this Christmas. 

In that way, although it is difficult to imagine a time when James and Jesus’s other brothers and sisters will be depicted on Christmas cards or portrayed in Nativity plays, we can perhaps acknowledge their legacy and restore to them the place in history which, it seems, they have been denied for so long.
From: http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=424435&in_page_id=1770

Katia’s Ponderings
I am so glad the New Testament records the names of Jesus’ brothers but of course I wish it told us his sisters’ names, too.  Because the word sisters, a plural word, is used and not sister, we know he had at least TWO sisters.  Legend settled with that and named them Salome and Mary, the two most popular names for girls in the first century A.D.  Jews then and now never name daughters after mothers, nor after any living relative for that matter.  Has to be a deceased family member if you’re going to do the namesake thing. Only a posthumously born child can be named after a parent, and for obvious reasons, these are always males.  So there is no way Jesus had a sister named Mary.

And wouldn’t it be cool if he had just as many sisters as brothers?  Or howabout more?  My grandmother was one of twelve children, six boys and six girls.  It is possible.  Daughters were so undervalued that they don’t even list them.  I have often imagined Jesus aka Yeshua with a sister named Rebecca or Rifka, the ancient form of the name.

James a Younger Brother?
I don’t care for the elderly Joseph, young Mary, Jesus had step-brothers theory.  I prefer to envision James and all of Yeshua’s siblings as the children of Mary.  That would make James, a younger brother of Jesus.  Apparently the painter of this icon didn’t think so and painted James as older.  At first look, I wondered if the “James” character weren’t Mary’s brother.  They are painted so similarly. 

James is Carrying What?
And what the heck is that flail on James’ hand? He’s goading / prodding the horse it looks like.  Interesting it’s a white horse, symbol of a royalty, wealth, and of the messiah (Hinduism teaches the messiah Kalkin will return on a white horse). 

James’ traveling stick with travel bag attached is reminiscent of the Fool card in Tarot.

Son of Goddess?
I think it’s cool James also has a halo in the portrait they found in the desert monastery (St Gerasimos).  Maybe the painter is simply communicating he was a saint, not divine.  But, could he be born of a divine mother, a god-ess?  I like to think the early church deemed him divine thru his mother Mary, our Christian Goddess, so long ignored.  She is Sophia, god-the-mother incarnated.  She came into the world to bring god-the-son and to assist him in his mission. 

Did Yeshua come to educate us, enlighten us, “save” us, what?  And Sophia-Mary, why did she incarnate?  Who ARE these people and are they among us today?  Possible, possible, I supposed.  The so-called Buddha-boy in India today has many thinking Buddha has reincarnated.  He was born 160 miles from Buddha’s birthplace and is behaving much like Buddha.  But I have flown off topic…

Smiles,

Katia Romanoff

P.S. Merry Christmas, 2006 (Or Kristmas, as we like to spell it at our Mystery School:  http://www.northernway.org/school/way/esoterickristmas.html )

You can MAKE yourself happier with these Magic Techniques

Try the nifty exercises in the article below. See if they lift your mood. They are magikal techniques to propel you out of a negative state of mind.   Ah this is what we need — Magic instead of anti-depressants.  Throw away the prozac & welbutrin!  We’ve got magik:  mind-body-soul-spirit techniques!  — Katia

The Art of Happiness, by Prescription
Nov. 27, 2006 — Amid the stress of the holiday season, scientists have some comforting news: People can make themselves happier, research suggests — and not just for a day or two, but long-term. There’s no shortage of advice in how to become a happier person, as a visit to any bookstore will demonstrate.

In fact, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues have collected more than 100 specific recommendations, ranging from those of the Buddha through the self-improvement industry of the 1990s. The problem is, most of the books on store shelves aren’t backed up by rigorous research, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who’s conducting such studies now. In fact, she said, there has been very little research in how people become happier. The reason, she said, is that many researchers have considered that quest to be futile. For decades, a widely accepted view has been that people are stuck with a basic setting on their happiness thermostat. It says the effects of good or bad life events like marriage, a raise, divorce, or disability will simply fade with time. As two researchers put it in 1996, “It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.”

But recent long-term studies have revealed that the happiness thermostat is more malleable than the popular theory maintained, at least in its extreme form. “Set-point is not destiny,” said psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois. One new study showing change in happiness levels followed thousands of Germans for 17 years. It found that about a quarter changed significantly over that time in their basic level of satisfaction with life. (That’s a popular happiness measure; some studies sample how one feels through the day instead.) Nearly a tenth of the German participants changed by three points or more on a 10-point scale. Other studies show an effect of specific life events, though of course the results are averages and can’t predict what will happen to particular individuals. Results show long-lasting shadows associated with events like serious disability, divorce, widowhood, and getting laid off. The boost from getting married, on the other hand, seems to dissipate after about two years, said psychologist Richard E. Lucas of Michigan State University.

Still, many people want to be happier. What can they do? That’s where research by Lyubomirsky, Seligman and others comes in. Exercises such as thinking of three good things that happened during the day are being tested by Seligman’s group at the University of Pennsylvania. People keep doing it on their own because it’s immediately rewarding, said Seligman’s colleague Acacia Parks. It makes people focus more on good things that happen, which might otherwise be forgotten because of daily disappointments, she said. Miller said the exercise made her notice more good things in her day, and that now she routinely lists 10 or 20 of them rather than just three.

A second approach that has shown promise in Seligman’s group has people discover their personal strengths through a specialized questionnaire and choose the five most prominent ones. Then, every day for a week, they are to apply one or more of their strengths in a new way. Strengths include things like the ability to find humor or summon enthusiasm, appreciation of beauty, curiosity and love of learning. The idea of the exercise is that using one’s major “signature” strengths may be a good way to get engaged in satisfying activities. These two exercises were among five tested on more than 500 people who’d visited a Web site called “Authentic Happiness.” Seligman and colleagues reported last year that the two exercises increased happiness and reduced depressive symptoms for the six months that researchers tracked the participants. The effect was greater for people who kept doing the exercises frequently. A followup study has recently begun.

Another approach under study now is having people work on savoring the pleasing things in their lives like a warm shower or a good breakfast, Parks said.

Yet another promising approach is having people write down what they want to be remembered for, to help them bring their daily activities in line with what’s really important to them, she said.

Lyubomirsky, meanwhile, is testing some other simple strategies. “This is not rocket science,” she said. For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to regularly practice random acts of kindness, things like holding a door open for a stranger or doing a roommate’s dishes, for 10 weeks. The idea was to improve a person’s self-image and promote good interactions with other people. Participants who performed a variety of acts, rather than repeating the same ones, showed an increase in happiness even a month after the experiment was concluded. Those who kept on doing the acts on their own did better than those who didn’t.

Other approaches she has found some preliminary promise for include thinking about the happiest day in your life over and over again, without analyzing it, and writing about how you’ll be 10 years from now, assuming everything goes just right. One thing is clear, Diener said, and that is happiness takes work.

“Happiness is the process, not the place,” he said via e-mail. “So many of us think that when we get everything just right, and obtain certain goals and circumstances, everything will be in place and we will be happy…. But once we get everything in place, we still need new goals and activities. The Princess could not just stop when she got the Prince.”

From Discovery News 11-27-2006

The following was in the same email the article came in. (From care2.com).

There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life–happiness, freedom, and peace of mind–are always attained by giving them to someone else.
–Peyton Conway March