Woo Woo is a Step Ahead of Bad Science

Rah, rah, Deepak Choprah, “King of Woo Woo” for taking on Skeptic Michael Shermer (former fundamentalist Christian) now the “King of Pooh Pooh”. Here’s the very latest volley in the ongoing war between religion and science…(a useless war since they actually coexist and overlap, ya know!)
By Deepak Chopra
Sunday December 27, 2009

It used to annoy me to be called the king of woo woo. For those who aren’t
familiar with the term, “woo woo” is a derogatory reference to almost any
form of unconventional thinking, aimed by professional skeptics who are
self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity. I get
labeled much worse things as regularly as clockwork whenever I disagree with
big fry like Richard Dawkins or smaller fry like Michael Shermer, the
Scientific American columnist and editor of Skeptic magazine. The latest
barrage of name-calling occurred after the two of us had a spirited exchange
on Larry King Live last week <http://bit.ly/5AlD31>. Maybe you saw it. I was
the one rolling my eyes as Shermer spoke. Sorry about that, a spontaneous
reflex of the involuntary nervous system.

Afterwards, however, I had an unpredictable reaction. I realized that I
would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer
stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less,
sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in
spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter
that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St.
Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a
reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the
skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made
significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own
right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the
great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow.

Let me clear the slate with Shermer and forget the several times he has
wiggled out of a public debate he was supposedly eager to have with me. I
will ignore his recent blog in which his rebuttal of my position was
relegated to a long letter from someone who obviously didn’t possess English
as a first language (would Shermer like to write a defense of his position
in Hindi? It would read just as ludicrously if Hindi isn’t his first

With the slate clear, I’d like to see if Shermer will accept the offer to
debate me at length on such profound questions as the following:

  • Is there evidence for creativity and intelligence in the cosmos?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind, and ego?
  • Is there life after death? Does this identity outlive the molecules through which it expresses itself?

The rules will be simple. He can argue from any basis he chooses, and I will
confine myself entirely to science. For we have reached the state where
Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of
the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point
sixty years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli,
Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep
spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and
rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers
into one black box known as woo woo. It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t
even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine,
genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened
fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination. But the king of
pooh-pooh is too busy chasing down imaginary woo woo.

Skeptics feel that they have won to the high ground in matters concerning
consciousness, mind, the origins of life, evolutionary theory, and brain
science. This is far from the case. What they cling to is nineteenth-
century materialism, packaged with a screeching hysteria about God and
religion that is so passé it has become quaint. To suggest that Darwinian
theory is incomplete and full of unproven hypotheses, causes Shermer, who
takes Darwin as purely as a fundamentalist takes scripture, to see God
everywhere in the enemy camp.

How silly. Shermer is a former Christian fundamentalist who is now a
fundamentalist about materialism; fundamentalists must have an absolute to
believe in. Thus he forces himself into a corner, declaring that all
spirituality is bogus, that the sense of self is an illusion, that the soul
is ipso facto a fraud, that mind has no existence except in the brain, that
intelligence emerged only when evolution, guided by random mutations,
developed the cerebral cortex, that nothing invisible can be real compared
to solid objects, and that any thought which ventures beyond the five senses
for evidence must be dismissed without question.

I won’t go into detail about the absurdity of such rigid thinking. However,
the impulse behind dogmatic materialism seems intended to flatten one’s
opponents so thoroughly that through scorn and arrogance they must admit
defeat, conceding that science is the complete refutation of all preceding
religion, spirituality, psychology, myth, and philosophy — in other words,
any mode of gaining knowledge that arch materialism doesn’t countenance.

I’ve baited this post with a few barbs to see if Shermer can be goaded into
an actual public debate. I have avoided his and his follower’s underhanded
methods, whereby an opponent is attacked ad hominem as an idiot, moron, and
other choice epithets that in his world are the mainstays of rational
argument. And the point of such a debate? To further public knowledge about
the actual frontiers of science, which has always depended on wonder, awe,
imagination, and speculation. Petty science of the Shermer brand scorns such
things, but the greatest discoveries have been anchored on them.

If you are tempted to think that I have taken the weaker side and that
materialism long ago won this debate, let me end with a piece of utterly
nonsensical woo woo:

“Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free.
What consciousness consists of, or how it should be defined, is equally
puzzling. Despite the marvelous success of neuroscience in the past century,
we seem as far from understanding cognitive processes as we were a century

That isn’t a quote from “one of those people who believe in spirituality,
ghosts, and so on.” It’s from Sir John Maddox, former editor-in-chief of the
renowned scientific journal Nature, writing in 1999. I can’t wait for
Shermer to call him an idiot and a moron. Don’t worry, he won’t. He’ll find
an artful way of slithering to higher ground where all the other skeptics
are huddled.


Saved not by truth, not by gnosis, only by faith?

Someone viewed our Seminary website and emailed me the following thoughts. Not sure what I think, if I agree with her. See my thoughts below her letter.

Dear Council ~

I came across your site, and was interested to see how you blend what you describe as esoteric or mystical concepts with variations on Christian faith.

I became a Christian last year, and have found that yes, Christian faith is a mystery. from the outside, it makes little sense. that God would or could limit Himself to One Man, and that One Man’s death could do anything for us. the concept that we are saved not by striving after truth, or by our insights, but by faith in Jesus strikes us as counter-intuitive.

We have this idea that spiritual truth and freedom is something we have to work for, find out, discover, or look within ourselves to find. but the One who said plainly “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” did not mean for us to try to reach God, peace, enlightenment, or wisdom through our own efforts. if we could do that, God would not have sent His Son, who proclaimed Himself to by the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, and the giver of living water.

We all long for union with God, and some kind of understanding. but we are meant to seek and find that not within oursleves, or through concepts, but in and as a unique Person, who lived, died, and lives now. it’s that humbling one’s self before Jesus the Person which is most difficult. we long to treat Him as a symbol, nice man, teacher, or idea, or perhaps as a blue print to what we can become, if we too “wake up” to the fact that we and God are one. yet the truth is that we need Jesus. the gap between us and God, which we may try to bridge through innumerable means can not be bridged by us, but has been bridged already by God, as and through His incarnate Son. because He died for us, and lives now, we too can live.

Realizing that somehow, Jesus could give me something i could not get myself, and coming to the point where one humbly asks for Him to help you, is hard. it takes a toll on self, ego, pride, and the intellect. but coming to that point is so worth it. Ravi Zacharias describes it as “you humble your self before Him, and He accepts you”. and in that acceptance is a real new life, new self, and walk with God.

In and because of the historical, pre-existant, and now living Jesus.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Katia writes:

Definitely seems counterintuitive as she says to think one man’s death could “save” us, no gnosis, no awakening required.  So I think I don’t agree with her.    I think Jesus died because of man’s actions, and maybe some of Satan’s, and because he didn’t want his followers to be killed in a hunt for him. I don’t think he died to satisfy a justice-obsessed god who needed to see a broken bleeding god. And if he died to defeat death, to “save” us from death, why haven’t we been saved from it yet? No evidence things in that department are any different than before the crucifixion. However we do have evidence that Yeshua’s MESSAGE has made things different, “saved” people, by waking them up with the achievement of gnosis, leading thousands of bright souls to commit acts of charity and kindness, to unselfishly guide and aid the humans around them.  Most people go thru their lives not really guiding and aiding humanity. Jesus inspires people to wake up and spread the gnosis. This humbling yourself before him as the lady above describes could be the quieting of the selfish-me, the “humbling” or taming of that me-me-always-me persona in our heads (eg0).


Five Things Religion-Haters Should Know

In the article below, I liked the “Buddhism is the highest form of Christianity” joke.  Hee hee. And I am glad the author says “sick religion is dehumanizing”, not healthy religion.  Not all religion should be thrown out with the bath water. I inserted little comments as I read along, mostly because the author kept messing up his own article (in my opinion!) with his personal bias by allowing politics to constantly intrude into his arguments and conclusions.

See the end of the article for more comments from yours truly and also for +Christian-Thomas’ sapient comment…



By Stuart Davis
August 9, 2009


I just finished reading God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. He’s given us another powerful work in the vein of Sam Harris (The End of Faith), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Bill Maher (Religulous). Team Rationality is ushering in a long-overdue examination of religion in the modern world. They make a strong case that religion is sick and dehumanizing. I would say more specifically, sick religion is dehumanizing.

And we do have a global pandemic of sick religion: billions of believers stuck in low levels of consciousness, riddled with pathologies — called Samsara where I’m from.

However, reading these best-sellers has inspired me to make a wish-list.

Here are five things rational religion-haters should know:

1. There are levels of religion.

I keep noticing that what many rational types detest is not religion per se, but its least-evolved expressions. Over and over I hear atheists say “religion” when they are actually describing low levels of religion. That confusion is not helping. Eliminating religion will not eliminate low levels of development. And that’s the real threat to humanity: Low levels of development in high positions of power. Saying “Religion” is the problem doesn’t mean anything. What level of Religion is being referred to? For example, here are five distinct levels of religious expression, from lowest to highest:

Magical-Animistic: Recently in Tanzania, religious figures have murdered over fifty innocent human beings because they happened to be albino. The victims are killed so that their organs can be used in religious rituals that are supposed to create wealth. That’s one of the things we get from a Magical mode of religion. Blood sacrifice.

Mythic: After the massacre of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell claimed it was god taking revenge on our society for homosexuality and abortion. Mythic religion is that old-school religion of supra-natural allegory. Virgin births, raising the dead, walking on water, and the rapture. Except mythic believers don’t consider their stories to be metaphoric symbols, they regard them as literal and real. Mythic religion guided George Bush through eight years as President of the United States, [Katia inserts: so you say, but you have no evidence for this rather snobbish claim. Perhaps POLITICS guided him. Or power-lust? Or whatever…but religion? If so, seems to me he would have been obsessed with sending missionaries and trying to convert people to Christianity. We can’t read minds. It is arrogant in the extreme to announce one knows another person’s inner spiritual life, to claim exact knowledge of what level of religion intimately guided that human being for eight years. Pat Robertson’s and Falwell’s remarks are clear evidence they were at this level — at least at the moment in time when they made their god-is-punishing-us remarks. But to judge eight years of someone’s spiritual life without any evidence of mythical Christian mindset (sick or healthy) seems unduly biased.]

…coincidentally also guided the terrorists to commit mass murder.

[I agree with you there. That is a single provable event. They left letters saying their mythic level of religion did indeed guide them to commit that repulsive crime against innocent humans.]

Rational: Francis Collins, one of the World’s most accomplished Scientists, calls his faith BioLogos, or theistic evolution. He sees Science, and the empirical method, as a form of worship. He rejects intelligent design.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of rational people who believe in a Divinity of some kind.

Pluralistic: For a taste of pluralistic Christianity, check out The Christian Pluralist by William C. Buffie, M.D. and John R. Charles. They even incorporate psychology in their faith, exploring shadow / projection in the realm of religion. They embrace the Bible “as a story, not a weapon.” Jimmy Carter has also demonstrated a strong pluralistic Christianity. He even taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist church while President. [Southern Baptists are actually more fundamentalist by far than Methodists–George Bush’s church. Not that we know how fundamentalist or evolved either ex-president is/was because again, we cannot read minds nor souls.  To actually be teaching Southern Baptist Sunday school while president…Now that might indeed imply being guided by fundamentalist Christianity during a presidency. Yet you place Carter at a more spiritually evolved level than Bush and don’t claim he was “guided” during his presidency. It appears you are allowing political bias and/or spiritual arrogance to creep in to your otherwise good piece.]

Integrative: In my opinion one of the most spiritually evolved Christians on the planet, Father Thomas Keating teaches a form of contemplative practice called Centering Prayer, which he describes as

“. . . a journey into the unknown. It is a call to follow Jesus out of all the structures, security blankets, and even spiritual practices that serve as props. They are all left behind insofar as they are part of the false self system . . . The false self is an illusion. Humility is the forgetfulness of self.”

These are five very distinct levels of the same religion, in this case Christianity, but it applies to any religion. (I forgot to list the highest level of Christianity, which is Buddhism. Kidding!). The point is, religion should not be regarded as horizontal and homogenous. All belief systems include a vertical chain of development.

The ‘answer’ to fundamentalism is not to get rid of Religion, but to get religion to evolve. How can we help Pat Robertson discover his hidden Father Thomas Keating? Will Francis Collins agree to mentor Sarah Palin? [Maybe you should ask will he mentor YOU. And read Matthew 7:5 http://bible.cc/matthew/7-5.htm ]

I’m kidding. But I’m not. The answer to low levels of religion is higher levels of religion. The real work ahead of us is religious development, not just embarrassing people into forfeiting their belief system (they will just trade it for an equivalent one anyway). If tomorrow, all the religions in the World magically vanished, we’d face the same dangers of low levels of consciousness in high positions of power.

2. There are healthy and pathological versions of every level.

A religious person can be healthy or sick at any stage of development. The answer to sick religion is healthy religion. While Pat Robertson told us 9/11 was God’s revenge for homosexuality [sick], millions of other Christians — at the same mythic developmental level [but healthy] — were organizing their communities to offer help and healing. Because that is what healthy mythic Christians do (and they do it better than just about anybody). For every sick fundamentalist there are many healthy believers contributing to society in a positive way.

3. The more people evolve, the less religious (fundamentalist) they are.

One definition of ‘religion’ is a partition between the saved and the damned, a boundary that separates ‘us’ and ‘them’. When people grow, they include more and exclude less. As we live into higher development levels, our circle gets bigger. Evolving means a bigger experience of ‘We’. Also known as Love 😉 As the self evolves, it recognizes more people (and plants, and animals, and things) as part of its own identity. That’s why development creates security for everyone, it transforms ‘them’ into ‘us’.

4. At its higher levels, Religion resonates with science and rationality.

That’s because at its higher levels, religion becomes spiritual. I define religion as a belief system used to interpret Reality. I define spirituality as the direct experience of Reality. No beliefs are required for spiritual practice. (In Zen there is a saying: All beliefs are false.) Spiritual experience can often undo religious belief. Religion provides filters, and depends upon intermediaries and externally located salvation. Spirituality removes (or improves) filters through direct access to our intrinsic nature.

Spiritual practices are empirical in this sense: You want to know something (like, what is Reality) so you conduct an experiment. For instance, you may spend a few decades making your Subject an Object of awareness. You share your data (gathered through direct experience) to a group of qualified peers who have repeated that same experiment for centuries. They verify or falsify your findings, and you proceed with further experimentation. You don’t have to ‘believe’ anything about it, before, during, or after. In this way, the contemplative traditions have evolved over millennia. They are in harmony with rationality and science, and generally welcome any methodology that might increase our knowledge of the visible and invisible Kosmos.

5. Everybody starts at the bottom.

Even if everyone in the World became Mensa-level enlightened today, every baby born tomorrow would have to begin at square one, and develop the old fashioned way. So far, we haven’t figured out a way to skip developmental levels. However, we move through them faster than we used to. For instance,

John Ashcroft may be a poster child for the low-level of Mythic religion, but a mere 100,000 years ago there WAS NO Mythic level of religion. It hadn’t even emerged yet. Even 3,000 years ago, George Bush Jr. would have been one of the most evolved people on the planet. Not so much now.

[There you go again messing up an otherwise good article and causing us to question YOUR level of development because you can’t resist getting in petty jibes, and are bringing politics and sarcasm into the topic at hand].

Now Mythic Religion is like, totally a crappy low level of consciousness, and most nine year olds or U.S. Presidents have access to it, thanks to recapitulation. Recapitulation? When we’re born, we basically get a free pass to evolve up to the prevailing center of consciousness in the population. The level of consciousness we are immersed in (in the family we are born into, in the culture we live in, etc) exerts a developmental gravity. And that gravity pulls us up to it. But, when you try to evolve beyond it, to higher altitudes of consciousness, then that same center of gravity drags you back down to it. If you are below it, it lifts you up.

Rise above, it will try to pull you back down.

That’s why Mythic religious peeps are freaking out. Their World (view) is vanishing like millions of species God gave them Reign over [And in the Islamic worldview it’s even worse: they believe strongly that God gave them “reign” over all females of the human species].

Eventually (if they don’t destroy humanity first, with their lust for an apocalypse), mythic religion will become about as important to future generations as magic is to us. Magic should be used in Harry Potter movies, not for the religious murder of Tanzanian Albinos. Mythic religion should be a history lesson, not the guiding belief of a U.S. President. [He isn’t in office anymore, can you get over it?]

That’s why Bill Maher’s movie Religulous is funny: It’s pointing out the fact that there are a LOT of people living with a World View that went out of style in 1637 (thanks, Descartes!). Bill Maher is hilariously pointing out the fact that religion is literally retarded, because it is developmentally arrested. I mean, it would be hilarious, if it weren’t so appallingly true. Evidence indicates 70% of the world is at a Mythic (or lower) level of development. And they are religious!

If we get these five simple points into the debate about religion, I think it would help eliminate some confusion.

* * * * * * * *

Katia wishes to add:  And if you read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose it would eliminate even more of that confusion.

Seriously, A New Earth is one of the most life-changing books I have ever read. I am currently working on memorizing its table of contents, just like people memorize the Bible’s “layout”, so that I can find passages more easily. If you still haven’t read it, email me and I will send you a copy. I have extras laying around and I believe it should be in every motel room’s bedside drawer…  A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose original non-Oprah hardback version at Amazon.

The author of this article, Stuart Davis, is a primary disciple of Ken Wilber. I have read Wilber extensively and like his teachings very much.  Wilber is very much in harmony with Eckhart Tolle. But his student Stuart Davis has a tendency toward dragging politics into spirituality (yikes!) and making smug assessments as to what level specific humans (i.e. Bush, Palin, etc.) are in their spiritual development.

He also tends to assume the lower levels are “bad” and the higher levels are “good” as evidenced in this particular article when he calls the mythic level “crappy”. What he fails to realize even while admitting that everybody goes thru all these levels is that there is no good or bad and we shouldn’t say to a kid or a teen during their mythic phase that they are at a “crappy lower” level. Again, smug. No more than we say a child who can’t yet do times tables but is learning to add and subtract, is at a crappy level. I mean, really. It is vital and healthy to work up thru the levels, that’s why they call it spiritual evolution. The lower levels are required, so let us not judge each other for spending time in them just as we are or did. The only thing that becomes “crappy” is the behavior of the person if they are expressing an UNHEALTHY version of any particular level, be it magical, mythical, rational, pluralistic etc.  Ken Wilber himself says that it’s better to be a healthy lower level than an unhealthy higher level. So the behavior of an unhealthy pluralist is less crappy than a healthy mythical levelist (fundamentalist). Davis even points out how the healthy mythical levelists are the best charity organizers, donators in the world. Yet he doesn’t make clear their behavior is only “sick” or their level “crappy” when they deliberately harm others. Leave ’em alone, they’re evolving up the spiral (of Spiral Dynamics) at their own pace. Sheesh to calling their level crappy, since we know what word crappy is a euphemism for. Not to mention you run the risk of falling into the good-or-bad labeling habit: evaluating everything that comes across your desk as either “good” or “bad”, seeing everything as either black or white, sweet-to-me or crappy-to-me.  This polarized mindset is characteristic of the very mythical level you are criticizing! Tolle teaches three ways to react to everything that comes across our desk: with acceptance (never resistance nor judgement as “bad”), enjoyment or enthusiasm. He calls these the 3 Modalities of Awakened Doing and they are described in the final chapter of A New Earth.

I sometimes sense almost a holier-than-thou mindset when reading Stuart Davis. Still, his re-cap of the Spiral Dynamics levels of religion teaching and Wilber’s interpretation thereof, is nicely described in this article — and his hypothesis is spot-on. Yes, please let those religion-haters take note! So overall I enjoyed this article, Dear God…Five Things Religion-Haters Should Know, and wanted to pass it on.  Hope I didn’t ruin it with all my interrupting comments. <grin>

* * * * * * * *

Gnostic Bishop Christian-Thomas writes:

Dear +Katia:

Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe that Judaeo-Christian Gnosticism is the highest developed and evolved expression of both orthodox Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity.  Too bad that most commentators, such as this one, did not cite Gnosticism, in his fascinating hypotheses.




Roman Catholic Fashion Show Parody, a must see

What a riot this YouTube video is!  When they get to the clerical vestments part, oh man is that funny. Some of the vestments blink and light up like Vegas, plus the body language of the “fashion models” is so priceless.

What the heck is that moribund looking bride all about? I wonder if they mean the internally exiled Bride (Sacred Feminine) in the patriarchal Church? She’s internally and externally exiled, if you think about it.  In traditional fashion shows the finale is always at least one bridal gown.  This Bride comes near the end, but not the very end (these guys end with the Pope, and it is hilarious).  So the bride comes out and shows her gown, but there is heavily laden symbolism there! She is grief stricken — and unwelcome, seemingly exiled.  She beseeches the unmoved crowd. Very intense, very interesting…

I have no idea what all the skeletons near the end are supposed to mean. The dead? The many murdered heretics? Wow. The skeletons herald the finale, which is the Pope.  You gotta see this.
The Clerical Whispers blog this video appears on also looks intriguing, especially with the sub-title, “Irish RC Priests…Giving The Uncomfortable Truth And News From The Inside…”

New Age Spirituality is No More Pure than Old-Time Religion

We must make this article required reading for Mystery School members.
By Robert Wright
July 29, 2009

Wouldn't it be great to be back in hunter-gatherer days? Back before the
human spiritual quest had been corrupted by the "relentless onslaught of
Western scientific materialism" and "dogmatic male-dominated religion"? Back
when there were shamans -- spiritual leaders -- who could plug us into "the
realm of the magical," show us "the reality behind apparent reality," and
thus lead us to understand "how the universe really works"?

The quotes come from Leo Rutherford, a leading advocate of neo-shamanism,
which is a subset of neo-paganism, which is a subset of New Age
spirituality. But the basic idea -- that there was a golden age of spiritual
purity which we fallen moderns need to recover -- goes beyond New Age
circles. You see traces of it even in such serious scholars as Karen
Armstrong, who wrote in A History of God that early Abrahamic religion had
created a gulf "between humanity and the divine, rupturing the holistic
vision of paganism."

As the author of the just-published book The Evolution of God, about the
history of religion, I'm primed to do some debunking. But before I start, I
want to stress two points:

1) I think it's great for people to find spiritual peace and sound moral
orientation wherever they can, including neo-paganism;

2) I don't doubt that back before Western monotheism took shape there were
earnest seekers of a "holistic vision" who selflessly sought to share that

What I do doubt is that these earnest, selfless spiritual leaders were any
more common in the heyday of shamanism than today, or that the spiritual
quest was any less corrupted by manipulation and outright charlatanism than
today, or that there was a coherent philosophy of shamanism that makes more
sense than the average religion of today.

Of course, there's no way to resurrect long-dead cultures to find out, and
there is by definition no such thing as a written record of prehistoric
societies. But we have the next best thing: accounts from anthropologists
who visited hunter-gatherer societies before they had been corrupted by much
contact with modernity. These anthropologists observed shamans doing what
shamans do: prophesying, curing people, improving the weather, casting
spells, casting out evil spirits, etc. And the anthropological record
suggests the following about the age of shamanism.

1) There was a lot of fakery. Eskimo shamans have been seen spewing blood
upon contact with a ceremonial harpoon, wowing audiences unaware of the
animal bladder full of blood beneath their clothing. The sleight of hand by
which shamans "suck" a malignant object out of a sick patient and then
dramatically display it works so well that anthropologists have observed
this trick in Tasmania, North America, and lands in between. Other examples
abound: http://evolutionofgod.net/tricks

2) Shamans -- lots of them -- were in it partly for the money. In exchange
for treating a patient, a shaman might receive yams (in Micronesia), sleds
and harnesses (among the Eastern Eskimo), beads and coconuts (the Mentawai
of Sumatra), tobacco (the Ojibwa of northeastern North America), or slaves
(the Haida of western Canada). In California, if a Nomlaki shaman said,
"These beads are pretty rough," it meant that he would need more beads if he
was to cure anything that day.

3) Shamans -- some of them, at least -- were in it for the sex. In his
classic study The Law of Primitive Man, E. Adamson Hoebel observed that,
among some Eskimos, "A forceful shaman of established reputation may
denounce a member of his group as guilty of an act repulsive to animals or
spirits, and on his own authority he may command penance. An apparently
common atonement is for the shaman to direct an allegedly erring woman to
have intercourse with him (his supernatural power counteracts the effects of
her sinning)." Nice work if you can get it. Sometimes the magic-for-sex swap
was subtler. Ojibwa shamans, one anthropologist reports, received "minimal
remuneration," working for "prestige, not pay. One of the symbols of
religious leadership prestige was polygyny. Male leaders took more than
one wife."

4) Shamans -- some of them, at least -- ran protection rackets. Here is
anthropologist Edward Horace Man on shamans in the Andamanese Islands: "It
is thought that they can bring trouble, sickness, and death upon those who
fail to evince their belief in them in some substantial form; they thus
generally manage to obtain the best of everything, for it is considered
foolhardy to deny them, and they do not scruple to ask for any article to
which they may take a fancy." Among the Ona of Tierra del Fuego, payment for
service was rare, but, as one anthropologist observed, "One abstains from
anything and everything" that might put the shaman "out of sorts or irritate

As for the "philosophy" of shamanism -- the vision that, in Rutherford's
words, shows us "how the universe really works": Well, for the most part,
the worldview of shamans was a lot like that of followers of early Abrahamic
religion, except with more gods, more evil spirits, and more raw
superstition (though there's more raw superstition in the Bible than most
people realize).

Of course, some shamans did have the advantage, compared with biblical
figures, of psychedelic drugs. An Amazonian drug, as described by one
anthropologist, led the shaman to lie in his hammock, "growl and pant,
strike the air with claw-like fingers," signifying that "his wandering
soul has turned into a bloodthirsty feline."

So if shamanism is so crude, how did it get glamorized? In 1951, the
esteemed scholar Mircia Eliade published a book called Shamanism. While he
didn't whitewash shamanism, he did his best to see its more refined side. He
wrote that Eskimo shamanism and Buddhist mysticism share as their goal
"deliverance from the illusions of the flesh." And shamanism, he said,
features "the will to transcend the profane, individual condition" in order
to recover "the very source of spiritual existence, which is at once 'truth'
and 'life.' "

It's certainly true that ordinary consciousness could use some transcending.
Thanks to our designer, natural selection, we tend to be self-absorbed, with
a wary sense of separation from most of humanity. And it's true that various
shamanic techniques -- fasting, for example -- can improve things in this
regard (though fasting can also, as in the Native American "vision quest,"
convince you that you've been adopted by some spirit that will, say, help
you kill more people in battle). Anthropologist Melvin Konner once partook
of the Kung San curing dance, which can last 10 hours and send the dancer
into a trance state that converts his or her healing energy into useful
vaporous form and fosters discourse with gods. Konner didn't speak to any
gods, but he did report getting "that 'oceanic' feeling of oneness with the

I'm for that! In fact, I once did a one-week Buddhist meditation retreat
that gave me just that feeling. And there are traditions within Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam that are big on oneness. I recommend trying one of
them -- or trying neo-shamanism. But if you try neo-shamanism, don't be
under the illusion that you're helping to recover a lost age of authentic
spirituality. Religion has always been a product of human beings, for better
and worse.
Robert Wright's new book The Evolution of God is here: 

Thanksgiving & Religious Freedom for All, Even Heretics & Heathens!

This article I am enclosing below might seem corny to some. But you know, esoteric Christians have been persecuted for time out of mind and the USA is one place where we can worship any way we want.  Alternative spiritualities thrive; “heretics” and “heathens” found our own legal churches. So many of the original settlers from Europe were called heretics back in Europe and were persecuted as such.  

Think about the esotericists who founded this country, George Washington the freemason — freemasonry being very much into esoterica and deep inner Christianity.  Don’t forget what religious liberal (apostate, heretic) Thomas Jefferson did — took scissors to the New Testament to remove all verses he thought were written by men with agendas.  Below are quotes from these two spiritually unusual founders about Thanksgiving.  The words are archaic and you might be tempted to throw out baby AND bathwater with the cry, “this is patriarchal Christianity!” but try to read with an open mind and claim this part of our past for ALL beneficiaries of religious freedom.  For ALL of us, including you and me who work and live in the alternative spirituality realm. Christianity is OURS, TOO.  We are the beneficiaries of religious freedom bought by our foremothers and forefathers at great price.  We can claim Christianity, roots and all.  Our version is healthier by far than the mainstream Christianity.  We have our differences.  But whether esoteric or exoteric, it is all still Judeo-Christianity and we should celebrate any common ground we have with our exoteric spiritual cousins rather than obsess over the differences.  With such un-divisiveness we might actually help many of our loved ones, neighbors, fellow humans, to see the great, sublime inner tradition — the underground stream that feeds all faiths whether they know it yet or not.

Sincerely, Katia   (Okay, here’s the article, and my excruciatingly sincere apologies to Newt Gingrich for my “little” additions in brackets.  Newt: I am a big fan of your and your wife’s work. I read your column weekly, watch you on Fox News, own your books.  It’s just that I also happen to be an unusual, unorthodox Judeo-Christian believer… wincing grin… so puh-leese don’t be upset…)

What Every Child Should Know About Thanksgiving

by  Newt Gingrich


Second only to Independence Day, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. And as an American holiday, it is rooted deeply — like our nation — in faith in God. [we can add here, “and God-ess”.  We can even change the words “faith in God” to DESIRE FOR COMMUNION WITH THE DIVINE]

The earliest Thanksgivings were celebrated by Americans who were keenly aware that their blessings — like their rights — came from God [instead of just “God” we could say “and God-ess” or FROM A DIVINE SOURCE]. In times of hardship unimaginable to us today, they took time to give thanks to their Creator. [CREATORS]

Throughout early American history, when they suffered from drought, famine or war, Americans paused, not to seek vengeance or to question their faith, but to give thanks to God [AND GOD-ESS] for the blessings they still had.

At a time when the economic news seems to get worse every day, it’s important to remember the humble faith [AND STEADFASTNESS TO THEIR CHOSEN SPIRITUALITY IN SPITE OF EUROPEAN CRIES OF HERESY] of these early Americans. They didn’t just give thanks when times were good, they gave thanks when times were bad — especially when times were bad.

Radical Secularists Deny the Central Role of Religion [INCLUDING ESOTERICISM AND ANY KIND OF SPIRITUALITY] in American History

Today is a decidedly different time in America.

Not only have many Americans forgotten or never learned the historic origins of our Thanksgiving — to pause and give thanks to God for our abundance — but radical secularists are intent on removing God and faith [AND SPIRITUALITY OF ANY STAMP] from our national life altogether.

Many of the entertainment and political elite seem to be threatened by religious faith [AND BELIEF IN THE TRANSCENDENT].

Others seem intent on denying or whitewashing the central role that religious faith has played in American history, such as the attempt to whitewash God out of the Capitol Visitor’s Center (view the video and petition my wife, Callista, and I have created to ask Congress to ensure the Capitol Visitor’s Center is historically accurate about America’s Godly heritage.)

These radical secularists seek to portray those who acknowledge this historical fact as theocrats intent on imposing their religion on others. [WHEN IN FACT, AS HERETICS AND/OR DESCENDANTS OF HERETICS, WE KNOW WE DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO PROSELYTIZERS. IMPOSING RELIGION ON OTHERS ISN’T TOLERATED IN AMERICA.]

In fact, to acknowledge the centrality of God in American history is to acknowledge America’s great freedom of religion — the freedom to worship and the freedom not to worship. Many Americans have taken advantage of this freedom by drawing closer to their Creator[s]. They understand, even if so many of our media and political elites don’t, that religious freedom is the cornerstone of all of our freedoms.

Voices From Thanksgivings Past

The centrality of God [AND A HINT OF THE FEMININE DIVINE] in Thanksgiving in America comes through in the words of some of our greatest national leaders:

Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson, in 1779:

[I] appoint … a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God … to [ask] Him that He would … pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would … spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth … and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.

President George Washington’s first federal Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.… Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 … that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.

President Abraham Lincoln, making Thanksgiving an annual national holiday in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

“Let Us Be Thankful For a Land That Will For Such Religion Stand”

Our leaders have not been alone in celebrating God’s gifts at Thanksgiving, of course.

I conclude today with a poem by Lizelia Augusta Jenkins Moorer, an African-American poet writing at the turn of the 20th century. Her generous, hopeful view of Thanksgiving is made even more remarkable by the suffering and discrimination she endured as an African-American in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Let us give thanks to God above,
Thanks for expressions of His love,
Seen in the book of nature, grand
Taught by His love on every hand.

Let us be thankful in our hearts,
Thankful for all the truth imparts,
For the religion of our Lord,
All that is taught us in His word.

Let us be thankful for a land,
That will for such religion stand;
One that protects it by the law,
One that before it stands in awe.

Thankful for all things let us be,
Though there be woes and misery;
Lessons they bring us for our good-
Later ’twill all be understood.

Thankful for peace o’er land and sea,
Thankful for signs of liberty,
Thankful for homes, for life and health,
Pleasure and plenty, fame and wealth.

Thankful for friends and loved ones, too,
Thankful for all things, good and true,
Thankful for harvest in the fall,
Thankful to Him who gave it all.

May you and your family have a happy, healthy, and blessed Thanksgiving.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

Josh Groban Sings like Jesus Christ might have

Josh Groban sings with the “voice” of Jesus Christ, telling the heavy-hearted he will lift them up, those in darkness he will shine brightly for them, those feeling lost, “I’ll be there to find you..”   Here, watch it on YouTube, the video is so poignant, so moving…   The simple but inspiring lyrics are posted below. (But you gotta watch the video!, so click on it already). If Jesus sang to his listeners one night by campfire on a hill in Galilee this is what he might have sung..

Don’t Give Up, You Are Loved by Josh Groban

You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy I
I will lift it for you

Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you I

I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you

Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up

Because you are loved

Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt that you hide
When you’re lost inside I
I’ll be there to find you

Don’t give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you I
I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you

Everybody needs to be loved
Don’t give up

Because…you are loved

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world

Don’t give up
Everyone needs to be loved

You are loved


Get the Album “Awake” from Amazon.com (which includes the song “You are Loved”)

God’s Hostages: Women forced into slavery, dehumanized, demonized, in the name of Religion

Oh, this is a heavy topic.  So many women and girls held hostage to warped and crazed religious ideologies.  I put my ruminations at the end of the short article below.

By Sam Harris
On Faith
January 19, 2007



“On Faith” panelist Sam Harris is the author of the best-selling books Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) and The End of Faith (2005), which won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction and has been translated into many foreign languages.


Kajal Khidr was accused of adultery by her husband’s family and held hostage by six family members in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kajal Khidr was tortured and mutilated; family members cut off part of her nose and told her she would be killed after the birth of her child. After fleeing to Syria, two of her abusers were arrested. However, they were both released within twenty-four hours because authorities determined they had acted to safeguard the honor of the family. No charges were ever brought against them. (Amnesty International Website)

In northern Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducts children, forcing girls into “marriage” and institutionalized rape… The men then have total sexual control over their “wives” and “domestic helpers,” subjecting them to rape and various other forms of violence. (Amnesty International Website)

Mary Ann Kingston was pulled out of school at 13 and told to prepare for marriage. At 16, she was forced to marry her 33-year-old uncle. The order teaches that incest is a preferred practice to preserve a pure family bloodline originating from Jesus Christ. When Mary Ann ran away, her father took her to a remote ranch near the Utah-Idaho line and beat her with his leather belt. She counted 28 lashes before passing out. [The number of people in polygamous families in Utah is estimated at as many as 50,000.] (J. Nichols. “Wives suing to bring end to abuse under polygamy.” The Arizona Republic. October 15, 2003.)


For millennia the world’s great prophets and theologians have applied their collective genius to the riddle of womanhood. The result has been polygamy, sati, honor killing, punitive rape, genital mutilation, forced marriages, a cultic obsession with virginity, compulsory veiling, the persecution of unwed mothers, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse so kaleidoscopic in variety as to scarcely admit of concise description. Some of this sexist evil probably predates religion and can be ascribed to our biology, but there is no question that religion promulgates and renders sacrosanct attitudes toward women that would be unseemly in a brachiating ape.

While man was made in the image of God, the prevailing view under Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that woman was made in the image of man. Her humanity, therefore, is derivative, contingent, ersatz (Gen: 2-21-22 Koran 4:1; 39.6; 7.189). Of all the animals, woman was the last to be made but the first to sin (Gen 3:12). The Old Testament puts the monetary value of a woman’s life at one-half to two-thirds that of a man’s (Leviticus 27). The Koran elaborates: it requires the testimony of two women to offset that of one man (2:282) and every girl deserves exactly one-half her brother¹s share of inheritance (4:11). God suggests in his tenth commandment that the woman next door is your neighbor’s material possession which, along with his house, slaves and oxen, must not be coveted (Exodus 20:17); Deuteronomy 5:21).

The God of Abraham has made it perfectly clear that a woman is expected to live in subjugation to her father until the moment she is pressed into connubial service to her husband. As St. Paul put it: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24). The Koran delivers the same message, and recommends that disobedient wives be whipped (4:34). The suppression of women under Islam achieved hideous precision through the writings of Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), perhaps the most influential Muslim since Muhammad:

She should stay home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well-informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary; she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything; she must not leave the house without his permission and if given his permission she must leave surreptitiously. She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice or recognize her; she must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need; Her sole worry should be her virtue, her home as well as her prayers and her fast. If a friend of her husband calls when the latter is absent she must not open the door nor reply to him in order to safeguard her and her husband’s honor.

She should accept what her husband gives her as sufficient sexual needs at any moment.  She should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs at any moment. (Cited in Ibn Warraq’s, Why I Am Not Muslim, p. 300).

Recall the blissful lives of Afghan women under the Taliban, or reflect upon how many Muslim girls throughout the world are still obliged to wear the veil, and you will understand that this type of thinking has consequences.

The net effect of religion (especially in the Abrahamic tradition) has been to demonize female sexuality and portray women as morally and intellectually inferior to men. Every woman holds the dignity of men for ransom, and is liable to tarnish it with a glance, or destroy it outright through sexual indiscretion. From this perspective, rape is a crime that one man commits against the honor of another; the woman is merely Shame’s vehicle, and often culpably acquiescent — being all blandishments and guile and winking treachery. According to God, if the victim of a rape neglects to scream loudly enough, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement (Deuteronomy 22:24). Every man’s daughter is a potential whore liable to grow drunk on the blood of good men — a Delilah, a Jezebel, a Salome. Every girl, therefore, must be mastered and locked away before she can succumb to the evil that is her all-too-natural enthusiasm. According to God, women have been placed on earth to service men, to bear their children, to the keep their homes in order, and above all to not betray them by becoming the object of another man’s sexual enjoyment. And so it falls to every man to shield his women from the predations of his rapacious brothers and oblige them, until death or decrepitude, to fulfill their most sacred purpose — as incubators of sons.

If we ever achieve a civilization of true equity, respect, and love between the sexes, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books.

Katia wonders:  Alot of this abuse is done in Mohammed’s name, in Allah’s name, but the only example of people still today oppressing women in Jesus’ name are the polygamists in Utah and a few other states.  Or am I forgetting something?  Modern Orthodox Jews are sexist and treat their women in certain restrictive ways, but they are not commiting heinous crimes against their women and daughters because their holy book or some religious authority’s writings told them to.

The author mentioned the three Abrahamic religions yet added in sati, a misogynist tragedy out of India.  Based on several women born and raised in India whom I’ve met and worked with, I think women in India are still struggling with sexism and abuse, too.  I don’t know that their religion sanctions it, however, so perhaps that’s why the author left them out.  Probably the same reason he left out China, other Far East countries and so many African peoples who still buy and sell, or worse yet kidnap, women as brothel or bridal sex slaves and domestic helpers.  He was focusing on religions that have historical writings used by these perverts today.

I wonder, is there any thing we can do?  What can be done to protect the suffering women and girls of Islam?

Conquering their menfolk and making them civilize, modernize, I suppose, is our only option.  Talking and reasoning with them doesn’t seem to have worked since the Ottomon Empire fell and World War 2 reshaped the country borders over there.  Educating thousands of them in our western schools hasn’t helped either.  Look at the movie Not Without My Daughter.  The heroine married one such Western educated Iranian.  Her horror story in the 1980s (or was it 70s?) only existed because of such cross-cultural contact.  It seems like no amount of talking and educating them — they won’t even let our books across their borders — is going to help the women and girls of the East.  Their men certainly aren’t going to voluntarily start treating the women better than they treat their dogs.  Sigh.  They are going to have to be forced because they refuse to change on their own.  Until they are forced to change, more women will keep quietly dying while the world sits back and argues about things like Saddam’s noose and whether he was mocked or not.

I just saw a CNN program over the weekend where women Muslims in London went to each mosque trying to gain admittance to pray and worship in the building that is supposed to be their place of worship.  One by one they were yelled at and doors slammed in their face.  No mosque will let them even cross the threshold, yet Islam requires daily prayer and visits to the place of worship — five times a day for the pious.  A men-only religion, is what it is, whether they admit it or not.  Women as property, if they have minds, must focus only on what the men tell them to focus on, and if they have any spiritual inclinations have to do their praying at home and all alone.  No sunday school, womens spirituality gatherings, etc. for them, dirty second class citizens that they are.  So hateful.  How can Islam get away with such hatred of its own, I wonder.  It’s like we are all making excuses for them, “Oh it’s their culture, they can’t help it, they bomb us and murder their teenage daughters because of our materialism and greed.  Yeah.  It’s all our fault.”  Wonder why we rationalize and make excuses like that.

Man o’ man — or I should say woman o’ woman — am I glad to be born in a Western country.  THANKyou God & God-ess for sending me here, and not there.  I just read several schoolgirls in Indonesia were beheaded by muslims just because they were members of the Christian minority there.  And Saudi Arabia has banned the X symbol from all display and usage because it looks too much like Jesus’ cross!  Well, say critics, you should ban the + sign then too, you fanatics, because it looks more like the cross than an X.  Geez.  Hah.  Just thought of something when I said that, Geez.  Geez-uz is the problem.  It’s like they are afraid of him or something. like he is so seductive he’ll take away worshippers into his camp — perhaps because he is/was the most popular faith in the West and they are sure this is a war of religions, a holy war.  The Jews certainly don’t care for Geez-uz, however, and we all know how the Muslims hate the Jews.  I wonder why they are getting hateful toward Jesus and the Pope lately when Islam often says Jesus was a prophet, even if not on Mohammed’s level and not a divine offspring of God’s.  Most perplexing, and contradicting is their worldview.  If only they would naturally (but very quickly!) grow away from abuse and into equal rights for women.  If not total equality, howabout at least something like the USA and UK had before women got the vote a hundred years ago.  The ones holding the power — all men — just don’t want Barbie, western clothing fashions, pants for girls, drivers licenses for women(!) and even school education for girls to get into the picture because then they will lose that power.

Power.  The P word which rules politics because that’s what politics is all about, said my old professor.  How the heck are we gonna straighten these jerks out?    Let them devour each other all the while torturing their females, or try to take over and set them on a modern political democratic path?  When the USA went democratic we had a strong desire from WITHIN to do it.  No outside force was going to come help us.  How many examples are there in the world of democracies being brought to a country from without, as we are trying to do with Iraq and Afghanistan?  Any succesful new democracies?  Japan maybe?  Germany after Hitler?  Russia after Hitler and France after Napoleon were still internal movements albeit with outside assistance.  Egypt and Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc., they do not want democracies and if they ever hold votes it’s just a sham covering a dictatorship.  Will this work with Islamic countries who adore Sharia law more than their darling daughters and wives?  Iraq is glad to be rid of Saddam but the vast majority of the men there do not want a secular democracy.  What the women want doesn’t matter one whit, as we all know.  The men (except for a tiny few) all want religious law and religious government.  Even the few who are trying hard to live and run the new democracy are just not enough to stand up to the multitude of men wanting to control the gov’t, the society, EVERYthing.  They each want to do things THEIR way.

What to do, what to do.  Our choices are let ’em rot or try to help them.  All those silent invisible women and girls hiding in their houses and huts, wishing for a chance to go to school, to high school, vocational school, to see a doctor (they don’t let women go to doctors very much in Islamic countries).  Or many might want to get out and just take off the veil, take a breath as a free person, and feel like a human being.  I feel for them, our sisters, so deeply, and I hope we can come up with some ideas what we can do from the outside of this horror they are living.