Monday, July 31, 2006

Vertical and horizontal

In the West, our primordial moral target is known as the Ten Commandments, which were appropriately engraved in stone by God. Nowadays, many secularized folks obviously have difficulty accepting these commandments as anything other than a quaint, antiquated, and somewhat arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts. But in my book, I have a section in which I attempt to demonstrate their vital contemporary relevance, not just in their exterior aspect, but in their inner significance. For not only are the Commandments horizontal rules for governing man-to-man relations. But it so happens that they also have an interior dimension that communicates timeless, state-of-the-art advice on how to achieve spiritual fulfillment.
In that section of the book, I outline the universal applicability of the Ten Commandments for extreme seekers, off-road spiritual aspirants, omsteaders and cosmonauts of whatever vertical path. In other words, we are again dealing with something that partakes of timeless truth. This in itself is a rather profound mystery, because how, in the absence of divine intervention, could a primitive and barbaric tribe of nomads possibly have come up with these timeless truths that would still apply some 2,500 years into the future? You try coming up with something that will still be relevant in a few years, let alone a few thousand, like the Honeymooners or the Andy Griffith show with Don Knotts. It's not easy. In all honesty, the gap between man in his barbaric and pre-civilized state vis-à-vis the sublime moral and psycho-spiritual laws encoded in the Commandments or the Andy Griffith show is essentially infinite and unbridgeable by any mere Darwinian “just so story.” I mean, if you can believe that, what won’t you believe? (As implied in the descryption beneath the title of this blog, I believe in both Darwinian [horizontal] and Darwhiggian [vertical] evolution.)
This all reminds me of when I was frantically trying to finish my book, just over two years ago. The deadline was approaching, and at the last minute I had disassembled the entire last chapter and was in the process of trying to put it back together again. I was trying to come up with a suitable bang-up ending, and I thought to myself, “why not show how the Ten Commandments and the Upanishads, understood esoterically, convey the identical perennial psycho spiritual know-how and be-who to serious seekers--that they represent two independent views of the same transcendent reality? Call them the ten ‘Commanishads’ or ‘Upanishalts.’”
As soon as I thought of it, I knew that it was possible, although don’t ask me how I knew that I knew. However, I needed help. At the time, I happened to be on a plane flying back from New York to L.A, after having visited my brother-in-law and nephew. I was on the right plane, because I needed a rabbi in a hurry, and there is always a rabbi on a flight from New York. Normally I’m not the kind of guy who just walks up to to a total stranger and introduces himself, but something came over me. Being Jewish, I knew that he would have no choice but to be kind to this cosmic stranger. I had seen this fellow enter the plane, and if he wasn’t a rabbi, then he was hardcore Orthodox, and that was good enough for me. Nobody dresses like that on a slightly sweltering plane.
I walked down the aisle to where he was sitting, absently flipping through a magazine, and blurted out, “are you a rabbi?” He seemed a little disconcerted at first, but he could tell at a glance that I wasn't Arab, and I explained to him that this was a spiritual emergency and that I needed some immediate assistance. He didn’t know anything about the Upanishads, but when I mentioned that some people believe that “Abraham” and “Brahman” might be etymologically related, he was intrigued. (I have no idea if that’s true, but at least it got the conversation going.) I knew we were on the same wavelength when he started his discourse by saying that the first five commandments have to do with man’s relationship to God, while the second five govern man’s relationship to man.
“Hey, vertical and horizontal! You 'da mensch!” So to sum it all up, no spiritual progress is possible without the cultivation of virtue, the closing of the gap between us and our highest ideals. "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." But not arbitrarily. Timeless moral truths are the luster of the eternal target to which our lives are properly aimed. "Affix to the Upanishad, the bow incomparable, the sharp arrow of devotional worship; then, with mind absorbed and heart melted in love, draw the arrow and hit the mark--the imperishable Brahman."
Say, did I mention that Brahman and Abraham are etymologically related? Damn, that’s only the second question. Nine more to go. I don’t mean to be so verbose, but... To tell you the truth, Dr. Freudjungadler, this is one of the reasons why we’re here to see you. Frankly, Petey thinks I talk too much, especially for someone who “knows so little,” as he delicately puts it. He recently alerted me to this new feature on amazon. Can you believe it?
It supposedly shows that only seven percent of the books in the world have more words per sentence than I do, and apparently most of them are written by a guy named Heidegger, which, I must tell you, is a bit of an insult, because I always thought Heidegger was a sort of mystagogic blowhard, not at all like me, whom in all modesty I consider a model of clarity compared to that Teutonic freak who goes on and on and on about the being of being and the nothingness that nothingness nihilates, and how the self creates both the absence it presents and the presentation from which it is absent, and how the self is both nothingness and the source of the nullity it embodies in public space, and how the nothing "nothings" and how only the nothing nothings, and how nothing can’t derive from something, as if by a slow decay of the ding an sich, or whatever you call it. Go ahead, Doc. You tell Petey. I don’t write that way, do I? Do I? Well? posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:21 AM 13 comments Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin is an extreme seeker and off-road spiritual aspirant

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Indian civilisation is so rich, complex, and multistranded

Hindu society and culture in 21st Century India and Britain
This is the text of a presentation delivered by Mr Ranjit Sondhi CBE, at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Board of Governors annual dinner, held in the Oxford Town Hall, on the 23rd June 2004. Mr Sondhi is a member of the BBC Board of Governors as the chairman of the English National Forum. He also serves as a member of the Patrons Council of the OCHS.
Let me make a strategic point at the outset. Perhaps nowhere more than in Hinduism do we experience traditions of thought, religious, and moral values that are so markedly different from the Judeo-Christian and classical traditions of 'western' culture. Hindu societies are in touch with cultures and languages that pre-date the West. The great challenge is to somehow capture the long, highly complex, and refined traditions of Hindu philosophy, art, science, music, and dance within the extraordinarily varied cultural history of the Indian sub-continent, which at this moment are beyond the reach of even the most well educated in all communities. Unless we all have access to these cultural repertoires, to understand and practise them, we will all lack the cultural capital to engage with each other.

Allow me to turn now to Hinduism and Indian civilisation - since the two are inextricably linked. Hinduism projects the great values of social justice, communal harmony, individual freedom, and human well-being. The idea of India, variously called Jambudwipa, Aryavarta, and more frequently Bharat, has exercised the Indian imagination for several millennia. Different writers have asked what defined and distinguished their land and its people, and what their central civilisational values were.
  • For Tilak, Aurobindo, Bipan Chandra Pal, Savarkar, and others, it was a unique Hindu achievement, created and nurtured by the Hindus and reflective of the distinct Hindu sensibilities and historical experiences.
  • Gokhale, Ranade, Gandhi, Tagore, and others took a different view. Although they disagreed among themselves, they were all convinced that the Indian civilization was spiritual rather than narrowly religious in its nature, open to the influences of others, synthetic rather than Hindu in its content, decentralised and rural in its orientation, and committed to the values of tolerance, self-restraint, and universality.
  • The third group of writers, such as Dadabhai Naoroji, Motilal, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the communists, took a very different view of the Indian civilization and its contemporary relevance. In their view it had, after a brilliant start, continued to decline and was no longer a living reality. It was basically sociocentric, apolitical, hierarchical, localised, and unworldly, and wholly at odds with the demands of modern life. The best thing to do was to make a clean break with the past and give India a wholly new and modern self-image.

But although India chose to define itself along modernist lines after independence, the Hindu view still prevails. Hindu civilisation lies at its core, and is enriched by such Hindu-derived currents of thought as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. However, Indian civilisation is too rich, complex, and multistranded to be reduced to a single and homogeneous formula. Every attempt to abridge and abstract a part of it does it grave injustice. Its values are several and occasionally incompatible.

These include equality and hierarchy, violence and non-violence, active engagement with the world and withdrawal from it, individualism and rationalism, monogamy and polygamy. It is up to us to decide which of these values to adopt and cherish. India certainly needs a common culture, but it cannot be the culture of any particular community. As Nehru, Gandhi, Tagore, and others had argued, Indian culture has drawn on many different sources including Islam and Christianity, and is plural and synthetic in nature. Only such a multiculturally constituted common culture, in which each of our major communities finds its reflection, and which it can therefore enthusiastically accept, can be the basis of Indian unity.

India has over the centuries been a home to many different peoples and cultures and has evolved a synthetic, composite, and multiculturally constituted common culture. The Hindu culture itself is a work of many hands and contains within it a large range of unhomogenisable diversity. It has no single owner, and that is its strength. And since all communities have contributed to it, they can see their own images in it and can happily accept it. It therefore provides an ideal framework within which to find both our commonalities and enjoy our differences.

And it is this desire to strike the right balance between unity and diversity that links us to the state of modern multi-cultural Britain. Let me first turn to the position of Hindus in this country. I want to resist the suggestion that Hindus and Hindu culture, whether on the Indian sub-continent, or in Britain, or elsewhere in the Western world, have somehow been preserved in aspic. There is, and always has been, in all cultures, a tension between tradition and modernity, between continuity and change. In this sense, cultural identities have always been dynamic, fluid, ambiguous, and elusive. At any given historic moment, a particular culture can never wholly be defined completely and accurately.

Nevertheless, there are tacit dimensions in Hindu society that are deep-rooted and resistant to change. These might be obvious to cultural anthropologists but for most of us they work so surreptitiously and unconsciously that we only become aware of them after a rigorous self-analysis. These might involve value systems, religious beliefs, language structures, child-rearing practices, family organisation, aspects of food and dress. Some of these influences go back to our childhood and are largely unknown to us. But they are nonetheless important determinants of our cultural expression and behaviour.

So, in a paradoxical sense, our Hindu culture is both given and constantly reconstituted. We might not like parts of it, and even when we do, we might feel that it needs to be changed to suit new circumstances. All such redefinitions and changes require both a deep historical knowledge of the cultural heritage and a feel for its past. Such redefinitions also require a rigorous and realistic assessment of present circumstances and future aspirations.

Thus in Britain, while traditional cultural practices are maintained and carry respect, the degrees and forms of attachment are fluid and changing - constantly negotiated, producing new, hybrid cultural forms of tremendous vitality and innovation. Such communities are in touch with their differences, without being saturated by tradition. They are actively involved in wider society without being assimilated. They are no longer wholly, or even primarily, defined by difference, by their otherness.

Perhaps it is important to acknowledge that 'Hinduism' in the British context is primarily perceived as an ethnic form. Ethnicity results from the interplay between two different forms of dialogue - the dialogue that an individual has with his/her cultural group, and the dialogue that he/she and her group have with the wider society. Hindus both locate themselves, and are located by others, in a culturally plural society.

Of late, ethnicity is now beginning to carry some other meanings, and to define a new space for identity. It insists on difference - on the fact that every identity is placed, positioned, in a culture, a language, a history. Every ethnic sentiment comes from somewhere, from somebody in particular. But it is no longer grounded in a set of fixed transcendental categories and which therefore has no guarantees in nature. It should not be seen as having an essentialist, primordial quality. Rather, as has been said, 'ethnicity is a process of invention which incorporates, adapts, and amplifies pre-existing communal solidarities, cultural attributes and historical memories'. Ethnicity therefore is an arte-fact not nature-fact.

What this brings into play is the instant recognition of the immense diversity and differentiation of the historical and cultural experience of ethnic subjects. That is to say, a recognition that we all speak from a particular place, out of a particular history, out of a particular experience, a particular culture, without being straight-jacketed by the binary oppositions of black and white, male and female, gay and straight. We are all ethnically located, but exist in the knowledge that our boundaries are being constantly crossed and recrossed by the categories of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

We know they are not forever, not totally universally true, not underpinned by any infinite guarantees. But for the moment, there is always a boundary, no matter how partial, temporary, or arbitrary. Otherwise, we would all flow into one another and there would be no political action, no cut and thrust of ideology, no positioning, no crossing of lines, no change. So there are other identities out there that do matter, that do bear some definite relationship to each other, that have to be dealt with somehow. Accepting the necessarily fictional nature of ethnicity does not stop the ethnic subject from engaging in the politics of difference. But it is an altogether gentler politics, a deeply non-violent encounter, in which ethnicity becomes, not a brutalising but a revitalising force.

When conceived and constructed in this way, ethnicity is transformed into something that is not doomed to survive forever, as Englishness has been, by marginalising, dispossessing, displacing, and forgetting other ethnicities. It becomes an ethnicity that has essentially lost its recruiting power, and is made attractive because of it. But I don't want to give the impression that this new concept of ethnicity as a powerless and perfect system. Like all other forms of identification, there will still be dimensions of power within it. But it isn't quite so framed by the extremities of power and aggression, violence and mobilisation, as the earlier forms of ethnic nationalism. I believe that the values and beliefs associated with Hinduism are implicit in this transformation - a transformation that moves us into a different discourse, a different world of ethnic relations in which diversity and equality are opposite sides of the same coin.

As India assumes a leadership position amongst nations...

Unity in Diversity: Oxford, the Model T and Hinduism come together at last. This is the text of a presentation delivered by Mr Alfred Ford, at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Board of Governors Annual Dinner, held in the Oxford Town Hall, on the 26th June 2003. Mr Ford is a member of the OCHS Benefactors Council and his wife, Sharmila is a member of the OCHS Board of Governors.
It is a great pleasure to be here tonight and I would like to thank Shaunaka Rishi and the Board of Governors for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. Just to clear up any misunderstandings, yes I am the great grandson of the man who is famous for saying among other things, that "History is more or less bunk!" This is one of the many aphorisms that I do not share with Henry Ford. In addition, I couldn't fix a car if my life depended on it.

My great-grandfather did not have much of a formal education. He did; however, seem to have an extraordinary ability to understand the complex mechanics of machinery. He was able to disassemble and assemble pocket watches at a very early age, and build rudimentary car engines with very little training. He would often contemplate where this ability came from, and this questioning fostered his strong belief in spirituality and reincarnation. he studied whatever he could find about these subjects, and at one point entertained a visiting sadhu from India. He even handed out small pamphlets concerning reincarnation to visitors after they completed the factory tour at ford motor company.
Like my Great Grandfather I accept the philosophy of reincarnation and I also entertain Sadhus in my home and I don't shy away from handing out full volumes of Hindu literature, what to speak of pamphlets. The Bhagavad-Gita Gita refers to knowledge of the soul as Raja-vidya or the King of knowledge. It is knowledge of god, his creation and our humble place in the grander scheme of things. Hindu thought and culture is infused with the concept of the supreme. there is nothing we can touch which has not been identified in Hindu scripture as belonging to God. But Hindu scholars do not study theology so how is this culture to negotiate its interaction with the West and our global culture.
In order to investigate the Hindu science of God and the self at a high academic level, we now have this important presence at Oxford. Oxford University has an impressive reputation for excellent scholarship in the world. There is no better place to display, discuss, dissect and disseminate the vast collection of Hindu literature available, Vaishnava, Shivite and Shakta, among others. Certainly there exists a natural synergy between the king of education and the king of universities.
The world today is in great need of an introduction to and appreciation of the treasures of all cultures. It is not healthy that one perspective, be it economic, political or religious tries to dominate and ignorance has always been the chief weapon of dominance in the world. Although we all fly the flag of multi-everthing-ism we also share great ignorance of the diverse spiritual reality in which we live.
For the Hindu community students armed with a deep scholarly appreciation of the potent message of Vedic culture, will be better equipped to respond to the complex ethical and moral questions posed by modern society. They will have the language to dialogue effectively with other religions and cultures and they will be respected as leaders, Commentators and advisors in their communities.
The main source of inspiration for these studies, the spiritual literature of India needs a place of honour and refuge. Many of these writings are in danger of being lost or forgotten. Certainly by sheer volume, the sacred texts of India rank as the greatest collection in the world. Should not these texts be studied at the same academic level as other great religious traditions? And the OCHS is also taking steps to preserve manuscripts in Indian libraries presently under threat.
As India assumes a leadership position amongst nations in the new millennium, it is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to preserve and enhance India's greatest treasure. This treasure is not the burgeoning technology industry or lucrative markets for over seas manufacturers. it is not tourism, or textiles, or Bollywood. This treasure is one of the oldest religious and spiritual traditions in the world, and the richest treasure trove of sacred scripture. It is an enduring source of enlightenment, which can make a positive contribution in the world today.
I believe Henry ford wanted to make the world a better place. he campaigned for world peace and saw the automobile as a way to liberate people from the drudgery and ignorance of rural life. He was inquisitive about machines, human existence and the nature of the soul. I am the first to admit that some of his efforts have backfired, and have had unforeseen consequences. But he was, I believe, instrumental in making the world a smaller and more unified place. He was concerned about our planet and i think that if he could, he would have liked to peel away the covering of the universe to reveal its inner workings.
The work being done at the OCHS could be considered a part of this revealing process. it is opening a door to knowledge and culture that until recently, was unfamiliar and confidential, separated from the western world by time, society, and distance. My wife and I are privileged to count ourselves as active supporters of this Centre for three important reasons.
  • The first is the need we see for Hindu communities to appreciate scholarship in Hindu Studies and to recognise its enormous potential for their future in our global culture. Linked with this is the need for contemporary scholarship to study contemporary Hinduism, its spirituality, literature and perspectives.
  • The second is that we feel a need to invest in the future of our communities by facilitating young intellectuals to become a future generation of scholars. This will help preserve and interpret Indic religions for modern times.
  • The third reason is more personal. We have two lovely daughters and we hope that they will one day have children of their own. We would like to see our grandchildren, and others have every opportunity to excel in any field of endeavour, including Hindu theology, philosophy and culture. With the OCHS they will have such an option.

I urge you all to do whatever you can to assist in this exceptional and important endeavour. If you are a scholar you hold the keys for a whole culture to engage wholeheartedly with the Western world. Your support is essential; if you are a businessman you can add value to the Centre; if you are a student you can consider a vocation in scholarship in this field. But everyone can offer support and blessings. Thank you HOMEPAGE OCHS NEWS ABOUT OCHS FACULTY &STUDENTS INDIAN STUDIESAT OXFORD RESEARCH PROJECTS PUBLICATIONS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES BENEFACTORS & FRIENDS VISITORS TO OCHS CONTACT US

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Savor the peace that is within

Delhi, India — Prem Rawat made a guest appearance for a half-hour interview with Rajiv Mehrotra on his weekly talk show called “In Conversations” on Doordarshan TV, the leading national TV station accessible all across India. In a lively conversation, Rajiv Mehrotra asked Prem Rawat, well known to millions of people as Maharaji, about the different perceptions and “realities” that people hold. Prem Rawat responded, “The breath comes into you. Breath comes into me. The reality of a human being … is not what we can believe in … not all our accomplishments and our ideas and our philosophies. All the people on the face of this earth have the same fundamental reality. I talk about the knowledge to get in touch with that fundamental reality that exists inside of us. It’s not a theory.”
Rajiv Mehrotra asked many questions regarding a “journey” or process needed for personal transformation. Prem Rawat emphasized aspiration and replied, “It’s like a person who is thirsty. You can draw him a picture of a well. You can describe water to him. That’s all well and fine, but at some point, that person needs to have that glass of water to be able to quench the thirst. The aspiration, the thirst, has to come from within. You can give a glass of water to anyone, but that person who is thirsty will enjoy it the most.”Prem Rawat, hinting at such a journey, continued, “It begins with the first step of saying, ‘I do feel my thirst.’ Once a person gets thirsty, they find the water.”
Mehrotra then asked, “What is your inner destination?” Prem Rawat said, “My destination I have found within me is to have the access to that peace, to that joy that resides within me. Within you. Within every single human being, regardless of who they are, what religion they follow, what they do. I don’t talk to people about how incomplete they are … but the beauty that has been placed in every single human being.” This is the fourth decade that Prem Rawat has circled the globe bringing a message of peace. More than 10 million people around the world have come to him for inspiration and guidance. “What I offer people is not just talk,” he says, “but a way to go inside and savor the peace that is within.”
For over three decades, Rajiv Mehrotra has been a familiar face on public television, notably as the anchor of this in-depth, one-on-one weekly prime-time talk show called “In Conversations,” where he has interviewed more than 1,000 celebrities and world leaders. Rajiv Mehrotra was educated at the universities of Oxford and Columbia. He has worked extensively in the media on both sides of the camera. As an independent documentary filmmaker, he has won several international awards in addition to three national awards presented by the president of India.
He is managing trustee of The Public Service Broadcasting Trust and secretary/trustee of The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of the Dalai Lama. He is a trustee of the Indian Centre for Philanthropy and The Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Culture, and has served on the governing councils of the Sri Aurobindo Society and the Film & Television Institute of India. He is also judge of the Templeton Prize for Spirituality, and was nominated a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum at Davos. He has edited a number of books, including The Mind of the Guru: Conversations with Spiritual Masters and Understanding the Dalai Lama and The Essential Dalai Lama. Home

Faith, Reason, God and Other Imponderables

In “The Language of God,” Dr. Collins, the geneticist who led the American government’s effort to decipher the human genome, describes his own journey from atheism to committed Christianity, a faith he embraced as a young physician. In “God’s Universe,” Dr. Gingerich, an emeritus professor of astronomy at Harvard, tells how he is “personally persuaded that a superintelligent Creator exists beyond and within the cosmos.”
And in “Evolution and Christian Faith,” Dr. Roughgarden, the child of Episcopal missionaries and now an evolutionary biologist at Stanford, tells of her struggles to fit the individual into the evolutionary picture — an effort complicated in her case by the fact that she is transgender, and therefore has views at odds with some conventional Darwinian thinking about sexual identity.
If his eminence in science were not so unassailable, a fourth author, the biologist E. O. Wilson of Harvard, might also be taking a chance by arguing that religion and science ought to take up arms together to encourage respect for and protection of nature or, as he calls it in his new book, “The Creation.”
Although he writes that he no longer embraces the faith of his childhood — he describes himself as “a secular humanist” — Dr. Wilson shapes his book as a “Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor,” in hopes that if “religion and science could be united on the common ground of biological conservation, the problem would soon be solved.”
Coming as they do from a milieu in which religious belief of any kind is often dismissed as little more than magical thinking, this is bravery indeed. But other new books, taking a different approach, also claim the mantle of bravery. In “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and theorist of cognition at Tufts, refers again and again to the “brave” researchers (including himself) who challenge religion. In “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins, a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford, once again likens religious faith to a disease and sets as his goal convincing his readers that atheism is “a brave” aspiration.
Of course, just as the professors of faith cannot prove (except to themselves) that God exists, the advocates for atheism acknowledge that they cannot prove (not yet, anyway ) that God does not exist. Instead, Drs. Dawkins and Dennett sound two major themes: a) the theory of evolution is correct, and creationism and its cousin, intelligent design, are wrong; and b) a field of research called evolutionary psychology can explain why religious belief seems to be universal among Homo sapiens. But these sermons, which the authors preach with what can fairly be described as religious fervor, are unsatisfying.
Of course there is no credible scientific challenge to Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. So what? The theory of evolution says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God. People might argue about what sort of supreme being would work her will through such a seemingly haphazard arrangement, but that is not the same as denying that she exists in the first place. In any event, as Dr. Gingerich argues, in simultaneously defending evolution and insisting upon atheism, Dr. Dawkins probably “single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists.”
And evolutionary psychology as a prism through which to view contemporary human behavior is open to many challenges. Some have come from critics who dismiss much of it as little more than “Just-So Stories” designed to explain or justify the status quo. So it seems strange to see its logic cited as a weapon against the story-telling aspects of religion.
All of which leads one to ask, who are these books for? The question is easy to answer when it comes to Drs. Collins, Roughgarden or Gingerich. First would be young people raised in religious families, who as they progress through school suddenly confront scientific reality that challenges Sunday morning dogma.
THE LANGUAGE OF GOD By Francis S. Collins. Free Press, 2006.
THE GOD DELUSION By Richard Dawkins. Houghton Mifflin, 2006
GOD’S UNIVERSE By Owen Gingerich. Harvard University Press, 2006
Readers’ Opinions
Forum: Human Origins
“I have been struck,” Dr. Roughgarden writes, “by how the ‘debate’ over teaching evolution is not about plants and animals but about God and whether science somehow threatens one’s belief in God.” Or as Dr. Collins put it, when religions require belief in “fundamentally flawed claims” about the world, they force curious and intelligent congregants to reject science, “effectively committing intellectual suicide,” a choice he calls “terrible and unnecessary.” But does science require the abandonment of faith? Not necessarily, and certainly not entirely, these authors argue.
Also, people who read these books will realize that it is impossible to tar all scientists with the brush of amorality. The books challenge those who fear that science and ethics may end up at war, a possibility raised by President Bush last week, when he vetoed legislation supporting stem cell research. On the other hand, as the (atheist) physicist Steven Weinberg has famously put it, and as Drs. Dawkins and Dennett remind their readers, good people tend to do good, evil people tend to do evil, but for a good person to do evil — “that takes religion.”
But it is hard to believe that people who reject science on religious grounds will stick with the Dennett and Dawkins books, filled as they are with denunciation not just of their ideas but of themselves. This is unfortunate because, as Dr. Roughgarden points out, it is crucial in our society for people of faith, the vast majority of our population, to understand the issues of contemporary science. “I’d love to discuss the moral issues of biotechnology within a community of faith,” she writes. “But most church congregations and their leaders are not prepared for those discussions.”
Perhaps another book, “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast,” can help bridge that gap. It is by Lewis Wolpert, a biologist at University College London. It has been published in England, and it is to appear in the United States in January. Dr. Wolpert writes about the way people think about cause and effect, citing among other work experiments on how we reason, how we assess risk, and the rules of thumb and biases that guide us when we make decisions. He is looking into what he calls “causal belief” — the idea that events or conditions we experience have a cause, possibly a supernatural cause.
Human reasoning is “beset with logical problems that include overdependence on authority, overemphasis on coincidence, distortion of the evidence, circular reasoning, use of anecdotes, ignorance of science and failures of logic,” he writes. And whatever these traits may say about acceptance of religion, they have a lot to do with public misunderstanding of science. So, he concludes, “We have to both respect, if we can, the beliefs of others, and accept the responsibility to try and change them if the evidence for them is weak or scientifically improbable.”
This is where the scientific method comes in. If scientists are prepared to state their hypotheses, describe how they tested them, lay out their data, explain how they analyze their data and the conclusions they draw from their analyses — then it should not matter if they pray to Zeus, Jehovah, the Tooth Fairy, or nobody. Their work will speak for itself.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Body as a sign in circulation to deny the depths

The Future Citizen in a mock shooting gallery on a spending spree, laden with poisonous telecom and gaming devices strung about body armor woven into brain and spine. Microchip nano-factories deposit adrenalin at biometric checkpoint, seratonin captured in research labs fanned into abyss settlements quaking with sore dust. Body a sign under postmodern regime, sign in circulation to deny the depths, sway to magnet vortex illusion skeleton shape. Stolen body returns as cyborg advert super soldier, global positioning system constraint method. Restricted sponge soaks up the past, historical debris inflates; inverted world's black light hands; the social fate that breaks our knees.
CHANCE REPORT: THE UNEXPECTED SOUND SURREALIST POEMS, COMMENTARY AND REVIEWS by M.K. Shibek and friends THE FUTURE CITIZEN Sunday, 9 April 2006 Improvised lyrics for a song, 4-06 Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006 11:15 P GMT-08 :: Comments/Trackback (1-0)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Child-rearing: where majority of psychopathology emanates from

Our current war, for example, is not over territory or resources or even ideas, because Islamism, properly understood, is not an idea at all, any more than nazism was an idea. Rather, it is plainly a mental (and spiritual) illness that uses whatever materials are at hand to elaborate itself and metastasize. If it were an idea, you could sit down and have a sensible discussion with them, which is why liberals are so naive. Islamism is a deep pathology that has even deeper roots in cultural and historical pathology. But where does cultural pathology come from? Where could it come from?Here is where my visionary ideas could well be wrong, for the first place I want to look is in their manner of child-rearing, since that is where the vast majority of psychopathology emanates from. Of course, there are more or less purely genetic conditions such as bipolar illness, schizophrenia, and certain depressions, but those diseases afflict individuals, not whole cultures.
But what does one make of a whole culture, say, the ancient Greeks, whose men did not fall in love with women, but with young boys? Women and wives were basically regarded as subhuman nuisances, whereas the love between man and boy was idealized by poets and philosophers. Perhaps I am the one who is naive, but I just can’t understand how historians can look at such craziness and pass over it as if it were of no consequence, no different than their preference for columned architecture.What could possibly cause ancient Greeks to be so psychosexually messed up? Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. For if history is actually a field of insanity sprinkled with little pockets of sanity, we shouldn’t be surprised by this systematic abuse of woman and children. Rather, we should only be surprised when we encounter the opposite--humane and empathic treatment of the weaker members of society.
When we look beyond the beautiful art and timeless philosophy and examine the actual cultural beliefs of Ancient Greece, a disturbing picture emerges. Historians of ideas like to talk about the link between ancient Athenian and modern democracy, but these people were not like us. Well, not like me, anyway. You can speak for yourself. We are naturally appalled at the barbaric way our captured soldiers are treated by the Islamist savages, but this was pretty much the norm in history. For example, the Mycenaean pirates of ancient Crete subjugated the peoples around them, who paid tribute with pre-pubertal boys and girls to be used as human sacrifices to their bull-god (just as Islamists make such sacrifices to their bullshit god).
According to Breiner, author of a book entitled Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today, the women of ancient Greece were essentially slaves. A wife’s function was to “look after the household and produce children--preferably boys.” While courtesans--who were used for pleasure rather than procreation--could be educated, wives were illiterate. Similar to Islamic societies today, the ancient Greeks “viewed men as sane and stable while women were considered mad, hysterical, and possibly dangerous and destructive to men.” Furthermore, “a woman’s freedom was severely restricted” and she was without power. “A man could sell his daughter or sister into concubinage if he wished.” Children of concubines were simply “aborted, killed or sold into slavery.”
At the time of Pericles in the late 5th century BC, a girl could marry only through parental arrangement: “no man married for love.” And once the marriage took place and the Athenian bride went to live with her husband, “she was cut off from her family and became a menial worker in her husband’s home.” Even the children she bore were not her own, but belonged to the husband to dispense with as he saw fit. Out of a population of 400,000, only 14,240 people had full civil rights. The rest were women, children and slaves. Unwanted children were simply exposed on a mountainside to die. “In all the Greek cities except Thebes the father had the right to kill his child at birth without question. In all cities except Athens the father could sell his children to slave dealers.” Female infanticide was the norm. Very few families raised more than one daughter. Even then, girls were given inferior food and no education.
Breiner feels that the revulsion towards women was at the basis of Greek male homosexuality. Can you think of a better explanation? The fashionable modern idea is that homosexuality is “genetic” and not subject to environmental influences. If so, how does one account for the prevalence of Ancient Greek homosexuality? “It was considered quite proper for the young men of Athens to engage sexually with older men, and most did.” “Merchants would import handsome boys to be sold to the highest bidder”; these boys would “be first used as concubines and later as slaves.”
Breiner speculates that “homosexual pederasty was so universal in Greek society” because it was “a means of ‘rescuing’ the male child from the perceived dangers of women...” “Boy brothels flourished in every city and a child prostitute could be rented, even at the height of Athenian culture...A freeborn child might see his father having sexual relations with a child his own age who was a slave.” I don’t even have time to get into the human and animal sacrifice. “Human life was considered so short and cheap that there was little concern about killing. When a town was captured the men were automatically killed or sold into slavery and the women were taken as concubines or slaves.” Traits such as “gentleness, kindness, industry, honesty, and integrity were scorned as effeminate and inferior.” posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:56 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Cultural Creatives

The Cultural Creatives : How 50 Million People Are Changing the World by Paul H. Phd Ray, Sherry Ruth Anderson Reviewer: Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This book should be read together with IMAGINE, edited by Marianne Williamson. Taken together, the two books are inspirational while still being practical. Cultural Creatives as a book, and some of the other reviews, tend to over-sell the success of the emergence of an alternative lifestyle to Traditionalists (stereotyped as somewhat red neckish and religious rightists) and Moderns (stereotyped as ravish the earth anything-goes corporate carpetbaggers). The reality is that there are as many "cultural creatives" as there are people with disabilities in the United States--50 million. Not one quarter of the population, as one reviewer claims.
Having said that, by way of somber stage-setting, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It should be required reading for every citizen, every student, and every public official. In a very real sense, this book strikes me as a truly seminal work that could help millions of individuals reframe their personal connection to one another, to their Republic, and to the earth. This is neither a tree-hugger book nor a mantras R us book. This book provides a thoughtful review of how different movements--first the environmental movement, then the human rights movement, and finally the consciousness movement--have come together to define an alternative lifestyle and alternative paradigm for political and economic and social relationships in the larger context of a sustainable "whole" earth.
I found this book motivational and meaningful at both a personal level and a larger national level. At the personal level, its detailed and well-organized description of fifteen very distinct aspects of a "cultural creative" lifestyle helped me understand--as it has helped many others--that there is actually a category of people who have come to grips with and found solutions that enrich their lives--and this explains my great disappointment that the book does not offer a "resources" section at the end. I would have been very glad to discover, for example, a "Cultural Creative" journal or magazine that combined a strong book review section, art and culture, a consumer reports section tailored to the higher standards of the "CCs", new innovations in home restoration and remodeling, vacation options known to be attractive to CCs, etcetera.
At the higher political level, I found the book constructive and just this side of a tipping point. An increasing number of people, all of them generally outside of Washington and not associated with Wall Street, clearly have some strong positive values and a real commitment to achieving reform through "many small actions". What this group has lacked is a means of communicating and orchestrating itself on a scale sufficient to demand respect from politicians and corporation.
The Internet now provides such a vehicle--and as the Internet explodes from 3.5M people worldwide to 3.5B people worldwide, in the next ten years, I am convinced that Cultural Creatives may finally come into their own as a new form of global political party. Cultural Creatives would sign the Kyoto Treaty (and know what it is); Cultural Creatives would demand a 100% increase--from a half-penny a dollar to a full penny a dollar--in America's foreign diplomatic and humanitarian assistance budget--and Cultural Creatives could conceivably give the Republican Party a real beating in the next Congressional elections if President Bush persists in breaking his campaign vow on reducing carbon emissions. A peaceful revolution in our national agenda may truly be a near-term reality.
This is not a book where a summary can do it justice. It needs to be experienced at an individual level and ideally also at a community level, where it could be understood and accepted as a common point of reference for individual choosing to live "in relation" to one another and to the world, at a level much higher and more satisfying than our current arrangements. When this book makes it to the best-seller list, America will have matured and there will be hope for our children's future quality of life.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The common thread that runs through every major religion

Our problem with established religion is often that we cannot find a religion that fits our modern-day lifestyle GOING BACK TO BASICS LOIS GRANT The Times of India Sunday July 2, 2006
Anyone who has invested time, energy and effort into finding their own truth knows that ignorance is not bliss. Understanding the religious environment that we grew up in should be the natural first step towards defining our own belief system. All too often, we grow up getting bits and pieces of religion, but never take the time to look at the bigger picture. It is the bigger picture that enables us, as thinking, feeling human beings, to evaluate both the truth and the doctrine of established religion, and decide for ourselves what fits us in this lifetime and what doesn't, keeping in mind that the doctrine of any given religion may not feel right to us, but the basic truth upon which the religion was built seems very familiar and very right.
Most religions have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Common sense tells us that a lot of people have made a lot of changes in the teachings of any particular religion, for a lot of reasons. Our job, as spiritual seekers, is to get back to the basics — the basic teachings of the master teacher upon whom the religion was founded. Our problem with established religion is often that we cannot find a religion that fits our modern-day lifestyle. We protest against some of the religious doctrine and practices, believing that they just are not appropriate for living life in today's world. Without looking any further, we say, "That's not right for me," and move on in the hope of finding a different religion that we can be more comfortable with.
In studying the history of religious places, we come to a clearer understanding of why they did things the way they did, when they did them, and hopefully the importance of separating truth from doctrine in our quest for spiritual truth becomes more and more obvious. It does not matter which religion we are looking at; in every case, there are the teachings of the master teacher, and the doctrine (which was established by followers, not by the master himself) that guides us in learning how to express the master's truth in our day-to-day lives. That is not a bad thing; then and now, learning to express our spiritual truth on a day-by-day basis is what finding and following our own path in life is all about.
We turn to present-day spiritual teachers to guide us in expressing our spirituality, all the while resenting the spiritual teachers of yore who did the same for their life students. I have no doubt that generations from now, free-thinkers will criticise the teachers (and teachings) of our time as old-fashion ed and inappropriate to their lifestyle. That is the way it has always been, and that is the way it will always be: established religion gives each soul something to think about — a starting point in deciding what their personal truth will (or will not) be in that lifetime. We run into problems when we want to express our beliefs differently than any particular sect of any particular religion tells us to.
We should stop thinking of established religion as a firm set of rules and regulations that we are expected to follow. If we want to be a spiritual person, we should look at it instead as a historical recap of the ways generations of people have chosen to express the spiritual teachings of a specific master teacher. We can then free ourselves of the emotional rebellion we sometimes experience at being told what we should think and what we should feel. Once we stop feeing defensive and protective, we can begin to explore the truth as the master teacher taught it, without getting lost in the doctrine established by those who came after him. Once we separate the truth from the doctrine, we begin to realise that there really is not much difference in truth at all; the common thread that runs through every major religion in the world is what we, today, call Universal Law.
Every great spiritual master (including the ones upon whose teachings the various religions were founded) taught the same basic principles. Our goal in spiritual seeking should be two-fold: to get back to the basic teachings, and then to decide whether those teachings, as presented by any religion, ring true for us, as individuals, in this lifetime. Too often, we lose our focus and put our emphasis on doctrine (which comes and goes with each change in the socio-economic environment) instead of on the basic truth which the doctrine is striving to express.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Open up a braver, newer and vaster world

The Legacy of Theodore Levitt: His big idea on ‘marketing myopia’ is more relevant to corporates today than ever Saurabh N. Saklani business world 01july 06
On June 28, 2006, Theodore Levitt, a respected author, marketing expert, and former editor of Harvard Business Review ( HBR ), died at the age of 81 after a long illness. A legendary figure in the area of marketing, Levitt authored eight books on marketing, including Innovation in Marketing (1962) and The Marketing Imagination (1983). He is best remembered for his classic article, Marketing Myopia ( HBR , July-August 1960), which sold 850,000 reprints. This article is particularly worth discussing since it is more relevant today than ever given the degree of globalisation, competition, and scramble for success in the business world.
In Marketing Myopia , Levitt had argued that companies often fail or stutter because they define their area of presence too narrowly. He used the example of the railroads and wrote that they "let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business instead of the transportation business." Within this framework, companies discovered new opportunities which they may have missed had they not adopted a broader perspective of their businesses and markets.
Levitt's take on marketing myopia may seem common wisdom today but was a phenomenal insight in 1960. Companies today would do well to revisit this notion while defining where they position themselves or where they intend to compete. For instance, if Coke and Pepsi were to position themselves in the beverage industry, it would lead to an entirely different mindset as compared to a positioning in the soft drinks market. And as is well-known, each positioning leads to wholly different ideas and strategies for growth and success. Given the oil prices today, once can see why oil companies have decided to broaden their business perspective from petroleum to energy.
I believe that Levitt's lesson is easily transferable onto the sphere of personal growth and development. In this case, positioning our own talents in narrow silos leads to limited options and fewer avenues for success. However, by casting our potential, skills and interests in a wider zone of functioning and adaptability, we will automatically open up a braver, newer and vaster world to compete in. Marketing myopia thus provides sound intellectual ground for objectively assessing whether one suffers from “self-potential” myopia. I think that Levitt's invaluable lesson for companies and individuals alike is to expand the mind's eye while engaging in various endeavours. That, more than anything else, is a key step towards attaining a sense of fulfillment in life.