Thursday, November 17, 2022

How To Deal With Anxiety In America

Recently, I watched on PBS a film on anxiety in America--part of a series I caught by chance. Much  moved, I learned something of great importance.  What I learned confirmed my thoughts about what makes us suffer.  (I’m not talking about physical  suffering, but even there the mind comes in.)

 

What I learned all came back to one thing.  The small group of courageous folk that shared their stories on screen were from all walks of life, all degrees of education, and roles in society. This one cause of our inward pains turns out to be nothing esoteric or hard to grasp.  Most striking is that virtually every person understood what that cause was, namely, their own minds.  They in fact saw that their fears and obsessions and compulsive behaviors had life only in their imaginations; and they all saw through them, recognized they were the fictions of their own anguished selves.  But they couldn’t help it.  They even saw the humor, the absurdity of their fears and obsessions.

 

The first to begin to tell her tale of self-inflicted angst was a woman we see doing two things, washing her hands compulsively while at the same trying to get her hands into tight-fitting transparent gloves.  What creates her all-consuming, life-paralyzing anxiety is her fear of germs.  She rightly imagines these invisible agents of ill-health, pain, and even death may quite possibly be anywhere.  She very well might casually and innocently encounter some unknown and perhaps lethal germ—and make skin contact with it.  Hence all the soap and the gloves.

 

In order to wipe out that truly horrific possibility, this harried germophobe has constructed her own safe universe in her loving mother’s home, and retreats to the one couch and coverlet where she feels safely cut off from the entire universe where germs can run wild. We see her with her spotless, gloved hands under a carefully germ-vetted coverlet. She’s completely ensconced in her couch;in her compact fortress, she is able to breathe easy—at least for the moment. The plain fact: she has done all this to herself.

 

I’m happy to report that the film extends over some years and in the end we see a happier person looking well, her lips aglow with lipstick, which previously she would never use for fear of possible infection.  She now understood there was no good reason to live cloistered from reality, and has made strides in seeing that her obsessive fear of germs  was in no way warranted, so that she could therefore stop torturing herself.  The analogy to many of our difficult situations seems obvious.

 

To see and then act in accord with the insight that we are injuring ourselves, that we are feeding the ideas and beliefs that make us suffer; that we are distorting our selves and our lives, is anything but easy.  When we suffer we’re always enmeshed in some concrete context, and feel surrounded by overpowering forces.   But the more closely we look, the closer we get to seeing how we are making ourselves suffer. We don’t intend or want to play that role; but we can’t help it.  I know; it’s hard to admit that the cause lies in ourselves.

 

The point is not to abandon each other to our own misery.  On the contrary, we need to help each other discover ourselves.  This is especially true for all the human beings whose sufferings have been imposed on them by agents of oppression, military aggression, racism, genderism, colonialism, and on and on.

 

Addendum: The night I wrote the foregoing paragraphs, three innocent, beautiful young men were murdered in my town.  Many people are suffering from this fact, this latest sacrifice to the god of the gun that a good part of America worships.   Yes, it is through my mind that I feel the hurt, the sorrow, the horror of this cruel loss; and yes, it is through my mind that I feel the indignation, the moral revulsion of the gun lobbies, profiteers, and phony patriots. 

 

But thank goodness for the mind and heart that enable us to feel sorrow for our  neighbor, and opposition to the cause  of so much unnecessary misery on  earth.  This mind, this inner reality that we all possess, is proof that we are not soulless matter.  We feel, think, dream, remember and anticipate, laugh and weep.  We love and we hate.  It’s the price we pay for not being blocks of stone.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Art As School For Empathy

What the world needs today is a super-dose of empathy.  Given the fact that there are from twenty-three to thirty wars raging all over the planet and that almost everywhere conflict and polarization reign on so many fundamental issues, learning how to tune into what’s going on inside the other may be our only hope.  We need to step outside ourselves and enter into the perspective of others—even other animals and forms of nature.  Certainly, of our friends and enemies.  But how do we do it? We could use imagination and our own experience to project ourselves into the situations of other people, the felt perspective of the other.

 

This ability to enter into the soul of the other seems contrary to our basic self-centered instincts.  The gravity of our consciousness is centered around the black hole of our egos.  But never to step out of our egos is a formula for madness and a hellish existence.  No matter how ego-bound we are, there are ways to step beyond into the fresh air of a larger world. 

 

There are two common inroads to that larger world—play and art.  Children and their play instincts reveal a natural tendency to “make believe” and enter new and other worlds.  I love observing children trailing after their parents as they walk down the street.  The children are running and leaping this way and that, reacting and trying to engage with every novel scene, a dog walking by, the pattern of bricks on the ground, a squirrel or bird that shoots by, not to mention people (like myself) who look and smile at them.  All this in contrast to their parents or guardians marching in the straight line of sober reality. Kids at play are marvels of empathy and imagination, without knowing what the words mean.

 

But they grow up.  They are shaped and constrained by the reality-principle. But all  adults retain a streak of playfulness and empathic curiosity, which can come to life through the arts, either as passive consumers or active creators.  In both cases, the raw power and material you have to work on, is imagination, the images that occupy your consciousness, and the way those images glamorize and fascinate us. The italics  signal that I’m using those words in the old magical sense of witchcraft and shamanism, suggesting a type of possession. These are the images that shape our destiny.  They can make us demonic or ecstatic, drive us into our paranoid ego or the ecstatic lover.   

 

So the arts are the one place where you are free to revolt against the tyranny of the reality-principle.  The different arts open spaces where you can actively explore  the impossible, the fantastic, the surreal, the ideal, the quintessentially evil, the prodigiously ugly, and the divinely beautiful.

 

And then there is this.  You might venture into the point of view of your worst enemy, the most loathsome enemy of all mankind—in your view.  For that you will need a great deal of inner spaciousness and oceans of receptivity.  My point is that the arts share in common the freedom to expand our experience of reality, our ideas of what possible, our hope of doing what’s never been done before.  It doesn’t have to be world-shaking; all it needs is to be person-touching.

 

To come back to my point about the need to evolve our empathic potential, if we hope to minimize the world-shattering events already underway and absolutely certain to worsen.  The arts in a wide sense offer a way to imagine and just possibly alter our minds and therefore reality.  Maybe I’m way off the mark, and to fill you with hope for the future, I should remind you that the U.S. Congress has already approved the 840 billion $ for the Annual Defense Budget.

 

 

Monday, November 7, 2022

From a UFO to the Mind of God

 

The book I want to call attention to is a record of what happens to a rational man who has an experience that blows his mind and transforms his life and his worldview, radically and completely. Reinerio (Rey) Hernandez, a lawyer who lived with his family in Florida, is the author; the title is The Mind of God: A Spiritual-Virtual Reality of Consciousness & The Contact Modalities (2022) Buy at Amazon.  There is a very large amount of material here, the author’s views and experience, alongside many other authors and their views.

 

So what happened on that March day in 2012?   At the root of this story is Nena, a  dying dog. On the date cited above, the author writes: . . . my wife and I had a joint experience with what I now call an “Energy Being” in our living room that miraculously healed our paralyzed Russel Terrier, a family member called Nena, that we were going to euthanize later that afternoon.”  They were going to meet that afternoon with the family vet, Dr. Phil Cruz to relieve Nena of her pain. . Meanwhile RH’s Catholic wife  was praying all the previous night to save the dog.  In the morning, she gets RH out of bed to come downstairs and when he follows her downstairs, the first thing he sees is that his wife and dog disappear!

 

 He continues--“I then saw this Energy Being floating in the corner of our living room—I appeared to have tunnel vision and all around me was dark and not visible.  The intelligence appeared in the shape of a rectangle approximately four feet off the ground.  It had no hard edges because it was pure energy.  It had multiple colors that were fluctuating like a desert mirage.”

 

Meanwhile, his wife and dog had disappeared, but RH walks back upstairs to sleep  for another hour in a kind of baffled trance.  He believes he was being telepathically controlled by the being he had seen.  When he wakes up from his imposed sleep, he goes back down to the living room where he finds his wife shouting that the angels cured Nena, and indeed there is the 15 year-old near dead dog rejuvenated, healed, and frisking about like a puppy.  Nena lived on for several years.

 

Angel or energy being, whatever it was, inspired the wonderstruck lawyer to hurl himself into gaining some insight into the mystery of the strange visitation and the miraculous healing. But that’s not all. The healing was a kind of initiation to further unexplained experiences. Soon after the first encounter, RH’s wife (whom he never names) steps out of the house at night and prays, tries to  express her gratitude for the miracle of her dog’s life.   Her prayers apparently were heard and the angel-energy entity—whatever it was-- apparently nodded back.  According to RH, his wife and later himself succeeded on numerous occasions to induce, in the presence of other witnesses, including family, various ufological and parapsychological phenomena.

 

Hernandez was taken up with the task spreading the research into the whole medley of extraordinary phenomena that jointly seem to point to a universe of transcendence that science and everybody needs to know about.  The author put all his energies into reading the various literatures centered on the empirics of transcendence; he contacted various scientists and scholars interested in the same; through contact with the Apollo Astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, he helped form the Consciousness and Contact Research Center, CCRI.  This group of scholars and scientists have produced an impressive mass of very interesting data, relative to the Hernandez strange encounter with an unknown healing agency. The research into this data is being in several separate volumes. (See A Greater Reality: The New Paradigm of Nonlocal  Consciousness, the Paranormal & the Contact Modalities. Volumes 1&2).

 

Hernandez summarizes vast amounts of the research findings.   The Mind of God is a valiant attempt to sketch a picture of the amazing universe we inhabit, based on traditional ideas and masses of recently garnered evidence that force us toward a worldview that celebrates the primacy of mind and consciousness.  The author  welds together two fields of study that usually are a bit standoffish to each other, parapsychology and ufology.  Two general points about this new CCRI data strike me as notable.   First is the fact that many of the experiencers have had both types of experience, the Ufo-ish spectrum and garden-variety paranormalities.  Another notable finding is that some folks have these experiences in abundance and throughout their lives. 

 

There is another feature of The Mind of  God: focusing on the various  modalities in which humans make contact with the Transcendent, Hernandez makes the case for the ultimate oneness of the human spirit.  All the religions, arts and sciences, each through the finite lens they are looking through, ultimately converge on the one transcendent source of enlightenment.   The challenge is to try to live this insight, to act it out on the plane of everyday life, socially, economically and politically—and above all, ecologically.  There is enough data in this book and its partner volumes to justify optimism about our possible human future.  The book also demonstrates the remarkable power of human experience.  A single experience, a moment of shattering  insight, can remake a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Art, Magic and the Paranormal

 

What is art today? There is no definitive answer to the question. Art throughout history has served many needs and purposes--religion, the state, the rich.  The twentieth century, with the rise of so called modernism, had the effect of freeing art from all the traditional constraints. Art today is an open universe, a matter of individual creation.

 

In the radical freedom of today’s artistic enterprise, technology is a great ally. The traditional artist had to rely on patrons, royal or wealthy homes, churches, state rooms and buildings, different kinds of museum, and more recently, galleries where the work is physically anchored and open to the public.  Today an artist can create his or her own online gallery to display work to viewers, in principle, all over the planet. Moreover, the viewer, if inclined, can offer comments and engage with the artist.  See my new art website: paintingtheparanormal.com.

 

Throughout history artists have made works that celebrate archetypal figures and events: heroes, saints, gods and goddesses—miracles and the supernatural. Today we might call these things surreal or paranormal.  Regardless of time or place, something in us always hankers for novelty, a new perspective, a moment of transcendence.  I believe this is so because part of our subconscious self is already attuned to a greater reality. As the immortal Peggy Lee sang: “Is that all there is?” The message of the creative imagination—of art in all its forms—is “No! There is a great unknown more.

 

Laying aside the dead dogmas of religion and science, the strange and the unexpected will go on haunting and teasing us forever.  The ‘unknown more’ is our own mind, and not just our surface mind but the part of our minds below the threshold of everyday awareness.

 

On the other hand, the ‘surface’ mind is no slouch.  On the contrary, our everyday mind is pure magic, and a great mystery to science.  It is, after all, the launching pad for all our actions and adventures—or miss-adventures. The fact is that my ordinary mind can be the first step in transforming my life.

 

There are two ways I paint the paranormal.  One way is to tell a story through an image of something known to be paranormal—or miraculous, if the word doesn’t embarrass or frighten you.  It could be an event or a person. So I made a painting of Therese Neumann weeping blood in a state of ecstasy, a well-known figure I discuss in my book on miracles, Smile of the Universe. She was an amazing lady who ate and drank nothing for the last 35 years of her life!  She claimed to be nourished by the divine spirit.  Not at all emaciated, she was healthy and perfectly functional and sociable—at least when she wasn’t bleeding in ecstasy.

 

I’ve done paintings of Arigo, a Brazilian healer whose life and abilities were shockingly and incessantly surreal. The paintings Neumann, Arigo and others are meant to serve as pictures of the impossible.  Painted images are like drops of eternity; they take something out of time. A painting is a queer object, an image frozen in the timeless.

 

And there’s a second sense in which I paint the paranormal.  As I see it, the act of painting is itself a form of materialization. Producing the entire painting from first to last comes from my subconscious.  And that’s the fun of  it. I never know what’s next, but bit by bit it all comes together. 

 

Science has no idea how it is possible for our intangible, invisible, nonphysical thoughts and images to drive our bodies so  we can paint pictures, make music, dance or play sports.  Art is all about magic and the psychokinetic art of living.  Imagination is our main weapon in the war against the established realities that are killing us.  I’ll be exploring all this here and in my new art website.  Here or there I welcome discussion with readers and viewers.

 

 

 

Monday, October 10, 2022

A Book With A Revolutionary Future

Spiritual Awakenings: Scientists and Academics Describe Their Experiences, edited by Marjorie Woolacott, PhD and David Lorimer, in my opinion is such a book. Let me be blunt.  The United Nations announced it in 2021: to save our planet from encroaching eco-armageddon, we shall have to change our way of life.  For that to happen we have to learn to see ourselves, each other, and the natural world in new ways; with new values and new perceptions.  In a word, it will take a spiritual awakening, a re-education of our consciousness, and a new collective imagination.

 

It needs to be heard: people from all walks of life are reporting extraordinary experiences that seem to inspire  new ways of engaging with the world.  Stories about opening up to higher dimensions of possibility, indeed, of reality itself. Spiritual Awakenings focuses on scientists and academics that were largely trained to see the world  in reductive physicalist terms. The book shows how experiences that challenge if not shatter the physicalist worldview give way  to radically new and enticing perspectives. The writers share the experiences that altered their view of reality and changed the way they lived.  The point was to try to say it as concisely as possible.  Here’s what I wrote, an intro to many powerful statements in a book that speaks to a future of human renaissance.   

 

Experience, Meaning, Evolution

 

People are changed by their experiences.  All my life, since seven or eight, I’ve had occasional  experiences I couldn’t explain.  I learned  that these experiences were called paranormal and were controversial.  What good were they? Speaking for myself, they forced open my mind, increased my awareness of what is possible in or beyond familiar nature.   Here are three examples. 

            The  first is precognition.  In 1981 I was teaching philosophy at City  University of New Jersey.   In the weeks of early March I had three dreams, each about a week apart, of President Ronald Reagan being suddenly shot and taken down in the street. That’s what I saw in the first two dreams.  In the third dream, I saw the President up and beaming with health.  I reported these dreams to the students of one of my classes. On March 30, a student phoned me .  “Dr. Grosso,” she said, “you’re a psychic—the President was shot!’  “But the president will recover well,” I answered, correctly.  Which is what I saw in my last dream.

            The second example.  In the early 1980s I had a student who projected herself out of her body, came to my house and moved my music stand from its normal place to the center of the living room.  But that’s not my second main story, however mind-blowing and true it is.  I spent a night in the house of this student, married with children, who were haunted by a ghost who was already seen by nine people.  I was awake into the early morning in a room where the ghost was often seen.  About 2:AM I heard a gong ring that was hanging on the wall.  I did not ring it.  I must infer it was rung by the ghost.  A warning.  A few seconds later, I looked up and a transparent, human-shaped form descended upon me, and for a moment paralyzed me as I sought to cry out “He’s here!”

            Now to a third illustration of strangely instructive experience.   Now we are in 1971, April 23, 11 P.M.,five days before my Ph.D. defense, after which I become a doctor of philosophy.  April 23 was also Jane’s birthday and we were listening to John Coltrane’s The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; looking out the window from the Sixth Floor of our apartment in Greenwich Village (14 Bedford St.), we were astonished to see a cluster of brilliant lights dancing back and forth in the sky about 200 yards above us, in unison, it seemed, with the jagged Coltrane rhythms. The lights then descended in a straight line toward us, swerved away and perched on the dome of Our Lady of Pompei, beamed at us from the dome several times, then shot back  before our window, danced around a little, and took off and went North, zigzagging over the Empire State Building and vanished—all in a fraction of a second.

            Each of these experiences combine to subvert my commonsense, physicalist view of the world.

            Begin with precognition.  The damn thing baffles me.   How is it possible that my subconscious self was aware that the President was going be shot and would recover?  How could that information be doled out to me in a sequence of dreams, before the actual events played out in reality?  I don’t know what to say about the strangeness of precognition, and this was not the only time it happened to me.  I dreamt of Swami Nadabrahmananda and his chief message to me before we ever met.  Precognition throws a veil of mystery on what none of us can escape, the march of time.

            So my idea of time staggers about in a shambles, and so, it appears, does my idea of another whopper concept, death. I know from my own experience about the unequivocal reality of at least one of the chief entities in all of afterlife lore: the ghost!  A spirit that acts—in my case, attacks.  A definite, surreal encounter.  So, a baffling datum  shakes up my concept of life and death. One fact can topple the Goliath of our most beloved assumptions! So I’ll be a sport and thank the dirty old ghost. 

            But now how did my third item of joint wonder with Jane and Louie in Greenwich Village expand and energize my picture of reality?  So far I’ve noted how my idea of time and death have been stretched out of shape. Time may be an illusion and death may be the gateway to a new world of life, but now my third  reality-busting episode cracks open the cosmic egg a little more.  I regard my UAP—that dancing light epiphany—another step toward the expansion of possible reality.  The lights that coincided with Coltrane’s music were not from anywhere on Earth—of that I’m certain.  Whether from some distant planet or, more likely, a hidden dimension of reality, there is reason to believe their technology transcends ours and they seem in ways we cannot understand entangled with religious phenomena.  The universe of  UAPs and UFOs may well embrace our world as our subliminal mental life seems to underlie our everyday experience.  We are, in short, immersed in a multi-transcendent reality.

            The third big question, given the extraordinary experiences and what they may mean, what difference have they made to me?  How have I been changed? is the question.  I’ll answer indirectly by describing some likely changes that would or should result from having the aforesaid experiences and what they might mean. 

            As far as precognition, my sense of absolute certainty about  even the most obvious matters is subverted by logic-bashing precognition.  An air of mystery settles over the scene of life as it unfolds, a mood of enchanting uncertainty, a sense that strange things are possible.  The ghost I met had the effect of expanding the idea of my journey on Earth as perhaps destined to lead to new worlds and new modes of being.  As far as the encounter with Coltrane-loving aliens, again the result is the expansion and complication of the human adventure.

            Simply put, how did my experiences overall change me? They forced a huge increase of empathic imagination—a great ally of our much-needed creative advance. 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

How to Avoid Scaring Yourself to Death

 

In a class discussion about the philosophy of mind,  a student who was a nurse told me a sad story.  We were discussing some of the unusual powers of the mind. Most of the examples that came up were of a positive and creative nature.  But not all.  That’s when the nurse spoke up.  She told us a story about her husband.  When he was a teenager on a lark he went to a fortune-teller.  She looked at his palm and announced that he was going to have a happy married life.  After a slight pause, she then added that he was going to die when he was thirty-five years old.   On his thirty-fifth birthday, the nurse’s husband keeled over dead.  An autopsy uncovered no physical cause of his death; he was perfectly healthy.  The only explanation is that his belief that he was going to die on that day killed him.

 

This apparently is a widely reported phenomenon.  After my student’s story I found a book by J.C. Barker, MD, Scared to Death: An Examination of Fear, Its Causes and Effects. The main shocking point of this book is that people of all ages and cultures, people, moreover, in perfect health, die because they believe their time has come, as predicted by someone or implied by some oracle or sign.  How the ‘mere’ belief that one is going to die may cause a perfectly healthy person to die, quickly, efficiently, cries out for explanation.

 

First, it should be noted that according to Barker, at the time of publication of his book in Britain (1968), public interest and use of fortune-tellers, mediums and psychics was popular and widespread.  It should be said: no matter how advanced, scientific, and rational a community, the need to consult possible sources of extranormal guidance will always remain.  The reason is that things happen in ways that transcend rationality.  The need and hope for higher forms of assistance will often assert itself.  So people try all sorts alternative methods of scoping out the future.

 

Dr. Barker was inspired to research self-induced death when he witnessed a patient, a homeless laborer, brought to the hospital in a state of terror, crying out that he was going to die. Barker was unable to calm him down. “Then to our horror and amazement he suddenly stopped crying, fell back into the bed and quickly expired”(3).  A post-mortem exam proved he was in perfect health.  The author devotes a chapter explaining how pervasive the fear of death is, and how that fear drives sophisticated nations like France and England to abound with fortune-tellers.

 

He provides a harrowing chapter on auto-suggestion and voodoo.  “If a native believes himself to be  “hoodooed”, “hexed”, “bewitched”, or “conjured”, he pines away and dies unless someone can be found who he considers has greater voodoo powers . . .”(18) Similar cases of hexing are cited in Australia, Africa, America and so forth, demonstrating the devastating power of sheer belief.  The witch-doctor in effect by virtue of curse or hex destroys the consciousness and will to live of the targeted victim.  Cases are given of victims tottering on the edge of death who are persuaded by a counter-spell and are instantly restored to health. 

 

Barker shows how politics combined with destructive magic can have murderous consequences, and “shows the extraordinary extent to which hatred and scheming machinations can build up between natives and so prepare the victim for voodoo-type death . . ..” (23).  The malignant psychic influence through abusive language that Hitler unleashed on European Jews illustrates the dark side of the psyche in action.  It explains the incredible rise to power of a psychopathic liar like Donald Trump as well as the bizarrely perverted phenomenon of QAnonism.  The intent is to degrade the person by the magic of destructive language.   

 

We need here to quickly underscore another background factor to the dark side of psychic life.  That is the phenomenon of the “evil eye”—the malignant side of the Freudian superego. There is an ancient and quite universal archetype—superstition, we could say—that we are always exposed to an evil eye overlooking us and disposed to do us harm.  The omnipresence of this evil potential is proven by the universal use of charms, amulets, and talismans—all designed to protect us from this ever-lurking dark energy poised in the shadows and waiting for a chance to pounce on us in whatever manner it can devise.  Another way we can describe this is to speak as neuroscientist Paul Maclean does of the “paranoid streak” in us humans, a byproduct, he suggests, of our reptilian brain. So we can’t help being suspicious and we are easily manipulated, even, in certain situations, to suck the life force out of ourselves.

 

There are two points we can make to help us not to succumb to our shadow side.  

 First of all, the destructive power of belief mentioned above can be converted into creative and health-giving power.   The nocebo can kill is.  The placebo can cure us.  There are plenty of stories of miraculous healings, more, I trust, than stories of healthy people dying because of what of some stupid, irresponsible fortune-teller might have said. 

 

The second antidote to indulging in self-destructive ideas and feelings is to learn to educate yourself about how your mind works.  Dr.  Barker found that imbibing the values of a reason-and-truth honoring civilization is the best way to guard against succumbing to the black magic of our worst emotions.  Love and truth are the most powerful antidotes to the disease of self-destruction. 

 

 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Insights From A Pioneer Near-Death Researcher

Kenneth Ring’s latest book Blogging to Infinity reminds me of an early love I had: the art of the essay.  As Ring himself notes, blogging is essay writing.  The essay (in French, an “attempt,”) is a personal, free-wheeling literary form. It can be light and witty or profound and probing.  Ring, one of the pioneers of near-death research, has produced a book of essays that are personal and profound.  He touches on so many ideas and persons, I must be selective in my comments.

 

My first comment to the reader: take advantage, and lend an ear to a man who made it his scientific life-work listening to hundreds of people who had near-death experiences (NDEs).  This is no everyday profession, eaves-dropping on the mystery of death.

 

In my opinion, the near-death phenomenon is to psychology what quantum mechanics is to physics; both drive us into new modes of consciousness and ideas of reality.  This book is especially interesting for the summaries and synthesis of recent research on NDEs .  You will come away with a detailed picture of extraordinary facts that point to a human future that transcends the bleak offerings of mainstream materialism.    

 

Along the way, Ring describes the experiences that shaped his curious imagination, citing, for example, the influence of movies. One movie in particular, The Word, by the Dane Carl Dreyer, about a crazy man who thought he was Christ, awakened Ring’s belief in God.  Art can sometimes move us in transformative ways, and this is an unusual story about a kind of religious conversion.  Ring is not shy about sharing fascinating details of his personal life.  For example, he tells a wonderful story about his father, whom he was forced to acknowledge was, shall we say, not a man of sterling character—a con artist, apparently.  But the author bears no ill will toward his imperfect father, but looks forward to meeting up with him in the next world. 

 

It was a pleasure to read Ring’s essay on the woman that Mark Twain worshiped and adored, Helen Keller.  I too have a crush on her spiritual philosophy, but Ring recounts a less advertised part of her story, her physical beauty and her lifelong but frustrated yearning for what only a male mate could provide.  Those who took care of Helen, (she was helpless without them), had a vested interest in keeping her under control and unmarried. Ring reminds us that she was the embodiment of the most progressive ideas, and even had good words for communists and socialists. But she was cheated out the of the fullness of her life, first, by nature; but also by her parents and guardians.  Perhaps in the next life she was compensated for her losses. Toward that outcome, I am struck by the ND evidence that suggests the recovery of our senses that Ring underscores. What a bore the afterlife would be without color, sound, texture, light, smell, and touch. 

 

Ring essays the theme of animal life, and reviews some of the leading researchers and philosophers that make the case for animal rights, their inner life and their liberation.  The meat industries are a major propellant of our  suicidal climate crisis.  There is, moreover, the question of the relentless murder and holocaust of innocent animals. Indeed, he bemoans the extinction of mega fauna, and as well the decline of the insect world.  Ring admits never being too fond of insects but wakes up to their value, central to the continuity of the food chain and to the pollination of wild flowers.  He points out that we can live without mega fauna but not without insects.  And for good measure, there is an essay on the horrors of encaged animal life.

 

Ring has sympathy for killer whales who pale beside the colossal killing propensities of humans; moreover, so-called killer whales are sometimes notably kind.  More broadly, he makes the case for the souls and rights of animals.  So it’s not surprising that he discusses the afterlife of our pets, and provides a list of deceased apparitions of cats and dogs, to get us thinking.  Why shouldn’t all conscious living things have some portion of immortality, the degree and kind depending on the degree and kind of their conscious organization?   I was delighted to discover that dolphins are hyper-amorous creatures.  In a chapter titled “It’s Reigning Cats and Dogs,” we learn of some paranormal cat and dog stories: telepathic cats that respond to phone calls and are especially sensitive to death; dogs aware of their owners returning home; the wonderful intelligence of crows, and so on.

 

I recall a philosopher who expressed his doubts about life after death because of what brain disease is known to do to our minds.  My mother in her mid-nineties told me to scram when I visited her in the hospital.  I had become a complete stranger and a nuisance to her; due to her infarcted brain, her old consciousness was no more, or so it seemed.

 

In the meantime, researchers have found and named a phenomenon called terminal lucidity.   Ring provides a history of recent studies of this relatively rare phenomenon, in which a person like my Mom, just before dying recovers the lost consciousness and memory.  What this shows is that the memories and personal consciousness were not destroyed but rendered inaccessible by the brain disease. 

 

Ring provides several stunning accounts of these experiences that seem to speak volumes, underscoring a process of separation, implied by the afterlife hypothesis.  Terminal lucidity in dying people is what we should expect if at death our mind and consciousness detach from the brain and its constraining influences,  Terminal lucidity adds to the case for an afterlife.

 

Ring takes us from the metaphysical to the transformative side of the NDE.  He is especially interested in one of the recurrent components of the NDE:  the experience of recalling the lived details of one’s entire past in a single sweeping acceleration of time and consciousness.  But now, and this is the point stressed by Ring, this all-enveloping consciousness takes us into the consciousness and feelings of the other.

 

So, suppose you recall beating up and mocking a smaller, weaker boy in your life review.  You not only become aware of what you did; you also become aware of what it felt like to be beaten and mocked by a bully.  Telepathy becomes empathy, enabling you to feel exactly what the other person is feeling. That’s bound to be instructive, and transformative, and Ring underscores this with stories and commentary.  This feature of the NDE is special because it points to the possibility of human beings evolving their consciousness in a way that would lead to a more harmonious planetary life.  The question is: can we design experimental procedures in which we induce these transformative states of mind?

 

What can we near-powerless individuals do to heal a world driven by the darkest forces?  Our author shows his wisdom here.  An essay celebrates the value of simple gestures of good will, kindness and joy, because, it is argued, of the ripple effects of our actions.   “One thought,” wrote William Blake, “fills immensity.”  It would be very interesting if we could invent the means to put somebody in a state in which he or she became conscious of the ripple effects of their actions on all the people, animals, plants, and world around them. If our minds at a deep level are telepathically and clairvoyantly linked, the ripple effects of our thoughts, passions, and actions may be much wider than we would normally suppose.  

 

Another feature of the NDE that makes it so important is that it sometimes awakens paranormal abilities, healing and cognitive.   The experience itself is mind-stretching, revealing the presence of another world of transcendent experience.  But it sometimes leaves the experiencer with new psychic powers, healing and cognitive.  There is an essay on the futuristic elements of near-death visionaries, “The Life Review in Reverse, Visions of the Future.”  These stories of people near death who sometimes receive information about their future lives and mates are quite uncanny.  But unlike, say, telepathy and psychokinesis, precognition is, or seems, logically impossible.  Weeks before Hinckley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, I had reported three dreams of the attempt, which were all accurate; dreams I had reported to a class of my philosophy students.  How could I have had a detailed awareness of events yet to have taken place?  Impossible, it would seem. The NDE is a hotbed of mysteries.

 

What is the content of the prophetic visions that researchers find among experiencers?  It turns out to be easy to summarize the invariable theme of these visions of the future.  Near-death visions of the future, reported by researchers since the 1970s, uniformly describe environmental and economic catastrophe, in short, what is happening right now. Ring regards these prophetic visions as warnings, not forecasts of what must be.  They are conditional scenarios that depend on our  human response.  Throughout history mystics and prophets have been foretelling a day of reckoning, a time of total convulsion and transformation into a new earth, heaven, and humanity.  The archetype has shown up in the NDE and in the alien contact and abduction experiences studied by the psychiatrist John Mack and other investigators. The archetype in its fullness is about death and rebirth; it speaks to human individuation and evolution.  To get the full story of this strange adventure that is human life and death, I strongly recommend that you look into the pages of Ken Ring’s Blogging to Infinity.   (Get a copy from Amazon.)

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Diversity of Nature Versus Political Tyranny

In forms of life, the natural world is incredibly diverse.  Take the bee, that great partner in our ecosystem.  There are about twenty thousand species of bees, ranging from the two millimeter long Perdita Minima to orange-sized carpenter bees.  Two  species of the American Bumblebee are down eighty percent, heading toward extinction.  Beware dear bees! There are forces in play nowadays gaining momentum—forces  reducing diversity and increasing extinction. 

 

The creativity and diversity of nature is evident in many other ways. Just think of the diversity of colors, shapes, and capacities in living creatures. Diversity is equal to the challenges of the ever-changing environment. In one way, it is the cornerstone of evolution.  The picture of life that emerges: an opportunist that never gives up finding new ways to replicate and complicate itself.

 

But this poses a challenge to human intelligence, which for practical reasons, needs to simplify its mental picture of reality.  There’s a need to reduce it to concise units of meaning, perception, and manipulation.  But life is a more expansive agency in the theater of nature, very much at odds with sameness and uniformity.

 

Diversity turns out to be unfortunate for people that happen for some reason to seem noticeably different.  ‘Different’ may suggest to certain folks the uncanny, the possibly dangerous. It’s not that hard to hit the angst button, alive and well in our reptilian brain.  In spite of the awesome wiles of inventive life, I’m sure that Nature, via her motherly persona, would urge us to chill out, be more tolerant, and learn to celebrate nuance, difference, diversity.    

 

The ‘American’ mentality and its history is marked by intolerance of diversity, beginning with the unmatched  holocaust inflicted on the indigenous peoples whose lands they occupied.   The difference of skin color has been a near insoluble problem for the puritanical fanatics that settled here who imagined that white was the sole true norm of skin color.  White became a badge of rank and authority, a completely unnatural and perverse assault on countless living creatures and forms of consciousness—human, animal and vegetable.

 

What is  condemned as unnatural is mostly a sign of fear and ignorance.  What I would rank as unnatural is solitary confinement inflicted on the incarcerated, sometimes for years.  Again, unnatural in the extreme is the current American military budget of 800 billion dollars.  This piece of unnature includes sprucing up our terminal nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, and back to humanity, the  LBGTQ movement is a revolt against the tyranny of uniformity. Certain states are creating laws that criminalize assisting trans-based medical procedures.  The U.S. at the moment is at the mercy of a judicial system much inclined to undermine the right to same-sex marriage, even the right to use contraception as a weapon against unwanted replication. 

 

There are terms that describe this assault on the diversity of life and nature--terms like authoritarianism, fascism, Trumpism, and so on.  What we can say is that the American Supreme Court with its Trump-packed conservative judges is poised to enforce an unnatural uniformity and conformity of behavior on millions of Americans.  This (hopefully for the fascist wannabes) will include constraints on what books we can read and on what can be taught in our schools. Uniformity of  values and philosophy will make it easier to keep us agreeable  and submissive.

 

In opposition, let’s open wide road of diversity—it’s crucial to the creative advance of our species. The fundamental energy of creative life is always looking to overflow into new modes of meaning and new forms of experience. The more democratically diverse, the richer and more evolved the possible culture.   

 

 

 

  

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

How Some Birds Thanked Me For Feeding Them

I enjoy the company of various critters that live around me.  A groundhog lives under a shed in my backyard.  Very private, he rarely comes out, and when he does it is with the utmost caution, standing up straight and hyper-alert, glancing carefully around. A wind-blown leaf might scare him, and he’d bolt right back to the hole under the shed.  A family of three deer visit my backyard occasionally.  I can tell they’ve been around from the deep footprints they leave behind. One day I got into a staring match with the young deer, and I lost.  He stood just a few feet from me right before my large studio window.  We locked eyes on each other; I stood there contemplating him, and he looked back  at me, and  neither of us moved. Eventually I gave up and he resumed munching on the green lawn.

 

I especially enjoy the birds of the neighborhood.  And, I should say, also the nervous squirrels.  Outside my side door is a stone porch where I like to sprinkle loose crumbs or crackers. No matter what my offerings to the birds, by day’s end, every last trace of what I left would be gone. I watched how the song sparrows, blue jays, red-bellied robins and a few pushy squirrels would turn up as a group, and how, except for the rare scuffle, the birds (less so the squirrels) were so polite.  First, they would land at the edge of the porch, scan the scene, then spring to the pile of goodies, quickly beak one and fly away.

 

Not long ago I notice they liked to gather outside just as I was having breakfast, so I’d stop and provide a little breakfast for them, whistled and spoke to them.  So now we would all have breakfast together.  I enjoyed my friendship with the local birds, and found myself feeding them every day, sometimes twice a day, and they always came back for more.

 

Now to what became a bit of a puzzle, if not a mystery.  I had been out on a walk with a friend and returning to my house, my friend points to my black Toyota in front of the house: “Is that your car?   Look at the rear view mirror!” I was startled to notice that the right rear view mirror, the entire top, the mirror itself, and part of the side door was caked with white bird poop.  I was puzzled and immediately cleaned it, which wasn’t easy.    

 

Why was all that bird excreta focused on one part of my car?  I looked around at the rest of the car, at the street and sidewalk nearby, but there wasn’t a fleck of droppings anywhere—since when do birds get so single-minded about dumping on one single five inch corner of the world?   It made no sense, the poop being so focused on a single object. Much to my amazement, the next morning my rear-view window and side door was again splattered with the same bird droppings. I cleaned it again, and by the end of the day there were a few more feeble squirts in the same area.  Nowhere else.  For several days after, even after moving the car and wrapping a blue  plastic bag around the rear-view mirror, the poop peltings  continued.  Finally, we had a confrontation. One morning I got into my car, groping for the ignition key. I glanced to the right and noticed a medium-sized sparrow just landed on the rear-view mirror.  He turned toward me, and then discharged one white pellet on the mirror, and flew away.

 

Incredibly, the following morning, the same thing happened.    It was inconceivable  that the bird poop bombardment was coincidental.  Some reason or purpose seemed to be behind this.  Could the birds have figured out that the owner of the car they were dumping on is mine, the one who feeds them daily and whistles for them to come to breakfast.  If so, what were they trying to tell me?  Maybe the message was, Please improve the cuisine!  I doubt that because they always ate everything in sight.  The other message might be one of approval, an expression of thanks.  Frankly, I’m touched, if this is the correct interpretation. 

 

What else did they have to offer to express their thanks? It’s not like they could email me a thank you card or drop a twig in my nest.

 

To prove my guess that they were thanking me—I have as I said noticed how polite they are—I decided to stop feeding them.  That was about two weeks ago.  I’m happy to report that the birds have stopped thanking me.

 

 


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Psychic Breakthrough

Each of us is more than the everyday contents of our conscious minds.  Our everyday minds are rooted in a deeper mental world.  And we don’t know the limits of that world.  Things going on there can make us neurotic or drive us crazy. But that’s not all; there’s a positive pole to our  hidden mental life.  Call it our creative unconscious, our latent mental powers such as insight, intuition, inspiration.

 

Is there a way to  tap into our latent psychic powers?  There is a definite state of mind that is receptive to these powers.  Paradoxically, it’s a state in which our consciousness is blocked, backed against the wall, so to speak—a feeling that there’s no way out.  But nature loves to surprise us.  Sometimes desperation  triggers an opening  to higher forms of consciousness.

 

This quantum leap can happen spontaneously or as a result of some kind of deliberate practice.    

 

Spontaneous cases abound.  For example, illness.   Matisse was planning on a career as a lawyer but then got sick; by the time he recovered he decided  to try his hand at painting.  Francis of Assisi was a bon vivant before being laid low by illness during which he woke up to a new lifestyle of radical spirituality that spread all over the world.   Something transformative happened during their forced retreat from everyday reality.

 

People who find themselves in dire straits are sometimes helped in ways that point to this other layer of existence, potentials that can apparently be activated. Two examples come to mind, Josh Slocum alone and sick at sea who was helped by a visit from an apparition of Sir Francis Drake and Benvenuto Cellini about to commit suicide in prison but prevented by an apparition that intervenes. 

 

Besides these one-off stories of mysterious intervention, there are spontaneous experiences of high significance that may frequently recur. They demand a place in our inventory of psychic breakthrough, a type of experience that occurs on the boundary between life and death: deathbed visions and near-death experiences.   This type of experience is nothing you would expect, if materialism were true. 

 

A powerful illustration of irruptions from the creative unconscious is the poltergeist, a phenomenon whose exact origins remain elusive.  In many cases, a single young person may be the unwitting agent of the poltergeist and the wild paranormal antics it produces.  Other times several people or just the locale seems to determine all the weird manifestations.

 

Psychosis may sometimes be a vehicle of extraordinary manifestations.  The alliance of genius and madness is a fascinating line of research, and an ancient meme.  See  Chapter 7 (423-492) on Genius in Irreducible Mind by Edward Kelly & Michael Grosso, an extensive analysis of the highest forms of creativity. 

 

Still in the realm of spontaneous cases, there are many instances in which brain traumas unexpectedly release stunning talents that appear suddenly and mature rapidly.  Musicophilia by Oliver Sachs details the case of a man whose brain injury turned him with startling suddenness into a talented, inspired musician. 

  

Another example involves autism savants. Since 1990 there has been a rise in cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the U.S.  (It’s unclear why.)  Autism may involve genetically conditioned brain anomalies.  Looking at the signs of this condition, they might be described as the result of a one-sided, self-absorbed form of  consciousness.  Communication and socialization skills are impaired. Social isolation, obsessive interests, we see a pattern of recoil from contact with the external world and a shift toward the internal self.  Inwardly focused autism may sometimes become a door to genius. Extraordinary capacities for memory, numerical calculation, music and visual art might suddenly manifest. Darold A. Treffert (MD) argues we all have access to this dimension of higher genius.   How to get at it is the challenge.

 

So, the data points to the reality of a deeper stratum of our mental being, a  source of rich creative potentials.  Now and then nature and fate trigger breakthroughs to what’s inside us.   But people have also been more proactive in devising ways to awaken the more creative parts of our inner selves.

 

Voluntary practices may induce breakthroughs. Certain situations somehow result in psychic barriers melting away and people gaining access to their extraordinary powers.   We may all harbor these abilities, which accidents of nature awaken sometimes.  But methods and practices have been devised  to  release our higher mental powers.

 

There is a range of inspired ecstatic dance manias. Perhaps the most famous example from the ancient world is the dance cult of Dionysos.  There is a rich Christian history of dance cults (Backman).  Dance and music are used in group settings with  the aim of contact with the higher aid.

 

 

Most spiritual traditions  center around making contact with the unseen powers of the universe, naming the power in their own way, seeking contact in their own language and culture.  In all forms of Yoga, contemplative and petitionary prayer, indigenous vision quest and mystical moments, all involving practices designed to purify consciousness, reaching toward breakthrough.  

 

To sum up.  There is a normally hidden layer of our mental life that houses extraordinary human potentials.  And there are ways to be in touch with these hidden powers, it happening out of the blue or sometimes by means of special coaxing.

 

The more challenging life on Earth, the greater the need to realize our higher potentials.  It’s about becoming fully human, without getting your head blown off. With all the old rules changing so rapidly,  we may have to improvise every step of the way.   As things break up there is always the chance that we break through.

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

They Taunt Therefore I Am

 

 

They Taunt Therefore I Am

 

I had yet to encounter that well-known monster known as the “other.” The concept of the other had yet to crystallize in my head. The kids on the old rustic sidestreet where I was born were on the peaceful, nonviolent side, but I recall one jarring episode from that time.  I don’t mean to read too much into this tale.  Still, it stung me into self-awareness and helped to mature my worldview.  In fact, it added a first sniff of edginess to my five year-old narrative, a hint of darker things to come.

It was a raw first: a small blast from the glare of dawning selfhood.  An odd feeling of being vulnerable, a target, exposed.  There was a point in time when my reflexive self-conscious “I” woke up.  I’m talking about the curious leap into self-observation. The age of naïve solidarity with existence was about to come to an end for me.     

It was during a childhood incident, in which I was suddenly forced to be conscious of myself as both a subject and an object.  A certain oneness of spirit we ascribe to innocence in one blow broke into fragments. The cause was a patch of childhood mischief, peppered with a dole of mindless malice. 

Voices are shouting: “It’s the ice-cream man!  The ice-cream man is here!”  

Into the warm spring afternoon the ice-cream man in his white, one-storied truck had arrived.  His name was Lorenzo and he was indeed magnificent. Out of the truck and up on to the curb in full view he stepped forth, immaculate in his white uniform and creaseless white hat.  And the whiteness was complemented by Lorenzo’s black mustache, tan face, and late-in-the-day, world-weary smile.

 Once more the parents shout: “He’s here! He’s here! The ice-cream man!” 

A sudden hush, the children stop chattering: hands appear, purses open, coins are dispensed.  From the corner of my eye: small, middle-sized, and large hands are maneuvering, transacting--parental fingers bestowing; little open hands, catching nickels, collecting bits of shiny metal.  All this, of course, the prelude to the purchase of the miraculous edible known as ice-cream. 

I’m watching all the hand action–a curious, calm witness.  But for some reason the boys and girls shift their attention toward me.  No doubt about it. They’re looking at me. In fact, they’re staring at me. 

At first it wasn’t clear why.   But then I noticed that their attention was fixed on my hands.  Mmm?—Ah!  I get it.  My hands were empty.

 Nothing was bestowed upon them; no kin came forth to lard ice-cream-lusting fingers with the necessary U.S.A. nickels. Their hands by some contingency of world-history have coins plopped in them; their soft lucky little hands were showered with nickels and dimes.  But it was emphatically observed that no coins had been placed in my pathetic little paws.  

All the while I’m starting to feel a wee bit objectified—a curious and novel feeling; yes, quirky, crappy, a ddefinite owner.

The other children were now staring intently at my empty hands.  For some reason my hands had become objects of intense curiosity. Their emptiness was charged with meaning.  My naked palms stood accused, and all of a sudden--through no fault of their own—began to visibly reek of shame and dishonor!

I just stood there, mildly aghast, a certifiable victim of ice-cream manqué.

Meanwhile, an impatient Lorenzo was still waiting, the features of his usually serene face now firmly twisted into contained fury, the Olympian composure altogether blown.         

“Ice-cream man,” he growled softly. 

“Look! Look” Jenny and Peter say, ignoring him as they shove their hands in my face, each showing three shiny nickels resting in their palms.   

“We’ve got nickels,” declares Bernardo.

“Yes, we do—nickels! Nickels!” chime Jenny and Peter. 

And then, much to my astonishment, they inhaled in unison, and all together chanted: “Nickels! Nickels! Nickels!”

The ice-cream man rang his bell in a burst of anger, his lips twitching with indignation as the kids shoved their fists in my face.   

Lorenzo jumped back into his truck, rang the bell furiously, and shouted, “The ice-cream man is gone! The ice cream man is gone!” and drove off, spewing clouds of truck exhaust in our faces.    

 I told my mother about my encounter with the nickel flashers; she said nothing, didn’t even look up.  When my father came home with a paycheck in hand, it was too late for the ice-cream man. My father dropped some coins in my shirt pocket, and that was the end of it.  I was thankful for the cash but was smarting from the jarring put-down from my compatriots.

But then even bad things have uses.  The incident had the effect of breaking my naïve trance of solidarity with the world around me.  For the first time, I felt a metaphysical chill, the sensation of having been singled out, picked on, made fun of.  I tasted what it felt like to be treated with scorn and contempt. I didn’t fall apart. I sat in my room, thought, and felt a surge of resentment.  The experience left a bad taste, but it did help to clarify my sense of self.  When you’re attacked, you know you’re somebody; the sense of self is sharpened by opposition.  Life is not all harmony. It’s important to cut loose from that illusion.

 

(The above is from an unfinished work of mine titled, Cutting Loose: A Metaphysical Memoir)

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