Kirtan with Krishna Das

Krishna Das kirtan2004 was a pretty major year in my life. Just after the New Year, I had to leave my family in Australia for several months to look after my Dad, who was dying of stomach cancer. Dad really wanted to see his favourite niece before he died. She kindly flew out to California from Wisconsin, stopping off in Santa Barbara first to pick up her daughter. They then drove out to the desert together.

“Oh thank God! I don’t have to listen to that music anymore!” was how my cousin greeted me.

I turned to her daughter, who was grinning from ear to ear and asked what she had been tormenting her mother with. “Krishnadas,” she said. “Have you heard of him?”

“I think I used to know him!” I replied. “Let me listen to something.” Sure enough, the short kirtan she played sent me straight back to India, circa 1972. Before that moment, I didn’t know whether Krishnadas was alive or dead, much less that he had become a “superstar” of chanting.

As it turned out, Krishnadas came back into my life just when I needed a reconnection to Neem Karoli Baba the most. I got ahold of his email address, reminded him who I was (“I was the guy Maharaji didn’t like”) and told him how his CDs had transported me back to that magical year in India. Although his schedule didn’t coincide with mine at the time, he said he would be touring Australia later and we would meet then. The timing couldn’t have been better, because that was when things had just about hit rock bottom. It was as if Maharaji’s finger was tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me he was still around.

Rather than bore you with my story, I’d like to let Krishnadas do the talking. I will leave you with one quote from this interview in New York, though, because I believe it encapsulates everything we learned about “spirituality” when we were hanging out with Maharaji:

If you want to know if you’re making progress on the so-called spiritual path, see if you’re kinder to people; see if you’re a little easier on yourself; see if you obsess about your own self and all this stuff in your life a little bit less; see if you’re happier in the day in a simple way, more content; and see if you’re treating people more like you would like to be treated. That means it’s working.

Update 17 Feb 2013 – Alas, I removed the video because it has been removed from You Tube due to “multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringements.” At least I was able to keep that little gem of a quote.

Why I Like David Icke Better than Ken Wilber

Note: I wrote the following article as an experiment with an article distribution service. A client wanted ten article distributed through this service and the service offered one extra free submission, so I took it. It has been viewed almost 400 times there, while those I submitted on behalf of my client have been viewed only around 200 times each. Apparently more people are interested in “New Age” thinkers than are interested in buying appliances online.

David Icke and Ken Wilber are two of the most prolific “New Age” writers there are, though neither of them particularly likes the label. In Icke’s case, New Agers are as caught up in the Matrix as anybody else. Wilber likes to identify himself with academics and philosophers and so distances himself from fuzzy headed New Age thinking as much as possible. I can relate to both of these attitudes, but be that as it may, if you go to the bookstore and look for their titles, you will almost certainly find them in the New Age section. Let’s face it, folks – if we’re thinking outside the box, we’re labeled as New Agers whether we wear pastel colored clothes and dance with fairies or not!

I first stumbled across David Icke’s work just after 9/11, when I was trying to find out the facts about that fateful day. Aside from the mainstream stuff, there were a handful of blogs that questioned the official version of the story. Icke’s was one of those blogs. Intrigued by the 9-11 stories he had on his blog, I had a look around to see what he was all about.

In a nutshell, David Icke started out as an ultra-normal British bloke who liked football (soccer) so much he was able to make a career out of it as a television commentator. He was a respected household name in the U.K. until he had a flash of insight and saw that mankind was caught in a hideous matrix of unreality and that we were virtual slaves to a race of reptilian shapeshifters. Instead of keeping this information to himself, he chose to tell the world and in the process became the laughing stock of England. Score one for David Icke! Anybody with enough integrity to put himself on the line like that has to be admired.

Simply because the man had the courage of his convictions and didn’t back down, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and read some more. Although his “Reptilian Shapeshifters” theory was outlandish, I could relate to it on a metaphorical level. I had just begun my studies about the brain and spirituality and was going down a similar path, namely that our “reptile brain” (brain stem and related structures) highjacks our ability to see the bigger picture that our frontal lobes (higher consciousness) have access to. I had also discovered the difference between the way the left brain and the right brain think. David Icke was a right brain thinker. I liked that.

In 2004, I was stuck in the desert in Victorville, California for three months caring for my Dad, who was dying of stomach cancer. There was little I could do for him other than to find him a good hospice, put his affairs in order and pay him a visit every day. For a good chunk of each day and night I had nothing to do. My saving grace was the Victorville Barnes and Noble Bookstore. It was a big, well-stocked store complete with lounge chairs and a Starbuck’s.

I indulged in an orgy of reading while I was there in Victorville and was finally was able to buy a book by David Icke. I chose “Infinite Love is the Only Reality. Everything else is Illusion” because I liked the title.

One day while I was having a coffee in Starbuck’s, a magazine called “What is Enlightenment?” caught my eye. It’s an excellent question, so I picked up a copy and thumbed through it to see what they had to say on the subject. I wasn’t too impressed with the editor’s (Andrew Cohen) opinions, but another regular contributor was a guy named Ken Wilber, who seemed to be pretty intelligent and was billed as “the world’s greatest living philosopher.” After my coffee, I went back inside and looked for a book by that author. When I found nothing in the philosophy section, I asked a sales assistant where I might find his books. I should have known. They were in the New Age section under “W” for Wilber, just a few rows away from “I” for Icke.

After thumbing through a few of them, I purchased “A Brief History of Everything” because it looked liked the best introduction to Wilber’s thinking. I liked the book, but was not blown away by it. He seemed to think a little too highly of himself, but I liked the fact that he wasn’t afraid to think for himself. Wanting to know more about him and what he had to say, I checked out his Integral Naked website.

I was a little disturbed by his website because it seemed to have a cult-like feel to it, in spite of the fact that his readers seemed to be fairly intelligent people who were not cult types. I could live with that, but when Wilber dismissed Walt Whitman as a “nature mystic,” I rebelled. Walt Whitman has been an idol of mine ever since I read “Song of Myself.” These lines in particular hit me right between the eyes way back in 1969 and have stuck with me ever since:

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love

Was Wilber really that dumb? Had this “scholar” never read what Whitman’s contemporaries thought of him? R.M. Bucke, for instance, considered Whitman to be the greatest exemplar of cosmic consciousness who ever lived. Did Wilber really think his version of “Kosmic Consciousness” was superior to Whitman’s?

While Icke and Wilber both have agendas of their own, for some reason I don’t feel like Icke is trying to shove his down my throat. He still doesn’t seem to particularly care if anybody likes him or not. Wilber, on the other hand, seems to want people to like him and writes as if he is trying to impress his imaginary readers rather than writing from the heart. That’s the feeling I get from him, anyway.

So, that’s why I like David Icke better than I like Ken Wilber. I’m nobody, so I’m sure neither of them cares, but I have a feeling that Icke wouldn’t hold my lack of status in the world against me and would welcome me into his home. On the other hand, I get the feeling that Wilber would politely refuse me entry unless I paid the price of admission or was somebody important in his eyes.

Richard Dawkins – the Evangelical Atheist

I got in a major email argument with my daughter the other day. She loves Richard Dawkins. There is no one I like less.

photo of Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Dawkins made his name with the publication of his best selling book, The Selfish Gene. He then moved on and wrote The God Delusion, another bestseller. His latest offering, The Magic of Reality, is likely to go off the charts in terms of sales – especially ebook sales, since it is the best example yet of a richly animated, interactive ebook. If for no other reason than that, it is worth taking a look at, because it is the future of publishing.

So far, so good. I really don’t have a problem with the evils of religion being exposed or the wonders of science being articulately expressed. What I do have a problem with is Dawkins’ evangelical arrogance. In order to illustrate what I mean, here’s a quote from The Magic of Reality:

Indeed, to claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained. Why do I say that? Because anything ‘supernatural’ must by definition be beyond the reach of a natural explanation. It must be beyond the reach of science and the well-established, tried and tested scientific method that has been responsible for the huge advances in knowledge we have enjoyed over the last 400 years or so.To say that something happened supernaturally is not just to say ‘We don’t understand it’ but to say ‘We will never understand it, so don’t even try’.

That sounds reasonable on the surface, doesn’t it? Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes apparent that Dawkins’ is expressing his opinion only, not fact. Take “anything ‘supernatural’ must by definition be beyond the reach of a natural explanation”, for example. Must it? I’ve been trying to find a natural explanation for my weird experience with Sai Baba for most of my life because I don’t want to ascribe supernatural powers to him. Until I find a natural explanation for his apparent ability to put me into a trance state with a touch of his finger, it remains in the ‘supernatural’ basket. If Dawkins had qualified his statement, I wouldn’t have a problem, but he demands that we all agree with his definition of supernatural. For the record, one dictionary definition of ‘supernatural’ reads like this: “a departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.” Note the word “appear” – it doesn’t rule out the possibility of a natural cause, as Dawkins’does.

I’m with Richard Dawkins here, where he writes:

Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional ‘next world’ is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.

I don’t know where that quote comes from. I pinched it from Goodread’s Dawkins’ quotes. Anyway, I agree with the sentiments, but he blows it for me again in a couple of ways. For one thing, Dawkins espounds the virtue of science, but overlooks the twisted side of applied science and technology, which is responsible for at least as many evils as religion and has provided zealots on both sides of the fence with their weapons. More importantly in the context of the above quote, he says “the delusional ‘next world’ is welcome to them both.” Is it categorically a fact that the ‘next world’ is delusional?

I made the argument that the belief that there is no afterlife is as ‘delusional’ as the belief that there is in my post, Why Does Science Have a Problem with Near Death Experiences? I won’t repeat myself here, other than to quote from my final paragraph:

Why do so many scientists, who are supposed to be objective, step outside of any kind of scientific objectivity in defence of their opinion that life ceases at death? All I can think is that they need to believe just as strongly as a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim or Jew needs to believe. That’s not science; it’s superstition and just like the Inquisitors, they are prepared to do anything to defend their faith.

In essence, I see red when I hear the name “Richard Dawkins” because to me, he is the worst kind of hypocrite. While eloquently espousing the virtues of “reason and discussion”, he closes the door to reason and discussion when they don’t adhere to his personal belief system.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can see that I may have closed my mind to the positive aspects of Richard Dawkins’ message and the reasons why so many intelligent, decent, open minded people like my daughter like him. I welcome rebuttals. That’s what the comment section is for.

It’s the End of the World!

Photo by John Biehler

“It’s the end of the world as we know it! It’s the end of the world as we know it!” Things were looking pretty good when REM declared they felt fine about it. Times have changed, though, and not as many people are feeling all that cheerful.

I just stumbled across a Reuters Mayan calendar poll that says an incredible 15% of the people in the world believe the end of the world will come in their lifetimes and a full 10% believe it will happen in 2012, the Year of the Mayan Calendar. I’m not going to argue about the merits/lack-of-merits of the Mayan calendar debate: it’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is that so many people are feeling so pessimistic.

Scratching a little deeper beneath the surface of the poll, a whopping 22% of Americans believe in the 2012 apocalypse story. Of that 22%, the majority are under the age of 35. That’s a big chunk of younger Americans. Why are they all feeling so pessimistic? Karen Gottfried, the research manager at the company that conducted the poll for Reuters, offered this explanation:

“Perhaps it is because of the media attention coming from one interpretation of the Mayan prophecy that states the world ‘ends’ in our calendar year 2012,”

That’s a pretty lame excuse, if you ask me. Nobody would be paying any attention to an ancient Mayan prophecy if there was no reason for taking it seriously. Perhaps the real reason for all the pessimism has something to do with the breakdown of belief in capitalism. Maybe it has something to do with 9/11 and the niggling feeling that something’s not right about the official explanation. Perhaps Americans aren’t so sure their country is a force for good in the world. Maybe they don’t like being treated like puppets by corporate America. Maybe the rhetoric about America being a democracy “of the people, for the people and by the people” is starting to have a hollow ring. In other words, maybe they can see the impending end of the world as they know it and extrapolate from there.

It can’t be just the financial mess America is in. France is doing it tougher and only 6% of that population believes the end is nigh. Great Britain is a mess, but only 8% of Brits buy the 2012 apocalypse line. Nope, America and Turkey are tied for most paranoid (or clued in?), followed closely by South Africa and Argentina. There must be a connection there. You figure it out.

REM released It’s the End of the World as We Know It in 1987. Check out the happy young faces at this 1990’s concert. Most of them are still under 35. If the Reuters poll is anything to go by, as many as a third of them or more are no longer smiling. That’s depressing:

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane –
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn –
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. . . . . .