How Bad Luck was Really Good Luck

A funny thing happened last week. One of my other blogs, Writing Resources received the distinction of being flagged for “unnatural outbound links.” What that means is that I had shown a pattern of including suspicious links in my posts. Although Google didn’t tell me which ones they were, they had to be the links at the bottom of my guest posts, many of which were to law firms and other websites that had nothing to do with writing or the subject matter of the posts.

This is how your traffic can drop when you get slapped by Google

This is how your traffic can drop when you get slapped by Google

I deleted the offending links, but it will be weeks or months before I get back into Google’s good books on that site. I checked Google Analytics yesterday and discovered my traffic had fallen to an all-time low. I WAS OVERJOYED.

Neither that site nor this has felt quite right to me for years, but I’ve stuck with them because of all the work I’ve put into them. My Google penalty brought that fact home to me. I don’t want to stop blogging, but I want to have just one site that gives me the freedom to write about whatever I feel like writing about. Writing Resources was too writing oriented and I always feel like I have to write about something esoteric here. The problem with that is that I no longer see a distinction between the “esoteric” and the everyday.

Anyway, I’m going to get a new domain name and then start phasing out both this blog and Writing Resources. The new site will have the word “journal” in it because I want to write a journal, not a blog, and the word ties in nicely with the one blog I don’t want to change — my Sihanoukville Journal.

There’s some content I want to save from this site – especially my most popular article about TDA Lingo. I’m looking forward to updating the article and posting it on my new journal. Once I’m set up, I’ll redirect searches to the new site until this one expires.

Debunking Conspiracy Theorists Debunked

9-11

“I refuse to believe that 9/11 was an inside job.”

“Uh. That’s not what I wrote. I wrote that it was physically impossible for those buildings to pancake like they did.”
______________________________________________________________
“Oh! You’re one of those conspiracy nuts, aren’t you?”
______________________________________________________________

Those are just a couple of the kinder comments I’ve received over the years when I’ve written about 9/11. Anyone in America who spoke out about their doubts about 9/11 in the first several years after the event was immediately branded a conspiracy theorist and ridiculed or worse. Things are easing off a little now, but the most efficient way to debunk a person who questions 9/11 is still to call them a “conspiracy theorist.” There’s no need to re-examine the facts — they’re just crazy or, if you listen to the FBI and other government agencies, suspected terrorists. Some psychologists have even suggested that doubting the official line is some sort of mental disorder.

Several studies have been released that suggest that it’s the debunkers of conspiracy theorists who are the ones with mental disorders. According to a University of Kent study, What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories, those “people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.” Moreover, the anti-conspiracy contingent was more fanatical in clinging to their conspiracy theory that 19 Arab hijackers pulled off the job than the conspiracy theorists they were so aggressively debunking.

University of Guelph psychologist Laurie Manwell interprets this irrational stance by conspiracy theory debunkers as being based on an inability to entertain a notion that conflicts with their pre-existing belief system. “Cognitive dissonance” is the technical term for this phenomenon.

“Conspiracy theory” should simply mean a theory about a possible conspiracy. How did the term come to be associated with irrationality, insanity and even terrorist tendencies? It looks like we have the CIA to thank for that.

According to Lance deHaven-Smith as quoted in an article by Dr. Kevin Barrett in  PressTV, the “CIA’s campaign to popularise the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.” The term was coined and circulated by the CIA following the JFK assassination. It worked brilliantly then, but times are changing. The popular media today is the internet, not the newspaper and TV and conspiracy theorists have a voice.

Debunking Debunking

The word “debunk” means to expose or ridicule a false or exaggerated story. When conspiracy theorists are debunked, the implication is that a more rational and independent authority is putting the story to rest and that any attempt at a rebuttal is futile and will only lead to more ridicule. That gives the phrase “debunking conspiracy theories” a double whammy – debunkers are the final authority and conspiracy theorists are crazy. Case closed.

Capture

I ran across a website the other day called Debunking 9/11. It’s hard to miss because it’s at the top of the list when you google “Building 7 free fall.” I gave a stab at reading the article, but, like others like it, it was painfully flawed.

In typical debunker style, the article chose an easy target as their example of a “truther” (another loaded word) — Alex Jones, whose emotions can get the best of him and who does sometimes take flights of imaginative fantasy. I didn’t see a reference to Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth anywhere in the article. I can’t imagine why.

In attempting to explain Silverstein’s infamous “Pull it” remark, the author quotes numerous fire fighters and others on the scene who said “pull” the fire fighting team out of the building or used the word in some other context. Way down towards the bottom of the article in an update, the writer says:

Conspiracy Theorists have once again hung their hopes on a word. Now the word is “it”. Because I did not include the word “it” – as in Pull “it” – I am purposelly (sic) changing the phrasing of his statement which implies complicity. I will include his argument and insert the word to show how silly his argument is.

Conspiracy theorists don’t hang their hopes on a word. Many of them come to their conclusions only after long and arduous research — research that takes them places they don’t want to go. In the case of academics and professionals, revealing what they know  often spells the end of their careers. That takes courage, and last time I looked, courage wasn’t on the list of mental disorders; it was something to be admired.

Reconstructing the Twin Towers of My Mind

albert-imagination

Imagination is more important than knowledge – Albert Einstein

The twin towers of my mind started to collapse more or less on the same day the towers collapsed in New York. They had been showing signs of stress for decades, but that event triggered the controlled demolition that caused them to fall.

albert-imaginationBefore that day, I still clung tenuously to the idea that there were limits to what the powers that be in the United States would do. Vietnam had shaken my faith in the system and the collective greed that came to a head in the America of the 80s shook my faith in the people, but I still believed that, all things considered, the United States still stood for things like freedom and democracy. In other words, I still believed in the American myth.

After 9/11, nothing made sense to me anymore. I simply could not bring myself to believe those towers miraculously fell on their footprints. I couldn’t believe how quickly the perpetrators were uncovered and the finger pointed at Osama bin Laden. Abandoned by reason, I tried to imagine an alternative explanation. The one that came to me was too absurd to be true: that George W. Bush and company were responsible for the attacks, were complicit in them, or at the very least cynically used them to their advantage for some nefarious purpose.

Finding nothing on the nightly news that could help me, I started looking online. Little by little, I discovered others were having the same dark thoughts. Little by little, pieces started falling into place, but questions remained. I was uncovering facts and plausible hypotheses, but the tower of my imagination was being reconstructed faster than reason could keep up with it. I was becoming a conspiracy theorist.

“We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead.” – Donald Rumsfeld

Hot on the heels of 9/11 came the invasion of Afghanistan. That didn’t make sense to me, either. Yes, I could sort of sympathize when they said they were going in to flush out bin Laden, but why hang around? Oh! It’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban they’re after, Donald Rumsfeld informed me. The invasion is both part of the brand new War on Terror and “to provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering truly oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.”*

No sooner had the U.S. settled in in Afghanistan than it started gunning for Iraq. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) were the reason here. By now, I and millions of others were beginning to smell a rat and speak out about it. I joined a rag-tag anti-war group in my corner of Australia and was relieved to discover I was not alone.

I was also relieved to learn that people who were better educated in physics than I also couldn’t fathom how the twin towers could have pancaked like they did. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth wasn’t founded until 2006, but many experts in the field were already speaking out. Derided as crackpot conspiracy theorists by the mainstream media and shell shocked Americans, their theories made more sense to those of us who were living outside the thought bubble of the American myth.

I felt sure there was a master plan, but what was it? Then I stumbled across a reference to a document called the Project for a New American Century that spelled out the neocons’ plan for world domination in the 21st century. The document had been written in the 1990s and signed by many of those who came to power in the United States with Bush in 2000. The version I read called for a false flag event to trigger the wars that would lead to this domination. The official website is still online and proudly states that “American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle.”

My tower of reason was growing, but it still wasn’t keeping pace with my tower of imagination. How far were they going to go with this? Would it end at the end of Bush’s tenure in office?

Enter Obama

My friends in the United States passionately supported Barack Obama when he ran for office, but I wasn’t so sure. The words sounded good, but something about his measured speech and the way his eyes moved as he spoke didn’t sit right with me. No sooner did he take office than I began to feel my suspicions vindicated. Revolving door? He appointed Monsanto’s Michael Taylor to his cabinet in a blink of an eye. Close Guantanamo? He blamed the Republicans, but that didn’t smell right, either.

Then came Libya. Same scenario as Iraq and Afghanistan. A construction of lies and then an invasion.

Now that Libya’s out of the way, Obama and company are moving on to Syria. Yes, I know Obama and Kerry talk a good line about sarin gas, but they leave out the proof and the evidence that “rebels” used it. They also sidestep the thorny issue of how great a replacement those rebels would be for Assad. “Oh, we only back the moderates,” they say, but that’s a hard pill to swallow, given the fact that many of those moderates openly declare themselves to be sympathetic to Al Qaeda and do charming things like biting into the heart of a dead enemy.

By now, my tower of reason is well on its way towards reconstruction. The whole charade matches the game plan outlined in the PNAC. My tower of imagination, though, is still way ahead of it. If the PNAC was a neocon plan, then why is Obama so obediently following the game plan? Are the conspiracy theorists who say the Rothchild’s are behind it right? Is the world being controlled by a Satanic group of Illuminati, as some contend? Or are we being manipulated by shape shifting reptilians from outer space?

Before you laugh, consider this: David Icke, the person most responsible for disseminating these conspiracy theories, predicted everything that has happened in this century back in the early nineties, when we all thought everything was rosy in the world. Like you and I, he started off normal enough, but had an experience that changed his life. A popular public figure in England, he became the laughing stock of the country when he started down this path, but he stuck with his convictions.

Pulitzer prize winning author Alice Walker recently came out in support of David Icke, saying:

What I admire most about David Icke is the freedom of his mind. It will go anywhere and often does in bringing together bits and pieces (sometimes whole chunks) of our mysterious human (and other) reality on this planet. Do I believe everything? I don’t think it matters. And so I wish to begin the New Year, 2013, honoring his courage, humility (it may look like arrogance but that is only because he is free of caring what others think), persistence, and freedom of thought.

I particularly like the first sentence: “What I admire most about David Icke is the freedom of his mind.” Maybe that’s why he’s been so prescient. While most of us are burdened by “knowledge” handed down to us by our cultural myth-makers, David Icke broke free into the world of the imagination and assembled a reasonable mythology that actually reflects today’s reality. Then again, maybe the alien shapeshifters are real in the “reasonable” sense of the word. If so, my tower of reason still has some catching up to do.

A third tower fell shortly after the twin towers collapsed — Building 7. Similarly, a third tower fell in my consciousness shortly after reason and imagination came tumbling down. That structure was knowledge. Just as David Icke points out in the video below, while it might make sense that the earth has to be flat in one era, when more information becomes available, we have to let go of previous “knowledge” and find another explanation.

The current architecture of my tower of knowledge looks similar to David Icke’s, but is not adorned with images of reptilians. That’s his vision and while I respect it, the words of an earlier English visionary, William Blake, still ring true to me: “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” I’ll let you know when lightning strikes.

*http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/rumsfeld_100801.htm

Diving into Delta Brainwaves

eeg of brainwave entrainment
brainwave entrainment video from transparent corp

Click image to learn more about Neuroprogrammer III

I was thinking of making the title of this post “Delta Brainwaves Debunked,” but that wouldn’t have been fair to delta brainwaves. What I want to do is debunk the myths surrounding delta brainwaves and present (actually cut and paste) some facts about them.

Bill Harris has made a lot of money off delta brainwaves with his “meditate deeper than a Zen Monk” Holosync program. His theory, that daily delta entrainment can lead to spiritual enlightenment has been put to the test for about 20 years now.  I may be missing something, but as far as I can see, there aren’t a lot of enlightenment success stories coming out of the Holosync program.

I got suckered into tried Holosync for about a year and found delta brainwave entrainment wonderful, so I’m not knocking it. I just don’t like paying an absurd amount of money for the privilege and being hounded to buy other expensive “consciousness expanding” products after having been told that Holosync was all I needed.

My moment of “liberation” came when I started studying the facts about brainwave entrainment after having read about Harris’s personal adventures in bwe for several months. Fair enough, Bill Harris did inform us that delta was the frequency of deep sleep, but it was all the other unsubstantiated claims that got to me in the end. That and the conviction that if Bill Harris, the consummate used car salesman, was enlightened, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

After discovering Transparent Corp, I learned the facts about brainwave entrainment and found a far cheaper and more effective tool in their Neuroprogrammer 3 download. I use it now for everything from getting focused on work, to taking a 15 minute relaxation break, to diving deep into delta brainwaves.

I’ll let Transparent Corp take over from here, but in the name of transparency, I should let you know that if you click on links in this blog and end up buying one of their products, I’ll get a commission. Now, check out this infographic and get a quick take on the history of brainwave entrainment and the truth about the delta brainwave frequency.

 

 

 

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. . . . . .

A Message to My Subscribers

Some of you might be getting this as an email, so won’t immediately see the small but significant change I’ve made to this site. I’ve decided to cancel my subscription to Feed Blitz and have replaced that signup form with a Feedburner form. That means those of you who have kindly subscribed to my newsletter will only be getting one or two more.

The reason I’ve decided to do this is because Feedblitz is a service I have to pay for. It’s on a sliding scale and is very reasonably priced, but now that I’ve got a number of subscribers, it’s becoming unreasonably priced for me. I don’t make any money from this site, so paying for the service seems a little silly. I do like knowing that some people are interested in following my blogs, though, so if you want to keep receiving notifications, please subscribe to my feedburner feed at the top of the sidebar.

Another reason I’m discontinuing my mailing list is that I always feel pressure to write something and that was never the intention of a Cookbook of Consciousness. I want to add content here as I feel inspired to do so, not because I feel like I have to. At the moment, I’m on a roll with my Writing Resources blogs and my Sihanoukville Journal gets infinitely more traffic than this and actually earns me a modest income (think piggy bank, not bank account), so I’m motivated to blog there quite a bit, too. Between 3 blogs and a full time writing career, I spend far too much time tapping away at my keyboard and far too little in La-La Land exploring more interesting parts of my consciousness or outside getting some exercise.

Speaking of consciousness, I’m back to doing brainwave entrainment after a long lay-off, so expect to see some articles about that and related subjects soon.

Thanks very much for subscribing, subscribers and for visiting, visitors. It’s nice to see so many people visiting my site each month and that many of you stick around to read more than one page. It takes about 10 seconds to type in your email address and click ‘subscribe’, so please do!

Something Picasso Said

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

I ran across something Picasso said on Facebook the other day. This is what he said:

The ‘refined’, the ‘rich’, the ‘professional do nothing’, the ‘distiller of quintessence’ desire only the peculiar, and sensational, the eccentric, the scandalous in today’s art. And I myself, since the advent of cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head. The less they understood, the more they have admired me! …Today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand meaning of the word. …I am only a public clown, a mountebank. I have understood my time and exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But, at least, and at last, it does have the merit of being honest.

I had never really thought about Picasso much until I read that. When I was younger, I wondered what all the fuss was about. When I got older, I read a few scholarly articles about him in order to try to understand why he was so important. Finally, I decided I just didn’t get it and put him out of my mind.

In my more cynical moments, I thought exactly what Picasso says above; almost word-for-word. Now that I’ve read them, I have more respect for the man than ever before. I also have a little more respect for my own opinion than I used to have.

I’ve always  made it a point to keep my opinions in check. In my opinion :), deeply held opinions are a sure sign of a closed mind and it often seems that the more fiercely we cling to them, the more we are hiding from ourselves. In the case of Picasso, I always felt a lot of pressure to either learn to appreciate his genius or accept the fact that I was a dullard who didn’t “get” art. I took the middle ground and just accepted the fact that I didn’t “get” Picasso. He didn’t resonate with me, so why pretend?

I don’t want to belabour this subject, so I’ll close. I just couldn’t let this opportunity to say, “I told you so” to a couple of people who actually turned and walked away from me when I suggested that Picasso was a gifted commercial artist and nothing more pass.

I told you so.

 

 

Go See Sai Baba in Bangalore

If there was one guru I didn’t want to see in India, it was Satya Sai Baba. Between his dubious miracles, his afro haircut and the way he put on such a show, something about him really turned me off, even before I started hearing the rumours about him. So I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Neem Naroli Baba told me to “go see Sai Baba in Bangalore.”

Neem Karoli Samadhi at Vrindavan

Neem Karoli Samadhi at Vrindavan

In this case, it was a “direct order.” Maharaji was leaving his Vrindavan ashram. As was often the case, he wasn’t telling us where he was going and we were expected to leave the ashram. I got the rare opportunity to briefly ask him a question before he left, so I asked him where I should go in his absence. I was reluctant, though, so I decided to take a roundabout way of getting there.

First I went to Mumbai (then still called Bombay by most), where I called in on a soothsayer a lot of people swore by. He proceeded to tell me I would lead a relatively unremarkable life. I would never be rich, but I would have enough. I was going to have an indeterminate number of children and my later life would be more challenging and successful than my middle years. In retrospect, I can see that he was dead right, especially about the children, which he couldn’t see clearly. Well, I have two biological children and now have four young children who call me ‘Papa’ and who depend upon me.

Anjuna Beach, Goa - 1975

From Goa Gil's Photo Gallery: http://www.goagil.com/photogallery/Scrapbook/

From Mumbai, I took the ferry to Goa. I’m told Goa is much the same today as it was back then only bigger and more upmarket. Back in 1972 (or was it still ’71?), all that existed in the way of backpacker accommodations was little shacks on the beach and I’m sure there were no big hotels or resorts. The weather was glorious and after such a long stretch of time away from the beach and the hippy lifestyle, I decided to take a break from “the spiritual life” and try hedonism for a few days. Without going into graphic detail, let’s just say I pulled out all the stops, largely because of a beautiful French girl wearing nothing but a lime green loincloth (mine was day glow orange) I met on the beach on my first day. That interlude lasted all of an hour, because she and her boyfriend were leaving, but it set the stage for the remainder of my sojourn in Goa.

After a few days naked in the Goa sun, I developed a bad case of sunstroke. To top it off, I had diarrhoea, probably from the suss food I was eating and water I was drinking. Wasted and miserable, I decided to move on to Bangalore, as instructed by Maharaji. I still wasn’t excited about seeing Sai Baba, but it seemed prudent to take a break from the Goa lifestyle.

Sai Baba in 1972

Sai Baba in 1972

The truth is, I don’t remember anything about my trip to Bangalore except the moments before and after the occurrence I’ll describe shortly. I don’t remember how I got there, where I stayed, what or where I ate or how long I stayed. It’s all wiped from my memory banks. I do remember running across an old friend from Maui, because it was he who told me how my girlfriend had died two years previously. I knew she was dead because my former employer had sent me a telegram, but it was Bob (who had changed his name to ‘Baba’ and pronounced himself a guru) who told me she had driven off a cliff on the road to Hana. Strangely enough, I don’t remember meeting another friend and “saving his life” when I found him suffering from a bad case of hepatitis: his son told me about that some 20 years later when he stayed at my house in Australia. This is my one vivid memory from my trip to Bangalore:

Satya Sai Baba giving darshan

Satya Sai Baba giving darshan

It had to have been on the first or second day of my stay in Bangalore because I remember being barely able to drag myself to the scheduled Satya Sai Baba darshan. I wasn’t in the least bit keen to do it, but that’s what Maharaji had told me to do, so that’s what I was going to do. Somehow, I got a “front row seat.” From memory, there was a wide central pathway (I even remember a red carpet?!?) on either side of which long rows of devotees awaited Sai Baba’s appearance. While they waited in breathless anticipation of his arrival, I slumped miserably in the  half lotus position, which was comfortable for me then, waiting for it to all be over.

When Sai Baba made his appearance, it was exactly as I imagined it would be. He sauntered down the aisle, stopping now and then to bless a random devotee or make a little vibhuti. As he got closer to me, I became increasingly determined not to touch his feet if he came up to me or show him any other kind of respect. By then I had heard about his alleged sexual exploits. In fact, I think it was “Baba” (Bob) who warned me about him, but I could be wrong. As the story goes, he was a hermaphrodite who liked to have sex with boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 21 – or something like that.

Anyway, I was thinking about these things as he approached. Together with my sunstroke and diarrhoea, I was in no mood for niceties when Sai Baba sauntered up to me. I didn’t even bother to sit up straight, much less touch his feet. In fact, I positively glowered at him. What did he do in response? He smiled, said, “Acha! Very Good!” and tapped me gently on the top of the head.

I remember a rush of energy rising up my spine. I’d felt it many times before in meditation, but never that intensely or instantly. It actually spontaneously straightened my back and lifted my head. Whether what happened next was samadhi or not, I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you anything. It wasn’t samadhi as I had (possibly – it depends on one’s definition of the word, I suppose) previously experienced it. There were no waves of bliss. It was more like a waking deep sleep – no mental activity at all, but no loss of consciousness. When I “awoke” from it, I had no sense of time having passed, yet the courtyard was nearly deserted, so Sai Baba’s darshan must have ended some time before.

It took me a few minutes to regain my bearing and stand up, but when I did, I realised that my sunstroke was gone. I felt strong and healthy again and my mind was crystal clear. This didn’t come as a revelation or relief to me, though: it was just what had happened. Surprisingly, it didn’t change my attitude towards Sai Baba, either, other than to make me less judgemental about him. I felt no compulsion to have another darshan and I never did. Instead, I must have made arrangements to travel back to Brindavan, because I remember passing through Rajasthan on my way north.

Interestingly, this marks, more or less, one year since Satya Sai Baba’s death. Even that is a matter of controversy. Some say the actual day of his death was earlier than Easter Sunday, 2011, but those in charge kept it a secret in order to give the day greater significance. To be fair to Sai Baba, here is something he had to say about the current state of the world that rings true to me:

The passage of time has clouded the splendour of the message, the fascination exercised by the material and the worldly has drawn them away from the path, and the expansion of science and technology has made them conceited and wrong-headed. So, people now relish the very things prohibited and promote the very things condemned by religion. All religions teach that one should revere the parents and evince gratitude to them; but, ridiculing them and neglecting them have become fashionable now. All religions lay down that the aged are to be honoured, since they are the repositories of experience and their guidance is indispensable; but, now elders and the aged are treated as nuisances and handicapped. All religions insist on truth; but now, the man who sticks to truth is laughed at as if he were a fool. Cruelty and violence, condemned by all religions, have raised themselves to the status of weapons of progress and means for desirable ends. However, the basic truths of religion are not affected or tarnished by the evil that men practise or the competitive propaganda they indulge in.

Energy Healing: Why Does it Work? Why Doesn’t it Work?

energy healingCall it Qi, call it Chi or call it Energy: whatever you want to call it, energy healing is a popular subject these days. Some swear by it, some debunk it and some hard sell it, but everyone seems to talk about it and many people dabble in it. A few even learn how to make it work.

My first introduction to energy healing that worked was in 2004, when I was in Bali. Every day when I walked from my guesthouse to the internet cafe, I passed a shop with a big sign outside that said, “Spiritual Healing.” There was an attention grabbing poster outside that showed the energy meridians as they’ve been mapped out in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As I hobbled past the shop each day, feeling depressed because my back was giving me trouble, my first thought was, “Bullshit.” It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it could work, it was because I firmly believed that any healer who hung out a shingle in a prominent location was a fake or incompetent. I still believe that – sort of.

Fortunately, one day I decided to set my prejudices aside and give the healer a try. The first three sessions could be explained away as having a basis in the physical sciences as we know them, but on the fourth session, I not only felt the healer draw negative energy out of my body, I saw it. That led me on a quest to find out how energy healing worked.

It’s a long story and one I want to tell at a later date, but after taking a series of classes, I learned how to do energy healing myself. For awhile, I was on a roll, but with all that’s transpired in the past 5 years, I seem to have lost my mojo. Why?

I think I’ve identified two reasons why energy healing might not work:

  1. Lack of focus: I came to this conclusion originally after learning a set of rituals or protocols that worked, but that I didn’t fully believe in. Healers in different cultures follow different sets of rituals, too, but come up with similar results. What the successful ones seem to have in common is focus when they’re working.
  2. Pride: That’s pride, not ego. “I want to save the world” is an egotistical statement, but that’s more or less what motivates healers to learn their craft. When you watch the video below, notice what happens when the second healer falls victim to pride and shows off his skills. They work, but they do harm instead of good.

I’m not going to argue my case for believing energy healing works. I’m convinced of it from personal experience. I know it doesn’t work, too and that’s what’s most interesting to me. I don’t buy the line that you have to be a “spiritual” person for it to work. I’m no more or less spiritual than a wart hog, but it worked for me. I believe it worked for me because, unlike most wart hogs, I’m able to focus my mind and energy occasionally on something besides food and sex.

I’d love to hear your take on energy healing. Just do me a favour: don’t tell me it can’t work. I won’t believe you, so you’ll be wasting your breath.