The Elephant That Wasn’t There

I was talking to someone the other day who was telling me about a recent family visit (by the way, her telling of it reminded me of the type of story David Sedaris writes).

It was her older sister who was visiting and they were discussing the past. The older sister claimed that she used to go for rides on a pony that a neighbor had. The neighbor gave pony rides somewhere for money and would allow the sister to ride the pony home. However, the older sister also claimed that this pony owner also owned an elephant who would also sometimes follow along. The woman I was talking to didn’t believe her sister’s story about the elephant and so investigated by asking other family members and some old neighbors from the area. No one else remembered the elephant, but the older sister was absolutely certain about the elephant’s existence. It was real in her mind.

I find that amusing. None of us really knows how much of our memories are correct. Few of us are ever motivated or capable of fact-checking most of our memories. Stories we’ve encountered over our lifetimes (especially when young) can become incorporated into our own personal story. I mean it’s logical that where there is a pony there might be an elephant. Science has proven that we literally re-member every time we recall something. The more often we recall something the less reliable the memory becomes. We don’t remember the thing itself. We remember our own retellings.

We all live in our own private fantasy worlds. I’ve been drawn to this idea. I think I first encountered it with Robert Anton Wilson’s writings about reality tunnels. It’s not just individuals but whole societies that get caught up in reality tunnels. In the case of personal memories, another person who knows us can offer a reality check. A collective reality tunnel is different because everyone within the society will reinforce the shared view of reality. Our collective retellings are rituals that remake the world in the way the Australian Aborigines remake the world by retracing the pathways of the gods. What if there is some truth to this? Maybe scientific laws and evolution are simply forms of collective memory.

This avenue of thought is explored in great detail by Philip K. Dick and by those influenced/inspired by PKD (for example: Jonathan Lethem’s Amnesia Moon and Ursula K. Leguin’s The Lathe of Heaven). I just finished reading PKD’s Eye in the Sky. I was mostly reading that novel while at work which led me to contemplate the world around me. I work late at night and staring into the concrete interior of a parking ramp (where I work) offers an interesting opportunity for contemplation.

My job at the parking ramp is cashier. In the large picture, it’s kind of a pointless job. With developing technology, it’s almost obsolete for all practical purposes. I sometimes envision myself working there in the future after the robots have taken over the job and my only purpose will be to wave and smile at the customers as they drive out. My job is merely representative of most of the pointless work humans occupy themselves with… but is it really pointless? Or is there some purpose being served that is less than obvious? Work is a ritual that sustains our society, the reality tunnel of our culture, of our entire civilization. From a practical perspective, most jobs could be eliminated and many things would run more smoothly and effectively without all the wasted effort of keeping people employed. But if all the pointless jobs were eliminated, there would be chaos with the masses of unemployed. Employing the mindless masses keeps them out of trouble and keeps them from revolting. Make them think their life actually has purpose. Still, a purpose is being served even if it’s simply maintaining social order. My point is that social order is merely the external facet of any given collective reality tunnel.

In PKD’s stories, the protagonist is often faced with a true reality that is hidden behind an apparent reality. This true reality isn’t somewhere else but is instead all around us. This is a gnostic vision of the kingdom on earth. PKD had a few spiritual visions which inspired his theologizing and his fiction writing. I too have had some visions that have made me question the status quo of normal reality.

In enacting our social rituals and retelling our social myths, what kind of reality are we collectively creating? When I look upon a structure like an ugly parking ramp, what kind of world am I looking upon? Why are we creating such a world? What is the motivation? If we stopped enacting these social rituals and stopped retelling these social myths, what would happen to this consensus reality of civilization we’ve created and what would replace it? Or what would be revealed?

“As long as we keep ourselves busy tilling the earth, there is no fear of any of us becoming wild.”
~  J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur

National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

ProfMTH — April 30, 2010 — A look at the recent decision that declared the federal law establish the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.


1. Freedom from Religion Foundation, et al. v. Obama and Gibbs…

2. The National Day of Prayer Task Forces website

3. Federalist #78…

ProfMTH — April 30, 2010 — The second part of my look at the recent decision that declared the federal law establishing the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.


1. Freedom from Religion Foundation, et al. v. Obama and Gibbs…

2. Lemon v. Kurtzman…

3. Christian activist Tony Perkins talking about the National Day of Prayer (from JesusSavesAtCitibanks channel here on YouTube)…

4. Engel v. Vitale…

5. Marsh v. Chambers…

6. Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York…

Fundamenalism & Moral Absolutism

The following video points out how moral absolutism can only exist in an advanced civilization. That makes sense to me. It reminds me of Karen Armstrong’s view that fundamentalism is a direct response to modernism.

Why I am no longer a Christian by Evid3nc3

This video is an atheist explaining how he lost his faith. It’s long, but I found it worth watching. The guy is very respectful of Christianity and he is far from being dismissive of his past faith.

His example reminds me of Robert M. Price who also began studying with the hope of strengthening his faith. The risk of apologetics is that it uses the methods of the enemy (logic, argument, questions, doubts, intellect, etc). There is a real danger to opening yourself up to any and all doubts and following questions to whatever answers they may lead. This is true for any person, whether religious or not. Intellectual inquiry isn’t for the contented. Questions aren’t for those who wish to remain in comforting certainties.

Why Atheists Care About YOUR Religion

Source of Bible Covenant with God discovered?

Source of Bible Covenant with God discovered?
By D.M. Murdock

god calling abraham to his covenant image

Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed an Assyrian tablet dating to around 670 BCE that “could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.” [...] 

Ancient treaty resembles part of the Bible

Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.

The tablet, dating to about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham’s covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison.

Although biblical scholarship differs, it is widely accepted that the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty, the seventh century BC.

“Those documents…seem to reflect very closely the formulaic structure of these treaty documents,” he told about 50 guests at the Ottawa residence of the Turkish ambassador, Rafet Akgunay.

He was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt on the condition that they worship only Him and follow His commandments.

But it will be interesting for scholars to have this parallel document.

“The language in the [Assyrian] texts is [very similar] and now we have a treaty document just a few miles up the road from Jerusalem.”…

[...] Although the article states that the archaeologist Timothy Harrison “was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt,” it is nonetheless raising that very issue in a manner which breaks with the centuries-old tradition of bending all finds in the “Holy Land” and other places of biblical interest to fit the Bible, in attempts to prove the “Good Book” as “history.” It is obvious that this sort of bibliolatry appeasement from the more scientific segment of society is losing ground precisely because of such discoveries – and the implication of this one is a doozy.

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 4/1/10

You’d be mad to support climate change science

In a recent forum debate, a poster suggested I wouldn’t look at science that didn’t agree with my position – that I displayed confirmation bias. I have a standard response to this, which is that I’ll look at anything that isn’t junk science. If it’s credible science, why would I not study it?

The poster who challenged me did so on the basis of how he sees things. To him, this is a debate to win, and because he thinks that’s what I’m here to do, that I have an agenda, it seems obvious to him I’m going to select only that science which supports it (and I have to add that in all likelihood, that’s what he’s doing). This assumption is made because the denialists do have an agenda, and it is largely political. They attack the science, because for them, climate change science is a proxy for socialism, or a token of some movement towards a ‘world government’ that is essentially socialist in nature.

They oppose this, and because the basis for climate change is scientific, they end up attacking the science because they take it as a tool of ideologues. In making this unfortunate conflation, they also project the same motives and concerns on people like me, because if their agenda is to oppose the left, in their eyes I must be another lefty ideologue opposing the right, supporting climate change as a means to my own ideological ends.

Parliament’s investigation: Stolen e-mails reveal no wrong-doing by climate scientists

As Galileo might have said, “Still the planet warms.”

A committee of England’s Parliament released its report on Hadley Climate Research Unit’s (CRU) stolen e-mails earlier today.  The reports you heard that the scientific case showing global warming with human causation had died, were exaggerated, significantly in error, and hoaxes themselves.

The report comes from the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee.  Press release with links and previous releases from the Committee, below:

The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia

[...] The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. [...]

How to split up the US


As I’ve been digging deeper into the data I’ve gathered on 210 million public Facebook profiles, I’ve been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged. My latest visualization shows the information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there’s a line between them.

Looking at the network of US cities, it’s been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster.

Millennials and Postmodernism in TV Comedies

I recently read a fantastic but dense essay by David Foster Wallace drawing connections between fictional literature and television, emphasizing the commonalities between the genres’ narrative structures. The essay was written in the early 90s but is oddly premonitory, particularly with reference to reality shows and on-demand programming. He frequently cites the increasingly self-referential nature of television programs (and fiction), and it piqued my interest in postmodernist television narratives. So I wanted to think and write a bit about how postmodernist comedy writing on several contemporary TV shows shares many elements with the Millennial Generation’s defining traits. This isn’t really a new revelation, but it’s one worth exploring in more depth – it may help us supply Millennial qualities with some context.

So, first, a few key factors of literary postmodernism that I will consider, as described in Literary Theory:

  1. a tendency toward reflexivity, or self-consciousness, about the production of the work of art, so that each piece calls attention to its own status as a production, as something constructed and consumed in particular ways.
  2. an emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random-seeming collages of different materials, and, contrary to modernism, celebrates the ensuing incoherence and nonsense.

Millennials —yes, they can

They have not generally gotten involved with candidates or issues because “Millennials perceive politics as a polarized debate with no options for compromise or nuance,” in the words of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. They don’t want to be limited by political party affiliation. They care about issues important to their “community” and will work with anyone who can get something done.

But they are impatient. That is why so many seemed to drift away from President Barack Obama as the healthcare debate dragged on and partisanship in Washington got out of hand. For nearly a year and a half their parents’ and grandparents’ generations argued over what — to many — seemed like petty details. They tuned out not because they didn’t care but because they were bored.

Now that there actually is a healthcare bill, it will be fascinating to see if they are willing to re-engage. The Obama campaign showed how to communicate with and motivate this generation in 2008. Re-engaging them will be crucial to the president’s reelection and, arguably, to Democrats’ congressional future. There are 44 million Millennials eligible to vote, which is about 20 percent of the electorate. Most of them are independents — at least in their voting patterns. Recent polls show independents drifting away from the Republican Party as a result of the angry debate in Washington.

Millennials do faith and politics their way

[...] The core finding of Pew’s “Religion Among the Millennials” report is that young Americans are “less religiously affiliated” than their elders. In fact, one in four of Americans ages 18 to 29 do not affiliate with any particular religious group. This is not entirely unexpected, since it is a sociological truism that young people cultivate some distance from the religious institutions of their parents, only to return to those institutions as they marry, raise children and slouch toward retirement. According to Pew, however, “Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their life cycle … and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults.”

This is an important finding because it provides strong evidence for the loosening of religion’s grip on American life. Or does it?

[...] This liberal turn will not necessarily convert young people into Democrats, however, because “Democrat,” too, is a brand most Millennials are unwilling to call their own. Even so, the new data do lay bare the so-called new conservatism of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party not as the next new thing but as the last paroxysm of a spent revolution.

Both the Tea Party activists and their beloved Palin are as white as Alaskan snow, but the American population is increasingly brown; 19% of Millennials are Hispanic and 14% are black. No religious or political movement propelled by white rage (or for that matter by the fury of retirees) will have legs in the America this new generation is making.

One of the big stories of the past few decades in American religion has been the decline of the mainline denominations at the expense of evangelical megachurches. One of the big stories of the next few decades in American politics could be the decline of the major political parties at the expense of grassroots (and “cyberroots”) initiatives. As Boomers yield power to Millennials, the political movements that succeed will look less like the Southern Baptist Convention and more like your local non-denominational church. They will be browner, more comfortable with rapid change, higher tech, more upbeat and unworried by tattoos.

The Coming End of the Culture Wars

The term “culture wars” dates back to a 1991 book by academic James Davison Hunter who argued that cultural issues touching on family and religious values, feminism, gay rights, race, guns, and abortion had redefined American politics. Going forward, bitter conflicts around these issues would be the fulcrum of politics in a polarized nation, he theorized.

It did look like he might have a point for a while. Conservatives especially seemed happy to take a culture wars approach, reasoning that political debate around these issues would both mobilize their base and make it more difficult for progressives to benefit from their edge on domestic policy issues such as the economy and health care. This approach played an important role in conservative gains during the early part of the Clinton administration and in the impeachment drama of the late 1990s, which undercut progressive legislative strategies. And the culture wars certainly contributed to conservative George W. Bush’s presidential victories in 2000 and 2004.

Yet these issues have lately been conspicuous by their absence. Looking back on Barack Obama’s historic victory in 2008, culture wars issues not only had a very low profile in the campaign, but where conservatives did attempt to raise them, these issues did them little good. Indeed, conservatives were probably more hurt than helped by such attempts— witness the effect of the Sarah Palin nomination.

Attempts to revive the culture wars have been similarly unsuccessful since the election. Sarah Palin’s bizarre trajectory, culminating in her surprise resignation from the Alaska governorship, has only made culture war politics appear even more out of touch. And culture warriors’ shrill attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor have conspicuously failed to turn public opinion against her.

Authors Connected?

Authors Connected?

Posted on Dec 26th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’ve been repeatedly mentioning several authors in my recent blogs.  While I’m at it, I want to bring in two other authors that I haven’t mentioned in a while.

The two other authors are George P. Hansen and Patrick Harpur.  I wrote about them when I was thinking about the paranormal and they influenced my ideas in my blog about the Enactivism Symposium.  I was thinking about these two specifically in reference to Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson.
The connection might not be obvious even for some strange person who spent their time closely reading my blog.  Hansen and Harpur write about the relationship between “reality” and the paranormal.  Nelson and Wilson write about the relationship between culture and religion.  The connection between them revolves around the mythological and the archetypal.
There is a reason I wanted to bring in Hansen and Harpur.  They both speak to what the spiritual means in terms of our actual experience and our attempt to objectively know reality.  I admire the insight of Nelson and Wilson, but speaking in terms of culture can put a distance to the ideas.  Wilson does resonate with my personal experience fairly well.  The main limitation to his writing is that he is so focused on certain traditions… even if they’re traditions that I’m attracted to.
Harpur, maybe more than any of them, has helped me to understand what exists beyond our physical senses and rational knowledge.  The concept of the imaginal is centrally important to me.  It gives a point of reference to understand where both atheists and theists can go wrong in their beliefs.  The imaginal also gives a point in between story and reality, the source of mythology.  
Harpur refers to Hillman’s polytheistic psyche, and Hillman would be opposed to Campbell’s Monomyth.  I, however, don’t feel certain of any conflict.  There is an autonomy of archetypes that can’t be unified in a simple manner, but neither are archetypes exactly like Platonic ideals.  Still, archetypes are all related.  I’d even argue that archetypes are primarily relational before anything else.  Its this relational dimension that grounds archetypes in stories.  Also, for whatever its worth, it brings to my mind the Buddhist notion of dependent co-arising.
I’m starting to confuse myself.  That is fine.  I’m sure it all makes sense somehow.
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Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

34 minutes later

Marmalade said

I think that my mind as of late is a bit split between two lines of thought.  

First off, part of me wants to make some sense out of what I at times perceive as a hellish world.  Horror isn’t really a genre.  Its an experience that you’ve had and understand… or else not.

Secondly, I’m just fascinated by stories and myths.  This relates to suffering but isn’t limited to it.  We use stories to make sense of suffering it is true.  Stories wouldn’t make any motivating force without suffering even if only on the level of basic conflict.  If there is no antagonist, there is no story.  However, I don’t think this is what attracts me to stories.  Stories can make me forget suffering, make the world seem to have some kind of purpose or order… and sometimes a really good story (such as The Fountain) can offer a deeper insight.

These two aspects conflict.  Stories represent enjoyment and meaning.  Suffering, when experienced deeply enough, undermines any sense of order or insight that a story might offer.  However, is this problematic.  We’re all drawn to stories about characters (real or fictional) like Jesus, but in our suffering we feel drawn beyond the story itself.

I don’t know.  Does that make sense?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

Here is a comment that I think I meant to put here, but I’m not quite sure. It should fit in.

There is another blog of mine that has very similar subject matter. Its about a specific archetypes that are related:Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior… also, the Divine Child and Shadow. These archetypes are especially central to the Monomyth.

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Religious Scholars and Horror Writers

Religious Scholars and Horror Writers

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
This relates to the connection between Gnosticism and the Gothic.  Many Horror writers study religion and spirituality.  Some even practice it or are members of churches.  Some horror writers go so far as giving up their horror for religion… such as Anne Rice’s conversion.  Most Christian horror writers find a middle-ground because Christian theology gives plenty of space for the horrific… especially Catholicism.

A Biblical scholar I enjoy is Robert M. Price.  He is very well respected as a Biblical scholar, but he is also an expert on Lovecraft and writes horror himself.  Not surprisingly, he is very knowledgeable about Gnosticism.

Some other examples I’ve heard of:  Russell Kirk wrote ghost stories, but he was more famous for his influential political theories.  Charles Williams is best known for his horror novels (or supernatural thrillers as  T.S. Eliot described them), but he also wrote widely on many nonfiction subjects.

Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp have both been highly influenced by religion and spirituality.  They’ve both studied diverse topics, but I do know that they were highly attracted to Buddhism.   As far as I understand, both had done spiritual practices such as meditation and so their interests aren’t merely in the abstract.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 1 hour later

Marmalade said

Thinking about it, Catholocism and Buddhism are good religions for horror writers. Catholocism obsesses about original sin, evil, and demons. Buddhism has strong tendencies towards world-denial in their idealization of non-being and I’ve heard that they traditionallyhave rituals for funerals but not for weddings.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

There is another connection between the Horror genre and the traditional world religions. Both are a bit wary of sexuality and often don’t portray it in the most positive light. I won’t generalize too much about horror and sexuality, but I will say that it seems common for people (especially sexually attractive girls)to bekilled in horror movies after making out. And then there are dark writers such as Kafka where sexuality is almost entirely absent.

I don’t feel up to speculating why this connection exists. I do know that Crisp and Ligotti have spoken disparaging about sex (and procreation)on more than one occasion. In fact, Ligotti has written a lengthy treatise that revolves around this and relatedsubjects. Ligotti is more articulate in his philosophizing, butone of the more amusing quotes about sex is from Crisp (in an interview with Martin Roberts):

“…I am interested in the erotic potential of sexual unfulfillment.”

I enjoy Crisp’s self-deprecating humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at.

Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Posted on Apr 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi : Japanese Buddhist scholar & Zen master, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

I’m wary of labels… especially when placing them on myself.  The moment someone identifies with a label, I’m pretty sure they’re no longer in beginner’s mind.  I don’t mind labels to any great extent because I use them tentatively.  At its best, a label is just a way of looking at things.

I was criticizing a certain type of Christian in my previous blog post, and this is related.  A label is a way of looking at things.  And when one identifies with that label, it limits the way one can look at things.  Comparative mythology and integral theory is more interesting to me because they both allow one to switch perspectives.

I’m attracted to Christianity and to that extent I’m Christian.  But, to me, Christianity is a very loose network of ideas, myths, and cultural paradigms.  There is no one true Christianity.  Christianity is a confluence of trends that come from diverse cultures much of which predates or was concurrent with Christianity.

I’m also wary of hegemony whether of the Christian, perennial, or integral varieties.  I do believe there is a universal truth of some sort, but within that infinite specific differences.  Yes, all gods point to the mystery beyond but so do all humans.  Monotheism doesn’t negate polytheism.  The powers that be(archetypal or whatever) are as distinct from eachother as one human is to another.  When you consider all of the saints and angels and demons, its easy to see that Christianity isn’t essentially different in kind from Hinduism for instance.  Its more apparent in Hinduism how Monotheism and Polytheism relate.  To be technical, most modern world religions are henotheistic… which means they have a favored deity but still aknowledge the reality of other lesser deities(powers, spirits, angels, demons, etc).

For certain, all the monistic and monotheistic religions arose from and were largely based upon polytheism.  Whenever looking at different views, I’m often mildly annoyed and amused at how ignorant most people are of this fact.

Similarly, is the phenomena of conversion.  How do people know what they’re converting to?  There is a whole lot of biased interpretation in the conversion process.

As an example, I was reading of an agnostic lady who while on vacation visited a Christian shrine.  She had a vision and became a Christian.  I find this amusing because many shrines were built on pagan holy ground.  She saw a spiritual vision, but how does she know that this spirit wasn’t the ancient spirit of that holy place?  Just because Christians built a shrine there(possibly incorporating some of the pagan shrine) it doesn’t mean that this particular spirit converted to Christianity.  The spirit of that place may not give a hoot about Christianity.  Maybe that spirit likes anybody with sufficient devotion no matter what there religious affiliation.  Maybe the spirit was simply saying hi.  Furthermore, the shrine this lady visited had a statue of Jesus.  I’ve read before that the image of Jesus was based on previous pagan savior god-men.  So, which god-man came to save her?  Maybe it was Mithras and he was disappointed after she left because she didn’t sacrifice a bull for him.

She took an ineffable experience and effed it up with Christian theology.  =)  Now she is a Christian who filters the world through a theological lense.  She has gained something, but I suspect she lost even more.

But nobody ever said religion is rational… sort of like love.  Essentially, conversions is just a form of falling in love… and that goes a far way in explaining the insane things that some religious people do.  Its not accidental that a monotheistic religion like Christianity promotes monogamy.  God is jealous and so are his followers.  There is a difference between falling in love with a god and falling in love with a person.  Many people when they fall in love with a god become devoted in a way that is rare when they fall in love with another person.  Falling in love with another peson usually doesn’t lead one to deny the existence of all other people or else deem everyone else as evil.  Could you imagine if people treated their romances the way that many treat religion?  What if when people fell in romantically fell in love, they felt they had to deny their love for their parents and family?

(Here is the thread for this post at the God pod.)

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2 days later

Domi333 said

it’s always been like that…have you heard about ‘our lady of guadalupe’ appearing on the hill of Tonantzin(trad. Goddess)?
and yes, spirituality is nameless, I once read a piece which said that the mother goddess appearing as Kwan Yin to Chinese, Mary to Europeans etc, she appears in forms common to the people living nearby…
I also think you touched on the ‘God is a jealous god’ topic…so then wouldn’t there be other gods to make him jealous? monotheism and polytheism are related…Allah was high God become only god, JHWH-God may have been El or Ea(poss. combination of both)
ahh i see now, we can express belief without being dogmatic and through different expressions, one loves one’s wife and mother just like one expresses spirituality on different levels and in different(sometimes contradictory)ways…

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

Howdy Domi333,

You’re a very new member of Gaia.  I’m glad you found my blog and responded.

I’ve read a little about the story behind ‘our lady of guadalupe’, but I haven’t looked into it much.  Have you ever heard of the Evil Saint?  I have a picture of him and I find him very fascinating.

As for goddesses, I most definitely feel there is immense connection with the Virgin Mary and all the other Marys.  I’ve read that some of the Black Madonnas in Europe were probably originally statues of Isis that were bought from traders.  The churches that bought them assumed they were statues of the Madonna.  Maybe they saw it as the Madonna because the imagery of the Madonna was based on pagan goddesses in the first place.

Yep about the El and Ea origins of JHWH-God.  And yep I think you get what I was saying about love and belief.


Nicole : wakingdreamer

12 days later

Nicole said

Ben, I think that we tend to be polytheists, really, even when we think of ourselves as monotheists. the important thing is to realize the unknowable God behind all the “gods” or knowable one God. it’s when we think that the God or gods we “know” is/are all there is, that it gets out of balance. cause that is just the tiny bit of the elephant in the parable of blind men that we can touch. love and light

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

12 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, right you are.  We do forget that there is an essential common truth behind all “gods”.  But we also forget that there is an essential common truth within all people.  When we’re in love(with a god or a person), we can become unbalanced.  We become focused on our love object and forget all else.

Song of the day:
Let the Mystery Be
by Iris Dement

12 days later

Domi333 said

What do you mean by the evil saint?
and also you just went into two concepts: deus absconditus(hidden god) from Thomas Aquinas…or deus otiosus(idle god) yet not hidden… then we have the closer active forces in the universe- relating to shakti(creative forces) in hinduism…anyways, as long as we experience whatever it is, that’s what’s important..

FastDart : Peaceful Arrow

12 days later

FastDart said

You guys rock my world. I am one in Spirit and remember that my source is always available.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

12 days later

Marmalade said


Two names of the Evil Saint are San Simón and Maximón.  They’re also related to the Santa Muerte, a female personification of death.  Maximón is a combination of Mayan deities, Judas Iscariot and Pedro de Alvarado, the conquistador of Guatemala.  He represents evil, but he is also a protector of sinners.  As such, he is a favored saint amongst prostitutes.  San Simón is similar, but his name may be a reference to Simon the Magus.

These saints are revered by some Catholics in Central America even though they aren’t aknowledged by the Catholic church.  I’ve read about a festival where a statue of the Evil Saint and a statue of Jesus are paraded through the streets and then meet in confrontation… of course, Jesus always wins.  :)

“as long as we experience whatever it is, that’s what’s important”

True.  Experience is the important aspect, but there is another aspect that motivated my posting this blog in the first place.  We need to trust our own experience over dogmatic interpretations and cultural expectations, and we must continually return to our own direct experience and question our own direct experience.  In doing this, we need to remain humble in our limited understanding and open to new understandings.  We must remember that our experience is filtered by unconscious assumptions and beliefs, that we’re caught in collective reality tunnels.

13 days later

Domi333 said

OK, I know a bit of Maximon, the mayans never totally abandoned their old beliefs, there was a lot of syncretism, an evil saint who’s evil yet protects sinners, that’s a strange paradox…then again the mayan and aztec gods weren’t pure god or evil they were powerful beings(maybe not quetzalcoatl, my fav.)

yes, experience is limited by all that…i think i meant that what we ultimately perceive to be true(although we may keep changing), after breaking through what we have learnt to believe, subconscious motivations etc. Buddha once said: With our thoughts we make the world.(and we are living in the world of our underlying assumptions etc.)
Ben, do you believe that ultimately most people are totally stuck in these ‘collective reality tunnels’, then ultimately how do we know what is really real?
the subjective perceived truth versus the objective reasoning

Marmalade : Gaia Child

13 days later

Marmalade said

BTW you rock too FastDart!

Okay, Dom..
“i think i meant that what we ultimately perceive to be true(although we may keep changing), after breaking through what we have learnt to believe, subconscious motivations etc.”

I think I agree with what your pointing at here.  I sense there is a truth to be perceived.

“do you believe that ultimately most people are totally stuck in these ‘collective reality tunnels’, then ultimately how do we know what is really real?”
I do believe we are for the most part stuck in reality tunnels, but I don’t feel it has to be a bad thing.  I feel there is something inherently good to the world even if I don’t fully understand it.  Reality is infinitely creative and will always defy the mind that attempts to constrain it with knowledge, but its a fun game to play anyways.  We don’t ever know what is really real.  We just can have experiences that feel real and we can have faith in our own experiences.  And from that we live our lives.  Mystery trumps all, but we too are Mystery!

“the subjective perceived truth versus the objective reasoning”

Simply put, I don’t believe those are the only two choices… nor do I believe that those two choices are entirely distinct.

So, what do you think of reality tunnels and the possibility of knowing reality?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

13 days later

Nicole said

hi dom! thanks for joining the God Pod! i can see it will be fun having you with us!

Ben, getting back first to your response to my comment, yes, you are right about getting unbalanced when we are in love… that’s what you see in “Jesus freaks” – i remember my Jesus freak days – and that’s what happens when you get lost in the gaze of anoher human being and you can’t eat or sleep, can’t work, can’t think of anything else but that person.

thanks be to God for falling out of love! lol

so, on to your dialogue with Dom. fascinating stuff here about the evil saints. the latin culture is so interesting around religion, with the Days of the Dead and so on… but i wasn’t aware of the evil Saints, reminds me of the movie The Saint with Val Kilmer, a modernising of the old British book/series, and this Saint’s past as an orphan preached at by priests at how they were bastard children of sinful women etc… anyway there is more than meets the eye to that movie, don’t know if you and Dom have seen it.

now, here’s something else new to me. reality tunnels… i do think that many people i know struggle to know what is real. first of all, the media are so all pervasive, and benumb and bemuse people in TV, movies, internet, gaming, newspapers, radio shows… these are not reality but webs of overlapping mental/emotional/spiritual constructs that inform how we think about and live our actual lives to the point that i wonder if we really “see” our lives or live them, or just sleep walk through them.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

Sweet dear Nickel,
 Yeah, we become unbaanced in love… but that is what makes it so much fun.  :)  The “Jesus freaks” aren’t wrong.  They just need to step their love up a notch.  If they’d truly lose themselves in love Sufi-style, then there’d be no problem.  Superficial love of God makes God into a symbol of the ego.  Deep love of God transforms the ego.

And there is power in falling out of love.  For the mystic, this is the Dark Night of the Soul…. what felt so good, so right disappears… a sense of abandonment and loss, emptiness and loneliness.  On the human level, to really love someone means a willingness to let them go.  The sorrow comes from the fact that even though the object of love is gone love itself remains.  Its difficult to learn to sit still in the fires of love.  At first, we love God.  Then, we realize God is love, that God isn’t elsewhere to be loved but right here in our hearts.

so, on to your comments about my dialogue with Dom.  I haven’t watched The Saint.  But becasue you like it, I’ve put it in my Netflix queue.  So, I’ll be watching it soon.

Ahhh… something new for you…  lovely reality tunnels.  I think I probably first learned about them from reading Robert Anton Wilson years ago.  Timothy Leary coined the term, but it was RAW who popularized it.  There are many other ideas and terms that are simiar.  Maybe I’ll blog about it sometime.  It is a fascinating subject.

14 days later

Domi333 said

These reality tunnels, would they justify the interlocking of separate minds in the same stream? I guess, people who are close to each other tend to have a strong mental connection…
Objective and subjective analysis, rightly so would not be so concrete and distinct as only ways of seeing things, they both interlock…one needs to be subjectively experiencing something to look at it objectively(or the observer’s paradox, even though the observer can affect the subject)
There could be a possibility that we’re stuck in a plato’s cave-matrix paradox, yet even exiting the cave, would that too be real? defining what is ‘real’ and what is ‘true’ is not exactly constant, an anomaly can come and become the force for a paradigm shift…but it’s the way that we personally want to see things…
Would it be personally possible to traverse these reality tunnels and affect their comings and goings? or maybe I’m just getting a bit far out…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

Dom – All that you said sounds good to me.  Feel free to go as far out as you like.  If you’re familiar with Robert Anton Wilson, then you know that the out goes quite far.  :)

Reality tunnels can be applied to almost anything. 

At its most basic, they’re the psychological and bio-sensory limitations of our individuality.  But you can step this up to include the social in terms of paradigms.  If you don’t take it any further, then its not anything too far out, nothing that goes beyond mainstream understandings of ‘reality’.

However, once you start considering how much overlap there is between the objective and subjective, you’re stepping into different territory.  If reality has a collective/consensual factor and if perception is an act of creativity, then reality tunnels aren’t merely something we’re stuck in, not just something that happens to us, not simply the limits of the way the world is.

So, there is the modest view of reality  tunnels that says that objective analysis and observation can allow us to see beyond our reality tunnels.  And there is the radical view of reality tunnels that says that even objective reality is just another reality tunnel.

Its not a matter of what is absolutely real, of what is the correct view.  Reality is about how we relate and the motivation that is behind our way of relating.  Subjective experience and objective analysis are both useful to the degree they help us achieve our goals in relating better to the world and to others… however we define those things.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

14 days later

Nicole said

uh huh, still making me pay for that Binyamin eh? lol well, at least i’m worth five cents!

 Yeah, unbaanced in love is so much fun – i just love totally losing it in my life.  :)  I agree with you about losing self in love Sufi-style, that deep love of God transforms the ego. That’s my path!

And the power in falling out of love,  Dark Night of the Soul, been there last year with God, this year with ___, “what felt so good, so right disappears… a sense of abandonment and loss, emptiness and loneliness.  On the human level, to really love someone means a willingness to let them go.  The sorrow comes from the fact that even though the object of love is gone love itself remains.  Its difficult to learn to sit still in the fires of love.”

It gets easier. The first time I very deeply loved and let go, it really really hurt for the first three or four years.  This time, I was much better prepared so while there are days or hours or moments when it is harder, I accept it thoroughly so the fires pass through me. I don’t resist as much so suffer much less.

“At first, we love God.  Then, we realize God is love, that God isn’t elsewhere to be loved but right here in our hearts.” Yes, yes, more and more I know that deeply to be true.

Glad to hear you will be watching The Saint soon, just because I like it! :) Thank you, and I very much look forward to your comments. I think I shall add mention of that to the God Pod discussion of the Illusionist, because it too is about smoke and mirrors…

Every day there is something new for me! But the reality tunnels are especially enticing. I must get more into Robert Anton Wilson, I keep hearing about him on the I-I pod mostly. Good old Timothy Leary, eh? If you do want to blog about it, that would be so cool and you know i will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. :).

I agree, from the sound of them, they sound far from something to be “stuck” in, something that is gloriously freeing. Wheeeee!

 - – –

Comments from the forum thread:

Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 22, 2008, 5:44 PM:

  Hi Marmalade,

Wow, this is interesting… :) as having recently fallen intensively in love, I thought i should comment on this.

You make an excellent point about conversion being like falling in love, and there are also many things in life like conversion, for example joining a new company and being really excited about it, or doing the job you are used to and getting a whole new perspective on it.

I think that as humans we filter our experiences through our physicality, so we often interpret our strong feelings romantically when they perhaps are quite different, operating on a spiritual or mental or different kind of emotional level.

What do you all think?

Peace and light,


  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Marmalade said Apr 23, 2008, 2:42 AM:

  Thanks for the reply Nicole!  Ain’t love a funny thing?

As for conversion, Buddhism has an interesting take.  When the Buddha became enlightened, some of the Hindu gods(according to the Buddhists) showed deference.  In Tibetan Buddhism, some of the deities are considered to be converted from the Bon religion.

This makes sense.  In the ancient world, when a people were defeated it was assumed that the god of the people was defeated.  So, if a people were converted, they very well might see it as their god being converted… that is submitting to the power of a ‘greater’ god.  Conversion isn’t always through love.

Related to this, is a Jungian idea that I think I may have mentioned to you before.  Jung said that a person wasn’t genuinely a Christian until they had faced the pagan gods within themselves.  This is very intriguing… an internal conversion of archetypes?


  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 23, 2008, 3:23 AM:

  conversion of gods and archetypes! wow, that is mindblowing, marmalade. i will have to ponder that…. you always give me so much food for thought, dear friend.

love and light,



Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Dave [no longer around] said Apr 23, 2008, 4:28 AM:

  Marmalade… “an internal conversion of archetypes”…
These 5 words are extremely important… and reflect the specific reason I have difficulty with Integral Theory. 

IMHO, Integral is too focused on evolution, and not transformation.  Evolution suggests a slow, methodical, concerted effort to develop new physiological and psychological capabilities for increasing consciousness and spiritual awareness.  I am not sure, but evolution also suggests moving up a hierarchy of archetypes… one to the other to the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every being on this planet, has it within themselves, to “complete their evolution’ in an instantaneous transformation.  Some call it enlightenment, others born again.  Whatever one calls that… it is a transformation of consciousness… a quantum leap… rather than an evolutionary one.

Appreciate your thoughts.


  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 23, 2008, 5:34 AM:

  Hi dave

I’m not sure why you see integral this way. To me it definitely is more of a quantum theory, transformation kind of approach. Transformation is not always instant though. For example when the new testament speaks of us being transformed into the likeness of God it is something that takes our whole life and is not complete. Experiences of enlightenment that we have are states not permanent. That is why we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling though we can be initially saved in the blink of an eye. The working through of that takes much longer.

Love and light


  Negoba : A Simple Seeker  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Negoba said Apr 23, 2008, 9:40 AM:

  I think the reason that many of us are here is that in a global society, crosspollenation of religious and spiritual thought is a fact of life. Dismissing other religions is just not possible for most thinkers anymore. This is probably why Integral thought is finding such an audience right now.

Similarly, we may see less and less traditional “conversions” but we will see more and more episodes of people falling in love with traditions that are new to them. And that seems ok to me.

I agree that “tranformation” or “diversification” seem better substitutes for the word “evolution.” Despite Wilber’s (sometimes reasonable) meandering about the Mean Green Meme, I still have suspicions of linear heirarchy. The word evolution itself implies linear, up, more, better, bigger. And it’s not that transformation doesn’t include that. It’s just that it’s that and more. Similarly, I wish the field started by Darwin wasn’t named “evolution” because that’s not really the best descriptor. Perhaps his “On the Origin of Species” is better, but of course that’s too many words and not catchy enough.

Enough rambling….till tonight

  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Marmalade said Apr 23, 2008, 11:26 AM:

  An internal conversion of archetypes.  I’m not sure what I meant by that, but it sounded good at the time.

As for integral, I don’t think that transformation and development need be opposed.  But integral does seem more focused on development because it can more easily be mapped.  Ultimately, though, development is transformative because each new stage is emergent.


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