Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Messengers of Truth

The history of Western culture in the last two thousand years could be seen as the 'Empire of the Mind' conquering the exterior world and extinguishing the interior one, with the result that we have atrophied our spiritual connection. – Rak Razam

The world is deeply out of balance in these pre-apocalyptic times, and a serious correction, long overdue, is underway. The benevolent forces of the earth are reaching out into our culture and touching the consciousness of many people, invoking within them the necessity and the courage to transform and evolve beyond the self-destructive narratives that govern human life today. 

The problems we face run deep, yet the consciousness of human kind seems firmly centered at base level. For many there seems to be little promise that a significant enough transformation can occur in time to avoid ecocide, which is suicide, because along with the industrial revolution we’ve reconfigured our knowledge base to exclude sustainable co-existence with the natural world.

So, then, what is available to us, as creatures of this earth, to remedy these crises? What catalysts, if any, are strong enough to cause the needed infectious tidal wave of personal and communal transformation? One strong enough to cause people to re-think their patterned lives and to restructure them? What in our world can help us to break through the fear of letting go of what we have now, in order to risk discovering what else may be possible?

Enter ancient wisdom. Ayahuasca and Iboga... kindred medicine spirits that are pushing themselves into the collective consciousness of the modern world. Their ancient secrets have been guarded for thousands of years by the indigenous tribes that have since time immemorial structured their cultures and cosmologies around the wisdom gleaned from communing with these plant teachers. Yet for some important reason there is widespread and growing interest in these sacraments as a means to alleviate the cultural malaises that so many in the ‘advanced’ world suffer from.

Used in shamanic and bona fide religious practices, Ayahuasca, native to South America, is a hallucinogenic brew concocted of the ‘vine of the souls,’ banisteriopsis caapi, and other DMT containing plants such as chacruna, or psychotria viridis. Iboga, native to the rainforest of Gabon, Africa, is an entheogenic root bark of the tree, tabernanthe iboga and an ancient sacrament of the Bwiti, a spiritual discipline whose African members number in the millions.

Both of these plant medicines are taken ceremonially as medicinal rites to facilitate physical and psychological healing, to teach virtuous living, to develop spirituality, to strengthen family and communal ties, and to deepen one’s connection to the natural world. They are the center pieces of shamanic traditions that have for ages been full-spectrum healing arts that address the total human needs of individuals and communities alike, while addressing imbalances between humans and nature. They bring a human-being into direct contact with the unseen spirit realms of the earth and the cosmos, allowing one to de-intellectualize the mystical nature of life and consciousness.

Unsurprisingly, both of these shamanic medicines are swiftly working their way into the consciousness of the modern, ‘civilized’ world. Transformation is the key to navigating these insane times, and these medicines strike at the root of global transformation, the individual. It takes tremendous courage to ‘step into the fire’ with these medicines, but for those who do, it feels distinctly like a calling or destiny, and very little like a desire or ambition.

Initiates are called to muster absolute courage and humility, and are returned renewed and cleansed with heightened energy and abundant inspiration. Often gaining clear signals about choosing and navigating life’s paths, initiates receive visionary insight into the value of life and the connection to the natural world. The message is similar for many: Wake up, let go of the past, balance the ego, refine yourself, refine your personal energy; and move your life in the direction of service, with gratitude for each breath that you take.

Fear is understood and overcome, and the infinite nature of human consciousness is revealed. Emotional healing happens instantly, and self-judgements and criticisms are re-apportioned into task lists for personal development. Impulsivity and addiction are understood as destructive forces that require domestication, and the impetus to do so is received abundantly. One reassess their connection to nature and sees, senses and directly feels the sentience in all things, thereby tempering their sense of seniority in the cosmic web of life. A new life path unfolds, deep, enduring questions are answered, and forgiveness is granted. A life purpose lost is re-discovered and the seeker becomes new, refreshed, and reborn into a new perspective that lasts a lifetime.

These plant teachers are one of nature’s greatest tools for communicating with human beings. Iboga is the tree of knowledge. Ayahuasca is the vine of souls. Together they comprise an entirely complete, organic language and are reaching out into the world seeking warriors of truth to translate and seed the message of the Earth, who is unmistakably our Mother. They are calling us, speaking directly to us in spiritual form, asking for our involvement in this life or death struggle to return to equity, respect and balance to our relationship with the natural world.

They are messengers of truth from the earth...are you listening?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Approaching Infinity

Going about our work as people - either the top, middle or the bottom of society - there invariably comes a time when we run into self-limiting beliefs. This paradigm busting exercise usually helps; it comes from the late Sidney Coleman, as presented to his graduate physics class at Harvard:

Hold a ball in both hands and rotate it by three hundred and sixty degrees. That's not so awkward, you may say. Now hold the ball cupped in one hand, palm facing up. Your goal is to rotate the sphere while always keeping your palm facing up.

Keeping your palm facing up, rotate the ball inward towards your body. At ninety degrees - one quarter of a full rotation - the ball is comfortably tucked under your arm.

Keep on rotating in the same direction, palm facing up. At one hundred and eighty degrees - half a rotation - your arm now sticks out towards the back of your body to keep the ball cupped in your palm.

As you keep rotating to two hundred and seventy degrees - three quarters of a rotation - in order to maintain your palm facing up, your arm sticks awkwardly out to the side, ball precariously perched on top.

At this point, you may feel that it is impossible to rotate the last ninety degrees to complete one full rotation. If you try, however, you will find that you can continue rotating the ball; keeping your palm up by raising your upper arm and bending your elbow so that your forearm sticks straight forward.

The ball has now rotated by three hundred and sixty degrees - one full rotation. If you've done everything right, however, your arm should be crooked in a maximally painful and awkward position.

To relieve the pain, continue rotating by an additional ninety degrees to one and a quarter turns, palm up all the time. The ball should now be hovering over your head, and the painful tension in your shoulder should be somewhat lessened.

Finally, like a waiter presenting a tray containing the piece de resistance, continue the motion for the final three quarters of a turn, ending with the ball and your arm (wr.hat a relief) back in its original position.

If you have managed to perform these steps correctly, and without personal damage, you will find that the trajectory of the ball has traced out an infinity sign in space. You have just proven that, objects must be rotated around twice to return to their original configuration i.e. by seven hundred and twenty degrees.

Relating it back to behaviour we say things like: ”think twice before you speak” or ”once bitten, twice shy”. Actually, we have become conditioned to single cycles; without realizing that the second rotation is where the magic happens. We stop halfway when infinity is beckoning.

Although this exercise might seem no more than some fancy and painful basketball move, it’s a reminder that “second chances” complete unfinished business; and that we always have the option to give up what we know (the past) for what we can learn (the future). An idea that should console you as you ice your shoulder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Large Small Civilization

The long-term prospects of civilization here on Earth are very uncertain. Many say it is a matter of when, not if, disaster will strike. By that prediction, the only sure way for humans to survive in the long run is to spread beyond the Earth and explore the galaxy.

The problem is that our chances of doing that, before our errant ways or some sort of catastrophe wipes us out, appear to be rather bleak. The probability for a civilization to survive the existential challenges and colonize its galaxy may be small, however, it is still above zero; the so-called ‘large civilizations’ of theoretical physics.

By extension there are ‘small civilizations’ too, but these die out before they spread much beyond their native planets. For the sake of the argument, let us assume that small civilizations do not grow much larger than ours currently; and die soon after they reach their maximum size.

Then, the total number of individuals who lived in such a civilization throughout its entire history, is comparable to the number of people who ever lived on Earth; which is about 400 billion people, 60 times the present Earth population. Although, we logically accept that a large civilization contains a much greater number of individuals.

Moving on...a galaxy like ours has about 100 billion stars. We don't know what fraction of stars have planets suitable for colonization; but with a conservative estimate of 0.01%, we would still have about 10 million habitable planets in our galaxy (give or take, what’s a million here or there!).

Assuming that each planet will reach a population similar to that of the Earth, we get 4 trillion individuals. (For our purposes lets focus on human-like civilizations, disregarding the planets inhabited by little green people). Of course, the numbers can be much higher if the civilization spreads well beyond its galaxy.

The crucial question of this thought experiment is: “What is the probability for a civilization to become large?” It takes 10 million (or more) small civilizations to provide the same number of individuals as a single large civilization. Thus, individuals likely live predominantly in large civilizations.

That, then, is where we should expect to find ourselves if we are typical inhabitants of the universe. Furthermore, a typical member of a large civilization should expect to live at a time when that civilization is close to its maximum size, since that is when most of its inhabitants are going to live.

These expectations are in a glaring conflict with what we actually observe; we either live in a small civilization or at the very beginning of a large civilization. However, based on the numbers above, both of these options are very unlikely - which indicates that the original assumption is probably wrong.

If, indeed, we are typical observers in the universe; then we have to conclude that the probability for a civilization to survive long enough to become large must be very tiny. In our example, it cannot be much more than one in 10 million. This is the notorious "Doomsday Argument".

However, the Doomsday Argument is statistical in nature. It does not predict anything about our civilization in particular. All it says is that, the odds for any given civilization to grow large are very low. At the same time, it proposes that some rare civilizations do beat the odds.

What would distinguish these exceptional civilizations? Apart from pure luck, apparently, civilizations that dedicate a substantial part of their resources to space colonization i.e. start the colonization process early and do not stop; stand a better chance of long-term survival.

With many other diverse and pressing needs, this strategy may be difficult to implement; and one of the reasons why large civilizations are so rare. On top of that, there is no guarantee either. Only when the colonization is well underway, and the number of colonies grows faster than they are dying out, can one declare a victory.

But, if we ever reach this stage in colonization of our galaxy, this would truly be a turning point in the history of our civilization. One question that needs to be addressed is: “Why is our galaxy not yet colonized?” There are stars in the galaxy that are billions of years older than our Sun, therefore, it should take much less than a billion years to colonize the entire galaxy.

Which probably means we are solely responsible for a huge chunk of real estate, 80 billion light years in diameter. Our crossing the threshold to a space-colonizing civilization would then really change everything. It will make a difference between a "flicker" civilization, which blinks in and out of existence, and a civilization that transforms itself.