Monday, December 24, 2007

Keep The Ravioli In Orbit, Folks!

Eris, goddess of discord, courtesy of SilverStar
ROBERT ANTON WILSON ~ "Secret Agent of Synchronicity"* (1932-2007)

Truth be told I'm not much of a joiner (and I'm a sorry excuse for a carpenter too). However, a few months ago I was prompted to join a Facebook Group that calls itself Keep The Ravioli In Orbit - inspired, no doubt, by Robert Anton Wilson's legendary throwaway credo: "Keep The Lasagna Flying, Folks!"

Watch this highly instructive video:

Some of you may want to know just who Robert Anton Wilson is - oops, he hated the word "is" so I'll rephrase that. You may want to know what Robert Anton Wilson apparently signified (the past tense is a minor concession to the popular notion that the Great Man discarded his hydrocarbon-protein spacesuit on 11 January 2007). I dedicated a blogpost in May 2007 to RAW that offers a brief overview of his colossal contributions to Consciousness and Cosmic Humor.

What about the Facebook Group, Keep The Ravioli In Orbit - A Tribute To Robert Anton Wilson? Well, I must confess that I was mighty chuffed to receive a notice from Steven Pratt, Dish Washer of the Group, that he had anointed me Artichoke Duke and Lord of Keep The Ravioli In Orbit.

An honor such as this does not come one's way every day. And so, to commemorate this entirely random event, I've chosen to publish a selection of juicy quotes borrowed from the homepage of the Group....

"The greatest of all crimes are the wars that are carried on by governments, to plunder, enslave, and destroy mankind. The next greatest crimes committed in the world are equally prompted by avarice and ambition; and are committed, not on sudden passion, but by men of calculation, who keep their heads cool and clear, and who have no thought whatever of going to prison for them. They are committed, not so much by men who violate the laws, as by men who, either by themselves or by their instruments, make the laws; by men who have combined to usurp arbitrary power, and to maintain it by force and fraud, and whose purpose in usurping and maintaining it is by unjust and unequal legislation, to secure to themselves such advantages and monopolies as will enable them to control and extort the labor and properties of other men, and thus impoverish them, in order to minister to their own wealth and aggrandizement. The robberies and wrongs thus committed by these men, in conformity with the laws, - that is, their own laws - are as mountains to molehills, compared with the crimes committed by all other criminals, in violation of the laws." - Lysander Spooner

"The normal is that which nobody quite is."
- Arlen Riley Wilson

"And the Beast said,
By their pee shall ye judge them
And by your pee shall ye be judged
And all shall be judged by their pee
And in the snow shall their names be written"

-Stun de Xim, Book of TSOG

"Is," "is," "is" — the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don't know what anything "is"; I only know how it seems to me at this moment."
- Sigismundo Celine, The Historical Illuminatus

"A change in language can transform our apprehension of the cosmos."
- Benjamin Lee Whorf

"Animals outline their territories with their excretions, humans outline their territories by ink excretions on paper." - RAW, Prometheus Rising

"Events which appear crude or offensive in the instant may become, with a change of perspective, somewhere between droll and riotously funny."
Hannibal Lecter, M.D.

"Do not pester people at home.
Do not annoy them at work.
Leave them alone,
or they will curse you.
- Dao De Jing, 72

"What amazes me most is the piss police. Even Kafka and Orwell - who wrote the craziest, most far out satires on totalitarianism that their wild surrealist imaginations could imagine - they did not include piss police. And yet we got them and the American public just gullibly and submissively accepts it." - RAW

"I used to be an atheist, until I realized I had nothing to shout during blowjobs. 'Oh Random Chance! Oh Random Chance!' just doesn't cut it." - RAW

[Interview extracted from

The Original Slacker: Wilson was the model and inspiration for the Church of the Subgenius and its iconic figurehead J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs.


Robert Anton Wilson, the iconoclastic genius behind the famed Illuminatus! Trilogy, has a few thousand things he'd like to teach you...

*By Bill Forman

Decades before the crossover cult film What the Bleep Do We Know!? popularized the idea that the principles of quantum mechanics could be applied to the world at large, Robert Anton Wilson had laid out much the same theory in his book, Prometheus Rising. Venture further into Wilson's oeuvre and you'll find equally prescient material on longevity research; you'll likely even stumble across source materials that inspired Dan Brown to write The Da Vinci Code.

"I think I'm the most ripped-off artist of our time," says Wilson, seated in the living room of a modest Capitola apartment adorned with an array of pookahs, Buddhas and at least one Loch Ness monster. "People keep coming out with books 30 years after - books on things I wrote about - and they all become bestsellers.

"I wrote about them too early," says Wilson, raising a thin arm and shaking his finger to emphasize his point: "Don't be premature."

Lance Bauscher agrees. "This whole Da Vinci Code thing with Dan Brown, I mean, that's all Bob's material," says Bauscher, who directed a film about Wilson called Maybe Logic and also runs an academy through which Wilson's online course, "Tale of the Tribe," begins on August 14. "Dan Brown has read all of Bob's books. But Bob doesn't really compromise his storytelling - not that Dan Brown does - but it's for a general audience, and Bob just doesn't go there."

Maybe that's because Wilson can't helping throwing his audiences so many curve balls, mixing esoteric facts with wild flights of imagination - and rarely revealing which is which. From self-destructing mynah birds to world domination enterprises determined to grant immortality to Adolf Hitler, the irascible Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy (written in the 1970s with co-author Robert Shea) is a fun-house ride through every conspiracy theory under the sun - as well as a few that appear to have been hatched in some far distant solar system.

At age 73, Wilson's body and voice have both been weakened by post-polio syndrome, but his brain and his humor are as sharp as ever.

"His humor is constant and people are never sure if he's being serious," says Bauscher of Wilson's intellectual gymnastics. "I mean, the Illuminati: is it a joke or serious? And Discordianism: is it a joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a joke?"

All of which helps explain why Wilson's name doesn't frequent bestseller lists, nor is he routinely credited for the insights that are beginning to capture the public imagination decades later.

In fact, one day this past spring, after Santa Cruz moviegoers had lined up to see What the Bleep Do We Know!? in sufficient numbers to justify its three-month run, Robert Anton Wilson was lying alone, conscious but unable to move, on the floor of this one-bedroom Capitola apartment for 30 hours.

"It really didn't seem that long," says Wilson of his collapse, which ended when his daughter arrived and broke down the door. "And I remember thinking, as I'm lying there trying to move and unable to move: Hey, I may be dying now. And it didn't frighten me or bother me at all."

Wilson's subsequent trip to the hospital, the first of his adult life, was a different story altogether.

"The worst thing about hospitals," says Wilson, who was rescued when his daughter managed to break into the apartment, "is that all the rights guaranteed in the first 10 amendments are immediately canceled. You have no civil rights whatsoever. And the second thing is, all the ordinary rules no longer apply - you are no longer a person deserving of kindness, you're a disobedient child who has to be reprimanded and herded around. My God, I don't know why people put up with such treatment." Wilson, we can presume, doesn't particularly like being told what to do.

"Not by people who treat me like an idiot. Not when I'm 73 years old, I have 35 books in print, I supported a wife and four kids for most of my life. I do not appreciate being treated like a disobedient 4-year-old, the way they treat everybody in the hospital."

Of course, you don't have to go to a hospital to be treated like that, but Wilson's on a roll ...

"I was an editor of Playboy, for chrissake," he cries, as though that, if nothing else, should carry some weight in this culture. "I've had plays performed in England, Germany and the United States; my books are in print in a dozen countries. Why the hell do they treat me like a child? I refuse to tolerate it. If they won't treat me with dignity, I won't go anywhere near them, especially with all the goddamned germs they got floating around there. CNN did a report on it - the number of people who are killed by diseases picked up in hospitals is much greater than the number who are killed by cars.

"I'm never going to a hospital again. Never, never, never, never! I will lie on the floor and die before I go back to a hospital."

Some of It Has Got to Be True

The opening of the American mind, or at least the one belonging to Robert Anton Wilson, continued more-or-less unabated throughout the '50s and '60s. In 1958, he married Arlen Riley - who had worked as a scriptwriter for an Orson Welles radio show - and she went on to introduce Wilson to the work of Alan Watts. Friendship and collaborations with Timothy Leary followed, as well as experimentation with an array of drugs and mystic traditions. But it was in the decidedly secular surroundings of the Playboy editorial office, back in the late '60s, that two associate editors would hatch the idea of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, which remains Wilson's best-known work to this day.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it was much like working at any other magazine," says Wilson, who never even got to visit Hef's grotto. "I mean, you went into the office, you did your job and you went home. The difference is that all the girls were good-looking. Of course, I was happily married and not fucking all the secretaries, I'm sorry to say."

Wilson and co-conspirator Robert Shea did borrow a few ideas from letters to the editor they received at Playboy, but most of the influence on their collaboration came from the broader gestalt of an era that was obsessed with esoteric arcana and increasingly paranoid about all manner of conspiracies.

"He and I were talking one night over bloody marys and peanuts," recalls Wilson, "and he says, 'What if every conspiracy theory is true?' It began as satire, but a lot of people were really scared by it. Which makes sense, because some of it has got to be true."

Careening wildly from detective story to first-person rant, from twisted history to apocryphal speculation, the Illuminatus works continue to influence the oddest assortment of young minds. Camper Van Beethoven were outspoken fans, as were the Seattle Posies, who paid tribute to Wilson on their first album. (Wilson says Guns 'N' Roses were also fans, but it's probably unfair to hold him responsible for them,) Author Tom Robbins is a Wilson devotee, as is Bay Area author R.U. Sirius, who took his name from Wilson's book, Cosmic Triggers, and went on to found Wired magazine precursor Mondo 2000. (Sirius is also one of the instructors at the Maybe Logic online academy, as are Dice Man author Luke Rhinehart; chaos magic godfather Peter Carroll; DePaul professor Patricia Monahan, who is also Robert Shea's widow; and several others.)

Wilson has also inspired at least two religions, or send-ups thereof: Discordianism took root in the immediate wake of the trilogy, while the Church of the Subgenius enshrined Wilson - in the form of pipe-clenching icon Bob Dobbs - as its figurehead some two decades later.

While introducing him at a convention, Subgenius founder and high priest Ivor Stang called Wilson "the Carl Sagan of religion, the Jerry Falwell of quantum physics, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of feminism" and "the James Joyce of swingset assembly manuals."

As the years went on, Wilson continued to write and speak with relentless energy. After he and his wife moved up to Capitola in the early '90s, he used an early incident here as a way to explain quantum physics.

"When I moved from Los Angeles I moved into what I thought was Santa Cruz," Wilson told a European audience during footage included in Bauscher's film. "Then we had something stolen from our car and we called the police, and it turned out we didn't live in Santa Cruz, we lived in a town called Capitola. The post office thought we lived in Santa Cruz, the police thought we lived in Capitola. I started investigating this and a reporter at the local newspaper told me we didn't live in Santa Cruz or Capitola, we lived in a unincorporated area called Live Oak."

"Now quantum mechanics is just like that," Wilson continues, "except that in the case of Santa Cruz, Capitola and Live Oak, we don't get too confused because we remember we invented the lines on the map. But quantum physics seems confusing because a lot of people think we didn't invent the lines, so it seems hard to understand how a particle can be in three places at the same time and not be anywhere at all."


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

God Save Us From Religion!

A long but lucid essay by Moris Farhi

[From Free Expression Is NO OFFENCE, edited by Lisa Appignanesi. Penguin 2005]

ONE of the wisest people I have ever met was an old Turkish gypsy, a horse-groom in a circus. One night he and I chanced upon each other, together with our respective friends, at a tavern in a village by the Bosporus. As often happens in Istanbul, we joined our tables and drank through the night in an intense spirit of brotherhood. Inevitably, we argued about religion and politics, burning issues in a Muslim country that, not long ago, had risen from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, abolished the Caliphate and embraced secularism.

The old gypsy made no distinction between religion and politics. For him, humanity was divided into two groups: those who wanted to dictate to the masses and, therefore, cuddled up to despots, and those who, seeking to tend their orchards freely, bent their necks to no one. And since both politics and religion sought power over the people, they were the same Devil with two different – and interchangeable – faces, a fact amply proven by their lust for blood.

Then, at first light, we staggered down the cobbled streets to the sea to watch the dawn. The old gypsy, barely holding back his tears, pointed at the emerging sun. “There is God, our Mother, giving birth to a new day!” He knelt down and scooped up some sand. “Never forget: just this handful of earth contains the blood of thousands. All killed in the name of some Great Father! But how could a male god have created this soil? And which male God?” He sighed and let the sand trickle out of his hands. “Yet every religion says: Our God! Our King of the Universe! Our King over all gods! And to prove it, they send us to kill or get killed!” He turned to the rising sun again. “So when you next pray to God, pray that She saves us from religion!”

MUCH as I thought that the old gypsy’s conviction of a female God was inspired, it was his view of what religion meant that preoccupied me over the years. As with all nebulous concepts, it would be prudent to define it as clearly as possible. The Oxford English Dictionary offers two principal definitions:
1. Action or conduct indicating a belief in, reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this.

2. Recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship; the general mental and moral attitude resulting from this belief, with reference to its effect upon the individual or the community; personal or general acceptance of this feeling as a standard of spiritual and practical life.

At first glance these definitions induce a sense of relief; more importantly, a sense of freedom from individual conscience. Beyond this, they suggest that we have the ability to perceive the ubiquity of ‘a divine ruling power,’ and accept that it is a compassionate presence that will look after us as our birthright.

But a deeper reflection soon disturbs that sense of complacence. Some questions, simple yet as old as humankind, gnaw at our minds. Who or what is this deity? And if He is an ‘unseen’ power, how do we know He exists? (I use the gender ‘He’ because ever since patriarchal societies hijacked the affairs of mankind God has always been seen as masculine.)

View of Vatican City

For those who embrace religion, there is a simple answer to these questions – an answer that constitutes a principal precept of that religion and, therefore, must be accepted as an act of faith. Creation, wherein all the forces of Nature are integrated, the answer states, is the work, therefore the proof, of this power’s existence. And if that were not conclusive enough, it adds, further evidence has been provided by countless prophets who witnessed the divine existence through mysterious manifestations known as revelation. Whether this divinity is conceivable in images of the human male (as in Christianity’s Trinity) or inconceivable, albeit still masculine (as in Judaism and Islam), his presence is constantly felt because he is always by our side, judging us, exhorting us to restrain from sinning, but persistently forgiving us.

However, for those who cannot achieve such a leap of faith – of whom I am one – these answers are not good enough. We ‘doubters’ see the phenomenon of Creation as the evolutionary processes of cause and effect, as happenings that have incontestable – and sometimes predictable – scientific explanations. Even more analytically, we look upon revelation as the fiery visions of theopathy wherein the hyperactive imagination of the ascetic fuses with hysteria, emotional turbulence or delusion.

Moreover, for us ‘doubters’ yet another disturbing question arises. If we cannot accept the existence of a ‘divine power’ – ‘higher and unseen’ – why should we believe that this divinity has control of our destiny and is entitled to obedience, reverence and worship?

Well, many of us do not. Though it can be said that for most of us the belief in a divine power is inculcated so very early in our lives as to seem to be innate, we soon realize that the teaching that this divinity controls our destiny and that, therefore, he must be worshiped, has been imposed by the very institutions created around that divinity’s persona. Anthropological studies have shown that in many polytheistic societies the relationship between people and their deities has been, in the main, fairly accommodating, sometimes like a practical business arrangement, at other times like an essential element of a person whereby he or she can establish a mystic, respectful, even if somewhat bewildered, coexistence with the vagaries of the collective unconscious. But the moment this relationship is taken over by an intermediary – a religious institution – the personal rapport between the individual and his/her inner life becomes undermined.

The institution, claiming to base its authority either on its own ‘profound understanding of the deity’ or on the putative ‘direct’ (and therefore sacrosanct) teachings received by that deity’s luminaries, elevates itself to the status of the deity’s representative on earth. Thenceforth, it is the institution which exacts the obedience, reverence and worship not only to the deity, but also, and particularly, to the institution itself and to its functionaries. Examples of this obligation can be found in the Pauline doctrines; in the total obeisance Shiite Islam commands for the clergy it has designated as Allah’s intermediaries; and in the similar self-abnegation Orthodox Judaism expects from its adherents in the execution of its laws, many of them archaic.

When institutions and their rulers take upon themselves the control of humanity’s destiny, they soon curtail notions of free will – or worse, of evolving enlightenment. Not only can progressive developments not be accommodated, they are also anathematized as heretical. Strategies of obedience, reverence and worship, if they are to prove effective, must be structured in such a way as to touch every person within their reach, to take cognizance of their lives, aspirations and concerns. Such structures need myriad tentacles; and each tentacle needs not only to address the spatial and spiritual needs of the people, but must also be seen to be vested with the authority of its ‘higher, unseen’ power – a power which can be nothing less than omniscient and insuperable.

Homage to the Owl at Bohemian Grove

By their very nature, such structures cannot be created by any one individual. Consequently, they have to be assembled as tenets of an oligarchic institution. And such an institution endeavours to establish itself not only as superior to secular and political bodies, but also, and particularly, to other religious institutions. Even more alarmingly, it seeks to elevate itself as a body that possesses ‘the absolute truth’ and, therefore, is untarnishable by revision. To achieve this objective, it is prepared to crush any dissension mercilessly, if need be with punishments which violate its original clement doctrines. An institution, in effect, which, stretching its ostensibly devotional aims to limits that are virtually limitless, seeks to evolve as a sole and inviolable monolith.

That is precisely how every religion has endeavored to establish itself throughout history: as an omnipotent monolith. Even more irremissibly, as in the case of theocracies, they have sought to rule as the unchallengeable and unaccountable representatives of an indomitable god who is ‘seen and reachable’ only by their sacerdotal order. (In our time, Iranian exiles who have fled the ayatollahs’ rule have chilling stories about the period when dissenters and intellectuals were being systematically executed. On occasions when a particular intellectual was proven to be innocent of the charges against him, the presiding ayatollahs would often declare that if the accused were indeed innocent he would go straight to paradise and should therefore be grateful to the regime for ending his inconsequential earthly life ahead of its allocated time. History, of course, is full of similar crimes perpetrated by all religions.)

Though it is in the nature of ruthless individuals and institutions to wield power absolutely, this is not always an easy undertaking. Absolute power has always had one redoubtable adversary: humankind’s ability to reason. Moreover, humankind is also blessed with an intrinsic essence of ‘natural justice.’ (Whole tracts can be written about natural justice. Suffice to say here that the concept is universal, that in all probability we are born with an instinctive, if as yet unformulated, awareness of its truth. This awareness is essential to our development as moral individuals; and provided that indoctrination and fear of freedom have not distorted its core veracity, we carry its sense throughout our lives. (Some may dispute this contention, yet psychological studies of infants have shown that, unless impinged upon by their parents’ insecurities, infants will develop this moral sense from within.) Natural justice is, in effect, our awareness of our ‘ethical self,’ the self that struggles against the injustices of limitless power. Indeed, it is the innate basic philosophy which, seeking a temperate way of life, produced the set of rules that became the foundations for morality, and imposed itself as commandments on most religions. In many countries, this sense of justice has led to procedural practice stipulating two primary rules: (a) to hear out the accused; (b) to be judged by an unbiased body of people.)

Thus, any institution that seeks power must devise strategies to defeat reason and refute this deeply personal sense of natural justice. Moreover, power is a Moloch; it needs constant feeding. And the more it is fed, the more insatiable it becomes. Consequently, the thrust for incontrovertible power, the corruption that invariably ensues, compels that institution to use any means to consolidate its existence. Thus whilst the institution may appear to uphold a benevolent morality – or at least speak in its language – it does so conditionally. And the condition is the imposition of total compliance to the particular religion’s dogmas, hierarchies and, above all, to the God-given, therefore, immaculate, revelations it professes to possess.

In pursuit of this objective, it proceeds to promulgate strategies that, more often than not, amend or reinterpret the precepts originally inspired by natural justice. It creates doctrines that become all the more codified, all the more rigid, all the more blinkered, all the more authoritarian. As a last resort, it creates ‘irrefutable’ dogmas that subvert our sense of the ethical self. And, of course, by so doing, it soon loses its moral base.

One would be inclined to think that these strategies are subtly devious, the sort one would expect after serious deliberation. In fact, more often than not, they are quite simple: just crude doctrinaire ‘truths’ of ‘divine authority’ which exploit individuals’ insecurities and destabilize their life-long struggle in search of a personal truth. For these strategists know, from schemes established over the centuries, that people’s primordial fears over survival, confusions about the meaning of life and uncertainties about the existence of life after death, offer them the perfect vulnerable underbelly.

And thus they manipulate our cravings for the final resolution of these deeply personal conflicts as a vehicle to sustain their rule. Their guiding principles to secure eternal survival for our souls are invariably licences to intensify the codification of life and guarantee continuous and incontestable governance. Hence damnation becomes the weapon which threatens the dissident, with salvation and paradise the respite from the struggle for a personal life. Unquestioning submission is established as the ultimate resolution for the sense of a life that feels personal.

Consequently most religions – certainly the three monotheisms – teach us that our lives are of relative unimportance, that they are simply a test of merit for eternal salvation that will come with the Last Judgement. In effect they instruct us to worship death instead of life. The doctrine of an eternally exultant existence after death to which only the righteous will be entitled has poisoned our earthly life and promoted suffering as a fundamental goal, as the justification for being. Its most extreme policies have even condoned the extermination of so-called pagans and unbelievers so that in death they would attain salvation because their souls would be automatically purified. The Spanish Inquisition and the genocide of Amerindians in South America at the time of the Spanish Conquest are horrendous examples of such principles.

Today, there is a fast-growing faction among the Christian fundamentalists of the USA obsessed with impending salvation. These believers keep an eager eye on what they call ‘The Rapture Index.’ As reported by Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle of 23 February 2005 and accessible via the internet, this index ‘based on 45 prophetic categories, things (sic) like drought, plague, floods, liberalism, beast government and mark of the beast’ heralds the return of the Son of God and the advent of the Last of Days –‘The Rapture’ – when the Index will exceed 145. At this time – all true believers, meaning all those worthy of ‘The Rapture,’ will be transported to heaven. They will sit by the right-hand side of God whilst the rest of humanity – Antichrists, every one of them – will be ‘left behind,’ condemned to hell for eternity.

The concept of ‘Those Left Behind’ is one that all dogmatists have exploited throughout history in many tongues. It is a concept which leaves no room for mercy. It affirms endless bliss for the believer and eternal damnation for the rest.

The Ka'aba in Mecca

Like all institutions, religions are in competition with each other. Their survival depends on the number – and power – of believers who embrace their doctrines. The larger their flock, the more assured they can be of maintaining authority by defeating the not inconsiderable challenge of rational thought. Consequently, proselytizing is one of their principal objectives. To this effect, they have developed yet another potent principle: exclusivity. Thus those who join them are ‘guaranteed to be saved,’ those who do not join them will be ‘left behind’ and damned. The exception to seeking converts actively is Judaism; the adherents to that religion are ‘saved’ by the notion that they are the ‘Chosen People.’ Even if some of us would question what this ‘favor’ sanctions and what it has secured for the Jews, the belief is equally elitist. And since elitism is exclusivity by another name, Judaism offers a similar syndrome.

Exclusivity has two salient weapons: contempt and hatred.

As proof that their religion has been handed down to them by a supreme divinity – and by so doing refuting the humanist argument that all religions have evolved from our primal fears – religious institutions besmirch each other’s dogmas as fantasy, delusion and falsehood. They strive to establish themselves as the purveyors of ‘the true religion,’ the possessors of ‘the ultimate truth,’ the visionaries who have recognized ‘the real God’ and have come to know Him as the legitimate ‘King of the Universe.’ Such contempt, pronounced as conclusive, holds great sway. It rids individuals of uncertainty and assuages their existential fears; it destabilizes reason even as reason struggles to discern a sense of personal truthfulness.

Should contempt fail, there is an even more toxic weapon: persistent hatred – hatred that is directed at other religions, nations, races, factions, identities; even hatred for the sexually different; hatred that transgresses one of the most important commandments in the Scriptures: “love the stranger in thy midst” (strikingly, a commandment that failed to be listed among the ten that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai). This hatred is rooted in the most paranoid portions of our sacred texts – and not least in the minds of their exegetes. This hatred dehumanizes brothers and neighbors and and creates the non-persons, the ‘others,’ making them the culprit for all our grievances, past and present.

Permit me to refer to a talk I gave some years back in relation to the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie (pictured left with his wife Padma Lakshmi) by one of those ‘good men of God,’ Ayatollah Khomeini. In it I referred to an unpublished article by the psychoanalyst Christopher Hering entitled ‘The Problem of the Alien.’ This paper – analyzing the science-fiction film Alien and its sequels – discoursed on a condition which Hering defined as ‘emotional fascism.’ Proposing that if a force can be mythified as life-threatening or, worse, as an arch-enemy that threatens all humanity, he postulated that psychotic fiction can masquerade as objective truth. Thereafter, he maintained, the most destructive impulses – impulses we would abhor at any other time – would be tolerated, even nurtured as a means of salvation. By the same token, all feelings of compassion, concern, doubt, proscription would be discarded. Thereafter the idea of annihilation would receive the sanction to develop into a justifiable objective, indeed, into a moral imperative.

Psychotic fiction as objective truth is precisely what religious institutions – and by their example, unscrupulous politicians – have often utilized. They have created a continuous narrative wherein other peoples and races are depicted as empty of soul, with no capacity for thought and with only one vision: the compulsion to destroy ‘our values and way of life.’ These people, therefore, they argue, must be subjugated – even exterminated – so that not only the followers of the particular religion, but also the very soul of humanity itself may be saved.

UNDOUBTEDLY my blanket condemnation of religious institutions will provoke strong protests. Many reading this thesis will argue that there have been numerous movements in every religion that have not only endeavored to generate reforms, but also sought coexistence with other faiths. (For example: Pope John XXIII’s convocation of the Second Vatican Council, the present-day US-Jewish organization Tikkun – meaning ‘to heal’ – which preaches, under Rabbi Lerner, a Universal Spirituality. And, of course, the Sufi teachings for total union with Allah that have defied Islamic fundamentalism for centuries.) Just as importantly, every religion has produced countless remarkable men and women who have toiled unselfishly – sometimes at the cost of their lives – to better the human condition.

Anatomy of a synagogue

I do not dispute these facts. There have indeed been people of religion who have put humanistic values above blind acceptance of dogma. But these people’s eventual fates strengthen my argument, because, tragically, sooner or later, these good people and their reformist movements become marginalized by the conservative core of their establishment’s oligarchic rulers. This core comprises individuals who, to use the old adage of the Soviet Politburo, have ‘substantial tails’ – subordinates in important or influential positions who either through ideological conviction or for personal gain have vowed allegiance to their patron. Though these ‘tails’ are neither homogeneous, nor, having their own internecine conflicts, stable, they nevertheless, in the main, subjugate their ambitions to preserve the status quo in order to ensure their own survival. Indeed, such is the power entrenched in these oligarchic structures that dissidents and innovators are either eventually compromised or find themselves forced to operate as singular voices with virtually no support. (Pope John XXIII’s reforms have drained away like flash floods in a desert through the conservatism of his successors, including Pope John Paul II. No matter how valiant Tikkun’s efforts are, its campaigns stand solitarily outside mainstream theologies. And fundamentalist Islam brutally persecutes the Sufi teachings of peaceful spirituality.)

Moreover, as entrants to religious institutions attempt movement and change with more radical aspirations, they are almost always neutralized by what the political philosopher Robert Michels long ago termed ‘the iron law of oligarchy,’ the state of mind whereby an organization becomes controlled by a small group who use it to further their own interests rather than the interests of the organization’s members. Thus reformists, drawn at first into the institution’s hierarchy as necessary innovators, are gradually rendered ineffective in the institution’s bureaucratic quagmires. By the time they realize that their vitality has been utilized to strengthen the oligarchy’s power and exclusivity, they have either lost their original élan or their credibility; thereafter, they either disappear quietly into oblivion or become what was once detestable to them, conformist strands of the establishment.

As for the heroes of religions – the martyrs and saints elevated to reverence – they are perhaps the most exploited by religious institutions. Much as they are depicted as paragons of righteousness, they are used as armies utilize soldiers – expendable as long as their sacrifices keep their institutions in power. Moreover, the adulation bestowed on them has one principal objective: to endow the institution with fresh blood, to provide, by the example of their heroic sacrifices, the inspiration for martyrs that will be needed in the future. (Examples abound: the slain lay priests of the Liberation Theology Movement in Latin America, calumnied by their own churches during their lifetime, are now seen as Christ-like; the suicide bombers of Islam and Israel’s ultra-Orthodox settlers in the West Bank are glorified as august defenders of their respective splintered faiths.)

YET, the question remains: if we turn our backs on religion, where else would we find the anchor so needed by the human spirit?

Well, it is, of course, imperative that we have secular states that will kowtow to no religion. I say this knowing only too well that even secular states are prey to ‘the iron law of oligarchy.’ But at least secular states provide the individual with the freedom to reclaim his or her relationship with God as a deeply personal communion that has evolved from the ethical self.

If I may, I will go beyond that imperative and offer a wistful thought.

I am an ardent believer in the sexuality that binds together body and spirit. And as my last statement of this thesis, I must highlight the profound antagonism towards sexual desire, and most particularly towards women, promoted by almost every religion.

Women are the other ‘other’ of religions. They are excluded by the three monotheisms from virtually all human affairs. Among some factions they are considered unclean and untouchable, save for the purposes of procreation – their only ‘use’ – undeserving of a place in the human family. The exceptions, exemplified by Lady Macbeth’s desperation, are the ‘unsexed’ women who have become like men – such as the mythic Amazons who cut off their breasts in order to wield bow and arrow. This is, of course, the ultimate exclusivity for patriarchal society’s vision of unalterable dominant norms.

Hence, my wistful prayer.

It is time, as my old gypsy friend in Istanbul declared, to feel God as a feminine force in us all. It is time to free ourselves from the poisoned teachings of patriarchal religions. It is time to seek a society where both the feminine and the masculine are represented as co-creators. It is time to worship life instead of death and go searching, as Fernando Pessoa writes in The Book of Disquietude, “beyond God to surprise the Master’s secret and the profound Good.” That ‘secret and profound Good’ can only be our femininity, chained and incarcerated.

Moris Farhi © 2005

Thursday, December 13, 2007


McBeach Party in China.

What happens when businessmen and politicians opt for Quantity over Quality.


The next few days are going to be busy for me so this a stopgap blogpost. I know there's a lot of idiocy running amok in this country - indeed, all over the planet but what else is new? Right now I won't add to the confusion and heat by shooting my mouth off in anger at the primitive way the Barisan Nazional is reacting to severe criticisms of its abysmal track record (remember, baboons calling each other monkeys is what primate politics is all about).

Friends in the know tell me they detect the evil influence of a fella named Kuranga Jaruddin (better known as KJ) in the recent jackboot antics of the "Polis Raja Di Malaysia" (to quote a wag) - and I wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be the truth, after watching him in action during an Al Jazeera panel discussion. I saw in his eyes the same sort of demented ambition and megalomania that must have driven a young Austrian artist wannabe to a diabolical destiny as Der Führer.

Stay cool, folks. These are times of dramatic and radical transformations. Nobody knows for sure how the changes will take place and what form they will take. All that we can be sure of is that it will look nothing like Business-As-Usual - and we have few antecedents by which to measure the effects and impacts of the Quantum Jump in consciousness. This much, we know:


Saturday, December 8, 2007


To better understand why events such as September 11, 2001 are allowed to happen, one can look all the way back to December 1941. On the evening of December 5, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president of the United States, received a message intercepted by the U.S. Navy. Sent from Tokyo to the Japanese embassy in Washington, the message was encrypted in the top-level Japanese "purple code." But that was no problem. The Americans had cracked the code long before that. It was imperative that the president see the message right away because it revealed that the Japanese, under the heavy pressure of Western economic sanctions, were terminating relations with the United States. Roosevelt read the thirteen-part transmission, looked up and announced, "This means war." He then did a very strange thing for a president in his situation: NOTHING.

On December 6, 1941, at a Cabinet meeting, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox said, "Well, you know Mr. President, we know where the Japanese fleet is." "Yes, I know" said FDR. " I think we ought to tell everybody just how ticklish this situation is. We have information... Well, you tell them what it is, Frank", said FDR. Knox became very excited and said, "Well, we have very secret information that the Japanese fleet is out at sea. Our information is..." and then a scowling FDR cut him off.

The very next day, Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The Japanese declaration of war never reached the people who needed to hear it the most, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the unit's commanding general, Walter Short. Pearl Harbor, it was common military knowledge, was where the Japanese would strike. If they struck. At dawn the next morning a Japanese squadron bombed Pearl Harbor and the surprise attack was just that, a complete surprise to Kimmel and Short and the 2,575 American servicemen who died. It was not a surprise to FDR, Generals George C. Marshall, Leonard T. Gerow, Admirals Harold R. Stark and Richmond Kelly Turner. They were the military's top brass in Washington and the only officers authorized to forward such sensitive intelligence to outlying commanders. But the decoded war declaration did not reach Kimmel and Short until after the attack was well underway off in the Pacific.

Internal army and navy inquiries in 1944 held Stark and Marshall derelict of duty for keeping the Hawaiian commanders in the dark. But the military buried those findings. As far as the public knew, the final truth was uncovered by the Roberts Commission, headed by Justice Owen Roberts of the Supreme Court, and convened eleven days after the attack. Like the Warren commission headed by a Supreme Court justice on a different topic more than twenty years later, the Roberts Commission appeared to have identified its culprits in advance and gerrymandered its inquiries to make the suspects appear guilty. The scapegoats were Kimmel and Short, who were both publicly crucified, forced to retire, and denied the open hearings they desired. One of the Roberts Commission panelists, Admiral William Standley, would call Roberts's performance "crooked as a snake."

There were eight investigations of Pearl Harbor altogether. The most spectacular was a joint House-Senate probe that reiterated the Roberts Commission findings. At those hearings, Marshall and Stark testified, incredibly, that they could not remember where they were the night the war declaration came in. But a close friend of Frank Knox, the secretary of the Navy, later revealed that Knox, Stark, and Marshall spent most of that night in the White House with Roosevelt, awaiting the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the chance for America to join World War II.


A widespread cover-up ensued. A few days after Pearl Harbor, reports historian John Toland, Marshall told his top officers, "Gentlemen, this goes to the grave with us." General Short once considered Marshall his friend, only to learn that the chief of staff was the agent of his frame-up. Short once remarked that he pitied his former pal because Marshall was the only general who wouldn't be able to write an autobiography. There were multiple warnings of the Pearl Harbor attack concealed from the commanders at Pearl Harbor. The Winds Code was perhaps the most shocking. That was an earlier transmission, in a fake weather report broadcast on a Japanese short-wave station. It was "east wind, rain." The Americans already knew that this was the Japanese code for war with the United States. The response of top U.S. military officials? To deny that the "winds" message existed and to attempt to destroy all records of its reception. But it did exist. And it was received.

Completely apart from the cloak and dagger of cryptography, the Australian intelligence service, three days before the attack, spotted the Japanese fleet of aircraft carriers heading for Hawaii. A warning went to Washington where the spin by Roosevelt was that it was a politically motivated rumor circulated by Republicans. A British double agent, Dusko Popov, who siphoned information from Germany, learned of the Japanese intentions and desperately tried to warn Washington, to no avail. And there were others.

Why would Roosevelt and the nation's top military commanders sacrifice the U.S. Pacific Fleet, not to mention thousands of servicemen - an act of treason? They had concluded long before Pearl Harbor that they wanted a war against the Axis powers. The attack at Pearl Harbor would surely trick the American public into accepting a war they would have otherwise rejected. Roosevelt believed that provoking Japan into an attack on Hawaii was the only way that he could overcome the powerful America First non interventionist movement led by aviation hero Charles Lindbergh. These anti-war views were shared by 80 percent of the American public from 1940 to 1941.

A small group of men, revered and held to be most honorable by millions, had convinced themselves that it was necessary to act dishonorably, commit treason, allow thousands of American's to be killed, and incite a war that Japan had tried to avoid.

Why did Roosevelt want to enter into World War II? Was it to defeat the tyranny of Hitler? Stalin, who was our partner during the war, was more vicious, sadistic, and tyrannical than Hitler. Was it to stop the aggression of the Japanese? Before the war, this country did everything it could to give Japan no choice and to goad them into waging war.

Besides the fact that the trillion-dollar International War Machine NEEDS events like Pearl Harbor, AND September 11, 2001, to stay in business, and justify its existence, you must realize that Roosevelt was a 33rd degree Mason. That is the highest level one can attain in the Masonic order. One of objectives of the Luciferic Masonic Order is to establish a One World government, with the hidden elite in charge.

After World War I these people tried, and failed, to start a One World government organization, The League of Nations. Realizing they would need another world war to finally create such an organization, they manipulated world events, created World War II, and created the United Nations, another tool for the final phase of One World government, with these hidden elite pulling the strings.

Roosevelt was just one in a long line of American leaders who have been 33rd degree Masons, from many of our founding fathers, to more recent examples, such as George Bush, Bob Dole, Jessie Jackson, and many more. The Great Seal of the United States includes the classic Brotherhood (Prison Warden) symbols which go back to ancient Egypt and beyond, including the pyramid and All-Seeing Eye. Above and below this symbol are two Latin phrases, Annuit Coeptis and Novus Ordo Seclorum. These translate as: "Announcing the birth of A New Order of Ages." In other words, announcing the creation of the New World Order. Today, this part of the seal can be found on every US one dollar bill, and of course, this is appropriate, given that the Hidden Elite controls the American AND world economy.

The decision to put the satanic Pyramid/New World Order symbol on the dollar was made by the 33rd degree Freemason, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1935, with the full support and encouragement of his vice president, Henry Wallace, another 33rd degree Mason. Even the Statue of Liberty was given to American Freemasons by the French Grand Orient (Illuminati) Masonic Order. Recently released government documents concerning the “surprise” Pearl Harbor raid compel us to accept the fact of FDR and American top government foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack.

On October 30, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act. Amidst its omnibus provisions, the Act reversed the findings of the eight previous Pearl Harbor investigations and found that both Kimmel and Short were denied crucial military intelligence that tracked the Japanese forces toward Hawaii, intelligence that was obtained by the Roosevelt Administration in the weeks before the attack. Neither ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or Fox News carried a word. This all reveals the lengths that the American government, and their mouthpieces in corporate media, will go to deceive the American public, and to keep vital information from the people. That's against everything America was supposed to stand for.

It is through mass media mind control, ignorance and deception, that we allow these incomprehensibly greedy, satanic and corrupt people and organizations to continue to start unnecesary wars, control our lives, and manipulate the world's destiny.

Article courtesy of North Star Zone
Pearl Harbor photographs courtesy of Mike Buck Studios

Friday, November 30, 2007

What Rhymes With Aphrodisiac? An Interview with Rob Brezsny

[Found this brilliant interview with ROB BREZSNY - multidimensional genius without portfolio - conducted by Sarah Phelan for Metro Santa Cruz in August 2005. I just have to blog it, if only because Brezsny comes pretty close to saying it all for me, and probably a lot more elegantly too!]


In which we bury a symbol of paranoia in an effort to break on through to the other side with astrologer Rob Brezsny

By Sarah Phelan
Photographs by Dina Scoppettone

It began with an email from Rob Brezsny, that renegade genius whose syndicated Free Will Astrology column runs in 130 newspapers nationwide, including Metro Santa Cruz. Only this time Brezsny, who lived in Santa Cruz for 14 years and has since moved to Marin, wasn't writing horoscopes, but pushing his newest book, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (North Atlantic Books; $19 paper).

"Reading it is interesting and helpful, too, but a lot of good stuff can happen if you just let its edgy benevolence seep into your dreaming mind," wrote Brezsny, who urged me to sleep with a copy of Pronoia under my pillow for at least three nights.

At 296 pages thick, the copy of Pronoia that happened to be sitting on my desk didn't strike me as a dream pillow—even in softcover. But Brezsny's email did get me leafing through his weighty tome, whose cover (a flaming heart at the center of a labyrinth) and optimistic subtitle (How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings) had already piqued my curiosity. And once inside its pages, I was unable to resist the "dear gorgeous genius" love letter, or the "luminous tease page," which in typical Brezsny fashion exhorted me to "rebel against your horoscope," and "sip the tears of someone you love." And then there were Brezsny's miribilia reports, which reportedly come "live from your repressed memory of paradise," and include freeing gems, like the uplifting news that "black sheep have a better sense of smell than white sheep."

Promising to place my copy under my pillow (beauty sleep be damned), I emailed Brezsny my request for a face-to-face interview—something he deemed "so 20th-century, but fun, too."

He ended up suggesting that we meet at the Evergreen Cemetery in Harvey West Park to carry out a ritual burial of my share of paranoia, cynicism and snark.

"Not that you have any more than the rest of us; we all need to bury our load of psychic garbage," wrote Brezsny, adding that if I wanted to bury my paranoia then I should bring a symbol of it.

And so it was that after deliberating on paranoid symbolism for the next two weeks, I found myself standing beside the white picket fence that delineates Evergreen Cemetery, a picture postcard of George W. Bush in my hands. Brezsny says he chose this graveyard for our meeting because of many fond associations he has with the place, including meeting the love of his life, Ro Loughran, who he first spied "flailing like a whirling dervish on top of a sepulcher during a performance art event called "A Happy Birthday for Death."

Oddly enough, my first impression of the historic site, which contains the tombstones of some of Santa Cruz's earliest movers and shakers, was of a lover's quarrel, thanks to the pasty-faced goth couple with matching jet-black hair, who standing beneath the cemetery's metal archway were hurling poisonous insults at each other, as I approached.

Not wishing to invade their space and with Brezsny nowhere in sight, I wandered between the cemetery's white entrance pillars and up the redbrick path that meanders into the hills that flank Harvey West Park. Halfway along the path, I encountered a woman whose body was silhouetted by a blinding sheet of white light. Temporarily disoriented, I was just beginning to wondering if this lady—and the goth couple for that matter—were ghosts, when the apparition stepped out of the sunlight and into the shade, revealing herself to be Metro Santa Cruz photographer Dina Scoppettone, who told me that she had just found an old headstone inscribed with the name "Sarah"—a site she thought might be perfect for my paranoia burial ritual.

Just then an exuberant gaggle of school kids caught our attention as they entered the cemetery screaming happily and followed by a man with windswept silver hair, who was wearing a white lab coat over black clothes and carrying a clipboard and pen. As the sun glinted off the man's Harry Potteresque spectacles, I recognized him as Rob Brezsny, "the master of rowdy bliss" as he calls himself in Pronoia, who was here to help me bury my postcard of Bush "without hate." And so we spent the next hour, sitting on the some cold stone steps that led to a nearby grave and talking, as solitary yellow leaves drifted down from the tree canopy and onto the trails, where wind swept them along in dry rattling rustles.

METRO SANTA CRUZ: What can we do about paranoia in light of the fact that Rove is still roving and Bush just got, er 're-elected'?

BREZSNY: The worst thing is to let any of our responses to Bush make us like him, like the fundamentalist virus, which makes us believe the way we see things is correct.

Confess your fundamentalist virus.

My daughter is always busting me when I'm prejudiced against rich people. The mark of a fundamentalist take on things is that it's totally serious, literal and personal. Those are the three death grips.

How long have you been assuming your lab coat identity?

About six years, part time. I like some of the ways that scientists look at the world, how they shed their personal biases, how they don't jump on a little bit of data and make up stories, but just deal with what's there. One of my hypotheses is that the world is conspiring to give us exactly what we need, not from my ego's, but from my soul's, point of view. I put on the lab coat to inspire me, mostly. To remind myself that I'm a scientist, a researcher, not a know-it-all. I like to say I'm looking for the answers so I can destroy them and think up better questions.

Grave New World: Both Rob Brezsny and George W. Bush share the same astrological signs — Cancer with Libra moon — yet only Brezsny adheres to the ancient Spider-Man koan: 'With great power comes great responsibility.'

Do you think that people sitting there, saying, 'Bush is our greatest teacher,' even as bombs keep killing people in Iraq, can lead to dangerous apathy?

I think the answer is to try to live in both of those realms and maintain a dual perspective. Yes, everything is going exactly as planned, but from the perspective that we as small egos can't see, it will work out in a way that may be immediately difficult and painful, but will be good for all. So you can sit there, but also be prepared to fight fiercely for beauty and justice and harmony, to be absolutely devoted to kicking ass in the most tender way possible. Being a pronoiac doesn't make you passive. There's a lot of fierceness in my particular approach to creating goodness and truth and beauty.

I notice you say 'pronoiac' and not 'pronoid.'

Pronoiac rhymes with aphrodisiac. Pronoid rhymes with paranoid.

By rhyming with aphrodisiac, pronoiac emphasizes a love of life?

Yeah, this pronoia is celebration. It's not a passive optimism. It's not an "ignore the darkness" kind of optimism. This is not a shopping-mall-in-Indianapolis kind of pronoia. This is not a gated-community kind of pronoia. It's a let-the-chaos-in kind of pronoia, because the Goddess is bringing us chaos over and over again. That's how she creates. So, pronoia's got to thrive on chaos. It can't be afraid of it.

A woman with a heavy Spanish accent called our paper a few months ago from Watsonville, and said, 'Rob Brezsny, he hates Aries.' She claimed your column always bashes Aries. Do you have a secret hatred of Aries?

(Laughs rowdily.) No, I love all the signs equally, but as you can imagine, I'm a huge projection screen for people. In general, that's probably pretty good. They can project onto me their inner teacher. They can imagine that I'm somehow the source of this information, when it's actually coming from them, because it's all in how you interpret my work. I think when I'm working at my best, I'm standing in for each person's inner teacher. Since lots of people don't know they have such a thing, I can provide a service, I can materialize it in the outer world.

Your work, then, is all in the interpretation?

I try to keep my intentions extremely clean and pure and loving, because I think that's the only thing that's going to work to ensure that people take what I say and use it in the best way. It's so important that your intentions don't get subverted, or appropriated by the ego or your desire to be loved or please other people. Not that those are terrible motivations, but to do what I do best, I have to give without any strings attached, with the smartest love I can summon.

What made you leave Santa Cruz?

My wife was going to grad school in San Francisco. I also had that sense that as long as I lived in Santa Cruz, that because I resonated so deeply with the starving artist archetype, I would remain a starving artist. I don't think everyone who lives here does that, to the contrary, but I felt I'd remain insular, if I stayed. And within a couple of years of leaving, my column took off and got syndicated, and I made a lot more money.

Do you pray for clarity?

I do. Most of my prayers start with gratitude, asking Goddess what I can do for her, rather than what she can do for me

Is Pronoia a character in Greek mythology?

In Greek mythology, Pronoia was the consort of Prometheus, the divine rebel who stole fire from the gods and brought it to humanity. Pronoia is an ancient word that's been used in different contexts, but used to mean providence, or the abundance of spiritual gifts.

Do you see Pronoia as a female figure, or as a belief system?

I like to say it's a mode of perception and try to take out of realm of belief. I do like to see it as a muse, though, as a somewhat elusive but generous muse, which for me, because I'm a heterosexual man, tends to take a female form, and a muse that bestows an abundance and surprise and clues to me as a researcher. ... It's critical that what we call the archetype of the Divine Feminine returns in full force before we kill the world — or kill the world as it's inhabitable for us.

In 'Pronoia,' you call yourself Global Village Idiot and Fool Czar?

Right, although the president hasn't responded to my request to be appointed Fool Czar.

So, as Fool Czar, how would you exhibit compassion toward George?

I'd love to kiss his ass. I even offered to kiss Rove's butt without his underpants on, but I haven't had any response. And I'd love to talk about the fact that George W. Bush and I share astrological signs. We're both Cancer with Libra moon. I'd like to talk about ways we're similar.

What are those ways?

We're both good at touching into the collective imagination. However, in my opinion, he manipulates that for the powers of greed, of elitism, of militarism and materialism, whereas I'm trying to, I suppose, manipulate it in the name of beauty and truth and the elimination of hierarchy, of pure democracy and feminism. I'd like him to consider creating some new holidays. One of them would of course be the Bliss Blast.

As part of one of the exercises in your book called 'Rank Your Favorite Doomsday Scenario,' I went on the Internet, typed in 'paranoia' and got tons of hits. Waco. Men in black. The Bay of Pigs. The Bermuda Triangle. Chemtrails. Black helicopters. UFOs. Tinfoil Hats. The missing WMDs and 9/11. Bin Laden. Seems like it's a pretty good time in the history of world to be paranoid.

A pretty interesting time.

So, you're swimming against the stream with your pronoia?

I'm not gonna claim that the news is 95 percent good, but I would like to work on the hypothesis that maybe it's fifty-fifty. I think that the absurd domination of bad news is curious and suspicious. It seems to suggest that those who identify themselves as educated and elite communicators in our society believe the opposite of what the poet John Keats said, which is, 'If something is not beautiful, it is probably not true.

The media and a lot of politicians seem to say the exact opposite, which is, if something is not ugly, it is not true. And that's a cockeyed view of world. I'm not advocating that we ignore the darkness and pretend, for instance, that we're not living through a mass extinction event. For example, biologists say we're living through the greatest extinction of species in 65 million years. However, in my opinion we're in the midst of tremendous abundance as well — tremendous beauty and joy and pleasure. The apocalypse is not happening sometime in the future, it's already under way. It's a slow motion apocalypse and it's both apocalypse in the current sense of word, which is a collapse, a degeneration of things falling apart, but also in the ancient sense, which is an awakening. So, right alongside all this collapse and degeneration is awakening and birth and fountains of incredible creativity and reinvention. To be honest, as educated intellectual people, we need to report on the other side.

Tell me about the homeopathic medicine spells in your book. Do you put the bad, negative stuff inside them?

Yes, you recognize the negative. You put it in its place and surround it with blessings, with a spell of protection, so it won't reach out and grab some part of our subconscious mind and say, "This is true. You are like this." So, in a sense, these spells protect us against our temptation to resonate with ugliness, evil and ungenerous anger. Jung talked about the shadow, that part of ourselves that is wounded, sick, that never grew up right. So, we have to have a relationship with our shadows. If we try to deny or ignore their existence, they will bite us in the ass, subvert our good intentions, undermine what we're trying to do. We need to make sure that before we go out and ask the world to change, that we're in very close contact with the ugliness in ourselves and that we're working to redeem that and transform it.

We take a break, during which Brezsny retrieves a long-handled shovel from his car for our burial event. But as he poses beneath the cemetery's metal archway, and I dig a hole safely away from the graves, including the "Sarah" headstone — a police car turns onto Evergreen Road and slows to a crawl, its uniformed occupants eyeing our merry trio with detached curiosity.

Immediately, my paranoia, which I have not yet buried, springs back to life, taunting me with questions, such as, 'Is it illegal to bury a photo of the U.S. president, especially if you're an immigrant on a green card?' Not knowing what else to do with the evidence, I jam it into my pants, with the unintended consequence that Bush's photo ends up kissing my ass. (Hey, maybe the exercise is already working!) And the minute the cop car passes by, I hastily dig a shallow grave, lay Dubya's picture in it with as much kindness as I can summon and cover it up with soil, moments before the cop car cruises by again and Brezsny and I resume our interview.

In 'Don't Think of an Elephant,' George Lakoff warns against framing the debate in the opposition's language. Are you dancing around on the philosophical side of that equation, with your vision of pronoia?

In the Jewish magazine Tikkun, almost immediately after the November election, Rabbi Michael Lerner began talking about how the left can't keep ceding spirituality to the right. We have to add a spiritual aspect to our perspective. That's why a lot of people just gravitate de facto to the right, because at least they recognize or include the element of spirituality. But there are people on the left who represent the spiritual side of left. We do have a moral vision, a very powerful vision about what's good for most people.

As the aftermath of 9/11 showed us, clearly our fears can be manipulated. Is there also a button for happiness?

Right now we as a society are addicted to fear. We need an intervention, to talk in 12-step language. We're so accustomed to being motivated and moved and fascinated by fear that we've lost the capacity to even imagine that pleasure and joy and regeneration and integrity can be interesting. I think it takes a retraining, on a personal level... The first step is to have the intention to be happy. Who'd have thought of that?

What do you believe in?

My personal belief is that there are many other dimensions besides this particular one and that there are beings that are not physically manifest: some are stupid, some smart, good, some bad, some in between, just like in the material realm, but I believe the caricature of angels, kind of a New Age parody, if we look back at John Milton and William Blake, who consorted with angels and many great literary and intellectual minds who took angels very seriously, seriously, not just as a metaphor, not as some empty hope, but as literal entities. I believe in angels, angels who are working full-time to create beauty and truth and love in the world. Unfortunately, they want and need us to identify and ask for what we need, and most people don't do that.

Why do people need to ask?

Because this is a collaboration, not a fascist regime. Contrary to what fundamentalist Christians would say, this is a collaborative effort. The whole point in free will is to participate in a collaborative effort, not leave it to some all-knowing spiritual forces. In a greater sense, I believe in God or Goddess, a single divine intelligence that animates the universe and is simultaneously aware of 500 million galaxies and their function and the six kittens that were recently born to you. From the ego side, that sounds impossible, but I don't think a belief in angels and divine intelligence is required. Some of the greatest spiritual workers on the planet are atheists, but they are supremely ethical, their spiritual work having firmly to do with improving conditions on earth.

In 'Pronoia,' you write, 'I'm allergic to dogma. I thrive on riddles. Any idea I believe, I reserve the right to disbelieve as well.' So, after 'Pronoia' has been out for a while, you're not going to tell us you don't believe in it anymore, are you?

My policy is to believe in the things that inspire me about 75 to 80 percent. I say that about astrology, too. I would never think of saying that I believe in astrology 100 percent, or in feminism or in the perspective of psychology, or leftist politics. All those things, when you identify yourself so entirely with them, that there's no "you" outside of those ideologies, then I think you lost, you're upset, you're possessed by ideas. That's always dangerous, even if the ideas are great ideas. So, I think it's important to maintain skepticism about pronoia. Some people have written to me in a critical way that I expected. Most people resonate pretty well with the philosophy of pronoia, but some say, "You are deluded, you are helping to spread stupidity and laziness." I can understand the fear that if we work at seeing things optimistically, we might lose sight of everything that's wrong with the world. I don't think I'll do that, but that's a valid fear, so in that sense, I'm skeptical of pronoia and I'm not going to promote pronoia as a cure all.

What about the flaming heart in the labyrinth on the cover of 'Pronoia'?

It's the heart on fire, the heart inflamed with the desire to bring beauty and truth and love and justice and harmony to the whole world. Pronoia is not a passive thing. It's fierce, it's filled with strong intention to bring that message that life is much better than it's being portrayed right now, that there's a lot we can do to emphasize what works, and we have to do that aggressively.

William James, the philosopher, talked about how we need a moral equivalent of war. What I take that to mean is that we all have this martial force within us. It's an inherent part of every human being. Unfortunately, it's usually expressed as war and conflict and anger, but there are other ways to express that martial force. As aggressiveness expressed in the name of feminine values. That's my particular angle. That's why I call myself a macho feminist. I want to bring the message of relationship, of intimacy, of love, of caring for other human beings with the same force that a macho dude might use in his struggles to take over the oil fields in the Middle East. This has macho force behind it, but it's done in the name of joy, peace and harmony. That's what that image says to me.

What was your motive for writing 'Pronoia'?

When Henri Matisse started his work, critics said he threatened to undermine civilization, that's the power artists had in some eras of history. It's hard to imagine anyone saying that about a painter or an artist today. It's been demonstrated that art has the power to remake the world, whether to subvert existing values and/or create new ones. I'd like to return to the Henri Matisse kind of place.

So ended our interview, and shortly thereafter, strange stuff started happening. No, the Bush regime did not immediately crumble to dust under the weight of its lies, like vampires in full daylight. Instead, things I thought I'd been paranoid about for years in my personal life turned out to be my angels whispering in my ear all along. And when I confronted the truth it turned out to be more beautiful than the ugliness of living in a lie. So, be advised: burying your paranoia may change your life, not necessarily in the way you were expecting, but in a way that will free you to see the truth and beauty in your own life—perhaps even with humor. As for the bigger picture, I'll leave you with a vision that Brezsny describes in Pronoia's "I Have a Dream" section:

"I'm the president now ... and so are you. I am the supreme Commander of the United Snakes of the Blooming Haha ... and so are you. And what we proclaim is that in the New World, we will love our neighbors as ourselves, even if our neighbors are jerks. We will search for the divine spark even in the people we most despise, and we will never dehumanize anyone, even those who dehumanize us. I have a dream that sooner or later, every one of us will become a well-rounded highly skilled, incredibly rich master of rowdy bliss—with lots of leisure time and an orgiastic feminist conscience."

Metro Santa Cruz © 2005

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.
" ~ Ernesto Che Guevara

Monday, November 26, 2007


Photo courtesy of hidupku

Press Statement For Immediate Release


The Centre for Public Policy Studies regrets the police prohibition of and use of violence on a number of recent gatherings in Kuala Lumpur.

Two weeks ago on the 10th November 2007, BERSIH, a coalition of non-Governmental organisations and political parties, organised a march to submit a memorandum calling for measures to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

More recently, on Sunday the 25th November 2007, Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) organised a rally to submit a memorandum calling for equal treatment of Indians, highlighting their socio-economic marginalisation in the country.

The Government has responded by saying that demonstrations are unnecessary, that memorandums should be handed in personally, and that any concerns can be brought up in forums through a consultative approach.

However, such forums, panels and meetings have been conducted on numerous occasions to little avail. These articulations are compiled into reports and submitted to various committees, but it is precisely inaction and non-response from the Government that has fuelled frustrations amongst those groups who have not received equal treatment.

Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees that every citizen has the right to assemble peaceably. This is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The BERSIH and HINDRAF rallies were peaceful gatherings and should not be misconstrued as otherwise.

1. The CPPS calls on the Government to recognise the rights of civil society to freedom of assembly. The right to freely assemble peacefully is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society. If we want to consider ourselves a true democracy, then the police should stop immediately its highhanded excessive use of force at dispersing peaceful crowds, including the use of tear gas and unrelenting water cannons at peaceful demonstrations and rallies.

We need to urgently review the policy and processes regarding the provision of permits for peaceful assembly as guaranteed in our Federal Constitution. If the police had given permits to assemble and march peacefully, subject, of course, to reasonable and agreed-upon terms, the unnecessary disruption and subsequent chaos would have been avoided.

2. The CPPS also urges the Government to examine the root causes of the deep sense of grievance and frustration that underlie these rallies and demonstrations . The issues being raised by civil society organisations recently are valid and should be urgently considered. The views and opinions of this large cross-section of society cannot be swept under the carpet. These expressions of frustration and anger arise from a significant proportion of the Malaysian public. These must be factored into policy-making processes, and not ignored.

3. At the same time, it would be useful for the Government to meet the leaders of these rallies and find out more about their grievances, taking action to resolve outstanding problems that have adversely affected sections of the Malaysian society. New approaches are urgently needed to ensure greater national unity, peace, stability and progress.

Tan Sri Dato' (Dr.) Ramon V. Navaratnam
Centre for Public Policy Studies
26th November 2007
Kuala Lumpur

For more information, please contact Ms. Tricia Yeoh or call 03-20932820.

Batu Caves, early hours of 25 November 2007. Photos from