Friday, July 3, 2015


On June 5th, 2009, I attended an 11:11 Activation Ceremony at a local healing center named "Eagle's Nest" in Sungai Penchala Village. It was a difficult spot to locate but scenic enough once I arrived. There were some really sweet folks already gathered there and it promised to be a memorable occasion.

The ceremony proceeded smoothly enough, though the energy was rather low-key throughout. For me the best part was an extended late night supper with three funky women afterwards.

A few days later, to my utmost surprise, both my legs began breaking out in boils. This was something I hadn't experienced in decades. I couldn't figure out what was happening in my body. Where was all this poison coming from?

It so happened that around this time my second daughter paid me one of her rare visits with an empath and energetic healer named Sandra Sweetman in tow. Sandra is extremely sensitive to magnetic fields and in the course of our conversation mentioned that she had recently been to the Eagle's Nest and felt troubled by what she experienced there. She said it was like the scene of a violent murder - the whole place was unsettled and rife with murky frequencies.

I couldn't say for sure that the toxins in my bloodstream erupting as boils on my legs came from the Eagle's Nest. But I had been walking around barefoot part of the time and might have absorbed some of the unwholesome exhalations from the earth. Nevertheless, I was aware that the area was charged with very primitive magic going pretty far back in time. There must have been a large enclave of bomohs (Malay witch-doctors) residing in Sungai Penchala within the last hundred years or so.

It was also clear that ruthless "development" over the last few decades had all but wiped out the original forest, including a thriving Orang Asli community in Bukit Lanjan, leaving tiny patches of green here and there. Perhaps the small hill upon which the Eagle's Nest had been built was the final refuge of all the nature spirits that had been rudely evicted from their forest home by a massive invasion of chainsaws and bulldozers?

A close friend who had been at the June 5th ceremony complained of acute lethargy and went for a medical check-up. It was discovered that she was suffering from severe bacterial infection and required a massive dose of antibiotics. She later had a session with clairvoyant healers who described her condition as a case of vampire attack. Apparently, her body was infested with astral parasites which had to be pulled out like ticks.

The clairvoyants were assisted by a shaman named Ishtar who told my friend he once lived in Sungai Penchala and on one of his walks around the area had noticed a disturbance in the magnetic field. On closer investigation he realized it was a dimensional crack through which many astral and elemental entities were emerging into the physical world. He immediately sealed the portal the best he could - but it appears to have been reopened since.

I tell this anecdote as an example of what happens when humans resort to primitive forms of sorcery to attain petty objectives, e.g., gaining political influence, securing the affections of a desired lover, or attracting heaps of money.

The entire Malay Archipelago is rife with ancient magic and mysterious phenomena. To attain and retain political power in their own countries, many have relied on occult help from professional mystics-for-hire. President Sukarno, for instance, was known to have consulted an old magician who lived in the Elephant Caves of Bali. Even Mahathir, a medical doctor by qualification, was widely rumored to be in possession of a powerful family toyol (gremlin) who did his bidding and protected him from psychic attacks.

By now it's common knowledge that Rosmah Mansor, the crime minister's larger-than-life wife, is particularly fond of magical talismans and charms and that she herself possesses a measure of witchy powers.

On 7 September 2008 I posted a story on my blog with the following commentary:

Oh dear, what is this country coming to? On the eve of the Permatang Pauh by-election, Malaysia Today featured a statutory declaration by one Thangarajoo a/l Thangavelu, former chauffeur of Datuk Kenneth Eswaran, close personal friend of DPM Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor, attesting that he had "on numerous occasions" driven a Hindu mystic named "Mr Ji" to the residence of Najib and Rosmah for the purpose of conducting Hindu prayer rituals "to ward off evil." Swamiji's magic is clearly potent, which might explain why neither Najib nor Rosmah has been subpoenaed to testify at the Altantuya murder trial, despite glaring evidence linking both to the crime.

As Raja Petra Kamarudin rightly pointed out, if what Mr Thangarajoo stated is true, it would totally invalidate Najib's widely publicized attempt to declare his innocence and non-involvement in the macabre Altantuya murder by swearing on the Koran before a mosque audience that he had "never met that Mongolian woman."

One cannot claim to be a bona fide Muslim and believe in Hindu ritual magic at the same time.

In any case, I must report that ever since the Permatang Pauh by-election which saw Anwar Ibrahim winning massively to become Parliamentary Opposition Leader, the psychic atmosphere in this country has become progressively denser and murkier. The astral gunk became even thicker towards the end of 2008 when Najib's ascension to power came under severe attack on all fronts.

Shortly before Najib took over as prime minister from Abdullah Badawi in April 2009, it was reported in the press that security personnel had stumbled on a mysterious object with Jawi letters written all over it hidden under the PM's chair. What does that mean? As to be expected, there was no follow-up to these reports.

However, I couldn't help but notice that petty squabbles soon began erupting from within the ranks of the Pakatan Rakyat - and every time there was a minor misunderstanding between PKR, DAP or PAS officials, the BN-controlled media would magnify it a hundred times, thereby creating the illusion that the Pakatan Rakyat was on the verge of disintegrating.

Even as spiritual leader of PAS Tok Guru Nik Aziz's health deteriorated, his deputy Abdul Hadi Awang began to push his personal agenda of elbowing out the progressives (who unanimously endorsed Anwar Ibrahim's candidacy as PM-in-waiting) and strengthening his own power base among the rural constituents by renewing the Hudud agenda. Shortly after Nik Aziz died, Hadi Awang's true colors were exposed; he threw out all the progressive leaders in PAS and went all out on Hudud  (with Umno's apparent support). This inevitably led to the break-up of the promising opposition coalition called Pakatan Rakyat - the only hope Malaysians had of booting out the utterly corrupt and reactionary Barisan Nazional.

In the last few years the situation has further deteriorated with the onset of the annual smog caused by oil palm plantations (mostly owned by Malaysian tycoons and their cronies in Umno/BN). I myself have had to make a conscious effort to maintain my emotional equilibrium against a strong tendency towards general irritability, alternating with bouts of despair as I see the forces of darkness and injustice regain ground within the national psyche.

Abu Kassim Mohamed, present MACC chief 
The fact that ever since the obscene Perak power grab people have mostly given up on the Malay rulers as bastions of justice and wisdom doesn't help either. Look around and you will notice that every public institution has been corrupted beyond redemption: first on the list, of course, would be the Polis Di Raja Malaysia, closely followed by the gestapo-like Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judiciary (especially the so-called higher courts), and even the Malaysian Medical Council whose director-general, Ismail Merican, has shamelessly revealed himself as a political pawn of the ruling party, particularly over the controversial Saiful and Kugan cases.

Things came to a head in mid-July 2009 with the grotesque death-in-custody of Teoh Beng Hock, a fresh-faced young political secretary with the Democratic Action Party, who was hauled in for "questioning" by the MACC - and never left their premises alive. The inquest is ongoing, albeit at snail's pace.

Police Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar
One can easily conclude that the entire nation is now being mismanaged by black magic, just as Haiti was with the entry of the Duvalier family - or Uganda under Idi Amin and Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe.

What can we do to neutralize this extreme negativity?

The most effective method would be to pay close attention to our own personal integrity. Rid your hard drive of corrupted and useless files; uninstall programs you never use; and clear your computer system of any spyware that might have embedded itself in your root directory. In short, cleanse yourself of useless fears, prejudices, and antiquated beliefs.

If you fall ill, look upon it as the body's way of cleansing itself of toxins. I allowed the sores on my legs to run their course in order to rid my body of all the bacteria that had infiltrated my defences. I chose to view it as a special service I was performing for the residents of Eagle's Nest, helping them clear the space for healing.

Awaken the shamanic potential in yourself. Each of us is endowed with a certain amount of psychic sensitivity and the ability to heal ourselves. Now more than ever, these natural gifts are urgently needed - if we are to free ourselves and our beloved land of malignant and vicious parasites that have fattened themselves off our vital energy for generations.

[Originally posted on this blog 13 August 2009; reposted 19 August 2014 & again because of its specific relevance to the present situation]

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Notes from an exhibition of Orang Asli wood sculptures I co-curated in 2000

Introduction to Animism

“A myth is a projection of an aspect of a culture’s soul. In its complex but revealing symbolism, a myth is to a culture what a dream is to an individual.” ~ David Adams Leeming, A Dictionary of Creation Myths (1994)

Perumal by Jah Hut artist Hassan
What is animism all about? What exactly does a pagan believe? Animism derives from anima, the Latin word for soul. Orang Asli believe that the world was created when Universal Spirit – the One Primordial Soul (Tuhan) – split into many souls. These lesser souls or spirits began to explore different dimensional possibilities, each identifying a unique form to inhabit and, in the process, devolving from the subtle (halus) to the dense (kasar). Human beings (manusia) operate midway between these extremes – acting as conscious or unconscious intermediaries between the Seen and Unseen Realms, between the material and spiritual domains.

The animist views the landscape as the manifestation of Universal Spirit. However, certain forms – whether mineral, vegetable, tree, animal, bird, fish, river, or rock – are more aware of their spiritual pedigree and are thus considered sacred (keramat). Whilst others, turning their figurative backs on their divine source, constitute the malefic and ruffianly ranks of predatory ghosts, imps, and vampires (hantu, jin, langsuir).

Ebrahil by Jah Hut artist Mat Idris
Because the animist perspective is essentially multidimensional and holistic, time is experienced more as a spiral than as a linear progression. Unlike the modern outlook, there is no assumption that the new is inherently superior to the old, that the future is somehow more valuable than the past. To be called “primitive” is therefore quite meaningless to the Orang Asli, even though the obtuse offensiveness of such a label may be acutely felt – especially when they live in close proximity to other communities that have wholeheartedly embraced consumerism and all its attendant foibles.

Indeed, many Orang Asli elders are inclined towards the opinion that modern man has fallen from grace; that we now find ourselves collectively living in a paradise lost. Our remote ancestors, they say, lived in a far richer reality, with access to a much wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum. There are legends that speak of the spiral stairway between heaven and earth being shut down by the gods to stop humans from infecting other worlds with pestilential greed and ruthless ambition.

As with many other cosmologies – for instance the Mayan and the Hindu – the indigenous cultures view our much-vaunted Age of Reason and Scientific Materialism as a long, spooky trip through the Galactic Night (Kali yuga or the Nine Hells) before our re-emergence into a New Evolutionary Dawn wherein humanity shall once again live in cooperative harmony with Nature.

Jah Hut artistry on display

Orang Asli society, while mostly egalitarian, recognizes hierarchical status according to an individual’s mastery of knowledge (ilmu) – be it esoteric or exoteric. Traditionally the tribal chief (batin) was also a shaman who guided the community’s inner life; but in recent days the choice of a batin largely depends on the candidate’s ability to read and write and effectively function as an intermediary between community and state.

In animist cultures the shaman (bomoh, dukun, pawang) is a master of many arts, and all art derives from magical ritual. Ceremonial songs, weavings, dances, carvings and masks were originally a means to link up with the spirit realms – not ornaments for barter or sale in the market.

But aesthetic or magical values are not necessarily destroyed by commercial considerations. Almost all art today is influenced to a degree by economic factors. The test of good art is that it transcends the monetary value attached to it. That it retains the innocence and spontaneity of a creative act inspired by the unschooled imagination.

Good art stimulates not only the external senses but also the remembrance of other lives and other worlds. Good art reconnects us with our indigenous roots, our primeval selves. It feeds our yearning for the mysterious and the numinous.

ASLI ~ An Exhibition of Wood Sculptures from the Anthony Ratos Collection @ Galeri Petronas, April-May 2000

Curator’s Statement

“Indigenous art is essentially governed by religious beliefs and ceremonial rituals. For inspiration, the artist looks to his surroundings. His creation is not purely aesthetic. It is a greater expression of the living social reality in which he resides. Gods, spirits, landscapes, natural phenomena, animals, and even fellow human beings provide him with the material to invoke a world where the mundane meets the mystical, where the simple meets the complex. It is a world where art and artist merge as one.” ~ Anthony Ratos, The Orang Asli of Malaya (1999)

Mah Meri artist on Carey Island
ASLI brings to you a rich collection of wood carvings produced by members of the Jah Hut and Mah Meri tribes in response to the active encouragement of Anthony Ratos, former art teacher and deputy director of the Orang Asli Affairs, and a well-known promoter of their cultural traditions.

For Anthony Ratos, an initial encounter with Orang Asli at the tender age of 12 led to a lifelong love affair with these simple, fascinating, jungle folk. 

Indeed, the term “Orang Asli” was first used in 1952 by Ratos, in a thesis he wrote while at Kirkby Teachers’ College in Liverpool. As a teacher in Maxwell Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, Mr Ratos coordinated a two-year field study of Orang Asli culture by the senior students, which yielded a book and an exhibition.

In 1958, while seconded to the Pahang Orang Asli Affairs Department, Anthony Ratos saw Batin Hitam, headman of the Jah Hut tribe, carving a wooden doll from pulai wood to replace his 5-year-old daughter’s broken plastic plaything. Batin Hitam was using a crude rattan-cutting knife with such obvious skill that Mr Ratos decided to provide him with proper carving tools and a commission to depict the tribal pantheon in wood. This, according to Anthony Ratos, was the genesis of the Jah Hut wood carving tradition.

In the course of his visits to the Mah Meri settlement on Carey Island, Mr Ratos persuaded a few villagers to try their hand at wood sculpture. The results were astounding. Within a year enough carvings had been produced by the Jah Hut and Mah Meri to merit an exhibition of 82 pieces at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. This was followed by a second exhibition two years later. Since then Jah Hut and Mah Meri wood carvings have been exhibited in Germany, Australia, and India.

Mr Ratos himself is an avid collector of these spirit-charged wood sculptures and masks, and over the decades he has acquired nearly 600 exquisite examples of Orang Asli artistry.

The Anthony Ratos collection of Jah Hut and Mah Meri wood carvings is truly a national heritage of immeasurable worth. As we enter a new millennium, it is fitting that this unique artistic, cultural, and anthropological treasure be shared with the widest possible audience.

Exhibition Curator

The Anthony Ratos Collection

Who is Anthony Ratos?

Datuk Anthony Ratos
The son of a silent movie musician from Bombay who migrated to Kuala Lumpur, Anthony Ratos was born in Bukit Nanas on November 2nd, 1932. During the war years (1942-1945) young Ratos enjoyed fishing in the Gombak River to supplement the family’s meager diet. This was where he first met the Orang Asli, who gladly shared with him their fishing and foraging secrets.

In 1952, as a trainee teacher at Kirkby College, U.K., Anthony Ratos chose to write his thesis on the aboriginal peoples of Malaya. He described them as “Orang Asli” (original people). This was subsequently adopted as the generic term for all indigenous tribes in Peninsular Malaysia. His interest in and personal involvement with the Orang Asli did not end there. As an art teacher at Maxwell Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, Ratos coordinated a two-year student project which yielded a book and a special exhibition on Orang Asli culture.

Genesis of a Wood Carving Tradition

A Jah Hut elder
From 1958 to 1963 Ratos served as deputy commissioner of Orang Asli Affairs in Pahang, where he discovered the latent wood carving skills of a few members of the Jah Hut tribe. Before long Ratos was encouraging members of the Mah Meri tribe on Carey Island to experiment with wood carving tools. The results were astonishing. And little wonder, as both tribes are said to originate from the Celebes Islands where totem-carving is an ancient tradition. The Mah Meri wood carving and ritual styles are, in fact, very similar to that of the Balinese.

Anthony Ratos kept buying finished wood sculptures from the Jah Hut. He offered his early collection for an exhibition at the National Art Gallery in 1960, followed by another two years later which showcased a few Mah Meri sculptures and masks. This is how the modern tradition of wood carving began among the Jah Hut and Mah Meri tribes.

Meanwhile, Ratos had become a successful entrepreneur, pioneering the latex glove industry in Malaysia and helping to establish a thriving medical franchise. A man of wide and varied interests, Anthony Ratos also collects peafowl and artifacts from little-known cultures. Over the decades he has written numerous newspaper articles and books on his lifelong love affair with the Orang Asli. Indeed, many of his weekends are still spent visiting Orang Asli friends in remote areas in his Frontera 4X4.

Mah Meri master wood carver
The Anthony Ratos Collection Seeks a Permanent Home

Today the Anthony Ratos collection of Jah Hut and Mah Meri sculptures and masks is worth literally millions. But its true worth as an artistic, cultural and anthropological legacy is immeasurable. 

Mr Ratos has indicated his desire to hand the entire collection to any institution that can guarantee future generations the opportunity to be acquainted with these superb examples of Orang Asli artistry and provide a decent, permanent home for them.

NOTE: One would think the National Art Gallery would be delighted to inherit the Anthony Ratos collection. The reality on the ground is disturbing indeed. Our cultural bureaucrats are extremely timid when it comes to embracing Orang Asli culture, mainly because it is rooted in what they consider paganism (which isn’t part of “Malay culture” in their books).

The next best solution, one would think, would be the new Orang Asli Museum (reportedly constructed at a staggering cost of RM33 million and officially opened in June 2000) located miles from the city center in Gombak, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. On closer look, however, it soon becomes evident that the ones entrusted with the responsibility of documenting and preserving Orang Asli culture are, in fact, embarrassed by and often antagonistic to it. Which may explain why the museum is almost inaccessible to the casual visitor, located as it is in an area where public transport is scarce.

Sophisticated "primitivism"
In private conversation, Anthony Ratos expressed to me that he did not trust the Orang Asli Affairs Department (renamed Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli or JAKOA in 2010) because it is now run by bureaucrats with absolutely no interest in or passion for all things Orang Asli. Indeed, the fact the agency was renamed the Orang Asli Development Department suggests that the Malaysian government would like the Orang Asli to assimilate into mainstream Malay culture, thus strengthening the Malays’ claim to indigenousness.

Colin Nicholas, director of the Center for Orang Asli Concerns, once remarked to me that JAKOA shows scant interest in educating the Orang Asli about their own traditions. The fact that a librarian assigned to the Orang Asli museum (ironically renamed Museum JAKOA in 2013) was a school dropout who never studied beyond Primary Six vividly illustrates their cavalier attitude towards Orang Asli affairs.

A British tourist expresses disappointment
[Most of the photos were taken from Google Images. If you happen to know the photographers, kindly leave a comment here & I shall duly include credits. First posted 5 May 2014]