I’m looking for 100 people to help me get the word out about my new book, ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGOTTEN. On October 1 (Thursday) at 6 pm, I have set up a Thunderclap to resonate across the universe. Those who sign up will use their Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr accounts to send a one- time message announcing the release of the book. It’s easy! Sign up on my account page, and Thunderclap does the rest. Can more than 100 people sign up? You bet, but I need at least 100 people or the message doesn’t get sent. Oh- and by the way, the clock’s ticking. There are only 28 days left. Help!
Tag Archives: science
(How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God)
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
I’ve always regarded the word atheist as a quagmire. What does it mean, really? People mean so many different things in using it. Even after reading Watson’s book, I’m still puzzled. So let’s more away from that term and look at the meat of the book.
Watson traces the history of thought following Friedrich Nietzche’s 1882 pronouncement, “God is dead.” The big questions about the meaning of life and how to live it are quested after by artists, writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists. The 626 page tome follows hundreds of individuals and their pursuit to answer the stickiest of questions in a post-modern world where salvation doesn’t exist.
This is a book for everyone because it is about our collective history. Unless you have a PhD in philosophy, you won’t know all the people Watson brings up in his survey, but names like James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and countless others, will ground you in the familiar. Some chapters are absolutely fascinating. Did you know that some people thought poetry would supplant God? Or that many intellectuals looked forward to WWI as a way to purge the modern age? Other chapters are a slog to get through. But persist.
Watson takes us on a journey to understand where we’ve been and perhaps where we’ve going. In the end, we see the search for meaning seems to be universal and that many have answered the call by looking to transcend this life while others (the subject of Watson’s book) look for meaning in this world in diverse and rich ways.
Interview with Kimberly Harding, PhD- artist, author, and teacher
As the Moon
pulls the Wave,
pulls the Soul.
Welcome, Kim. Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am currently a college professor at a small school in central Colorado. I teach in the science discipline- primarily anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and such. I am not one who always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but when I taught my first college lab, I was hooked. It was only after completing my PhD education and securing my first job that I “let out” my artistic side. I remember a New Year’s Eve in which I stayed home to paint and I realized how much everything had changed for me. I do not know what precipitated my sudden interest in art at that time, but it has been with me ever since.
Currently, you are combining teaching science and creating artwork. Does one support the other? Could you see yourself doing only one?
I think most of my colleagues would be surprised to learn if I had to choose only one- it would be art. However, science and teaching provide a grounding force in my life, which I believe support my artistic side with a sense of security.
Of course, there are points in which the two interests converge. I have written and spoken about the power of the female body. Many of the details arise from my scientific training. When I speak on this topic, though, I always present my artistic images, and I believe those are what remain with the audience the most.
Likewise, when I did a book comprised of artistic images and poems of the heart, many of the ideas I played around with were based on my understanding of the heart from a physical perspective.
It is those who have been
hurt the most,
that understand the best.
And it will be those,
with the Soul’s awareness ground into bone,
that heal this world.
I read that you started creating art when you were thirty. What led you to begin expressing yourself in this way?
I truly do not know that answer. I have never taken an art class in my life and throughout my earlier years I had self-defined to the nth degree that I was a scientist and “very logical”. There is something about touching colors, though ( I work with pastels and move the pigments around with fingers and hands) that speaks to my soul.
How important is creative expression to spiritual growth? Because so much of your work seems to center on the heart and compassion, I wonder how art can aid healing?
I do believe that art can facilitate healing. I recently wrote that “The artist sees before anyone else believes.” When we are in the creative state, our inner artist is able to reveal to us what is has “seen”, usually before we are even willing to be conscious of the experience. My artistic process is very “in the moment”. I used to “receive” images in my mind while falling asleep and I would feel compelled to create them the next day. It was almost a compulsion. Now, I begin with blank page and make a few random lines. I have to sit with the image and see what it wants to become slowly. In the process, there is such an inherent sense of my having to be honest with what is arising. When I try to manipulate, control, and project, the image veers off into something less than profound.
Were you a creative, artistic kid? Did you like art classes or did you gravitate to science very early?
I was not a creative child in any form. My parents are not very well-educated. I saw education as a “way out” and liked the security (and money- sciences tend to be very well-funded) that science education seemed to provide. Early in my life, I would not have risked becoming something as “crazy” and “unstable” as an artist.
stark relief against the
background of any circumstances.
What themes has your art allowed you to explore? How do you see your work developing? What impact would you like your paintings and poetry to have on the world?
That is the gift of art, isn’t it- it gives us the ability to explore. I have explored the power of a woman’s body, as well as the power and strength related to male-ness. I spent one summer in what I refer to as my “phallic phase” as images of penises abounded. I have also done entire series on hearts, birds, symbolic shapes, symbols of union and more.
I am constantly surprised how my work develops. I have to say, and I wonder if this is true for other artists- that I will sometimes want to define myself with limitations, -i.e., I want to be the “heart artist” or whatever idea I am currently playing with at that time. That type of self-definition does not seem to be part of my artistic pathway.
As for the impact of my art and poetry, I want it to be “gentle”. That may be a strange thing to say, but I feel so much in life, including spirituality, is layered and projected upon us. I want my art to simply be a gentle opening for others to realize their own understanding.
Thanks for sharing your work with us!
Kim has two books available which combine her paintings and poetry.
The Heart Within You-
The Spirit Within You-
Watch Kim’s fascinating lecture on Female Embodiment- A Woman’s Place (22 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcKXaq1l1kk
For more information on Kim and her work, please visit her at the following site:
HALLUCINATIONS by Oliver Sacks
I used to think hallucinations were associated with a particular kind of person- someone who would stand out in a crowd- someone who would need … medication. But that’s not wholly true. I suffer with migraines and, on occasion, I have aura in the classical fortification pattern (those zigzag lines). These are visual hallucinations. So on another level, I know hallucinations can affect many who wouldn’t stand out in a room or need medication.
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating book because it reveals the diversity found in the human experience. Forget what you thought “normal” meant. It won’t be useful anymore. Turns out, there are many perfectly happy, functional people who have hallucinations.
So what do we mean by a hallucination? Different definitions have been used throughout history. Even today there is confusion over exactly what a hallucination is, because the boundary between hallucinations, misperception, and illusion aren’t always clear. Sacks begins with the idea that a hallucination lacks external reality. (Keep in mind that for a Buddhist, we slipped into nebulous territory by assuming an external reality independent, discrete, and concrete.) Anyway, seeing or hearing (also tasting, feeling, or smelling) things that are not there will qualify as a hallucination for the book’s purposes. Hallucinations appear real to the one experiencing it because the perceptions are fully working to create that reality and project it into the world. This is different from a memory or the use of the imagination where, in the mind’s eye, both are experienced. Hallucinations are further characterized by being involuntary, uncontrollable, and often possessing color or detail beyond everyday average experience. Brain imaging now allows scientists the ability to monitor electrical and metabolic activity while someone is hallucinating.
Sacks chose to avoid any analysis of dreams (although he does cover those hallucinations experienced upon falling asleep or waking up ) and the subject of schizophrenia. He does hint at the level of stigma associated with seeing (or hearing) things and how patients will not disclose this is occurring. Oftentimes, people will avoid using the term hallucinating and call it other things. Modern society equates hallucinations with insanity. Sacks cites a 1974 case published in Science where eight healthy pseudo-patients presented themselves at various hospitals complaining about hearing voices. Seven were immediately diagnosed as schizophrenic without any other symptoms. The other one was diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis.
The book takes up the breadth of human experience in which people have hallucinations due to medical conditions and drug use (both prescribed and recreational). There are many first person accounts given in the book. They are all candid and insightful, and open the opportunity to grow our compassion. Some of the medical conditions discussed are Charles Bonnet Syndrome (blindness), deafness, Parkinson’s, migraine, epilepsy, PTSD, and delirium. Various injuries, sensory deprivation, sleep disorders, and grief may also bring on hallucinations. Although the chapters on out-of-body, near-death-experience, and ghosts are interesting, I disagree that science has a full explanation to offer us. From Sacks’ point of view, all mystical experience probably would also count as a hallucination. Again, a limited view.
This is a very informative and enlightening book, sharing what in many cases individuals are afraid to share with the general public and their doctors (for good reason, apparently). It does much to decrease the stigma associated with hallucinations and enlarges our understanding of the range of what it means to have a human body with human perception.
Oliver Sacks: TED TALK- Hallucinations
When I was a teen, genetic determinism was in full swing. As I watched my grandparents die of heart attacks or strokes, I became convinced that my life would end by the same mechanism and I was content with the inevitable partially because it was a far off reality. But again, science is shifting our thinking. The new paradigm is called epigenetics and it has a lot to say about the choices we make. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity not caused by changes in the DNA structure.
Science is starting to grapple with the idea that our environment and choices are far more important than our genetic code. Bruce Lipton’s book The Biology of Belief, cites that around 95% of our illnesses are related to life-style choices, stress, and a toxic environment. We have far more ability to influence our futures than merely accepting whatever is in our genetic code is written in stone. Studies of identical twins (with identical DNA) reveal that oftentimes only one twin exhibits some dreaded disease. There can also be substantial differences in longevity. How is this possible? How could genetic determinism get it so wrong?
As usual, science’s understanding has grown slowly and advanced a simple view which has become outmoded. It turns out that our genes are far from static. Genes are always in flux and always being influenced. Some genes are activated by growth, healing, or learning. Another kind of gene is influenced by stress, emotion, or dreaming. A new understanding through epigenetics may allow us to use our will to activate our genes and influence our destiny. According to this way of thinking, changing our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors sends new messages to our cells thereby changing our protein production without affecting our DNA blueprint. So the original code stays the same, but new information allows the cells to create thousands of variations of that gene.
As an illustration of how this might work, Joe Dispenza in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, looked at a Japanese study of type 2 diabetes. The subjects were divided into two groups. After a baseline reading to establish fasting blood sugar levels, one group watched an hour-long comedy show while the other group watched a boring lecture. Subsequent to viewing the programs, the group who had watched the comedy show had significantly lower levels of blood sugar. After ruling out the idea that physically laughing took glucose from the blood, the researchers found that the laughing diabetics had altered 23 different gene expressions. A new state of mind apparently triggered their brains to send new signals to their cells which allowed genetic variations affecting blood sugar levels.
The overall idea here is that we have a vast amount of say in how our genes create our futures. I am not destined to die of a heart attack, nor am I necessarily protected from cancer, just because no one in my family has had it. DNA is not destiny. We will need to tread carefully when we have any kind of genetic testing. I do ascribe to the idea that knowledge is power, but we need to be cautious and not bring into fruition a future that defaults to a false belief system. Another great book on the emerging paradigm is The Genie in Your Genes by Dawson Church.
Thirty seven year old neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, rose on the morning of Dec. 10, 1996 to start her morning routine getting ready for work. It turned out to be anything but routine.
A blood vessel exploded in her left hemisphere leaving her unable to walk, talk, read, or write.
To understand what she experienced, it’s important to recognize how the two parts of the brain work. The right hemisphere thinks in pictures and connects us all as “energy beings” as Jill describes it. The right brain is all about being in the moment and sees us as perfect and whole. The left hemisphere thinks linearly, connecting us to past and future. It thinks and plans using language. It is the left hemisphere that creates the experience of the self as separate from everything else.
Jill woke that morning with an intense pain behind her left eye. Not realizing anything was truly wrong, she attempted to get on with her day and proceeded to her cardio-glider to get her exercise done. On the machine, she noticed that her hands looked like strange claws. Then she had the experience of witnessing her body as if it were a separate entity. Her head pain intensified so she got off the machine. It was then that everything seemed to slow down. Gone were her quick and fluid body movements. The rigid boundaries of her body evaporated as she propped herself against a bathroom wall. She watched as the molecules and atoms of her body merged with those of the wall. Next she lost her left brain chatter as her mind was silenced.
In the quiet, Jill was drawn into an expansive field of oneness. This was a peaceful, delightful place until the left brain returned telling her she had a problem and needed help. She would alternate between these two realities: one she called La-La Land which was a beautiful state of pure consciousness and connectedness and the other that called her back into the world with ever-increasing urgency. When her right arm became paralyzed, Jill realized she was having a stroke. She knew she needed help and attempted to call work. But by this time, she had lost the ability to recognize words and numbers and it took 45 minutes to finally make this all important call.
At the hospital, Jill struggled with the pain and sensory overload of being in the body. Those experiences were relieved at times by journeys into nirvana (her word); that profound place of peace, freedom, and expansiveness. On a deeper level she comes to understand that everyone can experience this nirvana state.
“That they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemisphere and find this peace.”
This is her stroke of insight, the gift she brought back into the world, the source that would motivate her year long recovery.
We have the choice to move between the hemispheres moment by moment. We choose, we create. Jill believes (and I agree) the more time we spend in the right hemisphere, the more peace we will find as individuals and the more peace we will bring back into the world.
Jill Bolte Taylor has written a wonderful book. It will especially appeal to the scientifically minded, but it will attract just as many mystics. The other true gift of her experience has to do with understanding what it’s like to have a stroke. If the medical community and family members had this level of understanding, it would revolutionize the care we give stroke victims. I would especially recommend her book to anyone who is caring for someone who has had a stroke. To learn from the inside out what it’s like can only make us more compassionate and more understanding.
WATCH DR. TAYLOR AT TED:
In the last two weeks, my husband and I have welcomed a new dog into the family. Luke is a friendly, almost two year old, Golden Retriever who has had a rough start in life. As we are getting to know each other, I’m drawn back into the routine and wonder of dog ownership. All the while, our elderly cat, George, raises an eyebrow and wonders why he can’t live in a one cat household.
I’ve been re-reading and thoroughly enjoying Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals) by Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. As a pet owner himself he wondered why the stories of pet owners were so universally ignored by scientists. He felt that confining research to lab animals or wildlife observation misses entirely to capture a unique understanding man has with his companion animals. Sheldrake set out to mine this field for its gold. He interviewed hundreds of people with experience with our closest companion animals. These included dog trainers, vets, zoo keepers, kennel owners, and pet owners. Later, he conducted formal surveys in Britain and the US to quantify the frequency of the most commonly reported behaviors in the area of perceptiveness. He took a special interest in reports of dogs that seemed to know when their owners were coming home. These dogs displayed anticipatory behavior which included alertness and going to a particular spot to await their owner’s return. Using a scientific approach, Sheldrake set out to learn what was at work in this commonly reported behavior.
He examined the common explanations many have given for this behavior. An established routine by the owner, a dog’s superior sense of smell, a dog’s keen hearing ability, human cueing, and the use of a familiar mode of transportation did not seem likely. When these things were eliminated, case histories suggested a human/animal bond along the lines of telepathy.
The best way to understand this is to look at the case of Jaytee and owner Pam Smart. Pam often left Jaytee with her parents when she went out and over time, the parents noticed Jaytee would go to a window and wait for Pam to return. Often the parents had no idea when Pam would return but started to trust Jaytee’s signal because Pam did show up shortly after the dog would go to the window. The Smarts kept logs of the incidents and before long an opportunity arose to film what was really going on. A camera was set up to watch Jaytee and a film crew followed as Pam was sent out. At a randomly selected time Pam was told to return home. On split screen and with the times synchronized, the film shows Pam being told it’s time to return while Jaytee reacts at the same moment with alertness and ears pricked. While Pam walks to a taxi stand, Jaytee goes to a window to wait. Jaytee seems to be responding to Pam’s intention to return suggesting a mind to mind connection. Telepathy! Further research carried out in 1995 and 1996, confirmed that Jaytee anticipated Pam’s arrival at randomly chosen times and in unfamiliar vehicles. Psychic debunker, Dr. Richard Wiseman, conducted his own experiment and found the same result.
Work with filming several other dogs indicated that Jaytee is not alone in her ability. Surveys indicate that the behavior is widespread in all kinds of dogs. About 51% of dogs seem to do this. Males display the behavior slightly more than females. A close bond with a human does seem to be necessary to induce the dog to engage in the behavior. Sheldrake advances the idea of morphic fields to explain the mind to mind connection we have with our pets. This invisible connection is likened to a rubber that can stretch over large distances to facilitate communication.
Sheldrake’s book is a delight. There are many stories of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals engaging in behaviors because they are so connected to us. In later chapters, animal empathy, telepathy, precognition, and sense of direction are covered. I invite you to explore this fascinating book and rediscover your pet through the eyes of science. And don’t forget to share your stories here. I spent a lot of time on dogs, but how many of you have cats who know when there is a vet appointment? Mine does and not because the cat carrier is left out.
Watch the videos:
Unexplained Power of Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgyFQZxs40
Science Deluded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO4-9l8IWFQ
All truth passes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as self-evident.
I’m excited to be able to write about an intriguing book suggested by a blog reader a while ago. The quote above is the starting point for Science and Psychic Phenomena- Fall of the House of Skeptics by Chris Carter. Carter is a Canadian, schooled at Oxford, who exhibits much courage in taking up a thorough review of parapsychology, its scandals, intriguing characters, research, and advances an idea about why parapsychology remains controversial.
Honestly, the existence of psi (including telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis) has already been proven to me by personal experience and I’m not alone. One study indicated that about 67% of Americans have had an ESP * experience. Polls taken over decades have shown that a majority of Americans already believe these things happen so what I’m going to get into here is a bit academic. Why is it that the discussion of these topics is still so taboo in some parts of the scientific community and in some parts of society? And what is the truth regarding scientific research into them?
Let’s look at the research first. It was J.B. Rhine at Duke University who first brought ESP testing into the laboratory. In the early 30s, Rhine and Karl Zenner conducted trials of card guessing that laid the foundation for telepathy research. By 1940, nearly one million trials had been performed which eliminated critics early objections that sensory leakage might be causing the results. Experiments performed at other labs also confirmed Rhine’s results. There was something there. In the 1980s, Charles Honorton continued work in telepathy by conducting computer automated experiments. With an expected hit rate of 25%, Honorton’s studies overall hit rate was 34% with the results occurring by chance alone estimated to be 45,000 to 1. Replication studies were conducted into the 1990s with similar results.
There are five chapters in the book that outline the ins, outs, and fights that resulted when the studies were released. The conclusion really is that if this research had been produced in any other field, it would have been easily accepted as early as 1950!
People have reported experiencing PSI for thousands of years and there is solid scientific evidence to support those claims. Why does it remain so controversial? Author Chris Carter believes that PSI acceptance threatens certain people’s worldview. This worldview is called materialism and is a byproduct of an outdated 17th Century model of science. Many skeptics believe that the existence of PSI is impossible because it violates “known” science. This is simply not true. Science has evolved beyond the old science of Newtonian physics. In fact, the latest science of quantum physics doesn’t deny the existence of PSI, but rather points directly to it. So how to resolve the conundrum? Science has spoken, but the skeptics remain unconvinced. I’ll let noted Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck close for me.
“a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
* Note: ESP includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.
Psi phenomena includes ESP and psychokinesis
ALSO SEE: video SOMETHING UNKNOWN IS DOING WE DON’T KNOW WHAT- Telekan 2009-the science behind psychic phenomena, with interviews by leading parapsychology researchers including Harold Puthoff, Charles Tart, Dean Radin, Rupert Sheldrake, Edgar Mitchell. www.somethingunknown.com
To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
A time to be born, a time to die (The Byrds)
And so we thought. One of the most accepted, basic truths is that we are born and we die but what if that’s not the whole truth? Enter Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student who in 1988 scooped up some Turritopsis dohrnii. He placed the tiny, obscure jellyfish in a petri dish for observation. Soon he was witness to the creatures doing the unthinkable. Over time, they grew younger and younger and eventually began a new life cycle. Biologists continued to study the species, and in 1996, a paper was published describing how the jellyfish could revert to a polyp “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” Of course, it’s not totally immortal in the conventional sense, and we really need to view the subsequent life forms as clones, but still it is pretty amazing. The jellyfish, the size of your pinky nail, became known as the immortal jellyfish although I’d be inclined to call it the Benjamin Button jellyfish, just for the literary connection.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, very few people took much notice of this discovery. Big pharma and well-heeled universities did not rush in to take up studying our bizarre little friend. Some scientists think the immortal jellyfish may lead to breakthroughs in cancer research and longevity, but so far very little research has been done.
In fact, there is only one Japanese researcher, Shin Kubota who is consistently culturing and studying these creatures. He works alone without a staff or major funding. This seems incredible considering what molecular biologist Kevin J. Peterson told a NY Times Magazine reporter in a recent article. Peterson said, “There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings.” Kubota himself thinks the species has the potential to unravel immortality but interestingly, he doesn’t think humans are spiritually evolved enough to handle the responsibility for it. So there might be something good in only having one person doing this work. Even slight gains in life expectancy rate can wreak havoc in a society and who wants to wait to be 100 before you can apply for Social Security. Maybe immortality is for jellyfish.
When we think of Isaac Newton, most of us probably return to high school physics. Laws of motion, gravity, incline experiments, and lists of equations come to mind. Newton was a great scientist and collective thought has enshrined him this way. But this is a very modern way to see him and casts aside and discards him as a spiritual being, for Newton was an alchemist. Sir Isaac wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on math and science. He placed great emphasis on rediscovering the occult wisdom of the ancients and probably considered his scientific work to be of much less importance.
Although alchemy is generally viewed as a precursor to science (and it has that role), it was so much more. Alchemy incorporates Hermetic principles which include ideas from mythology, religion, and spirituality. Below HJ Sheppard outlines the dualistic nature of alchemy as both external (in the material world) and internal (spiritual) practices.
Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence
and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity,
then immortality and, finally redemption. Material perfection was sought
through the action of a preparation (Philosopher’s Stone for metals;
Elixir of Life for humans), while spiritual ennoblement resulted from some
form of inner revelation or other enlightenment.
We will probably never know the full extent of Newton’s alchemical work. Much was destroyed by fire. He also worked in a time when many alchemical experiments were banned and religious views differing from what was considered mainstream was heresy. Historians are still trying to piece things together.
An auction at Sotheby’s in 1936 created a worldwide sensation. Previously unpublished and unseen documents (Portsmouth Papers) surfaced and were presented for sale. About one-third of them were considered alchemical in nature. The papers show Newton’s keen interest in the philosopher’s stone. To this day, several projects are underway to catalog, transcribe, and make Newton’s papers available.
Other writings point to Newton’s interest in occult knowledge, sacred geometry, and prophesy. Throughout his life, Newton associated with members of various esoteric groups but his actual membership in any of them has never been confirmed. Certainly he shared many of the same interests these groups had. At the time of his death, Newton’s library contained 169 alchemical books and for its time, it would have been one of the best alchemical libraries in the world.
Recently I read Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. This is a fictional story which revolves around Newton’s life at Cambridge. Stott is a professor who bases the book on actual records of Newton’s life. At its core are the mysteries of Sir Isaac’s rise to power and position, a series of murders near the university, and the influence of alchemy. A very interesting read.