Sunday, December 31, 2006

Age of Grand Canyon Witheld to Cater to Creationists

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.

Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.

Ironically, in 2005, two years after the Grand Canyon creationist controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive on “Interpretation and Education (Director’s Order #6) which reinforces the posture that materials on the “history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism [and] Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.”

“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”

SOURCE: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

The Cleanup Wars Continue

I have gathered a few relevant snips from various, reputable sources on the recent hanging of Saddam Hussein and the politics that surround it, the psyops, and the history of the relationship between the former Iraqi president, his former American supporters, and the very, very dirty politics of Iran-Contra and the elder Bush that has just lost one more witness.

First, a snip from an older piece from Steve Mizrach, Adjunct Lecturer, Florida International University, Department of Sociology/Anthropology:

"...another man who was a delighted beneficiary of American generosity throughout the 1980s was Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Agriculture Department and other agencies gave Saddam agricultural credits worth millions of dollars which he used to purchase American attack helicopters, chemical weapons for using on the Kurds, and the components of a nuclear weapons program. It is suspected that the CIA and Justice Department overlooked, or aided, the Banco Nazionale Lavoro (BNL) of Italy while it funneled billions in military aid to Iraq. This recently burgeoning scandal, "Iraqgate," suggests we were playing both sides against the middle during the Iran-Iraq war. We were selling arms to both the Iranians and the Iraqis, and the CIA at various points double-crossed both sides. It is no wonder that America is so distrusted in that part of the world. In any case, there were two men that knew too much, and when Bush became president, he had to clean them up, and he would wage two "cleanup wars" to do it.

One link between Bush, Saddam, and Iran-Contra was the corrupt Middle Eastern bank, the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI). BCCI, it turns out, laundered drug money, financed CIA and Mossad covert operations, and helped Bush, Saddam, and others split over $250 billion in extortion from the sale of Persian Gulf oil. (BCCI also might have had links to the corrupt drug-money-laundering-and-CIA scandals involving Australia's Nugan Hand Bank.) Attorney General Richard Thornburgh squashed an investigation into First American Bankshares, secretly controlled by BCCI, in October 1990; and William von Raab, former U.S. customs official, was fired by Treasury Secretary James Brady for delving too deeply into BCCI. This may have a lot to do with the links between Prescott Bush, First American director Stephens, Bahrain, and Iraq. Bush's family were oilmen, and if there is anything he stood for, it was Big Oil and its interests in the Middle East. (It might be pointed out, incidentally, that it was Norman Schwarzkopf's father who helped boot out Mossadegh in Iran when he threatened to nationalize holdings of British Petroleum.) The mess was in place, and President Bush had a lot of cleaning up to do."

SOURCE: Florida International University


Allen L. Roland, at Salon, has offered the following:

"Do not forget that this execution was carried out by a U.S. installed government in Iraq while the U.S.( contrary to International law ) is illegally occupying Iraq. Do not forget that the U.S. preemptively invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis in a war based on deception and lies. As such, do not forget that Saddam Hussein, in essence, was executed by the U.S. government no matter how the Cheney/Bush administration tries to spin it."

There is more from Allen at his blog, which I recommend, here.


What follows is reproduced in its entirety, from Consortium News which, for the record, I consider among the most reputable of sources:

Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness
By Robert Parry
December 30, 2006

Like a blue-blood version of a Mob family with global reach, the Bushes have eliminated one more key witness to the important historical events that led the U.S. military into a bloody stalemate in Iraq and pushed the Middle East to the brink of calamity.

The hanging of Saddam Hussein was supposed to be – as the New York Times observed – the “triumphal bookend” to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If all had gone as planned, Bush might have staged another celebration as he did after the end of “major combat,” posing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003.

But now with nearly 3,000 American soldiers killed and the Iraqi death toll exceeding 600,000 by some estimates, Bush may be forced to savor the image of Hussein dangling at the end of a rope a little more privately.

Still, Bush has done his family’s legacy a great service while also protecting secrets that could have embarrassed other senior U.S. government officials.

He has silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi “green light” for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.

Hussein now won’t be around to give troublesome testimony about how he obtained the chemical and biological agents that his scientists used to produce the unconventional weapons that were deployed against Iranian forces and Iraqi civilians. He can’t give his perspective on who got the money and who facilitated the deals.

Nor will Hussein be available to give his account of the mixed messages delivered by George H.W. Bush’s ambassador April Glaspie before Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Was there another American “green light” or did Hussein just hear what he wanted to hear?

Like the climactic scene from the Mafia movie “Casino” in which nervous Mob bosses eliminate everyone who knows too much, George W. Bush has now guaranteed that there will be no public tribunal where Hussein gives testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals, which could threaten the Bush Family legacy.

That could have happened if Hussein had been turned over to an international tribunal at the Hague as was done with other tyrants, such as Yugoslavia’s late dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Instead Bush insisted that Hussein be tried in Iraq despite the obvious fact that the Iraqi dictator would receive nothing close to a fair trial before being put to death.

Hussein's hanging followed his trial for executing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982 after a foiled assassination attempt on Hussein and his entourage. Hussein's death effectively moots other cases that were supposed to deal with his alleged use of chemical weapons to kill Iraqi civilians and other crimes that might have exposed the U.S. role.

[For details on what Hussein might have revealed, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “Missing U.S.-Iraq History” or “The Secret World of Robert Gates.”]

Thrill of the Kill

Some observers think that Bush simply wanted the personal satisfaction of seeing Hussein hanged, which would not have happened if he had been sent to the Hague. As Texas governor, Bush sometimes took what appeared to be perverse pleasure at his power to execute prisoners.

In a 1999 interview with conservative writer Tucker Carlson for Talk magazine, Bush ridiculed convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker and her unsuccessful plea to Bush to spare her life.

Asked about Karla Faye Tucker’s clemency appeal, Bush mimicked what he claimed was the condemned woman’s message to him. “With pursed lips in mock desperation, [Bush said]: ‘Please don’t kill me.’”

But a more powerful motive was always Hussein’s potential threat to the Bush Family legacy if he ever had a forum where he could offer detailed testimony about the historic events of the past several decades.

Since stepping into the White House on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush has made it a top priority to conceal the history of his father’s 12 years as Vice President and President and to wrap his own presidency in a thick cloak of secrecy.

One of Bush’s first acts as President was to sign an executive order that blocked the scheduled release of historic records from his father’s years. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush expanded his secrecy mandate to grant his family the power to withhold those documents from the American public in perpetuity, passing down the authority to keep the secrets to future Bush generations.

So, even after George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are dead, those noted historians Jenna and Barbara Bush will control key government documents covering a 20-year swath of U.S. history.

Already, every document at the George H.W. Bush presidential library must not only be cleared for release by specialists at the National Archives and – if classified – by the affected agencies, but also by the personal representatives of both the senior and junior George Bush.

With their backgrounds in secret societies like Skull and Bones – and with George H.W. Bush’s work at the CIA – the Bushes are keenly aware of the power that comes from controlling information. By keeping crucial facts from the American people, the Bushes feel they can turn the voters into easily manipulated children.

When there is a potential rupture of valuable information, the Bushes intervene, turning to influential friends to discredit some witness or relying on the U.S. military to make the threat go away. The Bushes have been helped immeasurably, too, by the credulity and cowardice of the modern U.S. news media and the Democratic Party.

What Can Be Done

Still, even with Hussein’s execution, there are actions that the American people can take to finally recover the lost history of the 1980s.

The U.S. military is now sitting on a treasure trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration exploited these documents to discredit the United Nations over the “oil for food” scandal of the 1990s, ironically when Hussein wasn’t building weapons of mass destruction. But the Bush administration has withheld the records from the 1980s when Hussein was producing chemical and biological weapons.

In 2004, for instance the CIA released the so-called Duelfer report, which acknowledged that the administration’s pre-invasion assertions about Hussein hiding WMD stockpiles were “almost all wrong.” But a curious feature of the report was that it included a long section about Hussein’s abuse of the U.N.’s “oil for food” program, although the report acknowledged that the diverted funds had not gone to build illegal weapons.

Meanwhile, the report noted the existence of a robust WMD program in the 1980s but offered no documentary perspective on how that operation had occurred and who was responsible for the delivery of crucial equipment and precursor chemicals. In other words, the CIA’s WMD report didn’t identify the non-Iraqis who made Iraq’s WMD arsenal possible.

One source who has seen the evidence told me that it contains information about the role of Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, who has been identified as a key link between the CIA and Iraq for the procurement of dangerous weapons in the 1980s. But that evidence has remained locked away.

With the Democrats taking control of Congress on Jan. 4, 2007, there could finally be an opportunity to force out more of the full story, assuming the Democrats don’t opt for their usual course of putting “bipartisanship” ahead of oversight and truth.

The American people also could demand that the surviving members of Hussein’s regime be fully debriefed on their historical knowledge before their voices also fall silent either from natural causes or additional executions.

But the singular figure who could have put the era in its fullest perspective – and provided the most damning evidence about the Bush Family’s role – has been silenced for good, dropped through a trap door of a gallows and made to twitch at the end of a noose fashioned from hemp.

The White House announced that George W. Bush didn’t wait up for the happy news of Hussein’s hanging. After the U.S. military turned Hussein over to his Iraqi executioners, Bush went to bed at his Crawford, Texas, ranch and slept through the night.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Friday, December 29, 2006

Global Warming Claims Tropical Island

For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas. Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports:

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.

It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of Oceanographic Studies, says "it is only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger.

Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the first populated ones to disappear, in about eight years' time, but Lohachara has beaten them to the dubious distinction.

Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless

Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.

SOURCE: The Independent

Also see
Ice Shelf Collapse Sends Chill

Thursday, December 28, 2006

End of year report: The State of the World

by Richard K. Moore

As many others have recognized, and I have often written, we are now in the midst of a global Great Transformation. By some strange coincidence, this Great Transformation seems to be synchronized with our calendar -- coinciding more or less with the beginning of a new millennium.

'New Millennium' is not a buzzword that people use yet, but they will soon. I wonder how far we were into the 1900s before people recognized that the Twentieth Century was a very special century? World wars, relativity, air travel, radio & TV, nuclear energy, mass prosperity, computers -- the pattern of radical invention became clear soon enough, but when was it first recognized as a 'phenomenon of the century'? By comparison, those phenomena will seem insignificant compared to those that will be identified with civilization's Third Millennium.

There are many singular events that can be identified as 'signs of changing times'. In my own mind, two such events that stand out were the '98 Seattle protest, and the '01 WTC incident. I pick the Seattle protest because it symbolizes the growing and deep-seated popular rejection of the current world order. I pick the WTC incident because it symbolizes the elite reaction to that rejection. The people said: "Here's what we think of your old millennium," and the rulers answered: "Here's what we've got in store for you in the new one." Again coincidentally, these two events evenly straddle the beginning of the new millennium, each a year and some months separated from it.

There are of course many dimensions to this Great Transformation. The events I selected above reflect only one dimension: the relationship between Western citizens and their governments. I see this as the most critical dimension however, as that perspective is the one from which we can identify a path of hope. Only when the people of the West wake up and make their dreams of democracy real, can the direction of transformation be shifted toward the salvation of humanity.

In the rest of this report, I will be exploring the state of the world, and likely near-future scenarios, assuming that Western populations remain unable to rouse themselves from their current hypnotic trance, their dream that they are living in reformable democracies, their state of denial regarding elite rule and elite machinations.


* The Geopolitical Dimension

There are four significant players on the geopolitical scene.

1) The Anglo-American Block: controlled by Anglo-American banking elites, backed up by the Pentagon, seeking global hegemony, and with EU elites cooperating -- while at the same time they seek to keep their options open to the East.

2) The Sino-Russian Block: led by Sino-Russian political elites, supported by a military strategy based on asymmetry, seeking a multi-polar world, and in alliance with other SCO members.

3) The Independent Rebels (ie, all those smaller nations that Washington considers to be 'troublesome to US interests'): with leadership symbolized by Hugo Chavez, in an alliance-of-convenience with the Sino-Russian Block, and increasingly showing the courage to defy the Anglo-American Block and its imperialist system

4) The Global Insurgency: with leadership embodied in Hezbollah and in the people of Iraq, Mexico, unoccupied Palestine, and other similars.

While the Independent Rebels are picking away at Anglo-American hegemony, and the Global Insurgency is complicating the problems of imperial management, the Big Game is between the Big Blocks: the West vs. the East, Washington & London vs. Moscow & Bejing. All the major international initiatives of these Big Players amount to jockeying for position in the face of an inevitable confrontation.

The Anglo-American Block is pursuing three parallel strategies. In the short term, it focuses on domination of the Middle East, in an effort to control international petroleum markets and to maintain the dollar as a reserve currency. In a slightly longer term, it sees two options for itself: a victorious first strike on the Sino-Russian Block, or -- if a multi-polar world cannot be avoided -- a retreat into Fortress America. In pursuit of the former it is rapidly developing a space-based control-of-theater system, and in pursuit of the latter it is preparing a neoliberal-based merger of Mexico, the US, and Canada.

Time, meanwhile, is entirely on the side of the Sino-Russian Block. The longer confrontation can be postponed, the stronger that Block becomes in relation to its adversary. The ancient Chinese strategic paradigm is at work here: the wise general wins from position, avoids combat, and leaves his adversary a way out (acquiescence to multi-polarity). This Block will not intervene if the US attacks Iran, partly to delay direct confrontation, and partly because they are willing to write off the Middle East as 'Anglo-Amercian territory', in return for de facto recognition of Sino-Russian hegemony in Eurasia. That fits well with their vision of a multi-polar world.

It is the Anglo-American elites that are under the pressure of time, and that is why they are so frantically flailing for position wherever they can, sacrificing their own economies and civil societies, and flagrantly violating every standard of international law and human decency.

The psychically primitive elites of this Block follow in a direct line from the Vikings, the Crusaders, and the Conquistadors -- they understand only conquest and exploitation, and they see compromise as a fatal weakness. The more evolved chess and Go players of the East see them as cowboys, and are patiently waiting for them to exhaust their ammo in peripheral battles.

While the Anglo-American Block is managed so as to enrich an elite clique, the Sino-Russian Block is managed so as to promote national interests. While the former is desperately cannibalizing its national infrastructures, the latter is patiently strengthening theirs. This is why time is on their side.

From a geopolitical perspective the Great Transformation can have one of two outcomes: (1) Anglo-American hegemony -- in which case the entire world will for the first time be controlled by a single elite clique -- or (2) multi-polarity, whereby China will re-emerge as the world's Great Central Nation, with the five-century tide of Western Expansionism finally brought to a halt.


* The Economic Dimension

The central economic fact of the Third Millennium is the collision of an irresistible force with an unmovable object: the paradigm of industrial development and economic growth cannot be sustained in a finite world. Economically, this fact exhibits itself as a declining global economy in real terms, the flight of capital into speculative markets, the de-industrialization of the entire Western world, and the impending collapse of the US economy. Environmentally, this fact exhibits itself as deforestation, loss of topsoils and fisheries, oil depletion, species extinction, and global warming.

These economic conditions are motivating the Anglo-American grab for hegemony, and these economic conditions favor the East, with its vast land mass and its lower level of economic development -- ie, its lower level of structural economic waste. It will be much easier for Eurasia (and the third world) to move toward sustainability than it will be for the West. Again, the national focus of Eurasian elites has more survival potential than the does the greedy, self-serving focus of Western elites.

In the West it is the people who are exploring the question of sustainability, while the elite focus is on increasing the sales of automobiles, jet travel, and petroleum (despite Gore's hypocritical campaign posturing). In China, on the other hand, it is the national leadership which is beginning to understand the need for sustainability, being the first nation to require photovoltaic cells in some of its new residential construction.

It is in the economic dimension that the Great Transformation will be most pronounced. Whether we have a multi-polar or a single-empire world order will be of interest to political scientists and historians, but the necessity of sustainability (or die) will effect everyone directly.


* The Political Dimension

The Age of Enlightenment is over. The liberal mythologies that arose as an apology for capitalism have been abandoned by Western elites. In Britain and the US, the standard bearers of neoliberalism, the death of the democratic myth is all too apparent. Europe lags behind, but EU elites have no vision of an alternative future. Fortunately Europeans are considerably more politically evolved than Americans or Brits, as evidenced by the popular rejection of the neoliberal EU Constitution. In Europe there is hope for popular democratic impact, while in the heartland of the Anglo-American Block, one sees mostly sheep panicking for a path away from chaos, or distracting themselves with consumerism and television fantasies.

In the Sino-Russian Block, there is little political hope. China, the heart of the Block, is the longest standing centralized society in the history of the world (5,000 years or so). One might compare this with Germany, which until 1871 was still divided into autonomous units, or the USA, which didn't even exist until a century before that. The Chinese are so conditioned to hierarchy that there is little hope of any kind of democratic impact.

If there is to be an effective popular response to the current path of civilization, if humanity is to be saved, the initiative must come from the West. In the East the psychology of hierarchy is too deeply ingrained, and the third world cannot control the course of geopolitical events, regardless of how enlightened its leaders and people become.

It is up to us, over-coddled and over-comfortable Westerners, to begin the process of turning the Great Transformation into the Great Enlightenment, rather than the New Dark Ages. This can only happen when we wake up from our pseudo-Enlightenment trance.

SOURCE: Cyberjournal

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The O'Odham: Native Americans With Ancestors From India?

By Gene D. Matlock, BA, M.A.

Hindu scholars have always claimed that in remotest times, their ancestors visited every part of the globe, mapping it accurately, and mining gold and copper in such places as Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, England, Ireland, Peru, and Bolivia. Known to us as "Indo-Europeans," they lost their grip on the world in about 1500 BC., retreating to what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India. However, they continued to visit the Americas in their large teakwood ships, many of them 250 feet long and five- to six-masted, until about 1200 A.D. After that, the sectarian fanaticism and territorialism of their religious leaders, rebellions among their conquered subjects, constant internecine rivalries, and troubles with Moslem invaders forced them into isolation.

No Westerner naively accepts India's claims of having once dominated the world. Right? Well, some of us do.

In an essay entitled On Egypt from the Ancient Book of the Hindus (Asiatic Researchers Vol. III, 1792), British Lt. Colonel Francis Wilford gave abundant evidence proving that ancient Indians colonized and settled in Egypt. The British explorer John Hanning Speke, who in 1862 discovered the source of the Nile in Lake Victoria, acknowledged that the Egyptians themselves didn't have the slightest knowledge of where the Nile's source was. However, Lt. Colonel Wilford's description of the Hindu's intimate acquaintance with ancient Egypt led Speke to Ripon Falls, at the edge of Lake Victoria.

The Hindus also claim that the gospel of their deity Shiva was once the religion of the world and the progenitor of all religions coming after it.

"Isvar was the only god in India, the whole of Asia, the southern parts of Russia, Mediterranean countries, Egypt, Greece, the whole of Europe, the human inhabited places of both Americas…and also in England and Ireland. In all these lands, Isvar was the religion with slight variations in the pronunciation of the word Isvar….the Isvar religion is the mother of all religions in the world, including Christianity and Islam."(Remedy the Frauds in Hinduism, by Kuttikhat Purushothama Chon; p. 36.)

While the languages our forefathers spoke thousands of years ago would be completely unrecognizable to us now, the names of their deities (those that survived to this modern age) may be immediately recognizable to their respective modern adherents, such as the Christians, Jews, Moslems, Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus. Names of deities tend not to change.

Isvar was and is especially visible (to discerning eyes) in our own Southwest as well as in Northern and Central Mexico. Some tribes even worshiped God Shiva's wives and consorts. Spanish priest, Andres Perez de Ribas wrote in his book, My Life Among the Savage Nations of New Spain, that a Northern Mexican tribe worshiped two deities: Viriseva and a mother goddess named Vairubai. Viriseva means "Lord Siva" in Sanskrit. Vairubai has to be (a mispronouncing of) Bhairava, another name of Siva's consort, Goddess Durga.

A few Hindu scholars insist that not all their gods and religious traditions are natives of the Indian subcontinent. When the ancient Nagas retreated to India, they also took back the deities and religious traditions they had acquired abroad, incorporating them into "Hinduism," a term meaning "The Indus Valley Way of Life."

Historian Chon states:

"There are strong indications in our ancient texts that the places and events described in them are lying outside the geographical limits of India But when we talk of geographical limits, …are they the national boundaries of post-independent India? Or are they the boundaries of India, the ancient?" (Remedy the Frauds in Hinduism; p.30.)

I'm especially impressed with the traditions of the Pimas (Akimel O'Odham) and Papagos (Tohono O'Odham) of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. Although I could write a lengthy article about Isvarist (worship of the Hindu deity, Shiva) practices in practically every Southwestern United States, Mexican, Central and South American Indian tribe, even India-Indian spiritual geography is reproduced abundantly in the O'Odham nation.

Though the pre-conquest era O'odhams were relatively primitive, the Spaniards admired them for their intelligence, industry, and high philosophy. Some Catholic missionary priests thought they were the progenitors of the Aztecs.

About 5,000 BC or earlier, a brilliant deified Phoenician Naga king and philosopher named Kuvera (also Kubera) learned how to smelt copper, gold, and other metals. These activities took place in the kingdom named after him, Khyber ("Kheeveri"), which consisted of a group of craggy mountains in what are now Southeastern Afghanistan and Northeastern Pakistan (i.e. the Khyber Pass). According to Hindu mythology, Kuvera and God Shiva lived in the totally barren, mineral-poor, goldless, frigid, lofty, bell-shaped or pyramidical peak of Kailasa in Western Tibet.

Edward Pococke stated in his book India in Greece,

The Khyber; its region is wealthy and abounds with rubies; gold is found in the mines in its vicinity, and it (the Kheeveri kingdom) was likewise the ruling power in those early days. (p.220.)

We derived our word "copper" from Kuvera's name. Eventually, the Nagas extended their influence over all of India. If you've intuited that Afghan Khyber (Kheever), Hebrew Heber (pronounced Kheever), Egyptian Khepri, Greek Khyphera, Cabeiri, Cypriotic Cip'ri (Kheep'ri), biblical Capernaum, Arabic Khabar, O'Odham Babo-Quivari (Kheeveri), Francisco de Coronado's search for the fabled Quivira (Kheevira), ad infinitum, are somehow linked, you've intuited correctly.

But why do the Hindus and Buddhists worship Kuvera and Shiva in a barren peak and not in the Khyber mountain range itself? I don't want to get "mystical," but the "reason" for this anomaly is the world's best-kept millennium's-old secret. Besides, it's not the focus of this article.

Kuh or Koh = "Hump; Mountain" while Vera or Vira = "Hero; Lord."

The Nagas, also called Nakas and Nahu(a)s, were a highly civilized ruling, maritime and mercantile class who once inhabited what is now Afghanistan, Tibet, Pakistan, and Northwestern India. The Nag ("Self-Consuming Serpent") was one of their principal tribal emblems. The substance of Kuvera's teachings is that God, then called Dyau, Deo, Dyaus or Jyaus, put all the plants, animals, ores, and minerals on earth for Man's enjoyment. As long as Man protects the happiness and security of all humanity, he need not place any limits on his greed. Kuvera's teachings spread throughout the whole world.

"Originally, the Asuras or Nagas were not only a civilized people, but a maritime power, and in the Mahabharata, where the ocean is described as their habitation, an ancient legend is preserved of how Kadru, the mother of serpents, compelled Garuda (the Eagle or Hawk) to serve her sons by transporting them across the sea to a beautiful country in a distant land, which was inhabited by Nagas, The Asuras (Nagas) were expert navigators, possessed of very considerable naval resources, and had founded colonies upon distant coasts." (The Encircled Serpent, by M. Oldfield, p. 47.)

"Asura" is the Indian equivalent of Assyria (really Asuriya and Asir) and the Persian Ahura of Zoroastrianism. It derives from the name of the ancient Hindu sun god Ashur. The Naga capital was called Oudh, Iodh, Yudh, and Ayodhya. Located near what is now Herat, Afghanistan, it is not to be confused with todays Oudh or Ayodhya in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The citizens of Oudh were called Oudh-am and Otia-Am. Am = "People" in Sanskrit.

In those days, only a few million people inhabited the earth. Most humans were cavemen and less. The Nagas didn't entrust their highly developed technologies to such aborigines. But they did teach them how to build simple thatch and adobe homes, and to raise vegetable and animal foods. They also taught them about the Creator of All Life, Dyaus or Jyaus. Even today the O'Odhams call it Jeoss or Josh. Joshi is one of God Shiva's many names. Some White Arizonians mistakenly insist that the O'Odhams derived this term from Dios (Spanish for "God"), Jesus, or Joshua.

The innocent Arizona aborigines believed these Nagas from Oudh, Afghanistan (part of India until the late 1700s) were gods. They even named themselves Oudham, which they pronounced as O'Odham or O'Ot'ham. An ancient Sanskrit word for "brotherhood; fraternity" is Ton; Tahun. The Papagos called themselves Tohono O'Odham, or "Oudh-am Fraternity." Tohono now means "Desert" in the O'Odham language. The Pimas settled along winding rivers, which seemed to look like writhing serpents. They named themselves Akimel O'Odham. "Akimel" derives from the Sanskrit Ahi-Mahal (Great Serpent). This name eventually came to mean "River."

The Nagas dug deep wells in the desert, siphoning water out of the ground with long, thick tubes. The exterior ends of these tubes were large and bulbous, and painted to look like human heads, in order to mystify the aborigines. The water spouted out from what looked like round, puckered human mouths. The heads had horns which were really handles for pulling tubes to different irrigation channels. As the flowing water caused these tubes to writhe and undulate like serpents, the primitive Arizonians thought they were real. In Kashmiri, Nag means "a snake, esp. a fabulous serpent-demon or semi-divine being, having the face of a man and the tail of a serpent, and said to inhabit Patala. In Kashmir, they are the deities of springs." (Grierson's Dictionary of the Kashmiri Language; p. 624, item 2.) The Kashmirians also called these siphons Nag-Beg (Snake-Lords). Patala was one of the ancient Indian names for "America." It's real meaning is "Underworld," but not an underground world. They used it as we often call Australia: "The Land Down Under."

The Arizonian O'Odhams similarly called the water siphon Nah-Big. According to both Kashmiri and O'Odham legends, the Nah-Big was harmless. However, if someone "killed" it, the spring dried up - and for good reason. Without a proper siphon, needed water could no longer spew out of the well. Several Southwestern Indian tribes worship exact replicas of the Kashmiri Nag-Beg (siphon) in special religious ceremonies. However, some of them call it by other names. Certain O'Odham and other Native-American clans in the Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora area also call this mythical serpent Corua (KoROOah, with the "R" trilled as in our English "City"). It derives from Sanskrit: Krura-Sarpavat (Violent-Serpent); Kadruja (Serpent Mother Kadru's equally serpent son).

Another O'Odham word for "snake," Vah-Mat, is nearly identical to the Kashmiri/Sanskrit Veh-Mar: "Poisonous-Snake." The O'Odham language contains an unusually high number of North Indian words.

When the Nagas arrived in Arizona, they found a huge stone peak in the desert, resembling Kuvera and Shiva's (I-Itsoi's) Kailasa in nearly every way except one. The Indian Kailasa, also in a desert, is nearly four times higher above sea level than the O'Odhams' holy peak. To honor their spritual progenitor, the Nagas named this Arizona peak Babu-Kheever ("Grandfather" or "Illustrious Indian Immigrant" Kuvera), adhering closely to the exact pronunciation of the mineral-rich Kheever (Khyber) mountain range of Afghanistan.

Baboquivari (Babo-kheeveri) has retained almost the same name after more than six millenniums. The O'odhams also call it Waw-Kiwulk, which sounds like "Vahv-Kivur'." Just as the Hindus, Jains and Buddhists call Kailasa the navel of the world, so do the O'odhams give Baboquivari the same distinction.

Babo-Kheeveri and the Afghan Kheeveri mountains were supposedly filled with unlimited gold, copper, and precious stones. Even today, much of the gold mined in that part of Arizona keeps leaking endlessly out of the Babo-Kheeveri (Baboquivari) mountain range.

Jutting upward at more than 7,750 feet above sea level, Baboquivari can be seen on a clear day from as far away as 80 miles, even from the Mexican side of the border. Few natural wonders equal the majesty and beauty of this spectacular peak. In my opinion, it is a "must-see" for any lover of Nature's wonders. You will notice that the mountain enjoys the close association of lesser peaks, forming a large trident.

Being such a prominent landmark, Baboquivari keeps incoming undocumented Mexican aliens and drug smugglers from getting lost. That part of the desert also abounds in water-filled cacti to slake their thirst, including edible fauna and flora. Evidently, the INS knows about Baboquivari. On the day my wife and I visited the peak, we saw several of their vans in the area, waiting to pick up uninvited guests and transport them back to the border - or to prison.

When I told the O'Odhams that I had learned about the unlimited quantities of gold within Baboquivari from Hindu books written millenniums ago, one woman moaned hopelessly, "Now that this news is out, the White man will even rob us of our God." She wasn't too far afield. The government has always wanted to probe the interior of Baboquivari.


A Possible Historical Scenario

About 3,000 BC, a saintly Indian prince and high priest of the Kheeveri empire left Afghanistan for Arizona, to manage the mining operations at Baboquivari and govern the O'Odhams. In India, he is variously called Shiva, Siva, Shaveh, Suva, Su, Ish, Esh, Yesh, Isa, Itsa, Ishvara, Yishvara, Yeshva, Moshe, Mahesh, Mahisa, etc. The suffixes Va and Veh refer to someone who is vengeful and short of temper. Vara = "Blessings of." The prefixes Mo, Mu. and Mah means "Great." Ish, Esh, Yesh, Isa, etc., = "Material Universe" in both Sanskrit and Hebrew cabalism. From these Sanskrit elements we derived our term "Messiah," which in Sanskrit is Masiha, and Massee'akh in Hebrew. These terms were honorific titles of the highest ecclesiastical and leadership castes of that period in history. These supreme "Sivas," whether good, bad, or indifferent, were also regarded as earthly gods.

We may never know what this "Shiva's" real name was. The Pimas call him Se-eh-ha; Siwa; Su-u (Elder Brother). The Papagos worship him as I'Itoi or I'Itsoi, which linguistically is nearly identical to "Isa."

Not yet united by a centralized government, the ancient Hindus weren't conscious of themselves as Indians - just as similar peoples separated by different tribes and kingdoms. All of them competed by fair and foul means for the resources of the world. Internecine rivalries tore them apart constantly.

During Shiva's Arizona reign, a powerful Indian emperor, Priyavarta, sent his armies to all the countries of the world, to unite all Indians and their colonial possessions as one nation. He appointed his sons as viceroys. One son, Sevana or Sewana, was sent to conquer and govern North America. Notice that he, too, was a "Siva." O'odham legends mention this Sewana whom they call Siwana. When I'Itoi or Se-eh-ha wouldn't submit to Priyavarta, he and Siwana met on the battle field. Ultimately, I'Itoi prevailed; Siwana was killed.

According to some Indian historians, later on, back in Southeast Asia, the volcano Krakatoa exploded violently, creating the China Sea. Our globe became extremely unsteady on its axis, causing rains, earthquakes, and floods to occur all over the world. The coastlands of Western India submerged by more than fifty feet and as many miles inland in some places. Even as you read this article, Indian archeologists are uncovering fabulous ruins lying just off the mainland, under the Arabian sea.

Dwarka, Indian deity Lord Krishna's capital city, is the focal point of these underwater digs. Dwarka may prove to be the greatest archeological dig in human history.

These floods forced millions of Indian refugees to flee to other parts of the world. When the Arizona desert flooded, the Pimas and Papagos took refuge on Baboquivari where I'Itoi or Se-eh-ha (Siva) helped them survive. After the waters had subsided, he helped the O'Odham re-establish themselves. Therefore, no matter to what religion they are converted, the O'Odham are always going to revere and respect I'Itoi.

Nearly all of today's O'Odham are Catholics. However, the Franciscan fathers tending to their spiritual needs allow them to set up the Swastika, I'Itoi or Isa's standard, on the altars of the Catholic churches there, even on the altar of San Xavier Mission church near Tucson.

There are other Shaivite reminders among the O'odhams. O'Odham Catholic churches usually face east as the Shaivite temples do in India. And, like the Hindus, they bury their dead in an east-west direction. They also revere the Shiva-Linga or Pillar of Energy, usually erected in front of and some distance away from their churches, placed on a tiered pyramid or pyramidical mound, exactly as in India. However, nowadays the Shivling is a Christian cross. In the book he wrote in 1644, Father Ribas acknowledged that the Northern Mexican Indians worshiped Shivlings.

"One of the padres, traveling along a trail near Guasave, observed an Indian suddenly depart into the woods. In curiosity they followed this Indian, presently coming upon him in the act of making reverence before a stone. This stone was about a vara (33 inches) in height, shaped in the form of a pyramid, and had some crude inscriptions carved upon it.

"The Padre ordered this false idol destroyed. The Indian, horrified at the thought, declared that he dare not destroy it, for fear of death." (My Life Among the Savage Nations of New Spain; p. 34.)

During my visit at San Xavier mission, I also saw representations of the undulating serpent Nah-Big on the exterior of the church of San Xavier. And get this: The O'Odhams call their way of life Himday or Himdag! Hindi?

I was especially intrigued by the Pima name for "Medicine-Man:" Javet-Makai. Dyaus-Pitar or Jyapeti (Japhet) is really another title of Shiva. Makai may be derived from Maga (Priest-Magician). Javet-Makai = Jyapeti Maga?

DNA analysis may prove that today's O'Odhams are genetically related to the India-Indians. Arjuna, Krishna's companion in the Mahabharata Wars (fought on Northern India's Kuruksetra plains in about 3000 BC), was married to a Patalan (American) princess. Military forces from Patala, possibly even some O'Odham among them, fought in those famous wars.

How did I'Itoi's deification get exported to India? Because Isvar was once the religion of all mankind, It could have been a partial contributor to all worldwide myths about Siva, eventually becoming consolidated in the Indian subcontinent. I'Itoi earned "godhood" on his own merits. Also, as a Hindu supreme leader, he was deified anyway. After all, the O'Odham and the Hindus do share the same India-originated "Way of Life."

Hindu immigrants to this country often tell me that they see the Southwestern Native-Americans as long-lost brothers. They say that many Native-Americans tell them the same thing. If we use Sanskrit language resources, Hindu mythology, Shaivite practices and mutually identical holy names as measuring sticks, the kinship between Native-Americans and South Asians becomes easily verifiable, no matter what the "experts" say. Could there be a special political reason why "The Great White Father" doesn't want certain Native-Americans to know they're Himday?

Some tribes, such as the Huicholes in Central Mexico, even remember from what Indian seaport they left for America - Aramra in Gujarat. The Huicholes revere a part of the beach at the old Mexican seaport of San Blas, Nayarit, as Aramara, "Place of Origin of the Huicholes." Millenniums ago, Gujarat was called Jukhar. Juj-Kha is an O'Odham name for "Mexicans." The Navajos call them Nakaii (Nagas). The Apaches claim to be Inde (Indus People.) They worship Shiva as Yusn. In Sanskrit, Yishan = "Shiva." Apache = "Enemy" in O'Odham. In Sanskrit, Apachnan = "Destroyer." Another name of the Zunis ("Zoonyees") is Ashiwi (Azhuva?, "Way of the Serpent," in Sanskrit). Two of their principal deities are Shivani and Shiwanikoya. Zoonya (Zuni?) and Zeenya ware epithets of ancient Kashmir. According to Indian historian K. P. Chon, the Naga Azhuvas, perhaps the forefathers of the Zunis, were India's oldest ruling dynasty. He said that they ruled for more than a thousand years.

"The descendants of this dynasty are still to be found in the southernmost part of India in Kerala. They are even now called Azhuva or Ezhava. The emperor Azi Dahaka, -- with two snakes around his neck -- was a devotee of Isvara."(Remedy the Frauds in Hinduism; p. 22.)

The Ezhavas' ships were said to have sailed all over the world.

The Hopis worship Siva under several of his names, one of which is Massawa (Maheswa?). The Hopis are ophiolators (snake worshippers). Thousands of years ago, a famous Naga cult called Hophiz lived near Kabul, Afghanistan. Orginally, this nation was named Oph (Serpent) + Gana (Group; Family) + Stan (Nation). "Afghanistan" evolved from "Oph-gana-stan." The Afghan Hophiz snake cult spread to Greece, becoming Ophis. The Ophis cult was popular in the ancient world, even among the Christian gnostics. Needless to say, it also found its way to the American Southwest. We may never know the exact "hows."

The name of the ancient Hopi village of Oraibi causes me to wonder whether the Hopi nation was a famous stronghold of Saivism, known even in India. This unusual word lacks only the "Bh" in Bhairavi, epithet of Goddess Durga. However, Grierson's Dictionary of the Kashmiri Language mentions another meaning of the term, which may explain exactly how and why Oraibi got its name: "Name of a certain class of lower deities who form Siva's host..." One of these is after the local godling of some locality or tract of country. Special localities protected by him are looked upon as sacred" (p. 129; item 44.) Was Southwestern United States an important Shaivite holy center in earliest times?

Other ancient Naga sea-faring miners, traders, conquerors and colonizers who left their bloodlines and names all over the Americas and the rest of the world were the Ute, Yuti, Yutiya, or Juti (Jutes). The Northern Mexican Indians called the invading Spaniards, "People-Who-Came-Before:" Yutiya ("Judeeya"); Yuti; Juti ("Jodee" or "Judee)." In Spanish, the word is usually spelled as Yori; Yuri. "R" is trilled as in "City." "Y" often approximates our "J." Because of the Spanish spelling, we can't see that this word is really the English "Jute.". Why did these Indians believe the Spaniards were Jutes? Juti now means "non-Indian Mexicans and Gringos." In Sanskrit, Juddhi; Yuddhi = "Conquerors." Our history books tell us that the "Jutes" were "Northern German or Danish tribes."

SOURCE: Mondo Vista

See also:

Is the Hopi Deity Kokopelli an Ancient Hindu God?
Maize in Pre-Columbian India
Lost city 'could rewrite history'

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Information War

by Hakim Bey

Humanity has always invested heavily in any scheme that offers escape from the body. And why not? Material reality is such a mess. Some of the earliest "religious" artefacts, such as Neanderthal ochre burials, already suggest a belief in immortality.

All modern (i.e. post-paleolithic) religions contain the "Gnostic trace" of distrust or even outright hostility to the body and the "created" world. Contemporary "primitive" tribes and even peasant-pagans have a concept of immortality and of going-outside-the-body (ec-stasy) without necessarily exhibiting any excessive body-hatred. The Gnostic Trace accumulates very gradually (like mercury poisoning) till eventually it turns pathological. Gnostic dualism exemplifies the extreme position of this disgust by shifting all value from body to "spirit". This idea characterizes what we call "civilization".

A similar trajectory can be traced through the phenomenon of "war". Hunter/gatherers practised (and still practise, as amongst the Yanomamo) a kind of ritualized brawl (think of the Plains Indian custom of "counting coup"). "Real" war is a continuation of religion and economics (i.e. politics) by other means, and thus only begins historically with the priestly invention of "scarcity" in the Neolithic, and the emergence of a "warrior caste". (I categorically reject the theory that "war" is a prolongation of "hunting".)

WWII seems to have been the last "real" war. Hyperreal war began in Vietnam, with the involvement of television, and recently reached full obscene revelation in the "Gulf War" of 1991. Hyperreal war is no longer "economic", no longer "the health of the state". The Ritual Brawl is voluntary and hon-hierarchic (war chiefs are always temporary); real war is compulsory and hierarchic; hyperreal war is imagistic and psychologically interiorized ("Pure War"). In the first the body is risked; in the second, the body is sacrificed; in the third, the body has disappeared. (See P. Clastres on War, in Archaeology of Violence.)

Modern science also incorporates an anti-materialist bias, the dialectical outcome of its war against Religion: -- it has in some sense become Religion. Science as knowledge of material reality paradoxically decomposes the materiality of the real.

Science has always been a species of priestcraft, a branch of cosmology; and an ideology, a justification of "the way things are." The deconstruction of the "real" in post-classical physics mirrors the vacuum of irreality which constitutes "the state". Once the image of Heaven on Earth, the state now consists of no more than the management of images. It is no longer a "force" but a disembodied patterning of information. But just as Babylonian cosmology justified Babylonian power, so too does the "finality" of modern science serve the ends of the Terminal State, the post-nuclear state, the "information state". Or so the New Paradigm would have it. And "everyone" accepts the axiomatic premisses of the new paradigm.

The new paradigm is very spiritual. Even the New Age with its gnostic tendencies embraces the New Science and its increasing etherealization as a source of proof-texts for its spiritualist world view. Meditation and cybernetics go hand in hand. Of course the "information state" somehow requires the support of a police force and prison system that would have stunned Nebuchadnezzar and reduced all the priests of Moloch to paroxysms of awe. And "modern science" still can't weasel out of its complicity in the very-nearly-successful "conquest of Nature". Civilization's greatest triumph over the body. But who cares? It's all "relative" isn't it? I guess we'll just have to "evolve" beyond the body. Maybe we can do it in a "quantum leap."

Meanwhile the excessive mediation of the Social, which is carried out through the machinery of the Media, increases the intensity of our alienation from the body by fixating the flow of attention on information rather than direct experience. In this sense the Media serves a religious or priestly role, appearing to offer us a way out of the body by re-defining spirit as information. The essence of information is the Image, the sacral and iconic data-complex which usurps the primacy of the "material bodily principle" as the vehicle of incarnation, replacing it with a fleshless ecstasis beyond corruption. Consciousness becomes something which can be "down-loaded", excized from the matrix of animality and immortalized as information. No longer "ghost-in-the-machine", but machine-as-ghost, machine as Holy Ghost, ultimate mediator, which will translate us from our mayfly-corpses to a pleroma of Light. Virtual Reality as CyberGnosis. Jack in, leave Mother Earth behind forever.

All science proposes a paradigmatic universalism: -- as in science, so in the social. Classical physics played midwife to Capitalism, Communism, Fascism and other Modern ideologies. Post-classical science also proposes a set of ideas meant to be applied to the social: Relativity, Quantum "unreality", cybernetics, information theory, etc. With some exceptions, the post-classical tendency is towards ever greater etherealization. Some proponents of Black Hole theory, for example, talk like pure Pauline theologians, while some of the information theorists are beginning to sound like virtual Manichaeans. (1)

On the level of the social these paradigms give rise to a rhetoric of bodylessness quite worthy of a third century desert monk or a 17th century New England Puritan -- but expressed in a language of post-Industrial post-Modern feel-good consumer frenzy. Our every conversation is infected with certain paradigmatic assumptions which are really no more than bald assertions, but which we take for the very fabric or urgrund of Reality itself. For instance, since we now assume that computers represent a real step toward "artificial intelligence", we also assume that buying a computer makes us more intelligent. In my own field I've met dozens of writers who sincerely believe that owning a PC has made them better (not "more efficient", but better) writers. This is amusing; -- but the same feeling about computers when applied to a trillion dollar military budget, churns out Star Wars, killer robots, etc. (See Manuel de Landa's War in the Age of Intelligent Machines on AI in modern weaponry).

An important part of this rhetoric involves the concept of an "information economy". The post-Industrial world is now thought to be giving birth to this new economy. One of the clearest examples of the concept can be found in a recent book by a man who is a Libertarian, the Bishop of a Gnostic Dualist Church in California, and a learned and respected writer for Gnosis magazine:

The industry of the past phase of civilization (sometimes called "low technology") was big industry, and bigness always implies oppressiveness. The new high technology, however, is not big in the same way. While the old technology produced and distributed material resources, the new technology produces and disseminates information. The resources marketed in high technology are less about matter and more about mind. Under the impact of high technology, the world is moving increasingly from a physical economy into what might be called a "metaphysical economy." We are in the process of recognizing that consciousness rather than raw materials or physical resources constitutes wealth. (2)

Modern neo-Gnosticism usually plays down the old Manichaean attack on the body for a gentler greener rhetoric. Bishop Hoeller for instance stresses the importance of ecology and environment (because we don't want to "foul our nest", the Earth) -- but in his chapter on Native American spirituality he implies that a cult of the Earth is clearly inferior to the pure Gnostic spirit of bodylessness:

But we must not forget that the nest is not the same as the bird. The exoteric and esoteric traditions declare that earth is not the only home for human beings, that we did not grow like weeds from the soil. While our bodies indeed may have originated on this earth, our inner essence did not. To think otherwise puts us outside of all of the known spiritual traditions and separates us from the wisdom of the seers and sages of every age. Though wise in their own ways, Native Americans have small connection with this rich spiritual heritage. (3)

In such terms, (the body = the "savage"), the Bishop's hatred and disdain for the flesh illuminate every page of his book. In his enthusiasm for a truly religious economy, he forgets that one cannot eat "information". "Real wealth" can never become immaterial until humanity achieves the final etherealization of downloaded consciousness. Information in the form of culture can be called wealth metaphorically because it is useful and desirable -- but it can never be wealth in precisely the same basic way that oysters and cream, or wheat and water, are wealth in themselves.

Information is always only information about some thing. Like money, information is not the thing itself. Over time we can come to think of money as wealth (as in a delightful Taoist ritual which refers to "Water and Money" as the two most vital principles in the universe), but in truth this is sloppy abstract thinking. It has allowed its focus of attention to wander from the bun to the penny which symbolizes the bun. (4)

In effect we've had an "information economy" ever since we invented money. But we still haven't learned to digest copper. The Aesopian crudity of these truisms embarrasses me, but I must perforce play the stupid lazy yokel plowing a crooked furrow when all the straight thinkers around me appear to be hallucinating. Americans and other "First World" types seem particularly susceptible to the rhetoric of a "metaphysical economy" because we can no longer see (or feel or smell) around us very much evidence of a physical world.

Our architecture has become symbolic, we have enclosed ourselves in the manifestations of abstract thought (cars, apartments, offices, schools), we work at "service" or information-related jobs, helping in our little way to move disembodied symbols of wealth around an abstract grid of Capital, and we spend our leisure largely engrossed in Media rather than in direct experience of material reality. The material world for us has come to symbolize catastrophe, as in our amazingly hysterical reaction to storms and hurricanes (proof that we've failed to "conquer Nature" entirely), or our neo-Puritan fear of sexual otherness, or our taste for bland and denatured (almost abstract) food.

And yet, this "First World" economy is not self-sufficient. It depends for its position (top of the pyramid) on a vast substructure of old-fashioned material production. Mexican farm-workers grow and package all that "Natural" food for us so we can devote our time to stocks, insurance, law, computers, video games. Peons in Taiwan make silicon chips for our PCs. Towel-heads in the Middle East suffer and die for our sins. Life? Oh, our servants do that for us. We have no life, only "lifestyle" -- an abstraction of life, based on the sacred symbolism of the Commodity, mediated by the priesthood of the stars, those "larger than life" abstractions who rule our values and people our dreams -- the mediarchetypes; or perhaps mediarchs would be a better term.

Of course this Baudrillardian dystopia doesn't really exist -- yet. (5) It's surprising hovever to note how many social radicals consider it a desirable goal, at least as long as it's called the "Information Revolution" or something equally inspiring. Leftists talk about seizing the means of information-production from the data-monopolists. (6) In truth, information is everywhere -- even atom bombs can be constructed on plans available in public libraries. As Noam Chomsky points out, one can always access information -- provided one has a private income and a fanaticism bordering on insanity.

Universities and "think tanks" make pathetic attempts to monopolize information -- they too are dazzled by the notion of an information economy -- but their conspiracies are laughable. Information may not always be "free", but there's a great deal more of it available than any one person could ever possibly use. Books on every conceivable subject can actually still be found through inter-library loan. (7) Meanwhile someone still has to grow pears and cobble shoes. Or, even if these "industries" can be completely mechanized, someone still has to eat pears and wear shoes. The body is still the basis of wealth. The idea of Images as wealth is a "spectacular delusion".

Even a radical critique of "information" can still give rise to an over-valuation of abstraction and data. In a "pro-situ" zine from England called NO, the following message was scrawled messily across the back cover of a recent issue:

As you read these words, the Information Age explodes . . . inside and around you -- with the Misinformation Missiles and Propaganda bombs of outright Information Warfare. Traditionally, war has been fought for territory/economic gain. Information Wars are fought for the acquisition of territory indigenous to the Information Age, i.e. the human mind itself.
. . . . In particular, it is the faculty of the imagination that is under the direct threat of extinction from the onslaughts of multi-media overload . . . . DANGER -- YOUR IMAGINATION MAY NOT BE YOUR OWN . . . . As a culture sophisticates, it deepens its reliance on its images, icons and symbols as a way of defining itself and communicating with other cultures. As the accumulating mix of a culture's images floats around in its collective psyche, certain isomorphic icons coalesce to produce and to project an "illusion" of reality. Fads, fashions, artistic trends. U KNOW THE SCORE.

"I can take their images for reality because I believe in the reality of their images (their image of reality)." WHOEVER CONTROLS THE METAPHOR GOVERNS THE MIND. The conditions of total saturation are slowly being realized -- a creeping paralysis -- from the trivialisation of special/technical knowledge to the specialization of trivia. The INFORMATION WAR is a war we cannot afford to lose. The result is unimaginable. (8)


I find myself very much in sympathy with the author's critique of media here, yet I also feel that a demonization of "information" has been proposed which consists of nothing more than the mirror-image of information-as-salvation. Again Baudrillard's vision of the Commtech Universe is evoked, but this time as Hell rather than as the Gnostic Hereafter. Bishop Hoeller wants everybody jacked-in and down-loaded -- the anonymous post-situationist ranter wants you to smash your telly -- but both of them believe in the mystic power of information. One proposes the pax technologica, the other declares "war". Both exude a kind of manichaean view of Good and Evil, but can't agree on which is which.

The critical theorist swims in a sea of facts. We like to imagine it also as our maquis , with ourselves as the "guerilla ontologists" of its datascape. Since the 19th century the ever-mutating "social Sciences" have unearthed a vast hoard of information on everything from shamanism to semiotics. Each "discovery" feeds back into "social science" and changes it. We drift. We fish for poetic facts, data which will intensify and mutate our experience of the real. We invent new hybrid "sciences" as tools for this process: ethnopharmacology, ethnohistory, cognitive studies, history of ideas, subjective anthropology (anthropological poetics or ethno-poetics), "dada epistemology", etc.

We look on all this knowledge not as "good" in itself, but valuable only inasmuch as it helps us to seize or to construct our own happiness. In this sense we do know of "information as wealth"; nevertheless we continue to desire wealth itself and not merely its abstract representation as information. At the same time we also know of "information as war" (9) ; nevertheless, we have not decided to embrace ignorance just because "facts" can be used like a poison gas. Ignorance is not even an adequate defense, much less a useful weapon in this war. We attempt neither to fetishize nor demonize "information". Instead we try to establish a set of values by which information can be measured and assessed. Our standard in this process can only be the body.

According to certain mystics, spirit and body are "one". Certainly spirit has lost its ontological solidity (since Nietzsche, anyway), while body's claim to "reality" has been undermined by modern science to the point of vanishing in a cloud of "pure energy". So why not assume that spirit and body are one, after all, and that they are twin (or dyadic) aspects of the same underlying and inexpressible real? No body without spirit, no spirit without body. The Gnostic Dualists are wrong, as are the vulgar "dialectical materialists". Body and spirit together make life. If either pole is missing, the result is death..

This constitutes a fairly simple set of values, assuming we prefer life to death. Obviously I'm avoiding any strict definitions of either body or spirit. I'm speaking of "empirical" everyday experiences. We experience "spirit" when we dream or create; we experience "body" when we eat or shit (or maybe vice versa); we experience both at once when we make love. I'm not proposing metaphysical categories here. We're still drifting and these are ad-hoc points of reference, nothing more. We needn't be mystics to propose this version of "one reality". We need only point out that no other reality has yet appeared within the context of our knowable experience. For all practical purposes, the "world" is "one". (10)

Historically however, the "body" half of this unity has always received the insults, bad press, scriptural condemnation, and economic persecution of the "spirit"-half. The self-appointed representatives of the spirit have called almost all the tunes in known history, leaving the body only a pre-history of primitive disappearance, and a few spasms of failed insurrectionary futility. Spirit has ruled -- hence we scarcely even know how to speak the language of the body.

When we use the word "information" we reify it because we have always reified abstractions -- ever since God appeared as a burning bush. (Information as the catastrophic decorporealization of "brute" matter). We would now like to propose the identification of self with body. We're not denying that "the body is also spirit", but we wish to restore some balance to the historical equation. We calculate all body-hatred and world-slander as our "evil". We insist on the revival (and mutation) of "pagan" values concerning the relation of body and spirit. We fail to feel any great enthusiasm for the "information economy" because we see it as yet another mask for body-hatred. We can't quite believe in the "information war", since it also hypostatizes information but labels it "evil".

In this sense, "information" would appear to be neutral. But we also distrust this third position as a lukewarm cop-out and a failure of theoretical vision. Every "fact" takes different meanings as we run it through our dialectical prism (11) and study its gleam and shadows. The "fact" is never inert or "neutral", but it can be both "good" and "evil" (or beyond them) in countless variations and combinations.

We, finally, are the artists of this immeasurable discourse. We create values. We do this because we are alive. Information is as big a "mess" as the material world it reflects and transforms. We embrace the mess, all of it. It's all life. But within the vast chaos of the alive, certain information and certain material things begin to coalesce into a poetics or a way-of-knowing or a way-of-acting. We can draw certain pro-tem "conclusions," as long as we don't plaster them over and set them up on altars.

Neither "information" nor indeed any one "fact" constitutes a thing-in-itself. The very word "information" implies an ideology, or rather a paradigm, rooted in unconscious fear of the "silence" of matter and of the universe. "Information" is a substitute for certainty, a left-over fetish of dogmatics, a super-stitio , a spook. "Poetic facts" are not assimilable to the doctrine of "information". "Knowledge is freedom" is true only when freedom is understood as a psycho-kinetic skill. "Information" is a chaos; knowledge is the spontaneous ordering of that chaos; freedom is the surfing of the wave of that spontaneity.

These tentative conclusions constitute the shifting and marshy ground of our "theory". The TAZ wants all information and all bodily pleasure in a great complex confusion of sweet data and sweet dates -- facts and feasts -- wisdom and wealth. This is our economy -- and our war.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


NOTES

1) The new "life" sciences offer some dialectical opposition here, or could do so if they worked and through certain paradigms. Chaos theory seems to deal with the material world in positive ways, as does Gaia theory, morphogenetic theory, and various other "soft" and "neo-hermetic" disciplines. Elsewhere I've attempted to incorporate these philosophical implications into a "festal" synthesis. The point is not to abandon all thought about the material world, but to realize that all science has philosophical and political implications, and that science is a way of thinking, not a dogmatic structure of incontrovertible Truth. Of course quantum, relativity, and information theory are all "true" in some way and can be given a positive interpretation. I've already done that in several essays. Now I want to explore the negative aspects.

2) Freedom: Alchemy for a Voluntary Society, Stephan A. Hoeller (Quest, Wheaton, IL, 1992), 229-230.

3) Ibid., p. 164.

4) Like Pavlov's dogs salivating at the dinner bell rather than the dinner: -- a perfect illustration of what I mean by "abstraction".

5) Altho some might say that it already "virtually" exists. I just heard from a friend in California of a new scheme for "universal prisons": -- offenders will be allowed to live at home and go to work but will be electronically monitored at all times, like Winston Smith in 1984. The universal panopticon now potentially coincide one-to-one with the whole of reality; life and work will take the place of outdated physical incarceration: -- the Prison Society will merge with "electronic democracy" to form a Surveillance State or information totality, with all time and space compacted beneath the unsleeping gaze of RoboCop. On the level of pure tech, at least, it would seem that we have at last arrived at "the future". "Honest citizens" of course will have nothing to fear; hence terror will reign unchallenged and Order will triumph like the Universal Ice. Our only hope may lie in the "chaotic perturbation" of massively-linked computers, and in the venal stupidity or boredom of those who program and monitor the system.

6) I will always remember with pleasure being addressed, by a Bulgarian delegate to a conference I once attended, as a "fellow worker in philosophy". Perhaps the capitalist version would be "entrepreneur in philosophy", as if one bought ideas like apples at roadside stands.

7) Of course information may sometimes be "occult", as in Conspiracy Theory. Information may be "disinformation". Spies and propagandists make up a kind of shadow "information economy", to be sure. Hackers who believe in "freedom of information" have my sympathy, especially since they've been picked as the latest enemies of the Spectacular State, and subjected to its spasms of control-by-terror. But hackers have yet to "liberate" a single bit of information useful in our struggle. Their impotence, and their fascination with Imagery, make them ideal victims of the "Information State", which itself is based on pure simulation. One needn't steal data from the post-military-industrial complex to know, in general, what it's up to. We understand enough to form our critique. More information by itself will never take the place of the actions we have failed to carry out; data by itself will never reach critical mass. Dispite my loving debt to thinkers like Robert Anton Wilson and T. Leary I cannot agree with their optimist analysis of the cognitive function of information technology. It is not the neural system alone which will achieve autonomy, but the entire body.

8) Issue #6, "Nothing is True", box 175, Liverpool L69 8DX, UK

9) Indeed, the whole "poetic terrorism" project has been proposed only as a strategy in this very war.

10) "The 'World' is 'one'" can be and has been used to justify a totality, a metaphysical ordering of "reality" with a "center" or "apex" : one God, one King, etc., etc. This is the monism of orthodoxy, which naturally opposes Dualism and its other source of power ("evil") -- orthodoxy also presupposes that the One occupies a higher ontological position than the Many, that transcendence takes precedence over immanence. What I call radical (or heretical) monism demands unity of one and Many on the level of immanence; hence it is seen by Orthodoxy as a turning-upside-down or saturnalia which proposes that every "one" is equally "divine". Radical monism is "on the side of" the Many -- which explains why it seems to lie at the heart of pagan polytheism and shamanism, as well as extreme forms of monotheism such as Ismailism or Ranterism, based on "inner light" teachings. "All is one", therefore, can be spoken by any kind of monist or anti-dualist and can mean many different things.

11) A proposal: the new theory of taoist dialectics. Think of the yin/yang disc, with a spot of black in the white lozenge, and vice versa -- separated not by a straight line but an S-curve. Amiri Baraka says that dialectics is just "separating out the good from the bad" -- but the taoist is "beyond good and evil". The dialectic is supple, but the taoist dialectic is downright sinuous. For example, making use of the taoist dialectic, we can re-evaluate Gnosis once again. True, it presents a negative view of the body and of becoming. But also true that it has played the role of the eternal rebel against all orthodoxy , and this makes it interesting. In its libertine and revolutionary manifestations the Gnosis possesses many secrets, some of which are actually worth knowing.. The organizational forms of Gnosis -- the crackpot cult, the secret society -- seem pregnant with possibilities for the TAZ/Immediatist project. Of course, as I've pointed out elsewhere, not all gnosis is Dualistic. There also exists a monist gnostic tradition, which sometimes borrows heavily from Dualism and is often confused with it. Monist gnosis is anti-eschatological, using religious language to describe this world, not Heaven or the Gnostic Pleroma. Shamanism, certain "crazy" forms of Taoism and Tantra and Zen, heterodox sufism and Ismailism, Christian antinomians such as the Ranters, etc. -- share a conviction of the holiness of the "inner spirit", and of the actually real, the "world". These are our "spiritual ancestors."

SOURCE: Left Bank Projects

Global Warming: Hibernation a Forgotten Pastime for Some Bears

Climate Change vs Mother Nature: Scientists reveal that bears have stopped hibernating

by Geneviève Roberts
Published: 21 December 2006

Bears have stopped hibernating in the mountains of northern Spain, scientists revealed yesterday, in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much climate change is affecting the natural world.

In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.

Bears are supposed to slumber throughout the winter, slowing their body rhythms to a minimum and drawing on stored resources, because frozen weather makes food too scarce to find. The barely breathing creatures can lose up to 40 per cent of their body weight before warmer springtime weather rouses them back to life.

But many of the 130 bears in Spain's northern cordillera - which have a slightly different genetic identity from bear populations elsewhere in the world - have remained active throughout recent winters, naturalists from Spain's Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP) said yesterday.

The change is affecting female bears with young cubs, which now find there are enough nuts, acorns, chestnuts and berries on thebleak mountainsides to make winter food-gathering sorties "energetically worthwhile", scientists at the foundation, based in Santander, the Cantabrian capital, told El Pais newspaper.

"If the winter is mild, the female bears find it is energetically worthwhile to make the effort to stay awake and hunt for food," said Guillermo Palomero, the FOP's president and the co-ordinator of a national plan for bear conservation. This changed behaviour, he said, was probably a result of milder winters. "The high Cantabrian peaks freeze all winter, but our teams of observers have been able to follow the perfect outlines of tracks from a group of bears," he said.

The FOP is financed by Spain's Environment Ministry and the autonomous regions of Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia and Castilla-Leon, where the bears roam in search of mates. Indications of winter bear activity have been detected for some time, but only in the past three years have such signs been observed "with absolute certainty", according to the scientists.

"Mother bears with cubs make the effort to seek out nuts and berries if these have been plentiful, and snow is scarce," Mr Palomero said, adding that even for those bears - mostly mature males - who do close down for the winter, "their hibernation period gets shorter every year".

The behaviour change suggests that global warming is responsible for this revolution in ursine behaviour, says Juan Carlos García Cordón, a professor of geography at Santander's Cantabria University, and a climatology specialist.

"Meteorological data in the high mountains is scarce, but it seems that the warming is more noticeable in the valleys where cold air accumulates," Dr García Cordón said. "There is a decline in snowfall, and in the time snow remains on the ground, which makes access to food easier. As autumn comes later, and spring comes earlier, bears have an extra month to forage for food.

"We cannot prove that non-hibernation is caused by global warming, but everything points in that direction."

Spanish meteorologists predict that this year is likely to be the warmest year on record in Spain, just as it is likely to be the warmest year recorded in Britain (where temperature records go back to 1659). Globally, 2006 is likely to be the sixth warmest year in a record going back the mid-19th century.

Mark Wright, the science adviser to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the UK, said that bears giving up hibernation was "what we would expect" with climate change.

"It does not in itself prove global warming, but it is certainly consistent with predictions of it," he said. "What is particularly interesting about this is that hitherto the warming has seemed to be happening fastest at the poles and at high latitudes, and now we're getting examples of it happening further south, and heading towards the equator.

"I think it's an indication of what's to come. It shows climate change is not a natural phenomenon but something that is affecting not only on the weather, but impacting on the natural world in ways we're only now beginning to understand."

The European brown bear, with its characteristic pelt that ranges from dark brown through shades of grey to pale gold, has black paws and a tawny face. It has poor vision, although it sees in colour and at night, and if threatened rears on its hind legs to get a better view. It can live for up to 30 years. It has acute hearing, and an especially fine sense of smell that enables it to detect food from a long distance. It is carnivorous, but has a multifunctional dental system with powerful canines and grinding molars perfectly adapted to an omnivorous diet.

The animals would normally begin hibernation between October and December, and resume activity between March and May.

The Cantabrian version of the brown bear, a protected species, was once as endangered as the Iberian lynx or the imperial eagle still are in Spain, but is now recovering in numbers. Between 70 and 90 bears roamed Spain's northern mountains in the early 1990s; now 130 live there.

Other seasonal freaks

* The osprey found in the lochs and glens of the Scottish Highlands in the summer months, usually migrate to west Africa to avoid the freeze. This winter, osprey have been spotted in Suffolk and Devon. Swallows, which also normally migrate to Africa for the winter have been also seen across England this winter.

* The red admiral butterfly, below, which hibernates in winter, has been spotted in gardens this month, as has the common darter dragonfly, usually seen between mid-June and October, which has been seen in Cheshire, Norfolk and Hampshire.

* The smew, a diving duck, flies west to the UK for winter from Russia and Scandinavia. This year, though, they have been mainly absent from the lakes and reservoirs between The Wash and the Severn.

* Evergreen ivy and ox-eye daisies are still blooming and some oak trees, which are usually bare by November, were still in leaf on Christmas Day last year.

* The buff-tailed bumblebee is usually first seen in spring. Worker bees die out by the first frost, while fertilised queen bees survive underground between March and September. This December, bees have been seen in Nottingham and York.

* Primroses and daffodils are already flowering at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, in Carmarthenshire. 'Early Sensation' daffodils usually flower from January until February. Horticulturalists put it down to the warm weather.

* Scientists in the Netherlands reported more than 240 wild plants flowering in the first 15 days of December, along with more than 200 cultivated species. Examples included cow parsley and sweet violets. Just two per cent of these plants normally flower in winter, while 27 per cent end their main flowering period in autumn and 56 per cent before October.

SOURCE: The Independent

A Revolution in Robotics?



In many ways, it is no revolution but more of the same old same old - the continued technocratization and euclidean minded reorganization of matter to suit a sort of pseudo-gnostic escape from organic life.



An interesting commentary on this second video can be found here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Iraqis Harassed by Robo-calls

Iraqslogger:

A mysterious psychological operations campaign is underway in Iraq, with Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army as its target. In recent days, Baghdad residents report receiving phone calls that caller ID show to be originating from outside Iraq. When the phone is answered, the listener hears a recorded message from an anonymous man speaking formal Arabic. He condemns the Mahdi Army and describes how it destroys Iraqi infrastructure, including electricity. Baghdad residents are afraid to discuss details of the message over phone lines, believing them to be monitored. But an IraqSlogger source tells us the unnerving message left at least one Baghdad woman in tears.

TPMmuckraker thought that sounded a little familiar:

Who says we're not spreading democracy in Iraq?

Not long after Republicans harrassed tens of thousands of Americans with automated phone messages in November's election, news comes that the robo call, that staple of American democracy, is being deployed in Iraq. And it's literally terrorizing city residents.

Anyone think that Frank Luntz knows Arabic?

SOURCE: Crooks and Liars


Also see British Intelligence Use Text Messages in Psychological War

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Influence of Fly Agaric on the Iconography of Father Christmas

Most people are familiar with the traditional image of Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus). The 1823 poem of Major Henry Livingston Jr, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'1 crystallised this image, and countless Christmas cards reinforced it. Father Christmas appears as a rather plump, white-bearded old man, dressed in red clothing with white buttons and trimmings. Such imagery also frequently depicts him:

  • Flying through the air.
  • Flying through the air in or on a sleigh, pulled by reindeer.
  • Delivering children's presents down a chimney.

Although an advertising campaign by the Coca Cola Company in the 1930s made this image of Father Christmas almost universal, it was fairly ubiquitous by the late 19th Century. With an expansion of global exploration in Victorian times, travellers returned home from visiting the Sami of Lapland2 with the story of flying reindeer, spreading the tale all over central Europe.

The question arises; does some underlying connection pull all these characteristics together into a coherent synthesis? Perhaps...

Flying Reindeer

Although the Johnny Marks hit song, 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' popularised the link between reindeer and Father Christmas in 1949, the association of reindeer with Christmas was already well established. For example, centuries before the development of the legend of Father Christmas, English texts from the Renaissance mention reindeer antlers being displayed during Christmas festivities.

The first reference in print connecting Santa Claus and reindeer appears in the 1823 poem 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' by Major Henry Livingston Jr (the famous 'Twas the Night Before Christmas').

Reindeer are a kind of deer found in the cold regions of Europe and North America (locally referred to as 'caribou'). They feed on grass and lichens, but also have a taste for the fly agaric toadstool, Amanita muscaria, because of its intoxicating and euphoric effects. Amanita muscaria is found in pine and birch woods of western North America, northern Europe, and Asia.

The Sami have a custom of feeding fly agaric to their deer and collecting the urine to drink. The reindeer's digestive system metabolises the more poisonous components of the toadstool, leaving urine with the hallucinogenic and psychotropic elements of the fungus intact. Drinking the urine gives a 'high' similar to taking LSD. Under the hallucinatory effects of the drink, the Sami thought their reindeer were flying through space, looking down on the world. The reindeers' liking for the toadstool hallucinogens are such that they, in turn, have been known to eat the snow on which intoxicated humans have urinated, creating a reciprocating cycle.

When the first missionaries reached Lapland they heard stories of such reindeer flight, and integrated those tales into the existing Christmas folklore of Western cultures concerning Saint Nicholas.

Red and White Clothing

The word 'toadstool' refers to poisonous or inedible mushrooms. The Amanita muscaria toadstool, instantly recognisable for its brilliant scarlet cap with white warts, has long been used in the rituals of certain Asian societies. This use has arisen due to the psychotropic and hallucinogenic compounds contained within the toadstool. Ingestion leads to 'expanded perception', macropsia (perceiving objects as enlarged)3, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, and the belief that one could talk directly with one's god. It is no accident that fly agaric toadstools often appear in books of fairy tales.

Fly agaric is a source of the hallucinogenic components ibotenic acid (an amino acid) and muscimol. Ibotenic acid, only present in fresh mushrooms, has insecticidal properties4. When dried, ibotenic acid degrades (decarboxylates) into muscimol5, which has ten times the potency. Taken orally, Ibotenic acid is entheogenically active6 at 50-100 mg, whilst muscimol displays activity at 10-15 mg.

The shamans7 of Siberia use Amanita muscaria for recreational or ritualistic purposes. They use a dried preparation called 'mukhomor' to speak to their gods. These people, the Kamchadales and the Koryaks, eat between one and three dried mushrooms. They believe that smaller mushrooms and those with a large quantity of small warts are more active than pale red ones and ones with fewer spots. The Koryak women chew the sun-dried agaric and roll the product into small sausages, which the men swallow. The Koryaks also eat the flesh of slaughtered reindeer which have recently eaten fly agaric, but whose psychotropic condition has subsided. In a similar fashion to the Sami, the Siberians discovered that their urine contained the active principle of the fungi and they could consume this recycled product with less of the undesirable poisonous effects of the raw toadstool.

During a mushroom-induced trance, the shaman would start to twitch and sweat before falling into a deep coma-like sleep. During his coma, the shaman's soul left his body as an animal and flew to the 'other world' where it communicated with the spirits. The shaman hoped these spirits could help him deal with major problems, such as outbreaks of sickness in the village, by imparting medical knowledge from the gods.

On awaking, the shaman found their muscular systems had been so stimulated that they were able to perform spectacular physical feats with seemingly little effort - such as making a gigantic leap to clear a small obstacle. The effect on animals was the same, and a 'bemushroomed'8 reindeer traditionally guarded each shaman.

The poorer classes, who could not afford the time to gather the toadstools, would drink the urine of the better-off, collected in bowls or skin bags. Evidence suggests the drug's hallucinogens remained effective even having passed through five or six people, and some scholars maintain that this is the true origin of the expression 'to get pissed' - rather than having anything to do with alcohol intoxication9.

The fly agaric may have been one of the earliest entheogens, that is hallucinogenic substances used for religious or shamanic purposes. Such use dates back as much as 10,000 years. The oldest archaeological evidence discovered so far of mushroom use by man exists as an image in a cave in Tassili, Algeria. The image dates back to 3500BC and depicts the mushrooms with electrified auras outlining dancing shamans.

Furthermore, the fly agaric has appeared for a long time as a popular image on Christmas cards in central Europe. In Kocevye, in southern Yugoslavia, folklore tells of the Germanic god, Wotan (the king of the gods, synonymous with the Norse god, Odin) who rides on horseback through the woods on Christmas night, pursued by devils. Red and white flecks of blood and foam spray from the horse's mouth to the ground, where fly agaric toadstools emerge in the following year.

Climbing Down the Chimney Bearing Gifts

Siberian shamans live in tepee-like structures made of reindeer skin, called yurts, with a roof supported by a birch pole and a smokehole at the top. At the midwinter festivals of Annual Renewal, the shaman gathers the fly agaric from under sacred trees. Interestingly, whilst harvesting the toadstools, the shaman wears special attire, consisting of red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots ie, very much like the modern day depiction of Santa Claus. He then enters his yurt through the smokehole, carrying a sack full of dried fly agaric, and descends the birch pole to the floor. Once inside, the shaman performs his ceremonies and shares out the toadstool's gifts with those gathered inside. Following this, he leaves up the pole and back through the smokehole.

It is interesting to note that, in central Europe, the fly agaric has been adopted as the symbol of chimney sweeps.

St Nicholas

Saint Nicholas is a legendary figure who supposedly lived during the 4th Century. He is best known as the patron saint of children, to whom he brings presents on the eve of his feast day, 6th December.

Most religious historians now agree that St Nicholas never actually existed, but was instead a Christianized amalgam of the historical bishops, Nicholas of Myra (4th Century) and Nicholas of Sion (d. 564) together with a number of pagan gods including the Teutonic god, Hold Nickar, corresponding to the Greek god, Poseidon. Legend tells that Hold Nickar galloped through the sky during the winter solstice, granting favours to his worshippers below.

St Nicholas is associated with a number of miracles, but it is the following one that integrates him into the legend of Santa Claus:

There was a nobleman who had three daughters, and who had fallen on hard times. As the nobleman could not afford their dowries his daughters had little prospect of marriage; and so they faced a life of prostitution. St. Nicholas heard of this and, one night, threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman's castle. The sack contained enough gold to provide for one daughter's marriage. The next night he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter. But, on the third night the window was closed, so St. Nicholas dropped the third sack of gold down the chimney. On hearing of this, townsfolk began hanging stockings by the fireplace at night to collect any gold that might come their way.

So also was born the tradition of the Christmas stocking and Santa arriving down the chimney.

The early Christians soon incorporated these traditions and folklore into their own 'Holy Day'. Many images of Saint Nicholas from these early times show him wearing the red and white robes of bishops of the Roman Catholic church or standing in front of a red background with white spots, the design of the Amanita mushroom.

It would appear that around 1300AD, imagery of St Nicholas fused with the pagan god Wotan. Wotan rode an eight-legged white horse, Sleipnir, through the night skies, his long white beard blowing in the wind. Prior to this time, Saint Nicholas was depicted as having a dark beard.

In 1823, Major Henry Livingston published his 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...' poem in which the connection between Santa Claus and reindeer appeared for the first time. Here, eight reindeer pulled a white-bearded Santa Claus in a sleigh. Livingston based his ideas on popular views of Christmas based mainly on his knowledge of diverse customs involving St Nicholas, brought to the area by Dutch, German and Scandinavian immigrants. Perhaps the eight reindeer echo Wotan's eight-legged steed.

And to All a Good Night

In summary, it seems quite possible that the traditional image of Father Christmas, described in Livingston's poem and universalised by the Coca Cola Company during the 1930s, has its real origins in shamanistic rituals involving the red and white fly agaric toadstool. From climbing into chimneys and gift giving, to dressing in red and white and flying through the air with reindeers, travellers and storytellers have fused these ancient customs with other pagan traditions and imagery. As is the wont of Christianity, these pagan customs have pragmatically been adapted and integrated into our Christmas traditions.

SOURCE: BBC




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