Previous posts in this discussion:
PostEquinoxes, Moses, Kristin Armstrong (David Duggan, USA, 08/23/16 8:38 am)
I believe Ric Mauricio (22 August) means vernal equinox for "spring solstice" as the astronomical correlate for Easter (although Easter comes around the time of [most] Passover celebrations, at least in the Western church which has defined it as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox). In the Greek Orthodox Church, Easter has to be after the eight-day Passover celebration which, because Jews observe a lunar calendar, can be a month (or more) after the Western Easter, but is commonly the following Sunday. I profess ignorance as to how Passover is calculated year-to-year.
I also have to confess that I was not the author of the comparison of the Moses "baby in the rushes" legend to more ancient Hindu legends of an infant set afloat. In fact, that was my next-door neighbor, Dr. Rick Ahuja, an ophthalmologist with a practice at a nearby hospital. I frequently forward WAIS posts to Dr. Ahuja, which he enjoys, and I believe he would be a great addition to our group; indeed, he may be its first Hindu. Over beverages last night, he apprised me that Hinduism, rightly understood, is monotheistic: that the three-form deities of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva (Creator, Preserver, Destroyer) are mirrored in the Christian Trinity of Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. The notion that there are a million Hindu gods derives from an early census of the subcontinent which suggested that there were a million households; since gods need a place to be venerated, there were a million such gods. Who am I to argue?
Earlier our editor had asked me for a comment on the Olympics lately concluded. I further confess that I was away for one week of the games of the Rio Olympiad (or whatever pretentious title NBC conferred on a bunch of people in tight clothing cavorting around in Brazil), so I spared myself Bob Costas's incessant blatherings masquerading as social commentary, but as an American citizen, I was glad that the USA won the "medal derby." But really, do we need the Olympics to showcase sports which already have an international professional league (soccer, golf, tennis, basketball)? That British men won the country club sports of golf and tennis, while Brazilians won soccer and Americans basketball (both men's and women's) goes into the "who cares" pile, with the overflow into "tell me something I don't know."
Years ago, the Olympics were about sports that surfaced into national consciousness every four years: gymnastics, track & field, weight-lifting, wrestling, swimming. These were the sports to which the motto of faster, higher, stronger meant something. How shooting, sailing, horseback riding, and ping pong (to name only a few) fit into this paradigm is beyond my comprehension. That the International Olympic Committee even considered dropping wrestling from its roster of "core sports" (it has been reprieved through 2020, but the number of weight classes has been significantly reduced in both Greco-Roman and freestyle) shows how far up their posteriors the IOC's heads are. Perhaps my neighbor, Dr. Ahuja, can fit them with a glass navel so that they can see where they're going.
Still, as an expression of the American culture, the successes of Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and 43-year old Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance) show that we are more than a nation of couch potato computer game players. The games may no longer have the Cold War significance when we were pitted against the pesky Russkies, but they do offer a reprieve from the day-to-day drudgery of worrying about the election, the economy, the climate, and whether the Cubs will win the World Series.
JE comments: Two "K" Armstrongs (first Karen, now Kristin) on the same day! It's the uncanniness of WAIS. All we need now is to talk about Jack (Armstrong). And who remembers Stretch? He debuted in 1976, just past my prime toy-playing years.
There are a million people in India? Goodness, that was a long time ago.
Great to hear from you, David.
Research Angels and the Uncanniness of WAIS; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
08/24/16 3:40 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
It's at an appropriate time that
our moderator has brought up the "uncanniness of WAIS," meaning
the elusive drumbeat of eerie coincidence that can creep into experience
from time to time. (See David Duggan, 23 August.)
It's appropriate because it follows discussion of Arthur
Koestler, who made a study of such coincidences--and also appropriate
in our discussion of religion and mysteries beyond established knowledge.
Koestler, with Jung, was among the few academics who gave concrete
examples of "synchronicity" from his personal experience. We all know
the whimsical jinn that Koestler labeled as his "research angel":
You walk into the library stacks, afire with a question in that great
darkness of unspecified knowledge--and suddenly you've put your
hand on the exact book, or even the exact passage, that you need.
And you can't do it again. The experience is seldom purposefully
repeatable--and hence falls outside scientific legitimacy. But if it's ever
happened to you, you know that Koestler's "research angel" does operate,
somehow, some way. A back channel exists--somewhere. It may indeed
be no more mysterious than psychological projection or over-construction,
along the neurological lines of déjà vu. But does that explain all of it?
JE comments: Other examples of the "research angel"? Mine flew to me in John King Books, Detroit, sometime in the 1990s, where I stumbled upon a pristine 19th-century set of William H. Prescott's The Conquest of Mexico. (I was originally looking for Argentine books.) My fascination with Prescott came to the attention of a certain Ronald Hilton of the World Association of International Studies. Ten years later, and here I am.
Pat Mears and I are huge fans of John King:
Research Angels and the Uncanniness of WAIS
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
08/24/16 12:41 PM)
I repeat Gary Moore's words of 24 August regarding the "uncanniness of WAIS," meaning the elusive drumbeat of eerie coincidence that can creep into experience from time to time.
Gary's post provided me with a double whammy regarding this phenomenon.
On the one hand I am continuously thanking God the Universe for making this happen quite frequently in my life. Since I cannot logically explain this phenomenon I believe it to be some form of energy that we don't yet understand. The phenomenon is amazing when you are looking to find something and by magic it seems to come to you. Further, the time, resources, and energy saved by each of these "coincidences" (which happen a little too often to just be coincidences) have been considerable.
Second, while writing a book about my religion based on God the Universe, I hesitated to state what I just wrote in the paragraph above because readers might think that I am writing about hocus pocus in a book about the importance of science and the scientific method while discussing a phenomenon that I cannot even explain logically. Reading Gary's last post made me realize that many people can identify with this phenomenon besides myself. Thus I feel free to bring it up from now on.
Thank you WAISdom, David, Gary, and John Eipper for this double whammy.
JE comments: I enjoy a good whammy! There is a parallel phenomenon: finding a lost object immediately after replacing it. Case in point: my passport in 1991. I tore up the house, and found nothing. But the very next day after I made an emergency trip to Chicago for a new one, the original appeared. It's cosmic energy, but of the bad kind. The Germans must have a word for this: the object that stays hidden until its replacement has been procured.
Synchronicity and Carl Jung; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
08/25/16 1:34 PM)
Gary Moore writes:
Thanks to Tor Guimaraes (24 August) for his interest in the synchronicity or "odd coincidences" phenomenon.
As with a lot of things, this realm opens up when you look at concrete cases. I'd like to hear about some
of the specific coincidences Tor has experienced--or from anyone else who finds resonance in it.
One of the difficulties along these lines is that the things sometimes seem so perplexing, so outside the
normal run of affairs, that they don't fit in memory and almost immediately are trivialized into oblivion--so when asked point blank to cite cases, we may naturally draw a blank. Some of the most spectacular
cases that have happened to me would be entirely forgotten had I not stopped for a moment to jot
down a note.
And so, to prime the pump, here is Carl Jung's iconic case. He was doing the psychoanalysis drill in an office
|in Vienna, with the patient stretched on the couch, and this patient had been blocked for several sessions, being troubled by what she said were images of a scarab or beetle. And just when this impasse seemed sealed,
Jung was irritated to hear an insistent tapping on the window behind him--and turned around to see a sight
he'd never seen there before, and would apparently never see again--a large beetle strangely tapping on the
Just a coincidence...
JE comments: Don't confuse Jung's beetles with dung beetles...
Jung saw a connection between what he termed "synchronicity" and a collective unconscious. I'd like to know more. I hope Leo Goldberger will comment.
Synchronicity and Carl Jung
(Leo Goldberger, USA
08/29/16 3:39 AM)
Herewith is my response to John's kind invitation for my views on this subject:
Though not intimately familiar with Jungian theory, I do know Jung posited the notion of chronicity as a basic fundament of the collective unconscious (i.e. the deepest, inherited psychic structure in all human beings, across civilizations and cultures) and revealed in its symbolic archetype derivatives in dreams, fantasy, religious doctrine and other non-rational experiences). Life was not just a series of random events but an expression of a deeper order--but a spiritual awakening.
In the famous case (cited by Gary Moore--in his always interesting posts, this one dated 25 August) of Jung's patient who narrated her dream of receiving a piece of costly jewelry in the shape of a golden scarab just as Dr. Jung heard the gentle tapping on his office window. He got up to catch what turned out to be a large flying, gold-green colored beetle that he presented to his patient, saying: "Here's your scarab!" According to Jung, this, obviously quite dramatic event, served to "open up" his patient to her inner self (including her collective unconscious)--which hitherto, despite much prodding by Jung, had been inaccessible, carefully guarded by her extremely hard-nosed, rational personality. The "synchrony" was so impressive and telling to the patient as an example of a an non-causal but yet so meaningful event that it facilitated the therapeutic aim of her getting in touch with her "whole self" (i.e. his notion of "individuation"). How it is that Jung was instrumental in making this synchronicity happen is yet a mystery--at least to me.
Not surprisingly in terms of my own very traditional academic background and psychoanalytic training, Jungian ideas are not my cup of tea. Though I fancy myself open and flexible to new ideas, my theoretical preferences have consistently been tied to the standard sciences (with concepts of causation and energy at its heart)--be they called rational, empirical or positivistic. In my reading, some of Freud's basic tenants do qualify as empirically sound, though, admittedly, much of his theorizing is by necessity of a hermeneutic philosophical underpinning--in the absence of rigorous clinical research.
I am not familiar enough with quantum mechanics to have an opinion on the contribution on the subject of chronicity by the Nobel Prize physicist Wolfgang Pauli (who was a patient of Jung's and who co-authored a book with him on chronicity, but I believe later had some substantial criticism of the para-normal realm). I prefer my beliefs be based on carefully controlled experimental studies, by appropriately employed statistics and probability theory. As for ESP in general, my habit has always been to dismiss the reports--either as simply fake, inadequacy documented or lacking in any sort of explanatory theory. In cases of the so-called "chronicity" phenomena, my preference has always to regard them as "coincidences of normal events with low probability."
JE comments: Thank you, Leo! I fancy myself a positivist too. (I grew up in Missouri and you have to show us.) Yet how can empirical research satisfactorily address "non-rational" concepts--dreams, fantasy, and religious doctrine?
- Research Angels and Spiral Time (John Heelan, UK 08/25/16 2:20 PM)
JE commented about "finding a lost object immediately after replacing it."
One of my cousins (a long-term military aircraft engineer) posited an argument that might fit with Tor Guimaraes's "God the Universe" or rather in my cousin's case, "God(s) of Parallel Universes." He argued that time was not linear but a concentric spiral. At times the individual coils of that spiral in the multiple universes touch and cross over each other for a fragment of time. He argued that would explain ghosts. (We lived in an area with a long Roman history where there were frequent reports of squads of Roman soldiers seen marching along a well-known route of an old straight Roman road that had existed in the past.) He argued also that the time-slip explained the phenomenon that happens to all of us when we place an object somewhere that has disappeared when we return but later reappears exactly where we had left it.
Maybe "research angels" are shadows of ourselves in other parallel universes that our subconscious calls on for help?
JE comments: Deep stuff today on WAIS! Many, if not most, "pre-modern" or "non-Western" concepts of time are non-linear. This was certainly the case with the Mesoamerican peoples, as well as (I learned a fortnight ago) with the pre-Incan Tiwanaku culture in Bolivia.
Just a thought: what if they were right? So...did we have this conversation before?
The Uncanny and the Supernatural; from Ric Mauricio
(John Eipper, USA
08/26/16 3:50 AM)
Ric Mauricio writes:
First of all, my thanks to David Duggan for clarifying my spring solstice as the vernal equinox. And to Tor Guimaraes: please let us know when you have published your book on your religion. I would like to be the first in line to buy one (personally autographed, of course).
As for finding lost objects, yes, I have definitely experienced that phenomena. And since I cannot recall specific events, I will be sure to write it down as well.
Now, I have to say, that concentric spirals and parallel universes does make for a logical explanation of many happenings, like ghosts. If it can be scientifically proven, then, aha, more supernatural explanations become natural and scientific explanations. Supernatural is only natural unexplained.
But these postings are absolutely awesomely cool!
JE comments: For clarity's sake, I've appended images of a Solstice and an Equinox. (!)
More on the Uncanny and the Supernatural
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
08/27/16 1:43 PM)
My thanks to Ric Mauricio (26 August) for his supportive words about my book. Instead of one extreme where you do most of the work self-publishing, I got permission from my wife and allowed some sweet and smart-talking lady from XLIBRIS to sell me the premium package for publishing the book. Supposedly they will do all the work and guide me through the process. I will make sure that one way or another Ric will get a signed copy.
Regarding John Heelan's cousin's "God(s) of Parallel Universes" and his proposition that "maybe 'research angels' are shadows of ourselves in other parallel universes that our subconscious calls on for help," who knows? They might be found to be correct by scientists some time in the future. Presently science is way behind satisfactorily explaining these religious thoughts. For lack of specific knowledge about these phenomena, I believe they are due to some form of energy we don't yet understand. My faith that God is the Universe is based on a Universe still very poorly understood by man.
We know that God the Universe exists, I believe It has created itself because we have no better way of thinking productively. To me it is not relevant if in the future we can show scientifically that It is a "multiverse," concentric or otherwise. Furthermore, supporting my self creation belief, increasingly some physicists now think they can demonstrate that the Universe can actually create itself. (I think this evidence is weak from scientists still unable to integrate the strong mathematics of subatomic physics with the strong math from cosmology.) However, contrary to my faith, in conclusion they incorrectly choose to assume that there is no God.
Regarding the synchronicity or "odd coincidences" phenomenon, Gary Moore would like to hear about some of the specific coincidences. I have a very long list, some of which I slowly have been expressing publicly. Most of them are somewhat too embarrassing for a scientist to talk about, because "things sometimes seem so perplexing, so outside the normal run of affairs," thus I tend to keep them to myself. On the other hand, mine is contrary to Gary's experience that "they don't fit in memory and almost immediately are trivialized into oblivion--so when asked point blank to cite cases, we may naturally draw a blank." I have called my many "synchronicity" experiences "the hands of God," half-jokingly but often stunned.
As a 24/7 researcher, many of my experiences have to do with totally coincidentally running across things and knowledge from people, books, articles from the most unusual origins, providing very specific items or knowledge critical for addressing specifically defined problems. Not just general knowledge to address general problems and opportunities, but weird detailed stuff like Carl Jung's case with the specific patient who had been blocked for several sessions by images of a scarab or beetle. I don't know if the beetle taping at the window actually helped solve the patient's issue constructively, or whether it became merely an entertaining coincidence.
The probability for some "synchronicity" coincidences seems to be higher than most people expect, so we must be careful interpreting the meaning of these coincidences for specific people, and specific types and frequency of events.
For example, I continuously thank God the Universe for my life (a huge "synchronicity" between the only specific pair of gametes capable of producing me) and what It has already enabled me to have. In prayer I ask, until I can physically feel Its blessing, for health to keep up the struggle of life, for success in my efforts whatever they might be, and wisdom for happiness. God the Universe has never failed me. How is that for major "synchronicity?" My intuition tells me there is much to be learned by analyzing all these "synchronicity" coincidences along their many important dimensions. That would be an exciting intellectual exercise.
To close, if Gary comes to Havana for the 2017 WAIS Conference I will personally tell him the experience of a hard-nosed (only observable, measurable, repeatable?) scientist where the scientist turned into a lizard and miraculously escaped death. Now, that to me is heavy-duty "synchronicity." Please don't laugh and report me to the Society for Concerned Scientists until after you hear the story.
JE comments: Of course I'll be in Havana, but even if I weren't planning to attend, Tor Guimaraes's lizard tale would make me change my mind!
I think Tor is speaking in metaphor about the lizard...Tor?
Havana '17 is just thirteen months off. Mark the dates: 6-8 October 2017. Details coming soon.
Synchronicity, Jung, and Rumplestiltskin; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
08/28/16 4:46 PM)
Gary Moore writes:
Thanks to Tor Guimaraes (Aug. 27) for responding to my query asking for specific
synchronicity experiences. Like our fearless leader, I want to hear that lizard story--
and before Havana. As enticement, here's an overview of synchronicity:
The term itself, I think coined by Jung, introduces a mystical component into
the broader idea of serendipity--the "pleasant surprise" of encountering the unexpected.
But in synchronicity, the "pleasant surprise" specifically relates to pairing of experiences.
I'll make up an illustration to show the classic form: You're driving and pass a truck
saying "Rumplestiltskin Bread," then come to a stoplight and the radio is suddenly
playing a song called "Rumplestiltskin"--and the fellow in the car next to you looks
like an odd dwarf--whereupon your cellphone rings and a buddy says, "Hey, we're playing
Trivia and I'm stumped. What's that old fairy tale about the angry dwarf, you know,
the one that starts with an R?"
Here is the Aha! moment, as you feel the hair stand up
on your forearms, and you realize you've stumbled into some kind invisible warp--because
these pairings are astronomically unlikely to happen just by coincidence. They clearly have
converged for some reason. You've glimpsed the frontier where human experience
steps outside natural law. And then, just as invisibly, the moment goes away, and you're
left with nothing but the mystery--like a Neolithic sage wondering about lightning.
Jung finessed our inability to articulate the implications by positing that synchronicity involves
an "acausal principle"--something outside physical causes, which leaves me stumped.
But then maybe it sounds a bit like Tor's hypothesized universe creating itself:
something without a cause. Welcome to the post-Enlightenment form of miracles.
And you, too, can have one, right there at home. But not on demand. It comes
when it will.
Meanwhile, the skeptic's grumbling about "just coincidence" can be given a more
elegant phrasing: Synchronicity is a phenomenon of reference. It's not the fact
that a truck said "Rumplestiltskin," or that a radio song said "Rumplestiltskin," but that
they converged in your experience. Necessarily at work here is the fantastically
immense power of selectivity in human perception. Did you really need a supposed supernatural sign just at that moment--and hence scanned unconsciously for environmental
stimuli that could be paired? (And by the way, Tor's "hand of God" has a folklore correlate;
some people call synchronicity "the wink of God"--a sly, affectionate nudge smiling indulgently
at our panicked aloneness, and saying, "But look, I'm still here, and I'm giving you a sign.")
Very attractive, but the skepticism about neurological basis is powerful, too. Personally,
I think (ready for this?) that momentary temporal lobe seizures may be involved, in the
same world as déjà vu. Temporal lobe epilepsy can involve a strong sense of "I've been
here before," as in déja vu, and ictal moments (seizure-like states) can occur imperceptibly
in someone who's never noticed an epileptic problem. The temporal lobe of the brain has
come increasingly under trendy discussion as the "antenna to God"--an explanation of seers
ranging from Muhammad to Joseph Smith. A persuasive colleague of pioneer epilepsy
researcher Wilder Penfield (from the milieu our colleague Leo Goldberger knows personally)
speculated bluntly that faith healers and mesmerists are simply inducing transient temporal
lobe seizures, in people who had never displayed epileptic symptoms. But walk with me here.
No matter how sympathetically and persuasively the skeptical grumbling might be presented,
it still falls short.
The problem is that the convergence of the truck, the radio song and the phone call were
material events. It wasn't just your imaginings or selectivity of perception that was converging.
The hairs on my forearms are standing up again: Synchronicity shows the ways--the unfathomable
ways--that our material reality can behave like a dream, as if the whole world is "just in your head."
Here is the window beyond Newtonian mechanics--where any discussion naturally stumbles,
as in Jung's circular "acausal principle," which perhaps means nothing, but uses our only available
charcoal to sketch the shadows in the cave.
Watch out for that bread truck.
JE comments: And so far nobody has mentioned The Police's final studio album, from 1983, Synchronicity. Back in those days, I had no idea there was a connection to Jung. Note that The Police's penultimate album was called Ghost in the Machine, a nod to another of our recent topics: Arthur Koestler.
Late last night Aldona and I were sitting on the couch in WAIS HQ/Adrian, and a bat swooped down from upstairs, and flew around the living room. Our geriatric kitty Zoska, who is almost totally blind and deaf, sprang to life and followed Señor Murciélago's (we named him that) every movement. And right at that moment I remembered it was the eve of August 28th--my tenth anniversary as WAIS editor. Don't know how the bat made me think of that.
We opened the front door and the bat left.
Synchronicity and WAIS
(Patrick Mears, Germany
08/29/16 4:50 AM)
I really enjoyed reading and mulling over Gary Moore's post (and the others preceding it) and so did Connie, with whom I have shared them. After I read these emails, I wondered if some universal force or overriding "logic" compelled me to dig so very deep into the history and writings of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (as well as those concerning his ill-fated bust in Ann Arbor) that purposefully led me to WAIS.
That might be a bit too dramatic, but I nevertheless instinctively sense that I have in the past on more than a few times experienced the phenomenon that you, Gary, and others have so interestingly written about on WAIS. Maybe my finding the WAIS post on Sarmiento in the middle of a time-consuming Google search some years ago at my desk in Grand Rapids, Michigan was one of this phenomenon's manifestations. Who knows?
Best wishes to John E, Aldona, Zoska and Señor Murciélago on a pleasant morning.
JE comments: Thank you, Pat! Zoska has finished her breakfast and says hello. I trust Mr M (the bat) is safely tucked away upside-down, for a long daytime nap.
Everyone in our august group has a "How I found WAIS" (or How WAIS found me) story. As I begin Year Eleven as your moderator, might it be a good time to share a few of the choicer narratives?
Synchronicity in the Former Yugoslavia; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
08/30/16 4:29 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
My thanks to Pat Mears (Aug. 29) for his kind words on my synchronicity postings,
especially in the midst of the milestone events he's following in Germany, and to
Leo Goldberger (Aug. 29) for his background on Carl Jung (on whom I agree with
Leo about Jung's testing the speculational deep end). This niche in experience has
always floated in a swamp of speculation, obscuring the flashes of real insight.
There's an odd burst from Albertus Magnus, in the days of alchemy, when
he said it's true we can materialize our own reality, but--and Albertus added the
important caveat--it can only be done under circumstances of strong emotion. This slippery exhortation echoes down to the big-buck motivational seminars
today. An enduring cultural stream hides behind their phrases like "Think and Grow
Rich" (Napoleon Hill) or mega-evangelist Joel Osteen's message that we deserve
to be happy. The trick is in getting those emotions right. Where is the dial?
Stress can do the darnedest things.
As a synchronicity example, after my wild ride working for the UN in Kosovo,
I got out by the back door on a crowded bus--rebelling against the holier-than-thou
Mission restrictions forbidding us Super-People from taking public transport with the locals.
The bus ran all night into Montenegro--which at that time had no border link with Croatia--and schlepping all my luggage by hand across a mile or so of no-man's land was a pain.
I woke up next day in a little hotel in Dubrovnik, feeling like I had been run over by a truck.
Staggering down to a sidewalk cafe for breakfast, I blinked groggily at the waitress and said--seemingly routinely--"Do you speak English?" and then, dopily, "Do you have any eggs?"
After about a half hour the breakfast had begun to revive me, when I noticed
another foreigner come in--because he had the same disoriented look I had had.
Taking no notice of me, he sat down at a nearby table. The waitress came.
He blinked up at her like a mole, then said, in perfect succession: "Do you speak English?"
and then "Do you have any eggs?"
It occurred to me that he looked remarkably like
me, complete with beard. Soon we were talking. He, too, was a journalist, like me.
I seemed to have walked into some kind of loop, where the mirrors kept multiplying.
We agreed to meet later at the main square cafes that were the big hang-out in town.
And there we met two local women--who were twins--literally. Thus ensued a lively
conversation at their table, though I noticed that one of the twins, perhaps
traumatized by the recent war, had an odd tic in one eyebrow, as if a tiny signal
were blinking, saying that strange things were afoot. Days later I was back at the
square and met some people from upstate New York, and they were laughing.
One of them explained: "Oh, we remember you. We say you the other day and we
were laughing about it then. You're the twin with twins."
Maybe I could have reproduced that loop--but there was no way I was going to schlepp
all those bags once more across no-man's land, just to generate the necessary stress.
JE comments: Perhaps the strangest type of synchronicity is running into yourself. To me it's happened at least once, when I met my "perfect tocayo" at the Bogotá airport. Admittedly, John Emerson García and I don't look much alike.
Yesterday on my drive home, I turned on my favorite Sirius XM station, First Wave, and you will guess what song was playing: "Synchronicity I" by The Police. And the amiable disc jockey of FW is Richard Blade, Torquay's third most famous native--after Agatha Christie and our own Ronald Hilton.
F-U-N-E-X? How about these famous English Ronnies? I love this sketch:
Great Natives of Torquay
(Patrick Mears, Germany
08/31/16 3:55 AM)
I love Gary Moore's compelling recollections, and now I am becoming more and more convinced about Synchronicity theory.
But for John E to posit that Agatha Christie, Ronald Hilton and Richard Blade are the three most famous natives of Torquay is a bit far-fetched. Can anyone really doubt that Basil Fawlty and Manuel, the waiter from Barcelona, were the two most famous inhabitants of the "English Riviera"? But don't mind John E, "He's from Barcelona..."
JE comments: Alas, as we noted on our Torquay bus tour at WAIS '11, Fawlty Towers is in disrepair. Or at least it was five years ago. My predecessor as WAIS president, the late William Ratliff, was a Fawlty fan, as was I when Public Television signal made it as far as our home TV. Ed Jajko cited Basil F. in his Christmas greeting of 2010:
Re: the waiter Manuel. In the 1970s, Barcelona was considered exotic, dysfunctional, and "developing world." Today, "He's from Barcelona" wouldn't carry the eye-rolling connotations of 40 years ago.
- Are You the Dentist? How I Found WAIS (Timothy Ashby, Spain 09/02/16 11:12 AM)
I have a classic "How I found WAIS" story. My legal colleague and close friend, Rob Gaudet, was befriended by Professor Hilton when Rob was a Stanford Law student. Rob suggested that I meet Professor Hilton and gave me his telephone number. When I called, Mrs. Hilton answered and I told her that Dr. Ashby was calling for Professor Hilton. She said, "Oh are you the dentist?" and began describing some dental malady which I listened to patiently, as she seemed quite elderly. Eventually, I explained that I was not a dentist and left my telephone number. Fortunately, she took the message and wrote my number correctly as Ronald Hilton called me that evening and we met soon after at his fascinating house on the Stanford campus.
JE comments: Will this synchronicity--WAISchronicity?--ever stop? I was at the dentist on...Tuesday.
Thanks, Dr Ashby! Some of us found WAIS; for others, it was WAIS that found us. Who else has a good anecdote for the Forum?
Lorca and His Ilk: How I Found WAIS
(John Heelan, UK
09/03/16 12:59 PM)
After my uninvited replying to an early WAIS comment on Lorca, Ronald Hilton invited me to join WAIS. (I have been trying to fix a date but my certificate is undated and WAIS records appear not to go back to the Dark Ages.).
RH and I often disagreed about Lorca, whom RH blamed for much of Spain's problems in the 1930s. Ronald's favourite pejorative phrase was "Lorca and his ilk." I also, rather impertinently, challenged Ronald's off-stated claim "Of course, I knew Lorca at La Resi," as I was unable to discover when they had coincided at La Resi by matching their respective timelines. There was a period of a few months early in RH's sojourn in Spain when they might have coincided. I pushed RH for more information on this point for my research (as by that time there were few people left who had known Lorca personally). Ronald kindly said he would review his notes of the time and get back to me. Regrettably that never happened.
I tried to understand Ronald's antipathy towards Lorca and came to the conclusion that at that time Federico's successes sometimes made him obnoxious and I wondered if he had ignored or been rude to Ronald at La Resi. So the root of Ronald's antipathy was never discovered.
But thanks to Ronald, and some thousand or so comments later on a variety of topics, I thank JE and WAISers for keeping my brain cells and synapses in good working order with their often challenging comments.
JE comments: This is John Heelan's 1136th WAIS comment of the "modern" (post-2010) era. And John had sent another thousand or two prior to that. John: keep those brain cells in order--you are the Dean of WAISworld! Whenever an incoming post arrives from John H, I know that all is right with the world.
"...and his ilk." There's something very Hiltonian about that remark. Among others, see:
García Lorca and his ilk (1998):
Mitterrand and his ilk (2003):
Bin Laden and his ilk (2004):
Three different fellows, certainly, and very different ilks. Does Obama have an "ilk"? Donald Trump? My life goal: to have my own ilk...
(Edward Jajko, USA
09/04/16 2:46 PM)
JE's comment of 3 September was not accurate. It was Professor Hilton's "Lorca and his ilk," but Christopher Jones's "Mitterrand and his ilk," and, ah, my "Bin Laden and..."
As a non-Hispanist, I can't help but wonder why people don't follow the rules of Spanish surnames when referring to Lorca.
JE comments: I can answer these. Regarding "ilks," I did a WAISworld search but did not read the actual posts as carefully as I should have. Mea culpa.
"Eipper and his ilk" might someday refer to sloppy Internet researchers...
Regarding Spanish surnames, it's not unusual for famous people to be known by their maternal surname when their paternal one is common. Hence, (Federico García) Lorca, (Benito Pérez) Galdós, and, of course, (Pablo Ruiz) Picasso.
(Enrique Torner, USA
09/05/16 1:11 PM)
Another amazing example of synchronicity: as I Googled Lorca's assassination, I found out that EuroWeekly had, on a recent cover page, an article on just that subject:
How about that? I also found two articles on the same topic published in April 2015:
According to these two articles in The Guardian (and others), in April of 2015, some documents appeared to confirm what we all thought we knew, that his murder was an official execution by Franco's people.
JE comments: August 18th was the 80th anniversary of Lorca's murder. We let the date go by unnoticed on WAIS...I think. Let us recall John Heelan's serendipitous reference to Lorca just a fortnight later. Still more WAISchronicity?
(John Heelan, UK
09/07/16 3:45 AM)
I have spent a lot of time researching the assassination of Federico Corazón de Jesús García Lorca over the years in Granada and Fuente Grande (Viznar). The more reliable sources I have found have been works by his biographer Ian Gibson; the interviews published in Eduardo Molina Fajardo's Los últimos días de García Lorca based on his contemporaneous notes of interviews with those involved; the biography of Ruiz Alonso, the man who arrested Lorca (published by his daughters); biographies of the Falangist Rosales family with whom Lorca hid and who tried to get him released; and the more recent Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca by Miguel Caballero Pérez
In my opinion, Lorca was assassinated because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had returned to Granada from Madrid (against advice) to celebrate his saint's day with his father (also Federico). The reasons why he was killed: in a recent newspaper article he had called granadinos the "worst bourgeoisie in Spain"; he had the wrong political friends locally and in Madrid (e.g. Fernando de los Ríos and Azaña); he was part of Granada's homosexual clique, several of whom met a similar fate; one of his assassins belonged to a family that had a long-running business feud with his father; he was a Freemason with the name "Homero"; his main accuser and the person who organised his arrest, Ruiz Alonso, was jealous of him.
There is an opinion among lorquistas that within Franco's documents there is a file covering Lorca's assassination. The file has never been released and as we know, his body has never been discovered.
JE comments: If Lorca had only remained in Madrid. Think of how Spain's literature would have benefited. But on the other hand, it was Lorca's tragic end that led John Heelan to Ronald Hilton and WAIS!
Greetings from Granada
(Nigel Jones, UK
09/07/16 5:10 AM)
By spooky coincidence I read John Heelan's post (7 December) sitting in a cafe in a baking Granada and about to visit the Centro Federico García Lorca. I first visited the scenes of Lorca's murder in the 1980s when people were still too scared to talk about him. Now he is a major Granada tourist attraction. Greetings to all WAISers from Andalucía.
JE comments: 'Tis the season of WAISchronicity. Someone in our ranks should play the lottery. How about these numbers--36995? That is the count of published posts as of now.
Greetings to Nigel Jones in my old stompin' grounds of Granada, where I spent the fall semester of 1985. Haven't been back since. Nigel: are you in the Café Suizo by any chance? I spent many an hour there, absorbed in deep, late-adolescent reflection.
- A Chance Encounter in Paris (David Pike, France 09/06/16 4:55 AM)
Will the synchronicity reports never stop, asks our Editor on September 2.
One afternoon this summer I had a few spare minutes. I rarely sit down in cafes. Certainly not alone. I was passing one I'd never even noticed before. It was nothing much... but why not? I sat down in la terrasse (the street), for no good reason. I rarely sit in the street... but why not? Next to me were two American tourists. I rarely speak to tourists... but why not? I spoke to them. We had been speaking for less than a minute. They were from San Francisco. I said I was from Palo Alto. Stanford. "Stanford?" said the voice from a man walking briskly in the street passing my table at precisely the second that I said "Stanford! Who's from Stanford? I'm from Stanford." He gave me his card: Robert David Siegel, Professor of Microbiology.
It's not over yet. I was typing this message to WAIS this morning in Paris when a message buzzed in. It was from Robert David Siegel... why not?
JE comments: Greetings to Professors Siegel and Pike. Are people genetically wired to find their own? I've run into members of the "Michigan Diaspora" in the strangest of places. My favorite story: bumping into a pack of Michigan State U spring-breakers on the muddy trails of Tayrona National Park in Colombia. It's a very, very remote place.
- Thoughts on Monotheism; Religion in Mexico (Richard Hancock, USA 08/26/16 3:26 PM)
Tor Guimaraes's comment on "God is the Universe" as a religion (24 August) may be fine for elite, educated people, but I doubt that it will attract the common masses. Christianity has grown so rapidly because people found a leader who identified with them, the common people. The Jewish religion has not grown because its leaders the Pharisees and the Sadducees were both strict followers of Mosaic law, more important to them than following the Golden Rule as expressed by Christ in his Sermon on the Mount: "All things whatsoever ye would that other men would do to you, do ye even so to them." People need a model to pattern their behavior on, and Christ is unexceled for this purpose.
I was raised in New Mexico and spent much of my life in Mexico. In both places, there are sites dedicated to Christ because of supernatural experiences. I have visited the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City and found it attracts daily crowds that could fill our largest stadiums.
I have spent much time in the Jalisco region. In 1950-51 I worked for the Foot and Mouth Commission there. From 1968-94, I frequently traveled to Guadalajara on my way to the University of Oklahoma's center, Hacienda El Cóbano in the adjoining state of Colima. There are three shrines in Jalisco that are visited by millions of pilgrims annually: San Juan de los Lagos, Talpa de Allende and Zapopan. In Zacatecas, I have visited the shrine of El Santo Niño de Atocha. In all of these contacts, I have been impressed by the sincerity of these millions of pilgrims.
The most fascinating conference that we ever held at Hacienda El Cóbano was on Religion and Occultism. It was the year that Carlos Castaneda published his book, The Teachings of Don Juan, in which Castaneda described his apprenticeship to a Mexican healer or sorcerer. The hacienda manager and I viewed our conference as a sort of "pop" course on Mexican occultism. We began to worry when three Catholic priests signed up to attend.
I went to see my Episcopal priest because I didn't want the University to get into trouble over an improper course. He had gone to seminary with the Episcopal Bishop of Western Mexico and he persuaded Bishop Juan to attend this conference to guard against any possible criticisms that we were supporting witchcraft.
I will not go into details about this conference, but we did attend a ceremony in which a medium spoke with God. We also had three days of discussions from Don Amado, a full-blood Huichol Indian on the Bishop's staff as Indian missioner who was well-versed in both Christianity and Indian lore. We also were given a lecture by a well-informed spiritualist who told us that all people are senders of psychic messages, but only a gifted few are receivers. He added that people that claim that they can turn these messages off and on are certainly charlatans.
One of the priests that attended this conference was Father Andrés, a Jesuit from France, who had spent 10 years with the Tarahumara Indians in Chihuahua before going to Mexico City to teach math in the Jesuit University there. If one sentence would summarize my experience in Mexico, it would be his statement: "Mexico is a treasure house of spiritual riches."
JE comments: Absolutely. "God the Universe" is indeed an abstraction. Sometimes you want your religion to be tangible and immediate. Latin America, with its ubiquitous religious imagery, fits the bill.
Richard: when you get the chance I'd love to learn more about the Religion and Occultism conference.
Religion, the "Common Masses," and "God the Universe"; Response to Richard Hancock
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
08/29/16 8:35 AM)
Richard Hancock (26 August) thinks that my definition of God as the Universe enables a religion which may "be fine for elite, educated people, but ... will [not] attract the common masses. Christianity has grown so rapidly because people found a leader who identified with them, the common people. ... People need a model to pattern their behavior on, and Christ is unexcelled for this purpose."
Contrary to all organized religions, mine does not have an "establishment" supporting priests and organizations to run the religion as a business. Thus, it is not important to me if the "common masses" believe as I do. It took more than fifty years for me to arrive at what I think is the most spiritually fulfilling, intellectually stable, explanation for God and the universe. Without a relatively deep understanding of science and the wide use of scientific methods to discover new knowledge about God the Universe, such a religion is not possible. Thus, it would be too much for me to expect that uneducated people without even a minimum knowledge of science to embrace a religion which proposes "a God for Atheists and Scientists," the title for my book.
As discussed in the book, even though I think all organized religions are detrimental to mankind's long-term well-being, I refuse to pick anyone's specific religion for criticism. People must be allowed to believe whatever they want, from voodoo and black magic to the most sanctimonious socially politically well-established religions. Thus it is with interest and respect that I read Richard's story.
As commented by John Eipper, "sometimes you want your religion to be tangible and immediate. Latin America, with its ubiquitous religious imagery, fits the bill." No one can deny that any religion can provide immediate solace to believers under pain and stress; indeed I have seen a person's faith in a specific religion save him or her from the ravages of drugs, crime, or probable suicide. Nevertheless, besides the increasing problem of interreligious violence, the biggest problem with organized religions is that they have led mankind nowhere as a whole. Without science, mankind would still live in caves eating raw meat despite following their religions over the centuries.
To understand the real world we need scientific knowledge. We need to educate the masses, not condemn them to embrace superstition for lack of understanding about what is real, what may be real, and what is not possible based on scientific knowledge which over time has expanded and become immutable like God, the Truth. Another important benefit from shared scientific knowledge that works in everyday practice is improved communication between individuals, organizations, and nations. Science is a common denominator for all civilizations. Yes, one can use science to build weapons of war, but mostly science has been a source of good technology and innovation capable of improving mankind's quality of life. The definition of God as the Universe which has created itself provides the basis for more emphasis on scientific development. For ethical behavior, all we need is to jealously enforce democratically the Golden Rule: Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you.
In view of the obvious necessity for increasing scientific knowledge, a disturbing sign is that, perhaps in frustration, religious leaders increasingly show disrespect for scientific knowledge; to them incredibly and incorrectly faith should trump science. This blindness to scientific facts underlies much of the social, economic, and political behavior which has brought us to today's reality: a world incapable of living without very destructive wars, massive flows of refugees, growing poverty, environment pollution, increasing scarcity of fresh water, increasing encounters with microorganisms capable of defeating our most powerful antibiotics, etc. A religion based on science hopefully provides the way to reverse all these negative trends, lest mankind destroy itself by default while indulging in mysticism and the adoration of false gods.
JE comments: Tor Guimaraes calls for uplifting the masses, not "dumbing down" to them with pageantry and myth. But how do you satisfy the seemingly universal thirst for spirituality with a religion based on the scientific method?
Talking Religion with a Friend; from Ric Mauricio
(John Eipper, USA
08/30/16 1:17 PM)
Ric Mauricio writes:
I was having a discussion about religion with a friend (one of many over the years) and he lamented that he seemed to be losing his faith (in religion). I countered that he was instead becoming more enlightened, breaking the bindings of religious teachings that depended on him believing in unsubstantiated and doubtful beliefs.
When people ask me if I am religious, I counter that I am not, that I am more spiritual. Indeed, if one studies the teachings of Jesus, one will find that he was antagonistic against the religious and focused more on spirituality. But the apostle Paul (a Pharisee background), brought the Church back into the mainline religious thought process, because he knew that in order to grow the church, he would need to gather the non-thinkers into the fold.
When I read Richard Hancock's posting of August 26th, my thinking was he was saying is that the rise of any religion depends on the oratorical skills of its evangelists and the willingness of its adherents to believe in anything without much thought. Therefore, the more educated thinkers would turn more towards an elitist viewpoint. Thus, it is much easier to gather religious adherents because the majority of people would rather be spoon-fed beliefs than (as Hercule Poirot would say), use their little gray cells.
Couple this thought with Constantine I's ambition to solidify his political power in the Roman Empire. It is said that Constantine's model was that political power grows out of the point of a sword ... a religious sword. Who was it who said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun? Ah yes, Mao. Communism, though it deems itself to be anti-religious, is a religion, a forced belief that the human gods of the Party will take care of you.
Yes, I agree that Tor's spirituality would be challenging to gather adherents, because the majority mankind have all have been brainwashed since birth. It would be challenging to break free of that brainwashing. But I do not believe that Tor has the ambition to become the Pope of a new religion. To do so would only contradict the essence of his spirituality.
JE comments: I don't know as much as I should about the early expansion of Christianity. What evidence do we have that Constantine converted for political expediency?
- Reason, Faith, and Sor Juana (John Heelan, UK 08/30/16 2:41 PM)
John E responded to Tor Guimaraes on August 29th: "How do you satisfy the seemingly universal thirst for spirituality with a religion based on the scientific method?"
Good point! How could one meld science (rational) with religious faith (mainly irrational)?
JE comments: There it is, in a nutshell. Tor has sent further thoughts on his religious thought, which I'll post by tomorrow. (A fairly large backlog has built up at WAIS Central.) For now, I'll sign off with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's 17th-century description of theology as the "Madre de las Ciencias." Was Juana a precursor of Guimaraesism?
- Further Reflections on My Religious Belief (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/31/16 9:06 AM)
I summarize my thoughts on religion as follows: 1. The biggest problem with organized religions (including voodoo, black magic, etc.) is that they have led mankind nowhere as a whole. Without science, humans would still be living in caves and eating raw meat despite following their religions over the centuries. 2. In view of the obvious necessity for increasing scientific knowledge, a disturbing sign is that, perhaps in frustration, religious leaders increasingly show disrespect for scientific knowledge; to them incredibly and incorrectly faith should trump science. This blindness to scientific facts underlies much of the social, economic, and political behavior which has brought us to today's reality: a world incapable of living without very destructive wars, massive flows of refugees, growing poverty, environment pollution, increasing scarcity of fresh water, increasing encounters with microorganisms capable of defeating our most powerful antibiotics, etc. 3. A religion based on science hopefully provides the way to reverse all these negative trends, lest mankind destroy itself by default while indulging in mysticism and the adoration of false gods.
To that John Eipper commented: "Tor Guimaraes calls for uplifting the masses, not 'dumbing down' to them with pageantry and myth. But how do you satisfy the seemingly universal thirst for spirituality with a religion based on the scientific method?" Subsequently John Heelan in a 30 August post stated: "Good point! How could one meld science (rational) with religious faith (mainly irrational)?"
First, I would hope by now that John E understood that the scientific methods devised by researchers to learn about God the Universe are merely important man-made tools but not part of the religion. Only thoroughly validated and stable scientific knowledge (Science) accumulated over time is knowledge about God.
To answer John's question, the definition for spirituality has changed dramatically over time but I believe that in any case there is nothing more spiritual than the truth about God the Universe. How anyone would not feel the spirit while contemplating some of the images of the Universe is beyond my understanding. Could anyone actually prefer some man-made religious ritual? Maybe so. Anyone can believe whatever they want, and they do. Some people may find scientific knowledge boring, and might prefer black magic or some other religion, or hallucinogenic drugs. Just remember the three items enumerated above and that there is a heavy price to pay for our stupidity and ignorance. The Universe owes us nothing, we owe It everything.
Furthermore, if we all agree that science is rational and religious faith is mainly irrational. that science has been the only saving endeavor of mankind, how can we allow the madness to continue without resistance? Why do we say that education is important but we do a poor job at it for the masses? Why do we not seriously fight to control the obviously devastating problems for mankind enumerated above? Why do we seem to say one thing but behave as if we don't mean it?
As I re-read my own book I keep learning new things. My latest lesson learned is that our personal definition of God, whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it not, is the most important thing in our lives. It determines who we are, how we feel, our attitude about life, and what we do. A person can say they belong to religion X and believe god Y but often are fooling themselves and those who listen to them. Look at the person and their behavior, and if they are different from what they are saying, they actually follow a different god and it could be anything: anger, hate, violence, money, power, sex, drugs, icons, etc. I believe that is why the world is increasingly such a mess. We live in a real Universe but we behave as if we live in an irrational one.
JE comments: Tor Guimaraes has resisted the labeling of his religious belief as "Deism," although to my mind it has much in common with the Jeffersonian concept of God. When commenting John Heelan's post of 30 August, I called Tor's religious "Guimaraesism." I hope Tor doesn't mind the neologism.
Tor: keep us updated on your book, and let us know when it becomes available.
- A Conference on Religion and Occultism: Colima, 1974 (Richard Hancock, USA 09/01/16 8:24 AM)
We had many memorable programs at Hacienda El Cóbano, Mexico, but the most fascinating program that we held was on Religion and Occultism. It was the year that Carlos Castaneda published his book, The Teachings of Don Juan, in which Castaneda described his apprenticeship to a Mexican healer or sorcerer. This book became so popular that Castaneda appeared on the cover of Time in March of 1973. The manner of Mexican occultism seemed a natural subject for a conference at the Hacienda.
I was aware that this conference could be a touchy subject that might generate complaints to the University, so I wanted to put it in a religious context. With this thought in mind, I contacted Father Dave Penticuff at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma. His reaction was positive and enthusiastic. Father Dave had attended seminary with the Episcopal Bishop of Western Mexico. He picked up the telephone and called Bishop Juan in Guadalalara, determined that he would be free for a week in February and the conference was scheduled.
Angel Lara, the director of the Hacienda, and I had visualized this as a sort of "pop" course in Mexican occultism. Angel had been raised in a rural village and had a good fund of stories about magic and supernatural happenings. We felt confident that the Bishop of Western Mexico was a pretty big gun for this conference.
My first inkling of a problem came when we received several letters and audio tapes which warned us that we were endangering our immortal souls by dabbling in the occult. I took these letters and tapes to Fr. Dave, who reassured me, stating that this kind of protest could be expected from his more fundamentalist colleagues. He felt that the presence of an Episcopal Bishop would be an effective shield against this type of criticism.
Our enrollment had surpassed the minimum necessary for the program to be an economic success, and Fr. Dave, Angel, and I were looking forward to the conference with pleasure. That was when my level of anxiety was raised another notch because three priests enrolled in our program: a Catholic from Guatemala, a Jesuit from Mexico City and an Episcopal priest from Guadalajara. I called Fr. Dave, saying that I feared that the "students" might be more knowledgeable than the "professors." Although he reiterated his belief that Bishop Juan in Guadalajara would be a powerful presence at the conference, I could sense that he too was worried.
This was Wednesday and the conference was scheduled to begin on the following Monday. I decided that I needed to plan this conference with Bishop Juan in Guadalajara and called him to arrange to meet with him over the weekend. His wife Catherine answered the telephone, telling me that he was in the state of Sonora and would be back on Saturday. I told her that I was coming to Guadalajara and would call the Bishop on Saturday morning, which I did. The Bishop told me that he was in the midst of an important clergy conference and would see me on Sunday night at the Hacienda.
We had previously discussed the possibility of his getting a curandero, a healer, to attend our conference. The Bishop said that he had been unable to get a healer because "they are too shy." He said that Don Amado, the Director of Indian Affairs for the state of Jalisco, was going to attend. I was not impressed; I took it that the director was most likely a professor of social studies and I wanted a real "Don Juan" if possible. I asked the Bishop if he objected to my attempting to obtain the services of a healer, saying that I knew Don Luis in the La Libertad market, whom I deemed to be an impressive personality. The Bishop agreed with this plan.
I went immediately to the healers' section of this mammoth market. The healers' section is about the same size as a large grocery store in the US. There I found Don Luis with his intelligent eyes and his drooping grey mustache. I had become acquainted with Don Luis several years earlier when I had bought a small clay dog, an artifact of an ancient Indian tomb, which he said was a fetish for the protection of my home against burglary. He said that the dog formed a magic circle around your home and that a thief trying to break in would hear the fierce barking and growling of a large dog. I later bought a clay image of a genuine Aztec "jaguar general," a seated figure with his face appearing through the mouth of a snarling jaguar. "This is an authority fetish for a man who lives in the city," said Don Luis.
I can say that, to this date, my house has not been robbed. I am sure that Don Luis would claim that this is owed to the power of his little clay dog. I cannot cite much evidence of the authority fetish. Perhaps it was intended for a higher sphere of influence, for a Dean, perhaps, or even for a Provost. In any event, I had found Don Luis to be an interesting and intelligent man, a person worthy of being a poor man's psychiatrist.
I recall a program conducted by the OU Medical College in the Hacienda where the Oklahoma medics visited medical installations in Colima. A psychiatric nurse asked our guide, a Colima doctor, "How many psychiatric patients do you refer per month?" He said, "We have one about every three months." Then she asked, "If that is the case, how come we have so many Mexicans interning in psychiatry in the US?" The doctor replied, "Oh, we're getting ready for the future." The truth of the matter is that many Mexicans seek psychiatric advice from healers.
I tried to recruit to Don Luis to participate in our conference. He replied, "I am just a simple man who sells the products of Mexico that we all know." I said, "That's just the point, we gringos don't know these products and we would be most interested in learning about them." He finally agreed to attend the conference and I said that I would pick him up at the market at 2:00 PM on Monday.
When I arrived at his booth, there were several customers waiting to see him. When I caught his eye, he said, "I'm sorry, amigo, I can't go to your conference. As you can see, I am too busy." He must have seen the disappointment in my face. He handed me what appeared to be a school child's notebook I opened it and saw and that it was filled with crude drawings which appeared as symbols of some sort. He said, "I had a vision of your conference on Saturday night. I saw all of you standing in a square patio surrounded by the heavy adobe walls of an old building." (I was struck by the coincidence of this description with that of Hacienda el Cóbano.) "There was a priest standing in your midst and I want you to give him this message," he said, pointing to the crude little notebook.
Somewhat downcast by Don Luis's rejection of my invitation, I went to the airport to pick up our "students." Soon, all 19 of us were loaded on the bus headed south to Colima. I became acquainted with Fr. Andres Lionnet, the Jesuit from Mexico City. I learned that he was a Frenchman who had spent 10 years with the Tarahumara Indians of Chihuahua. I thought to myself, "And we are supposed to teach him about native magic!"
When we arrived at the Hacienda, the Bishop was already there and introduced me to Don Amado. My professor of social studies turned out to be a full-blooded Huichol Indian from the mountains of northern Jalisco. I said to the Bishop, "It is urgent that we have some time to plan this conference. " He replied, "Send the people down to get acquainted with Colima tomorrow morning and you and I will stay home and organize this conference." "By the way," I added, laughing, "Don Luis from the Guadalajara market sent you this message," and I handed him the small notebook.
When I met the Bishop for breakfast the next morning, he said, "That was some message you laid on me last night." "Do you understand it?"I asked. He replied,"No, but Don Amado does. He says that these symbols are magic and that he has never seen them written down before." "Can Don Amado interpret the message?" I asked. The Bishop replied, "I am sure that he can." I said, "Then we have our conference. Don Amado can interpret the message from Don Luis!"
We copied the message on a flip chart, and that afternoon our sessions with Don Amado began. "That scary old man," as Angel called him, was a perfect stand-in for Castaneda's Don Juan. He told us of white and black magic, of the ability of sorcerers to project their image in two places at the same time. A skilled sorcerer could assume the shape of an owl to guard his field of ripening corn, while at the same time he was conducting his affairs in human form in downtown Colima. It chanced that I took a walk that evening just at sundown and chanced upon an owl sitting on a stump. I walked almost in touching distance of him before he flew. George Sutton, a professor of Ornithology, was in residence at the hacienda, painting Mexican birds at that time. I told Dr. Sutton about this encounter and he said, "That is very unusual."
Don Amado seemed steeped in the wisdom of both Christianity and Indian lore, and saw no conflict between them. When one of our four priests asked a question, he answered with simplicity and confidence. For three days, he held us in the palm of his hand, quoting freely both from the Bible and from his large storehouse of native tradition. Space will not permit a discussion of Don Luis's message. Suffice it to say that it conveyed a whole different philosophy of life and, as the days passed, the absent Don Luis became an almost palpable presence among us.
Angel had arranged for a spiritualist from the Pacific coast to give us a lecture. I had the responsibility of translating his words into English. This speaker was a man of immense eloquence, well-informed on his subject. I was almost immediately overwhelmed by his rush of unfamiliar names, terms and almost poetic style. I stopped him and asked him to speak in short phrases interspersed with frequent pauses to give me an opportunity to translate. After that, we got along quite well and I was able to do an effective job of translating. Afterwards, during dinner, I couldn't help commenting on how well the translation had gone. He replied, "Oh, yes, the spirits will frequently assist one in translating."
The spiritualist was very well informed; he mentioned books by several spiritualists in Argentina and also those of Edward Cayce, the famous American spiritualist. He said that almost all people are senders of psychic messages, but that only a gifted few are receivers. These few have no control over their psychic powers. They cannot turn them off and on at will. Those that claim to do this are charlatans. All our priest were unanimous in praising this man's lecture.
The final event of the conference was a visit to a healer's residence high up on the slopes of the Colima volcano. When we arrived, we noted that a group of the healer's adherents were present. We moved into a sort of chapel which served as a locale for the healer to hold his ceremonies in. He worked with a medium, who presumably was able to communicate with God.
The healer went into a sort of chant, telling us that a large black bird was circling around our humble temple and that his wings were shutting out the sunlight. As he spoke, the room darkened perceptibly; did a cloud pass across the sun? The medium, a person who appeared to be a rural housewife, groaned, stood up and walked unsteadily to seat herself in a raised chair in front of us. Apparently in a coma, she began to speak in a husky voice in phrases reminiscent of the Old Testament.
Angel and I were seated near the front of the room and were rather enjoying the spectacle, thinking what a good show this was for our audience. Suddenly, a man arose from the audience and asked me if I would like to ask a question of God. My mind went blank. I looked at Angel, whom I knew was equal to almost any occasion, "a cool dude," as the young people would say. He was staring fixedly at the floor and I knew that he was feeling the same panic that I was.
Then I had an inspiration; I asked if I might translate what was transpiring to our group. On receiving the healer's assent, I explained to my colleagues in a serious, matter-of-fact manner that God was speaking through the woman on the raised dais, and that now we had an opportunity to speak with God. No one answered and there was a long, heavy silence. Finally, I said, "Come on, folks, we need to participate in this ceremony."
At last, a man from Lawton, Oklahoma, said, "I will ask God something. I have a little dog of whom I am very fond. He was sick when I left and I am worried that he will die. I wish to ask God to heal him." I thought, "Out of twenty people in our group, including several priests, the only thing that we can think of is to ask God about a dog?" With great misgivings, I translated this question for the medium. She replied in her heavy voice, "Peace be with you; your little dog is healed." Our informal master of ceremonies said, "It is appropriate that we seek God's assistance for animals, for we are descended from them and even from the stones in the fields."
It was a privilege to be able to talk with Father Andrés about the 10 years that he had spent with the Tarahumaras in Chihuahua. He had gone directly to Chihuahua from France and had learned of the Tarahumara view of religion before he went to Mexico City to teach math in the Jesuit University there. He said that the Tarahumaras prayed to God, Christ and Mary for things pertaining to the hereafter, but to Indian gods for assistance with matters of this life. He stated that in this they differ little from modern Mexicans, who pray to that holy trinity for things not of this world but to the saints in regard to the here and now. When I asked him about the matter of the unbaptized not being able to enter heaven, he said that there is a holy force in every person that attracts them to God and that, while the ceremony of baptism was important, no precise formula exists for determining whether or not a person has access to heaven.
He also related a supernatural experience that happened to a group of mestizo teamsters traveling through the Sierra Madre. As they traveled, one of the group began making fun of a superstition expressed by another member. Despite the warning of an elder Tarahumara that the spot where they were making camp for the night was haunted, they went ahead and made their camp.
In the dark midnight hours, they were awakened by a scream and they saw the man who scoffed at superstition struggling with a dark bulk. By the time they had lit torches, they found their comrade in a dead faint. When they were able to rouse him, they found that he had been struck dumb and could not speak. When he regained his speech, he remembered nothing of his encounter with the supernatural.
Father Andrés had talked personally with the men who had experienced this incident and he was convinced of their truthfulness and reliability as witnesses. He did not attempt to affirm or deny their story, but he did say that man's psychic perceptions are deadened if not destroyed by modern civilization.
The years have passed and the Hacienda no longer exists for the University of Oklahoma. It was sold to the University of Colima in 1990. It was a unique place. Because of the innate attractiveness of climate, terrain and culture, one visitor likened it to "the summer home of the Wizard of Oz." If one sentence could sum up my experience at Hacienda el Cóbano, it would be the expression of the French Jesuit Fr. Andrés who said, at the end of our memorable conference on religion and occultism, "Mexico is a treasure house of spiritual riches."
JE comments: Richard, this is fascinating. You bring the events of (egads!) 42 years ago to life.
This post is already on my list of WAIS Required Readings for September. I hope WAISers will send their comments, and while we're at it, how about this question: "What would you ask God"? My query sounds pompous, but here goes: Why do You allow us to kill and oppress each other in Your name?
Carlos Castaneda and Education
(Henry Levin, USA
09/02/16 3:33 AM)
Richard Hancock's post of September 1st was absolutely fascinating. I still use The Teachings of Don Juan in my class on Resource Allocation in Education after more than 40 years. I use three authors: Alex Inkeles, John Dewey, and Carlos Castaneda to contrast radically different approaches to what makes an education person.
This is a prelude to the research on what approaches are most effective in education and the cost-effectiveness and benefit-cost analyses, all interpreted within the three paradigms. It is thrilling to read Richard's recollections of the 1974 conference. Of course, Castaneda is a subject that can be dealt with at many levels. There are many anthropologists who believe that he never met Don Juan and made it all up. Even my students wonder how Carlos could be so culturally insensitive when he compares the Yaqui ways of knowledge with the conventional Western approach. I tell them the juxtaposition is what makes the differences stand out and that Castaneda probably exaggerated and stultified the Western view for contrast.
JE comments: That settles it: I must read The Teachings of Don Juan. Here are two Castaneda quotes cribbed from the Web:
"A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting."
"All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart!"
Hank: is it true that UCLA revoked Castaneda's doctorate, because they discovered that Don Juan was a fake? That makes me curious how he could have defended his dissertation in the first place. Sloppy committee oversight.
Was Carlos Castaneda a Fake?
(Henry Levin, USA
09/03/16 5:41 AM)
My thanks for John E's feedback and the url on Castaneda (2 September). I have always tried to be honest about the questions around Castaneda with my students and have read many articles, even those that find him dishonest and odious such as the one in Salon that you can find in a Google search.
But I have never heard that his PhD degree was withdrawn or rescinded by UCLA. I resumed my search today, including Wikipedia, which would usually have corrections on an issue of this magnitude. There is nothing in the Wikipedia article or any other that I could find that makes that assertion. I enclose the Los Angeles Times article on his death from 1998, which also fails to "mention" this important dimension. I don't think it is true, and though the url that John provided does correctly point out that there have have been challenges to the veracity of the conversations with Don Juan, the withdrawal of the degree has not been found by me nor has it even been suggested in biographies and other articles that I read.
Perhaps this raises questions about whether the author of the url that John cited simply made it up to undermine completely the CC stories. It also raises questions of how much veracity we should accord to the Internet. It would be helpful if a WAISer with better search skills than I could verify the url.
JE comments: The rescinded doctorate story must be a fake...too? This is getting confusing. It would seem that if you're going to expose an academic fraud, you should be especially careful not to commit another fraud.
Which brings us back to Castaneda. Carmen Negrín's brother Juan lived among the Huicholes for many years. Carmen's post is next in the queue.
And Hank: is this the Salon piece you cite above?
(Henry Levin, USA
09/05/16 5:54 AM)
Yes, John E cited the correct Salon piece on Carlos Castaneda, which I assigned my students in the past.
It would be useful to generate a new discussion on the uses and abuses of the Internet. I am almost certain that the url John provided has falsified the claim that Castaneda's degree was rescinded. This would have been big news and would have gravely hurt the market for his books by academics and certainly served as a famous object lesson that would have been repeated many times in the academy.
The following is the url for the extensive obituary in the New York Times some 18 years ago. There is not a hint of the cancellation of his PhD. The article you provides seems factual and authoritative, but it is a flagrant "pants on fire."
JE comments: WAISer Leo Goldberger made a simple recommendation that I shall follow: drop Dean Chavers (the author of the article I originally cited) a line and ask about his source for the rescinded PhD.
Here, once again, is the Chavers piece:
Carlos Castaneda's Doctorate: Neirotti to the Rescue!
(John Eipper, USA
09/11/16 6:50 AM)
WAISer Rodolfo Neirotti contacted Dean Chavers, the author of the article cited several days ago on the Forum, which made the claim that UCLA had rescinded Carlos Castaneda's PhD because of fraudulent research.
Rodolfo forwarded Mr Chavers's brief response, which said that according to UCLA Anthro Chair Nancy Levine, the university did not rescind Castaneda's degree.
Confusion resolved. My thanks to Rodolfo and to Mr Chavers for clearing this up.
Dean Chavers-Carlos Castaneda Controversy
(Henry Levin, USA
09/11/16 6:47 PM)
Our experience with the Dean Chavers article, which erroneously claimed Carlos Castaneda's PhD was rescinded by UCLA, is an object lesson for WAIS. Doesn't it deserve discussion?
Even detailed historical accounts that look formal and use citations may be fully or partially contrived to support the bias or ideology of an otherwise reliable writer.
JE comments: I just checked, and Mr Chavers's article has not added a correction or disclaimer. The question remains: was Chavers working from another source, or was the "rescinded PhD" story a full-blown contrivance?
As a sidebar to this story, how do you go about rescinding someone's degree? This has to be a complex process at any university, and the ultimate verdict must be reached at the highest level--with the president or a Board of Trustees.
- Carlos Castaneda and the Huicholes (Carmen Negrin, France 09/03/16 6:00 AM)
According to my brother Juan who lived with the Huicholes, actually called Wixárita, for over 40 years, Castañeda was a fake indeed; even the words he used as being Huichol are not their own but were taken from some Peruvian people.
JE comments: Thanks, Carmen! I'd like to know more about Juan's time with the Wixárita.
Gary Moore has written off-Forum that he also has insight into Castaneda's deceptive scholarship. Gary promised a comment in the coming days.
All this gets me thinking: if the "Godfather of the New Age" was a fraud, what does this say about the so-called New Age?
Synchronicity, Carlos Castaneda, and a (Philip) True Story; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
09/05/16 7:26 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
As I had hoped, our WAIS discussion of synchronicity, the flow of bizarre coincidences,
is actually producing the phenomenon as we go along, right here in WAIS--and on multiple levels.
The surface level is rational and descriptive. The discussion has broached the issue of fakery
and credulousness, always a problem in a niche of human experience that can't even be adequately
named. Is synchronicity "paranormal" (outside the norm)? Or is it "supernatural" (above natural law)?
Humans so desperately seek omens and signs that a belief in synchronicity might be viewed as one
more superstition, a matter of seeing correspondences that are only wished for.
But the WAIS discussion has also gone on to a next level--as we live the phenomenon in the moment,
via successive Web posts--so that we can analyze it through direct experience, as in Descartes's cogito
ergo sum. We can personally note the clues and glimpses (or lack thereof?) in a realm that formal
investigation can't enter.
I'm going to show here what I think is evidence that a cascade or neuro-kindling process has begun,
forming a definable wave after August 30. It was Bert Westbrook's post that began the wave, in a
whimsical way. On August 30 he was replying humorously to Marga Jann's August 29 post about an
unfathomable compulsion, in the person of ex-congressman Anthony Weiner, he of the sex-texting scandals.
Bert chuckled that here, even in front-page news, was salacious synchronicity--embodied in a surname.
The coincidence between Weiner's comically apt surname and his salacious fame was just too neat:
How could the sex fiend be living out his name? The observation awakened something in my memory,
at first dimly. I recalled that, yes, synchronicity's inexplicable pairing can appear not just in private experience
but in banner headlines, verified by millions, when seemingly impossible name-pairs make the news.
I knew I had once met a spectacular example of this. Somewhere. But what was it?
It came back to me slowly, first in fragments, then in a flood--at the same time that another mystery
was unfolding. As mental hints of my spectacular example were emerging in my memory, very pointed
other hints of it were also flashing from another direction, in other people's WAIS posts, before I had
ever mentioned the subject publicly. Something was converging--something beyond my understanding.
The current of posts seemed to be eerily reading my thoughts in advance, as if we were all accessing the
same pool--or as if thoughts, memories and dreams all live somewhere in a collective castle. My spectacular
example, which began coming back into my conscious memory on August 30 with Bert's post on Weiner,
centers on the Huichol Indians--the isolated native seers of Mexico. Not until now, on September 5, am I
revealing this theme or any overt intimation of it to WAIS members--and yet those same Huichols began
floating into discussion on September 1 and 3. They were central to Richard Hancock's deft epic of September 1,
about his mysticism seminar with its Huichol enigmas, and then came Carmen Negrin's striking rejoinder on
September 3, about her brother living forty years with the Huichols/Wixárita (I'd like to hear more about that).
Both these streams linked not just glancingly, but multifariously, compellingly, to my own focus, as if we all were
spiraling toward a place of convergence, though I had never mentioned my own connection aloud, as I mentally
prepared for the comment you're reading now.
The September 1 and 3 posts also brought up the fakery issue, specifically the embarrassing scandals surrounding
Carlos Castaneda, the 1970s hippie/nagual celebrity mystic. Was Castaneda one more of the charlatans and fakes
who swarm the mystery dimension? Apparently he was. But, like the pun on the embarrassed Weiner, Castaneda's
perfidy doesn't entirely dispel his mystery. Desperately seeking impostors, and compulsions, somehow factor into
the emotional engines behind the compulsion-like pairing in synchronicity. Meanwhile other WAIS posts--by Tim Ashby
on Sept. 2 and by Pat Mears Aug. 31--along with judicious mots from our bat-circled moderator--struck me from other
angles as also forming synchronous correspondences with my own emerging thoughts, though these correspondences
were not as letter-perfect as the Huichol theme. These others could be interpreted as mere coincidences--or as symptoms
of my now becoming hyper-attuned to looking for such correspondences. The mind's use of metaphor (which involves pairing)
is not just moon-June-spoon poetizing but strikes deep into reality construction, especially noticeable in pre-modern or
a-literate cultures, as with Richard Hancock's dark circling bird of the Huichols.
But coming back to earth, here is the example: In 1998 a friend said look in the paper. The news item there immediately
showed why. Even in the preliminaries it was like looking at my own ghost. A reporter enthralled by hard-way routes into
the backcountry of Mexico. A reporter going on foot, hiking into places that smarter scribes trekked by phone. That was
my CV, all right. But this news item was not about me--and it ended badly. On December 4, 1998, the Mexico City
correspondent of the San Antonio, Texas, Express-News did what I was always told I had better stop doing. And that
reporter met the fate oft predicted for me. It's on purpose that I'm not yet giving his name. And even when I give it,
the eerie name is not the ultimate punchline here, but only the first pass in the dark bird's spiral.
The reporter in question went 300 miles west of Mexico City and then backpacked into what is arguably the most isolated
and little-known mystery land in a mystery-laced country, the great canyon preserves in Jalisco/Nayarit, home of the secretive
Huichols. And in that vastness, cut off from modernity, in a place bristling with insular prohibitions and narco-dangers, the hiker
He was a veteran crisis handler and spoke fluent Spanish. He knew native culture. His pack contained brightly colored feathers,
shed by his pet parrot in Mexico City, which would perch smartly on his shoulder even as he fried up Joy of Cooking masterpieces
in his Chapultepec kitchen, with his bemused wife joining in. The feathers in the backpack were to be a gift for a Huichol shaman
he knew in the sierra. The Huichols, with their peyote visions and psychedelically rainbowed weavings, are said to prize feathers
as a link to a hidden world--symbolized by birds. The gift was never delivered. On December 16 they found his body.
So now the name--though remember this is only the first step into the canyon. The reporter in question,
so dedicated to seeking truth that he braved wars and wilds, was named Philip True. Look him up; he's a fixture
now in the annals of Mexico reporting, not just because of his death in 1998, but for the seemingly endless
Pandora's box opened by his death in years following. Much later still, on August 30, 2016, WAIS comments
were floating before my eyes in the coffee steam as I dimly recalled that synchronicity can creep into the news.
As I probed for that buried memory, I realized that I was thinking about Philip True--but not just because of the
eerie surname. It was because (how to say this coherently?) his unfathomable nexus had produced...
two Philip Trues.
After he failed to check in from a sierra village with a radio-telephone, the hiker's frantic wife alerted searchers.
The signs from the beginning said this was not some sprained ankle. The disappeared reporter's newspaper raised
the roof, broadcasting a reward offer. The sierra began swarming with army search teams. Then on December 15--
a day before the grim climax--news came crackling out of a Huichol village named Guadalupe de Ocatan--good news.
The wife could relax, the army reported triumphantly, for the errant hiker had been found, safe and sound. Then came
the spiral. The next news clouded suddenly with the quizzical, the inexplicable, the unfathomable--for in that vast outback,
where customarily few if any outsiders could be found, and a sprinkling of Huichols were spread through hundreds of
square miles of broken country, the army, at a point only 14 miles from where Philip True had disappeared, had located
another Philip True.
They verified the passport. It was legit (Well, there were some troubling blurs--but surely this was due to excitement,
they must have thought). Colleagues of the reporter, swooping in joyfully by helicopter, found themselves aghast.
True, this was "Philip True"--and yet it wasn't him! The army searchers had unearthed a scientist studying Huichol culture.
Newsweek marveled: "Amazingly, his name was Philip Truempler." Outside magazine stated the ridiculous sequence:
"In a bizarre coincidence, the man the troops had turned up was a Swiss anthropologist named Philip Truempler."
The media in general were forced to shrug off the eeriness of this rapidly complicating Pandora's box. "Five extra letters,"
mused True's San Antonio editor: "A good novelist would never employ such a trick." The pun was too ripe--this untrue True.
But in this case, the hack novelist employing the dreamy pun was reality itself, turning trickster.
At about the time of the false positive involving Philip Truempler, a Huichol named Margarito Díaz spied some vultures
circling over a canyon. Then he saw the body. It took Díaz some time to reach the searchers, including True's editor in
a helicopter. And when the searchers then reached the spot...the body was gone. But again there were signs. Farther down
in the canyon were more vultures--and, the editor noticed, what might be construed as a dim trail of feathers--not vulture feathers
but perhaps bits of goose down from a violently ripped sleeping bag. They found the grave. Someone had tried to hide the body.
Many factors put Díaz, the guide, in the clear, not a suspect in any way. But this was a murder. From it would come revelations
of cultural chaos so panoramic that it began to look like Octavio Paz's "Mexican Masks." A single killing began rippling outward to
reveal something large in Mexico--including a pervasive atmosphere of emotionally driven illusion. Two Huichol men in their twenties
were arrested, Juan Chivarra and Miguel Hernández. Media in Mexico began to fill with grumblings--or outright accusations--saying
that a drunken gringo had merely stumbled to his death in a canyon, and then Big Government--in both Mexico and the United States--
had allegedly rushed to crucify helpless scapegoats.
The two prisoners confessed to the killing--but wasn't this Mexico? Hadn't they been routinely tortured? Weren't the confessions
themselves one more proof of how evil the big guys were, and how pure the helpless scapegoats? A wealthy American heir living
in Guadalajara became a knight errant, riding to the rescue by magnanimously contributing a reported $30,000 in defense money--
which soon found a backwoods magistrate setting the two men free--without even notifying the prosecutors on the case. On the
same night, August 3, 2001, the judge had a jubilant dinner with the two newly released celebrities and their (well-paid) defense team,
while the glowing expat financier joined in. The defense team included a major politician and power broker. The expat financial angel's
"philanthropy" foundation (cited soberly by a present-day Wikipedia entry), really consisted of a single legal-system coyote/fixer,
an attractive woman. The benefactor seemed not to consider that no one was accusing the entire Huichol people of the murder. Indeed
the Huichols are well known for being peace-loving. But the dominant member of the pair arrested had his problems, including local stories
of thefts, feuds and marijuana-growing, reminding that the mysteries of psychopathology can crop up anywhere.
Without going into detail, there were signs of sadistic toying--before and after death--which Juan Chivarra, the main player, may have
rationalized as violent defense of home ground, against an unauthorized (and vulnerable) outsider. Philip True's backpack, binoculars and
some other possessions were found in Chivarra's home. There were mountains of evidence against him, not just his controversial confession.
Yet a tidal wave of public opinion reshaped the case, turning the victim, Philip True, into the villain--in the drunken gringo intruder story--ignoring the fact that True, a hippie-style hiker, wasn't much of a drinker, and especially not on a hike like this.
This circling of the story into criminal and political issues may seem far afield from its opening in the airy world of synchronicity--
but perhaps that world is not so airy or fanciful, once the impostors are cleared away. And if it's real, however unclassified, it naturally
rubs elbows with the hard knocks of the real world. For me this story struck a chord not only because of my own outback hiking in the forbidden
sierra, but because its resurfacing in WAIS fills in yet another puzzle. My posts in early August, just before the synchronicity discussion,
showed me straining to reach into distant venues, notably France, in efforts to understand what's being called the terrorism crisis--though
I began to see it in more panoramic terms, as something that's always been there, and perhaps could be called a world Marginalization Crisis,
marked by a special form of self-dramatizing violence, amid resentful feelings of being marginalized, irrelevant, left behind. Think of the movie
Deliverance, with its left-behind hillbillies vengefully mobbing some strayed city slickers, complete with sadistic toying and displaced rage.
Then think of something larger: slices of left-behind turf spanning major portions of the globe, where vengeful stories--along the lines of the
drunken-gringo-hiker--might take differing forms, with differing effects, to reach the scale of the solemn anniversary now nearly upon us:
the Twin Towers.
Whether called Marginalization Protest, mob drama, or terrorism (with or without demented Lone Wolves), its public image is typically
complicated by the dynamic that closed over Philip True: a matter of two forms of blindness. First there is reactionary blindness, which
may seek to pin a limited crime on all Mexicans, or all Huichols (or all Muslims). But second there is its opposite, sentimentalizing blindness,
which may idealize a chosen rescuee--a marginalized group symbol--and in order to do this, it blindly demonizes others who symbolize authority,
though they may be the real victims of dangerous aggression.
The Philip True story, with its smiling, cloying benefactor (an ex-alcoholic with a trust fund) reminds that sentiment isn't always the answer
in a crisis, any more than hatred or bigotry is. Empathy is crucial in dealing with conflict, but there is a real point where sentiment can become
blind. This was astonishingly proven by the case of Philip True, where neither politics nor the mass media were set up to convey the nuanced
In 2003, after victorious press conferences and celebrity status for the two freed prisoners, the case blew apart. The two suspects said
straight to the astonished benefactor's face that yes, they had murdered Philip True--which should have been obvious anyway, as much
as their stories had kept changing. On November 25, 2003, the benefactor, moral to the end, held a highly embarrassing press
conference, announcing to the world that even he was now certain that the two were guilty as sin. He formally withdrew his support
from the case--and announced that the influential politician whom his inherited wealth had hired as defense attorney was also washing
his hands. By now the Mexican legal system has made a correction, saying the two men were guilty after all, but sentencing them to only thirteen
years in prison--and in absentia. By the time the correction was made, they had had plenty of time to disappear. Nobody seems now to know
where they went.
So how does all this fit together--this mire of the mystical and the macabre?
Maybe we need these circling shadows and winks of God, as hard it seems to be to stumble toward what is true.
JE comments: Or what is True. This tale from Gary Moore is as mind-blowing as a peyote trip. What could possibly be the chance of the Philips True and Truempler wandering into the same remote location?
This is Deliverance indeed--and that classic film is a useful template to measure all civilizational clashes. Hearing these stories kind of makes you want to avoid exotic travel entirely.
This reminds me: I still owe WAISdom Chapter 3 of the JE Bolivia Travelogue.
"Deliverance" and the Chattooga River
(David A. Westbrook, USA
09/06/16 4:30 AM)
Wow. I can't resist.
Deliverance (see Gary Moore, 5 September) was filmed on the Chattooga River. One of the sources of the Chattooga is on my parents' "farm"--well, we had some Christmas trees--in Highlands, North Carolina. I grew up hiking and swimming and occasionally rafting on the Chattooga, the first wild and scenic river in the East, and a gem.
I haven't been to the place in about five years, but I was there . . . yesterday.
If we want to push the rational/irrational divide a bit further, the house sits on the Eastern Continental Divide, i.e., divides the Atlantic watershed (the Chattooga flows into the Tugaloo, and then into the Savannah, thence to the Atlantic at the town of the same name) from the Gulf of Mexico (the pond in the back flows into the Cullasaja, the Little Tennessee, the Tennessee, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans).
JE comments: Dueling banjos, and dueling watersheds. Just watched this clip again for the first time in...two decades?
Happy travels, Bert! Remember that when road tripping, you traverse space and time.
- Synchronicity and Statistical Probability (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/09/16 3:22 AM)
While there seems to be an infinitely large collection of events that we have been calling "synchronicities," the probabilities of each happening in the real world varies widely. Thus, those of us seeking the Truth must be careful assigning the labels of paranormal (outside the norm) or supernatural (above natural law). There is nothing supernatural in the Universe, just phenomena that humans are too dumb or ignorant to explain. Personally I have benefited from miracles (extremely low probability of occurring, and when it happened I cannot explain how it is possible.
For example, one can get very excited about finding several people in a small group having the same birthday. Really mind blowing is the fact that after the Big Bang created the known Universe, a galaxy with 200 billion stars was formed and no scientist really knows how. Within that galaxy one simple star became our solar system with a planet just perfectly far away enough, and with a moon just perfectly large enough and far away enough to enable life in our planet. Once life took hold, all the ingredients necessary for evolution produced biological organisms capable of solving problems, intelligent enough (many times I wonder) to move from dark caves to the large cities of today, to land on their moon a few times and now make plans to explore other planets in the solar system, among other things.
How is that for incredible synchronicity?
JE comments: The magic number for the "birthday paradox" is 23, meaning that if 23 people are in a room the chances are more than 1/2 that two people will have the same birthday. By 25 or more, the chance rises significantly. Since I tend to have introductory classes of 25 or 26, I play that game with my students. It blows their minds, too, and gives us a good excuse to practice days and dates in Spanish.
The "life on Earth" paradox takes more than a link to explain.
- Synchronicity...and the Simply Spooky; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/09/16 3:47 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
My thanks to WAIS for bearing with me as I've tried to illuminate (Sept. 5) the waves of synchronicity (or "spooky coincidence," in Nigel Jones's tart phrase) that are unfolding for our personal examination in WAIS, most obviously in how Richard Hancock's and Carmen Negrín's posts on the Huichol Indians had foreshadowed my own, which dredged from my memory the 1998 story of ill-fated journalist/hiker Philip True, and his untrue/True doppelganger in the Huichol sierra, surrounded by many secondary coincidences and mystical glimpses.
Trying to find a way to put all these elements together turned out to be a tremendously energizing process for me--as if recovering to me a whole palette of lost pieces from my past. Integral to this energy was the knowledge that the subject matter was a living thing that was unfolding and evolving in the intended forum as I wrote, making it a joint examination effort rather than a declamation. Like the impostor and fakery veins in "spooky" synchronicity, the suggestibility vein can be overstated to the point of hiding less definable truths, but I think that the process of talking about and envisioning the phenomenon can play a role in suggesting it into new manifestations--which, as "spookily" as the rest, are not imagined but present themselves, defiantly, as hard-nosed facts (as in David Pike's triple-Stanford-stranger and Bert Westbrook's Chatooga/Deliverance echo, Sept. 6, and the other interesting cases posted).
Being able to take this journey of joint verification has been a great gift for me--one more unlocked doorway into a dimension I can't even name. The only way to explore it seems to be through verifiable examples, case studies, any one of which may catch only one small flashing facet of an underlying whole--so the more verifying observers and voices adding differing perspectives, the more the likelihood that new insights might arise--as I think has happened as I had the privilege of going back over the tragedy of Philip True.
I don't think that synchronicity is "just neurology" (like déjà vu in epilepsy) any more than it's completely objective, but that it represents an uncomprehended place where (to summon one of many possible catch-phrases that fall short) the subjective and the objective converge--where in one way it's "all in your head," but somehow it's also right there in the material world as well, like a living dream.
Few glimpses can say this better than a look at, first, Richard Hancock's post of Sept. 1, and then mine of Sept. 5, with the knowledge that Richard had no idea that I was already planning a post that was not only remarkably convergent, but whose underlying theme of mystical non sequiturs was, in a sense, mapped out by his exploration. In both, the large bird is circling. We just don't know what it is.
JE comments: Gary puts in deeply, that only these anecdotal examples can give us a glimpse into a larger phenomenon. One of the many obstacles with theorizing synchronicity is that it cannot be replicated or re-created via the scientific method. Or am I wrong here, Tor Guimaraes?
- John King Books, and a Ghost's Hand (Patrick Mears, Germany 08/25/16 6:27 AM)
As John E noted in commenting on Gary Moore's post of August 24th, I agree that we are huge fans of John King Books in Detroit, which contains four warehouse floors of used and antique books (plus antique postcards and other historical detritus in a ramshackle building on West Lafayette near the John Lodge Expressway).
Although I love to spend hours wandering through antiquarian bookstores, such as El Túnel in Buenos Aires, the Strand Bookstore in New York City and the numerous bookstores on Calle Donceles in Mexico City, there is something special, something very gritty, about John King Books in funky downtown Detroit that brings me back there every time I visit the Motor City. And by the way, John, I bought what I think is the same three-volume, 19th Century edition of Prescott's The Conquest of Mexico as you did. I have a good friend in Mexico City to whom I send at Christmastime rare/unusual volumes of Mexican history and literature (sometimes in Spanish and sometimes in English) that I purchase from John King Books. One should check out John King's list of rare books and items on the Internet just to discover what gems that place holds.
I strongly recommend to WAISers that they visit John King Books if ever in Motown. You will be happy that you did.
With respect to John's question about lost items found, no German word or expression jumped to my mind to describe the phenomenon of something mysteriously reappearing after one has procured a replacement for it. So I inquired of the best German dictionary that I know, my wife Cornelia, who as a journalist is a "keeper of the flame" as far as obscure German expressions are concerned. She says that, in these circumstances, Germans would often exclaim, "Mein Pass ist wie von Geisterhand wieder aufgetaucht!" In other words, "My passport has shown up as if a ghost's hand had again caused it to reappear (or 'brought it back again')."
JE comments: Geisterhand: love it! It would be the perfect name for a rock band, too.
It's settled: the next time WAIS meets in Michigan, an outing to John King is on the program. Will we be ready to return to Adrian/Detroit in 2019?
Another proof of the uncanniness of WAIS is the sequence of coincidences that brought Pat Mears and me together. Here's a refresher:
Pat and I have so much in common! Now he mentions Donceles street in Mexico City. I've spent entire days there, wandering through the dozen or so second-hand book shops. It's uncanny. Cornelia would say unheimlich.
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