Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Voice on the Wind

The Voice on the Wind in mp3

I hear your voice on the wind
whispering, ever so softly,
echoing through the deepest canyons
of my vagrant heart

I didn't know, how could I realize
that they would cast a curse upon you,
incarcerating you in the darkness,
tearing us all apart?

If you're locked in the shadows then how can we see you?
If you only can whisper then how can we hear you?
If you never can touch us how can we be near you?
How can we come together as one?

I sat in the springtime watching the showers.
I stood in the summer surrounded by flowers.
I lay in the moonlight counting the hours,
but now bitter winter has come.

Now I can see it'll take a commotion,
a revolution to set love in motion.
We're really going to have to throw off the covers
and tear down the walls that divide.

You know you have always been my beloved,
my comrade, my partner, my nemesis other,
my enigmatic, mysterious lover,
my song, my communion, the raison d'etre
of my very essence, your living presence
fills me and thrills me to the bone.

I hear your voice on the wind
endlessly, speaking so softly,
echoing through the hills and valleys,
down to my restless heart.

I still can't believe it,
that they would seek to subjugate you,
holding you hostage, in bondage to their honour,
trying to keep us apart!

I hear your voice in the wind,
rippling sounds of distant laughter,
longing, happiness, keeping our innocence,
singing in my aching heart.

I keep hearing your voice on the wind
calling, pleading, murmuring gently,
sharing the sweetest moments of love,
stealing my feckless heart.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reflowering the Western Spiritual Paradigm

Genesis forms a counterpoint to apocalypse. The Bible is a bow, the Crucifixion being the arrow of violence,
suspended between Fall from Eden and the Tree of Life re-emerging in Revelation.
Both ends of the bow are verdant - immortality in paradise. Apocalypse is the [bridal] unveiling reunion.

Since the Renaissance, Western cultures have seen themselves as the central crucible of cultural liberation, scientific discovery, democratic emancipation and social progress. However, underlying the world view of much of Western culture is a Christian notion of an ordered universe manufactured by a fatherly creator God, in which worldly affairs are but a foretaste of an afterlife in heaven or hell, which despite the advances of modern science into every dimension of reality from the origin of the universe to the human genome, is still believed in by a significant proportion of people.

Either this is frankly a collective delusion, or it has some genuine basis in the unfolding nature of existential reality. There are of course potential evolutionary and biological explanations. Propensity for religious experience could be a serendipitous consequence of the close proximity between the amygdala and temporal lobes - parts of the brain evoking ecstatic emotional fulfillment and intense semantic significance. Conservative religion could also be a quirk of evolution of the brain to make us susceptible to beliefs which facilitate larger more dominant social groupings, through envisaging a moral deity looking over our affairs, which serves to reduce intra-social strife in favour of ascendance over other societies, something which is clearly evident in both Christian and Islamic history and cultural attitudes.

Our spiritual and religious roots underpinning this world view, contradict its Renaissance ideals in many ways. The Christian tradition, far from being the basis of democracy, or scientific discovery, sought throughout the dark ages to impose an often corrupt totalitarian conservatism on its population, through internal crusade, witch hunts and inquisition, even denying its followers access to the very religious texts it claimed were the divine word of God, such as the Bible itself. Christianity is not originally Western either, but comes from a mixing of cultural ideas stemming from more ancient cultures strewn across the Middle East, fused with some lingering beliefs dating back to old Europe. It entered the Western institutional mainstream only when Constantine converted to the Christian faith after blood-curdling and obsessive episodes of martyrdom under emperors such as Nero.

Nevertheless the Western cultural tradition holds on to a notion of enlightenment based on Christian notions of brotherly love, turning the other cheek, forgiveness of sin, charitable kindness to others and a belief that our actions in the world have a moral and spiritual dimension, in which they will eventually be held to account in the life hereafter. This despite the fact that its priesthood frequently hasn't adhered to these principles and Christian societies have frequently engaged in genocidal war and ruthless conquest of other cultures.

If we hold up a mirror akin to that of scientific discovery to the Western religious tradition, many of the central tenets of Christianity look to be contrived beliefs concocted by early church fathers to craft a neo-pagan religion in frank denial of its roots based on cobbling together early orthodox Christian teachings with existing popular 'pagan' beliefs turning Jesus from a Jewish prophet into a born-again only begotten Son of God and Mary from an incidental player into a replacement for Isis and Diana.

Many of the central beliefs look to be fantastic fantasies with no basis in natural reality, or social history. The Trinity of Father, Son and a gender-exorcised Holy Ghost is a polytheistic contrivance alien to the formless abstract Jewish God. The ideas of the physical resurrection and virgin birth are biologically ridiculous fantasies reflecting an attempt to weld early Jewish Christian practices with the popular cults of Isis, Mithra and other deities, from Diana to Adonis. Neither Christmas nor Easter are genuine dates because the former was chosen to coincide with the solstice festival of Mithra and the latter with the fertility festival of Ostaria or Ēostre, a kind of European Ishtar, for which the Easter egg still stands in memory of.

The idea of a 'loving' yet vengeful father God, who is prepared to sacrifice his 'only begotten son', so that our sins would be forgiven if we believe in him looks like a throwback to neolithic thinking. The Eucharist celebrating the gruesome sacrifice of eating his flesh and drinking his blood - the central soma and sangre of Christian communion - is likewise a cannibalistic rite disconnected from Jewish tradition. Is this neolithic sacrificial principle that "without shedding of blood there is no remission from sin" any part of a genuine creator deity's modus operandi, or is it a dark carry over from customs of human sacrifice? Isn't the sacrificial principle that Jesus has to die to save us from our sins something from the dark days of older jealous tribal totem deities and those seeking to placate natural fertility, where sacrifice is deemed to renew the harvest by returning blood and bone to the fields?

There are deep confusions here about what the nature of a creator God would be. Why would a God which created the whole universe and all of nature in the magical diversity we now know it to be then set up a narrow moral human paradigm and a system of diabolical punishment in the afterlife? We know from nature that all niches, from plant to animals which consume them, from herbivores to carnivores which devour them, and from hosts to diseases which parasitize and sometimes kill them, is an integral part of the climax diversity of life. Life thus transcends morality. Moral systems have meaning only in so far as they emerge as a natural part of social evolution of a species to permit social integration. Therefore any God which created life as we know it would defeat his own purpose by ending it all in a simplistic day of judgment over human moral issues.

There are also deep confusions about the nature of the heroic messiah, with Jesus becoming the only begotten Son of God, who then drips blood endlessly on every crucifix and every church statue, despite the fact that it is 2000 years since it was claimed he would return in power in the same generation as those standing before him.

How do we rationalize whether there is actually a core of genuine understanding in this tradition and separate the wheat of some genuine knowledge of our inner life and destiny, from closely held, but completely fallacious religious notions, which hold us back from discovering what conscious life is all about?

Jesus occupies a central place in Western belief, yet his life and sayings are somewhat contradictory, between apparently genuine source gnostic sayings such as those of the Gospel of Thomas "I am not your master but you have drunk from the bubbling stream I have measured out", to the synoptics, which have been later overlaid by the mythical narratives of the authors, claiming Peter acknowledging Jesus is the chosen messiah and ornamenting the history with manifestly fabled accounts, including the Bethlehem birth narrative.

None of this goes anywhere towards notions like the only begotten Son of God, assumption into heaven or bodily resurrection. Nor did Mary have a significant role in Jesus' mission, except perhaps at the beginning in Cana. Later Jesus was to ignore his mother and brothers when they sought him and in John his brother derided him, although later James and desposyni, or blood family of Jesus became the first Jewish Christian following. Mary in a patriarchal moral twist was only later elevated to semi-divine status by the Pauline church fathers to overturn Magdalen's sexually questionable position as Jesus' emissary and complicit partner - in his own words "everywhere my name is mentioned they shall also speak of you".

Jesus' mission also launched him into an ambiguous position, encompassing both the firebrand apocalyptic desert Nabi of John the Baptist and even Zealot viewpoints regarding the establishment, to indulgent fertility worship, from his anointing by a woman, through his mission being supported by the women 'out of their very substance', to the women of Galilee coming down to see him off, and the motifs of the true vine, the winebibber and turning water into wine, all of which echo Dionysian rites, as does his advent on the epiphany and the nature miracles, such as calming the storm and walking on water. This is why the Jewish mainstream see Jesus as a false messiah and why he is referred to as such in the Talmud.

Although some of these pagan notions may be later synoptic ornamentations, it is consistent with Jesus attempting to make a very innovative messianic cross-cultural synthesis of the prevailing beliefs in Israel and neighbouring Nabatea, which was at its cultural peak at the time, and goes a good distance to explaining why Christianity became so popular in the pagan world, although this was also partly a redrafting by people from Paul on, in terms of a miraculous semi-god in the traditions of Adonis, Ba'al, Dionysus, Melcarth and Mithra.

The traditional notion of the Jewish messiah is not a man-god but a human hero that brings about an epoch of long-term future goodness, associated with David, Solomon and Cyrus the Mede, who assisted the Jewish return, and later in such human figures as the rebel warlord Bar Cochba a century after Jesus and the apostate Shabbati Zevi in the middle ages. Traditionally a mashiach is 'anointed' by a high priest rather than a woman of dubious virtue. The Christian idea of an only begotten messianic Son of God is a complete breakaway from this tradition into fertility worship heroes.

Looking deeper into this situation, one can ask in terms of the cultural stream of consciousness and wider religious traditions, are there underlying patterns or archetypes, in the sense of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, which have driven the advent of not only Christianity but other heroic religious movements, and are these a valid expression of subterranean currents in evolving human life and consciousness?

Central to many aspects of Jesus' mission was the idea of apocalypse - that world history was hurtling towards a tumultuous falling-out, ending in an ultimate clash between good and evil in which the day of judgment would come about. Originally Satan had been merely a kind of tester and the after life in old Hebrew ideas was just the underworld, or Sheol. However, Zoroastrian notions of cosmic renovation by trial of fire in the conflict between the light of Ahura Mazda and the ignorance of Angra Mainyu became the model for later Jewish notions of the day of judgment and the division between those going to heaven and those purged in the fires of hell. Jewish prophets by the time of Zechariah had adopted this apocalyptic view in various forms, also shared by the Essenes and other desert ascetics.

It is this view of tumultuous apocalypse in a free fall to an Armageddon-like day of judgment, an unveiling in which all the covers will be thrown off reality, that haunts us down through history to this very day.

At the opposite end of the Biblical epoch we have two very quaint, absorbing mythical origin stories, the 'Elohistic sabbatical creation and the Yahwistic Eden story, between them giving us complementary views of our mythical beginnings in Genesis, in what may have originally been separate and conflicting Northern Israelite and Southern Judaic accounts.

Genesis forms a counterpoint to apocalypse. The Bible is a bow, suspended between Fall from Eden and the Tree of Life we see reemerging in Revelation and such works as the Book of Enoch. Both ends of the bow are verdant - immortality in paradise. At the centre is the Crucifixion, the arrow of violence, the war of dark and light. The apocalypse is, in its own word, the [bridal] unveiling.

The sabbatical creation is a very beautiful iconic account, but it has manifest contradictions which could come about only in a flat earth view, in which the sun, moon and stars are little more than earthly features on the firmament above. The plants get created, not only before the animals, which are made in steps from sea creatures to land, but also before the sun, moon and stars, clearly an astronomically impossible and naive earth-centric viewpoint. Nevertheless it is this charming brief mythical account which creationists and intelligent design proponents are prepared to place against all the predisposing evidence of nature, genetics and evolution showing a dangerous and slavish literary idolatry to the text, turning it from a charming mythical allegory into a fundamentalist confrontation with nature.

This situation deserves a moment's thought. Evolution is not just an alternative hypothesis to creation. The notion of creation is a two page mythical opening account written around 500 BC that was never intended to be a literal scientific description. The growth of scientific knowledge has taken place despite relentless opposition from the church from Galileo on down, one of whose turning points was the discovery of the ovum, which meant that children were not just the seed of men planted in their mother's wombs, rendering Jesus' virgin birth genetically impossible.

Each step of discovery of the natural universe has come through overthrowing preconceived notions by diligent searching to find patterns that completely transcend naive ideas, from the quantum theories of the forces of nature and the cosmological evolution of the universe, to the intricate mechanisms of molecular biology. Evolution has been confirmed in action in diverse phenomena, from disease resistance to cancer. Its imprint is clear in all the genetic evidence that has emerged from molecular sequencing including the human genome project and its offshoots. We now understand the evolutionary tree of life in intricate genetic detail, yet Christian advocates are still relentlessly trying to subvert the educational system, by demanding that creationist and intelligent design ideas be taught alongside evolution. Not only does this violate scientific integrity, but it runs against the command not to make graven images of Genesis 1.

Moreover, there is nothing we can find in the miasma of cosmological phenomena we now know the universe to contain, which in any way suggests it was externally created by a separate personality, or deity. The very idea of creation is a human concept to do with manufacture and the most elegant complex system in the universe, the human brain, is self-generated interactively in embryogenesis in a way which it is impossible to 'create' by external manufacture. Thus the jealous, father god looks increasingly like an outmoded cosmological concept, neither necessary, nor sufficient to explain the material universe, nor our subjective consciousness within it. Moreover it is a sexually imbalanced notion, possessing the all-to-human attributes of personality, sexual jealousy, vengefulness and forgiveness but only in masculine form, when the diversity of life is founded on female and male sexes interacting in complementation together.

The Eden account has a different resonance, declaring many of the jealous and vengeful aspects of Yahweh right at the outset and portraying the whole of human history as a fall from the grace of paradise in what is also a sexual falling out between woman and man, in which patriarchal obedience of wives to husbands, amid sexual undertones, through Eve's seduction of Adam, via the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil at the behest of the serpent, causing mortality, the travail and pain of childbirth, and living dust to dust by the sweat of the brow, cast out of the gates of paradise by a flaming sword.

This theme of falling out has deep cultural resonances, running right back to the emergence of agriculture around 10,000 BC and the transition to patriarchal culture we also see in Genesis in the transition from the ways of Laban to those of Jacob. It is a theme which one could easily understand in terms of a recurring creation myth retelling our falling out from integration with nature, as gatherer-hunters, to form patriarchal civilizations, amid the tumult of war and rumours of war. In a more general sense, it is an account of the human stream of consciousness, of future shock under rapid cultural change, heading inexorably towards a tumultuous and uncertain denouement.

There is another deep theme in the Fall from Eden towards apocalypse and that is in the discovery process of consciousness itself and the idea that all the covers will be thrown off reality, rather than through a naive innocent view of paradise, nor through a glass darkly in the intervening period, but in the end, face to face with reality, we will discover what existence is all about, very much as the explosion of the scientific world view has brought about in the last few centuries.

However apocalypse also comes with dire warnings of tumult of the war of civilization and belief system against civilization and belief system and of the Earth being shaken into a state of genocidal triage in the process, in which a third of all living things expire.

Many fundamentalist Christians believe they can shake off the entire natural order in a mythical rapture, in which the elect all float up into the heavens and reunite with God casting away the entire beauty and complexity of the natural realm as little more than a husk or mere detritus of a flawed realm, despite the fact that we now know the 'heavens' are the astronomical vacuum of outer space lethal to planetary life and not a simple firmament of God in which winged angels can fly effortlessly between the clouds. This brings out the worst in Christian fundamentalism taking no responsibility for caring for this 'transient' world or how far it is abused in the dominion of man over nature, while looking to a potential armageddon of 'the late planet Earth' in bringing about the advent of the kingdom of God.

Islam like Christianity has just such a distorted fantasy life. The prophet, despite his own remonstrations about Jesus' and Mary's deification, has become effectively deified as the 'last prophet' so that Bahai's, Ahmadis and others are persecuted and killed for believing in a more recent prophetic figure and others are summarily killed even for merely depicting the prophet's face. Yet Muslims also look to a final victory of Islam in the day of judgment and some would hasten to bring it on by military and political strategies. Shi'ites believe the Mahdi, a Muslim messianic figure of the second coming will appear and teach Jesus, while some Sunnis demur that there is no Mahdi but Jesus, confirming the continuity of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

While the Christian heaven is populated with sexless angelic winged beings, the Muslim paradise is crafted exclusively for the sexual pleasure of men, with 72 black eyed virgins made anew each morning to wait on a man's every whim, let alone their many wives from the earthly realm. This sexually imbalanced patriarchal view is a biologically untenable contradiction as are the winged angels of Christianity. The idolatrous devotion to the book by fundamentalists on both sides reduces any wisdom either religion might have to naught.

Rather than a rapture, what we are witnessing is a dangerous transition in which human impacts on the planet are becoming more and more damaging and the combination of sheer human population pressure, combined with reckless consumption of the Earth's non-renewable resources are precipitating climate change which could raise the oceans and make many areas inhospitable.

At the same time we are destroying natural habitats on a global basis so that we are coming to witness the sixth great extinction of the diversity of life, not at the hands of a supernova, a volcanic eruption or an asteroid or cometary impact but simply at the hands of humanity's unrestrained lack of long-term sustainable outlook.

It remains unclear whether humanity will have a soft landing and be able to make a satisfactory transition to a sustainable global culture or whether our lack of long-term foresight and short-term greed will lead to a hard landing with dire consequences for our future survival.

So one could say that the apocalyptic paradigm is a real warning to our existential condition and that the messianic heroic quest is a journey we all need to take to avoid the hard landing and bring about the sustainable epoch of planet earth for the future generations of humanity.

Could Christianity survive in any recognizable form in this situation? The Christian church was meant to be a steward to guard the Earth until the second coming, but what has actually happened is that the deification of Jesus has been used as a token to perpetuate the reign of the church and effectively prevent any transition to a new epoch, by making the church the permanent guardian of a pagan fallacy that sees this supposedly deified figure caught in an idolatrous trap, dripping with blood in churches throughout the world.

This means no real flesh and blood messiah male or female can hope to bring about a natural paradigm shift to the sustainable age without overthrowing this pagan fallacy, designed by the clergy to ensure the perpetual reign of Christianity, in contradiction to the throwing of the covers off reality in the apocalyptic awakening into the epoch of the tree of sustainable life.

If the Western spiritual tradition were redeemable, it would become a very different entity, celebrating the living presence in each and every one of its participants, in restoring and protecting the natural diversity of paradise on Earth for the future generations of humanity and of all life, while practicing the ethic of selfless love for all in bringing about the blessed condition of existence we all know is possible.

Rather than lamenting the blood of the savior, it is the life blood of the generations, celebrated in the the key rites of passage of birth, loving partnership and passing away and the passage of the seasons and their bounties, with the reflowering and sustenance of living diversity forming the natural cycle of celebration. Ironically this brings us back closer to the Jewish mother tradition in which spirituality is a vehicle for celebrating the ongoing life and life-blood of the people to go forth and multiply, to cherish the Earth and replenish it, rather than original sin, sexual guilt and hungering for a heaven which sloughs away our biological existence.

Its natural sacraments, rather than the empty cannibalistic vessels of soma and sangre encompass the diverse living visionary sacraments of the biosphere, from the sacred mushroom teonanactl, flesh of the gods, through San Pedro and peyote, to ayahuasca the vine of the soul.

It is also much more sexy, because conscious sentient life of the human species is sine qua non essentially sexual. While our individual incarnations are mortal, the sexual web of the generations of life is immortal. Rather than the patriarchal eternal sky god exhorting women to be faithful to men, the feminine 'goddess' aspect of spirituality again becomes ascendant and sacred, because it is the females who bear live young and nurture the next generation into life. Rather than rejecting sexuality as part of the flawed material realm of bestial lust, as Christians do, based on the fallacy of original sin, sex is the central mystery of immortality of the generations. So spirituality and sexuality come together as one, and in the place of the bonds of patriarchal marriage, we have astute choices of loving partnership in liberation between women and men.

This is why the Song of Songs made it way into the Bible even to become the holy of holies, the inner sanctum of the mystical communion with the divine, because it contains within it the secret coda of immortality in fertility.

Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled:

for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh,

and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing;

whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

The emphasis is on a fulfilling and beneficial incarnation in this lifetime, through good actions nurturing the world around us, leaving it wherever possible a better place than we came into while celebrating the best experiences of life, rather than looking to an imaginary afterlife for redemption without taking full responsibility for this life. The emphasis is also on the original evolutionary virtue within us, that makes us able to love and to be in love, and to compassionately care for others we are not even related to, rather than the disabling fallacy of original sin, which leaves us as broken beings, helpless without the imagined savior's intervention. This is a critical phase of our cosmic coming of age in planetary awareness, in taking responsibility for our own fate and our destiny in the universe.

On the Epiphany (left). Reciting the anointing with Jane (top right)
Celebrating the Millennium Eve dawn on Mt. Scopus (lower right).

To fulfill this transition in terms of a rite of passage to the new epoch, I journeyed to Jerusalem with Jane over the second Millennium to pronounce the epoch of the Tree of Life in sexual reunion at a 12 day workshop at the Academy of Jerusalem, with the warm support of liberal Jewish hosts, which included an all-night vigil with 100 or so people on Mt. Scopus on the night of Millennium Eve and a second rite of passage on the Epiphany (my birthday), from the ascension site on the Mt. of Olives, via Gethsemane, pronouncing the opening of the Gates of Mercy and sacred reunion in the Song of Songs at the Wailing Wall.

Gaia Anointing

The spirit of God is upon us
the spirit of Gaia is within us
because they hath anointed us
to sing good tidings unto the meek
they hath sent us to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and the opening of prison to them that are bound

to proclaim the acceptable year
to comfort all that mourn
to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion
in Palestine, in in Sidon, Syria, Arabia and the world
to give unto them beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning

the garments of love for the spirit of heaviness
that they might be called trees of compassion
the planting of the divine
that all might be glorified
in the abundance of wisdom

and we shall renew the old wastes
and we shall restore the former desolations
and we shall repair the waste cities
the desolations of many generations

they hath clothed us with the garments of salvation
and I as a bridegroom decketh myself with ornaments
and I as a bride adorneth myself with jewels
for as the Earth bringeth forth her bud
and as the garden causeth the things that are sewn in it to spring forth
so shall harmony and fulfillment spring forth
among all the nations

this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Is there a pattern connecting events which leads to the unfolding of an apocalyptic stream of consciousness? There is nothing in the scientific description of reality which confirms or denies the possibility of conscious experiences having a collective dimension in relation to fundamental changes in our planetary situation over time epochs.

One interpretation of the evolution of conscious life forms is that this is the sentient cosmological conscious of the universe coming to know itself through us knowing ourselves - that our individual conscious experiences are capable of entering into a rapport with a more oceanic conscious sensitivity. Many of the elements of Eastern mysticism point towards a state of contemplation, or samadhi, in which individual consciousness becomes one with archetypal, or cosmic consciousness.

A central aspect of the evolution of sentient beings may be to fully explore and experience such states, which may become a web of conscious experience reverberating throughout space-time connecting generations vastly separated in both space and time into one self-fulfilling experience of the universe compassionately knowing itself, even as if we are the 'mind of God' becoming complete in our own liberation. In this sense it is the biota of the universe which become the pinnacle of molecular complexity and conscious sensitivity, so it is in the consciousness of the biota, rather than the heavens that we should expect to find the mysterium tremendum of the 'godhead'.

The existential cosmos appears to be a complementation between the objective physical universe composed of quanta, atoms, molecules and their accumulation into biological and geological forms, and into astronomical bodies of planets, stars and galaxies, and the subjective stream of consciousness in all of us, which is subjective rather than objective, and thus complements all objective phenomena, and stands as the central Cartesian theatre of existence, without which we would never have access to experience the physical universe, despite appearing to be merely a manifestation of our fragile, excitable brains.

It is this conscious aspect of a complementary reality that has driven spiritual and religious paradigms and their quest for meaning in a conscious life which might continue to exist after physical death, as well as the phantasmagorias of heaven and hell, with all their delights and furies. It is the conscious dimension in which religions find their supernatural plane of existence and which makes people prepared to die for their religion as martyrs, and unfortunately in our age, to kill innocent victims in suicide bombings.

In the dance of Tantra, Shiva as the inert conscious aspect engages with the feminine Shakti spawning in the dance of maya of illusion all the material phenomena of existence. Likewise in the Tao of nature the feminine receptive yin complements the masculine creative yang.

Both subjective consciousness and the notion of intentional (free) will remain enigmatic in the objective scientific description of reality and it is through the agency of these two that our conscious experiences of intentional life and our accountability to fate unfold. The universe is neither random nor predestined. Future states remain indeterminate through quantum uncertainty and the unpredictability of chaotic processes. While, in the quantum world, all outcomes remain probability superpositions, in our conscious experience, Schrodinger's cat is either alive or dead. This suggests that subjective consciousness plays the role of collapsing the wave function of superimposed states of the universe, reducing the probability multiverses of quantum reality to the historical process of perceived reality we experience.

Consciousness thus looks like a cosmological phenomenon, in which we are evolving participants. If there is hand-shaking quantum entanglement between future and past, as quantum experiments like the Wheeler delayed choice experiment imply, it is even possible subjective consciousness may form an eternal web throughout space-time, extending even after the immortal web of life on Earth may have become extinguished, as the sun swells into a red giant, heralding the demise of our solar system. Whether or not humanity spreads beyond our solar system to spawn the galaxy, the consciousness we experience may thus take us right to the core of the cosmological condition.

Healing the Western spiritual tradition in a reflowering of nature could become the pivotal complement to the scientific revolution, in bringing about a sustainable paradigm enabling sentient consciousness to come of age in its discovery of the deepest nature of cosmic existence, but only if we can escape the bondage of our spiritual tradition to the long expired persona of Jesus and the frankly pagan fallacies of the Son of God caught forever dripping blood on the sacrificial cross and the neolithic notion of a father god who saves by killing his only begotten son, as if the good of redemption from sin can come only through weighing out a lethal dose of homicide.

But is this a realistic scenario? Can we really redeem an utterly flawed neolithic blood cult, in which we have dressed some of the more admirable virtues of selfless and brotherly love? Wouldn't it be better to just start afresh with a new beginning? That depends on whether the spiritual tradition can let go of its rigid stranglehold on our perceptions of reality and open to an evolutionary transformation of its own identity, in the nascent unfolding universe.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Praise of Reproductive Sex

Coital Maithuna in the Upper levels of Lakshmi temple Khajuraho

In Praise of Reproductive Sex

Homo sapiens
is a species renowned for our social sexuality. The average person making love an average of say 3 times a week throughout a reproductive lifetime of around 25-30 years for a woman and longer for a man can be expected to have sex some 4700 times while reasonably expecting to have no more than an average of 2-3 children. Despite the appearances of monogamy in this time each sex might have an average of between 5 and 20 partners.

Social sex has evolved in humans to be a principal means of bonding and forming the close intimate ties between partners that cement together the human family with its long-term child rearing, and human society as a whole..

Despite being dominantly social, sex is essentially reproductive and remains charged with undertones of emotional infatuation, jealousy, infidelity and betrayal, because who you become intimately involved with will affect your immediate partner(s) and their offspring, and paternity security in the case of men, and resourcing commitment in the case of women.

This is not to say that humans are socially monogamous, despite the Western heritage of Christianity's excessive dependence on enforced monogamy as a result of Yeshua's quip that divorce was a violation of Adam and Eve's monogamous partnership - a notion ignoring Jewish folklore's claim that Lilith preceded Eve in the marital union only to fly off when Adam tried to assert the missionary position.

In fact 85% of traditional human societies practice effective polygyny with about 10% of better-endowed men supporting more than one 'wife', and even in Western society, serial monogamy leads to effective polygyny when older men divorce and couple with a younger nubile partner to sire a second family. Nevertheless human pair-bonding is a real and potent aspect of human family relationships, lasting for at least the 4-5 years it takes for young children to become semi-independent.

Only 3% of mammals are socially monogamous, for a pivotal reason - females have a major 'choosy' parenting investment in giving birth to a limited number of live young, for whom they need the best genes and resources they can muster, creating a major polarization between the sexes, in which males have a primarily sexual investment seeking as many partners as they can fertilize. Even socially monogamous species such as prairie voles and colonial birds try to optimize their genetic investments by having occasional liaisons on the sly with partners of superior genetic fitness.

In many ways human pregnancy is at at extreme of mammalian evolution, with women facing a huge out-front commitment of 9 months of increasing vulnerability, often with existing young children in tow, significant risks to their survival in birthing a baby with a large head, years of breast feeding, and caring for small dependent infants for at least four years before human children can walk and talk and survive reasonably independently within their extended family.

Consequently women are traditionally choosy about their partners and tend to seek 'husbands' who bear sufficient resources to support and sustain a family and protect them from intruders. Hence we find the well-known themes of women often partnering with older established men and men in turn seeking out young nubile partners of peak fertility. Many of the themes of love and courtship, from good hunting, through story-telling, jokes and art and music stem from men establishing both their genetic fitness and resourcefulness as potential partners in the sight of women.

By contrast, men are want to sew wild oats, while keeping a very jealous eye on the women they do impregnate out of fear that another man has done the same. Women may also opt to sire by a clandestine partner on occasion as well if they cannot find a mate with both the best genes and good resourcing leading to endless suspicion of women's infidelity on the part of their men folk.

Thus while most sexual encounters don't lead to pregnancy, the implications of pregnancy drive our deepest emotional urges and jealousies of a sexual nature, even in an era when contraception is widespread, if only as effective as individuals make it, and genetic testing can lay bare all the subtleties of who has sired who.

Throughout history, paternity uncertainty has played a major role in shaping human societies. Most of our patriarchal heritage, from paternal lines of inheritance, which serve to compensate for the obvious certainty of maternity, through traditional marriage, in which a women is exhorted to be faithful to her husband, to religious and social laws, which violently punish women for infidelity, while allowing men to sew wild oats, as long as they aren't caught polluting another man's wife is founded on compensating for this uncertainty.

Eve is cursed for seducing Adam, women are to suffer the pain of childbirth, to be obedient to their husbands, to be stoned for adultery, or losing the tokens of virginity, doomed to be sequestered and veiled and only half the value of a man in law in Islam, genitally mutilated from Africa to the Amazon, abducted, trafficked and treated as the devil's gateway, so that sex becomes an evil of earthly temptation for men who seek to escape their mortality by pledging their allegiance to an eternal sky God of the day of judgment.

While this male fear of women is all very understandable, this form of patriarchal dominance, over the last 4000 years, is not conducive to evolution of intelligence because, like all animals that bear a few large eggs, or live young, it is female choice of male genetic and resourcing prowess that is the principal selective factor in ensuring the future viability and evolution of the species' gene pool.

The indications are that longer-term human evolution, and the emergence of language and culture, was accompanied by neither sex having strategic dominance, with each running a sexual Red Queen race of burgeoning intelligence, through courtship, in which female reproductive choice played a pivotal part. The ecstatic nature of human female orgasmic sexuality, and the lack of a penis bone in humans forcing men to display a genuine indicator of sexual fitness to reproduce, both attest to a significant degree of female reproductive choice, based on a lunar menstrual cycle, concealed estrus and social sexual bonding throughout human emergence.

Looking deeper, we can see how sex and mortality became inextricably entwined in the burgeoning diversity of ever more complex life. All multi-celled organisms are sexual, with a very few exceptions. Where parthenogenesis occurs in a few species, sometimes to aid rapid colonization, it is at the cost of declining resistance against (sexual) parasites in what is known as the Red Queen evolutionary race - that the immediate advantage of sex compensating for transmitting only half our genes is the immediate increase in disease resistance it provides, because sexual diversity means parasites cannot evolve to attack a single parthenogenetic clone.

The result is that to have evolved as conscious beings at all, we are inevitably saddled with individual mortality, because we are endlessly varied and can transmit only half our genes to the next generation. Dyadic sex may have even been invented by a 'selfish' jumping gene, which ensured its immortality, transmitting 100% of its genes, by providing the apparatus for sexual recombination and exchange, in which we each only transmit 50% of ours.

The result for our view of the world is that we are conscious beings caught in the mortal coil of birth and death, with no respite, because of the endless variety of sexual recombination which makes us each unique and different (except for identical twins) and which dooms us to expire at the end of our days, because we are sexual rather than parthenogenetic beings - a doom which it is said God cast upon us for disobeying his instructions not to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, in Eve's carnal enticement of Adam, causing the fig leaf - an unfair un-biological judgment cast on sexuality by the male religious forefathers.

What we need to understand here is that sexuality is the manifestation of the life process potentially heading towards even greater heights of sentient existence, if we don't damage the enchanted loom and threaten the living viability of the planet. So, far from being evil and 'dirty', sex is good, as life is good, and our individual conscious existences, along with our sexual desires and fear of death, are a bountiful product of the immortal sexual loom of life.

It is thus to sex and the sexual paradigm that we should stoop to worship in devotion, not the loneliness of an imaginary godhead, just as Shiva courts Shakti in the Tantric dance of creation, and Yin and Yang form the Taoist completion of nature. Reproductive fertility is also the nascent theme of the Song of Songs, the grail of courtly love and the ideal of romantic love that echoes through the airwaves in popular music and is written into our literature from the Song of Inanna in Sumeria to Mills and Boon. Being in love and falling in love are not just manifestations of social sexuality but our evolutionary heritage. It involves the whole sexual cosmology of meeting the other in the full flush of fertility incarnate, with all its passion, tenderness and explosive potential for new life.

Christianity has sought to go further and violate the holy grail of love by assigning to sexuality only reproduction without pleasure, with social sexuality having little more than a bestial function of concupiscence, sexual desire or lust, to be avoided like the plague, as a diabolical influence. Augustine went so far as to curse the spontaneous arousal of his penis and Origen castrated himself in the shadow of Matthew 19:12. This is as perverted as all the manifestations of sexual deviation known to man and leads to denial, and sexual exploitation and degenerate behavior, as has riddled the celibate Catholic church and fueled the witch hunts and Inquisition and European crusade, when the Albigenses insisted Jesus and Magdalen were lovers.

An integral feature of the evolution of the humanity is that, unlike many species, where fertility and reproduction are driven by chemical cues and sex takes place only in estrus, when the female is ovulating, humans, and some of our sister species such as bonobos, have adopted the use of social sexuality as a medium of social bonding. In humans social sexuality is absolutely essential as a sensual glue that holds together conjugal couples in long-term relationships and provides much of the social bonding in society at large, that reduces violence and makes us sensual and lovable people.

Khajuraho - the lower layers. Rear entry, bestiality, fellatio and cunnilingus

However there are other manifestations of human social sexuality, which if not understood in relation to reproductive sexuality, begin to spawn a confused, if not perverted fulfillment of our sexual desires. These include a wide spectrum of erotic phenomena, many of which may be natural in one social context but forbidden in another. For example the Bible has invocations against masturbation and homosexuality, both of which are regarded as choices of consenting adults in modern Western society, although sodomy is regarded as unnatural in many Muslim countries and parts of Africa. Certainly masturbation may be essential for male sexual fitness and cannot be reasonably deemed to be harmful for females either, but the spread of social sexual gratification extends down to almost any deranged stimulus of boundary-breaking the mind can encompass, from extreme coprophilia and bestiality to rape, snuff movies and serial murder.

While Western society currently regards incest, bestiality, paedophilia and sexual violation as criminal derangement, it accepts cunnilingus, fellatio, both homosexual and heterosexual sodomy, as well as sadistic, and masochistic sexual acts and human bondage and prostitution as integral to social sexuality as long as it is between consenting adults.

This however comes at a frank cost. While women are increasingly enjoying the right and ability to watch female-oriented pornography, a large swathe of pornography is simply catering to male sexual fantasies veering towards exploitation of women as sexual objects of gratification.

Given the ancient nature of social sexuality and the endless male drive of boundary-breaking sexual curiosity it is likely that some women throughout history have been strategically compelled to give their man everything he might desire to ensure securing his commitment to her, even if this is sometimes painful or degrading. While it is true that some women enjoy all manner of erotic experiences, from fellatio to sodomy, many women find sodomy painful and mixing sodomy and coitus carries health risks. It is hypocritical for heterosexual men to treat gay men homophobically when they themselves are indulging in exactly the same kinds of sexual act.

Confusing social and reproductive sex also alters the whole balance of the mind set, so that non-reproductive forms of social sex, such as fellatio become a central social norm of petting, while coitus itself is something more special for a more developed relationship, or even regarded as inferior to other forms of sexual gratification and self-stimulation, or unsatisfying to females entirely.

We also end up with highly distorted views of the role of sex and sexual bonding in society as merely social on the one hand, encompassing any form of erotic concourse and sexual orientation, but treat it as entirely reproductive in traditional and religious terms and in parenting and families, where reproduction is central.

This means that we drift into seeing eros purely in terms of sexual pleasure and gratification, demeaning it to a subservient role rather than a defining spiritual dimension through which we and the whole of life comes into existence. This dooms it to a similar fate that Christianity has doomed it in its fear of sexual power casting it down into a purely lustful level below the waist-line, when it place is nature is the holy grail of immortality.

This doesn't mean that by respecting the fertility of sexuality we will completely resolve all the problems of jealously, betrayal, infidelity, infatuation, unrequited love, and sexual violence that make pair-bonding an endless round of the cooperation, defection and tit-for-tat exchanges that characterize the prisoners' dilemma in action because evolutionary selection of the future of humanity is at stake and there are no global simple solutions that will put all partners in the ideal relationship they would desire.

Nevertheless, having a clearer view of the formative role of sexuality in life does lead to a profoundly more astute and successful love life and family life. Since the dawn of gatherer-hunter history, mothers have been teaching their daughters how to be both attractive and astutely choosy to make the best sexual choices they can under the limited and complex circumstances they find themselves in, and to fall for a guy only if he can bring home some good meat from the hunt and tell good stories round the camp fire, as well as showing sensitivity and respect to his partner(s), rather than going for the most pushy delinquent bully boy who is prepared to drive his car off the cliff to play chicken with every other guy in sight.

While we make what might be called social 'strides' in accepting the right of same-sex couples to marry and even to raise families through surrogacy and insemination, we seem to have become blinded to the needs of children to have close parental examples of both their own and the opposite sex, and to understand the distinction between social acts of erotic love and the fertility of the passage of the generations we all come and came from.

We need to understand that the highest peaks of sexual fulfillment, of deep bonding, of orgasmic intensity, and sexual and sensual meaning, come not just from social erotic gratification, but from the full flood of sexual fertility in coital embrace in love between a man and a woman, as the Song of Songs declares - the Tantric dance of male and female principles - of Shiva and Shakti - in bringing the entire sentient-material universe and the diversity of conscious life into being.

The temples of Khajuraho have a revealing perspective on this, with the higher levels of the Lakshmi temple consisting of couples with attendants practicing maithuna, or ritual coitus, while the lower layers include all the variations of fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, bestiality and sodomy.

While we can sustain the diversity of social sexuality as long as it is non-exploitative and between consenting adults, we need to realize that we can't substitute social gratification for the sexual life force from which we all came, and which gives us the capacity to fall in love, to form loving relationships and to procreate new life.

In this respect, sexuality is inevitably a meeting of opposites, and fertility is and has always been that shared between a man and a woman, whether or not we define marriage in this way.

Homosexuality is a perfectly legitimate aspect of social sex, but even though same sex couples can form committed loving relationships and rear children through surrogacy and artificial insemination, they can't celebrate the fertility of life without serious violation of the genetic machinery, by making genetic modifications to human reproduction to turn eggs into sperm or directly fertilize nuclei as some same-sex oriented scientists have already attempted to do, although we know sexual imprinting of genes is essential in development especially of the brain.

It also needs to be remembered that sexual orientation is a mix of genetic and social factors, with social factors still highly significant. For example direct genetic factors affecting male sexual orientation, namely the fertile mother effect and the serial brother immunity effect account for only a 21% genetic contribution to sexual orientation and even identical twins share only around 50% orientation, indicating that, even with identical genetic makeup, social choices are still important.

Given that sexuality and the continuity of life depend on the fertility of man and woman, it is specious and counter-productive that parenting of a child of either sex can be deemed to be blind to the sexuality of the real, or foster, parents. Neither is it fair, or realistic, to deny growing children access to experiences of natural sexual complementation which they will need as adults to have a full opportunity to express their own fertility.

The sieve which sorts the wheat of ecstatic fulfillment from the chaff of sexual deviation is the reproductive fertility of sexuality and the understanding that the role other forms of social sexuality play are subsidiary to it and find their place ad meaning only in relation to it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Murder Blues

Here's a link to a new song I've just produced as a dialogue in a betrayal between two close friends:

You can listen to and download all the Niño tracks and read the lyrics here.

Winter - Blue Murder
I saw you in the street today,
but you were standing so far away
and then you turned your back on me
and wouldn't look me in the eye.
You said "Do you know you that have betrayed me?"
I replied "You might consider that you've done the same!"
You insisted we can't stand in the same room together,
so who is it now to blame?
It's so true. Feeling blue.
In a stew. Out of skew.
What a screw! Shame on you!
Blame on you, murder blues!
In the winter, frozen all over,
skating on thin ice, sliding helter-skelter.
Is this a falling out, a casualty in motion,
or a static fixation, close to oblivion?
I've had it all, yes I've had enough,
of murder blues shame on you.
I hear you been whispering dark insinuations,
in intimate moments, venting your outrage,
all puffed up with your indignation,
clinging to the moral high ground.
Is this a cause you really can stand up for,
or has just it become a personal affliction?
In holding a grudge that you take to the graveyard,
nothing can ever be gained.
They say the whole country is frozen right over.
There's snow from the mountains down to the plains,
but where is the thaw in this frigid existence,
where the losses outweigh the gains?
If you can't bring yourself to accept your involvement,
in setting the scene, in casting the die,
how can you ever assume responsibility,
or heal the emotional lie?
You know we have always been fellow travelers,
comrades in adversity for so many years,
so why cant you see you are burning the bridges,
of our sensibility over your fears.
There is no one who cares about all of these problems,
they are angels dancing on the head of a pin.
There is nothing we need to unravel the tangle,
no reason for the state we are in.
So why can't you see that its time to move on now
time for forgiveness, time for rapprochement,
time to be living the good life together,
so that it all comes around.
As the nights grow long, I shall call upon
this elegy to you, Murder Blue.
As our life is sweet. As our time is fleet.
As our pain is real. Murder blue.
Is this where we all belong caught here in this endless song,
an anthem to you Murder Blue?
Shame on you, Same upon you!
A case of blue murder, screams the news!
Shame on you, Murder Blue! Same on you, Murder Blue!
We can cast our share of blame on Murder Blues.