Stating the Obvious: Ask Candidates for President about the Constitution

Now that America has two candidates for president from which to choose, I have a suggestion for how to judge their qualifications:

Ask them about the Constitution.

When the winner of the November election takes the Oath of Office, they will swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. You’d think that document would be the center of attention when considering who’s qualified for the job. But how often are candidates asked about it?

Granted, I haven’t watched every debate and media interview, but I have a rough estimate for you:

Zero. Zip. Notta.

Here’s a question for Hillary and Donald. Name three rights protected by the Bill the Rights other than freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to own the biggest damn gun money can buy. Every candidate for national office should be asked that question, and they should be able to easily answer it.

Can they tell us about our right to a free press, to a fair trial, to protection from illegal search and seizure? Can they tell us about the Executive Branch’s constitutional role in a system designed to balance power with the Legislative and Judicial branches?

We really need answers to these questions, but they’re not being asked so we’ll never know unless the candidates volunteer their answers. But hey, that’s not sexy. We’d rather know why they named their cat Fluffy.

An eighth grade social studies teacher could come up with better questions to ask candidates for high office than the talking heads presently entrusted with that job. Hell, eighth grade social studies students could ask more relevant questions! If you interview someone for a job, you’d think that the primary questions would center around the nuts and bolts of doing the job.

Presently, we as a country are not following the Constitution, or are only following it when convenient. We’ve equated freedom of speech with freedom for billionaires to pour endless amounts of money into getting their pet politicians elected, and this is all right according to the Supreme Court. We’ve created exceptions to the right to a fair trial and expanded the definition of terrorist to include anyone who speaks out against the government and war and participates in non-violent protest. Government agents can search your home and seize your property without a trial or even pressing charges. You can be detained indefinitely and held in secret even inside of the United States.

And that only scratches the surface of ways our Constitution is being used as toilet paper. We’ve allowed our Congress to abdicate its responsibility to print the nation’s money, and instead a private banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve does that job. The president does not have to seek Congressional approval before attacking another country on their soil. Treaties with other countries can be worked out in secret and passed through Congress without debate or even attention. These are all violations of the word and/or spirit of the Constitution.

If we’re not going to follow the Constitution, why bother having one?

So please, tell our media to ask these questions. Insist that candidates running for high office—including for Congress and governor—actually know and understand the rights they swear to defend and the powers they’re granted by the people as our representatives. Otherwise, we might as well just turn running for president into the Miss America Pageant.

At least in that contest the contestants are asked questions relevant to the job they seek.

Secret Draft of Hillary Clinton’s Convention Speech, 2016

[Cue big screen in background: images of standard Americana fare: holding babies in crowds, working rope lines, making speeches, American flag.]

[Hillary in foreground at podium, looking serious but kind, like Mom about to say something really important to the family.]

My Fellow Americans:

To say that we as a people stand at a crossroads is the biggest understatement of 2016, maybe of the last decade or even century. Our choices have never been starker, the stakes never higher. We either get our shit ourselves together now, or our country is about to hurl down a dead-end road with no turning back. We can either contend with the challenges we face and make the hard difficult choices, or pass on the opportunity and allow our basest fears to rule us.

Here I stand, giving the biggest speech of my life out of many thousands I’ve given, in stark contrast to the other candidate for the hardest job in the world. I know you at home are probably busy and I might only have a few minutes to make my case for why I should be leader of the free world President of the United States. You are the hiring manager, and I just walked in to interview for the job, to make my case. You will decide with your vote whether I’m the most qualified.

[Big screen: Hillary as First Lady, at conference tables, greeting world leaders, relaxing with her family. Lots of smiles and warmth. Shots of Bill and Chelsea]

You know me, and I know you best I can while living such a busy life and crisscrossing our great nation as a candidate and candidate’s wife and advocate for causes. So I can’t really tell you anything new about myself that will make me seem exciting and fresh. I’m 68 years young and have been working nonstop for the past half century. I don’t pass for fresh. And the things that truly excite me are as simple as sharing time with my family and as complex as negotiating international treaties. I’m no Kanye West or Katy Perry. Instead, I offer tried and true as my greatest virtue.

But I will give you more of a reason than that to hire me. Just give me a few more minutes.

I have worked in law and government for most of my life, and the bulk of my resume is my career as an attorney, a First Lady, a senator, and a cabinet secretary. I can pronounce Kazakhstan and recite long passages from the Constitution. I site Supreme Court cases that our law and order is built upon today, and trace the history back to the Founding Fathers. I know our government inside and out and have personally met most of the world’s current leaders. And I’ve loved politics and government since I was a schoolgirl. To me, there’s no greater contribution a person can make to benefit society and our fellow humans. It’s what I’m best at.

[Big screen: Hillary as Valedictorian, Hillary reading thick briefing books, Hillary as a Goldwater Girl.]

I have excelled at everything I do, pushing myself harder than anyone else possibly could. You don’t wake up at 4am and work till midnight most days of the year because you want success handed to you like a fat an inheritance. You aren’t top of your class by waiting for things to come to you. I grew up knowing that I had to work harder and smarter than everyone else to achieve my ambitions and fulfill my potential. I knew I had something great to do. I have never shied away from the hardest jobs or most difficult decisions. And I never used my gender as an excuse or reason to avoiding taking on the biggest challenges.

And it all comes down to this moment as I convince you to vote for me.

Politicians will promise you anything to get elected, we all know that. I’m not going to make a bunch of promises. You can look back at my history and see what my priorities are. I care deeply about our children and have a long history of promoting their health and well-being. I care deeply about our police and military and especially our veterans, and have spent countless hours fighting for their causes. I care deeply about giving everyone a chance to succeed and using every means at our disposal to make that possible. These will continue to be my priorities as president. But I have bigger ideas about what to do with the trust you invest in me.

[Big screen: shots of Hillary with Vets and military brass, at hospitals and children’s wards, then transition to shots of Bush Jr. looking like an idiot, of Cheney’s demonic smile, of homes being foreclosed and soldiers coming home wounded.]

Our nation has just passed through eight years of the greatest difficulties. When Barack Obama took office our economy was on the brink of collapse, our military was pushed to its limit, our treasury was strained beyond belief, and even our closest allies were losing faith in us. We have weathered these storms and come out so much better, stronger, and wiser. We’re ready now for more.

We don’t need to make American great again because it already is and always has been! We don’t need to reverse course, we need to go forward more boldly than ever! We are Americans and we don’t just survive, we thrive! We fight for what we believe! We make promises we can keep and lead by example!

We need to be realistic about what we can do and how much power we really have. I’m a realist and know from long experience that you can’t just walk into Washington and change the world. But that won’t stop me from trying. Remember Hillarycare? I foresaw 20 years ago where our healthcare system was headed and tried to fix it before it was corporatized and costs exploded. But I didn’t do enough to convince you of the dangers ahead, so my plan didn’t get accepted and Mr. Obama and the democrats in Congress had to do our best to patch things up when the opportunity came around again years later.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything I didn’t do and every way I didn’t live up to expectation. Working in government is like fighting a war every day where words are bullets and perceptions are every bit as important as reality. I’ve allowed my opponents to paint a picture of me as ruthlessly ambitious and narrowly interested, which is far from the truth. I’m hugely ambitious, yes, and for decades I’ve been interested in helping communities and families in every way I can. I guess that’s threatening to some people and they say every nasty thing about me that they can and try to convince people I’m a raging bitch I work in government for the wrong reasons.

Well, you can’t fix stupid.

[Big screen: Trump being an idiot. Take your pic of footage to show.]

The other person in the running for this job thinks that real estate development qualifies him for the hardest job in the world, that running casinos is like running a country and building golf courses is like building national infrastructure. He thinks that he can just snap his fingers and other nations will bend to his will, and that all the economy needs is more tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations. I wonder sometimes if he thinks that being president is the ultimate reality show where everything follows the script and everyone marches to your tune. He sure has some strange ideas about how government works.

Look, I’ll never be liked by everybody. I have my flaws. What I can really promise you is that as president I will wake up every day – steady and ready – to face our challenges head on. I will try to do the most good for the most people and use every resource do everything my power to help all Americans thrive.

[Big screen: hopeful imagery. Back to theme of Hillary as Mom.]

I will fight. I will put my foot down and bring order to this house. I will look the bullies in the eye and tell them to bring it on. I’ve got the heart of a champion and I don’t take gruff from anyone. I’ve seen every trick in the book and shot holes in every pretender who’s tried to say they’re better than me. I’m really no better than anyone else, and not really that different. I just have a passion that never says die and an ability to endure any trial or hardship. I fall down, and I get back up. And so do you.

I promise I will look myself in the eye every day and do a reality check. I will confront the dark inside myself my flaws and weaknesses so that it doesn’t affect how I do my job. I will be smart and tenacious and wise and use every favor I’ve ever earned, every contact I’ve ever made, and every drop of energy I’ve got left to be the best mother fucking president I can be!

And that’s why I should be your president. God bless America. Thank you.

Tower of Babel | God Divided

The Tower of Babel: God Dividedtowerbabel

A nice Jehovah’s Witness came to my door wanting to tell me his religion’s “truth” about God. He came armed with a Bible, publications from his church, and arguments to every objection. No doubt he’d been through hours of preparation to cover every contingency. He had an answer for everything.

Well, not really everything, but everything that falls within his narrow scope of interest. Everything outside of those borders is “not God’s word” and “not truth.”

I respect people who back their beliefs with action. It’s why I humor the Jehovah’s Witness, Mormans and others who show up at my door. But there comes a point in our conversations when I tell them that I cannot live within their box. That their “truth” is only part of the story. That long ago the truth about God was divided into pieces and scattered to the four corners of the globe, same as in the story of the Tower of Babel when one language was divided into many and people stopped understanding anything but their own language.

In that story, a united people build a tower which they believe will extend to heaven and bring them close to God. A tower is a symbol of knowledge. A person’s knowledge is built piece by piece, brick by brick, stacking one on top of another. Those pieces are like bits of truth about God pieced together.

In the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s big error is they eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They too wanted to know the truth, and like the Tower of Babel they were struck down.

Apparently, knowing the truth is dangerous. If you know the truth, what good is organized religion? You don’t need it anymore.

“I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.”

I have found my truth by piecing together what resonates with me from the world’s religions, philosophies, spiritual practices, and belief systems, including science. My main religion is Christianity, and within Christianity I have been exposed to nearly every denomination, having attended services in Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Assemblies of God, Seventh Day Adventist, Unitarian, and Christian Science churches. I found something good in all of them, as well as in many other nondenominational churches I’ve had the pleasure of attending.

But in none of them did I find the complete truth. They all have a piece of the puzzle, a brick in the Tower. Some of them recognize that their picture is incomplete. To others that idea is heresy. Stack the wood, start the fire, and burn the witch!

The churches that insist only they have the truth remind me of salespeople who insist that only the product or service they sell will meet every need. Why buy a Ford when you can buy a Chevy, or a Samsung when you can go with Apple? A salesperson’s job is to convince you that what they’re selling is the best. When it comes to religion, that means they have to claim they have exclusive rights to the truth. The Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door truly believed his religion taught the truth, and that is what he had to sell. What the good man is really trying to sell is a brick.

My break with Christianity began when I went to representatives of three different Christian denominations and asked them the proper way to be baptized. This is a really important question because if you believe what the New Testament says, you have to be baptized to go the Heaven. You know what happens to everyone else, and I’m deathly allergic to fire and brimstone. So I asked my question and was given three different answers.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of Jesus.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of God.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Each group pointed to scriptures to back their assertions. Each claimed to know the truth. Each dangled the keys to Heaven and said I can only buy them in one place—their place.

I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.

God dividedSince that time I have been on a journey of discovery. If I stayed in the box of one belief system or another I would still be struggling at the base of the tower of knowledge of God. I would have a foundation in my faith, and might have a few bricks stacked up based on what I could learn from one particular system, but wouldn’t be any closer to heaven. My tower would have stopped rising soon after it started being built.

Instead I sought out the Buddhists and learned about the truth of reincarnation and compassion for all. I sought out the Hindus and learned about the many faces of God. I sought out the Wiccans and learned that God can be found in nature. I sought out the physicists and learned that they have found God in the structures and natural laws of the universe. I sought out the philosophers and learned to think critically for myself. I learned something from all of them and the many, many others to which I have been exposed.

I am very happy to be able to speak the languages of multiple belief systems. It creates a common ground that is broad and deep. However, I still long for the day when we will all speak the same language again. Then we can build that tower.

Why Republicans won the 2014 election and Democrats flopped – and why it will continue

elephant-donkey

Why Republicans Won the Election and Dems Flopped

There is no one, soundbite-ready answer to why the Republicans did so well in the 2014 election. As a political scientist I can provide a few obvious answers, but as I see it the big answer is more complex. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, the obvious answers:

Simple math: Republicans had less turf to defend. Democrats had more turf to defend, creating more opportunities for Republicans to pick them off. In 2016, the tables turn and Democrats have fewer seats to defend, though for reasons I’ll get to later I wouldn’t count on it making a big difference.

Voter registration laws: The Republicans need conservative white voters to dominate elections. Remove as many brown, black, and urban voters as possible, and tight elections swing to Team Red. And that’s what happened in 2014. Voter ID laws and voter registration purges did exactly what they were intended to do. Fewer voters inclined to vote for Democrats were allowed to vote.

Republican Gerrymandering: In 2010, Republicans took over several state legislatures and redrew voting precinct maps to lump Democrat-dominated voting precincts together. In those districts Democrats win by landslides, but in other districts there are fewer Democrat voters, giving Republicans a better chance of winning tight races. Republicans know they don’t have to win by a landslide. They only have to get one more vote than the other side.

Dark money: The Republican-dominated Supreme Court decided that individuals can spend as much money as they want to influence elections. In 2014, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent by shadowy political groups funded by billionaires that tend to favor Republicans. Dark money buys elections, especially close ones. Dark money is the main factor that tipped the Senate to Republicans.

But beyond those reasons looms the biggest one of all, and it’s bound to come into play in the next election and beyond. Basically, Democrats are not giving their voters many reasons to vote for them. Democrats are no longer Democrats, they are moderate Republicans.

President Obama admitted this fact soon after he won reelection in 2012. Sitting next to Hillary Clinton – another Republicans in blue (Democrat) clothing – for a national news interview, he said that he didn’t understand why Republicans were so opposed to his policies, because 25 years ago his policies would be considered moderate Republican. Obama only mentioned his economic policies, but across the board he is an ’80s Republican. Even his signature healthcare plan, Obamacare, was largely created by the Heritage Institute in the ’90s as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s failed plan.

Ding ding ding. That’s the problem.

Democrats, at the national level where it counts most, are moderate Republicans. Republicans have been pushed further to the right in order to distinguish themselves. Their voters still have plenty of reasons to vote for them. Democrats voters don’t. Voters to the left ideologically of center-right have no one to vote for.

Simple as that.

As Jeb Lund so eloquently said in The Guardian soon after the carnage on the first Tuesday of November:

On Tuesday night, a lot of Republican-ish candidates got crushed by the official Republican candidates, confirming yet again that a gutless, wincing version of one kind of politics always loses to the robust one. Nobody first starts drinking Diet Coke because they think it tastes better, and the only people who keep drinking it are the ones who’ve drunk nothing else for so long that actual flavor seems weird. Why vote for someone hesitantly and semi-apologetically tacking toward the right when you can just vote for someone who goes balls-to-the-wall rightward and is damn proud of it? At least that person gives off the sense of actually enjoying his own beliefs.

Democrats think they are better at making policy, and assume people will vote for them based on that. They assume they will win elections because they have a better track record of success at governing, and because by most measures they are the better choice. If elections were decided by political scientists, Dems would ride to easy victory. They assume that voters know better and remember what a mess the country was in six years ago when George Bush slunk back to Texas and Obama saved the Republic.

Wrong.

Most people are not informed well enough to know who is better at governing or creating policy. They vote based on their gut feeling. Gut feelings are influenced by perceptions about which side – Team Red or Team Blue – has more gusto. If you are Joe or Jane Voter, your view of Democrats is shaped by two overarching observations:

One: Candidate Barack Obama is a different guy than President Barack Obama. Obama got elected in 2008 by promising to be a moderate-to-liberal Democrat, and he governed as a moderate Republican. On the issues that really count he failed. He came into office saying he would stop wars and instead created them. He said he would protect civil liberties and instead oversaw the further erosion of them. He promised to shift the focus to Democrat priorities, and instead allowed the agenda to be set by Republicans.

He also ended the war in Iraq (at least, temporarily), oversaw the creation of 10 million jobs, reduced the deficit by a trillion dollars, saved the auto industry, and provided healthcare to millions of Americans who couldn’t afford it. 2014 should have been his victory lap, but instead members of his own party treated him like an Ebola victim. And for reasons only God and the White House know, Obama did not trumpet his accomplishments.

Two: Democrat play lapdog to Republican alpha dog. Republicans know that most voters are tuned out and turned off by what’s happening in Washington, DC, and only a few big impressions are made on the general public each election cycle. One thing you can say about Republicans is they fight for what they believe in (or at least create that impression), while Democrats compromise too much and too readily give ground.

You know what would have made the sort of impression that would get more Democrats out to vote in 2014 and sway some independents to their side? Make a fuckin’ stand on issues that are important to Democrat and progressive voters.

When Republicans went after the Postal Service with the intention of destroying another union-dominated organization, Democrats should have raised holy hell. They should have filibustered and shouted from the rooftops and ground all business in DC to a stop. They should have fallen on their swords and let the blood gush all over the Capital steps. Instead, Republicans passed a law that virtually ensured that the Postal Service will eventually be privatized, and Democrats sucked their thumb and let the moment pass with hardly a whimper.

When Republicans went after teachers, another pro-union, liberal-leaning group, Democrats had a prime opportunity to stand up and defend a vital constituency. Teachers unions are reliably Democrat. Everyone in Washington knows that basing teacher salaries on student performance – “No Child Left Behind” – has nothing to do with improving education and everything to do eroding the power of teachers unions. Everyone except, apparently, Democrat leaders.

Now teachers are running scared and fighting for their jobs. Teachers unions have been smacked down. The American public education system is shamefully falling behind the competition because memorization is emphasized over critical thinking. And Republicans have one less solidly Democrat group to worry about.

These are two examples of how Democrats have lost their backbone and allowed their base of support to be systematically undercut. Two examples of how Democrats allow the groups that support them to be targeted and destroyed and don’t do a damn thing to help them. I could give a dozen more examples from the last 20 years off the top of my head. One particularly egregious example showed itself in the Rhode Island race for governor in 2014, which pitted a pro-Wall Street Democrat against a pro-Wall Street Republican.

Democrats followed the Pied Pipers, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, away from what they stood for and turned into moderate Republicans. Republicans happily watched Democrats cannibalize themselves and shifted to the right to define themselves, knowing that their voters would follow along and still vote for them. Liberals and left-leaning citizens have no one to champion them, no one to stand up for them, no one to count on when the going gets tough.

Republicans are not as good at governing as Democrats, but they have three things going for them. They know who their voters are, how to reach them, and how to make impressions. That makes all the difference come election time.

And for Democrats? They have feckless, thumb-sucking compromisers leading them. If I was the Democrat Party I would make Alan Grayson the Minority Leader, raise their swords and make a stand. Fight for what they believe in. Might makes right in politics. Grayson gets it. He’s a tough-talking, sarcastic-as-hell Democrat from Florida, exactly what’s needed to make a big impression.

Instead, Democrats are going to line up behind Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and continue doing what doesn’t work. They will count on the electoral winds to change in their favor in 2016. They will limp along for another two years under Obama and look to Hillary to recharge their batteries and change their fortunes.

And they will lose in 2016. Mark my words. They might keep the White House because of how the Electoral College favors them, but in races for the House and Senate they are locked into a dynamic that ensures they have little chance of regaining any real power. Apologists for the Democrats have pointed out that the President’s party usually loses midterm elections. I don’t buy it. After Republicans did nothing for two years except obstruct and complain and make fools of themselves, the midterm was a gimme for Democrats.

Democrats, Republicans didn’t win. You lost.

The Shaman from Brooklyn, the Dark Master and the Generational Curse

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A depiction of a shaman. Steve looked more “normal.”

Steve is not what most people think of when they picture a shaman. Instead of wearing masks and feathers, he wears jeans and button-downs, although the medicine bag hidden under his shirt gives him away. While people know him as a funny guy from Brooklyn with a Master’s degree in clinical counseling, I know him as the man who helped me lift a generational curse from my family. Before getting to that part of the story, first some background.

Steve does not advertise. You can’t look him up in the Raleigh, North Carolina Yellow Pages under “shaman.” You have to know someone who knows him, a reference. My reference was a lady I was dating who had lost her husband years prior in a biking accident. Her husband’s spirit hung around wanting to make everything right between them (there were unresolved issues when he died), and she needed help, so a friend of hers referred her to Steve. After her good experience, she referred me to him because she suspected, and I agreed, there were deeper reasons for my problems than garden variety.

I was a heavy drinker back then. It caused rifts in our relationship. One morning I woke up at her place with a broken toe, a pissed off lover and no memory of what happened. I had quit drinking before but came back to the bottle because it provided relief from anxiety (at a heavy price of producing more anxiety when I was sober) and opened connections to my feelings. It’s hard to describe how I knew that my drinking was connected to something spiritual. To really get the picture you have to go back to when I was nine years old.

That is when I had my first nightmare about the “Dark Master,” the term my dreams used to name him. He appeared to be a wicked man who had died but did not pass away, the “undead.” The closest I can describe him is he looked sort of like the Cryptkeeper from “Tales from the Crypt,” except he had no hair and appeared a bit more human. In the first nightmare I remember, he chased me around my neighborhood. I got away by hiding under a pinball machine. I had the distinct feeling he not only wanted to kill me, but claim my soul as a prize.

When I was 13 I met him again in a therapeutic setting. At the time I was in a “gifted kids” class. The teacher brought in a dream interpreter as a special speaker. The speaker asked for a volunteer to share a nightmare that had produced vivid memories. My hand shot up.

With my classmates surrounding me to provide an anchor to reality, the dream interpreter put me back into the nightmare, safely, by using hypnotic techniques. He asked me to visualize the conflict behind the dream, and my mind painted a picture of two families in a terrible quarrel. I saw them in a rural area, on what looked like a farm or plantation, faced off as two sides. The dream interpreter asked me to ask them why they were fighting. The characters erupted in an argument, and as best I could tell they were angry at each other over past wrongs. Blood had spilled. People had died.

The interpreter then asked me to try to resolve the feud, so I inserted myself between the two quarreling sides and declared, “Fighting is wrong. Can’t we all just get along?” Yes, it was my Rodney King moment, years before he became a household name. The two sides paused for a moment as my childish logic sunk in. They looked at each other, years of boiling hatred between them, and finally one of the elders stepped forward and said, “The boy is right. We have feuded long enough. Time to end this today.”

Kidding! The two sides did actually pause, followed quickly by another eruption of arguing and accusations even louder and more heated than before. My childish logic could not solve the feud. The scene became dangerous as some of the people turned against me, and the dream interpreter brought me out of the hypnosis before the situation melted down.

I have studied dreams for 20 years and can tell you there are all sorts of ways of interpreting what happened that day. The original nightmare could have been about trouble in my own family. We were barely making it financially at the time. Soon after the experience with the dream interpreter, my parents got divorced. So yes, there are conventional explanations for what happened, but not for why the nightmares continued.

I forgot about the experience with the dream interpreter until many years later when I had another nightmare about the Dark Master (referred to as DM from here on). I was in college at the time and working with another dream interpreter, my mentor Larry. The intervening years had been rough, but I had finally quit drinking (the first time) and began uncovering all sorts of shit buried deep in my mind. In the nightmare, three henchmen chased me around city streets at night trying to capture and deliver me to DM. I was ready for a fight, so I ditched the henchmen and found him at the top of a black office tower. He lay in a glass coffin in the middle of a room. Seeing him set my head on fire, figuratively. I can’t adequately describe the fury, the hatred. It was like I turned into a bolt of lightning, all sizzle and pop.

I reached into the coffin and wrapped my hands around his neck. ‘Squeeze! Squeeze harder!’ The flesh of his neck felt rubbery as my fingers sunk in. I tried to choke the life out of him, but he was already dead. He looked directly in my eyes and seemed pleased.

DM wanted me angry. It diverted me from my true purpose, which is to unite and harmonize, to forgive and heal. Picture Luke Skywalker from Star Wars the first time he fights Darth Vader. He is overcome by anger, and it leads to his defeat. Vader and The Emperor want Luke mad, want to corrupt him and turn him to the dark side. DM had the same thing in mind for me.

That Christmas I was visiting my mom, first time I had seen her in several years. I was on a spiritual trip as well as a holiday one, and for the first time since early childhood felt reunited inside, strong and healthy and clear. We were in the kitchen. I was making breakfast burritos. Mom says, “My mom told me once about a feud between our family and another family. I guess it was pretty bad. People died.”

I froze with spatula in hand. Eureka! I made the connection between my dreams about DM, the family feud I had visualized with the dream interpreter, and my family history. I did some research and found that the story seemingly had some historical connection. My maternal family line descends from the Campbells, a Scottish Highland clan that sided with the British Crown against the other Highland clans. In one of the most famous betrayals of all time, the Campbells sent a militia to the clan compound of the MacDonalds. They convinced the MacDonalds to open their doors and offer hospitality for the night. It was a Highland tradition to give lodging to even hated enemies. They would stop the quarrel for the night, sleep, get up, eat breakfast, then go back to fighting. Those Scotts and their traditions!

Well, during the night the Campbell militia rose from their beds, crept around the compound, found members of the MacDonald Clan sleeping and slaughtered them. Around 50 MacDonald clan members were murdered that night, an event known as the Massacre of Glencoe.

I tell you this so that you know what was in my mind when I walked into the office of Steve the Shaman with a broken toe and a troubled heart. My heavy drinking had plenty of roots in my own experience, but the deepest root seemed to be connected to my family tree. Yes, my father is an alcoholic. Yes, I followed in his footsteps as a heavy drinker. Yes, there is a connection between DNA and alcoholism. However, my younger brother is almost identical to me physically, but he grew up with a stepfather who drank only in moderation, and he never battled the bottle like I did. The causes for my drinking, I felt, ran deeper than personal or even hereditary.

I told Steve about the nightmares, the experience with the dream interpreter and the Massacre of Glencoe. With a combination of levity and amusement he listened, asked a few questions. Then he went into a sort of trance looking for the roots of my trouble, and surprised me with what he said:

“There is something in your family that goes back many generations, but what I see is not related to the Massacre of Glencoe. I see a woman from your maternal line who stole another woman’s husband through seduction. The other woman became insanely enraged and hired a black magician to cast a curse on the women of your family line. They were cursed to marry tragic men, and the power of that curse continues to this day.”

As crazy as it sounds, it made sense. All I really know about my maternal great-grandmother is she married tragic men and had a hard life. My grandmother outlived five husbands, widowed five times over. They were all tragic men, especially my grandfather, who died at age 43 from his third heart attack. My father, as I mentioned, is an alcoholic. My mom remarried a good man, a military officer. Great guy. I really like him and appreciate what he has done to give her love and stability. I think her faith in God broke the cycle of tragedy, but it jumped to me. Before I was born I was aware of it and knew what I was taking on, Steve said.

He pulled more surprises: My mom became pregnant around age 16 with my father’s child but miscarried. The child was female. He said the miscarriage was intentional, in a sense: I knew that body was not equipped to handle the challenges facing me, so my soul abandoned it and waited for the next opportunity. Two years later, my mom conceived again, a boy that time, and my soul knew the body was better equipped for the unique challenges ahead. Because the curse was specifically on the females of my maternal line, as a male I had more distance from it. Mom will freak out if she ever reads this story, but it is the truth as I know it. To understand why I accept this truth, you would have to have been there with me in Steve’s office that day, and in the classroom when the dream interpreter read my mind, and in my head during the nightmares.

Steve’s office was a converted second floor bedroom. He lived in a beautiful, rustic home with his wife, surrounded by acres of Carolina fields and trees. On the walls of his office were posters of the human body and its endocrine system, its meridians, energy centers and circuits. Native figurines displayed on shelves and desktops. Books with topics like spiritualism, shamanism and homeopathic medicine lined bookcases. He smoked organic American Spirit cigarettes, a rare brand for people who know that it’s not the tobacco that kills most people who die from using it, it’s the crap companies put in the tobacco and the heavily fertilized soil it’s grown in. I smoke those cigarettes, too. It was one helluva coincidence, same as Steve somehow knew about the tragedy in my maternal line without asking me. Same as he saw my dreams like they were his own. Dude is the real thing, a real shaman, but a complete Brooklyn boy, too. He is one of my favorite people on this planet.

What happened next is a little fuzzy in my memory because Steve and I went into trance together. I’m not talking about the “spaced out” trance that most people associate with trances. It’s more like a guided meditation heavy on the visuals. Steve had me sit on a short, wooden stool as he put on a tape of shamanic drumming. He grabbed some shaman’s tools including a small drum and a flute-like instrument, stood behind me and began working.

He looked at my body while in trance and saw inside of it, and said there was a black knife made of metaphysical energy buried between my shoulder blades. Dark Master had stabbed me in my heart, and with the blade lodged there it hindered my efforts to improve myself and heal my life, because DM could influence my feelings directly by zapping my heart with negative energy. I had felt it many times before meeting Steve, but had no frame of reference for understanding it.

A scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie reminds me of what it’s like to have a metaphysical knife in your heart. Frodo is stabbed by a Nazgul and a splinter of the blade is lodged in his shoulder near his heart. If you read the book you know that the sliver of blade that broke off affected Frodo throughout the rest of the story (it’s not as clear in the movies). Anytime he got near a Nazgul, the sliver blazed inside him, causing intense suffering and influencing his feelings to make him want to give up the quest to destroy the One Ring. That is what the thing in my heart was like.

Steve removed the blade using shamanic techniques. It was rough; damn thing was buried deep, but it had to come out first or else the work we did together was bound to fail: I might get temporary relief, but with the blade inside me, DM would eventually find a way to blast me with black magic. He would take my life off course.

What happened next is hard to explain. Removing the blade was like peeling off a cold, wet blanket. I found myself capable of “going higher” than ever before, meaning I could go to the mental place where Steve saw me as a metaphysical body. Even with the boost I got, it was extremely difficult. An hour had passed since we started the trance, and weariness grew in me from staying intensely focused for that long. Something inside of me fiercely resisted the work. DM didn’t want to give up, and I had come partially under its power.

Then two things happened that connected everything together. First, Steve reminded me of an image from my dreams: funnel clouds. I had recurring dreams of tornadoes chasing me, which I did not tell him about but he saw anyway as if my dreams were his. He told me the funnel clouds weren’t after me, they were after DM. He told me to look inside the funnel. At the top, kid you not, I saw the All-Seeing Eye. I opened up and allowed the Eye to see inside me. Instead of running in terror when something saw the darkness in me, I was relieved. At that moment I realized I was built exactly the way I was supposed to be. The darkness is to be embraced, accepted, even loved, but also kept at a distance. It is the fire that forges the tool.

Next, I saw a pyramid of white light form around my body. I saw it in my mind, but felt it with my nerves. I’ve been under hypnosis. I’ve gone into trance. I’ve meditated. I’ve tripped hardcore on psychedelics. But never have I seen something so vividly in my mind. Never have I felt it with my physical senses.

The moment had arrived. I would either be rid of DM, or would choose, subconsciously, to allow him to continue having a channel directly to my heart. My life was literally on the line.

When the pyramid formed, I felt a connection open directly to DM like a phone call. I sensed his thoughts, his fear, his hatred. My mentor Larry had prepared me for the battle through conversations about the Star Wars mythology and how it applied to my life. At heart, Star Wars is about forgiveness. In Return of the Jedi, Luke walks into the dragon’s lair and confronts Vader and the Emperor. They think it is the moment of their triumph, but Luke has learned that the strongest force in the universe is love, and love is expressed through forgiveness.

With that in mind, I saw DM as the tragic figure he was – or is. I felt sorry for him, the magician entrapped by his own power. You see, the power of a curse is bound to the one who casts it, even after death. I saw DM as dead but alive because his physical body had perished centuries before I was born, but his soul or life essence or whatever you want to call it was bound to the curse. He was as much a victim of his power as he was victimizer. Karma is a bitch!

After DM went up into the funnel and I was finally free of him, Steve loudly clapped his hands once and brought me back to reality. Around 90 minutes had passed since I first walked in. We both wanted a smoke.

I wish I could say I never drank alcohol again. A few times in the years since meeting Steve the Shaman I have gone through a drinking phase, followed by a reminder of why I don’t drink and a long period of abstinence. I have not had another nightmare about DM or any sense of his presence, although he has become a shorthand for recognizing my personal shadow. When my ego is feeling bruised or I’m getting full of myself, I know shadow is at work. The difference now is it’s manageable; I don’t fall back into the hole, and the longer I stay out of it, the more it fills in. Best of all, I know the curse is gone. My maternal line is free to marry good men and have children free from the sins of the past.

To this day I have second thoughts about all of it, whether I interpreted the nightmares correctly, whether Steve is just really good at helping people act out their issues and find resolutions. If it hadn’t happened to me, I might look at my story as a psychological drama and nothing more, played out in imaginative ways. Either way, judging by the results, it worked.

And that’s the story of the Shaman from Brooklyn, the Dark Master and the Generational Curse.

What Is Going to Happen on December 21, 2012? Something Good, I Hope.

What is going to happen on December 21, 2012?

The days grow shorter and the nights are getting long.

Feels like we’re running out of time.

-“Magic Power” by Triumph.

December 21, 2012 is closing in quickly – less than three weeks away as I write this. It’s one of the most anticipated dates in history, and speculation about what it means ranges from “nothing” to “everything.” My imagination was captured by the speculation back when the last “big day” came around on January 1, 2000, aka Y2K, when I first heard about a Mayan prophecy.

Before Y2K, I told my friends it was just another date on the calendar. Because of a possible glitch in Windows computer operating systems, media rumors of an electronic apocalypse rampaged through the public. I feel much the same about 12/21/12: It’s just another date on the Gregorian calendar, a calendar with proven inaccuracies, as witnessed recently when the Pope said Jesus was not born at the start of the Western calendar; some monk long ago screwed up a calculation and the calendar is mathematically off by a few years. However, the Mayans used a different method for their calendar, and we can presume that the date they describe as the end of one huge time cycle and the beginning of another is the day we know as 12/21/12.

What will happen on December 21, 2012
The Maya “long count” calendar

The Mayans believed that time works in cycles, each cycle like the number of an odometer, and 12/21 of this year, Winter Solstice, is when the really big turnover happens, which happens roughly every 26,000 years. It’s like when a car reaches a million miles and the odometer resets to zero. The end of the Great Cycle is marked by a period of destruction, followed by a new, higher order, according to the Mayans.

This concept jives with chaos theory, the cousin of fractal mathematics. Out of chaos arises order. Every part of the whole contains its sum. So there is some scientific basis for what the Mayans, the most advanced astronomers of their time, believed. We know that everything runs in cycles: time, energy, gravity, brain waves. It’s not such a stretch to think that cycles are built into the cosmos.

Of course, we have heard many times before about dates in history like Y2K that would change everything, and those days came and went with a whimper. Notta. What is to say 12/21 will be any different?

The Mayans projected time continuing after 12/21 – the calendar used as the basis of 12/21 fever is incomplete, and new Mayan calendars have been unearthed that debunk the end of time theory – and NASA has done a great job shooting down other associated theories related to pole shifts, Planet X and such. So the original idea about time ending on 12/21 based on the Mayan calendar is, to put it mildly, wrong. All we are left with that stands up to scrutiny is a concept about time cycles and some savvy astronomical calculations left behind by a civilization long gone.

If we accept the idea of time cycles, and that the Mayans were correct in their calculations, 12/21 might have relevance beyond debunked theories and media hype. As a fiction writer it is my job to run with these ideas, and I have run a marathon with them. What I’m about to share with you is my educating guessing on the subject combined with imaginative conjecture, to give you something to think about. I want to believe that what I’m about to tell you is true and will come to pass, but as I’ve learned from studying history and prophecy, it’s a lot easier to be wrong than right.

One Sure Thing: Everything Changes

The Mayans were right to predict disorder and abrupt change preceding 12/21, judging by the times we live in. According to the Mayan concept of time cycles, the last cycle before the big turnover is very compressed. Think of it like a Fibonacci Spiral, a pattern seen in the shaping of everything from seashells to galaxies. The spiral tightens as the line curves to the center. According to the Mayans, the time we live in is the last curve in the line, and a few years during this time would see as much change as thousands of years at the beginning of the time line.

Fibonacci Spiral and Mayan concept of time cycles
The Mayans conceived of time running in cycles that get more compressed, like this Fibonacci Spiral.

Anyone who has been alive long enough can tell you that the world is changing faster than ever. Since 2011 and the Arab Spring, old regimes have been falling around the Middle East in countries like Egypt, Libya, and soon Syria. Mass changes in politics, law and society marked the preceding decade, post 9-11. Only a decade before then, the Soviet empire crumbled. If you look back before WWI, these sorts of sweeping changes to the world’s power structure were measured in centuries.

Changes to the world’s power structure have accompanied rapid advances in technology. Thirty years ago the home computer was introduced and telephones had cords. The Internet didn’t become widespread until a decade ago. Now, people carry wireless phones linked to the Internet that have the computing power of a 1990’s supercomputer, at a fraction of the cost and size. Back then, gas cost a buck and a supercomputer cost more than the average house. Now, the price of gas has quadrupled and the cost of computing power is thousands of times cheaper. The pace of this advancement only gets faster.

Rapid changes in technology have spurred changes in society that are nothing less than profound. For example, only recently has religion declined as a daily influence in the lives of the majority of Western people. In some countries the church has declined to the point of being no more than a curiosity, a massive change from times past when religious institutions and figureheads dictated norms of behavior and belief, and had done so for millennia.

Or consider how the nature and role of families have changed. Until around the 1970s, families were the center of most people’s lives. Many generations of descendants would work the same family business pretty much the same way. Men asked for permission to marry. Families were heavily involved in other decisions like where to live, go to school or attend church. In some families if not most, your first consideration was for their benefit, not yours.

My examples are not concrete proof of time cycles, but show something many folks sense these days: the pace of change is speeding up. And there is another process happening at the same time that the Mayans mention: The great changes we are witnessing are also bringing about higher awareness in the general public, and this was predicted by the Mayans, who said that the next time cycle would be the beginning of higher mass consciousness and awareness among humanity.

To see how awareness is elevating, consider for a moment what you know or could know that previous generations didn’t have a clue about. You know the age of the universe and how it began. You know the DNA coding and origins of most animals, including humans. You know that the Earth is billions of years old, not thousands of years like some religions would have you believe. You know how to read and write, but several generations ago literacy was not as widespread. Anyone can know more now than at any other time in recorded history.

age of awareness

Dig deeper and what you can readily be aware of compared to times past is vastly more wide open. For example, you can be aware of manipulation by government, industry, religion and media to shape what you feel and how you view the world. You can be aware of yourself as a distinct person with your own agenda, instead of having an identity and agenda subsumed to the interests of your family, church or government. You can be aware of your world as a complex ecosystem of intrinsically interconnected parts. Anything you want to know is yours to know and anything you want to see is yours to see. Human beings have more potential for awareness of themselves and their world than ever before, and not until recently has this been possible.

And yet, our science and knowledge has surpassed our ability to stay on top of it. Changes are spiraling faster than can be managed, leading to disorder and breakdown. Life-threatening problems lie ahead that require a higher level of mass awareness to solve than seems possible, considering the present state of affairs. The Mayan prediction of an Age of Awareness might come true simply because of the necessity for it. Otherwise, humanity appears to be doomed.

At the present rate of population expansion and global temperature rise, the Earth will be a complete wreck before long – not conjecture, that is the widely accepted hypothesis of the vast majority of climate scientists and the World Bank. The trend lines point to a worst-case scenario coming true, and finally a significant minority of people are aware of it. The early and dreadfully hot summer of 2012, and mega-storm Sandy in the fall, were hard not to notice. People are starting to connect the dots between current events and what some people have been crying to deaf ears for decades.

To be able to do anything about it, a large majority of people have to become aware of the truth and care enough to make the changes necessary to avert what scientists say will happen in the next generation or two: coastal cities wiped out by sea level rise, crops unable to grow in the fertile belts of the planet because temperatures are too high, oceans spoiled to the point of being lifeless. And that’s the good news. Most people I know have no clue this is the future we could see in our lifetimes, but even if they did, what the hell could they do about it? Unless we have a mass awakening, I don’t see how the worst can be prevented. The shift to higher consciousness predicted by the Mayans is really our best hope.

12/21/12: The Turning Point?

I think 12/21 could be the turning point because something drastic has to happen right now. It’s desperately needed, and where there is a need, there is a way. Humanity has undergone previous mass shifts to higher awareness as we evolved up from primates. According to the Hundredth Monkey theory, shifts happen when a significant minority among a species population adopts a better adaptation to their environment, and the rest catch on seemingly at once. In this sense, the more people that become aware and shift to a higher level of consciousness, the more likely the changes will be adopted by the entire population. The theory is controversial, but like most radical ideas, it takes time to prove.

There is even a mechanism for spreading a shift to higher consciousness: the collective consciousness, theorized by Dr. Carl Jung. Jung and other scientists have proposed that humanity is connected together at a root level of our minds, and information can travel back and forth along this invisible network. Now, quantum mechanics is showing us that the universe is intrinsically interconnected at the particle level. Our minds as well as the particles that make them up are entangled like roots of one tree.

Another way a sudden shift of consciousness could happen is by increasing the frequency pattern of our brain waves. During times when I have experienced higher states of consciousness through meditation or drugs, I felt like my brain cycled faster – I was a step ahead, and could make connections that elude me when in a normal state of consciousness. If everyone could experience that elevated state together, I think humanity would solve its problems. We have the way, we just don’t have enough will. Brain waves might be altered by an event like a shift in the energy output of the sun, since brain waves are a form of energy, and the sun is by far the greatest source of energy for the planet. I realize it’s highly unlikely to happen, but I’m working from the perspective of presuming (hoping!) what the Mayans predicted will come true, and guessing how.

In a sequel to my novel The Third King, I was going to use Mayan predictions for 2012 and the 26,000-year Great Cycle as launching points for the plot. The central idea is that before 12/21/2012, scientists discover that the massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way emits a beam of supercharged particles that the Earth is going to pass through on that date, when the solar system’s orbit takes it through the north ecliptic of the galactic center. When the day comes, the particle beam, instead of killing everything as feared, causes a mass rise in consciousness. Like a bunch of hippies on a LSD trip, humanity solves all of its problems in one day . . . then wakes up the next morning like it never happened. I mention it because some fringe elements in Mayan prophecy circles say something like my plot could happen, but I couldn’t base the central premise on something I can’t prove is possible. Call me crazy, but I like my bullshit to have a core of truth, so the sequel was never written. Instead I wrote Dreams 1-2-3.

 

Dreams 1-2-3 at Amazon
Print and Kindle editions of my book about dream work are available at Amazon

The way I see it, the universe could very well operate in cycles of time. I’ve observed enough cycles of other sorts to accept the possibility. Humanity still has a ways to fall before it gets desperate enough to change what has to change to avoid the worst, I think, so I doubt if 12/21 will bring with it any sudden shifts in awareness or consciousness, as much as I’d like to think so. Instead, I think right now might be the time when the pendulum shifts, and people of the future will look back and say it sure is a coincidence that it happened around the time when the Mayans said it would. Then again, maybe people of the future will understand time itself better than we do. After all, America just reelected the son of a black man and a white woman as President, a man related to the first slave sold in America. Anything can happen.

I think time cycles are necessary because creation is a messy business, and a lot of things get broken along the way. Over time the debris accumulates, so the universe has a mechanism to clean it up every so often. For humanity it means cleaning up the broken hearts, broken lives and broken souls. It means looking in the dark places and opening the old wounds and questioning every assumption. It means healing our divisions and letting go of our grievances.

On 12/21, as part of a Winter Solstice ritual, I will offer back to the universe everything in me that is broken. I will ask it, during the longest night of the year, to shine a light in the dark, beginning in me and extending to the world. I will open up and allow everything in me to be exposed, so that whatever doesn’t belong can burn away. Maybe I’ll be the Hundredth Monkey, the tipping point when the light of higher consciousness sparks in enough minds to finally make a real difference for the world. 12/21/2012 might be just another date on the calendar, but if we are lucky, it will be much more than that.

The Origin of Hanukkah and Why It Matters Right Now

As Hanukkah 2011 approaches and the Festival of Lights begins again, remember why the Jews battled to restore the people to their faith. Remember why it is still commemorated. Oppression and tyranny are big themes going into 2012. People everywhere are rising up for their rights same as the Maccabees did 2,150 or so years ago.


To really “get” the reason for the Hanukkah holiday, picture the scene:

Jerusalem, more than 150 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. You are a Jewish resistance fighter opposed to the rule of the hated King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of the Greek Seleucid kingdom that controls Israel. Against all odds, your ragtag militia of devout Jews has defeated the Greeks and kicked them out of the Temple. For three and a half years it’s been controlled by foreigners, during which time your traditional religion and culture were almost completely wiped out by decree of the King.

You enter the Temple and see devastation: mangled bodies in death poses, rotting animal carcasses, orgy dens, altars covered in pig blood – an act of profanity ordered by Antiochus to mock you and your zealous people by sacrificing an unclean animal on your altar. Instead of a house of God, the Temple has been turned into a gymnasium and whorehouse dominated by an immense statue of Zeus.

You are a Maccabee, the resistance fighters empowered by God to defeat Antiochus, led by the greatest Jewish warrior of all time, Judah Maccabee, youngest son of the original rebel Rabbi who rallied the people against King Antiochus. You’ve witnessed miracles on the battlefield that could only be from God. You’ve attacked the enemy a thousand different ways, usually when least expected, and won almost every time. Judas led the charge into battle and became Samson before your eyes, slaying great swaths of well-armed-and-trained Greek soldiers with immense strength, cunning and courage.

Now it is time to restore your Temple and once again make the daily sacrifices commanded by your God, Jehovah. The bodies are hauled away, pagan statues taken down, messes cleaned up, altars and relics cleansed. But there’s a problem: only one bottle of consecrated oil survived the Greek occupation. Might seem like a small matter to outsiders, but that oil supplies the menorah that burns in the inner sanctuary, a sign of God’s presence. A week is needed to consecrate more oil and you’ve got a one-day supply. You can’t wait; the people need their God now. What do you do?

The Maccabee revolt against the Seleucid Empire

And so the first day of the first Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins. God wants the Temple back immediately, not in a week. So the High Priest lights the menorah and you all pray for a miracle.

The next night the few priests allowed in the sanctuary watch the menorah wicks wondering how long the sacred oil will last. The faith of the devout seems unshakable that God will keep it lit as a sign to the people, but after years of subjugation at the hands of foreign rulers and civil war between traditionalists and secularists, some aren’t so sure. Antiochus had turned Jew against Jew, family against family, and deep bitterness remains. Many Jews had renounced their religion and adopted Greek ways under pain of death – “Hellenized” – and now fear the Maccabees will execute them for betrayal. The King’s decree outlawing the traditional Jewish faith is still in effect. Antiochus could return and destroy the city, as he’s done before when the Jews rebelled. People don’t know which to fear more.

But the Maccabees aren’t out for revenge just yet. They’re more concerned with reinforcing their positions, consolidating their gains and seeking a strong ally to protect them from the Greeks. Secret talks have begun with Rome, you hear whispered. As darkness swallows the ancient city, inside the sanctuary the lights burn bright, and continues the next night, and the next.

By then word has spread to the countryside that a miracle is happening in the Temple. Battered Israelis gather outside to pray. Inside, the priests beseech God and sing praises.

As the hours pass and the news spreads, the Jewish Covenant is restored. Spirits lift. Celebrations break out. Wine flows. Faith grows. The fattest calf is slaughtered. Something unheard for several years lifts over top of the clamor: the words of the holy scripture read to the people by the priests. “Remember your God, oh Israel! Remember your history and heritage! Remember Moses and David and Elijah!”

For eight days the flames burn. For eight days a flame burns inside all the Jewish faithful. New oil is consecrated to light the menorah in the sanctuary. And you know without a doubt that what you’ve witnessed was a miracle to be commemorated by all Jews, indeed by everyone everywhere who seeks God and lives rightly.

As Hanukkah 2011 approaches and the Festival of Lights begins again, remember why the Jews battled to restore the people to their faith. Remember why it is still commemorated. Oppression and tyranny are big themes going into 2012. People everywhere are rising up for their rights same as the Maccabees did 2,150 or so years ago. Empires are falling, and other rise in their place. Great institutions like the Catholic Church are in decline, and civil rights fought so hard for are disappearing into a police state. These conditions will be used to build a new world order based on value over growth, peace over conflict, and public good over personal profit. Or else the clamor we’re hearing across the globe is the swansong of the planet. Now more than ever we need the flame of faith to burn inside.

***

The first book of the two-book novel, Something Coming: a New Age Thriller, by J.M. DeBord

I wrote a novel that involves the descendants of the Maccabees opposed to the second coming of King Antiochus in modern day, so I know something about the subject. The origin of the Hanukkah story provided fertile material to weave into the plot. However, I stuck as closely to recorded history as possible. What I learned is that Antiochus ranks just below Hitler on the Jewish hatred meter, but he’s not mentioned a lot even though he has all of the classic traits of a villain and is a fascinating historical figure. My version of Antiochus is more complex than the conventional villain; he has the potential to save the world but has to get over himself first.

Anyway, read my novel about the Second Coming of Antiochus and you’ll learn more about him, the Hanukkah holiday, and how to affect change both personal and collective. Hint: it all begins by being at peace in the world as it is now…. Shalom.

What's Going to Happen in 2012? Just Look Around!

Even without an Armageddon the situation looks pretty bleak, and these are the conditions predicted to precede the Second Coming of religious figures from traditions around the world: the Christian Jesus, the Muslim Mahdi, the Hindu Kalki, the Buddhist Maitreya (Great Teacher) — expected by their followers to return at a time of unprecedented chaos, warfare and exploitation. That sure sounds like what is happening presently.

The predictions of the Mayans and others about world-changing events due in 2012 has spawned a baffling variety of interpretations and hype. As an author of stories about prophecy and the paranormal I’m just as interested as most people about what to expect, and which predictions paint the most accurate picture. After looking at a broad sampling of information, I’ve come to two conclusions:

Some kind of apocalypse or apocalyptic event (or events) is inevitable, even happening right now. And:

Whatever happens is likely to be different than what’s expected, or a mix of everything expected.

As I write these words in early 2011, a number of possible apocalyptic situations are playing out around the world. You don’t have to be a fiction writer to see for yourself:

Solar storm in 2012? NASA says no.

–Under the category of hype, NASA supposedly warned to expect major solar events in 2012, launching breathless reports of solar storms and pole shifts, but the assertions have been refuted as the opinion of one scientist trying to sell his idea. Lesson learned: don’t believe till there’s verification.

–All too real though is the possibility of crossing over an environmental “tipping point” triggering an apocalypse driven by hunger and desperation. The major wheat-producing regions of the world have been hardest hit by climate change, alternating between epic droughts and torrential floods; the polar ice caps are melting faster with each passing season, eventually leading to dramatic sea level rise around the globe; earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity, and as the world saw in Japan, nuclear catastrophe is only a few shakes away.

Need more evidence? There is an environmental apocalypse underway right now — mass animal, bird and fish die-offs; widespread sickness and destruction from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere — but it’s too depressing to think about. Besides, on the news I see more strikes on Libya, which brings us to another possibility:

–World war is looking more likely with every missile launched and bomb dropped. Dominoes are falling: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya. Unrest is spreading to Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries like Saudi Arabia and China that have so far repressed public demonstrations. Pakistan could be next, and that possibility most certainly would be disastrous for everyone because Pakistan has been pumping out nukes and a large segment of the population is radicalized. Even without a world war there are enough conflicts already raging that could turn apocalyptic. Libya for one has a stockpile of mustard gas and who knows what else, and the old regime swore to go down fighting.

Gadhaffi vows a long war in Libya.

Ruling out a solar apocalypse in 2012, there are environmental and warfare scenarios coming to a head, and we still haven’t considered the threat of a terrorist event bigger than September 11, 2001. Bin Laden is most likely long-dead, but his war lives on, and a new generation of terrorists have taken up the cause. With chaos already spreading, they are likely waiting to deliver a knockout blow at the moment when Goliath is most vulnerable. It’s been part of their strategy from the beginning.

The greatest possibility of that happening is with a devastating cyber attack. Very smart people at computer terminals around the world are, this moment, thinking about how to infiltrate or bring down systems. Our entire infrastructure is based on network computing, and as Iran learned the hard way, saboteurs get around almost any obstacle. Hackers could crash a stock market or a banking, energy, transportation or communication system — a large number of potential targets. The threat is greater than most people realize, and no Internet kill-switch is going stop the damage before it’s done.

Even without an Armageddon the situation looks pretty bleak, and these are the conditions predicted to precede the Second Coming of religious figures from traditions around the world: the Christian Jesus, the Muslim Mahdi, the Hindu Kalki, the Buddhist Maitreya (Great Teacher) — expected by their followers to return at a time of unprecedented chaos, warfare and exploitation. That sure sounds like what is happening presently. Jesus said it would be a time of “wars and rumors of wars,” increased earthquakes, signs in the sky, fear, famine, division.

Edgar Cayce, a prophet of the modern era, also foresaw tremendous changes coming like the kind expected at the end of 2012: coastlines dramatically altered, major cities under water, entire populations shifted inland. The conditions currently exist that could make these prophecies come true, but it’s not God and the Four Horsemen delivering the punishment; it’s the result of our own actions — or inaction in the face of overwhelming proof that humans have made the planet and each other sick. The universe balances everything, and humanity is badly imbalanced, making a major correction inevitable: apocalypse. It might happen to coincide with Mayan predictions about 2012, a time cycle that has already begun and was predicted to be chaotic, ending with a great deluge.

Read the author's novel, which explores Second Coming prophecy and apocalypse. Available for Kindle @Amazon.

If Cayce, Jesus and the other prophets are correct, some sort of Final Battle is also coming, though not inevitable. By studying prophecy I’ve learned that the future is a broad outline of a story driven by forces beyond the control of the characters: us, humanity living in the present day. But the details are certainly within control, and prophets forewarn in part to provide the information needed to dodge the bullet. So while the Mayans foresaw Earth under water, and Jesus predicted unprecedented disasters and wars, and Cayce warned of dramatic climate change, we still have the power to prepare for the future, to carry on, to correct ourselves by learning to live in harmony with the planet and each other. It is within our capability.

When things get bad enough, people adapt. Let’s hope it happens before too late.

Understanding homosexuality as a soul experience

By learning to love—passionately love—a member of the same sex, a new understanding is gained. Love does not care where it comes from, only that it is expressed.

Soul Journey
The ancient Egyptians had a basic understanding of the “Journey of Souls.”

Homosexuality is a stage of spiritual growth in the soul’s long evolution during many lifetimes experiencing many different expressions of love. To condemn it is to show spiritual immaturity and ignorance of deeper truth.

You see, life in the body is about learning, most importantly, about love. Through a course of many lifetimes, we experience opportunities for learning to love in all different ways: as a parent, a child, a lover, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, a relative—all of the myriad forms that love can take in relationship. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to romantically love someone of the same sex.

Homosexuality is scary to straight people, but I’ve had the benefit of knowing—and loving—several homosexual friends. As a rule of thumb, they’ve been kinder than the average person, and the ones who accepted their homosexuality tended to be mature, productive people with interesting viewpoints on life. In romantic relationships they work hard at balance and are extra conscientious. Gay life is not an endless succession of pride parades and drag shows. It can be very difficult to find a community where they are accepted and avoid unwanted attention. Sometimes being gay can be deadly.

Why choose the extra risk and hardship? Souls pick lives that offer opportunities for growth, so gay men and women must choose the experience ahead of time. Biologically they have no choice: They are attracted to the same sex the same way as straight people are drawn to the opposite sex. Asking the question ‘why’ through the lens of the soul leads to the conclusion that a homosexual lifetime rounds out the soul’s learning. To explain further:

Right now you are incarnated in many different lives in many different “times” all connected by your soul. Humans see life as linear because we experience it by the moment—or chapter—one at a time. But in reality, time is a construct of our minds and has no reality beyond that, like a movie. And like a really good movie, this story is totally believable. As humans we are characters, and as souls we are viewers in the audience. (I suggest reading the work of Michael Talbot to learn more about the holographic universe.)

Cover
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Seen from this viewpoint, we choose our circumstances—the characters we play—based upon the potential for growth of the soul. This fact will challenge traditional ways of thinking. I didn’t believe it 15 years ago when the insight first came to mind, but investigation has confirmed for me that we control our destinies and choose our circumstances even before we are born. I know why I chose my present life and its circumstances, which leads to the question of why other people choose their circumstances.

Homosexuals choose what can be a rough road, but it is one that pays off if the challenges are met. Physical safety is one obvious challenge; soul searching is another. The majority of homosexuals I’ve known have been racked by the question: Why am I gay? They look around at a world full of people attracted to the opposite sex, with all the benefits included, and wonder why they are excluded. They usually end up hating themselves, internally repeating false messages that they’re an aberration, if they don’t deal with what they are.

Science comes to the rescue by showing that homosexuality, in nature, is a biological adaptation. A preponderance of evidence proves that homosexuality is present in thousands of animal species ,for good reason. One reason is, male-male and female-female couplings are nature’s way of making sure that every child gets a good home by taking in the rejects and extras. Seriously. It’s beautiful to know that nature cares so much to accept any couple willing to care for offspring. Babies in nature get rejected by their biological parents for all sorts of reasons—for being a runt, or sometimes because the parents have too many newborns to care for, and have to choose which ones stay and which ones go. Homosexual pairings happen spontaneously in response to environmental circumstances of all sorts. It’s nature’s design.

By learning to love—passionately love—a member of the same sex, a new understanding is gained. Love does not care where it comes from, only that it is expressed—even to thy enemies, as Jesus instructed in a most difficult lesson. A power is loosed which can change even the worst circumstances. Ultimately, we are called to love all beings—all things great and small—in order to grow beyond the cycle of life and learn to see the universe and everything in it like the Creator. People who condemn homosexuality deny the all-loving aspect of the universe, refusing to meet the challenge of learning how to love everyone equally. Passionate love creates tremendous energy, and every expression of that energy is a step closer to God.

Condemnation causes harm not only to the condemned but to the condemner, because the very objects of our anger are reflections of what we try to deny about ourselves. Behind the loudest voices against homosexuality are latent homosexuals, I guarantee. The boy who calls everyone “fag” becomes the father with a boyfriend on the side. The evangelical preacher who thunders about sinful gays is often subconsciously repenting for inner conflict about his own sexuality. Case in point: Ted Haggard, plus many other less-known cases. The politician who appeals to voters by railing against gay marriage fondles page boys and gets quickies in bathroom stalls. Roy Cohn, the famous homo-hunter and McCarthy lieutenant, was gay. Denial of homosexuality was a theme in the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard.

(Think about where those murderers are now, locked up for life with a bunch of other horny men. Talk about irony….).

Seen from the audience point of view, the drama of life is a lesson in seeing through the illusions that divide us. We all spring from the same source, so why do we find so many reasons to hate each other? Hate is the real aberration. A life as a homosexual is another way to expand the ability to love, and for that reason it should be celebrated—or, at the very least, respected enough to live and let live.

Is abortion murder? A view of abortion and spirituality

A soul might choose a life that’s going to end in abortion or miscarriage for the opportunity to experience brief connection with the mother and her surroundings. Tickets to Earth are in demand out there in the spiritual universe, where we originate, and all opportunities are precious for the soul’s growth. Abortion is in a sense a wasted opportunity, but viewed from the spirit side it is not a hate-filled act like walking into a church and gunning down a doctor who performs abortions.

Abortion and Spiritualityabortion and spirituality

I’ll answer the question in the title right off the bat: Abortion is not murder. It is not sin. To believe that abortion is murder is to deny God’s infinity and eternal love. Creation goes on and on, and the soul is immortal. It will come back at the next available opportunity if the body it has chosen is aborted or miscarries, perhaps returning to the same mother. I’m convinced that is why I am here today.

The arguments used to categorize abortion as murder are based on shallow understanding of spiritual truth. Truth is, the child chooses the parents, and the soul already knows beforehand whether the mother will abort or give birth (or at least what is likely). It knows the general circumstances it will be born into. The information is easily available in the spirit realm.

The scriptures used to portray abortion as murder say that God is aware of us from the time we are in the womb. True. From long before birth, and long after we die, we are all part of God. Just because we’re born doesn’t mean it all began at that moment, or at conception, yet that’s the thinking behind the religious arguments about abortion. They think that the soul begins with the body and can’t imagine what a soul would be doing before birth — it’s in cold storage or something, presumably. What they fail to grasp is, if the soul is eternal, it originated before the body and will continue after the body perishes.

A soul might choose a life that is going to end in abortion or miscarriage for the opportunity to experience brief connection with the mother and her surroundings. Tickets to Earth are in demand out there in spirit land, and all opportunities are precious for soul growth. Abortion is, in a sense, a wasted opportunity, but viewed from the spirit side it is not a hate-filled act like walking into a church and gunning down a doctor who performs abortions. That’s murder.

Akin to murder is inciting people to it. Like the mullahs in the Middle East inciting their people to violence, in America we have preachers and media figures spewing hate and followers carrying out their edicts. We have politicians who benefit from inciting conflict and media that parrot these false arguments, presenting a simplistic view of reality, sometimes joining in the call to violence.

‘Applies to them but not to us’ hypocrisy is why the two sides in the abortion debate are so far apart. The pro-choice crowd refuses to acknowledge that some truths are spiritual, and the pro-life crowd denies any truth but their narrow religious interpretations of it. Abortion opponents, supposedly defending the sanctity of life, are hypocrites if they support execution. We know that 10% of death row inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence, and to say that it’s ok to execute anyone who is innocent is a complete denial of the sanctity of life. Plus, every life deserves the opportunity for redemption. A Christian should support giving a sinner every moment of life to possibly turn to Jesus. Pro-life means all life, yet it is appallingly prevalent among the devoutly religious in America to support wars that kill innocent civilians—like in Iraq, Libya, and Syria—and conservative policies that favor the rich over the poor, denying opportunities to the least-fortunate among us. Jesus would be ashamed of followers who claim to know him but apparently learn nothing from the example of his life. For crying out loud, the man was unjustly executed!

Abortion will continue to be a fact of life whether or not it is legal, same as it has been for thousands of years. The writers of the Bible were well aware of the practice, and despite taking a thousand years (or so) to create 66 books, they said nothing explicitly against voluntarily terminating a pregnancy. Deformed babies were regularly abandoned to die, and slavery was legal and accepted. We shouldn’t be seeking the opinions of people 3,000 years before our time about a medical procedure.

The Old Testament scriptures that speak for unlimited fertility must be put into context. Back then, every new person contributed to family and country in essential ways. It was good policy to tell people to procreate, same as it was wise to restrict them from eating shellfish (which when prepared improperly can be deadly), and to avoid wearing clothing with mixed fibers (because clothing fiber identified wear you were from). The 40 years that Moses spent with the Israelites in the desert was enough time to spawn three generations of warriors, and they set off under Joshua to conquer a homeland, Palestine.

The world today is already bulging at the seams with people. Population control is not a good reason for abortion, but I’d like you to understand that 3,000 years ago we needed all hands on deck.

This post was inspired by a recent debate with my mother, who is ardently against abortion. When she could not counter all my arguments, she fell back on the old stand-by:

“Well, you know, my father told me that I should just have an abortion when I was pregnant with you.”

That line used to bother me because it made me wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been born in this body. Would I have ever existed? But as my spirituality and understanding of truth have deepened, I remembered my mother’s first pregnancy. She was only 16, maybe 17, when she conceived a little girl. My soul visited mom in the womb, knowing that the pregnancy would end in miscarriage, for a chance to bond and get ready for the next opportunity. About a year later she conceived again, this time a boy, and that body possessed the attributes I needed to make it through life.

Some people will argue that I cannot possibly remember being in the womb, but to those people I ask, how do you know? If you were a lion born in the zoo, all you would know of the world is the zoo. But step outside the walls and a much larger world becomes apparent. Same with spiritual truth. Sometimes what we are taught early in life becomes limiting later on, when what we learn conflicts with what we think we know. My knowledge of the Bible and early lessons as a Christian put a cage around my reason, and any information that came from outside was rejected when it conflicted with the world I knew—the very limited perspective of inside the zoo. Discovering the outside world freed me from the cage, and now the lion is on the loose.

I replied to mom that if she had aborted me, I would have come back when she was ready. She didn’t like that answer. To her, abortion will always be murder. Some lions choose to remain in the cage, and that’s their choice. However, it doesn’t make them correct.

I also encourage you to read what Christina Haas, founder of Unborn Angels, learned after years of struggle following her abortion. Two posts in particular on her wonderful and touching blog stick out to me:

The Transformational Power of Love

Our Unborn Children’s Souls Speak to Us