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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Light," Ch. 7: The Depths

Click here for a full list of chapters for Marcus T Anthony's novel "Light."

Life is like the ocean. It has depths that are rarely seen, let alone experienced. The thing is, do you really want to see what lies at the bottom of the ocean? Or even what lurks below the first few metres that visible light penetrates? Who knows what terrible, dark leviathan lays waiting behind the veneer of the eye, ready to engulf us? Or perhaps it is not so much the monster that lies beneath, but the vast emptiness within that fills the spirit with dread.

My vision was beginning to penetrate the depths, but I did not know what to make of it. Perhaps if I had understood what was happening, I would have been less afraid. All I knew was that I was starting to experience things that I had never dreamed existed, let alone believed in. And once I did see that there was a deepening process, I didn’t really stop to think about how deep it might go. All I knew was that I was going to places that I’d never been before, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Part of the problem was that I had no one to talk to about these things. But that was all about to change.

It should have been me that leapt into the meditation room, bravely leading Paul. But alas, it was not so. Two weeks after my first meeting there, I was returning at Paul’s insistence. Paul bounded through the door as if he owned the place. He was a man on a mission. I had a fair idea what that mission was, but I didn’t care to dwell on it. I suspected that it had something to do with the male to female ratio I had previously mentioned. Paul was a lot more upfront with the ladies than I. That’s not much of a compliment to him though.

Geoff Masters was there, and he greeted me with his Buddha-like smile. We were a little early, and there were only two students in the room. Much to my shock, one of them was a guy. Not that I have anything against males, of course. It was simply that I wasn’t expecting any, well, competition.

Paul took a seat precisely 180 degrees opposite the unknown male, sat down with a huff and crossed his arms and sat there with his legs splayed out like he was a gigalo trying to drum up business. I genuinely wished he wasn’t wearing shorts.

That should have sounded a warning to me.

“G’day”, the other guy said to us with a nod of the head, and Paul and I returned hellos. He had red hair and a ready smile.

Paul leaned over to me and whispered. “Three males to one female. I make that to be a ratio of three to one. You were bullshitting me, dude. I want my money back.”

“No problem. The cheque’s in the mail.”

Paul smiled despite himself, and went back to the opening and closing of the legs routine. The other guy seemed unmoved by it all, and was flipping through one of the counseling department newsletters.

The male-female factor soon improved as another half a dozen or so girls walked in. There was no sign of Amanda though, and I was surprised to find a sense of disappointment descending upon me. After all, I’d been trying to avoid the girl. Why should I be bothered that she had not turned up?

It was after Geoff had begun to make his introductions that she stumbled in looking slightly flustered.

“Sorry I’m late.” She looked at me and smiled as she took her seat across from me. I could feel my face flushing.

Paul was up on it right away. I hadn’t even said anything. Honest.

“Not bad,” he said leaning towards my ear. I elbowed him in the ribs hard enough for him to make an audible grunt.

I was dreading Paul’s self-introduction, but it turned out to be quite respectful. He may have been a bit of a clown, but he knew when to cut the act. Well, most of the time. A few turns later, it was the red-haired fellow’s turn.

“I’m Michael,” he said with calm confidence. “Saw the light on, thought I’d drop in.”
He got the intended laugh. I made a quiet comment to Paul that his job as the local comedian might be under threat.

After the introductions of new group members, Geoff invited everyone to share their experience of meditation since the course had started. There wasn’t any compulsory “homework”, but Geoff had been encouraging people to meditate for at least ten minutes a day. I had been doing that most days, and more.

I kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t going to bring up any of the weird stuff that I had been experiencing. No way.

I didn’t have to.

Jane, the plump student from the first meditation class, raised a hand. Like some overweight people, she had a smooth baby face, and this, combined with her diminutive height made her look no more than about 14 years old.

“I’ve been having some strange things happening when I meditate,” she said in her squeaky, Minnie Mouse voice. “I see all kinds of stuff in my mind. I think I might be psychic.”

Paul leaned over to me again. “What do you know? A psychic munchkin.”

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” I returned.

Paul suppressed a laugh. I was hoping like Hell that no one else had heard us. The last thing I wanted was to be kicked out of a counseling centre meditation group for being an intolerant, sexist pig. It wouldn’t look good on my uni transcript.

“What have you been experiencing?” Geoff asked, looking as calmly concerned as ever.

“I see… well I guess see and hear is a better way of putting it… um, things. There are words and sentences that come into my mind. Sometimes I see faces. I’m not sure who they are or what to make of it. Could it mean something?”

Nothing was going to make Geoff Masters lose his Buddha nature. “Possibly. Can you give us an example of something you heard?”

Jane looked slightly embarrassed. “Well, for example, in my meditation this morning the thought of coming along to this group came to me. I hadn’t decided whether to come back or not. Then suddenly in my mind I saw this room and all the people and everything, and on the back of the room on the wall there was one word written in bright green letters.”

“What word was that?” asked Geoff, leaning forward with genuine interest.

 “The word was ‘Go’, Jane said flatly. “That’s all.”

“Go? And what do you make of that?” Geoff gently queried.

“Go on a diet”, Paul whispered as he leaned over to me again.

 “Shut up!” I hissed between my teeth. What Jane was saying intrigued me. Maybe I wasn’t alone in being a complete freak after all.

Geoff glanced our way for a split second. I was sure he’d heard.

Jane just shrugged.

It was Amanda who offered an explanation. “Maybe it just meant for you to go along to this group today. Maybe you are just meant to be here for some reason.”

Geoff nodded. “Perhaps. The human psyche communicates to the conscious mind in all kinds of ways. If we don’t listen directly, it may use other means to attract our attention.”

Jane smiled. “Yeah. That makes sense.”

I found myself feeling a strong compassion for her. As I looked at her, my eyes relaxed, and I saw it. A flame-like light began to shimmer around her head, illuminating the dim space about her. And with that there came something else. It was as if the distance between us suddenly collapsed, and I felt something within her. Or was it within me? There it was, a dull, aching pain; the pain of rejection and abandonment. I could sense it, almost as if it was me. For just a moment that pain of filled my heart. And I knew exactly what it was. It was her father.

He was gone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Science Dead?

I’ve just read an intriguing article on, where Alex Tsakiris: is interviewing radical biologist Rupert Sheldrake. 

It really is worth reading if you are interested in the philosophy of science and consciousness, or just wondering why so many of the wonderful emotional and spiritual things we human beings experience every day have been rejected in contemporary science and education. The entire interview leads to a discussion about a possible end to science. As we now understand it. Could this be true?

The interview is essentially about Sheldrake’s encounter with skeptic Richard Wiseman. According to Sheldrake, Wiseman has deliberately lied about an experiment they mutually conducted. Wiseman attempted to replicate an experiment of Sheldrake’s, which attempted to affirm whether a dog could possibly know that its owner was returning home, without having sensory cues to work with. This involved a dog called J.T., which was allegedly able to know that its master was coming home an inordinately high percentage of the time. The experimenters simply got the owner to return home at random times, and then observed whether the dog went to the window before the owner arrived. They eliminated obvious sensory indicators, such as recognition of car engine noise (the owner arrived by various means). Sheldrake’s prior research had come up with a figure which indicated that the dog went to the window 85% of the time when its owner was arriving. Wiseman’s replication experiment showed 78% of the time, with the dog being at the window about 4% of random times that the owner was not coming. You don’t need to know much about statistics to know that this is an amazingly significant correlation.

Incredibly, Wiseman then went and did interviews, wrote scientific articles and even a book stating that he had refuted Sheldrake’s research!

The remainder of Tsakiris’ interview with Sheldrake is a discussion about why so much of hardcore skeptical research and thinking, and a great deal of mainstream scientiifc thinking features attitudes and behaviours like that exhibited by Wiseman. Why is it that even when convincing evidence is brought forward that consciousness transcends the brain and that ESP, telepathy, life after death and so on are genuine, there is an immediate denial amongst so many?

I have discussed this issue many times here on this blog and in my other writings, so I won’t elaborate upon it too much. However I’d just like to quote Sheldrake here on the idea that science as it currently exists has reached its limits. The insistence that the cosmos is essentially a giant machine, that human beings are robotic automatons, and that consciousness is an accidental bi-product of random evolutionary forces has done its day. 

Below, I will present a few of Sheldrake’s ideas, and then add an insight or two of my own. For those who are not familiar with my position, I am not a scientist. Firstly, I come at this problem as a researcher with a PhD in Policy Studies which addressed these issues. But secondly - and most importantly in my opinion - my understanding of these things comes from direct mystical and spiritual experience. I have spent twenty years exploring the mind at a first person level, including working with gifted mystics and teachers.

Here’s what Rupert Sheldrake has to say. In the following paragraphs he is addressing some of the shortcomings of mainstream science projects.

And consciousness studies show that the materialists’ attempts to understand the brain, which people 15 to 20 years ago thought we’d soon figure out by means of brain scans, etc., that consciousness itself is an impenetrable mystery from the materialist point of view. And consciousness studies is now really getting going. It’s an exciting field of science. It simply doesn’t fit the materialist model. Neither does the Genome Project and reductionistic molecular biology. It’s just running into problems over and over again. It’s simply not delivering.

So I think science is stuck. Although newspapers constantly tell us of new breakthroughs, that’s not what’s really happening. In medicine, too, there’s a dearth of new drugs that are coming out of drug companies that are really more expensive versions of existing ones. There’s very little that’s really new coming out. I think that this kind of science we’ve got at the moment, this materialistically reductionist kind of science, is running into the ground.

Here Sheldrake has hit upon an interesting feature of modern media and journalism. There is very little acknowledgement here that this crisis in science and society is upon us. Daily newspapers regularly report breakthroughs in genetic research and medicine as if it is business as usual. There is an implicit promissory stance: all the problems will be solved using reductionist and genetic approaches, and it is just a matter of time till all is revealed. Popular science magazines are no better. There is not enough questioning of the limits of what is happening. The result is that the crisis is staring us in the face, but we barely know it is there.

Make no mistake. This is not just bickering about some minor detail of a research project. It is a problem which drives straight to the very foundations of modern science. 

Sheldrake goes on…

And it is in physics, too. We’ve got superstring theory with 10 dimensions or M-theory with 11 that are untestable. We’ve got cosmologists adopting a multiverse theory, postulating trillions of unobserved universes for which there’s not a shred of evidence. Over and over again, science is no longer confidently going forward with discovery after discovery. It’s reaching a kind of dead end; it’s in a kind of cul-de-sac.

Many years ago Australian social scientist Gillian Ross wrote something about this in her book The Search for the Pearl. It is not uncommon to see outrageous speculative “scientific” claims posited side by side with denunciations of spiritual and mystical phenomena which are genuine, and - in my experience - not difficult to confirm at a personal level. This boils down to more than paradigm blindness. It is hypocrisy.

Finally, Sheldrake goes on to make a crucial point…

I think that, together with the rising health care cost crisis and economic crisis and stuff is going to lead a major, major shift in world view. I always have been an optimist. It may seem like extreme optimism to think that at the moment, but I think it’s closer than it ever has been. I think we’re going to see a really big change quite soon.

I am in agreement with Sheldrake that the current economic and political crises around the world will offer us an enormous opportunity for growth and change. One of my spiritual teachers – a spiritual genius if ever there was one - whom I refer to as Jessica in my book Discover Your Soul Template – used to deliberately try to “stir up the dust” during our gatherings. Her take on the spiritual evolution of humanity was that when people are comfortable, they don’t ask questions and they don’t grow. 

The frog slowly boiling in a pot of heated water comes to mind.

As an intuitive, it is my sense that there is a period of “disturbance” coming up, so I suggest you prepare yourself for it. Just how uncomfortable it will be, I am not sure. Yet instead of thinking of this as a negative experience, think of it as a chance for all of us to grow. The escalation of the financial crisis will most likely be exacerbated by economic and political unrest in China, which is just a matter of time now.

My perspective is that economic and cultural materialism has helped establish the domination of technoscience – scientiifc materialism. Technoscience is dominated by big business and driven by the greed and desire for power and control of the human ego. This has led to the creation of “money and machines” societies worldwide - societies where the central foci are financial success and titillation via technology. The entire system is a projection of the alienated mind – consciousness which exists in a state of dissociation from Spirit. Technoscience is a kind of distortion of science, just as money and machines societies are an extension of the ego. 

Technoscience is not the only kind of science which can exist. There is another kind of science which involves a passionate inquiry into the nature of things, driven by the joy of discovery and a genuine desire to make a better world. This includes enhancing our relationship with nature and the spiritual thread which runs through all life.

No, science is not dead. But technoscience is breathing its last breath. The end may be difficult. Hold your hats.

"Light," Ch. 6: Curiouser

I didn’t get a good night’s sleep that night. The baby kept me awake.

Things were getting curious. And curiouser. I knew that something was happening to my mind, but I didn’t have any way of really knowing what was going on. I just didn’t have any frame of reference for it. Growing up at home, about the deepest we ever got was Dad ranting about how the Liberal government was screwing the country. He always voted Labour.

The thought did occur to me that maybe I was starting to lose it.

Take the baby, for instance. Because of the headache I went to bed really early that night at around 9. Besides feeling distinctly edgy after the run in with Commandant Blackpool, I was just dog tired. I decided to put myself out of my own misery and hit the sack.

I began to doze off almost immediately. That was until the baby stated crying. It was disturbing to tell you the truth. At first I dismissed it in my half-slumber. But it kept coming back. Through the blackness it came, a kind of pathetic weeping, as if the poor thing were cold and unfed. The baby seemed awfully close, almost as it was right there in my room.

The same thing happened three times. I would hear the crying, I would sit up in bed, and the crying would stop immediately. The third time this happened I looked about the dimly lit room, squinting in the darkness, half expecting to find a baby crawling onto my bed. But there was nothing. The room, the building, was quiet.

I lay there half asleep half awake, tossing and turning. What was a baby doing in Edwards Hall? Was someone’s kid relative sleeping in their room?

At around midnight the crying got so loud I started to get pissed off, so I got up, turned on the light and stuck my head out the door. It had to be coming from someone else’s room. I had a mind to make a formal complaint. Just at the moment Bernt Eisen, the affable but very quiet German PhD student who lived in the room opposite me, came strolling down the corridor.

“You hear that?” I said.

“Hear what?” Bernt said, as he stuck the key in his door.

“The baby. What, you didn’t hear it?”

Bernt looked at me in a slightly disturbed way, his forehead furrowing up, but still smiling nonetheless. “Baby? I think you must be dreaming.” He laughed.

“Oh, strange, I thought I heard something.”

I quickly pulled my head inside and stood there for a moment, confused. Blinking a lot didn’t help. I told myself it must have had something to do with the headache. It still felt like someone was slamming me over the head with a cricket bat.

I palmed my forehead. Yes, definitely a bit warm. It must be a fever, With that thought a sense of relief descended. I made a mental note to go to the campus doctor the next day.  

Feeling more relaxed, I retired once more, and fell into a much deeper sleep.

I dreamed. Or perhaps nightmared might be a better description.

There were dark, angry eyes. They came to destroy. To destroy me! I felt the hot breath against my neck, and I ran. I could hear the thing behind me, its heaviness pounding the earth. Faster and faster I ran, desperate, striving to find the energy to keep going, keep escaping. When the roar came, it was monstrous, murderous. I turned my head and saw it from the corner of my eye, a huge, dark primate; primal and deadly. Desperate I ran on. I knew that I was running for my life. Darting down dim alleys, jumping fences, leaping over anything in my path, I ran this way, that way. Then, when I could run no more, I stopped and turned to face the demon, exhausted, defeated. The huge creature towered over me. It whacked me with its great hand, striking me in the back of the head. I knew that I was about to die. There was no use in fighting. All was lost. I looked into that great bloodshot primate eye, resigning myself to what would follow; and suddently I could see its fear and pain. And in that moment I felt something like compassion, even as the monster lifted its great hand again, about to strike me with all its mighty strength. Then it opened its giant jaws and screamed “Get out!”…

I sat up, the dreamworld and real world blurring together for a confused moment. Strangely, all I could do was laugh. My headache was gone. It was as if a great blanket of darkness had lifted from me.

“Get out?” I whispered quietly to myself. In the early morning light an image filled my mind’s eye; and image of someone I’d had an encounter with just hours before.

“Doctor Blackpool?”

A soft voice came.

“Love your fear.”

I lay back down, resting my head on the pillow.

Love your fear. The words somehow comforted me. I relaxed, surrendering peacefully to early morning sleep.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Light" Ch 5: Dr Blackpool

One thing I am good for is my word, so come the following Tuesday, I was happily having lunch in the cafeteria with Paul instead of navel gazing with Dr Geoff Masters and his female disciples.

It was the first time I’d caught up with Paul in a week, so I filled him in on a few things, including the meditation group. I deliberately avoided the bit about the rustic guy with the beard passing pieces of wisdom to me as I meditated.

“Sounds cool,” Paul said, stuffing half a chicken into his mouth. “I’ve always wanted to join a meditation group. Maybe I can come along next time.”

I was more than a little surprised. I had half expected him to laugh at me.

“What the hell? I thought you were the skeptical, computer nerd type. Anyway, I’m not going back.”

“Hey, don’t pigeon hole me, dude. I may have a critical mind, but I’m not a bigot. My mother is a psychologist, and she meditates all the time. She’s up on all the research too. There’s plenty of literature which ways that meditation helps you relax and makes you smarter.”

“I wish I had a mother like that.”

The corner of Paul’s mouth creased up as it often did when he was thinking about something.

“I suppose she’s OK,” he said. “She’s a bit out of touch with the modern world, but I respect her professional honesty. She knows what she is talking about when it comes to this kind of thing. I’ve actually done one or two meditations with her.”

I’d never have expected this from Paul. Deep down I’d always thought he was the shallow type. I decided to let him know something.

“I was the only guy in the room, except for the teacher. It was full of women.”

“Any hotties?”

I suddenly felt a bit defensive.

“Yeah, one or two were alright. I think one of them liked me.”

“You sure they didn’t pump some hallucinogens through the air conditioning, dude?”

“Yeah, right.”

“Just jokin’, bro.” Paul reached over and slapped me on the shoulder. “So if she likes you, why aren’t you going back?”

“Like I said, I think she likes me.”

Paul half choked on his chicken as he let out a laugh. “She must be mighty fugly then.” The term ‘fugly’ was an acronym, short for “fucking ugly”.

 I felt my face going red. If there was anyone who was going to beat me up, it was going to be me.

“No,” I said dryly. “As a matter of fact she’s pretty cute. But two can play the game of rejection. Only I’m playing it first.”

“You’re a funny guy, Greg.” Then he wiped his hands on a napkin, and delivered the dictum, like the local parish persist.  “You’re going back, and I’m coming too. I’ll be glad to take her off your hands.”

After my last lecture I trudged back along the trail towards the Hall. It was 5pm, so everyone was heading back. I passed by the office on the way to my room. The officious young office lady, Maria, was at the window as usual.

She looked at me blankly as I stood there. Dr Blackpool, the bearded, middle aged Edwards Hall manager was standing around behind her, doing whatever he did whenever he wasn’t acting like a fascist goon. We usually just called him “The Doc.”

“Hi, I would like to request a special meal form.”

“Is that for religious reasons or some other particular requirement?” Maria said like she was auditioning for the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. She had dark blue eyes. Beautiful, but cold.

“Um, nothing to do with my religion. I prefer not to eat red meat, and there’s a too much red meat on the menu for me. I’d like to eat only chicken and meat in terms of animal protein.”

“A chicken is not an animal. But why do you not want to eat other meat?”

“Oh, it’s just for health reasons”, I said blankly. For some reason, when I spoke to Maria, I always felt just as stark, cold and soulless as she seemed to be. It was like her robot efficiency was contagious.  “I’ve been reading about it a little lately, and eating red meat can lead to serious health problems, so…”

I never got to finish. Suddenly a great boom of thunder smashed into my eardrums. It wasn’t a terrorist airstrike. It was Dr Blackpool, as he marched over to the office counter, placed his hands aggressively on the counter, leaned over and began to yell at me.

“Bullshit! What utter bullshit!” I could see the red veins in his cheeks glowing. “How do you know what the latest research is!? Have you read the literature?”

The blast was so sudden and unexpected, I barely knew how to respond. “Uh, n… no.” I then straightened and added something just slightly forcefully enough to surprise myself. “I don’t need to read everything to know what’s good for me.”

“Bullshit, kid! If you don’t like what we serve up here, then you can get the hell out of Edwards Hall!”

He made an almost obscene gesture with a flailing arm as he pivoted and marched back to whatever he was doing before. Maria looked at me, taking a deep breath. “I’d say that’s a no,” she said quietly enough so that the Doc didn’t hear.

I walked away briskly, headed straight to my room, and slumped at my desk. Some other students had mentioned the Doc’s explosive temper. Now I had witnessed it for myself. To tell you the truth, I was scared. And angry. Was the guy a fucking psychopath or something? What the hell was wrong him? Couldn’t a guy ask for a decent, healthy meal around this place without being verbally assaulted?

I looked down and noticed my hands were shaking. My heart was beating fast in my chest, and my breathing was shallow. A cracking headache had begun to pound my temples.

That was when I made a decision. Or was it that the decision made me?

I meditated.

The reason was simple. I needed to calm down. So I focused upon the breath moving in and out of my chest. I began to relax, and as thoughts of the Doc moved into my mind, I tried to let them go. Then they would return and I would let them go again.

It didn’t work. The anger just seemed to sit there like a great ball of fire inside me.

It was when I was about to give up that I saw him. He was a child of about three or four. His eyes were red, sad; and I heard the sound as clear as if he was right before me. The crying. I opened my eyes and looked behind me, half expecting the child to be there. But there was nothing. The room was empty. The fading light of day had left it dark and empty and I was alone.