Posted by: Michael George Daniel | April 8, 2010

Book Review: “The Love of the Fifth Paradigm”

When I first started this blog, I only had the inspired thought to name it after a koan that I was given at a nearby Zen monastery during a week long meditation retreat. ‘What is the Buddha nature of the sky?’ Since then, I have written when I could, as authentically as I could, from a place of truth that I feel dwells in me – or I in it. I have written blogs and unpublished non-fiction pieces about the nexus of spirituality and sustainability, a fictional novel about my own mid-life crisis; I have written book reviews. I have written about experiences in nature that moved me, about creative insights, about process and about people and events.

As a result, I have had the chance to read and comment on a number of books, and that has lead to the interesting result that books have started to come to me. These are books for which I most likely have an interest as the offer to read them is a result of a related review. One such book arrived in February.  I immediately felt compelled to write about it. It is that good; that important, that pertinent.

You can also find this review on Amazon.

Seldom does a book come along that has me bursting to tell others about. The simplest sign of such an emerging episode is the experience of being moved to tears by that which I’m reading. In the case of The Love of the Fifth Spiritual Paradigm, that experience repeated itself over and over. I wanted to give this book to everyone I was falling in love with at the time. I called the author; I wanted to know her. I bought copies and sent them, sometime sneakily, to people to whom I wished to share the book. The Love is clarity. The Love is comprehensive. The Love is dedicated to speaking the truth about our experience on this plane of existence, its source of this thing called Love, and our relationship with all that is. The Love offers context, and that it is what I like the most about it. It is an idealistic book, but unlike so many other books, it does not attempt to analyze in a reductionist way, it seeks to understand the relationship of our need to remember Love in an integrated way; with where we are as a species, as a planet, and what might be done about it. It is a book that marries the spiritual quest, our personal healing, with our collective healing and the possibility of healing the Earth. In doing so, it makes the case for continuing to find our place in the cosmos.

The Love is not naive. It recognizes that our place in the cosmos is not assured. That the catharsis of our current evolutionary journey, like previous inflection points, is fraught with peril; that there is no guarantee that the Universe’s human experiment will continue. It calls forth the obvious imperative that the most pressing task of our time is to delve into our own ideas about Love, to learn what it is more truly: what it can do – to see that it is the key to creating a sustainable world, enjoying enriching relationships, and experiencing a satisfying life

“We no longer need bind ourselves to the cosmology or mythology of our ancestors. We currently possess the scientific knowledge and advanced moral code to reject these outdated and often ridiculous belief systems.”

“On the other hand, we apparently lack the wisdom to craft a more sophisticated religion, as no unifying theosophy has been presented to or accepted by the masses. The result is a spiritual vacuum, in which some people desperately cling to the old religions for comfort, while others struggle to synthesize primordial mysteries with the latest discoveries. Clearly the world is suffering on a spiritual level.”

The Love is an anthology. So the author, Laura George, is actually the editor of the book. She has managed to assemble an amazing array of articles, many of which were written by other superb writers just for this book. Authors like Bill McKibben, Susan McElroy, Kenneth Porter, Brenda Schaeffer, Margaret Starbird, Robert Hardison, and many others.

Still other articles are culled from archival material by folks like Wendell Berry, Mahatma Gandi, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Alex Grey and Rumi. The combined result of the articles interspersed with George’s interpretations, contextual orientations, personal anecdotes and other commentary, is truly engaging. From the beginning of the book we realize that the feminine perspective provides much of the book’s power; a perspective that has been repressed and lost to our current world at our own peril.

“Sophia is emerging in this time of immense change to challenge us once again with her wisdom.”

“She instructs us through her basic principles: the creative tension of opposites; descent journeys; and transcendence to a new form. Repetitive experience with each of these principles changes the nature of our ego, our reality, and our relationship to the “other”.

George does not hold back in synthesizing the perspective she generously shares. “Today, the continued denigration of the Sacred Feminine and of the material world is a direct result of a Christian worldview which lacks an awareness of Sophia as an equal component of the godhead and the Earth as a living entity.”

George’s other book, the first of a trilogy of which The Love is the second, is called The Truth. It chooses as its starting premise the idea that religion is divisive and not unifying. As soon as you pick up this book, The Love, you find on the inside of the title page a note about George’s organization, The Oracle Institute, and its choice of the Pentacle as its symbol. “The Oracle Institute chose the Pentacle as a symbol for its humanitarian work….because of its noble history and the fact that the Truth about this ancient symbol-like all Truth-needs to be revealed….Today, at the close of the Fourth Spiritual Paradigm, it is fair to say that the Pentacle represents the five primary religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. May these now ancient religions update their teachings and unify their wisdom traditions in order to guide humanity toward the Utopian state described by their prophets as “heaven on earth.”.

The book is well organized offering commentary and analysis on Love as it relates to love of earth, of animals, of family, of community; romantic love, of learning, of arts, of freedom, of God and unconditional love. My personal experience while reading this book while at facilitator training for the international initiative called ‘Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream’, was one of profound catharsis. The book is captivating intellectually, but it is also incredibly motivating emotionally. It is this motivation, the energy in motion that was and has been so profoundly trans formative for me. So my unabashed recommendation for this book doesn’t just come from a rational place. As those that know me might attest, using the rational as a sole means of evaluation is in my opinion insufficient. I recommend this book as the result of a deeply heartfelt inspiration; a sense that someone has put together a book that seeks and honors truth genuinely, with great effort and equal humility; as a process, a journey, an adventure.

“For example, Sophian philosophy relates to the sustainability of the Earth as opposed the “Rapture,” an apocalyptic myth that Christian fundamentalists believe will be fulfilled when the Earth is destroyed and they are transported to heaven.”

“Such a belief system is based on fear and represents the improper use of will – a quick fix when spiritual paradigms are shifting, as they are now. In other words, many evangelicals welcome the demise of Earth because they think it will hasten their entry into heaven.”

Laura George and the Oracle Institute are enthusiastic seekers of enlightenment. They understand the personal quest of each of us as physically manifested spirit. Yet it is the book’s grounding in Love of earth and Love of animals that most grabbed and moved me; Love that arises from our relationship with that from which we have emerged. It is an experience of this Love that is so strongly called forth both in our world today, and by this book. It is the recognition of the planetary catharsis we are currently undergoing: the environmental crisis, the mass species extinction, the threats to food systems and truly the doubtfulness of continued participation by the human species in the universal evolutionary trajectory. This has been called The Great Turning, or George calls it The Great Cusp.

In the book’s epilogue, George writes, “The world is spinning madly right now. The Great Cusp has firmly taken hold and fear is rampant. What is so interesting about this Great Cusp is not that its effects are being globally shared-that is always the case with a millennial change-but that its impact is being globally analyzed and communicated. In the 21st Century we are all connected, so we will witness how each country and each culture handles the chaos…So today I am left wondering: How close are we to the paradigm shift if the most fortunate people on the planet are fixated on money and infatuated by power? If people still cannot discern Truth, practice Love, or accept Light, what hope is there for the utopia described in all the holy books and foretold by all indigenous wisdom cultures?…Now we have another chance to manifest a utopian state. However, those who predict dystopia, those in total denial, and those who sickly and secretly crave Armageddon presently outnumber the light workers who are trying to build a new Atlantis. Consequently, we are witnessing another crescendo of duality – polarization of Dark and Light energies – a complex topic that the Institute will address in the final book of our foundational trilogy: The Light….Despite the spectacle of the Christian version of the Apocalypse-a gory drama portrayed by all Fourth Paradigm religions – the truth is that no one is coming either to condemn or save us. We, collectively, hold the power and promise, since it is our destiny to become the “gods and goddesses” of this realm. Thus, the Fifth Spiritual Paradigm depends upon human, not Divine, intervention.

And so we are left, as I wish to leave you, with an essential message embodied by the proponents of evolutionary consciousness such as Andrew Cohen: that the here and now is the leading edge of the Universe’s inexorable reach to evolve, to become more of itself so that it might experience more of itself. Our own evolving consciousness, our deepening awareness of this consciousness, is the very tool with which we can step into our role as an aspect of God, as co-creators in the determination of the next phase of the cosmic turning. Cohen writes in his article called ‘Liberation of the Soul’: “If you want to be free, if you want to be a liberated human being, then it is essential that you become interested in what it means to be simple…shockingly simple….The movement from bondage to liberation is the movement from complexity to simplicity…Wanting to be free more than anything else not only liberates us from the endless burden of having so many choices, it also releases us from the often compelling attraction to all that is false, wrong, and untrue…Why? Because inwardly our attention is one-pointed. It is now focused upon a mystery in which there exists no sense of limitation whatsoever”

“…those who cannot be swayed from their one-pointed interest in liberating themselves from fear and ignorance in this life – have a lot in common with one who has actually succeeded…What matters is whether we have the passion to seek liberation now, and whether we recognize that the power to go that far lies in our very own hands…when you experientially get in touch with what simplicity actually means, you can then begin to look into its opposite, which is complexity…What choice am I making in every moment? Do the choices that I make express a Love for the truth and a preference for that which is sacred? When we look into such questions, everything becomes simple and obvious…To succeed, we must be convinced beyond any doubt that liberation is a living possibility – that it is real – and start making the right choices over and over again until a new momentum is born. That new KARMA is the energy of liberation itself. If pursued, that energy also become self-generating and will eventually, overtake the ego. That is liberation – when the Absolute reveals itself through us in this world.”

Cohen tells us that to truly experience the so-called Oneness that is getting more and more linguistic attention, we simply choose, with ferocious attention, to liberate our soul. With out saying it directly, he is addressing the seeming paradox that our true freedom lies amongst the abundant connections we have with each other, the web of life and the cosmos. Our current cultural, libertarian push for freedom is a perversion of our own soul’s – each and everyone of us – desire for the kind of liberation Cohen writes about. A living experience of being connected and responsible for each other in a complex, diverse web of cooperation and support that defies our limited notions about freedom.

The result of the kind of liberation written about by Cohen is a transcendence of our ego, and a channeling of source – Love – through us.

“Most seekers are interested in enlightenment only for their own sake, only for their own personal liberation. But there comes a time when some seekers being to recognize that the spiritual experience is not only for their own welfare. Because they have gone deeply into the spiritual experience, they have discovered something sacred – the revelation of oneness…What is of the greatest importance is that our passion for liberation be not only for our own sake but for the sake of the whole – which means liberation for everyone else…When you cease to live for yourself, when you give everything you have and everything you are for the sake of the whole…it’s the end of becoming. It’s the end of having a problem that you need to overcome. It’s even the end of striving for enlightenment. And it is the beginning of an unconditional response to a life that says “YES”…Then a new passion emerges…And what we discover out there at the edge is that the power of absolute Love to affect this world – so overcome with self-created pain and misery – is entirely dependent upon us.”

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Posted by: Michael George Daniel | March 11, 2010

James Howard Kunstler

Saturday, March 6 brought to closure the long planned and slowly assembled speaking event in East Haddam, Connecticut featuring noted author James Howard Kunstler. Kunstler’s blog this week builds on the experience of his visit. Hosted by the local Earth Charter group, the Earth Charter Community of the Lower Valley (ECCoLoV), the event featured commentary on the converging trends of the day – and none to soon.

Speaking to a packed house of 180 people, Kunstler explained the loss of capital from our economic system, and the reality of peak oil’s fragile balance between strained world supply and vacillating demand that shifts with the vagaries of current global economic activity. Many had come because they know and respect Kunstler’s analysis and clear opinions about the interminable trends of resource depletion, our ‘suburban predicament’, and economic collapse. Some, such as public servants and politicians came as a result of being prodded by local citizens. Many of these folks left dazed. Feeling a deep disagreement with the message of the event, but being unable to dismiss it given the energy in the crowded room, they seemed confused and unable to unravel the phalanx of emotions, or to even articulate how they felt. Some ran from the room as soon as the talk was completed.

For the most part, the room was held in rapt attention. The facts presented resonated with truth and are, indeed, hard to deny.  Kunstler more than once derided those that would call him a gloom and doomer to point out his viewpoint as that of an ‘actualist’ – someone interested in what is actually happening. What is actually happening, he described, is that the world is broke. Our current economic system is based on growth – needed to service interest on debt. Our growth depends on ever more consumption of resources and we have come to the end of the line for virtually all of the resources that for so long have been treated as inexhaustible.  He went into some detail with regard to the character of peak oil – that it has never been about ‘running out of oil’, but rather about the fragility of the ever-more complex systems upon which our consumer economy depends. Now, at the peak of global oil availability, there is still about half of the Earth’s oil still in the ground. But it is this half that becomes increasingly difficult to access. This difficulty will serve to increase the volatility of our social systems.

While world oil demand will continue to climb as the rest of the world pursues the Western version of progress, the availability is about to decline. The cost of oil will escalate as it becomes harder to obtain. Access to less expensive oil will lead to competition, and to the extent the oil is deemed ‘in the national interest’, powerful forces will be deployed to ‘secure’ the resource.

Besides the simple economic strain, basic physics make it clear that when it takes as much energy to obtain oil as is delivered, the oil will no longer be viable. At one time, 1 barrel of oil equivalent in energy invested yielded 100 barrels of oil. That number is now below 10, and dropping. The writing is on the wall.

Kunstler emphasizes the need to talk about what is 'actually' happening.

Speaking as President of the non-profit organization that sponsored the event, I offered commentary based on my own views including ideas expressed elsewhere in this blog: that our challenges are not the result of a shortage of money, but rather a disconnection from that-which-really-matters, including compassion and respect for all of life, and a deep reorganization of our understanding of the place of humans in the ecological order of the Earth.

ECCoLoV President

ECCoLoV President, Michael Harris - introductory remarks.

The late afternoon sun filled the room with light reflected off of the Connecticut River, streaming through the partially shaded west-facing windows of East Haddam’s famous Gelston House restaurant. Although the audience found themselves elbow to elbow waiting for the program to begin, while the audio-visual crew fretted about the room’s brightness, a curious air of expectation pervaded the place. While a lot was asked of the crowd as they waited for the main attraction, a lot was given in return, in terms of insight, information, thought-provoking commentary. No one complained about the transaction.

F

Bright sun slowed things down briefly.

The talk was followed by a panel discussion that featured local architects Hans Lohse and Patrick Pinnell, sustainability consultant Maureen Hart, former Wesleyan professor Don Meyer, transition town activist Bernard Brennan and spiritual director, Laura George.

Kunstler talks with panelist Laura George.

Comments by the panelists and questions from the audience drew out aspects of a collective vision for a more Utopian future; one in which our sense of oneness, cooperation and not competition, and unconditional love play a much more vital role in behavior and policy making. Competing points of view, though, expressed deep concerns about being out-competed by China, the need for national security, and continuing struggles with questions of property tax and land use policy. Kunstler pointed out that many questions seemed steeped in the idea that things were going to simply continue as they have been, a perspective with which he disagrees.

For more information, visit ECCoLoV’s website, earthcharterct.org.

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | February 12, 2010

The Stolen License Plate

Someone stole the license plate off the front of my car – so I followed the instructions on the DMV website. Replacement plates cost $25 unless you get a police report, then they are $5. So I called the state police. Trooper McElroy #1147 showed up, but didn’t want to write up a whole report. ‘We only do that for crimes’, he said. He offered to give me a case #.

‘But someone stole the plate,’ I thought. So I printed out the DMV website page where it says a case #isn’t acceptable and showed it to him. He relented and told me the report wouldn’t be available for a couple of weeks. ‘That’s seems kinda funny,’ I thought. That I would have to call the barracks to request the report.

So I did. They told me the report would cost $16! I wrote an email to the DMV, the Dept of Public Safety and Representative Linda Orange asking if it would be possible to coordinate these silly policies. That they are actually a deception – of us, taxpayers. I haven’t heard back yet, but I only just wrote the email.

What do you think? Is this a ridiculous run around? More example of what I call ‘smoke screen’ polices that lull the public into thinking something is one way when in reality, it is not? See my prior blog about WTO and World Bank policies that just don’t seem to work. Is there a similarity here? I recognize that the State is strapped for money –  this is a reality of our time. But rather than cut the budget, they want to divert the subtle tax we all pay on our electric bill for clean energy rebates. They want to reduce incentives for the most cost effective approach to energy – energy efficiency – by stealing the money from that program. They want to charge top dollar for replacement license plates, but pretend that if you are the victim of theft, you don’t have to pay quite so much.

So let me see, I should wait a couple of weeks for the police report and pay $16 plus $5 to DMV for new plates. Or maybe I should drive there, stand in line and fill out forms and pay the $25 – maybe be done with it?

I’m not sure if I’m done with it yet! What do you think? Did you notice any similar blogs:

http://roaminholiday.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/besting-the-ct-dmv-priceless/

http://harobedretsiger.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/keep-an-eye-on-your-license-plate/

This one is a crack up:

http://kylebaxter.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/thieving-and-leaving-a-license-plate-mystery/

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | February 10, 2010

Letter to the Editor

This letter ran on February 5, 2010 in the Reminder News.

Dear Editor:

A recent interview with Mark Walter, First Selectman of the Town of East Haddam, appeared in the January 15th Reminder News. The article ends with the statement, “We’re optimistic. Luckily we have all of the ingredients to be successful in this town”. But, it also describes old thinking that doesn’t serve the Town well in the coming years. It is useful to offer some alternatives.

Walter’s goal is to return the Town to “its glory days as a tourist destination.” This approach ignores the realities of today’s economy, energy and environment. These are realities of a rapidly changing world not to be undone by a glorious economic revival, or a technological game changer. They can, however, be responded to through prudent localization of our lives, our work and our communities.

The current ‘Village Revitalization Project” is just such an opportunity to reconfigure in a way that serves the people living in Town. This means creating beautiful spaces for which we can care; places that serve our needs for local food, materials, community, culture and spiritual support.

We need rethink enormous investments in roads, and redirect diminishing financial resources toward public transportation and local, walkable communities. Relying on the village success as a “primary tourist stop” misses the point that cheap fossil fuel and the automobiles that guzzle it are on the way out and that there are much better possibilities.

Tax incentive programs burden taxpayers, benefit the owners’ of capital investment funds and most often encourage things that will not serve us in a localized future. It is grounded in the old idea that we need to compete with neighboring towns to “bring in money.”

Every local dollar spent in town will go around seven times. If we collectively decide to create that which is in the best interest of town life, we will attract our residents to spend their time and energy here; we will create a powerful flow of local money, and a richer and more satisfying life for ourselves. We will set up a coherent loop of community life that serves us even through an uncertain future.

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | January 5, 2010

Where Does A Democrat Go From Here?


Thank you Marianne for reminding us that there is a crucial role for truth, as we each would know it. And let me add that we are conditioned not to know it and, thus, it is everyone’s’ personal responsibility to go deep and find that which is most important in their own heart and soul. And most likely what you will find is what Riane Eisler calls an economy of caring. The bridge to the world we would have, and the one that has the only chance of staving off the catastrophe we are heading for, is policy that puts both human caring and caring for the natural world FIRST. Health care reform is but the tip of the ice berg; a proxy that is informing us of our dire ineptitude and numbed disconnection with all that matters, as much as it is inciting frustration, grief and anger in those that have opened to the great disaster we step into.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | December 8, 2009

A Review of Carolyn Myss’ New Book, “Defy Gravity”

The topic of this book is essential. It is exactly the right subject matter; the question of bridging the realms of personal growth, healing and wellness, and saving the planet. This is what needs to be done in the world today. I have the greatest respect and gratitude for Myss for having attempted to elaborate on this theme.

Respect for the work is initially grounded in the first paragraph of the forward, written by Andrew Harvey. “What is also remarkable and inspiring about Caroline as a writer, teacher and person, is that she is continually reinventing herself, constantly pressing forward to a more and more all-encompassing integration of mind, heart, body and soul. For her, this search for the unified force field of truth is never a purely individual one, it takes place in the context of an urgent and radical confrontation with our world crisis that is now threatening the survival of the human race and much of nature, and is is born out of a passionate desire for planetary as well as personal healing.” This pithiness, though, does not carry through the book because of some religious overtones, somewhat awkward, dogmatic organizational structure, and insufficient development of the theme and urgency surrounding the context of our rapidly changing world.

Harvey goes on to say, “No one has a fiercer sense of “divine paradox” than Caroline-and she makes it clear, that she knows that our modern dark night is potentially the crucible of a birth on an unprecedented scale of healed human beings aligned consciously with cosmic grace…”

But it wasn’t clear to me that ‘no one has a fiercer sense of “divine paradox”‘, or that she really hit the mark with regard to the crucible of birth that is happening in the world – or for that matter, the true nature of cosmic grace. In other words, she went into a lot of detail about personal healing, but didn’t develop the connection with the collective that is the key ingredient to the essential nature of the book.

One might add that, while the potential for the much finer world Harvey alludes to is available, the window of opportunity may be closing rapidly and there is no guarantee that we will pass through it to any degree. Of course the truth is most usually between such extremes and there is always reason to hope – the human race may not fail altogether, but to ignore the reality that it could is a mistake. To equate personal healing with the Great Turning currently unfolding is to explore the profound paradox and mystery of the duality of the situation. The brilliant opportunity before us collectively is an aspect of the potential for catastrophe, which is in turn the seed for a new realm. There is urgency here. This interface between personal and collective healing is a rich chasm of possibility, but Myss’ success to date with her special, tough yet compassionate perspective seems to constrain her from exploring this potential as much as it positions her to pull back the veils of our rationality to expose it.

Writing about unimaginable realms that bespeak an experience beyond our conscious minds using the tools of rationality represented by words, is no small feat. So you can not fault someone for trying. But it is hopefully serving to shine light on the areas that seem ripe for exploration next. This book is about spiritual things beyond reason – described with words that are themselves tools of the mind. To articulate with words that which is ineffable is oxymoron-ic, but it is nearly all we have at this stage of the game.

The task of writing a book involves creating an organizing framework, for the book must ultimately begin, proceed and end. Myss organizes the book variously with five ‘truths’ that represent chapter headings, and seven ‘passions’ and seven ‘graces’ inside of two of these chapters. This organization feels dogmatic. In fact, another reviewer commented that she felt as if she had gone full circle from traditional Christianity to new age beliefs and back to Christianity. That’s an assessment with which I concur.

So these issues of which I am critical are distracting. But the book is not devoid of illustrating with significant value mankind’s higher, collective potential. The need to transcend our overly emphasized reason in order to reconnect with the web of life and the cosmos is well presented in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, Myss tackles forgiveness and our need to know the reasons why things happen. This concept is very powerful with regard to letting go of our need to know in order to step into healing, both individually and collectively. In this chapter there is a section titled ‘On The Global Scale’, but unfortunately it only addresses our personal response to global atrocities and doesn’t yet describe the potential for our collective response. One presumes this will follow in subsequent chapters, but it doesn’t and is, thus, the basis for the corresponding criticism.

Chapter 3 deals with the very important concept of meaning and purpose and their relationship with an authentic, healing life. Suggested as a kind of quest, moving into meaning and purpose becomes a vehicle for increased power. This discussion about power is pertinent and foreshadows parts of Chapter 6 discussing the idea of congruence. Yet, I personally wish there was a word other than ‘power’ to describe the magnitude of our access to life energy in any moment. Power connotes much of what is wrong in our dominance-oriented world and is thus a tricky word and subject. While Myss’ intention, as is the book’s, is superb – uplifting and serving, this chapter leaves unexplored the possibility of meaning and purpose being both more than just an intensely individual experience, and something much closer and accessible to us than the idea of a quest suggests. As physical beings connected to each other and the earth through myriad sensual ‘web-strings’, we are always equipped to step into meaning and purpose. Must we search energetically for it, or can we simply open to it? Moreover, is this really just a personal issue for which I have sole discretion to direct any success at accessing greater amounts of life energy? Or is there a connection between the life energy available to me and my level of congruence with the context, the living cosmos? It is this powerful connection that seems to represent, again, the lost opportunity of the book. If it were not so essential to the task at hand, it might not even justify mention. Yet if we are to ascribe to books the power to change the world, they must begin to better articulate this story.

Not to belabor the point, but it is this idea of transmuting our understanding of power – the application of energy in a dominance hierarchy where conflict and resistance continually drain away power – to an new understanding that equates coherency and collaboration almost paradoxically with the availability of power – that is the essential element of saving ourselves both individually and collectively. The book that is able to deliver this idea understandably holds great promise for changing the world.

Chapter 4 goes to process, correctly pointing out one essential element of healing, the removal of protective layers of denial. Characterized as the Seven Passions, modeled after the Seven Deadly Sins, this chapter feels the most dogmatic. Again, this is tricky stuff. To open to our deepest desires as they manifest as so-called passions is to reveal our authentic energies. It is a fine line between recognizing these energies and interpreting them as things that need to be repressed. The words used in this chapter like pride, avarice, luxury, wrath, gluttony, envy and sloth resonate with a repressive mindset that conflicts with the book’s more enlightened mission. In Chapter 5, Myss outlines what are called the Seven Graces. As with the Seven Passions, she aligns her model with the seven chakra system. While I personally love the chakra model for understanding our potential levels of consciousness, in the context of all the other Truths and Laws in this book, this technique feels forced. Moreover, the Seven Graces, as inspirational as they are, Reverence, Piety, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Knowledge and Wisdom all lack a reference to an essential aspect of being a living, breathing human being: coherent action. So for all the effort, we remain stuck in our head and the essential mission of the book to connect our personal healing with earthly sustainability is not realized.

In Chapter 6, Myss lays out five mystical laws. Again this sense of self-created dogma creeps in and one thinks, ‘where is she getting this from?’ Yet, it is in this chapter that she express a most mysterious and powerful idea that I hope continues to be deepened and articulated by spiritual writers. It is the concept of coherence or congruence. The fifth mystical law, she tells us, is ‘Maintain Spiritual Congruency’. “…one way of describing your goal is to say that you want to become a congruent human being.” “…in essence you are congruent when your beliefs match up with your everyday actions and your spiritual practice.” For me, this is the heart of the matter and there seems to be a lot more book here than is needed to get to this point. On page 195, she says, “You maintain congruence by honoring the spiritual truths that you have consciously made a part of your interior life. Only you know what you believe to be true about your purpose in life and what qualifies as real or illusion for you. Once you make those choices, compromising them is an act of self-betrayal…”

This is a high point of the book that brings into even starker relief the missed opportunity to illuminate the great power, richness and satisfaction of getting congruent with the living earth and our sensual connection with it that would have filled in that sorely missing piece of the puzzle: the unfinished bridge between individual healing and a sustainable world. Alas, we are left to figure this out for ourselves as part of our conscious effort to live consciously. It is admirable to leave this up to the reader – sort of a libertarian approach to the subject – but, the absence of this deeper elucidation conflicts with the stated purpose of the book. One the one hand, that is disappointing. On the other, it leaves open the desperate need for someone to fill — with a book of their own. Anyone?

This book is quite rich. While trying to reflect a multitude of personal responses to it with this review, I want to wholeheartedly acknowledge the great wisdom that comes from Myss’ facility with words about the subject. You could read the book over and over and learn something about yourself and your own beliefs, and have insightful epiphanies, each time. From the last chapter: “Live as if you were liberated from ordinary thought, beyond the boundaries of logic and reason. Be bold in your decisions and creative and imaginative in your thoughts. Think and live with the soul of a mystic, seeing the world as a field of grace in which you walk as a channel of light. Live these truths. Become these truths. This is your true highest potential.” Myss reconnects with the book’s mission at the very end: “Make bold, outrageous choices. Live as though you have the power to change the world-because you do.”

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | December 4, 2009

Repost of an Entertaining Review of Dr. Seuss

From my Amazon review of the book, The Lorax:

There’s not much to say, so many things to write
About this book by Seuss, a zinger with a theme that’s less than trite
As usual he invents words and things and animals to delight
There’s no stopping his inventiveness, his genius gives me to fright
But read on I must, and so must you
For he offers a commentary on the world around too
It isn’t so sweet really, and the kids would do well
To learn this early instead of thinking all’s swell
The trees of Truffula offered fruit divine
Until they were all chopped down by a capitalist swine
He doesn’t really say that, I phrased it myself
Forgive the intensity from this young scribe elf
But you see, just recently I had this vision
Of a culture that’s driven
Past the red line
I tried to convince the local middle school principal, yes I did
To simply show a film to our kids
A film called The Story of Stuff, it’s really quite stunning
And not a stone’s throw from Seuss’s moral funning
But he said no and I learned convincingly
That our attachment to the status quo is practically instinctual
This book, and yes the film too I’m happy to say
Try to raise the bar
To admit that our growth economy has gone a bit too far
No he would not show the Story of Stuff
The kids might get upset, it would be too tough
To affect their belief in Santa Claus
And all that he stands for
Oh but that’s just one example of many
For me, a silly parent, a concerned ninny
So yes, Seuss does it well, surely better than me
He starts with a book about a simple tree
And then there are thweaters or something equally funny
Things you can wear when sleeping or running
They are most needed, we couldn’t be without them
So they cut all the trees and made enough for all, no doubt then
‘Cept a funny thing happened they didn’t expect
The water turned black and the air smelled like heck
The birds flew away, the animals fell ill
The price for the tweaters (or whatever they’re called) was a bitter pill
You get the gist – its an important message
Enjoy the education, take steps to unsuppress the suppressage
Whether with the books you read, like this one
Or the causes you champion, like challenging curriculum
Its for the kids I say this, for the kid’s future
We’ll all be better off – with the help of ideas Seuss helps nurture

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | November 19, 2009

Miracles

To experience, and thus prove on a personal level, a single miracle seems to offer the benefit of proving the existence of them in a broader sense. Although, if they exist at all, there may be many different kinds of miracles, there is one form that occurs frequently enough as to be useful to prove the point.

Do you believe in miracles? What if you could learn something that totally shifted your perspective and you began seeing things, the world, completely differently? Would you be open to that? What if the most intractable problems of the world, like hunger and poverty, melted in the face of such a miracle? Could you even accept that?

The bumper sticker on my car is a saying from Chief Joseph, the renowned Nez Perce humanitarian and peacemaker, “It does not require many words to speak the truth.”

Chief Joseph from 1889

Academic and author Michael Parenti gave a talk in 2007, recently aired on Free Speech TV entitled Lies, War and Empire. In this talk, Parenti makes the point about policies of organizations like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization that, despite their stated good intentions, fail to provide fundamental improvements to persistent issues of social and economic justice, hunger and poverty. He suggests that all great empires, including the current empire of the United States, are intentional. Although often characterized as accidental, or the result of divine providence, in fact empire derives from imperialism and it is a conscious intentional activity.

It is frustrating to observe the efforts and money directed toward policies that have on their face the stated purpose of solving problems of suffering in the world only to have those problems persist and grow. There is something counterintuitive about this lack of traction.

Yet, miraculously, as Parenti instructs, if we begin to view the lack of success of failed policies, such as those aimed at creating economic justice, as deriving from an underlying intention to exploit and profit from those very same people at whom the policy is directed, an inherent truth makes itself known. When we concede the point that a very tiny strata of super wealthy, powerful and influential people and organizations have clearly and materially benefited from these same policies, it makes even more sense.

That this makes sense is revealed not just through the rational pieces of the puzzle falling into place, but also through a feeling sense, a certain intuitive order that accompanies the emerging logical construction. Together these elements form a powerful, paradigm shifting perspective.

It is in this shift that the miracle is contained. What were once perceived as difficult, virtually unsolvable problems can now be seen as symptoms of shadow characteristics of our institutions and culture. Truly, these are aspects of our self. Hope and beauty, compassion and fire spring forth from this realization.

The miracle of solving the world’s problems is not an easy one to tackle, let alone describe or convince another to buy into. Yet if just a measure of the experience can be conveyed, if a door can be opened in which the miracle of a shift in perspective in any arena of life can be offered, there remains the possibility of an expansion of the dawning awareness. And if it can be done for one, it can be done for many.

For the world’s problems can, thus, be seen as solvable. We can reveal to ourselves all that would hold us back. We can use this consciousness to illuminate a choice, an opportunity to choose the world, and our own lives, as we would have them. The miracle becomes the fact, born of dream and fantasy, yet just around the corner in our physical existence that we can have and be anything we choose if only we allow for the certainty of miracles.

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | November 13, 2009

We want to shine a light, not loudly demand that others go first into the dark.

Earlier this week, President Nasheed–the leader of a low-lying nation faced with the very real threat of imminent extinction due to rising seas–delivered a powerful speech and called for a “survival pact.” Now, with just a month to go before the UN talks in Copenhagen, we must stand together.  All of us, from presidents and politicians to scientists and citizens, must seize this moment and take this movement for survival to the next level.

President Nasheed’s Powerful Speech

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We gather in this hall today, as some of the most climate-vulnerable nations on Earth.

We are vulnerable because climate change threatens to hit us first; and hit us hardest.

And we are vulnerable because we have modest means with which to protect ourselves from the coming disaster.

We are a diverse group of countries.

But we share one common enemy.

For us, climate change is no distant or abstract threat; but a clear and present danger to our survival.

Climate change is melting the glaciers in Nepal.

It is causing flooding in Bangladesh.

It threatens to submerge the Maldives and Kiribati.

And in recent weeks, it has furthered drought in Tanzania, and typhoons in the Philippines.

We are the frontline states in the climate change battle.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Developing nations did not cause the climate crisis.

We are not responsible for the hundreds of years of carbon emissions, which are cooking the planet.

But the dangers climate change poses to our countries, means that this crisis can no longer be considered somebody else’s problem.

Carbon knows no boundaries.

Whether we like it or not, we are all in this fight together.

For all of us gathered here today, inaction is not an option.

So, what can we do about it?

To my mind, whatever course of action we take must be based on the latest advice of climate scientists. Not on the advice of politicians like us.

As Copenhagen looms, and negotiators frantically search for a solution, it is easy to think that climate change is like any other international issue.

It is easy to assume that it can be solved by a messy political compromise between powerful states.

But the fact of the matter is, we cannot negotiate with the laws of physics.

We cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature.

We have to learn to live within the fixed planetary boundaries that nature has set.

And it is increasingly clear that we are living way beyond those planetary means.

Scientists say that global carbon dioxide levels must be brought back down below 350 parts per million.

And we can see why.

We have already overshot the safe landing space.

In consequence the ice caps are melting.

The rainforests are threatened.

And the world’s coral reefs are in imminent danger.

Members of the G8 rich countries have pledged to halt temperature rises to two degrees Celsius.

Yet they have refused to commit to the carbon targets, which would deliver even this modest goal.

At two degrees we would lose the coral reefs.

At two degrees we would melt Greenland.

At two degrees my country would not survive.

As a president I cannot accept this.

As a person I cannot accept this.

I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any about it.

Copenhagen is our date with destiny.

Let us go there with a better plan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we look around the world today, there are few countries showing moral leadership on climate change.

There are plenty of politicians willing to point the finger of blame.

But there are few prepared to help solve a crisis that, left unchecked, will consume us all.

Few countries are willing to discuss the scale of emissions reductions required to save the planet.

And the offers of adaptation support for the most vulnerable nations are lamentable.

The sums of money on offer are so low, it is like arriving at a earthquake zone with a dustpan and brush.

We don’t want to appear ungrateful but the sums hardly address the scale of the challenge.

We are gathered here because we are the most vulnerable group of nations to climate change.

The problem is already on us, yet we have precious little with which to fight.

Some might prefer us to suffer in silence but today we have decided to speak.

And so I make this pledge today: we will not die quietly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in humanity.

I believe in human ingenuity.

I believe that with the right frame of mind, we can solve this crisis.

In the Maldives, we want to focus less on our plight; and more on our potential.

We want to do what is best for the planet.

And what is best for our economic self-interest.

This is why, earlier this year, we announced plans to become carbon neutral in ten years.

We will switch from oil to 100% renewable energy.

And we will offset aviation pollution, until a way can be found to decarbonise air transport too.

To my mind, countries that have the foresight to green their economies today, will be the winners of tomorrow.

They will be the winners of this century.

These pioneering countries will free themselves from the unpredictable price of foreign oil.

They will capitalize on the new, green economy of the future.

And they will enhance their moral standing, giving them greater political influence on the world stage.

Here in the Maldives we have relinquished our claim to high-carbon growth.

After all, it is not carbon we want, but development.

It is not coal we want, but electricity.

It is not oil we want, but transport.

Low-carbon technologies now exist, to deliver all the goods and services we need.

Let us make the goal of using them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A group of vulnerable, developing countries committed to carbon neutral development would send a loud message to the outside world.

If vulnerable, developing countries make a commitment to carbon neutrality, those opposed to change have nowhere left to hide.

If those with the least start doing the most, what excuse can the rich have for continuing inaction?

We know this is not an easy step to take, and that there might be dangers along the way.

We want to shine a light, not loudly demand that others go first into the dark.

So today, we want to share with you our carbon neutral strategy.

And we want to ask you to consider carbon neutrality yourselves.

I think a bloc of carbon-neutral, developing nations could change the outcome of Copenhagen.

At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible.

They never make commitments, unless someone else does first.

This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.

We don’t want a global suicide pact.

And we will not sign a global suicide pact, in Copenhagen or anywhere.

So today, I invite some of the most vulnerable nations in the world, to join a global survival pact instead.

We are all in this as one.

We stand or fall together.

I hope you will join me in deciding to stand.

Posted by: Michael George Daniel | November 9, 2009

Letter to the Editor – Tying it All Together

We owe our deepest thanks to those representatives in the House of Representatives that passed HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. While this is far from a perfect bill, it is a giant step forward upon which we, as a society, must now build toward a more equitable, just and compassionate future. The trends of our current systems and institutions make clear the need for the US and the world to move in this direction as we face peak resource constraints, especially fossil fuels, climate change and mass species extinction. Health care is but a proxy for our ability to create a different paradigm of life and society, one that values our integration and cooperation with the ecological web of life rather than our command and control of it. The long-term effectiveness of the latter approach, something we have been trying for some 5,000 to 10,000 years is becoming clear, and it is clear that this approach has failed.

As a resident of Connecticut, I especially want to thank Representative Joe Courtney for standing up for principles that align with where we need to go and what we need to do. He as been clear all along about the need to fix the inherent injustice in the current system. He has been a leader in the house, moving HR 3962 along and voting for it. We owe him a debt of gratitude and heartfelt encouragement to continue with the job.

The fact is, we really need a single-payer system to cover everyone – including so-called illegal aliens – anyone in this country – that offers the economy of scale needed to provide the best health care possible, at reasonable costs; certainly much more reasonable than the profit-motivated current system can offer. More over, as we move into this new paradigm away from profit and toward genuine caring, we will focus on health and not just health care, wellness not insurance against the diseases that result from environmental degradation and stress-related syndromes attributable to our fascination with competition as the sole decider of what works and what is good. Our addiction to the self-flagellation of full-time jobs so we can lose our retirement nest egg at the hands of Wall Street roulette players and buy more stuff that we don’t need and that offers the slimmest shred of life satisfaction, and certainly none of the genuine connection we truly long for, is just plain silly and we can do better.

Instead, we can choose life and health as our natural legacy, integrating our selves beneficially into the wider world, hopefully before it is too late.

Consistent with these ideas is the fact that our new single-payer system can easily and must be funded through cuts to the military budget. It is time we wake up to the inherent violence of our society and change that fact. A giant step in this direction would be the creation of a Department of Peace and I urge the Obama administration to take this on now. In fact, I see enough correlation  between the issues of health and peace that I believe it would be natural to have our single-payer system administered through the new Department of Peace. We can start fresh with this new department, establishing a culture of integrity and justice that is so sorely lacking in so many other aspects of our ‘grow-or-die’ economy-oriented culture.

The time is now for all of this. There is no other course that will provide for the future of human-kind and I, for one, would not wish the coming difficulties of resource depletion, climate change and struggle for the necessities of life on my child or the children of anyone without first using the gift of new awareness to do the very best we can to change the course of our current destiny.

Let us tell our senators and representatives loud and clear what the world needs now, and hold them to it.  –

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