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Radha – From milkmaid to goddess

Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr

In Hinduism Radha (Sanskrit = fortunate or successful) is an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. She appears on Earth as the female ghopi (cowherdess and milkmaid) who leaves her husband to become the playmate of the Hindu god Krishna.

Her loving and playful relationship with Krishna has become an integral part of the Indian popular imagination, comparable to Romeo and Juliet had Shakespeare not written a tragedy.

Radha is also interpreted on a higher, mystical level, symbolizing the soul‘s loving surrender to God. Contemporary Vaishnava religion in W. Bengal regards Radha as the ultimate female principle, the Goddess or Shakti.

While writing this I couldn’t help but note a loose parallel to Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the Bible story, Mary was a humble teenager soon to be married to a carpenter (Joseph). Like Radha, she got a divine call. But she didn’t leave her husband nor humanity immediately to dance in the ethereal realms with God. Instead, she stayed on Earth and lived a real, difficult life, to the extent of watching her human/divine son die at the hands of some of the Jews and occupying Romans. Only after that terrible ordeal do both ascend to be with God.

An image like Radha dancing with Krishna in astral realms might be appealing to some wanting to sugarcoat or, perhaps, escape the world as quickly and easily as possible. But for those who believe that salvation comes from going through not only the joys but also the grind of life, the Christian story, as lamentable as it can be, may seem a bit more real.

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Raël – The founder of Raëlism

Rael and Dr. Brigitte Boisselier at a press conference in 2004

Raël (1946- ) is a former French racing car driver and journalist, Claude Vorilhon, who reportedly had an encounter with a UFO.

Vorilhon took up the name Rael and formed the Raelian movement that claims to be directed by benevolent aliens called the Elohim. This is a Hebrew biblical term that the Raelians interpret to mean “those who come from the sky.”

Rael’s organization has religious sounding terms in its structure, and he has become the charismatic leader of some 90,000 Raelians around the world.

According to the Raelian pamphlet, “The True Face of God” (1998) the Elohim “created humanity scientifically” and are returning to Earth:

On December 13, 1973 RAEL met with human beings from another planet. They are the ELOHIM of the Bible, mistaken for gods by our ancestors and spoken of in all the great religions. RAEL, the last messenger of these heavenly beings, reports this fantastic work of scientific creation in THE FINAL MESSAGE…Those extraterrestrials are our fathers in space and they love us like their own children.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

The attractively printed pamphlet includes ordering details for THE FINAL MESSAGE (at a cost of $25 CDN) and omits Rael’s belief in unconditional love. He apparently practiced ‘free sex’ with several girlfriends.

Marriage is forbidden in the Raelian movement because it fosters, the Raelians maintain, human bondage rather than freedom and love.

Both hetero- and homosexuality are encouraged.

Rael moved to Canada around the time I became aware of his movement. It seems the situation behind him in Europe made his immigration an attractive option.

In 1991, Raël sued French journalist Jean-Yves Cashga for defamation; Raël lost, however, and was ordered to pay court costs. The judgment remains uncollected. Amidst growing legal problems in France, Raël decided to emigrate to Canada.¹

In a 2002 media release, Clone-Aid, an organization owned by the Raelian bishop Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, claimed to have formed the first human clone. Convincing evidence, however, was never produced. A subsequent claim was made in 2003 about the cloning of another human being.

Rael, himself, stresses that the Raelians do not own nor invest in Clone-Aid.

The Raelian movement still sells books and offers downloads to further its cause.

Individual in a Xenu costume, standing next to...

Individual in a Xenu costume, standing next to inflatable float by group of Raelians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One web site states “Raelians expose Catholic fraud with scientific study, demonstrate that hosts are only simple bread.” This article seems to overlook the Catholic theological argument in support of the belief in transubstantiation. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere:

To make sense of the fact that the communion wafer doesn’t change in outward appearance, Catholic theologians rely on the Aristotelian distinction between a thing’s form and its substance. According to this belief, the form (what we see) does not change but the substance (sometimes called the essence) does. This opposes the popular view that the Eucharist is only a symbol of remembrance or, as some New Age believers say, a sign of human or cosmic unity.²


² See

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Remote Viewing – True, False or Underground?

Vox Efx - Charging My Batteries aka Sun Worship via Flickr

Vox Efx – Charging My Batteries aka Sun Worship via Flickr

The term ‘Remote Viewing’ (RV) was coined by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff.

RV is the alleged ability to internally perceive objects and events at a distance beyond the range of the normal senses.

Remote Viewers (RVers) usually say they perceive objects and events in the past, present and probable future. But RVers don’t believe they psychologically time travel when seeing the past. Instead, they tend to say that they access a ‘holographic cosmic memory bank’ that records all events that ever took place, somewhat like the Akashic Records of Theosophy and Anthroposophy.

Concerning the future, RVers claim to see possible outcomes but don’t predict the future with any certainty.

Those sympathetic to the idea say that one inherent difficulty with RV is a margin of error that researcher Dale Graff calls “white noise.” RVers say they strive to scientifically verify their distance visions and apparently are developing new methods to increase accuracy.

On this point RVers differ from some psychics who remain convinced that their distance visions are accurate without making any attempt to verify.

Interestingly, RV researcher Russell Targ says his team got better scientific results when they kept the research environment “fun” and relaxed. Targ admits to making money from RVing future probabilities but he says that human greed came to interfere with the success of his experiments.¹

Targ later introduced the term Remote Sensing because, he says, RV may also be accompanied by an inner sense of hearing, smell and touch.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

The paranormal writer Rosemary Ellen Guiley says that Remote Sensing is a well-documented phenomenon, both in ancient and contemporary times.

According to Anthony C. LoBaido at and Steve Hammons, the CIA has used RV for intelligence gathering. LoBaido also claims that the FBI has adopted RV for the same purposes.

The mainstream view, however, is not quite so sympathetic. Wikipedia says:

There is no credible scientific evidence that remote viewing works, and the topic of remote viewing is regarded as pseudoscience

Some, however, maintain that the US RV project did work but has gone underground. If true, most of us have no way of finding out.³

¹ Thinking Allowed with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove, “ESP, Clairvoyance and Remote Perception with Russell Targ“.


³ I didn’t read it too carefully, but from a quick scan of the Wikipedia entry, it seems this ambiguous dimension of RV is overlooked.

Related » Akashic Records, Clairvoyance, Doors, ESP, New Age, Psychic Spies, Seer, “The New Age and Remote Viewing,” Third Eye


Ram Dass – Bridging East and West

ram dass by ari evergreen

ram dass by Ari Evergreen via Flickr

Ram Dass (1931 – ) Richard Alpert, now Ram Dass, was born into a wealthy, educated Jewish American family. After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford he grew increasingly dissatisfied with conventional approaches to understanding the psyche. So he became a full-fledged spiritual seeker.

He traveled to India and found a personal guru. His Indian guide eventually renamed him Ram Dass (teacher), which for many he was to become.

Since the 1960’s Ram Dass has lectured across North America and authored several popular books about comparative religion and spirituality. Ideas like synchronicity and the miraculous are all quite real for Ram Dass. He argues that the Western mind is too linear and pragmatic to appreciate these phenomena.

For Ram Dass, spiritual awareness and the phenomena accompanying it are usually viewed by Westerners as “weird.”

Writing in a kind of 1970’s flower-power hippie style, Ram Dass unfortunately contributes to the misguided and judgmental notion that the East is more spiritual than the West. This shortcoming aside, his work is not without merit.

Interestingly, Ram Dass says his brother lived in a psychiatric hospital. His brother, he says, believes that his way of seeing the world is the only way. So the sane differ from the insane, he implies, in that the former can consider other viewpoints while the latter cannot. This definition seems a bit lacking. It would make, for instance, Catholic priests or any firm religious believers insane.

Concerning the idea of reincarnation, he suggests that it

doesn’t have to be linear…it may well be in terms of past, present, and future all being here simultaneously. There are many ways of thinking about the fifth dimension of infinite repetition and changes¹

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noted for his honesty, Ram Dass once wrote in Yoga Journal that loving one’s enemies, as Jesus Christ taught, is easy to fake but not always easy to do.²

After suffering a stroke in the 1990’s, Ram Dass still holds public engagements. He says that his condition has brought him closer to God. In a 2003 Toronto Star article he remarks that while most people his age are still trying to be youthful, he sits by the window and contemplates the Divine.

Today, his influence lives on, as travelerseeker testifies:

Ram Dass is an amazing person. I had the honor of meeting him many years ago at a metaphysical conference where he was signing books. Got the book, his signature and a hug…will never forget it or him!

For me, one of the more amusing stories comes from a tape I heard back in the 1980s. Ram Dass tells the tale of being stopped by a police officer on the freeway. Apparently the officer was momentarily affected by Ram Dass’ blissful state and gave him a free pass, which reminds me of the scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi gets past security guards by using “The Force.”

On a more practical note, I find that giving out good vibes, for their own sake, often does help in sticky situations—unless the other person is just a creep through and through, which also happens sometimes.

¹ Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is, New York: Anchor Books, 1974, p. 143.

² I saw this in the early 1990s in a bookstore while buying books by Carl Jung for my PhD. Unfortunately, that’s about as precise as I can be on this reference.

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Sanskrit – Does God have a special language?

Sanskrit blogging on the rise by Debashish Chakrabarty

Sanskrit (samskrta = cultured, perfected, in contrast to prakrta = uncultured, popular) is the sacred, ancient language of Hinduism.

One school of thought believes that an early form of Sanskrit originated with Aryan invaders and their Vedic hymns around 2,000 BCE.

Another view suggests that an early form of Sanskrit existed within the Indus valley. And the entire Aryan invader thesis has been questioned.

Regardless of its disputed origins, the speakers of Sanskrit believed, as do many Hindus today, that the correct pronunciation of this language may elevate individuals to higher planes of consciousness, leading to greater spiritual awareness.¹

In Hinduism the Vedas, Shastras, Puranas and Kavyas were composed in Sanskrit.

Although Pali is the primary language of Buddhist scripture, some Mahayana texts were composed in a hybrid Sanskrit.

Sanskrit has also found its way into Jain scripture.

The earliest surviving character of its unique Devanagari (language of the gods) script is dated at 150 CE.

Not unlike Latin in the Catholic Church, Sanskrit remains sacred and prestigious among teachers and students throughout India and beyond.²

¹ This kind of claim is not unique to Hinduism. Not a few adherents of different religions believe that their own special language is the key to higher consciousness, awareness or God. I personally think it’s a joke to assume that God would prefer one “special” language over another. In Catholicism, some speak of the Latin Mass as if it has some kind of special sanctity. But what these people forget is that Jesus and his message is for anyone who wants to hear it. That’s why I applaud Catholic Bibles translated in any language and see them as equally valid as ancient Greek (original language of the New Testament) or Hebrew (original language of the Jewish scriptures and the Christian Old Testament) manuscripts. Some contemporary religious scholars use the language-game-power-trip to try to raise themselves above and literally intimidate others. But again, that is contrary to the Christian message.

² See

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Oliver Sacks – A shy man who overcame his “disease”

English: Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks a...

Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was an influential British-born neurologist and bestselling author whose clinical and yet anecdotal writing style stresses the inalienable dignity of human beings suffering from neurological disorders.

His work looks at how patients with neurological disorders cope and, in so doing, explores the notion of body/soul interaction in both ‘disabled’ and ‘normal’ people.

He appeared in Wim Kayzer‘s 1994 video series, A Glorious Accident: Understanding Our Place in the Cosmic Puzzle, along with Rupert Sheldrake, Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel Dennet and other major figures who, at the time, were at the cutting edge of their respective fields.

Sacks’ overt holism is best illustrated in his own words: “Mozart makes me a better neurologist.”



Sacks was a shy person, to the point where he called shyness a “disease.”¹ He spent many years in the closet, first as sexually active and then as a celibate, until he found a male partner with whom he shared his home.² His book Awakenings (1973) was made into a film, nominated for an Academy Award in 1990.


² Ibid.

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Sankara – A Hindu who was no big fan of the Buddha

English: Statue of Adi Shankara at his Samadhi...

Statue of Adi Shankara at his Samadhi Mandir in Kedarnath, India. Photo taken by Priyanath. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sankara, Shankara or Adi Shankara (c. 700 – 750 CE) was a Hindu philosopher, mystic and theologian born in Kerala, India.

A towering figure in Indian philosophical history, Sankara advocated Advaita Vedanta. His commentaries on scripture like the Bhagavad-Gita and Brahma-sutras outline the Advaita philosophy, which teaches the non-duality and absolute identidy of atman and brahman

Sankara was highly critical of the Buddha and is often held responsible for driving Buddhism out of India. In his commentary on the Brahma-sutra, he writes

The Buddha exposed for the sake of instruction, three mutually contradictory doctrines, either having manifested thus his own incoherent garrulity or his enmity towards all living beings, having erroneously assumed that they would be confused.²

Srimad Guru Adi Shankaracharya

Srimad Guru Adi Shankaracharya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Sankara and his followers regarded the Buddha as an evil avatar. Why evil? Because the Buddha, from Sankara’s perspective, tried to sway the masses away from the sacred Veda.

But some Hindu philosophers take a big picture approach and interpret the Buddha’s critique of Hinduism in an overall positive light. For them, the Buddha’s apparent deception restored balance to a Hindu priesthood that had become hypocritical and elitist.

Some see this as a strength of Hinduism. It can take almost anything and conceptually absorb it into its overall philosophy. However, others see this as problematic because, for them, Hinduism fails to appreciate different religions for what they really are, on their own terms.³

Related » Moksha, Ramanuja, Scholarship, Self, Visistadvaita

¹ The following reveals considerable ambiguity with regard to authorship:

² (Now a dead link; was active in 2009/05/12)

³ While a student in India doing my Masters, a professor whom I admired very much once said “Jesus was a messenger” and “all religions are the same.” As I grew into my – admittedly innovative – Catholic path, I really have questioned these assertions. For me, the Eucharistic love and warmth simply could not be found in my experience of Hinduism. The Eucharist helps me to experience a whole new vista that I didn’t even know existed prior to my reception of it.  So I would not agree that all religions are the same. As to the status of Jesus, this is something I think about a lot. But I would not be happy relegating him to the status of “messenger,” just like any other religious figure. Simply put, no other figure makes me feel the same way. Having said that, I also believe that all religions may work together. But imo that does not mean that they are all the same.