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Psi Spies – A different kind of dark web?

Preamble (skip)

I always feel a bit apprehensive writing about paranormal phenomena (psi). Earthpages is about dialog and change. And none of that will happen if readers are alienated by fringe topics.

If I simply wanted to mirror today’s trends and forget the call to innovation, my words might be a good fit at HuffPost or some other leading site. But that’s not me nor how I envision Earthpages.

Paranormal phenomena may be fringe but for some it’s very real. I know. I’ve met people like that. Actually, there are differences among psi believers. Some, like myself, don’t have a problem with, say, going to Catholic Mass and accepting that paranormal events may occur.

I walk the line, as the song goes. I don’t want to get too close to the paranormal crowd because, frankly, some of them do seem a bit misguided and flaky.

By the same token, I question whether I’d call myself a “Catholic” or simply a “Christian.” I’m a Catholic in the eternal sense but certainly not in the cultural, card carrying sense. You won’t see me parading around with placards condemning the latest moral issues highlighted by the Vatican (funny how those visible protesters rarely get up in arms about other serious things… like corruption, for instance).

Point is, I straddle different worlds, never really belonging to but participating in many. The same with my regard for psi. I listen to Coast to Coast AM but tune out when the show gets silly. Just as I’d tune out a TV preacher the moment they start delivering that “God loves abundance” sermon with the donation number flashing on the screen.

Psi Spies (back to top)

Psi has become slightly more mainstream over the past few years. I just wrote about psi and so far the piece has 7 likes. Not astronomical but better than none.¹

Most say that psi studies don’t produce reliable results. However, law enforcement agencies still consult with psychics in search of dangerous criminals.

The US government pulled the plug on a Remote Viewing project because, so the story goes, it didn’t produce results. But some of the faithful still practice and write about RV. Researchers say they are honing a technique that will enable anyone to RV.

In this case, seeing really is believing.

Backtracking a bit, an Oxford schooled Indian mystic, Sri Aurobindo, once wrote that humanity is evolving into some kind of uberman.²

If Aurobindo and other gurus are right, a new type of battlefield might arise in the not-too-distant future. After all, information is key. And if certain, gifted individuals could “read” or “see” others at a distance, wouldn’t that be a staggering asset?

Enter psi spies.

Dystopian futurists predict psi spies perceiving the innermost secrets of VIPs. These psychic sneaks would have socially acceptable covers and go unnoticed. Your professor, the charity organizer, the brain surgeon next door.

The hostiles would work up profiles of victims along with their friends and families, using that knowledge to control markets, the government, skim off tax dollars, or some other nefarious scheme. Resistance might not be futile but it would be difficult.

Clandestine psi spies could marginalize and try to stir up conflict among those who cotton on to their creepiness. Like termites chewing away at the foundations of democracy, psi spies would be tough to eradicate. Some might even marry gullible innocents to strengthen their cover.

So it’s all linked in this dark vista—politics, crime, love and the psyche.

Another conspiracy theory best left to sci-fi?

Maybe. But Jim Marrs doesn’t think so. His book, Psi Spies: The True Story of America’s Psychic Warfare Program, notes that paranormal encounters play a principal role in most world religions, to include Native American and Biblical traditions. Marrs adds that several US administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have funded psi studies.³

It’s good to keep an open mind. But maybe not too open. After all, we wouldn’t want to be “hacked” – that is, compromised – by the wrong kind of people!

¹ A mediocre response could be more about my presentation. Working on it… 🙂

² I think Aurobindo was too self-absorbed. He says he helped the Allies in WW-II by virtue of his intense meditation. Interesting, but how could anyone confirm a claim like that?

³ Jim Marrs, Psi Spies: The True Story of America’s Psychic Warfare Program, New Page Books, 2007, p. 16.

Image credit, top – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Spy_FM_Logo.png

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The Pyramids – Afterlife portals or symbols of worldly power?

Inside the Pyramid

Inside the Pyramid: Ricardo Liberato via Flickr

Pyramids are really just a big billboard that says “the richest guy in Egypt is buried here” – Quora

In the 1976 playoffs the Toronto Maple Leafs made it to the semi-finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. This was pretty rare back then because the Leafs had been floundering for years. The fad at the time was pyramid power. All along the Leaf bench pyramids could be seen. The club thought it was bringing them good luck. They lost anyhow.

A couple of years later the British musician Alan Parsons released an album called Pyramid. Pink Floyd had already released Dark Side of the Moon (1973) with a prism – a miniature pyramid – on the album cover.

Pyramids had taken off in pop culture. They moved from an esoteric curiosity to a commercially viable symbol.  Soon after, the 80s New Age movement put a new spin on everything weird and wacky associated with the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids. And whatever was said, there was always a price tag on it. That is, something to buy—a workshop, book or cassette tape.

Louvre – Paris

A whole new mythology about the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids was born in the 70s and 80s. It was a myth intricately linked to consumerism, as we find today.

We only have to turn on the TV or search the web to find out how ETs built the pyramids with special tech unavailable even in the 21st century. Or we might discover some elaborate theory about the End Times, allegedly predicted by the geometry and placement of the pyramids.

Fantastic scenarios aside, it is true that nobody is entirely sure how the Egyptians moved those huge stone blocks. A prevailing theory maintains that wooden sleds were hauled over wetted sand, the added water reducing friction.

What we do have is clear archaeological evidence, through graffiti, that real human work gangs with specific names – like Toronto Maple Leafs or Philadelphia Flyers – not only did the hauling but took pride in their achievement.

So much for ETs and their laser beams.

Aztec human sacrifice, art circa 16th century – Wikipedia

New Age pundits glorifying the pyramids also tend to overlook or rationalize the fact that in Mesoamerica these structures were used for human sacrifice. Moreover, pyramids in Egypt were built for the Pharaoh, not the common people. Egyptian rulers believed a pyramid would facilitate their transit to the afterword. But commoners didn’t get a pyramid of their own. Only those with money could afford such a royal link to the afterlife.

So much for the glory.

Admittedly, the pyramids are impressive. But so is the Roman Colosseum. And we know what went down there. Feeding live Christians to lions. Sickening… nay, horrifying.

The pyramids were mostly about two things: Worldly power and a selfish desire to attain personal immortality. Foreign visitors to Egypt wrote that the pyramids inspired not only awe but fear. These structures spoke clearly about who had power and what would happen if the average gal or guy stepped out of line.

Carl Jung, a Swiss depth psychologist, tends to gloss over the cultural context of historical symbols like the pyramids in favor of developing his theory of the collective unconscious. This isn’t necessary wrong but I think it is incomplete.

Jung believes the architectural similarities among the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids support his concepts of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. However, Raymond Firth questions Jung’s archetypal theory. Firth says any symbol, be it a pyramid, a totem pole or a national flag, conveys as many possible meanings as there are individuals to interpret it.¹

This debate brings to mind the philosophical problem about innate psychological structures vs. regional and individual forms of creativity. Jung had his own way of resolving this issue by differentiating the archetype proper (common, underlying structure) from the archetypal image (cultural expression of that structure). But something still seems a bit too easy with his theory.

Jung, himself, admitted that he didn’t have it all figured out.

So full marks for his honesty.

¹ An anthropologist, Firth emphasizes the immediate, sociological aspects of symbols while not negating the possibility of deeper levels of meaning. See Raymond Firth, Symbols: Public and Private, New York: Allen and Unwin, 1973. Postmoderns like Jacques Derrida would agree with Firth on multiple interpretation. Symbols connote countless meanings. Rarely is anything actually denoted. And even if it is, there is always room for connotation.

Related » Alien Possession Theory, Archaeology, Atlantis, Aztecs, Mythic Identification, Mythic Inflation, Mythic Subordination, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie


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Psychosis – Toward a humble, intelligent and ethically sound approach

Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon from Trè...

Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th century – Wikipedia

Psychosis is usually described within psychology and psychiatry as a fundamental break with reality.

Current theories say this apparent break is caused by biological and environmental factors, resulting in a breakdown or disintegration of the personality where normal judgement is severely impaired or absent. The break can be non-violent or violent, temporary or permanent.

However, humanity has never reached absolute consensus on the topic of reality. And for anyone to suggest that they ‘know it all’ is misguided, grandiose and, in the case of some mental health workers, a naive political act.

Psychiatrists like R. D. Laing and Stanislav Grof emphasize not just the drawbacks but the transformational benefits that may arise after a so-called breakdown. Providing that a breakdown is properly treated, Laing goes as far to say we should think in terms of breakthrough instead of mere breakdown.

Breakdown is only the first stage in developing a greater sense of self, spirituality and wisdom.

As the old saying goes, we have to break an egg to make an omelette. Instead of trying to put a runny egg back into a broken shell, it is better to simply let the omelette cook. In other words, psychiatric treatments that try to resume former ways of being may help for a while. But hopefully a person moves on and learns how to make sense out of a dramatically different life experience and emergent worldview.

Laing’s position is worthy of consideration but most mental health workers point out that psychosis is no trivial matter and should not be glibly romanticized. People and those close to them suffer dearly. True, some individuals recover and flourish after a psychotic episode but others never really get better, even with positive family and social supports. They limp along on disability payments, looking forward to their evening pill that lessens their pain, fear or frightening hallucinations. Sadly, these pills also tend to dull the mind and, statistically speaking, have long term negative effects, to include early death.

A few anti-psychiatry writers at sites like Mad in America tend to overlook the possibility that some souls may never pass through their ordeal unscathed. Like ships dashed against the shoals in stormy weather, they sink or float shattered and aimless, never reaching the far shore of meaning and happiness.

Psychosis (video game)

Psychosis (video game) – Wikipedia

This is a tragedy for non-violent souls. But for those inclined to violence, it can be so much more than mere personal tragedy. And to overlook this is not just foolish. It’s socially irresponsible.

So who’s right? The critics or the psychiatrists?

The vast majority of people on both sides of this debate have good intentions and something to say. It is unfortunate that little positive dialog exists between the two groups because neither, in my opinion, fully understands the human psyche in relation to all of creation.

What’s at stake here is the definition of health and normalcy, and how that affects people’s lives.

If a person deviates too far from social conventions, there is a risk of being scapegoated by so-called normals. If left unchecked, this unfair dynamic can contribute to even greater unhappiness, discomfort and instability. So mental health becomes not just a personal issue but part of a greater social, political and economic dynamic.

I add the economic dimension because not being able to “work” as currently framed in the 21st century conversation is a huge stroke against individuals trying to break out of the psychiatric name-calling game. Arguably a kind of bullying, name-calling turns a blind eye to the fact that non-violent ‘crazy’ people rarely make money while violent, organized criminals often do.

Social organizations that brand themselves as “friends” of those with mental health labels may inadvertently reinforce the stigma with the implied message:

Accept your label… take your meds… you’re doing so much better.

To my mind this is like telling a person of color:

Accept that you are a  &%$#@!, take a menial, dead-end job, and be happy with your lot!¹

R.D. Laing, perusing in 1983 The Ashley Book o...

R.D. Laing, perusing in 1983 The Ashley Book of Knots in a humorous allusion to his own work, Knots – Wikipedia

Defining reality and normalcy is not just a philosophical riddle. Difficulties also arise in religion when discerning health and goodness from dysfunction and evil. For example, in the New Testament story some believe that Jesus Christ is insane or possessed by a demon:

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub[a]! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons – Mark 3:20-22.

Christian believers see Jesus’ rebuking his accusers as a sign of his divine intelligence but some nonbelievers see Christ as an egomaniac:

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” – Mark 3: 23-30.

The belief that madness is caused by evil, possession by a demon or by God withdrawing favor was common in the ancient world. In prehistory we have archaeological evidence, circa 5000 BC, of holes drilled in skulls, presumably to release evil spirits that tormented the insane or those perceived as such.²

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcising the Gerasenes demonic – Wikipedia

Today, many Christians of different denominations still believe that Satan wants to enslave victims in a psychological, social and spiritual hell. Not just in the next world, but now.

The Catholic clergy still perform exorcisms but also recommend psychiatry for mental discomfort. Adding to the ambiguity, the whole idea of spirituality varies from person to person.³

To further complicate things, many intelligent people believe that the idea of normality is a farce or illusion—a by-product of the most effective media spin.

The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.4

Not surprisingly, the relation between psychiatry and laws concerning individual rights and freedoms differ among countries and regions. In Russia we see a long history of political abuses involving psychiatry. That is, those who rub the Big Cheese the wrong way get locked up. But this isn’t just a Russian problem. Subtler kinds of psychiatry-based oppression and marginalization take place in North America and around the world.

So who can really say what’s normal and real? It almost seems like small or crafty minds try to fit everything into their own perspective. A perspective they are comfortable with.

But the fullness of life is rarely like that. Life changes and evolves. And it’s high time we realize this.

Related » Beatnik, Michel FoucaultMadness, Neurosis, Nietzsche

¹ Unlike some mainstream media outlets, I don’t wish to reinforce harmful words by indicating with a single letter. Please fill in the gap.

² This is a huge presumption. Our prehistoric ancestors might simply have thought the skull was too tight and were trying to relieve pressure, like letting air out of over-inflated tires. Point is, we cannot know.

³ See https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/is-spirituality-so-broadly-defined-that-testing-is-meaningless/

4 https://youtu.be/kybkiiAKMOY

For more historical info see my highlights at LINER (scroll down)

 ‘I feel like I’m going crazy:’ Migrants in Greece are attempting suicide and suffering from other mental health issues at alarming rates (businessinsider.com)

 Why We’ve Been Thinking About Madness All Wrong: A Conversation With David Dobbs (psmag.com)


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Who’s got the power?

The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice: Simon Greening via Flickr

Way Back

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle defined power in a way that remarkably prefigures Sir Isaac Newton‘s three laws of motion.

Aristotle says power is

  1. The agent causing a change in something
  2. The ability or potential in an object enabling it to act
  3. The ability in an object to remain unchanged

Image – Wikipedia

Today

In the social sciences and political life power usually means the ability to make decisions that influence, regulate or coerce.¹

For democratic countries political power is limited to the extent that the next elected representative has the ability to change or modify a set of power relations, as we see with US President Trump trying to unravel or remedy, depending on how you look at it, many of former President Obama’s initiatives.

But power goes far beyond big politics and weighty issues. It is found in the doctor’s office, the workplace, the schools and our neighborhoods. And thinkers like R. D. Laing suggest that power manifests within family dynamics.

Oliver Twist – Wikipedia

A Little Theory

Different cultural critics hold diverse views of power and how it is best applied. From Machiavelli to Marx, power is always present. But just how it is interpreted is a uniquely human act.

Postmodern and other social thinkers often overlook the fact that power, as a noun, is ethically ambivalent. Both good and bad can things be modified by the adjective “powerful”—for example, powerful love and powerful hate.

The 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that knowledge gained from philosophical understanding creates power. Hobbes added that such power should be applied in ways good for the Commonwealth. His argument is echoed in the G-8 countries’ rationale behind military strikes against the enemies of democracy and freedom. In Catholicism, this is called the “Just War.

Good and Evil – Wikipedia

Michel Foucault says power is embedded in our social relationships but he doesn’t emphasize an ethical dimension to power. Rather, Foucault sees power as an ongoing struggle of competing intentions.

To some observers, it is almost as if Foucault portrays ethics and morality as historically relative products of social power.

If true, good and evil are not absolute, timeless and universal truths. They are relative to a given social time and place. That is, good and evil are social constructions.

However, Jules Evans argues that Foucault’s later work, such as The Care of the Self (1984), reveals a developing interest in an ethic of wellness. As Foucault says:

Perhaps I’ve insisted too much on the technology of domination and power. I am more and more interested…in the mode of action that an individual exercises upon himself by means of the technologies of the self.²

Whether or not Foucault’s interest in wellness was purely intellectual or, perhaps, an emerging practical concern remains open to debate.

Anthropology, Depth Psychology and Religion

Supernatural – Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

Terms like mana, numinoustapas and orenda refer to a form of magical, mystical or spiritual power originating from beyond the realm of scientific predictability.

In keeping with Max Weber‘s idea of charisma, individuals with a lot of social power may possess, command or mediate a good deal of spiritual, otherworldly power.

I think Weber’s concept of charisma is important because, for some, it links spiritual and political power.

Science vs Religion

Power ON – Wikipedia

Another central question is whether or not a given set of otherworldly powers are good or evil. This issue was once of great importance. It is now pretty well passed over by the media and most everyone else.

In its place we have the popular mindset of “health” and “illness.” In a nutshell, science and technology have moved in where religion and ritual once held sway.

So the 21st century mass murderer is “mentally ill” and not “possessed by Satan.”

At least, this is how the courts see it. And they, to return to our initial topic, have the power

¹ See my highlights at LINER for some recent distinctions in the ongoing dialog about power:

Hard Power – http://lnr.li/C0mV7/

Soft Power – http://lnr.li/IQQXv/

Smart Power – http://lnr.li/0rJdk/

² Michel Foucault, lecture given in 1982 cited in Jules Evans, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” Eurasian Home Analytical Resource, August 15, 2007.

³ Most traditional theologians would say the courts only hold as much power as God permits, God being the bearer of all power.

Related » Counter-discourse, Discourse, Poststructuralism

 Two Concepts of Polarization (3quarksdaily.com)

 The last sacred kings (aeon.co)

 What are your desert island philosophy essays? (ask.metafilter.com)

 If Time Is Money, They’re Both Lies (therooflesschurch.com)

 Porn stars go mainstream (foxnews.com)


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Postmodernism – Not necessarily absurd or without wings

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber: Stuck in Customs / Trey Ratcliff

The term postmodernism became popular in the 1970s and 80s but has roots reaching back through the centuries.

Social theorists usually try to define concepts through a key set of ideas and parameters. Postmodernism challenges conventional perceptions of “the definition” and few seem to clearly agree on its meaning. This is partly because postmoderns questions the very act of defining, labeling and signifying.

If postmodernism has a core idea, it might be that it paradoxically has no core idea upon which to stand. Some say that makes postmodernism absurd. But that stance seems intellectually childish.  Questioning something doesn’t render the process meaningless, as amorphous as outcomes may be. Truth isn’t always black and white and only conceptual control freaks reject uncertainty.

In one sense, postmodernism is a reaction against the kind of scientific certainty associated with the enlightenment and (some definitions of) modernism. It is also a reaction against the proclaimed truths and teachings of religion.

Garry Knight – Post-Modern Architecture – An example of the post-modern style of building seen increasingly along the Thames riverside via Flickr

With regard to scientific truth claims, postmoderns challenge the idea of natural laws that accurately predict future events. They also dispute the assumption that these laws don’t change over space and time. These challenges are especially prevalent in the social sciences but also crop up in physics.

In psychology, postmodernism questions the notion of a stable, unchanging and eternal aspect of the self, such as a soul. Perhaps the ironically enduring truth of many (but not all) postmoderns is the conviction that truth claims are relative to a given culture or subculture.

Michel Foucault, for instance, says power is the creative agency that generates social truth. For Foucault, power not only represses individuals and certain types of belief, knowledge and practice. Power also has the ability to create discourses of truth. These created truths bear tangible effects on persons and their bodies.

Because power constructs truth, postmoderns are concerned to “deconstruct” taken for granted truth claims that have consciously or unconsciously slipped into public use and practice.

By way of example, a few popular areas of deconstruction are notions of the natural, the sane, and social progress. What do we really mean by using these terms? Are we implying a social truth instead of an absolute truth? Who benefits from this dynamic? And who gets the short end of the stick?

In the arts, postmoderns combine different elements from various styles and genres. And the notion of the ‘fragment’ is accepted in postmodern art, literature and philosophy. A good example of valorizing the fragment is found in rap, hiphop and club music where digital tech easily reproduces and mixes past musical and non-musical samples within a new artistic production.

versionz – postmodernism via Flickr

The postmodern scene has become somewhat holistic, even spiritual, particularly with figures like Jacques Derrida who talks about a ‘metaphysical space’ between links in endless chains of connotation. Likewise, Stuart Hall‘s cross-cultural perspective points to new avenues of inquiry once closed off by critical theory.

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Additionally, the contemporary discipline of postmodern theology shifts the meaning once again as to what it means to be postmodern.

Daniel J. Adams’ “Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism” (Cross Currents, Winter 1997-98, Vol. 47 Issue 4 ) might be taking postmodernism in the opposite direction from which it came. Adams says postmodernism is restoring the sacred in an age turned off by religious dogma and yet ironically blinded by the new dogmas of scientific materialism.

These latest postmodern trends suggest that a responsible view of the individual in society integrates biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors. So postmodern thinkers may try to separate the spiritual from the cultural in any belief system, be it religious or nationalistic.

Funnily enough, I found from direct experience that even a basic Catholic RCIA course, geared toward the general public, deconstructed the cultural from the spiritual within the Bible. So to say that postmodernism kills spirituality or leads to absurdity simply shows the ignorance of those upholding that belief.

Postmodern theology combines the best of Pontius Pilate – “What is Truth?” – and Christ – “I am…the Truth” – as portrayed in the New Testament.¹ And because we live in an imperfect world with lots of spin, this just makes sense.

¹ John 18:38, John 14:6

Related » Discourse, Language, Karl Marx, Poststructuralism, Susan Sontag, The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology (PDF)

Postmodernism – Wikipedia

Oct 10 2017  Highlights with LINER

_____

Postmodernism describes a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture and criticism which marked a departure from modernism.

_____

The term postmodern was first used around the 1880s.

_____

In 1921 and 1925, postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music.

_____

In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture

_____

In 1971, in a lecture delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Mel Bochner described “post-modernism” in art as having started with Jasper Johns

_____

Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism.

_____

Martin Heidegger rejected the philosophical basis of the concepts of “subjectivity” and “objectivity” and asserted that similar grounding oppositions in logic ultimately refer to one another. Instead of resisting the admission of this paradox in the search for understanding, Heidegger requires that we embrace it through an active process of elucidation he called the “hermeneutic circle”.

_____

Jacques Derrida re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy

_____

Michel Foucault introduced concepts such as ‘discursive regime’

_____

Jean-François Lyotard identified in The Postmodern Condition a crisis in the “discourses of the human sciences” latent in modernism but catapulted to the fore by the advent of the “computerized” or “telematic” era (see information revolution).

_____

Richard Rorty argues in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that contemporary analytic philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods.

_____

Jean Baudrillard, in Simulacra and Simulation, introduced the concept that reality or the principle of “The Real” is short-circuited by the interchangeability of signs in an era whose communicative and semantic acts are dominated by electronic media and digital technologies.

_____

One of the most well-known postmodernist concerns is “deconstruction,” a theory for philosophy, literary criticism, and textual analysis developed by Jacques Derrida. The notion of a “deconstructive” approach implies an analysis that questions the already evident understanding of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference.

_____

Structuralism was a philosophical movement developed by French academics in the 1950s, partly in response to French Existentialism. It has been seen variously as an expression of Modernism, High modernism, or postmodernism[by whom?]. “Post-structuralists” were thinkers who moved away from the strict interpretations and applications of structuralist ideas.

_____

The idea of Postmodernism in architecture began as a response to the perceived blandness and failed Utopianism of the Modern movement.

_____

Postmodernism is a rejection of ‘totality’, of the notion that planning could be ‘comprehensive’, widely applied regardless of context, and rational. In this sense, Postmodernism is a rejection of its predecessor: Modernism.

_____

Literary postmodernism was officially inaugurated in the United States with the first issue of boundary 2, subtitled “Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture”, which appeared in 1972.

_____

Jorge Luis Borges’ (1939) short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, is often considered as predicting postmodernism

_____

Samuel Beckett is sometimes seen as an important precursor and influence.

_____

The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1960s with the advent of musical minimalism.

_____

Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism.


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Pollution – Not always what you think

Girls Fashion Scooter Mask Helmet Pollution

From the 1960s and 70s onward, awareness of environmental pollution has increased steadily. In 2017 the Green movement is almost like a religion for many.

Personalities like Al Gore present themselves as objective reporters of scientific fact while promoting particular agendas on climate change. Meanwhile, the scientific and greater debate on global warming rages on.

The media tends to emphasize industrial pollution generated by so-called developed countries. But organic pollution from human and animal waste is a huge contributor to early death and preventable disease—especially in densely populated, economically underdeveloped countries.

We are all aware of pollution. People wear masks in public. Not just in China but where I live in Toronto.

Falun Gong in Toronto – Wikipedia

However, there are at least three additional types of pollution that many overlook.

Social Pollution

Social pollution is about social activities that an opposing group, usually a ruling power, says pollute the social body, as we find in China.

“The same people that are cracking down on issues like democracy and Falun Gong are concerned about things like ‘spiritual pollution,'” Economy said. “And every several years — maybe five to seven years — China is likely to have a ‘spiritual pollution’ campaign and ‘anti-spiritual pollution’ campaign which means that they don’t like what they perceive to be coming from the West: sex, the freedoms, drug use; all of these very sensationalistic television programs.”¹

Jagannath Ghat – Kolkata_2012 – Wikipedia

Ritual Pollution

In religious scripture and practice we find the idea of ritual pollution, as in the Bible‘s Old Testament.

According to Leviticus 15: 19-23, women are impure and can spread this impurity for a certain period during and after menstruation:

When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening.

More dramatically, Eric Lafforgue says the idea of ritual pollution has deadly consequences among the Hamar in southern Ethiopia.

Twins, a child born outside of formal marriages are considered to possess mingi (abnormality, pollution, unclean) and, for this reason, they are abandoned into the bush to die.²

Title page of a Eighteenth century popular Pamphlet on the effects of masturbation on the health of the individual. This pamphlet was one of the first to warn against the dangers of onanism – Wikipedia

Spiritual Pollution

Beliefs about spiritual purity and impurity can be found that are not necessarily linked to a particular social or physiological taboo.

As evident from the works of the Indian holy men Sri Ramkrishna and Sri Aurobindo, the distinction between pure and impure is also made on the basis of an individual’s perceived spiritual development.

The Hindu guru (Skt = spiritual teacher) often keeps a safe distance from disciples to avoid being overwhelmed by their spiritual impurities. The guru allegedly intercedes for disciples to help purify them—that is, to cleanse their souls from the subtle crud accumulated from their ungodly attitudes and behavior.

From the guru’s perspective, the disciples’ spiritual discomfort is alleviated through intercessory meditation, ritual and prayer.

The poet Kálidása (c. 5th century CE) mentions a similar dynamic involving spiritual pollution and purity in his Shakuntala.

It is natural that the first sight of the King’s capital
should affect you in this manner;
my own sensations are very similar.
As one just bathed beholds the man polluted;
As one late purified, the yet impure:-
As one awake looks on the yet unawakened;
Or as the freeman gazes on the thrall,
So I regard this crowd of pleasure-seekers.³

Likewise, Jainism makes use of the symbolism of iron filings (the impurities of non-liberated souls) automatically flying to a magnet (the pure and liberated soul).

Similar ideas about subtle yet tangible pollution are found in the Christian mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Faustina Kowalska.

Image via The Chrysalis

Most spiritual perspectives differ on some of the finer points but all agree that subtle impurities may transfer from one person to another.

Buddhism speaks of karmic weights and skandhas that transfer and cluster over space and time, contributing to the apparent illusion of individuality.

In Jungian depth psychology, the notion of a subtle transfer of light and dark qualities is found in the discussion of alchemy, where Jung and his followers liken human relationships to complex chemical interactions.

Ethics and Pollution

Implicit to any discussion of spiritual pollution is the realm of ethics. The classic religion scholar Rudolf Otto says a morally evil action is “self-depreciating” and “pollutes,” leading toward imagery suggesting the need for “washing and cleansing.”4

So the next time someone tells you we have a polluted environment, you might ask what they are saying.

When we say someone is “toxic” do we simply mean they are a drag to be with or is there more to the picture? And how about “bad vibes?”

Metaphor or reality?

¹ Nikola Krastev, “China: Report Says Media Control Is Tightening,”Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Thursday, February 23, 2006.

² See commentary at flickr.com/photos/mytripsmypics/3231940994.

³ From the Shakuntala by Kálidása, circa 5th century CE, in A Treasury of Asian Literature, ed. John D. Yohannan. New York: Meridian, 1984.

4 The Idea of the Holy, second edition, trans. John W. Harvey, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973 [1923], p. 55. For more on religious and spiritual pollution see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual_purification

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Pablo Picasso and the art of living

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon via Flickr

Pablo (Ruiz y) Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish artist, born at Málaga.

In 1901 Picasso painted in Montmartre, Paris, during his so-called blue period (1901-4). This produced a series of satirical, tragic pictures focusing on the poor, the anguished and the lonely.

Next was the pink period (1904-6). A celebration of life, this period depicted young nudes and that great 20th century spectacle, the circus.

Picasso’s innovative bent lead him toward Cubism (rendering three-dimensions without perspective). The most critical step in creating this new school was probably taken with the completion of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

With Georges Braque, Picasso went on to develop Cubism from 1909 to 1914. In 1917 Picasso was a set and costume designer for Sergei Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet.

WW-I sparked an interest in detail and color, after which Picasso entered his classical period (1920-25).

A professed communist, Picasso’s work was nevertheless condemned as ‘decadent’ by many in the USSR. As his companion Françoise Gilot, put it:

In Russia, they hated his work but liked his politics. In America, they hated his politics but liked his work (cited in “Picasso’s Party Line” by Hugh Eakin, Senior Editor, artnews.com, November 2000).

Surian Soosay – Looking For My Betty Ross / A Picasso Hulk Study via Flickr

Picasso, man of many talents, also illustrated classical literary works and explored sculpture, pottery and lithography. Often seen as the greatest of modern artists, his unmistakable style reverberates throughout art, literature and psychology.

In depth psychology, Carl Jung wrote about Picasso favorably, comparing but not equating his work to those diagnosed as schizophrenic.

David Bowie’s  album Reality (2003) did a cover of “Pablo Picasso,” a song written by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.

Well some people try to pick up girls
They get called assholes
This never happened to Pablo Picasso

He could walk down your street
Girls could not resist his stare
So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole
Not like you
Wow!¹

Picasso 1904 via Wikipedia

Picasso may not have been called an “asshole.” But in Nazi occupied France, the Gestapo harassed him regularly.

During the Second World War, Picasso remained in Paris while the Germans occupied the city. Picasso’s artistic style did not fit the Nazi ideal of art, so he did not exhibit during this time. He was often harassed by the Gestapo. During one search of his apartment, an officer saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. “Did you do that?” the German asked Picasso. “No,” he replied, “You did”.²

What a perfect response to authoritarians and disturbed individuals who blame the victim. We all have something to learn from Picasso in the 21st century. If not in art, in the art of living.

¹ https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/pablopicasso.html

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso

Related » Surrealism

Pablo Picasso – Wikipedia – 18 Highlights with LINER for skeletal outline and additional asides.

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He is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

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Before 1900:  Picasso’s training under his father began before 1890.

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Blue Period: 1901–1904

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Rose Period: 1904–1906

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African art and primitivism: 1907–1909 See also: Picasso’s African Period and Proto-Cubism

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Analytic cubism: 1909–1912

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Synthetic cubism: 1912–1919 Main article: Crystal Cubism

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Neoclassicism and surrealism: 1919–1929

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The Great Depression to MoMA exhibition: 1930–1939

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World War II and late 1940s: 1939–1949

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Later works to final years: 1949–1973

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Picasso’s influence was and remains immense and widely acknowledged by his admirers and detractors alike. On the occasion of his 1939 retrospective at MoMA, Life magazine wrote: “During the 25 years he has dominated modern European art, his enemies say he has been a corrupting influence. With equal violence, his friends say he is the greatest artist alive.”

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Throughout his life Picasso maintained several mistresses in addition to his wife or primary partner.

Related » Surrealism