Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Anger by Design?

Anger and other emotions are natural responses to the environment. Emotions are an important part of the mind, which is composed of an organism’s total reaction to the environment. Culture is an individual’s or group’s total interaction with the environment.

Design refers to the purposeful manipulation of our emotions by individuals and groups that desire to control our behavior; their motives can be selfish or sincere, or some of both. Our friends or close associates may reward feelings of loyalty and security, but at the cost of our desire to explore a wider world. We are often coerced into choosing one group over another, or are expected to embrace one belief system against all others. The price of belonging may be that we are expected to do harm or perpetuate group violence against people whom we don’t know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The inequality expressed in Egyptian art between pharaoh and citizen persists in society today. Note that the relationship is one of parent to child.

The unstable political situation in the United States today is not new. A classic battle for control of the American Empire (yes, without doubt, we are an empire) is well underway among competing male factions. The empire is in fact being looted of the wealth gained in the previous 250 years, especially that which was produced during the post WWII era. This power struggle-cycle is the foundation of human societies and has been since the *Stone Age, and likely, long before. The arrangement is simple: a male hierarchy ruthlessly dominates everyone else using fear, religion, deception and violence.

In the beginning of civilization (the migration of humans into cities due to the development of agriculture) human resources were conscripted to aggrandize a single Top Male: call him Pharaoh, King of Kings, Master of the Universe – God. The male hierarchy of ministers, priests, bureaucrats and soldiers was dedicated to the immortality of one male. In the eastern Mediterranean region, not only the pharaohs achieved this (imaginary) immortality, but males in general conferred power on themselves in the immortal status of a monotheistic God. The quest to achieve ultimate power on this scale has been the goal of every Top Male since. The quality of the lives of women, children, lesser males and foreigners has been dictated by this system, which persists in modern societies, both in out-and-out dictatorships, in monarchy, or cloaked by the ideals of representative government.
( * Stone Age as used in this essay refers to social, not material culture)

The current battle among Top Males for control of the wealth, military power, and destiny of the United States has exposed the true structure of American politics and government; the American public is beginning to see that the trappings of democracy can no longer disguise a Top Male power structure in chaos. This leaderless situation has sparked legitimate anger across the country and the public is confused: the emotions that are erupting are natural, but the stigma against strong emotion remains.
We are taught that only bad people become angry. The media, which are the contemporary equivalent of the priesthood, constantly reinforce the idea that independent thought and feeling are pathological while reserving infantile behavior for its own members: anyone who disagrees with the mood of the day is given airplay, but savagely ridiculed. Legitimate ideas are lumped together with crackpot opinions. This devaluation and marginalization of thought is a favorite means of the male hierarchy to get rid of its most ambitious or troublesome rule-breakers. (Not you or me. We don’t count. These are political executions.) Being targeted as a homosexual or as an adulterer is an efficient way to destroy the career of a rival in the male hierarchy. Religious beliefs are cynically manipulated so that it appears to be ‘the public’ that pulls the trigger.
Where does this leave the American citizen? We must be aware that the Top Male system does not have to result in outright despotism. The character of a Top Male can modify the policies of a government, religion, or corporation, but his actions also depend on the culture of the governed. The pope is The Pope precisely because he is the successor of the Roman Emperors, but his particular personality drives the application of an ancient (and now worldwide) religious empire. He is the specific point of power through which change does, or doesn’t occur. Likewise, many African nations, although having established a modern constitutional government on paper, are tribal domains, with a despotic Top Male at the head, who through military action, and access to the worldwide flood of weapons, commits genocide against traditional tribal foes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Control of human beings by other humans is achieved by either condemning emotions categorically, or banning certain emotions and inflaming others. In the extreme case the individual is blamed for having emotions, which are an inescapable and natural condition of being human. Feelings and impulses labeled as negative are forbidden, and must be replaced by positive emotions. This harsh treatment of the natural individual supposedly leads to good behavior. Punishment is the most common means used to enforce compliance, even in civilized nations, whose members undergo chronic psychological and economic manipulation. Emotions do not go away. They simply can’t because they are biological in origin. The natural reactions of both anger and fear are intensified by repression of emotion and this heightened emotional state is played skillfully by powerful elements in society. Politicians, religious leaders, and wealthy entities have always viewed the mass of citizens as a resource to be manipulated in their quest for dominance within their elite hierarchy of power. This is as true of democratic societies as it is in military dictatorships or monarchies.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top Male hierarchies vary in degrees of applied cruelty. Thugs like Saddam Hussein are easy to identify, but perhaps more frightening is the ease with which developed nations denounce human rights abuses and then carry out the destruction of entire nations. Violence is justified by any lie available: nation building, security, provocation, patriotism, religion – any excuse that maintains the hypocritical stance that 'they' are worse than we are. Propaganda magically erases the crime of war. War is always a contest between Top Males: the deaths of one’s own soldiers are a noble sacrifice, but the deaths of the enemy soldiers and civilians don’t count. Life is disposable in the male quest for power. The idea of nationbuilding is a convenient tool of male domination.

The average American is trapped between the magical belief that because the Constitution ‘says so’ (words have magic power), he or she automatically has rights. This is naive: rights do not exist within real families, real religions, real businesses, or real nations. Rights in the Constitution are political goals that must be continually negotiated for, fought for, and expanded to include women, children, and lesser males. The Founding Fathers were enlightened individuals, but they were still a hierarchy of Top Males that fought bitterly over the distribution of male power, especially how much power an elected Top Male ought to have. The president initially had little power. This restraint was meant to prevent Top Male abuse: the idea was to ‘share the wealth’ within the class of free white males. That’s what opportunity means.

In no way did the founders envision an expansion of the hierarchy to include lesser beings such as women; black males were granted rights long before women. Contrary to the belief that we offer equality to women, the British monarchy, which we fought to shake off, has accepted female Top Males, whereas we have not elected a female president. In fact, the United States clings to the Stone Age model of social control in a time when so-called backward nations are moving to more pragmatic and natural systems. This male obsession with total power prevents problem solving in critical areas: any practical or productive response to real-world problems is blocked. The productivity, ideas and creativity of one-half the population is ignored and excluded. Male religion – monotheism, has a stranglehold on education, foreign policy, economics, social policy, and human reproduction. Male egomania promotes the dangerous destruction of nature.

The very people who are harmed most by social violence often unthinkingly support Top Male social structure through monotheistic religion, the utterly unfounded concept of race, and crimes against humanity; the desire for the powerless to identify with power, however corrupt, sidelines ethical behavior. Children are raised on the archaic and unshakeable helplessness that results from enshrining male despotism as the God-given law of the universe. Top Male control came from the Stone Age and keeps us imprisoned in the Stone Age.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This concept is fundamental to the ideas developed in Magical Thinking in America.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The lack of integration between major types of thought process used by the brain results in an incoherent body of human ideas. Archaic (supernatural) and modern (scientific) explanations for the environment describe mutually exclusive universes. Attempts to reconcile these distinct universes create disaster: ever-more powerful technologies are developed, directed and used against human beings and nature by the Top Male hierarchy. The secrets of nature are routinely turned over to thugs.

The explanation for obvious and longstanding contradictions in human behavior is revealed in the additive nature of the human brain, which is a poorly integrated compilation of evolved functions. The evolution of the brain from a simple bioelectrical circuit into the complex of functions that must operate the animal body has not been without problems, especially in human species. The primate lifestyle requires a large brain, long gestation, and delayed infant development and care, activities that are fueled by a diet high in fat and protein. This trend in quality vs. quantity led to a large brain size-to-body ratio in hominids. Bipedal stance, increased tool use, response to rapid environmental change, a diet high in fat and protein, the development of spoken language, competition among hominid species, and genetic mutations, are all contributors to the present state of Homo sapiens.

The archaic brain is instinctual; it operates on automatic responses to the environment that we identify as emotion and intuition (gut feelings) , but instinct also appears in humans as images and symbols that manifest in dreams and art, and as the magical explanations found in myth and religion for both internal and external phenomena. These explanations do not correspond to physical reality: the laws of nature are routinely overturned in religions; religion is the ritual presentation of a culture’s central myth. (Joseph Campbell)

The result is belief in a supernatural dimension that exists outside physical reality; this non-existent dimension is a projection of the magical human brain onto the external environment. It can be all but impossible for human beings to “get” this relationship, because the human desire to dominate the environment is extreme and adaptive. Gods (which began simply, as ancestors0 are the projection of this dominance need onto imaginary and all-powerful beings that can be manipulated into overthrowing nature in favor of man.

Human reaction to the environment, and our interactions with nature, continue to be dominated by supernatural delusion; it is the default mode of thinking of the archaic brain. This odd condition –which produces a human view of the universe that is extremely inaccurate, can be resolved if we understand that man evolved in a natural environment that was very different from artificial modern environments. Our early ancestors may have wondered at the origin of their surroundings, but the content of their experience was physical and natural: earth, sky, water; the sun, the moon, and certain stars, and the plants and animals they depended on for survival. These feelings of wonder would have been oriented to survival, and not to philosophical questions about existence. How do I gain control over an environment that includes other humans? That was the central question. Force and cunning, deception and intimidation were the available tools, and still are the preferred means of male domination.

Not much could go wrong when the human population was small and weapons and tools were good enough for food acquisition and for defense. Incorrect assumptions as to the underlying principles of how the world works (revealed by science) did not preclude the development of basic technology; tools and weapons were limited by a trial and error relationship with the laws of nature. A tool worked, or it didn’t. Some tools, such as hammers, have remained unchanged for thousands of years and are used also by other primates, mammals and birds. The development of tools is a fascinating area of study since it is deeply involved with the availability of materials and the human ability to observe and copy other animals and the forces of nature. Tools are entwined with how we use the brain.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The rejection of science, mathematics, philosophy, literature, and the Ancient Greek and Roman contributions to western thought in favor of a despotic and supernaturally-based Stone Age social order, is wrecking the progress the United States has made in improving the daily lives of human beings.

The essays in this book are the result of thought experiments from the point of view of a non-religious woman thinker. Thousands of years of accumulated cultural experience cloud our picture of what early humans were like. What we assume to be inevitable behavior in our species has been formulated after the fact by modern people, and from a persistent supernatural view of the origin of our world. A misunderstanding of cause and effect prevents a rational discussion of human behavior; the effect (who we are now) does not indicate design, purpose, or direction toward an inevitable outcome for our species. The purpose of early humans was not to become modern humans. Their task was to survive, and survival meant adapting to the specific environments they inhabited.

Physically we may be identical to our ancestors, who lived 200,000 years ago, but the human brain can be used in many ways, and the adaptability of early humans arose from practical invention, not from abstract intellectual theories. Now as then, most of the brain’s activity is not under our control. The function of the brain is to operate the body and to make sense of the environment; today, information about our world is provided by images and spoken and written language floods our brains moment to moment, but this is a recent addition to our social environment, and was unknown to our ancestors.

We think of human language as being exclusively verbal, but it is clear that we possess at least two languages of thought: magical and mathematical-rational. These languages of thought show evidence of being discrete; the products (ideas) are distinct and contradictory. A mathematician or scientist will use abstract thinking in his or her work, but then declare belief in a supernatural dimension populated by magical beings, who routinely overthrow the laws of nature. These are world views that exist in opposition: they cannot both be true. The rational products of science and technology are routinely taken over and used by magical thinkers to destroy nature, at the expense of people, animals, cities, land, water and atmosphere, all in the name of religion.

The supernatural and rational functions may not be equally active in an individual: some people are so dominated by magical thinking that no amount of observation, demonstration or proof will lead them to accept natural conditions as the source of explanation for phenomena. This magical or supernatural focus is the default mode of human thinking and can be found in humans worldwide. It predates rational thinking, which is a relatively new function; rational thinking must be activated and cultivated through education.

Magical thinking is thought by child development specialists to be active briefly in childhood, and then to disappear in favor of rational thinking; human development is described as a ladder or concept of levels – this scheme is artificial and misleading. Magical thinking is not only present, but dominant in most adults in the United States, who rely on magic as the explanation for physical reality. This mistake is responsible for poor outcomes in personal lives and public decisions.

Do these two languages pre-exist in the brain as products of evolution? Do they represent continuity with the languages of other species? Mathematics is the language of physical reality: mathematical relationships are intrinsic to nature and basic to understanding the substance and organization of both living and nonliving matter, energy systems, and the history of the universe. Mathematics is essential to the culture we have created, and yet it’s descriptions of reality are alien to man’s original view of his universe.

It is the fate of a rational thinker to be vastly outnumbered by people for whom the default state of mind is irrational; magical thinking is fundamental to being human, but the failure to initiate and cultivate the rational function is manmade. The rejection of science, mathematics, philosophy, literature, and the Ancient Greek and Roman contributions to western thought in favor of a despotic and supernaturally-based Stone Age social order, is wrecking the progress the United States has made in improving the daily lives of human beings.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Old Testament-Style Top Males

Abraham Lincoln was an Old Testament-style Top Male.

Like their prototype Jehovah, the psychopathic rage of Old Testament-style Top Males can only be satisfied by the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings. The American Civil War is discussed in a later chapter.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The terrifying power of the father creates fear in the infant-child, fear that becomes a god. Unbearable helplessness is dealt with by the "my dad can beat up your dad" taunt evident in this poster, although comparing Thor to Jesus is incorrect: Jehovah is the equivalent of Thor. Boys react to the father's power with envy, an emotion that is manipulated for profit by the American entertainment industry. The deadly combination of primitive emotion and unlimited power that is presented as the ideal use of male strength is a perversion of nature. The proper role of the male is to provide a safe environment for the community, especially its children.
The supernatural mind is based in the universal fear of death and a child’s vulnerable status at birth, a dependent psychological state that continues into adulthood. Magical thinking remains the bedrock language for explaining the environment for most humans, and directs government and cultural institutions, even in developed countries. Magical thinking results in a supernatural dimension that exists exclusively in the brain, but which is projected onto physical reality and is experienced as arising outside, and superior to, the individual. This is due to the very large and important presence of the parents, who are literally the models for gods: they can and do shape the thought process of a child.
Supernatural power is believed to override the laws of nature in the form of miracles; parents do indeed perform miracles from the infant’s point of view, supplying (or not supplying) every need. They literally hold the sword of life or death over the child. Myth is filled with examples of fathers killing their children, especially males.

Magical thinking is a socially acceptable state of delusion, paranoia, and confusion that arises from this initial life or death vulnerability of the human infant. If the child is introduced to a greater physical reality and taught the skills needed to be a competent adult, the infantile state of dependence remains. This emotional state manifests as fear, magical thinking, and the inability to grasp a stand-alone natural reality. Only the mirage of a supernatural dimension exists for the incomplete adult. The sheer preponderance of magical thinkers in the United States indicates that parents rarely achieve the goal of raising children to full adulthood, despite free education and a technologically sustained culture.

The result is that abstract thinking produces wonderful new technologies but dismal economic, political, and social theories, which are based on invalid magical relationships. Magic cannot manifest as physical changes to reality; it is supernatural. The presentation of social and educational theory as being math-based does not make the assumptions valid. Superstition cannot sustain a technical and democratic society.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Definitions of terms used in Magical Thinking in America
NATURAL: Having a real or physical existence as opposed to one that is spiritual, intellectual, or fictitious.

SUPERNATURAL: A being, location, object, or event that exists outside physical law; a dimension that is a product of the human brain, and which exists nowhere else.

MAGIC: A fundamental mode of human thought, which seeks to control physical reality through ritual and formulae. Homeopathic magic imitates the desired outcome. Contagious magic utilizes objects that have been in contact with the target individual.

ANIMISM: A stage in which the world is seen in terms of human consciousness; creatures and objects are regarded as having souls, spirits, or awareness.

RELIGION: Religion is the ritual presentation of the culture myth –Joseph Campbell
Magic and animism are fundamental to religion. Modern "-isms" such as Nazism, Socialism, Capitalism, New Age-ism. Politics and advertising also fit the definition.

MIND: The sum of an organism's or group's reactions to the environment. Instinct is the source of automatic reactions; other reactions are cultivated. Emotions comprise the fundamental mind.

CULTURE: The sum of an organism's or group's interactions with the environment. These may be instinctual, learned, or invented. All living things have mind and culture; mind and culture aren't exclusive to humans. A bacterium both reacts to and interacts with its environment.

CONSCIOUSNESS: A term that is defined and used so broadly that it has become all but useless. (See sections on co-consciousness and supernatural consciousness.)

HYPOTHESIS: A rational explanation of an event or observation that must be supported or rejected through further observation and experimentation. Results must be confirmed by other scientists.

SCIENTIFIC LAW: A statement of fact that explains an action or set of actions, often expressed as a mathematical equation. Scientific laws must be simple, true, universal, and essential to science.

THEORY: A scientific Theory is founded on proven hypotheses and explains a group of related phenomena. It must be verified by independent research. The popular phrase “just a theory” suggests that a Theory is no more than a guess. This expression adds to the confusion among the public as to the value of scientific knowledge.

PRIMATE: Compared to other mammals of similar size, primates have large brains are slow to mature. They have long life spans and their offspring have a high survival rate. Lemurs, monkeys, and great apes (man) are primates; there are over 300 primate species.

HOMINID: Any of various primates of the family Hominidae, whose only living members are modern humans. Hominids are characterized by an upright gait, an increase in brain size and intelligence compared with other primates, a flattened face, and reduction in the size of the teeth and jaw. Besides the modern species Homo sapiens, hominids also include extinct species such as Homo erectus and the extinct genus Australopithecus. The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2002.

Friday, September 3, 2010

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
_ Gautama Buddha c. 556-480 BCE

Consciousness is not a thing that is stuffed into the body, nor is it a bump on the brain.

If one of us encounters an unconscious person, we will first try to get a response. We want the the person's eyes to open and have them ask, "Where am I?" or "What happened?" In turn, we ask, "Are you okay?" This may sound as if we want is a medical report, but what we are asking for is that brief set of coordinates that gives each of us presence in the world: our name, the names of the people to whom we belong, and how to contact them. Simple, and yet these few bits of information join the individual to the community of human beings.

Human infants are born with mammalian instincts, but identity and self-awareness must be activated by the people who raise them. In modern western cultures these attributes are considered to be somewhat flexible and personal. Conservative societies impose identity on individuals in the form of class and gender roles; roles are the structure of society.

Language is inseparable from the process of creating a human being. A child is told who it is, where it belongs, and how to behave. The interaction of an adult with a baby reinforces electrical connections in the brain; language prunes an unruly tree of neurons so that a particular structure of electrical pathways is strengthened and organized. Setting tasks and asking children questions along the way helps parents to discover if the preferred responses are in place.

I don’t remember blurting out “Cognito ergo sum!” in school one day. Achieving awareness of my existence was a misty process, a journey taken before I knew myself. Identity (which is not the same as personality) does not pre-exist, it is constructed by family and educators using religious indoctrination and social pressure. Long before a baby has been conceived, family and society have composed an identity and world view for children; the majority of those who belong to a religion are members by default, not by choice.

How many of the memories that we assume to be our own are actually provided by family? Do you remember your first birthday? Years later, you may be shown snapshots of yourself at a party and these become memories, as if you had been present as a conscious being, which you were not. The phenomenon we call consciousness might correctly be called co-consciousness, since what we are referring to in everyday terms is our ability to respond to other human beings. There can be no 'self' without the 'others'.

The worst thing that can happen to a child is to become lost, so children are required to memorize their identity: name, rank, and serial number. Even with this basic information in place, children can be frustrating for adults to deal with, because children are not fully able to interpret language and may be slow to respond, which adults often interpret as willfulness or defiance. We are impatient for a child to use language as an adult does. His or her attention confirms a connection to us; obedience conveys a willingness to follow the rules, but children are young animals in need of physical experience, and the words we bombard them with may not have the desired effect. It is better to demonstrate what it is we want from them, but that requires adults to model proper behavior.

The human need for reciprocity is the tip of the behavior iceberg. Our all-consuming need for connection to other people results in the projection of consciousness onto every object in the universe, from rocks, trees, rivers, mountains, lakes, springs, planets and stars and the moon, to the universe itself. We wait expectantly for beings from distant galaxies to contact us. Humans have relationships with automobiles, slot machines, animated characters, stuffed animals, and body parts.

The egocentric projection of human awareness onto objects in the environment, which manifests in toddlers, does not go away, but persists in adults as unquestioned patterns of thought. Animism is not confined to a primitive past; modern people need the reassurance of being connected and protected by invisible and powerful beings that exist in our brains as instinctual, ancestral figures. Being born utterly helpless is a scary way to begin life.

Supernatural thinkers are not daunted by scientific explanations of phenomena, but neither are scientists exempt from magical thinking. Scientists also desire to find a pre-existing Cosmic Consciousness, a Super Mind, and a Theory of Everything. Myths from cultures the world over insist that every part of the world is aware, and if spoken to correctly, the consciousness (spirit) that dwells in the object is likely to respond. Our search for alien life (a single microbe would do) is an extension of the animistic need to connect.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The abuse of other human beings is taught to children by parents and community, mainly through religious indoctrination. Contrary to the supernatural idea that human beings are born evil, evil human beings are created by bad parents.

Children are a work in progress

Human babies arrive with a big head because prenatal growth concentrates on the brain, which is housed in a pudgy body of little use. After its arrival, the infant body's chemical factory will rage day and night to build a child who will learn how to chew solid food and control its bladder and anus; it will be expected to respond to directions appropriate to its age and to learn to stay within the safety lanes laid out in its environment. Similar mammalian parent-child interaction is accomplished by the raccoon, bear, or giraffe in less time, but these creatures are more mature at birth and have less to learn. Birds can be extremely dedicated parents. Ideally the child's physical needs will be met, and it will be loved. Parental love is an instinct in humans, but in our species the process can go radically wrong.

For early humans, a malformed baby was a monstrous thing; nature provided the designs for all its creatures, and it was the duty of the parents to face the fact that there was no future for a physically deficient human child. The environments that early humans endured were not composed solely of physical challenges, but eventually included the mind: choices had to be made. Parents could return the defective infant to the great mystery from which all plants and animals arose, or indulge the emotional attachments that grow between us.

Research is revealing the hundreds of genetic mistakes affect the functions of the human body, some serious, some not so. How could such imperfections not occur? The trillions of steps that must be repeated to grow a single human will not be occur perfectly, ever. Individuals with physical problems that would have meant death in earlier times may flourish today with intervention and care. The brain is a special case; problems in development can result in little normal function, but as a society, we value the life of the child and will do our best to encourage its survival. Our ancestors would have judged this leniency to be against nature and wildly out of order with proper behavior. Attention to physical perfection was important; we can observe this in offerings to the gods, which had to be pure and unblemished, whether or not the gift was an animal or a plant.

Parenthood for our ancestors was not as it is today; we approach having children as if it is an experiment, which is played out against a history of radical ideas about what it means to be human. Early people believed that their ancestors had not only solved the big questions, but had passed on rules to cover every detail of life. The good life was a matter of preserving these instructions for the next generation by means of prescribed rituals that must be performed correctly, and on schedule. The idea was to stick to the rules, a strategy that served humans well for thousands upon thousands of years.

What about those infants that were returned to nature by natural causes or by parental choice? Many could not have survived, even with modern technology. Others were an insupportable drain on any group dealing with chronic starvation. Despite physical defects, a few surely had the potential to develop inventive minds, and would have been sources of innovation that benefited the group, but the investment needed to raise a child to adulthood prohibited such a gamble. Many myths describe handicapped individuals whose talents were highly valuable to society; the lame blacksmith Hephaestus, and the blind poet Homer are examples.

How much talent continues to be wasted because certain Americans don’t like the package it comes in? The selective rejection of people labeled as inferior impoverishes a culture. A society that can get past prejudice by broadening the scope of accepted thought and behavior reaps the rewards of contributions made by those who formerly were passed over or persecuted. The United States has come far in this regard, and we have grown rich and powerful as a result. Why then do we fight success with renewed stress on petty distinctions based on ancient prejudice?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ideas are not things.

The human brain has two minds: rational and magical.

The supernatural realm is a product of the human brain; it exists nowhere else. It is our mistaken belief in the supernatural as the source of reality that causes us to create havoc in the natural world. The brain does not create reality; it creates ideas about reality, most of which are inaccurate.

Natural and supernatural ideas coexist in the human brain. People who are unacquainted with the scientific explanation of phenomena have only magical explanations to fall back upon. In the United States, people with a religious bias are frightened by the teaching of science and mathematics. The hysteria associated with this reaction shows a mental regression toward the dark days of the Dark Ages. Analytical thinking has all but disappeared from American life. Emotional entrenchment, childish behavior well into adulthood, and infantile self-centeredness are defended as political rights. The hard-won facts about how nature works are a mystery to generations of Americans, who therefore make poor choices in all aspects of adult life.

The supernatural dimension is a product of the human brain. Supernatural ideas are in direct conflict with how nature works: supernatural ideas are the product of magical thinking. We do not recognize our dependence on magical ideas because we defend and perpetuate the belief that invisible magical beings created our world, and that they continue to control people and events. Science and technology are the source of modern cultures; magic is an insufficient foundation for the survival of modern humans.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blood is the most powerful substance in the practice of magic.

Rational Thinking is voluntary and directed thinking. The scientific method is a rigorous application of rational thinking, which in its basic form is the ability to examine one’s own thoughts for correlation with real situations. The process involves gathering relevant information (facts, opinions), organizing the information, and then analyzing the information in order to devise a solution or explanation that works. Results are the test of an idea.

Magical thinking jumps to conclusions based on incorrect assumptions: superstition is the result. Superstition does not provide solutions that work, but which instead delay problem-solving, and often create more suffering for those involved.

Blood has always been a source of power and magical qualities. Many people believe that “the blood” of certain people is “good” whereas other people carry “bad” blood, and that this quality persists in families or groups. They speak of the blood of their ancestors as having provided them with superior characteristics or personality traits. This has been discredited by the discovery of DNA and the genetic inheritability of traits, a product of rational thinking that required dedicated research over many decades, and is now well-established as the program that has created the evolution of life forms. And yet people still refer to the “magic” in blood as the source of pollution, inferiority, personal character, and social status.

This belief in the magical power of blood is obvious in the popular “one drop” rule by which some Native Americans and African Americans define themselves. The idea that one African or native tribal ancestor “erases” the contribution of all other ancestors is a ridiculous superstition, and it is in direct opposition to the goals of human equality, cooperation, and fair treatment for all people, regardless of superficial differences. The political and social idea of equality is supported by the evidence provided in human DNA, which demonstrates that all human beings are members of the same species and that racial characteristics are minor adaptations to specific environments. Race as a valid description of variety in human beings has been proved to be debunked by science,and yet the idea persists, and is used without question by Americans, including those whose stated desire is to leave inaccurate and ignorant ideas behind us.

An actual Native American woman (Yuman) and a New Age religious fantasy inspired by the magical "one drop" rule.

Friday, August 27, 2010

All art lies.

The power of art is that it convinces the human brain that any idea, no matter how ridiculous, corresponds to reality.
The connection of art and language to the persistence of the supernatural mind is easy to demonstrate. There are no blue deer or orange pigs in nature, and yet humans have no difficulty imagining or creating these nonexistent creatures in words and images. Our thought landscape is populated by ideas of this type, which persist because of the unquestioning acceptance of images presented to the brain, without regard to the reality of those images. The representation of supernatural ideas as concrete objects, such as angels, super heroes, and imaginary deities confers an illusion of reality on physically impossible objects. Advertising, the media, the fashion and cosmetics industries, and the frankly supernatural activities of religion, politics, and government manipulate the magical mind for sales, profit, and power.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Physical similarity is key to understanding the origins of magic symbols: human emotion is expressed by the eyes, by facial muscles and in body postures. Reading these correctly is vital for an individual's survival; the eyes especially possess great power to express and deliver harm. This principle (homeopathic magic) is extended to any object that resembles an eye. Animals that have large eyes are invested with the same "power of the stare" which in humans is associated with the Evil Eye of envy. Envy is indeed dangerous when acted upon: jealousy on the part of childless women is still considered in many societies to be the major source of child death or disappearance. The overt theft of children to be sold into slavery, and for use in human sacrifice, made parents justifiably fearful. The principle of "like cures like" is demonstrated by the cure; an eye protects the wearer from the evil eye. Blue eyes are the traditional antidote, likely because cool blue is believed to calm red hot envy.

Some artists transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.
_ Pablo Picasso

An ancient artist drew the body of a person, but replaced its head with that of a bull. A strange being was born, in which the attributes of man and beast are commingled. The new figure made the symbolic statement “Our leader is as strong and as potent as a bull.” The drawing itself is a real object, but the idea it represents is supernatural. A man-bull animal does not exist in nature.

One day a woman idly drew spirals, circles, and wavy lines in the sand. Did these shapes arise from the mechanics of her wrist and elbow, or from an innate geometry that resides in the brain? Manipulating materials with the hands created a new dimension in the brains of early humans. Drawing begins a conversation between the brain and the physical environment: we observe this in the doodles of children, which begin as energetic scribbles that develop into pictures of an ordered, or sometimes disordered, world. Art gives expression to what can't be spoken; images predate speech and persist in our brains as instinctual messages.

Human beings decorate their bodies without fail, as if we feel naked without fur or feathers, or armored skin. We transform ourselves into fantastical birds or composite creatures, into Barbie dolls and testosterone-inflated action heroes, believing that doing so lends us their qualities. A naked human can be difficult to classify, so we adopt visual cues that present a readable fa├žade; I am a married woman; I am a priest. The uninspired business suit, however inferior in design to a person's chosen dress, is worn because it answers questions of allegiance. Jewelry has been worn since the first human strung a shell or pebble on a length of fiber; jewelry, especially that which is given to us by a special person, or which is infused with power by a magic spell, is felt to impert protection; we are social animals that depend for survival on the good will of other humans. Objects can also be weapons of negative power; magical thinkers can literally be frightened to death by “magic.”

Physical transformation is vital to adaptation; camouflage is a frequent natural strategy and is highly developed in a great variety of life forms. Humans copy nature because we recognize the excellence of its forms and strategies. That is where great ideas originate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

American Jehovahs.

The grotesque and highly pathological male as presented in popular culture; testosterone has become a god, and the infantile desire for unchecked power has erupted as the ideal state of man. As the "norm" has shifted toward an extreme image, the female form has become masculinized. Unconscious homoerotic undercurrents can be seen in the new definition of woman as "a boy with breasts" that are artificially amplified to recreate the scale encountered by a breastfeeding infant; the rational function of the brain has been eradicated. The ideal male is a violent child with superhuman powers. He is the American Jehovah, an unnatural being that thrives on violence, rage, and revenge.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Language, art, dance, and music-mathematics are socially activated instincts.
Sex, reproduction, status, and aggression are socially constrained instincts.

Cultures do the activating and constraining of instincts. Cultures are made up of the living and the dead. This means that the beliefs of dead people have a great deal of influence over what you and I are expected to believe, and how we behave. These accumulated cultural beliefs are projected onto the world to create a supernatural vision so powerful that it determines how we experience reality and how we interact with other human beings, especially in periods of severe stress.

Hieroglyphic texts chiseled into Egyptian tomb walls are magic spells, not stories. Human beings have long believed that words have the power to create reality. The exact repetition of a word formula is believed to have the power (formerly the proprietary ability of nature) to create results in both physical reality and in the supernatural realm. The literal reading of ancient religious texts or political propaganda is evidence for the widespread and fundamental belief in the power of words to create reality. The U.S. Constitution 'works' because citizens believe that the words predict and guarantee real outcomes. Revolutions occur when words lose their imaginary power, that is, when words and reality no longer match.

Does this mean that supernatural ideas are not useful? Not at all; our peculiar ability to think outside reality (imagination) allows us to create objects that are built on the principles of nature, but which do not exist in nature. Jet engines, internal combustion engines, computer chips, microwave and x-ray technologies, and chemical products such as glues, dyes, medicines, and plastics are part of a long list of familiar products made possible by our clever rearrangement of matter and energy.

This type of technical activity is made possible by understanding the underlying principles of nature through observation and experimentation, and in the rational mental constructs that result in provable and testable ideas. Simple technology is constrained by nature; it is obvious when a tool doesn't work and needs to be improved. A structure that will not stand in a storm is obviously not good enough; a better one may be built by trial and error: for most of human history, this was how it was done. In order to understand how nature works, a language that describes physical relationships is needed. That language is mathematics, and the power of its many applications has transformed human culture and the earth in an extremely short period of time.

Unlike the practical and inquisitive Greeks, and despite mathematical endeavor, cultures such as the Maya and Aztec failed to identify numbers as the keys to understanding physical reality. Their heavily magical and pathological mind sets saw numbers as having supernatural powers, and with disastrous results. Instead of a calendar that produced a useful and freeing concept of time, numbers created a prison from which there was no escape; cycles dictated a schedule of human sacrifice, cannibalism, warfare, and doom.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lightning as symbol.

Our early ancestors revered and feared natural phenomena; lightning and other atmospheric displays were appeased by means of magic rituals, a type of behavior that has persisted throughout human development and which remains pervasive today.

As our species acquired complex language skills, and gained confidence by adapting to new environments, we began to project "consciousness" onto the universe in the form of supernatural beings. Storms, lightning, thunder, rain, and wind became attributes of the sky god or goddess. All objects or creatures that traveled through the sky became associated with that deity. Real events and objects became symbols that referred to a new supernatural repository of magical associations and ideas. These ideas created a non-physical dimension within the human mind.

Zeus is a familiar example of a sky god. On a painted Greek amphora (470-460 b.c.e.) he is poised to launch a lightning bolt (against a giant.) As a symbol of flight, a bird is present to indicate (or to improve) the accuracy of his aim. The famous bronze Zeus from Artemisium, in the similar pose of a javelin thrower (470 b.c.e.), literally embodies Greek ideas about mature manhood. His superb physical development is based on the mathematical relationship of the human body to nature; his mental state is equally balanced. Emotion is a potential force held in readiness by rational thought. The result is a quality of lightness, flexibility, and harmony that teaches the viewer what a man can be.

All gods acquire new attributes and characteristics through time: Zeus is a typical Top Male.
In Christian art the image of Zeus was conflated with that of Jehovah, but the two sky gods represent drastically different styles of Top Male. Zeus was famously in love with his wife Hera and seduced many women. He was not the sole ruler of man and nature, but shared dominion with many deities, both male and female. Jehovah was a woman-hating bachelor whose ego consumed creation - a very unbalanced man. He killed off his wife (nature), and destroyed everything positive and necessary regarding females; he demanded the abject obedience of his favorite object of torture - man. He wasn't even present for the conception of his one child, who was produced by artificial insemination. The radically different character of Zeus and Jehovah, who began as essentially the same type of Top Male god, is the product of the cultures that produced them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Greek Gift: Everything has a natural explanation.

"The moon is not a god, but a great rock, and the sun is a hot rock." _Anaxagorus 500-428 b.c.e.

The idea that the sun is a disk made of gold or bronze was a common notion, because that is what it looks like. The sun has many vital attributes: the fact that it produces heat is evident, and it was thought to be a fire, or on fire. These explanations follow directly from human sense information, and for most of human history, this was good enough.
The sun was an obvious candidate for the most important object in man's environment: it moved across the sky, defining east and west, day and night and supported life. An explanation for this motion was wanted. If you were a people that used horses, chariots, and carts for travel the answer seemed obvious: the sun was carried by one of these conveyances. After gods were invented, the sun became a god who drove the chariot. This thought process, although leading to incorrect magical conclusions, would eventually lead to rational problem solving. The spark that was missing was an individual or group for whom a magical explanation was not good enough.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nature is what we call the integrated forces and processes that continually bring a dynamic earth and its astonishing life into existence.

The scientific method is the process that collects, evaluates, and tests ideas for correlation to physical reality. The goal of science is to find the underlying relationships and principles that explain nature: we cannot discover these through our senses alone; we need mathematics to accomplish this.

Mathematics is present in all cultures, from basic counting and quantity awareness to highly advanced theoretical languages. Recent studies have discovered an innate number awareness exists in some animals. The degree to which mathematics is developed by any group may simply depend on need: as a culture become increasingly complex, so do its mathematical requirements. We should be aware that when the application of mathematics is driven by magical notions, the results may or may not correspond to physical reality. To rely on mathematics to create models for social activity, such as is the case in economic theory today, can be disastrous.
The various functions carried out in our brain can be redundant or poorly integrated. Scientists are becoming aware that the human brain has glitches in communication between resident functions due to our rapid evolution as a species. Magic may be the fundamental and default mode of thought with which we approach reality, but with education, children can learn how nature works, and in fact, rational or scientific thinking must be learned; there are very few human beings for whom mathematics is their native language. Learning to think rationally is necessary in order to be able to distinguish nature from a supernatural dimension that exists solely as a product of the magical mind.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Despite magical attributions, the I Ching may be the only math-based ritual mythology for understanding our position in the universe. Hexagrams are constructed by chance, but order is the result. The mathmatics of the I Ching, plus a multitude of dubious interpretations, can be found in books and on the Internet.

Origin myths

Among the basic questions raised by human beings is that of origins. How did people come to exist? How was the earth created? What about the sun, moon, and the stars? Why do people die? No human society lacks answers to such questions. While the answers vary in detail, they are similar: people and the world exist because they were brought into being by a series of creative acts. Creation is usually regarded as the work of supernatural beings who command earthly forces and seasonal changes, the movements of heavenly bodies, as well as procreation. The accounts of the ways in which supernatural agents formed the earth and populated it are known as origin myths. For Christians, Oriental (Middle Eastern) myth as collected in the book of "Genesis" is the first and last explanation for creation, but this source is alien to European cultures and an inadequate text for modern life.

Until the invention of scientific inquiry, origin myths were the only answer to big questions: these stories continue to influence religion, literature, politics, national identities, subcultures, and individuals. In the United States, belief in the literal truth of Biblical myth obstructs non-religious activity, from scientific research to medical procedures, to social programs and liberal education. Learning to read is not a religious or political act, nor is studying biology, but real world education is under attack by people whose ideas are limited to archaic beliefs about the environment and human potential.

Nature's original form: a screw-shaped Bryozoan. Archimedes Screw: a device based on the mathmatical description of the natural form, repurposed to lift water. A simple but brilliant step taken by an individual - Archimedes - in understanding how the world works.

"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world." Archimedes, ca. 287-212 BCE

We should not forget that during the first millennium BCE, when the ancient world was engulfed by supernatural belief, magic, and fear, a handful of Greeks began the process of demythologizing nature; this was truly a radical departure in how human beings use the brain.

A profound shift in awareness is marked by the ability of Archimedes to project his mind into empty space: to imagine the earth as a spherical body suspended in the void, and to realize that in space there is no solid spot on which to stand. A flat, man-centered universe was suddenly expanded into a three-dimensional model of objects that are related mathematically. For many Americans living 2300 years later, this remains unknown and forbidden knowledge.

The intellectual tradition of the Western world begins with Greek philosophy, and not with the Biblical condemnation of man as a disobedient child who must be controlled by a despotic parent. The relationship between the Ancient Greek and his environment was based on reason and proportion. Man is seen as capable of self-examination and self-correction, and he can improve his behavior by developing his mind and culture. The gods, although arrogant with power, were not exempt from nature's laws.

This staggering revolution in thought began in Greece. Why there and then? Greeks lived in small city-states where debate was accepted and rational thought was viewed as a tool, one that was as valuable as any axe or sword. In stark contrast to the Oriental picture of man as a degraded being who lives in terror and never gets off his knees, the individual was developed as a powerful new idea: the Greek hero died to restore balance to his world, and a single man could improve mankind by trusting in his ability to develop his mind through learning. In stark contrast, the Christian idea of salvation is passive: a supernatural being removes man from physical reality and transports him to a nonexistent dimension, and in the process exempts him from responsibility for his actions. Judeo-Christian man is a puppet; the Greek pagan takes responsibility for his response to fate.

Two thousand tears ago the Greeks asked a question that today remains heretical for supernatural thinkers: "What is truly real?" They distinguished noumenon, the reality behind what we see, from phenomenon, or apparent reality. This concept of a stand-alone universe beyond our senses eludes many people today, and yet this distinction made our culture possible.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Left: Assyrian archer (now Iraq) ca. 600 BCE. Right: American soldier in Iraq, 2400 years later. This photo shows rare insight into the lack of progress in male intelligence, which is limited to the technical advancement of violence. Below: Ridicule of the enemy, which is a symptom of overconfidence, characterizes the male belief in his supernatural superiority. A photo-shopped image of a missile test-fire by Iran taunts the Iranians as being technically inept, a tactic that is as old as the male mind, and which often often proves fatal.

Counter-evidence for male intelligence
Early people did not have millennia of conjecture to ponder when deciding what started it all. No Big Bang Theory, no sci-fi films, no texts that claim to be the word of god, no gods!
Too often the assumption is made that early people shared our state of mind because their brains were the same size as ours, but what goes on inside those brains is what counts. We must try to set aside thousands of years of culture to understand their relationship to the environment. Early humans inhabited natural environments, and they sought to explain their experiences by what was present in those environments. Modern people live in complex artificial environments that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors. We are not a better-fed and better-dressed version of early humans; we possess different ideas about being human.
There is one experience that all humans share; birth and the liberation from childhood chaos is a personal experience. Subjective awareness arises in the brain-sensory system of our bodies, and it is here that we find the coming of order out of chaos. The human fetus is delivered unfinished; the essential body parts are in place, as well as the basic functions of breathing, sucking, crying out, and waste elimination, but the neural connections needed to operate an adult body must be selected and reinforced by repetitive training over the extended period of childhood.
Human infants are utterly dependent on gigantic all-powerful beings called parents, who must participate in completing the connections between sense organs, nerves, and muscles so that the brain can make sense of the environment and direct the growing child's movement and action within it. Language, which is an instinct and social necessity, also must be activated during a specific period of brain growth in childhood.
Our ability to learn, which is enhanced by finishing the brain post-birth, is often said to contribute to our superiority among animals, but our unfinished brain also leaves us vulnerable to the damage that results if children are neglected, abused, forced to adapt to poor parenting, or are raised in an unhealthy cultural environment.
If a child is not told that nature is its proper home, but instead that it owes its existence to a supernatural realm, then it cannot become fully aware of whom it is. The child will not experience the self-confidence that comes from belonging to the physical environment and adulthood may be delayed indefinitely. Cultural adulthood consists in playing a role, a safe but restrictive tradition in human societies that can waste individual potential. In traditional societies this may work well, but the rate of change in modern cultures demands educated and adaptable individuals.
We see a tragic disconnect between technology and social development in the United States, where comparative freedom has produced the inventions and that benefit mankind, but solutions to critical social issues remain trapped in an archaic religious model of male despotism; this Stone Age mind set is inadequate to meeting complex challenges. Stone Age social structure, which is characterized by rigid and violent male dominance, keeps millions of women and children in poverty: Top Males corner the earth's resources and dictate their distribution and use. The earth’s resources are not being used intelligently, but are being exhausted, not replenished or conserved. Disaster does not lie ahead, it is already with us.
The United States has made progress toward social equity, but fundamentalist thinkers desire to drag us back to the dark vision of man in the Bible, with its wildly violent and unjust Top Male, Jehovah, leading us to Armageddon. Fundamentalists want to collapse the world of Archimedes into the flatland of the Bible. Magical minds that are trapped in patriarchal oppression, that believe wholly in a violent myth that was current two millennia ago, are not equipped to manage a dynamic world of our own making.
Human population has flowed across the planet, a feat of adaptation made possible by clever invention, but this success has been at the expense of earth's environments and thousands of plant and animal species. The belief that a life-hating supernatural being has ordered man to exhaust and destroy everything he encounters, has cut a wide swath through the resources of the planet, and the result is that the much of the environment has been ruined by the trash and toxins we have created.
Domination by a Top Male and his hierarchy continues to be the most popular means of organizing human beings. Force, intimidation, brutality, degradation of the land, religious war, torture, poverty, legal gridlock, and pathological killing persist worldwide, and rather than decreasing, the horror of war continues to expand.
The Top Male model of power guarantees that violent interaction, destruction of the physical environment, and the wasted potential of 'lesser' humans, will continue unabated. Killing is what men do. Man's technical excellence serves his passion for death and power: that is the reverse of intelligence.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Magic is in the mind .

Religions large and small are cluttered with magical practices, as are social organizations, governments and corporations, because magical thinking is the default mode of the human brain. Child development experts confine magical thinking to a stage of childhood, but in practice it never goes away; magic is fundamental to how the human brain interprets and interacts with the environment. Essential to the practice of magic is the belief that the power to manipulate reality resides within the individual, who attempts to do so by means of incantation or ritual. Magic is a precise activity. Words and actions must be repeated accurately, or the desired outcome will not be obtained.

The instinctive use of magic ritual is often a reaction to stress. A person preparing for a job interview may pay special attention to his or her appearance, wear a lucky shirt, carry an amulet, and repeat affirmations learned from a success guru. This ritual behavior may reduce stress and thus help the interview go well, but it will not make the candidate more qualified, nor magically shuffle his or her application to the top of the pile.

The contagious magic evinced by sports fans, from wearing replica jerseys to collecting autographs and memorabilia, is obvious and widespread. The desire to meet a top athlete is a manifestation of the universal belief that power can be transferred from person to person, either by simple proximity, or by obtaining an object that has been in contact with that person. The obsession with celebrities and religious figures results from the principles of magic, and is no different than the ancient adoration of the gladiator, or the quest for the supposed relics of saints. Magical thinking is woven into layers of culture that have accrued over thousands of years. Desire for personal power, and over others is fundamental to being human.

In true magic, power resides not in a god or gods, but within the individual, who must precisely manipulate words and objects in order to obtain results. The later addition of deities marks a profound shift in power away from the individual. Instead of being the locus of power, the individual becomes a supplicant to an unseen power. How did this shift come about? The underlying thinking might go like this: man makes things, but man cannot make the sky, or rain, or a tree. Something that is like a man, only much greater, must make these. Whatever causes storms, rain, and lightning, must be very powerful and it must live in the sky. This radical change benefits humans; magic depends on the power of the individual, but what if he or she is weak? If a powerful being can be put to work on one's behalf by flattery, pledges of obedience, and sacrifice, respite from life's problems might be achieved.

The gods began their existence as real ancestors. We know this because people ply the gods with objects that people like, especially food and luxuries that supernatural beings obviously don't need. The steps from ancestor to god are somewhat straightforward: when a person dies, the 'life' essence of the person automatically becomes supernatural. The person that we knew no longer exists, but he or she must have gone somewhere; there must be a world where only the dead go. It can take time for the missing essence to make the magical transition to the land of the dead (because they remain vivid in the memories of the living) and cultures have various techniques to ensure that the dead don't return to harass the living.

Death is universally feared: the dead ought to remain dead. Thanks to the strength of human memory, dead people persist in the mind, and significantly, in one's dreams. We forget that dreams had no rational explanation until recently, and people reacted negatively to the walking, talking 'ghosts' that visited them during sleep. Inhumation, especially with red pigment that represents the blood of childbirth, is meant to insure rebirth in another world, as much as it is done to protect the body from scavengers. Cremation prevents reoccupation of the body by the spirit-ghost.

The invention of a heaven or afterlife that promises a happy and eternal reunion with the ancestors, family, and in-laws, and perhaps with one's entire clan, such as Christianity offers, combines ancestor worship with an attractive location in the supernatural realm, a nice place in eternity that is intended to keep the dead, dead. Today's concept of heaven as a perpetual family reunion is a sentimental Victorian creation.

Literal rebirth, as shaped by Hindu religion, may also arise from the eerie fear that the dead will return to terrorize the living. Ensuring that life is miserable can be useful in a caste-bound society. A wealthy person would surely want to live again. A poor but optimistic person might see rebirth as an opportunity to be better off, to climb a step on the social pyramid. The negative positioning of rebirth confines the mass of humanity to a future of recurring misery. For the poor there is no point in wanting a better life; it's better to be permanently dead.

The gathering of ancestors into pantheons was a process of practical consolidation as human populations increased and spread, clashed and united. The Ancient Romans were particularly adept at conflating other gods with their own; importantly, magic ritual persisted through the time of empire in private and public life, and was codified in the Roman Catholic Church.

Pantheons were insurance providers
In the ancient world, travelers greeted each other with the question, "Which gods do you worship?" Deities were compared, traded, and adopted in recognition that strangers had something of value to offer. An exchange of earthly ideas and useful articles also took place, and a more comfortable daily life was obtained through expanded availability of materials, tools, foods, and skills.

Pantheons were the ancient world's insurance providers. Diverse deities protected women, children, tradesmen, sailors, butchers, farmers, and soldiers, regardless of status. No pre-existing condition prevented a person from finding a god, goddess, or spirit protector. Each person or group had a sympathetic listener, who might increase one's chances for a favorable outcome to life’s ventures, large and small. The non-racist and religiously inclusive mind of the Romans was a powerful factor in the success of their multicultural empire, which abolished barriers to travel, trade, and information across the Mediterranean world, and in Europe and North Africa. More people wanted to be included in the Roman Empire than wanted out.
Monotheism ruined all that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are science and law rooted in the practice of magic?

Pre-scientific natural philosophers pursued astrology and alchemy, but are these practices the true beginning of science?

Magical recitations and rituals must be performed precisely in order to produce results. Accuracy in magic is one of the motives behind the development of symbols, mathematics and written language. The attention to detail, accuracy, and repeatable outcomes in the practice of magic is experimental in attitude, a mind set that is also vital to the scientific method.

When researchers inferred that many Stone Age mega sites functioned as sky-watching devices and calendars, a common reaction was that the sites required skills and tools far ahead of the presumed abilities of primitive humans. Only modern machines or generous extraterrestrials could have built such impressive structures, but the union of utility and art seen in ancient architecture could have been made possible by a fusion of magic with the mathematical mind.

Stone Age people who conceived and erected monumental architecture did not see themselves as individuals; the individual is a recent invention. We may look upon early people as inferior because their lives were dominated by physical labor, but ancient builders could look to a collective work of skill, utility, and beauty, and be proud of their contribution to the extended life of the group. The great projects of the ancient world would not be completed in a lifetime, nor would any individual life be seen as an end in itself, any more than a particular bear or wolf was an end in itself.

Law attempts to control human behavior by means of magic words.
Roman (and our) contract law is based in magic. Contracts were written as magic formulas that bound the parties to the strict performance of contract terms. This belief in the magical power of words to control human behavior is fundamental to the system of law today. We live within and are bound by a structure created by lawyers, in which no human action is free of legal description, intervention, coercion, or constraint. Unfortunately for Americans, this supernatural state paralyzes personal and business interactions, invalidates responsibility, and creates distrust. Human behavior is no longer expected to conform to personal or ethical codes, but to whatever bizarre restriction or exemption can be written into law. The result is a shift in meaning away from basic political concepts. Freedom today is not tempered by restraint, or by a feeling for the common good, but has come to mean freedom from consequences for the male hierarchy, which continually writes law to codify selfish ends. Wealth buys impunity for Top Males, just as money bought wizards and priests in the Stone Age. Consequences fall on everyone else. In nature there is no such state of exemption from consequences, and the illusion of impunity has lead to dangerous behavior that affects us all.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Roman with masks of his ancestors: Leading Romans were identified with exemplary ancestors; ancestors were worshipped, therefore the Emperors were eventually worshipped as living ancestors. Worship was an oath of loyalty to the values cherished by Romans. Right: The icon of Anna, the "virgin" Mary's mother, and Jesus's grandmother. Human tradition requires that gods have a family tree, because the gods are ancestors who have passed into collective memory, where over time their personal qualities merge into one compact identity.
Ancestor worship is an essential human trait.
The Chinese and Ancient Romans were classic ancestor worshippers, as are nearly all humans. The ancestors become caretakers of knowledge necessary for survival; they are honored as those to whom we owe a great debt, and we want to keep them close to us and happy. The ancestors are the "big parents" that watch over us from a place in the mind called eternity, which is simply where things and events go that when they pass out of the human time frame. In truth, they are enshrined in the mind - an instinctinctive treasure trove of species information that must be accessed carefully. Special humans, such as shamans and poets, venture into a primitive part of the brain to rescue archaic knowledge. Language and symbols are the tools that describe this knowledge.
Words are believed to have magic power; whatever is spoken or written becomes important, regardless of fact. This belief in the power of words causes severe problems.
Texts are part of ancestor worship: texts are the "word" of gods. The Old Testament describes a dysfunctional family with Jehovah as the progenitor, but families require both male and female ancestors. In order to progress, humans need to update their ancestors to include people who have helped us to survive in complex environments. We do this to some extent by honoring individuals who make intellectual and humanitarian contributions.
The reading of texts for prophecy is an act of magic.
The belief that certain words are powered by magic drives people to look for secret messages within religious texts and other documents. The recitation of passages and prayers, with the expectation of supernatural results, is to performing a magic spell; this belief pervades culture today and makes adaptation to change (which is nature) difficult. No new ideas can enter a belief system that denies change. The use of words becomes a deception that those who control words own the truth, regardless of physical reality. Politicians use slogans that are obvious lies, and get elected. This works because voters believe that words represent truth. They don't.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is man?

Dictionary definitions of man are inadequate.
Many of the obstacles that are met in the quest for the origin and nature of our species arise from a fundamental and persistent mistake, that of drawing a line between ourselves and every other creature on the planet. If this puzzling error were to be discarded, a world of ideas would open, but assumptions about who we are remain tainted by supernatural bias.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary manages to straddle the fence between natural and supernatural ideas with this less than satisfying definition:
MAN: Living being representing the most evolved species on Earth, characterized especially by upright stance, spoken language, and a large brain.

This type of definition provokes easy objections. “Most evolved” cannot be proven. One would have to demonstrate that evolution is directed toward an ultimate "winner" among species and that Homo sapiens is the fulfillment of that goal. There is no such goal: evolution is a process by which species evolve to fit specific environments, and we obviously aren’t the most well-adapted animal on tropical reefs, or in the leaf litter on a jungle floor.