Sunday, September 21, 2008

Radical Pantheism

This is a long post, over six thousand words. But since it's the first post in my first blog, I wanted to try to explain exactly why I'm here. I have some work around the farm to catch up on, so I'll leave this here a while, to give you time to read, but I'll be back to regular blogging soon. Hope you enjoy it.

For most of my life, I was generally what you might call a “Christian.” I was born in 1949 and raised Catholic, went to parochial school, and was taught to look at Jesus as an older brother. This was a comfort to me, the oldest, myself, in a family of five boys and seven girls. There was always a mediator between me and what you might call “God,” someone who would understand me because he was half-human, himself. Jesus was my hero.

My only bout with atheism came at about the age of seventeen. At the time, I was regularly leaving Mass early to go outside and smoke cigarettes in front of the church. I don’t remember exactly how this change in my faith came to pass—but I went to a Jesuit high school, if that’s any clue.

At any rate, my faith in “God” returned several years later, under the influence of copious amounts of psychedelic drugs (a number of studies, most recently at Johns Hopkins University, confirm this effect on users). Of course, my faith was altered by the drug experience, and by my readings in Eastern religion and philosophy and paranormal phenomena. But although I could generally be categorized as a “New Ager,” Jesus returned to the center of my belief (although I was only an occasional churchgoer), and remained there until fairly recently. Christian fundamentalists would have probably called me a “Gnostic” (Gnosticism is the diverse and mystical branch of early Christianity, condemned as heresy by the orthodox church, with which fundamentalists associate New Age types today).

The return to “Christian” faith, combined with the ‘60s spirit of political revolution with which I was infected, led me back to the social gospel bred in me by the Jesuits and by my mother, who was raised Catholic herself (my dad converted from Methodism to marry her—the requirement for Catholics at the time—but never talked about religion much, that I can recall). My beliefs in turn led me into political activity, of various shades of both nonviolent radicalism and electoral politics, in my twenties, and I’ve remained politically active (mostly as a volunteer) ever since.

The turn of the millennium brought about transformative changes in both my politics and my faith.

At the time, I was writing a column in the oldest newspaper in West Virginia, the Hampshire Review, a “large circulation” (about 7K) weekly. The column was in a left-right format, with me on the left, and the chairman of the county Republican Party on the right. (Originally, the idea was to juxtapose me as the “transplant,” and him as the native, but it devolved into politics very quickly.) When the guy on the right ran for state senate in 1998, he was replaced by his brother—more of a wingnut. It got ugly.

It got real ugly in late 2000. I had betrayed the county Democratic Club, of which I was a member (and sometimes officer), by endorsing Ralph Nader in May—though I spent the fall attacking Bush’s lies and Orwellian campaign, and defending Gore. (Having spent a few years working for the CIA in my youth, I had studied its activities ever since, so was familiar with disinformation campaigns.) My Nader endorsement allowed me to, at first, play “neutral” observer in the Florida brawl (suggesting, for example, a Thunderdome-style match to the death, on global media, between the two naked, unarmed candidates). But it quickly became apparent that Florida was an obvious Republican theft. And when I called foul, the banshees descended in the letters to the editor, and my counterpart ratcheted up the name-calling.

For me, though, that was the moment I fell through the rabbit hole, and my point of view veered even further from the corporate media meta-narrative than when I began the column four years earlier. (Readers routinely suggested I’d be more appropriate on the Internet.)

This transparent and absolute trashing of the Constitution, abetted by Gore himself, unremarked upon except by “conspiracy theorists,” and covered up by the white noise of a corporate propaganda system so pervasive and hypnotic that the puppet-masters can allow us to say whatever we want…knocked me tumbling into Wonderland—or is it the Matrix? Either way, it’s an alternative dimension.

The events of 9/11 finally cut my ties to conventional “wisdom” completely, and turned every talking head into a Mad Hatter.

Like most people, I was shocked by the immensity and scale of the 9/11 tragedy. Like many, I spent the day calling friends and family, checking on anyone who may have been in the area of the crashes or traveling. Like most on the left, I took the Chomskyesque view that the event was the entirely predictable result of American foreign policy—though I was very careful in how I said it in the column. (It’s a Bible Belt community.) Within days, however, my now-obsessive research on the web (following links that began at had immediately led me to some amazing questions that were going unexamined and unanswered.

Why did George Bush sit in a classroom, reading with children, when he had just been told the nation was “under attack?” And what exactly is his relationship with the bin Laden family?

Where exactly was Dick Cheney, when...?

Why did Donald Rumsfeld continue his routine meeting, after the towers were struck? And why did he choose to act like an EMT instead of a Defense Secretary after the Pentagon was hit? Why didn’t the new chair of the Joint Chiefs want to be disturbed from his meeting? Where was the goddamn military?!!

Soon there were other questions. Who were the mysterious people making a fortune in the stock market by betting on the 9/11 attacks? Why were so many stark warnings from so many nations’ and our own intelligence services ignored? How had the buildings collapsed so completely, and at free-fall speed?

As obliquely as possible, I started raising these questions in my column, and would return to them when something in the mainstream news would justify the comment—former congressional representative Cynthia McKinney, for example. But in the house of horrors that is the Bush era, there was never time to stay on one issue alone (except for the attempted sale of the county hospital to a crony of the president of the county commission, which needed the column’s focus).

With Bush, it’s been one anti-constitutional outrage after another, and eternal war. Hard to take, for an old peace activist like myself.

Just before the Iraq War, I was writing about the fact that Bush was lying about the WMDs. There was plenty of information—even in the corporate media—that the whole thing smelled: UN inspectors talking about the “garbage” they were getting from CIA; CIA analysts leaking about how they were being “pressured” by the White House to produce; news just before the invasion that Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, who had overseen Iraq’s WMD program, and who was being regularly quoted by Bush, had also told CIA that Saddam had trashed all his WMDs after the Gulf War—something Bush never quoted; former UN weapons inspector and Marine captain, Scott Ritter.

Things were getting tense with my editor. He was nervous about my anti-war stance, and we finally had a big fight, and I quit, just before the invasion.

I stewed for a while, and stayed active in local political activities, including helping to organize small peace demonstrations at the county courthouse. In January 2004, I started writing a fairly regular column at the website Online Journal, beginning with “Paranoid Shift,” a hallucinogenic compendium of my thoughts, at that time, on 9/11 and the secret US government behind the puppet one. It was a big success, getting over a quarter million hits, and was republished or linked at over a hundred other websites (including Tikkun, which I’m particularly proud of).

The column at Online Journal lasted about a year and a half. It gradually dawned on me that everything that needed to be said, to “change the world,” was being said, somewhere in cyberspace. I felt I was just adding to the white noise. What was missing was the action component, something more than signing an e-petition, voting and marching.

So I quit writing, other than an occasional op-ed or letter to the editor, to concentrate on local organizing.

The West Virginia Constitution has an unusually democratic provision in it—Article IX, Section 13—which allows the citizens of a county to petition to change the form of county government. As an outgrowth of the “save the hospital” campaign, some of the same organizers (including me) got a petition together. We submitted it, signed by ten percent of the voters, to the county commission in May 2003, which then passed it to the state legislature, as required, for a bill to establish a county referendum on the proposed change, at the next election. Totally pro forma.

For the first time in state history, the legislature balked at passing the bill. We re-grouped, our corrupt local delegate was replaced at the next election, and the following year we talked his replacement into re-submitting the bill (I drafted this version, mostly just editing out the bad parts of the earlier bill). Again, the legislature killed the bill—in both houses, this time.

I had been kibbutzing from the beginning with a friend of mine in the state attorney general’s office, and she suggested that I contact a constitutional law professor at West Virginia University who might have an interest in working for us pro bono, since it had become obvious that the only way we were going to get a bill was to sue the legislature.

He did have an interest, and we filed suit in August 2005. Three years later, we’ve won three times at the circuit court level, the legislature still hasn’t passed a bill, and next month, the West Virginia Supreme Court hears the legislature’s appeal. Given the Court’s reputation for counter-integrity, I’m skeptical of our prospects. Plus, last year, the legislature easily passed a bill that now makes our proposed new form of government illegal—food for future litigation, no doubt…just in case.

Perhaps it was this stonewalling and unconstitutional action by the West Virginia legislature and their allies, combined with the abject failure of any institution (government or media) to hold George Bush and his cronies accountable for their many ruthless and transparent crimes, that drove me into utter despair about the usefulness of any political activity—in an Empire that is crumbling of its own accord, but hardly fast enough to meet the urgency of what is needed if we are to in any way ameliorate the ongoing planetary “Sixth Extinction.”

The despair that I felt about my political life, however, was small compared to the “dark night of the soul” I was experiencing in my spiritual life.

When I began writing the Review column in 1996, it quickly became apparent to me how little I actually knew about religion and politics. Despite a lifetime of interest and reading in both subjects, my knowledge level felt too superficial for my new responsibility. So I dove into a journey of exploration, searching for the fundamental roots of both American government and the Christian religion—intertwined in any red state debate.

My readings in government quickly took me to economics—the true foundation of every government. The primary role of state power is protecting wealth. My readings in Christianity took me to the study of the historical Jesus, who mixed his own saliva with dirt, and placing it on my eyes, healed my blindness.

I had been interested in feminist biblical scholarship for some years before starting the column. (Did you know that the Hebrew word for “God” used in the first verse of Genesis, “Elohim,” is both masculine and feminine, singular and plural, and was originally used by the pagan tribes of Canaan to refer to their pantheon, among whom Yahweh was but a minor storm deity?) This interest eventually led me to the Jesus Seminar, a group of mostly liberal New Testament scholars, who, based on textual analysis of Scripture, see Jesus as a fun-loving, iconoclastic Cynic—a hybrid of the Judaic prophetic tradition and the Greek culture adopted by Judea’s Roman occupiers.

One of the more prominent members of the Jesus Seminar is John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest and still a “believer,” but very realistic in his exploration of the historical Jesus. He speculates, with some justification, that, like most victims of Roman crucifixion, the body of Jesus was probably fed to the dogs; and that the idea of Resurrection began in the mourning songs of his women followers—which would explain the poems and hymns at the heart of both the epistles and gospels, as well as the vast diversity of beliefs in the early Christian communities. It was a bottom-up movement.

Crossan sees Jesus as a revolutionary, standing against the ruthless Romans, a champion of the poor and oppressed and enemy of the Temple establishment, puppets of the empire. He is joined in this view by many scholars, including Richard Horsley and Neil Asher Silberman, authors of “The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul ignited a revolution and transformed the ancient world” (another book that influenced my thinking).

Until the last few years, my view of Jesus tracked fairly closely with Crossan’s—including his belief in Jesus’ divine nature, which I interpreted as a symbolic, though still unique, expression of eternal archetypes. So, for example, on those rare occasions when I accompanied a relative to church, I could say the words of the Apostles’ Creed and mean what I said (leaving out the words I couldn’t), because I was giving those words a more Gnostic interpretation.

After 9/11, like for most Americans, I suspect, faith meant more to me, and I dove more deeply into trying to understand my faith by expanding my research into the roots of Christianity.

Not long after it was released in 1996, the year I started writing the Review column, I read Robert Eisenman’s “James, the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Eisenman, who is Jewish, is considered a radical among Scrolls scholars, because he thinks the ancient documents—discovered sixty years ago in desert caves near the Qumran monastery on the shore of the Dead Sea—were produced by first-century “Christians” in the community surrounding James and the other members of Jesus’ family, rather than by another Jewish sect in multi-sectarian Jerusalem a century earlier.

What gives Eisenman’s argument such credence is how establishment Christianity has minimized the critical role of James for two millennia. Not only does The Acts of the Apostles document James’ importance in the community around Jesus—both Peter and Paul have to answer to him—but he also occupied an important office in the Temple hierarchy, as the leader of “The Poor” (also known as the Ebionites), a large faction of Essene-like monks. In that position, he had the rare privilege of entering the Holy of Holies to pray for the nation on the Day of Atonement, and he oversaw the Temple trial of Paul, who’d been accused of teaching against the Jewish law.

James’ importance was also noted by the contemporary Jewish/Roman historian, Josephus, who suggested that it was the assassination of James on the Temple steps, in 66 CE, which set off the chain of events that culminated in the final Roman destruction of Jerusalem less than a decade later. Yet establishment Christianity has largely ignored “the brother of Jesus.” I don’t remember him ever being discussed in my religion classes or in Sunday sermons.

Ironically enough, however, there is some support for Eisenman’s theory in Catholic literature. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990 edition) describes how “the similarity between Qumran life and that of the Jerusalem church described in Acts has been noted by several scholars,” and explains that, “We have presented the Qumran organization in such detail because it offers extremely important parallels for the organization of the primitive Christian church.” These parallels include the Jerusalem “General Assembly” with the Qumran “Session of the Many;” the fact that Qumran “had a special body of the Twelve” (cf. the twelve apostles); and the fact that “the Christian bishop is an excellent parallel to the Qumran supervisor…and the functions attributed to the bishop are much the same as those of the Qumran supervisor, e.g. shepherd of the flock, steward and manager of community property, and inspector of the doctrine of the faithful.”

A more important parallel between the early Christians and Qumran monks is that both groups thought they were living in the “last days,” and both were preoccupied with the Jewish ideal of “messiah”—a Hebrew word which means “anointed,” or “the anointed one,” and which New Testament writers translated into the Greek term, “Christos.”

There are two main reasons I find Eisenman’s theory that the early Christians were indistinguishable from the Qumran community so compelling.

First, Josephus—an impeccably detailed historian (though certainly one given to mythmaking of his own)—identified three main groups in Jerusalem society: Sadducees, the conservative allies of the High Priest and his family; Pharisees, lawyers and scribes (like Paul, a Pharisee), constantly debating “the letter of the law;” and Essenes, monks who dressed in white linen, took vows of poverty, and pooled their wealth together just like the Christians in Acts (“from each according to their ability; to each according to their need”). It is inconceivable that Josephus would have failed to discuss such a major movement, centered in the Temple at this critical moment in Jewish history, sending out preachers across the empire to convert Jews and pagans alike, and with an important figure like James as its bishop.

But in fact, he did discuss it—only not in terms that Christianity’s later apologists would accept. To Josephus, the Christians were identical to an important sect of Essenes present in both Jerusalem and Qumran, and instrumental in the events of the day. But at the time he wrote, he lacked the historical perspective necessary to see that a major imperial religion would grow from the seed planted in Jerusalem, nurtured by the fervent and creative passion of messianism. So he didn’t give it the emphasis the apologists would have expected.

Second, there is no doubt among New Testament scholars that there was indeed a major schism in Christianity around the time of James’ death, between the “works”-based beliefs of James and the early followers of Jesus, and the creed of “faith”-based followers of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. In the long run, Paul, with his hybrid combination of Jewish Messiah and Greek and Roman mystery gods, won. The community around James and his family—Jesus’family—fled to points north when the Romans attacked Jerusalem, eventually to Syria. Their belief that Jesus was only a mensch—a messiah, to be sure, but a wholly human one, not divine—was later named by the Roman Catholic church, the “Ebionite Heresy.”

The fact that Jesus’ own family did not think that he was “God” was a huge embarrassment to the orthodox church, and a mighty challenge to their propaganda. So of course they would do whatever they could to cover it up. And for me, it is this very obvious, centuries-long coverup, still continuing today, that lends such weight to Eisenman’s arguments.

And it was the force of his logic, eventually combined with the personal psychological trauma of world events and the proto-fascist breakdown of the American system, that finally shattered my cognitive dissonance, and I was forced to confront a terrifying question:

If Jesus isn’t God, who is?

At this point, I have to tell you something about myself that I don’t talk about very much.

Since childhood, I’ve had what you might call “mystical” experiences. The truly powerful ones have only happened a handful of times, but they all take various forms (visions, dreams, synchronous events, eternal music) and have arrived by various routes (yoga and other spiritual practices, drugs, music, dozing off in grade-school catechism class, or even just walking in the woods). I don’t think of this as anything special or unnatural, and I’m certainly no less flawed than the average human (the awareness of which flaws I unfortunately experience with the same weird intensity I experience everything else). It’s just something that happens to some people—one of infinite possibilities among our species that have made humanity such a fascinating story.

I mention this “unusual” characteristic to illustrate why it was so difficult for me to let go of the divinity of Jesus.

One late night in 1990, as my father slept in his intensive-care hospital bed, in the middle of a weeklong coma from which he would never awaken, I sat alone next to him, holding his hand. I will never forget the warmth of his hand—not feverish, but as full of life as it could be, from the intravenous feeding—and how his hand, once calloused from work, had been softened in recent years by the inactivity that came with ill health. It was about 3 am. I had been there for hours, sometimes crying, sometimes praying, and I was in the middle of silently reciting the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd…”), my eyes closed.

Suddenly I found myself in a grove of trees, darkly illuminated by late twilight. And while I held my father’s hand in my right hand and watched him reciting the Psalm with me, I was instantly aware that there was another man on my left, holding both of our hands and reciting with us. Somehow I knew that if I removed my glance from my father, or stopped reciting, the trance would end, and I didn’t want this to happen because I was afraid I would never see my father “alive” again. But I was able to “intuit” the man’s description. He was a few inches shorter than I am (6’3”) and seemed to have a swarthy complexion. He had short dark hair and a full beard, also cut short. He seemed very kind.

When I finished reciting the Psalm, the vision dissipated, and I opened my eyes. I was glowing with warmth. My first thought was that the man must have been Jesus, but how unusual his appearance was. (It wasn’t until years later that a friend of mine, knowing my interest in the historical Jesus, passed along an article with a picture titled, “How Jesus really looked,” based on archeologists’ assessment of the customs of the times. His hair and beard were exactly like the man in my vision.)

But at that point, like I say, I was a Gnostic, and “knew” that Jesus, the archetype, could take many forms. So I just prayed my thanks for the blessing of this vision, this perhaps last opportunity to be with my “conscious” father, and after awhile, went into the family waiting room to see if I could catch a couple of hours sleep on the couch.

Over a decade later, as I struggled with the revelations of Eisenman and the other historians and archaeologists I consulted to confirm the portrait of Jesus that he presents—a Jewish nationalist revolutionary with the bloodline to be a “messiah” (an entirely human concept), with no intention to start a new religion, and perhaps only a fictional creation—the Jesus of my vision was the hardest to surrender.

But no spiritual system that rejects “reality” can ever claim to represent “truth.” And an honest examination of the historical evidence confirms: Christanity is as much an imperial political invention as Judaism itself was centuries earlier, when the Hebrews sought to differentiate themselves from the other polytheistic tribes of Canaan. It is an entirely human invention.

And that’s “reality.”

You may wonder why I put “reality” in quotation marks. My explanation will (hopefully) take us to the end of this already long essay. I beg your patience.

As “reality” sank in (Eisenman’s 2006 book, “The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ,” only iced the cake for me—though I think the available evidence doesn’t necessarily justify all his conclusions), and the true reality of the magnitude of George Bush’s crimes and maddening lack of accountability became ever more apparent, I gradually found myself abandoned by the personal Jesus (and with him, the personal God) who had blessed me with spiritual strength and comfort and provided a refuge from the trials of this world for as long as I could remember. I ended up in what felt to me like a dry-as-dust form of Buddhism, where everything just is what it is, abstract and inscrutable as a sand garden. I believed things in my mind (in a still-transcendent divinity and the truth of archetypes, for example), but could no longer feel them in my heart.

Combining this spiritual desert with what increasingly felt like the futility of any political action whatever, and despair about the natural world, and a growing and lengthening writer’s block, I was getting angrier and more depressed every day. I thought about suicide often (though more as an imaginary exercise, whose unpleasant horrors served as a preventative, than a serious thought—I would never do that to my family and loved ones, no matter how utterly I had failed in my life’s purpose, which is what I was feeling).

Let me explain how stupid this suicidal impulse was. I live on a beautiful farm in West Virginia with my longtime partner, Nancy, and a bunch of dogs and cats, two draft horses and a small flock of chickens. As the cliché about rural life affirms, it can sometimes be lonely. But I also live an active social life, have lots of friends, participate in community affairs, and play music in a couple of bands. Plus, I have a large and loving family not far away. Why would I ever want to kill myself? Wouldn’t it be better to just, say, turn off the computer?

It’s hard to say exactly when my spiritual rehabilitation began. But an important moment was about a year ago, when a Palestinian Israeli peace activist visited our county seat.

As you can imagine, the community of progressives in this remote and conservative county is relatively small, so a chance to hear a community organizer from a foreign country give a public talk about local peacemaking in the Middle East is a rare event. The event had been organized by a friend of mine, who has occasionally lived in Israel. The little hippie restaurant where the talk was held was full.

The activist, Elias Jabbour, who bases his work in the nonviolence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, related his grassroots experiences getting individual Palestinians and Israelis together to talk, and urged us to pressure our government to get more involved in peacemaking in Israel. In the question-and-answer session that followed, I expressed my doubts about his description of the US as a “democracy,” because the last two presidential elections had been stolen, and we don’t have the informed public that democracy requires, since our media essentially serve as the propaganda arm of the military industrial complex. I asked him what we could really do under these circumstances that would be effective?

He admitted that the basis of my question was accurate, but looked at the bright side of the fact that, however bad it was, we still had the freedom on an individual level to speak our minds. And generally speaking, our lawmakers share the same concerns as the rest of humanity, so they can be persuaded to act rightly.

I had a chance to speak with him alone after the formal presentation. In this conversation, he added more nuance to his answer, and revealed that he was as much in despair about the global situation as I was. “But what can I do?” he said. “I can’t give up hope.”

He said this with such earnest, soul-deep meaning that I could feel my heart melt. I could only agree.

This was a turning point for me, I think. After that, in my daily internal apocalyptic struggles between light and darkness, the light began winning more often. There were good days and bad days, of course. And there were the inevitable life changes and experiences that would tilt the scales in one direction or other. But I gradually became more accepting of the fact that the universe would unfold in its own way, no matter what I did. So I might as well just act in the way that seems right to me—the only thing I can really control—and, no matter what happened, trust in the eternal harmony of an infinite mystery I have no human way of understanding.

This psychological and emotional thaw opened me up to a more mystical perception of my daily life. And I began to reflect, especially when I was outside, surrounded by Nature, on a catechism question that had always perplexed me when I was a kid: if God is everywhere, why isn’t everything God?

This question had been framed in my parochial catechism classes as the difference between “transcendence,” where God is in, but not of the world, and “immanence,” which in its most extreme form is pantheism, where “the created order is understood to be the mode of God’s self-manifestation, and thus to be the body of God,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. The same question was most recently (and perhaps inadvertently) expressed in the words of the scientists conducting the research at the new atomic particle collider in Switzerland, who thought the answer was important enough to risk turning Earth into a black hole, and who framed it thusly:

“Why is there matter?”

As it turns out, as spiritual-minded physicists who don’t separate science from religion have been pointing out for decades, life in its most fundamental form is both wave and particle. This fundamental duality, expressed in religious symbols from yin-yang to the cross, is at the core of the infinite dualities found in physical existence: male and female, in and out, I and Thou, left and right, good and evil, spirit and matter…ad infinitum. Duality is the engine that keeps the universe running.

Pantheism, the belief that God is all, and all is God, has made its appearance in human religious thought from humanity’s very beginnings, and all over the world. By its very nature, it’s a radical idea: who, after all, wants to believe that Dick Cheney is God? But it does answer my childhood question about God being everywhere. And no matter what challenges and struggles life presents you, or what evil may be committed, in the name of God or otherwise, it does encourage a more forgiving and loving nature. And for me, it finally provides the same sense of spiritual comfort I had when I believed a semi-divine older brother was looking after me.

So what is reality? Simple answer—God. God is everything: you, me, Dick Cheney, my horses, trees, the bug you just stepped on, black holes, the eternal present—everything. Even Jesus is God. Just like it says in the Bible, we’re all made in God’s image and likeness. What else could that mean?

And that’s why, today, I consider myself a pantheist—which is radical enough in itself. But since I’m also a political radical, I’ll call myself a radical pantheist.

In the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, the human warrior Arjuna experiences an existential and paralyzing moment of crisis, just as he is about to enter a battle against an enemy that includes some of his own relatives. Fortunately for him, the driver of his chariot turns out to be the god Krishna, who spends the bulk of the text explaining to him that, although Arjuna (like Job in the Old Testament) may never understand the mysterious ways and purposes of divinity, the only true path open to him (or to any other human) is to live out his dharma—the duty he undertook when he incarnated.

It seems that my Palestinian friend has played Krishna to my Arjuna.

Not long after we talked, I (along with some other friends) started organizing a “9/11 Truth” event at our county library. We invited some people from the DC 9/11 Truth group to give a presentation on the question, “Was the World Trade Center Destroyed by Controlled Demolition?” I wrote some letters to the editor and did a local radio interview, and we placed some ads in the paper, and when the event took place in March, we had about fifty people show up—a very respectable turnout in a small community like ours, especially on such a controversial topic.

On reflection, I think the fact that I doubt the official story of what happened on 9/11 contributed greatly to the feelings of hopelessness I had about the efficacy of political action. What is now generally referred to as “9/11 Truth” (and its adherents as “truthers”) is a position that is ridiculed not only in the corporate media, but across the political spectrum—even though my doubts about 9/11 are shared by a significant number of very serious people.

A short list could include former CIA operative and author Robert Baer; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; progressive historian Howard Zinn; peace activist Cindy Sheehan; former Deputy Treasury Secretary (under Reagan) Paul Craig Roberts; former Minnesota governor (and demolition expert) Jesse Ventura; Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney (who I’ll be voting for in November); FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds; Lt. Col. (retired) Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the notorious Office of Special Plans and was in the Pentagon on 9/11; retired USAF colonel and decorated combat pilot Robert Bowman; and hundreds of architects, scientists and engineers. Even the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission have said that the CIA and the military outright lied to them about the events of that day.

Yet, as we all know by now, anyone who strays too far from the official reservation is automatically derided as a “conspiracy theorist.” The irony is that, beyond theory, what we’re talking about here is physical evidence: evidence of thermite, a steel-cutting compound, in the WTC dust, as reported by the US Geological Survey; of “intergranular melting” of the WTC girders (despite fire temperatures that never even came close to steel’s melting point), as reported by FEMA; of molten metal in the rubble, as reported by first responders and WTC engineers; and of explosions in the towers, as reported by numerous eyewitnesses.

So you can yell “conspiracy theory” all you want, but if you can’t give me a plausible explanation for the thermite, the molten metal, the free-fall speed of the collapses, and the mysterious explosions—and if you’re depending on the hodge-podge of disinformation, evasions and omissions in the official government reports, you can’t—then I only have two words to say…and the second word is “you.” I don’t care if you are God.

The title of my first column for Online Journal, “Paranoid Shift,” was of course a pun on the term, “paradigm shift,” a concept introduced to public discussion in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn in his book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” The term refers to the process by which, historically, “crises” in scientific understanding which arise when the theoretical framework underlying an idea is contradicted by new evidence, are resolved by a relatively sudden intellectual shift into a new “paradigm,” or framework. Since the book’s publication, the concept of paradigm shift has been broadened to include other, non-scientific changes in public consciousness.

Recently, I decided to start writing a blog. I continue to think that, despite the seeming hopelessness of our global situation and the impossible urgency of the task required to correct it, all the information we need to change the world and our nation for the better is already circulating out there in cyberspace, and I’ll just be spitting into a teeming ocean of information.

But call it an act of faith—another voice crying in the wilderness. Who really knows what straw will break the fascist camel’s back, or what new idea will suddenly cause the paradigm to shift? The answer, as Barack Obama replied recently when he was questioned about when human life begins, is “above my pay grade.”

All I can do is write. And hope.

And be still, and know that I am God.


Jan said...

I've been reading John Dominic Crossan for years, and would also recommend a book called "From Science to God: The Mystery of Consciousness and the Meaning of Light" by Peter Russell.

Bonni said...

All spiritual journeys are fascinating. Thanks Michael for sharing yours. I share your complete and utter despair and frustration and only hope that for each of us to keep functioning and expressing ourselves is a sort of victory.

Jessi said...

Hi, Mike! *waves*

and turned every talking head into a Mad Hatter.

This is quite possibly the best phrase I have ever read, anywhere. It desperately needs to be a song, a poem, or the very least a tee-shirt!

Pamela said...

I continue to think that, despite the seeming hopelessness of our global situation and the impossible urgency of the task required to correct it, all the information we need to change the world and our nation for the better is already circulating out there in cyberspace, and I’ll just be spitting into a teeming ocean of information.

Spit away, Michael! Reading about your journey makes me feel, if not exactly hopeful, at least slightly less beaten down by the constant barrage of crimes perpetrated by our leaders.

I particularly enjoyed this paragraph:

So you can yell “conspiracy theory” all you want, but if you can’t give me a plausible explanation for the thermite, the molten metal, the free-fall speed of the collapses, and the mysterious explosions—and if you’re depending on the hodge-podge of disinformation, evasions and omissions in the official government reports, you can’t—then I only have two words to say…and the second word is “you.” I don’t care if you are God.

Oh, suh-nap!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michael. Interesting how our lives are parallel in certain respects. I was quite taken with "paranoid shift" and spread it everywhere -- and still link to it quite frequently. I wondered what had happened to you -- this explains a lot. I can certainly relate to the despair and the need to overcome that and the help certain "archetypal" or "religious" ideas can sometimes offer us. There are at least a few of us out here who see that deception is the rule not the exception and, for us, this begs the question.

Thank you for starting this blog and spitting into the ocean. I'd like to be an on-line friend and will visit here often.

Best, Michael Wells