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For what it's worth, here's a link to a dream I mentioned on Skeptiko that could easily be interpreted as related to current events in Syria: http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/the-lions-of-syria-the-syrian-lion.1214/

A drawing of the image in the dream can be found here: (image 4/15) http://www.paqart.com/578920/dream-journal/

AP

You say all of this. . . . and then you respond to these things exactly as a frightened materialist would.

I recently read about an interesting theory that our minds aren't equipped or designed to deal with more than the affairs of a small village. Now most of us live in a global village. And of course I'd say that yes things were always this bad, we just weren't exposed to it all through cable news and the Internet. And statistically, crime has actually gone DOWN in the United States (some say because of unleaded gas and/or legal abortions, but that's another discussion).

In short, we just can't expose ourselves constantly to the bad bad things in the world, I don't think we're emotionally able to handle it. And powerful people will exploit this fear to their own ends.

I do think it is possible that spirits do operate in this manner (and hope so), seeking to warn us. But no one should take the gloom and doom too much to heart - the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - true then and true now.

Michael, great post. I see things the same way you are seeing them and have been worried about this state of affairs emerging for quite a few years. One certainly does get the sense that things are spinning out of control and, yes, I do think that they really are because, as you note, there are more of us and technology has brought us closer together and made us more interconnected; the good and the *bad* of us.

I had a close friend - part of a group of graduate students, military guys and entrepreneurs who were into exploring consciousness - back in the mid to late '80s when the tech boom was just beginning to take off, who was really hopped up on the idea that inventions like the internet and smart phones (he was amazingly prescient), etc. were going to be the mechanisms that would bring about an previously unimaginable positive revolution in human society. He spoke of how the interconnectedness and the knowledge available at the finger tips in a moment would cause familiarity, acceptance, understanding and a bunch of other squishy emotions across the cultures of the globe. He was on the vanguard of this movement and he was down right starry eyed evangelical about it.

Well, he is a very smart guy and he did go on to be quite successful. Earned his PhD, developed some amazing statistical and AI ap.s for the DoD, even wrote some program that now allows the SAT essay section to be scored and counted toward the overall scores.......but, I told him back in the day that he was wrong about the impact of this stuff on the world.


My point was that this technology would be useless with regards to world peace and harmony at best, and, more likely would have opposite effects because it is all just a tool. Tools can be used for good or bad. What counts is the mind behind the tools and, until minds adapt a spiritual focus, tools will be used for bad in the final equation. Period.

Why bad on the bottom line? Because nice is weak and evil is strong. One bad guy can wipe out 1000 cool hipsters with smart phones grooving on acceptance, interconnectedness and harmony. The bad guy is willing to do ugly things that the nice guys aren't. That's the trump card in this physical world.

Furthermore, it is a uniquely American idea that diversity is good. Most cultures absolutely disagree. So bringing people together in any way simply exacerbates the sense of difference and difference = evil in most people's minds. I've talked to so many Americans that just cannot accept the reality of this fact; even though they themselves can rattle off classes of people that they think are wrong or even evil (hypocrisy goes unnoticed). Unfortunately, many of our leaders are from that school of thought. They don't get that lots of people don't want to be like Americans. It's inconceivable to them. This is the root of their folly.

Technology brings tribal fundamentalists together as much as it brings progressive one worldists together. It enables fascists governments as much as it enables seekers of knowledge. It enables criminals as much as it enables those who fight against them.

In short, technology is just another weapon in the arms race in the war for our bodies, hearts and minds. Such is man's lot on earth.

Sigh.

One more thought, all you can do when everything is going to hell in hand basket is stand up for what you believe is right in a way that you feel is right, live and die, when it's time, with your dignity and honor in tact. Search your heart so that you know what your all about.


Then turn off the god damn "news" and enjoy a glass of wine, some good music, friends/lovers and nature. In my neck of the woods the leaves are turning color beautifully right now.

Outstanding post, Michael!

I have a slightly different interpretation of events. Where it overlaps with yours is that I too see the message of the spirits, as well as new information about consciousness, the paranormal, and spirituality, as being unjustly, perhaps malevolently, spurned by both Western and Eastern civilization.

I have been reading a lot about WWII lately and what led up to it, and *that* was a time of the world being truly out of control. There is no comparison with now. But the weird thing is that people had belief systems in which they were extremely confident. That is what strikes me as odd about the time. It was a clash of very incompatible high-voltage belief systems.

What's different today is that those belief systems are all dead, except among a minority of people. For the most part any more, people don't really believe in Christianity (or other religions), Fascism, Communism, or Capitalism.

Where people do believe, I think the flavor of belief has changed. Instead of being based on people thinking/feeling, "I was born into this and it is so obviously true I barely think about it," or joining revolutions that seem on the verge of changing the world (in a presumably positive way), people believe based on oppositional energy: "I'm on this team and they're on that team and **** those guys!"

I think a lot of the angst comes from humankind having lost its religion with nothing to fill the void. The pissing and moaning about global warming, which seems mostly to be a Western passion, comes in my view from the habit of feeling guilty under the Abrahamic religions and the need to expiate that guilt somehow. So instead of confessing to a priest about thinking naughty thoughts, we're flagellating ourselves about our carbon output.

I think we're also at a stage of economic development in which capitalism as it is currently organized simply doesn't work very well any more. It functioned much better in an age of growing populations with a less developed economic base. I think the Great Depression was the start of the failure, and WWII (with the destruction of capital that Marx said was necessary for the whole system to function) the (evil) reboot that kept things going for a few more decades. If you look at Japan, which I did up close for 8 years, you can see the most literate, orderly, educated, low-crime society in the world unable to get off its *** because the system just doesn't work. And it's been in that state since 1989. Will Marxism or some generic socialism save us? Nope. We need new economic tools for new times. We simply don't have an off-the-shelf solution right now.

Moreover, I believe the world is going through Ascension changes, like it or not, and probably most people are unprepared in terms of belief system. Dogmatic belief systems like old school Christianity or materialism simply are unable to cope. The changes are causing intense cognitive and spiritual strain for a lot of people.

Finally, I think the world has been going through a Yin (as opposed to Yang) period, and it's a downer for most people. It's a period in which it is difficult to get a lot done. There are *no* leaders. We are collectively feeling tired and worn out yet at the same time compelled to comply with the capitalistic grind and get up and do jobs we hate. (Most of us. I'm blessed with a job I enjoy, but Japan's malaise makes it less fun and profitable.)

As an aside, I agree that UFO phenomena are real and that they are probably not what they seem to be. At the same time, the jury is out on whether ETs are out there and helping and communicating with us. There is a remarkable consistency in New Age mythology that they are. I communicate with them on a regular basis. It could be an internal mythology or something external. Whitley Strieber himself has always taken a nuanced and sophisticated approach as to what is going on with the "Visitors" as he terms them. In any case, it is certainly not mere hallucination or illusion.

Circling the bowl . . .

Wednesday night on Coast to Coast AM radio, from 12 midnight to 2 AM Pacific time:

2nd Half: Neurosurgeon for the last 25 years, including 15 years teaching at Harvard Medical School, Eben Alexander, M.D., will discuss his transcendental Near-Death Experience (NDE), and share his work reconciling his experience with various religious traditions and current scientific research.

Michael, re-reading this post this morning (I was up late working last night and not entirely focused), I would say it is one of your top 10 posts ever.

I think your analysis is spot on.

When new wave tech was beginning to come on line one of the selling features was that it would make everything go faster. Speeding up our world was touted as an unequivocal plus. From a profit driven business perspective, yes, speed is good. However, from a human (both individual and societal) perspective, I don't think we were designed to go that fast. We seem unable to process, make sense and react at the speed that events now unfold before us.

Yes, now ideas and images can go "viral", But, as I said previously, this means that negative ideas go viral too. What we have is nothing more than a hyper speed amplification of what has always been.

I do think that overpopulation - another phenomenon enabled by technology - is a major issue. I do not believe that humans are built to live in societies of hundreds of millions where an individual's life is easily perceived as meaningless. Faced with the existential crisis, people fall back into identifying with smaller groups based on race, religion or some other distinguishing characteristics, where the individual regains a sense of meaning and purpose.

Governments try to maintain control and result to paranoid fascist tactics, using the new tech, because they sense the drive of individuals to revert to clans; some of which, at least, may even be violently opposed to the governments' plans for the country as a whole/united people.

Governments insist that they are in charge and everything is under control, but it is clear to the people, who get their information increasingly from alternative sources, that this is not the case.

So yes, I think you are correct that this situation is what the spirits were warning about and, yes, I think the zeitgeist can be gleaned from what Hollywood is putting out there, from UFO visions in the skies and from chatter on certain kinds of blogs.

Again, great post and I am looking forward to what others have to say about it.

Sorry Michael, but the Pollyanna in me just can't idly sit this one out.
If you have time, scan this synopsis of a recent book that makes the compelling argument that our world is progressively growing more peaceful over time. Our current relative peace is not guaranteed to last, but the overall curve is there.
The really interesting part is why he thinks this is so.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature
Scroll down to the Thesis and Outline of the Book sections (a short read) to get the gist of his argument.

Okay, so it's Wikipedia, but world peace isn't a topic the guerrilla skeptics would care much about.
:)

Michael (not me) wrote, "... you respond to these things exactly as a frightened materialist would."

I think people are right to be frightened, or at least profoundly worried.

Matt wrote, "For the most part any more, people don't really believe in Christianity (or other religions), Fascism, Communism, or Capitalism."

I don't quite see it that way. I would agree that people in the developed world don't believe in much anymore; this is part of our general malaise. But people in other parts of the world are (often) ardent believers. Al Qaeda and ISIS believe in radical Islam and a universal caliphate. Vladimir Putin believes in jingoistic nationalism and the recovery of the Soviet empire. The Chinese communists believe in their inevitable long-term global domination. We in the West are exhausted, cynical, and easily distracted; those arrayed against us aren't.

As Yeats put it, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity."

RD wrote, "... scan this synopsis of a recent book that makes the compelling argument that our world is progressively growing more peaceful over time."

In the Wiki roundup of reviews, one of the critics observed that Pinker bases his claim largely on battlefield deaths, but that modern warfare has entailed a dramatic rise in collateral damage (civilian deaths). This seems consistent with what I remember of the Balkans war (where we bombed from high altitude and killed many civilians) and the Iraq War (shock and awe). Western nations are extremely averse to military casualties on their side, which is understandable, but the result is that we inflict greater losses on the noncombatant population.

It's also worth noting that the 65-year period of relative peace following WWII was grounded in a world order that now appears to be unraveling.

No One wrote, "I don't think we were designed to go that fast. We seem unable to process, make sense and react "

Yes, I think that's a big part of the problem. Speed kills ... or at least puts us in a state of chronic stress.

"I have been reading a lot about WWII lately and what led up to it, and *that* was a time of the world being truly out of control. There is no comparison with now."

Matt, IMO we are building up to a situation very similar in nature to what existed, and led to, WW2. Russia and China are gathering an increasing number of countries into BRICS ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS )and this threatens the US drive for economic hegemony. The US then orchestrates a coup in Ukraine and attempts to build a NATO - albeit fascist - regime right on Russia's border. Russia pushes back. US, Israel and Turkey attempt to decrease Iranian influence by removing the Assad government in Syria, Iran fights back by increasing influence in Iraq, bolstering Hamas and Assad. The Islamic State fills the power vacuum created by US support of the overthrow of Assad and the the mis-aptly named "Arab Spring". After hundreds of billions of US $s spent on Iraq (probably more like a $trillion+) Iraq half belongs to Iran and half to radical jihadists that hate the US.....

I could on, but the point is that there is already a low grade proxy war occurring between East and West and the US and its allies (a key ally being the UK) are losing. At some point the US and allies are going to get desperate and tired of flailing about like wounded blind giants and do something radical that moves us from low grade proxy war to full scale world war. They have to. They (the 1%ers) are not going to loose their economic control of global markets and the rest of the world isn't going to allow them to maintain control. And nobody in a position of power that could make a difference wants to hold hands with competitors and sing kumbaya. They just don't think that way.

This is the madness that the spirits and UFOs have been warning us about.

"There are *no* leaders."

Agreed. We have archaic mindsets that are serving a few against the many.

I am neither an optimist or a pessimist at this point, for--on the one hand--I can imagine the destruction of humanity as we now it. On the other hand, trauma often can take on a initiatory structure, i.e. sometimes when we are without hope, we open ourselves up to the future, to the more, to the infinite: beyond imagining, beyond comprehension--a real apocalypse, a real revealing.

This, to be sure, is not to inscribe suffering and death into a utilitarian calculation that says we have to suffer in order to make the world right -- rather, it is simply a descriptive account of the fact that trauma often turns us out from ourselves and allows for the possibility of genuine transcendence.

There is always light in darkness.

FYI, the conflict in Ukraine has nothing to do with a neo-Soviet Putin trying to reassemble the USSR. It's about Western-backed agitators dismantling Ukrainian civil society, turning ethnic Russians into second-class citizens, and the Ukrainian army systematically shelling ethnic Russian cities in the East.

"One way or the other, it seems to me that the spirits were right - and that we have ignored them at our cost."

I've gotta be honest about this post, Michael. While I love the fact that you focus on Spirit and our need to listen more closely to what it has to say, what strikes me about your message is its tone. I can't help but notice that it comes from a place of fear.

You're speaking as the frightened child who sees spiritual entities as unloving, controlling parents who know what's best for us and are intent on having their way. It's as if you're talking to your brothers and sisters, saying, "Now we've done it. We haven't been listening to Mom and Dad, and we're gonna pay big time."

Here's another way of looking at our situation. Yes--we are children of the spirit world, of our spiritual parents. But we're not here to follow their orders or to surrender our independence by endlessly obsessing on the notion that father knows best.

We come to this sandbox we call the physical realm to play. To live our own lives. To experiment. To know monumental triumphs, and to make equally impressive "mistakes."

And a truly loving parent--which certainly describes the source from which we emerge and to which we return--would have it no other way.

"It's as if you're talking to your brothers and sisters, saying, 'Now we've done it. We haven't been listening to Mom and Dad, and we're gonna pay big time.'"

I don't think the "other side" is trying to punish us for not listening; I think our failure to heed their warnings has resulted in our moving closer to all-out chaos of our own accord.

Arthur Conan Doyle trumpeted Spiritualism as "The New Revelation" (the title of one of his books). If it had been treated as a revelation by opinion-makers, instead of being laughed at and ignored, isn't it likely that the world would be a better place today?

"... it comes from a place of fear." Yes, definitely. I'm extremely worried about the fate of western civilization. Not because I think angry, authoritarian spirits are going to "make us pay," but because we've ignored their loving advice and persisted in creating a house-of-cards world that seems to be getting shakier every day.

Not much of my Sunday school days has stayed with me, but this has:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

I'm afraid the modern world is a house built on sand. Maybe I'm wrong. Time will tell.

"You're speaking as the frightened child who sees spiritual entities as unloving, controlling parents who know what's best for us and are intent on having their way. It's as if you're talking to your brothers and sisters, saying, "Now we've done it. We haven't been listening to Mom and Dad, and we're gonna pay big time.""

Bruce, I didn't read Michael's words like that at all. What I read was simply that spirits have tried to lend a hand, out of love, and we ignored them and will possibly suffer some very unpleasant consequences - not because we require punishment, but because the consequences are the natural effect created by the cause.

Were you the kid who just had to touch the red hot stove top just because your parents told you not too lest you get burned? Because that's kind of the vibe I get from your interpretation of what was written.

Sheesh....life is tough enough and if some helpful person, whether incarnate or not, wants to give me a valid helpful tip, I'm all ears. I don't need to bang my head against a wall to demonstrate my independence and maturity.

Also, I'm not hearing unwarranted fear in Michael's words. There are some situations where fear is a normal response and where it might even help you stay alert and alive. But in this case I am only perceiving a grave concern - one that I share.

"I'm afraid the modern world is a house built on sand. Maybe I'm wrong. Time will tell."

The modern world is a collection of individuals - as is every other age.

"I don't think the "other side" is trying to punish us for not listening"

But you're saying that we're not following the basic laws of spirit, and will suffer because of the natural consequences of our behavior. That may not be punishment in every sense of the word, but is it really far removed from its essential meaning?

And if not the spiritual world, who established those fundamental laws anyway, and who enforces them?

"Arthur Conan Doyle trumpeted Spiritualism as "The New Revelation" (the title of one of his books). If it had been treated as a revelation by opinion-makers, instead of being laughed at and ignored, isn't it likely that the world would be a better place today?"

You're suggesting that this world we inhabit, despite all evidence to the contrary, is a place that we can improve. And I mean Improve with a capital I. Not just make ourselves "safer" or "more comfortable" (whatever those terms really mean), but you're implying that we can fundamentally improve the quality of the earth experience.

We've talked about this before at length, and consistently, you have claimed to see Progress at work over the millennia.

And just as often, I've said that I see the universe as being focused on the values of art, creativity, and story-telling. And in those areas, there is no progress *in the broadest sense*. Just change.

So in light of our previous discussions, I was intrigued by the direction you took in this post. Because you're arguing against the position you've taken before. You're now saying that Things are getting worse.

And, in responding to a commenter, you even argued against Pinker, whose thesis was one of your reasons for supporting the notion of Progress in the first place.

So when you say "isn't it likely that the world would be a better place today . . ." I have to say, where's your evidence for the notion that Progress is possible?

Now--does my no-Progress attitude sound pessimistic? Well, let me answer that question this way:

"Eventually the phenomena start to dry up; the spirits cannot get through, and have given up trying. A few persevere, but most do not."

Actually, the spirits have not given up. Far from it. But what they're doing is implementing a different approach.

In the 20th century, new medical technology made possible the NDE, and mid-century, a renewed interest in psychedelics began.

Through each of those means (and others, as well), spirits have shown that if they can't achieve all their goals by coming to our place of residence, they are more than happy to take us to theirs!

And so, over the past 50 years or so, a new generation of contactees has arisen. I certainly include myself in that group.

And for me, the essence of the new/old message this generation is receiving, is beautifully encapsulated in the remarkable encounter with the Being of Light.

And here's how all this ties in to the notion of progress.

What do NDErs learn from their spiritual encounter? Do they become driven by the need to improve life on this planet?

Well, perhaps, in modest ways. But their main concern becomes bettering *themselves*. And that, I would suggest, is the real progress we see in this world (when and where we do see it)--individual souls aligning more closely with love.

So when I read that our civilization as a whole is bettering itself, or as in the case of your post today, going down the tubes, I may momentarily get sucked in and feel either inflated or afraid.

But then I disengage from what I'm reading, and remember that the most important story being played out is quite different, and that it's rarely hinted at in today's headlines.

Obama says the US has got the spinning under control:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-there-s-sense-world-spinning-so-fast-and-nobody-able-control-it_810784.html

"Sheesh....life is tough enough and if some helpful person, whether incarnate or not, wants to give me a valid helpful tip, I'm all ears. I don't need to bang my head against a wall to demonstrate my independence and maturity."

Yeah! I'm with you. :)

(After reading no one 's 3:07PM comment.)

Michael, I hope I'm not coming across too harshly. I'm really enjoying this conversation, and, I have to confess, I do enjoy a bit of a debate. :)

We're certainly in perfect agreement on the importance of taking the message of the spiritual world more seriously! And that's an important starting place.

A good article thank you Michael. It can be hard to know if the malaise you describe is objective reality or subjectively the result of getting older and witnessing so many bad things happening. I wonder how young people feel, are they as optimistic as we were in the 70's and 80's that the future was bright? The materialistic view that we are just biological robots gives me no hope as an individual or as a species. I am still agnostic on the view but I desperately want to believe there is more than this 'veil of tears' and that there is a non material or spiritual realm. However I have a deep unease that there is not and we all just fooling ourselves like Lemmings as we head towards the cliff.

My guess is that the shit might well hit the fan pretty hard on the physical plane.

If it does, it is my thinking that this will drive multitudes to tune more into the "GPS" of a higher, spiritual consciousness, out of necessity (similar to how those stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean can get religion), and this will be a good thing. Necessity is a mother!

Some may write me off as being a Pollyanna, but to me this seems clear and logical.

I am not concerned for humankind over the long haul.

It is my considered supposition that our transient material existence floats in a incomprehensibly vast sea of elevated consciousness. Regardless of what happens, ultimately, that sea calls the shots.

Empires have collective negative karma, not as punishment but as as opportunities for greater self awareness.

I am with 'no one' on this. In fact I'd probably go a bit further and say that if I see someone heading into danger I'd feel I had an obligation to warn them, I don't think it's anything to do with controlling people in a paternalistic way. Simply warning about the consequences of the decisions we are making - cause and effect.

As for the original comment by MP; I think it is well-observed. The purported communications I have read are most often aimed at helping us to understand the consequences of the decisions we make now, not just for our world and current life but also into the life hereafter (assuming there is one).

More to the point, the people who are in positions of power, decision making positions, are unlikely to make spirituality and spiritual advice their priority. Indeed they're unlikely to hear it. It's the more humble and less power-driven mortals who have the ears to hear.

But as someone said here in and earlier thread, it is possible that a spiritual message can get through the toughest and most resistant scull if and when needs must - as appears to be the case in the Shermer incident. So why not make their feelings abundantly clear where it *really* matters with regard to the issues outlined here by Michael?

I think there's a great deal of overlap between the subconscious imagery and ideas of different people. And this subconscious imagery and ideation, if it becomes sufficiently vivid and intense, will find a means of expression in the physical world.
Interesting view, Michael.

Either these signs and portents are one last-ditch attempt by our higher selves to get us to pay attention and correct course ... or they are simply an indication that the course is now set, and no correction is possible.
You've chosen the pessimistic ones :)

A positive one just coming up (about LENR - is it really off-topic?) you can find here: http://www.sifferkoll.se/sifferkoll/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/LuganoReportSubmit.pdf . The really big thing is that the fuel has been analyzed, revealing that indeed there are nuclear reactions going on - without detectable radioactivity. No scientist (as far as I know) can explain it.

I'm not sure "it's more to the point" as you put it, but it is certainly relevant. I suspect what matters are the decisions we make on an individual basis whether we can effect much change or not.

There certainly seem to have been many successful attempts to communicate with those in power over the years, a lot of it kept quite secret, at least until the recipients were beyond having their power usurped.

The problem with influencing people in power may be a combination of their religious beliefs, their being at their party's mercy, their own need for power and control etc. I can see lots of reasons why influencing the people in power might be especially difficult.

Michael, I read your original post again, and have a slightly different take from the first time around. While I'm still struck (and frankly still bothered) by its fearful tone, this time, for whatever reason, your voice seems a bit gentler, and I'm finding it easier to focus instead on its core message that we would do well to adopt a less materialistic approach.

And here's a personal note that may be relevant. When no one asked what kind of kid I was, I took his question seriously, and started thinking about that. And to my surprise, I remembered an episode in my life that may help to explain why I have such a strong, negative reaction when an authority figure (like yourself) speaks of doom and gloom.

When I was a kid, my dream for many years was to be a baseball player. Every summer I would spend countless hours in front of my house, trying to hit a rubber ball over the roof, and playing various other baseball-related games, alone or with friends.

As you might expect, I was really excited about the prospect of playing Little League ball, which would have been my first taste of being a member of a real team.

But the thing is, for that to happen, I had to get my father to accompany me to the Little League field and help me sign up, and he refused to do that. He told me that he had read about a kid who was playing third base, and who got hit in the chest by a batted ball, and died. So my baseball dreams came crashing down then and there.

To say this was a huge disappointment doesn't come close to describing how I felt. I see it as a pivotal moment in my life. My guess is that the episode may still play a role in how I feel about my key aspirations, and my prospects for receiving support in realizing them.

And the essence of it was this: my father's fear kept me from doing the one thing I wanted most in the whole world.

Might that be the reason, or at least part of it, that I'm so sensitive to a situation where it can easily seem like someone is "laying his fear on me"?

It might.

Postscript: I finally did play organized ball. When I was in my 30's, my friend Lenn and I started our own softball team and played in a Southern California league. I played on that team for 3 years, and it was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. (I was a great hitter and a truly inept right fielder.)

Yes, everyone--I have a week off. And you all get to hear a lot more about me than you ever wanted to know. :)

"You're suggesting that this world we inhabit, despite all evidence to the contrary, is a place that we can improve. And I mean Improve with a capital I. Not just make ourselves "safer" or "more comfortable" (whatever those terms really mean), but you're implying that we can fundamentally improve the quality of the earth experience.

Ironically, Bruce, you are making the earth sound like some sort of penal colony experience. We get sent into a hopeless brutal world, to have meaningless experiences, for the amusement of some, apparently callous "source" and then pass back out again only to return over and over again.

I recognize that you don't see it as punishment and probably object to my analogy to a penal colony, but, hey, the comparison seems apt to me. And if it's not punishment it's something pretty much akin to it; like sadism, IMO.

I sincerely see no reason why we couldn't build a better - in all aspects - world on earth if our focus was, in the balance, positive and spiritual. It is a choice we make to not make that shift in focus and we will have to experience the consequences.


I really like William's succinct comment:

"Empires have collective negative karma, not as punishment but as as opportunities for greater self awareness."

Michael wrote:

||I don't quite see it that way. I would agree that people in the developed world don't believe in much anymore; this is part of our general malaise.||

I think our malaise is due to the Yin period through which the whole world is passing but also to an accident of history. The scientific and media elite embraced a false philosophy (materialism) with strong pushback against the Christian belief system, even as the latter began to wane. Meanwhile, materialism was never embraced by the masses. In a sense, the rejection of new spiritual truths wasn't "personal." Christians couldn't integrate it into their obsolete belief system, while the materialists were "obligated" to push back against the new truths inasmuch as they were already pushing back against Christianity. The result is a Western Civ with nothing really to believe in. Western Civ now has to continue to purse obsolete Abrahamic religion while also discarding the newer materialism. It's a lot of work, and it's going to take a lot more time.

||But people in other parts of the world are (often) ardent believers. Al Qaeda and ISIS believe in radical Islam and a universal caliphate.||

I think a limited number of people in certain regions are still fanatics. They do cause a lot of trouble in proportion to their numbers, however.

||Vladimir Putin believes in jingoistic nationalism and the recovery of the Soviet empire.||

He is a pain, and I somewhat agree, but I don't think he's like Stalin, truly believing that his philosophy (in Stalin's case, communism) is destined to take over the world. I think he needs to be managed carefully until his time is over, which may not be too distant an eventuality.

||The Chinese communists believe in their inevitable long-term global domination. We in the West are exhausted, cynical, and easily distracted; those arrayed against us aren't.||

Here Bruce's comment about fear I think is apt. I don't know if the communists even believe in communism any more, much less the inevitability or even desirability of global domination. They are running an authoritarian capitalist state for the benefit of the Chinese people, and I would guess especially for the benefit of the elites there (as is usually the case). Let's not play the "We've got to have an enemy!" game

"..their main concern becomes bettering *themselves*. And that, I would suggest, is the real progress we see in this world (when and where we do see it)--individual souls aligning more closely with love."
-Bruce Siegel
I totally agree with this. I have trouble with the "human beings are progressing" idea. Yes, societies can make changes for the better, but plenty of individuals in that society can most definitely still be raging assholes in need of progress. There have always been, and always will be, more enlightened and less enlightened humans sharing this world.

"I'm not sure "it's more to the point" as you put it," - Paul

That was an addendum to my penultimate posting - and demonstrates the essentail problem with moderated forums.

BTW, why is your blog moderated, Michael?

Bruce wrote, "Michael, I hope I'm not coming across too harshly."

No, not at all. You're always polite and thoughtful, Bruce.

Sorry to hear about your dad's fearful overreaction to the "dangers" of Little League baseball. I'm glad you finally got to play ball, even if it was years later.

"And if not the spiritual world, who established those fundamental laws anyway, and who enforces them?"

I don't know who got the ball rolling, but reality seems to dictate that if we make consistently bad choices, we'll pay a price. The other side seems to recognize this, too; otherwise why would they bother to try to get us to choose better?

"Because you're arguing against the position you've taken before. You're now saying that Things are getting worse."

Progress does happen, but it's not inevitable and it doesn't go in a straight line. There are detours and setbacks - sometimes catastrophic setbacks. I fear we are approaching a catastrophe now. I could be wrong.

"... you even argued against Pinker, whose thesis was one of your reasons for supporting the notion of Progress in the first place."

No, I was unaware of Pinker's book until yesterday. I never used it as a basis for my argument. But maybe you mean that I used that general idea as my basis. Well, the general idea is probably more true than false - that is, we don't feed people to the lions for entertainment purposes today, so in that sense we are a less violent society.

The trouble is that because of our advanced technology, we also have less margin for error. And other societies that may still be at the bread-and-circuses level of development (e.g., the Taliban, who used to behead people in a soccer stadium in front of a crowd) can cross oceans and deserts with ease. The barbarians can be at our gates at any time. This worries me.

I would interpret your viewpoint as a form of cultural relativism - no culture is better than any other; therefore there cannot be any progress. I think some cultures are objectively better than others. No culture is perfect, but some are so malignant and soul-crushing that they can only be described as bad. The Taliban would be one example; Nazi Germany, the USSR, North Korea, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution, and France during the French Revolution would be other examples (but that's hardly an exhaustive list).

To the extent that we move in the direction of those societies, we're going backward. Unfortunately, materialism (a driving force behind many, though not all, of the examples I listed) appears to be pushing us toward either a soulless technocracy or social collapse.

But as I say, I could be wrong. Perhaps it's just a bad season in the West and the tide will turn. As Matt said earlier, things have looked grim on other occasions, such as WWII. The immediate problems we face are orders of magnitude smaller. But I worry about the trend ...

" ...why is your blog moderated, Michael?"

Because when it was unmoderated, it became a playground for trolls, one or two of whom seemed to be mentally unbalanced. Chaos ensued, and it was impossible to have a civil discussion. Reluctantly I implemented moderation. It's worked out well, but I wish it hadn't become necessary.

"Reluctantly I implemented moderation. It's worked out well, but I wish it hadn't become necessary."

Me too, our Michael. Ever thought of giving it another go? You can always apply the brakes again. :)

"Ironically, Bruce, you are making the earth sound like some sort of penal colony experience. We get sent into a hopeless brutal world, to have meaningless experiences, for the amusement of some, apparently callous "source" and then pass back out again only to return over and over again."

To be really blunt, no one, when you start using hyperbole like this to completely misrepresent my viewpoint (I've seen you do it before, though not recently), I lose interest in sharing my thoughts with you.

"And here's a personal note that may be relevant. When no one asked what kind of kid I was, I took his question seriously...."

I was just kidding, Bruce.

Your personal story does highlight the need to be reasonable when assessing threat levels and how we react to them; even if the possible threat is presented out of love and concern. Lots of people learn to live within their fears; not a good thing.

OTOH, a little advice from a wise being is a blessing. I guess it is important for us to be able to discern who is wise and who isn't. Not always an easy thing.

"I think a limited number of people in certain regions are still fanatics. They do cause a lot of trouble in proportion to their numbers, however."

Matt, I think you are significantly underestimating the proportion of fanatics as well as the even larger proportion of people who, while not active fanatics themselves, support the active ones.

Regardless, it never takes too many fanatics to get the ball rolling.
As you have been reading about WW2, how many Germans actually bought everything Hitler said hook, line and sinker? Yet, when ordered, they all put on their jack boots, picked up their weapons and waged a war of aggression that killed millions, flattened much of Europe and ultimately destroyed their own country. People seem all to willing to follow fanatical charismatic leaders and to be caught up in frenzies and manias in which they commit acts of inhumanity that they would never have done on their own.

James Oeming - || My guess is that the shit might well hit the fan pretty hard on the physical plane.

If it does, it is my thinking that this will drive multitudes to tune more into the "GPS" of a higher, spiritual consciousness, out of necessity (similar to how those stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean can get religion), and this will be a good thing. Necessity is a mother! ||

The modern world is apparently by all evidences heading toward catastrophe. Some think that this will force a fundamental shift to a new more spiritual age. The hope is that a near future collapse of world technological civilization will bring on a major transformation in world consciousness. The realities of human (animal) nature are that the pressures for survival have a strong tendency to reduce man to a "survival of the fittest" law of the jungle. In order to survive, those with superior strength and intelligence combined with brutality and amorality will almost certainly subjugate or exterminate the weaker survivors. In a general collapse reverting to a basic survival mode where the social and political systems break up with an ending of most law and order there is virtually no possibility for a transformation of consciousness into a new more spiritual age.

To imagine that there would be a general spiritual transformation is hopelessly unrealistic and ignores the fact that the negative human qualities and behaviors of cruelty, selfishness, greed, etc. combined with fear are parts of inherent human nature, and will come to the fore when civilization crumbles. This is a natural result of man's animal heritage, and of the fact that children need to be educated starting at early age into having things like conscience and empathy. I don't think there is really anything like the notion of inborne natural goodness.

We can see an example of all of this right now in the chaos and takeover by ISIS in Iraq. A good summary of this, with videos, is at http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/shocking-videos-the-post-collapse-world-will-be-violent-and-brutal-extremely-graphic-imagery_06132014 .

"I have trouble with the "human beings are progressing" idea."

Glad to know I'm not alone, Steven!

The other side of the coin is this: I'm equally resistant to the notion that the experience of the world's population, as a whole, is taking a turn for the worse. Or that anyone could look inside 6 billion hearts and know such a thing.

But to take the "downturn" hypothesis to its ultimate conclusion, think of it this way. If our worst apocalyptic nightmare came to pass -- if a huge comet struck the earth tomorrow and we all died instantly -- then considering how ecstatic and purifying death is likely to be, would that be a good or a bad thing?

Don't worry Julie I think we're amongst friends here.

I concur with MP when the forum wasn't moderated it became a bit of a chimps' tea party at times.

Michael, I just figured out why you would write a post like this. When I went to nyt.com a few moments ago, I saw this headline perched at the very top:

"G.O.P. Theme in Fall Election: It’s a Dark and Unsafe World"

You must be a Republican!

Doubter wrote, "In order to survive, those with superior strength and intelligence combined with brutality and amorality will almost certainly subjugate or exterminate the weaker survivors."

I agree. It would be "Lord of the Flies" time. Or to take a science-fiction example, the 1936 movie "Things to Come" depicts a ruined postwar world dominated by thuggish tyrants. This is how I think things would play out, should the worst happen.

OTOH, "Things to Come" predicted such an outcome by 1970, and we've already passed that date by more than 40 years. So maybe we can keep on muddling through.

http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2812-things-to-come-whither-mankind

Julie wrote, "Ever thought of giving it another go?"

Nope. The trolls are still out there. They make periodic efforts to get through. I zap their comments as necessary. BTW, by "trolls," I don't mean people who merely disagree with the blog's positions; I'm talking about people who seem to be literally crazy. (In one case, it was never clear if two incoherent trolls were both schizophrenic, or if "they" were in actuality one schizophrenic person arguing with himself.)

MP said: Perhaps it's just a bad season in the West and the tide will turn. As Matt said earlier, things have looked grim on other occasions, such as WWII.
Here's an Ogden Nash poem from 1945:
The American people,

With grins jocose,

Always survive the fatal dose.

And though our systems are slightly wobbly,

We’ll fool the doctor this time, probly.

I think we will keep on muddling through; indeed, I suspect the human race has done so many times before when peering into the abyss. And I've never been altogether convinced by Golding's pessimistic view of raw humanity.

I found a quote recently to the effect that in times of trouble seek help only from the poor because they're the only ones who will help you. It seems to me that if the worst came to the worst then we'd all be in a state of poverty, and we might just feel an epiphany coming on.

Michael,

"Unfortunately, materialism (a driving force behind many, though not all, of the examples I listed) appears to be pushing us toward either a soulless technocracy or social collapse."

I think you are right that the spirits had a lot to say to us, society ignored them (due to both Christianity and materialism), and that was detrimental to progress.

But I don't think materialism ever really "won," and it's probably well past its peak of power. Most people these days, even after losing their religion still feel that there is "something." I know that's true of Japanese people who have not been strongly religious for a long time now (if they ever were).

I don't think materialism is leading us anywhere. I think it is a weak force in the world right now.

Earlier in this thread, I had written:

"If [a collapse of civilization] occurs, it is my thinking that this will drive multitudes to tune more into the 'GPS' of a higher, spiritual consciousness, out of necessity (similar to how those stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean can get religion), and this will be a good thing. Necessity is a mother!

Some may write me off as being a Pollyanna, but to me this seems clear and logical.

I am not concerned for humankind over the long haul."

**********************

One thing I didn't emphasize enough in my post is the scale of time involved for my supposition to play out.

Yes, we could well have a period of "Lord of the Flies," or similar. We could definitely have sociopathic thugs running the show. Swaths of civilization could be in tatters. The population at large could be subjugated serfs.

Yet...

My overarching conjecture is that, ultimately, the reality of a higher Spirit will assert itself. It's my supposition that mankind is like squabbling children trying to sort out what is going on. Eventually, in greater and greater numbers they'll figure out that it's better and more effective to tune into Spirit, and they'll get collectively more skilled at it (as they have done in the areas of medicine and agriculture, to name two examples). Enroute to that, alas, there will be (and have been) wars, inquisitions, and the like.

It's like math. When civilizations collapse, discovery of math eventually springs up again, because it works, and is part and parcel of creation, and is bigger than us, and is not going away. To anthropomorphize math, you could say that it is bottomlessly patient -- it will be there when we wish to pay attention to it, and are ready to make the effort to use it. When we are ignorant of it, or disregard it, or misunderstand it, our quality of life takes a downturn. But, math doesn't care -- it's just there.

Same with Spirit. It's bigger than us, and it's not going away. It's there when we are ready to use it. Like math, it may take a long time for us to make use of it, but it's there. It's not going away.

Meanwhile, as Michael and the poster Doubter pointed out, we may well go through a periods of chaos and thuggery, or similar. Dark Ages redux.

How the shit could hit the fan

One scenario that could trigger a civilization meltdown in the near future -- a scenario I see as a highly plausible threat -- is a terrorist bringing a dirty bomb into the harbor of a major city. Timothy McVeigh on steroids.

While experts have said that the radiation dispersal from such a device would not be terribly significant -- it's been called a weapon of mass disruption, not a weapon of mass destruction -- my concern is that the rank-and-file citizens will clamor for retaliatory nuclear strikes, and the politicians won't have the backbone to say "no", and we'll start spraying nukes all over the place. This could well spell "game over" for civilization -- for the time being, anyway, until mankind reboots.

But, this would be a mere passing blip in the timeline of Time. Yes, Western civilization may have periods of intense disruptions. But, as we have done the past in other areas (math, astronomy, medicine, et. al.), we will, I conjecture, gradually work our way to a greater and deeper collective understanding of Spirit -- albeit probably in a three-steps-forward, two-steps-backward fashion. We will do this because Spirit is bigger than us, more powerful than us, and, like math, it's not going away.

****************

An aside: On a here-and-now level, I am liking how the high church of materialism -- Physics -- is running right into the role of consciousness in creation. It's like Lewis and Clark encountering the Pacific Ocean. Had they wished to go on further, their old tools and methods of exploration would have no longer applied. Same with physics. Quantum physics dramatically demonstrates that consciousness is real, practical, and must be dealt with. Clockwork models are no longer 100% cutting it. Developing the tool of consciousness is required to continue to go forward. Man, being a most inquisitive chimp, will eventually get good at this. This is a good thing, because it will require grappling with, and embracing, the realities of Spirit.

My supposition.

"No culture is perfect, but some are so malignant and soul-crushing that they can only be described as bad. The Taliban would be one example; Nazi Germany, the USSR, North Korea, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution, and France during the French Revolution would be other examples (but that's hardly an exhaustive list). To the extent that we move in the direction of those societies, we're going backward."

Michael, I know it may seem, at first glance, that pointing to certain extreme examples sheds light on what we're talking about. But the truth is, I think it clouds the issue. And by the end of my reply, I'll specifically address those groups.

"I think some cultures are objectively better than others."

For me, the idea of judging one culture against another is, to put it bluntly, repugnant. In the sense that you're using it, a culture is, first and foremost, a group of people. So the inescapable meaning of your statement is that some people are better than others. I don't see how you can get around that, and are you equally comfortable phrasing the idea in those terms, that some people are objectively better than others?

And in answering *that* question, instead of focusing on some token persons or group whom it's easy to regard as villains, think instead of the VAST majority of human beings (and cultures, to use your term) who share this planet with you. Are you as comfortable making judgements about superiority and inferiority within those far more inclusive parameters?

Now remember, our discussion began with my objecting to statements like these in your post:

"Either these signs and portents are one last-ditch attempt by our higher selves to get us to pay attention and correct course ... or they are simply an indication that the course is now set, and no correction is possible.

One way or the other, it seems to me that the spirits were right - and that we have ignored them at our cost."

Again, I applaud your basic idea that we need to listen to the wisdom that comes from our larger, spiritual selves. I love that message!

It's the desperate, guilt-ridden tone exemplified in those last two paragraphs that I object to. To say that our lives could be so much better if only we had done this or that, and that we may have forfeited our last chance at redemption, just doesn't sit well with me.

And here I have to get personal. There is not a single decision I've made in the course of my 67 years that makes me think: oh, if only I had done this, or listened to that advice, I could have improved my lot.

Or to put this in more positive terms, I think the healthiest change I've made is to stop thinking so much about improving my life, and to spend more time *living* it.

And those villains you point to? People like the Taliban, the Nazis, the Soviets? Maybe the single most important characteristic they share is their belief that they know how to make our lives better.

One other to consider is that WE are the spirits - that is, if you believe consciousness survives death, as evidenced by NDEs, and as many do here.

The problem is that, at least in the United States, everyone sees different threats. The odds of many U.S. citizen getting Ebola is remote,yet certain yellow-dog "news" sites love to imply the opposite (get people in a panic and your ratings go up). I see massive political instability as a result of massive wealth inequality as real threat in the U.S., but I bet over half here wouldn't agree with me. (Maybe another Wall Street bailout and economic plunge will do it.)

So if no one can agree on what the real threats are, how can anything be solved by the "spirits" in this world? I see a few things that people across the political spectrum seem to agree on in the U.S., for instance, U.S. police have become too militarized. But other than that, there's virtually no agreement on anything.

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