Friday, March 30, 2012

Science and Religion - the great debate with Bernard Haisch

This week we examine the work of Bernard Haisch, an astrophysicist and author of The God Theory and more than 130 scientific publications. This excerpt comes from his book The Purpose-Guided Universe: Believing in Einstein, Darwin, and God. In this engrossing work, Dr. Bernard Haisch contends that there is a purpose and an underlying intelligence behind the Universe, one that is consistent with modern science, especially the Big Bang and evolution.This portion comes specifically from Chapter 1 Science and Religion.

Can science and organized religion be reconciled? I would say that the answer is no. Religions are generally rigid insti­tutions each with its own specific set of rules regarding what is right and wrong. Organized religions come with an organi­zational power and profit structure. Then there is a particular and sometimes idio­syncratic cast of otherworldly characters ranging from only one—God alone—to thousands of lesser gods, angels, demons, saints and other entities, almost always including that one really bad villain to tempt and plague the congregation: the devil. It can be a confusing lot.

Clearly there are serious contradictions among the vari­ous religions concerning God and our own nature and destiny. How can you resolve the fact that one religion tells you one thing and a different one says the opposite? Logic, alas, fails.

Now there are a few religions that are virtually dogma-and devil-free, and benign enough that a bona fide, skepti­cal rocket scientist could attend services, get a bit of Sunday morning inspiration, and even drop a modest check into the collection basket without feeling a twinge of guilt. I would put a church such as, say, Unity, in that category. In fact, the very name indicates why a church like that poses little, if any, conflict with science: It is based on the notion of unit­ing the best of various beliefs with an open mind rather than claiming sole authority over the truth. Most religions are far more finicky about the requirement to believe specific things…which inevitably wind up contradicting equally stri­dent claims of other religions.

And there are, unfortunately, religions at the far ex­treme that are grossly at odds even with sane civilized be­havior, and cast doubt on the future of the human race. A religion that claims that there is a God who will reward you in heaven for incinerating other human beings down here is not merely deranged and insane, it is a threat to civilization. Reconciliation in such a case is out of the question.

But the reconciliation of science and spirituality is a differ­ent matter. That is not only possible, it is essential.

In this book, and in my previous one, The God Theory, I propose a concept of God that from my perspective as an astrophysicist in no way contradicts scientific knowledge, and in particular those three pillars: origin of the Universe in a Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago; a 4.6-billion-year-old Earth; and Darwinian evolution of life-forms. And there is also no contradiction between what I will call The God Theory and the laws of physics, including of course the special and general relativity theories propounded by Einstein.

Moreover, the concept of God I propose does not crash on the rocks of such problems as: How to justify the seem­ingly undeserved hardships or even horrors that sometimes fall on really good people for no discernable reason?

But is there a need to invoke the concept of God at all?
An Infinite Number of Universes vs. One Great Intelligence
It has been discovered in physics and astrophysics dur­ing the past two decades or so that certain properties of the Universe and laws of nature, when looked at together, are remarkably conducive to life arising. This is now well established as something in need of an explanation, and a number of books have been written by prominent scientists such as cosmologist Sir Martin Rees, and Stanford physicist and pioneer of string theory Leonard Susskind, that seek to explain this.

Their argument is that if our Universe has especially life-friendly properties, that has to be a matter of statis­tics. It has to be chalked up to the odds of chance. In oth­er words, there must be a huge number of other universes whose properties are different from ours, and from each other, and therefore our Universe is not special in any way. It’s just that we could never have arisen in any of those less friendly universes, so of course we find ourselves in this one, and thus it looks like a miraculous thing...but it’s not at all. Think of it this way: How likely is it that if you roll six dice at once, they will all turn up sixes? Not very probable. But if you get to toss the six dice a million times, it’s bound to happen.

As to how many other universes there must be for this kind of statistical solution to the Goldilocks mystery of the “just right” universe, the estimate ranges from 10 to the 500th power (again, one followed by 500 zeroes) to a lit­erally infinite number. The “lower” estimate results from certain parameters in string theory, and therefore is liable to change (probably to a still higher value). It is, in any case, an unfathomably large number.

That statistical argument is rational, and one can cer­tainly accept it as an explanation of the apparently special properties of our Universe. But is it any more rational than the possibility that our Universe really is special because it is the product of a great intelligence? In my view, both are equally rational. Take your pick. If you truly cannot stom­ach the idea of a great intelligence, the statistical solution is available to prevent heartburn. But it is neither fair, nor scientifically defensible, to reject the other.

One often hears the objection: well then, where did this intelligence come from? The only possible answer is that it came from nowhere…it pre-exists…it had no beginning… it had no source. If it did, we should skip it and concern ourselves with the ultimate source. Why waste time and philosophical head-scratching over something intermedi­ate? That line of thinking just leads to an infinite regress, a bottomless pit. You do have to start somewhere.

Of course the view that vast numbers of universes arose out of nothing is on no firmer ground. I would argue that that too requires that something pre-exist, namely quantum laws or laws of some sort. If quantum fluctuations are seen as the origin of things, then quantum laws must pre-exist. Where did those come from? It’s the same problem.
Belief Systems
In his book The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, the Dalai Lama discusses ancient Buddhist concepts about the origin and nature of the Universe. Not surprisingly these consist of rather quaint cosmologies and rudimentary laws of “physics” that are now quite incompatible with what we have discovered in as­trophysics. The Dalai Lama makes it very clear that when scientific investigations result in tested and proven modern concepts, those must supersede the old Buddhist notions. Buddhism ascribes authority to experience first, reason sec­ond, and scripture last. Direct observation comes out on top. Science trumps tradition and dogma. Would that other religions and religious leaders took such an enlightened po­sition. It would be a saner world.

But it cuts both ways. When scientific investigations point to a finely tuned Universe, scientists should be as open as the Dalai Lama to possible interpretations that challenge the prevailing scientific worldview. It is certainly fair, and even called for by the scientific method, to hypoth­esize about the possibility of infinite numbers of other uni­verses so as to explain why ours is seemingly special, but is not really. That could be the answer and might someday result in Nobel prizes (and perhaps the equivalent to our 10-dimensional colleagues in the other string-theory uni­verses who have sleuthed out the existence of us in some analogous fashion). But it is intellectually dishonest to dis­count out of hand the possibility that our Universe appears special because, well, it happens to be special.

The flat-out rejection of that possibility comes from an assumption that reductionism and materialism can be the only sources of true knowledge. Materialism means that the only thing that is real is matter, and that includes energy, because, as Einstein showed, matter can be created from energy and energy from matter…and together they are all there is. Reductionism means that the properties of any­thing can be explained by looking at the workings of the pieces, an extreme example being that my thoughts can ul­timately be explained by analyzing the motions of atoms in my brain.

The Dalai Lama had this to say about reductionist materialism:
Underlying this view is the assumption that, in the final analysis, matter, as it can be described by physics and as it is governed by the laws of physics, is all there is. Accordingly, this view would uphold that psychology can be reduced to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics. My concern here is not so much to argue against this reductionist position (although I myself do not share it) but to draw attention to a vitally important point: that these ideas do not constitute sci­entific knowledge; rather they represent a philosophi­cal, in fact a metaphysical, position. The view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its vari­ous particles is, to my mind, as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence cre­ated and controls reality.
The Problem
Even though it has been many years since Carl Sagan, in collaboration with his talented wife, Ann Druyan, produced the magnificent Cosmos series broadcast on PBS, this is still the pinnacle of a scientifically grandiose vision of the Universe. It is truly an inspiration, but an inspiration of a limited sort. Yes, we are part of something immense and uplifting when viewed from a cosmic perspective. But from a human perspective it is problematic. If we are just chemi­cal machines with an illusion of consciousness destined for oblivion after an average lifespan of perhaps 80 years, where is the inspiration? Are we not dwarfed in both space and time by the enormity of the Universe and its billions of future years? Where is there a purpose for us?

Radical scientific materialism can offer a stupendous vista of the inanimate, but leaves us humans with a narrow­ness of vision whose end result, when confronted honestly, can hardly be other than nihilism. At least nihilism in the limited sense that existence is ultimately bereft of purpose as far as our own life is concerned.

To again quote the Dalai Lama:
In this view many dimensions of the full reality of what it is to be human—art, ethics, spirituality, goodness, beauty, and above all consciousness—either are re­duced to the chemical reactions of firing neurons or are seen as a matter of purely imaginary constructs. The danger then is that human beings may be reduced to nothing more than biological machines, the prod­ucts of pure chance in the random combinations of genes, with no purpose other than the biological im­perative of reproduction.
In his later writings Sagan himself intimated that there might possibly be more to reality than is permitted by the dogma of scientific materialism, and interestingly he refers specifically to the past life research of Ian Stevenson. In his The Demon Haunted World Sagan writes:
At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study: (1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect ran­dom number generators in computers; (2) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images “projected” at them; and (3) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any way other than reincarnation. I pick these claims not be­cause I think they’re likely to be valid (I don’t), but as examples of contentions that might be true.
String Theory
For about two decades the study of fundamental phys­ics, the investigation of the four forces (electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces and the at­tempt to unify them) together with the identification of ele­mentary particles and their properties, has been dominated by string theory and its newer extension called M-theory. The idea is that all the elementary particles such as elec­trons, neutrinos, and quarks are assumed to be different vibration states of an incredibly tiny one-dimensional thing called a string. String theory is a highly mathematical subject. In fact, it may be fair to say that it is more properly seen as an ex­tremely esoteric branch of mathematics. Its relationship to the real world of physics is the suggestion, based on rela­tionships buried in the mathematics, that gravity might be unified with the other three forces, and that all the appar­ently different particles that have been discovered in the past century or so are just one kind of string vibrating dif­ferently. That is the hope, a hope strong enough to have created a community of string theorists numbering about 1,500 physicists busy as bees writing papers that even other physicists cannot honestly claim to understand in any detail.

A pair of recent books, Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law, by Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit, and The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of Science, and What Comes Next, by Lee Smolin, a prominent theoretical physicist and string-theory expert at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, argue that physics has lost its way in the mathematical jungle of string theory.

There are at least two major problems. A string would be as small compared to an atom as an atom is to the Solar System. As a consequence, no direct detection of a string has ever been made. Indeed there is no plausible experi­ment known today that could conceivably detect a string. The “atom smashers” that have detected subatomic parti­cles for decades are useless for detecting a string. The entire power output of all the power plants on Earth would fall billions of time short of having enough strength to create a single string in a particle collider. Let us say that the hope for experimental verification is rather dim.

The second problem is astonishing. The mathematics of string theory requires the existence of several additional di­mensions beyond the three dimensions of space and one of time that we are used to living in. The number of additional dimensions ranges from six or seven to as many as 22. In classical string theory these dimensions are “compactified,” meaning they are rolled up into tiny loops of dimensional space. In M-theory some dimensions are compactified and some are not; that is, some may be like our own dimensions in extent, but with possibly radically different properties. Think of the difference between space and time; both are dimensions, but their properties are quite distinct. A minute and a meter are rather different.

The point is not to criticize string or M-theory per se. The issue is one of belief. As the dust jacket of Peter Woit’s book says:
What happens when scientific theory departs the realm of testable hypothesis and comes to resemble some­thing like aesthetic speculation, or even theology?... string theory is just such an idea.
So we have the situation that certain facts cry out for an explanation. An explanation is found, but it requires assum­ing the existence of one or more things for which there is no evidence whatsoever in the world of experience. And unfor­tunately there turns out to be no scientific test possible for the proposed explanation. This is where taking things on faith and seeing where that leads is the only recourse, which is what the vast community of string theorists is doing. But the danger is that the underlying hypothetical foundations of the theory might become articles of faith.

I suggest that the existence of strings and additional di­mensions of space as a unifying explanation of the basis of physics on the one hand, and the existence of an intelligence as a unifying explanation of the apparent fine-tuning of our Universe on the other, are not that different philosophically and metaphysically. In fact, there is even a certain degree of tentative mutual support.

In the extension of string theory called M-theory, it is taken for granted that other universes with completely different properties and laws are liable to exist. These uni­verses with their own sets of laws might be separated from ours by tiny distances in another dimension. And if such adjacent universes exist, there is no reason to deny the pos­sibility that the equivalent of life-forms would exist therein, whatever that may mean when “their laws of physics” may be beyond our imagination.

Mystical traditions speak of other non-physical realms with other kinds of beings. M-theory requires the existence of universes with different laws that could in principle host different kinds of beings. There is a curious confluence here, one that is almost humorous given the tendency of mate­rialists to sneer at the supernatural. Perhaps some clever string theorist will yet resolve the vexing perennial question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin…in vari­ous M-theory universes.
Having Faith
In his book The God Delusion Richard Dawkins con­trasts dogmatic faith in a holy book versus reasoning in­formed by scientific evidence. He writes:
Fundamentalists know that they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book and they know, in advance, that nothing will budge them from their be­lief…. The book is true, and if the evidence seems to contradict it, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the book. By contrast, what I, as a scientist, be­lieve (for example, evolution) I believe not because of reading a holy book, but because I have studied the evidence.
His point is entirely correct. By contrast with a holy book, a science book can, and does, change as new experi­ments, observations, or other evidence come to light. Evi­dence that can be objectively verified trumps revelation, a position that even the Dalai Lama espouses. Indeed, even a fundamentalist might say that scientific evidence trumps revelation…provided it is some other religion’s revelation (and therein lies the revelation problem).

Unfortunately things are not as objective and free of preconceptions as Dawkins would have us believe. Our Uni­verse has numerous characteristics that together make for a highly unlikely fine-tuning of properties. This is considered by scientists to be serious and significant enough to warrant an “explanation.” Apart from the “it is just a lucky accident explanation” we are left with only two possibilities. Either the properties of our Universe are special because they are indeed the product of an intelligence…or they are just the outcome of statistics. But the latter view requires the ex­istence of a vast, perhaps infinite number of other unseen universes with properties different from our own.

There is simply no scientific way to resolve which expla­nation is correct: mere statistics or an intelligence with a purpose. Both require the acceptance of something major beyond current science. Recall that many of the other uni­verses in the multiverse statistical argument would have to be radically different from our own to be consistent with the statistics of random properties. That being the case, there might even be intelligent universes in the mix. This would certainly blur the choice between the two explanations. In both cases we would wind up having to accept the existence of realms beyond the conventional physical, that is beyond space and time as we know it. What is the difference be­tween an extradimensional alien being (string theory) and a supernatural or angelic being (religion) other than termi­nology? Encountering either one would be a shock.

To reject the explanation of an intelligence behind the origin of our Universe simply because one believes that there cannot conceivably be such an intelligence is really no different from faith in the equivalent of a holy book. In this case the faith is in reductionist materialism. Positing the existence of perhaps infinite other universes as a possible explanation is legitimate. But to argue that that must be true because the alternative of an intelligence just cannot be true is simply to worship at the altar of reductionist materialism. That is how the practice of science can morph into the faith of scientism.
A Better Notion of God
There are conceptions of God that are laughable; there are conceptions that are horrible. Both are at the root of the problem scientists tend to have with the very idea of a God. But it is also possible to have a reasonable conception of God (which I propose is the case for The God Theory).

Various surveys have shown that the majority of scien­tists are atheist, meaning not just doubting whether a God might exist, but actively believing with certainty that there is no God. This is far higher than that of the population at large. A major factor in this disbelief is the kind of entity that comes to mind when one thinks God. A God whose existence or actions directly contradict laws of physics and the known structure of the Universe should be ruled out. Of course there is no way to disprove with 100-percent certainty that some kind of God littered a 6,000-year-old Earth with phony fossils to fool the arrogant archaeologists, but this strikes me as incredibly silly, and if it really were the case we would be in big trouble with this kind of crooked God in charge of things.

A God who exists and maintains a heaven somewhere in the Universe is also a non-starter. If God is a being made of matter, where did the matter come from?

On physical arguments we need a God who is not made of matter, not confined to a Universe, not bound by space and time, because if constrained by these things rather than being the source of these things… he/she/it would not be a real God.

But there are also moral and ethical requirements on the kind of God that scientists—and I myself—can take seriously.

I reject a God who hates, who is vindictive and jealous, who revels in bloodshed or arbitrarily reveals the truth and grants salvation to some select group at the expense of all others. To­day, the consequences of the worst possible misconception of God are tragically evident in the fanatics who have perverted the word martyr to glorify the murderer, if this were the best we could come up with as a conception of God, I too would be a rabid atheist.
Consciousness Creating Reality
One of the things I argue in this book is that quantum mechanics, especially in light of a recent breakthrough ex­periment measuring the so-called Leggett inequality that supersedes the famous Bell inequality (see Chapter 8), nec­essarily includes consciousness. It does so to the extent that we can now legitimately claim that consciousness creates the observed reality at the quantum level. This of course has the profoundest of implications for our own macro-reality of ev­eryday life because everything is built upon a quantum basis.

If consciousness is the basis of reality, then it is plausible that a transcendent consciousness is the underlying cause of the Universe. This cannot be proven but it is no less logical a conclusion than the one from mainstream science, which asserts that the Universe, with its surprising life-conducive properties, is merely the result of statistics.

And if that is the case I propose that the motivation of this great intelligence is the seeking of experience in a physical realm. This brings mankind—and all other life­forms here and throughout the Universe—into the picture. I propose to explore our nature as manifestations of this intelligence.

Far from surrendering the rationality and critical think­ing that underpins science, it is essential to apply those tools to consideration of the circumstantial evidence for the ex­istence of a transcendent intelligence behind the origin of the Universe. To those who bombastically assert that there is nothing on the side of spirituality worth consideration, let me cite Werner Heisenberg, a man who certainly knew science in depth:
I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have been repeatedly compelled to ponder on the re­lationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point. (Scientific and Religious Truth, 1973)

Find out more about Bernard Haisch and his works by visiting his website.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Weird News of the Week

Understanding Fish Sense

Click Here to Learn More

Human Bird Wings

Click Here to Learn More

Paragliding Record broken by 101 year old

Click Here to Learn More

Submarines - the new trendy toy?

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Naked Man forced to Handle a Nuclear Bomb?

Click Here to Learn More

Monday, March 26, 2012

Secrets of the Past - Early Evidence of Nuclear Weapons? from Micah Hanks

To kick off a new week we wanted to give you a look inside one of our recent anthology works entitled Exposed, Uncovered, and Unclassified: Lost Civilizations & Secrets of the Past.  This section comes from Micah Hank's entry entitled Oppenheimer's Iron Thunderbolt: Evidence of Nuclear Weapons which starts on page 117.  We hope you enjoy the read and that it peaks your interest to investigate the book and other great authors that included portions from their research.

The exchange of knowledge between master and student is a timeless expression of the accumulation of human insight. Like some clandestine secret handed from the magi of old down to a new generation of protégés, the wisdom of the ancients is something that many spend their entire lives seeking. This is because they know that this wisdom of the past is of inestimable value to future generations. Whether it be Sun Tzu’s treatises on the art of waging war, or the once alchemical agents that form the basis of our modern sciences, we look to the past to learn about ourselves and how to better our existence both today and in the future. The details imparted to us in the particular exchange between master and student that we will be examining here—though obscure at best—will introduce us to unforeseen possibilities that might change our very perspective regarding who we once were, who we are now, and, perhaps most importantly, what we may become.

To begin at what might have been one story’s ending, we arrive at the dawn of the atomic age, in the years immediately following World War II. This most dire of modern global conflicts was considered the “war that would end all wars.” Of course, ending this conflict came at a horrible cost: the loss of civilian life on a tremendous scale with what all assumed was first use in Earth’s history of nuclear weapons during wartime.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, at approximately 8:15 a.m. Japan time, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber EnolaGay had entered airspace directly above Hiroshima, where it dropped a free-fall explosive known to history by the nickname “Little Boy.” Within one minute, the bomb detonated over the city at an altitude of approximately 1,900 feet.1 No large-scale enemy raid had occurred; a small fleet of U.S. aircraft had been detected and subsequently ignored by early warning radar. For this reason, it was hours before officers from the Japanese General Staff arrived to investigate why all the radio stations in Hiroshima had gone silent.2 Upon arriving within sight of the city, pilots were stunned to see only a vast pillar of smoke rising over the area. Announcers in broadcasts overheard by Allied sources reported that, “[t]he impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things—human and animal—were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure setup by the blast. All the dead and injured were burned beyond recognition. Those outdoors were burned to death, while those indoors were killed by the indescribable pressure and heat.”3

This attack was followed by a similar blast that leveled the city of Nagasaki to the southwest, prompting Japan’s surrender and thus ending the Second World War. As has been argued many times with due controversy since the end of the conflict, war always results in death, but killing on the scale seen in the days leading up to Japan’s surrender also restored peace to the least for a while. Soon, however, the lingering fear that other countries—especially emerging superpowers such as the Soviet Union—would build their own atomic arsenals presented a terrifying new threat.

Another result of humanity’s entry into the atomic age was the utter fascination with which the public regarded these weapons and their development. As information about the Manhattan Project became public knowledge, J. Robert Oppenheimer, dubbed the father of the atomic bomb for his involvement in the project, became something of a celebrity, with his face emblazoned across the covers of American magazines and newspapers. Oppenheimer would also begin lecturing about the scientific merits of this emerging nuclear technology, as well as the necessity for alliances with different countries around the world, from which all could reap the benefit of mutual protection from the threat of nuclear arms in the wrong hands.

Of course, the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki hadn’t been the first of their kind. Oppenheimer had been among those at the famous test at Alamogordo, where the first successful detonation of a nuclear weapon (given the nickname “Trinity” by Oppenheimer) had occurred. Much later in 1965, Oppenheimer recalled his feelings from that occasion during a NBC television appearance, saying that, “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita...‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that one way or another.”4

Though Oppenheimer was the so-called father of modern nuclear weapons, there are some rather strange circumstances involving this brilliant physicist that have resulted in questions as to whether the test at Alamogordo was indeed the first nuclear detonation in Earth’s history. On one occasion, during a seminar Oppenheimer was giving at Rochester University on the development of nuclear weapons, a college student asked if the blast at Alamogordo had been the first of its kind. Oppenheimer replied rather strangely by saying, “Well, yes, in modern times.” This statement is troubling for a number of reasons. For one, Oppenheimer seems to be intimating that there had been other nuclear explosions in the past that he knew about. Even if this were indeed found to be the case, where could any such blast have occurred, and who would have been responsible for it? Since Oppenheimer specifically referenced “modern times,” it would seem that something akin to the blasts at Alamogordo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki had once transpired at some point earlier in Earth’s history.

Logic would tell us, however, that it’s very unlikely that an ancient technology ever succeeded in harnessing the power of the atom as we have done in modern times. Some say that Oppenheimer was referencing the mysterious blast that occurred over Tunguska, a remote part of modern-day Russia, in 1908. This explosion, however, was not the result of a man-made device, nor was it even a nuclear blast, as it has since been determined that the concentration of radioactive isotopes in the blast area after the incident did not match the expected levels following a nuclear explosion.5 So what, then, was Oppenheimer referring to? Did the brilliant physicist really make this unsettling allusion to a student at Rochester during such a lecture? If so, what are the implications? The surprising answers lie hidden deep within some of the late physicist’s more esoteric interests, where we begin to see that he may have been referencing an event that occurred much earlier.

It is well known that Oppenheimer was well-versed in the Vedic epics of India, particularly given his propensity to publicly quote Hindu scripture such as the Bhagavad-Gita. Oppenheimer was also known to give copies of the Bhagavad-Gita to friends as gifts, in addition to keeping a copy of the text on the bookshelf by his desk.6 According to British journalist Nilesh Prashar, at the funeral of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, Oppenheimer read an excerpt from the holy text, which states in part, “Man is a creature whose substance is faith, what his faith is, he is.” Oppenheimer also cited the volume as being among his 10 favorite and most influential spiritual books during an interview in 1963.7

The Bhagavad-Gita is merely one part of the greater epic known as the Mahabharata, and one of two manuscripts (along with the Ramayana) that constitute the major Sanskrit epics of India. Of particular relevance to the discussion of nuclear weapons and their potential existence in ancient times, we find mention of something curious in the Mahabharata—specifically, during the epic battle said to have taken place between rival nations of the ancient world. If we accept this as a literal account of an armed conflict that took place in ancient times, we are left with the curious mention of a variety of weapons which seem to resemble modern firearms, advanced aircraft, and even explosives with devastating potential that resemble nuclear armaments. The late Alexander Gorbovsky, who served as an expert at the Russian Munitions Agency, wrote about this in his 1986 article “Riddles of Ancient History,” where he mentions references to a “terrible weapon” in the Mahabharata. “Regrettably, in our age of the atomic bomb, the description of this weapon exploding will not appear to be an exaggeration.”8 Following is the passage to which Gorbovsky is referring. Despite having been authored almost 3,000 years ago, it seems to describe something all too familiar to us today:

[A] blazing shaft possessed of the effulgence of a smokeless fi re (was) let off.... This makes the bodies of the dead unidentifiable.... The survivors lose their nails and hair, and their food becomes unfit for eating. For several subsequent years the Sun, the stars and the sky remain shrouded with clouds and bad weather.

The weapon described here, variously referred to in the text as the Weapon of Brahma, the Flame of Indra, or the Iron Thunderbolt, causes various kinds of ailments to living beings, in addition to atmospheric damage. During the early 1960s, it was shown that high-altitude testing with megaton nuclear explosives resulted in the creation of artificial belts of radiation in space. Although it is uncertain whether such radiation belts would cause the “clouds and bad weather” described in the Mahabharata, great concern about long-term atmospheric effects have been expressed by the likes of Sir Bernard Lovell, the director of the Radio Astronomy Laboratories at Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics.9 The late Herman Hoerlin, a leading expert on the physics of high-altitude nuclear detonations, also noted in a 1976 study
that “recent studies of a possible relationship between certain auroral displays in the north and weather do not exclude the hypothetical possibility of artificial weather-modification by nuclear energy releases.”10 On a greater scale, however, it was thought that the effects of a fullblown nuclear holocaust could result in a nuclear winter, in which the smoke and soot filling the air following the detonation would block sunlight, thus reducing temperatures over large areas or even worldwide. Citing a 2006 study on the potential devastation following a nuclear winter, Science Daily reported that “even a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce as many direct fatalities as all of World War II and disrupt the global climate for a decade or more, with environmental effects that could be devastating for everyone on Earth.11

The descriptions of this massive weapon in the Mahabharata are thought to indicate some kind of projectile, perhaps lending to its description as a “bolt” that strikes locations from above:

[It was] a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as the thousand suns rose in all its was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.

Soldiers then “throw themselves into streams to wash themselves and their equipment.”12 Interestingly, this line is reminiscent of individuals attempting to ward off the effects of radiation poisoning. According to the Merck Manual online medical library, initial treatment for exposure to radiation involves careful removal and storage of the individual’s clothing (to aid in preventing further contamination), followed by bathing wounded areas and then the rest of the skin.13

This portion of the Mahabharata appears to describe an event that bears more than a passing resemblance to what we now know of modern nuclear weapons and their attendant dangers. But is it reasonable to infer that ancient nuclear wars were indeed occurring on Earth prior to civilization as we know it today, based solely on the descriptions given in an ancient Sanskrit holy text? Arguably, some portions of the Mahabharata, much like the epics of other ancient cultures, are necessarily comprised of fantastical narratives that incorporate the mythologies, values, cultures, and imaginations of its author, all presented as direct reportage. Take, for instance, the remarkable flying craft known as vimanas that were described in some detail in many of the Sanskrit legends. These craft resemble everything from modern aircraft to popular depictions of flying saucers and UFOs. Could there be any factual basis for such things existing thousands of years ago, especially when descriptions of their capabilities seem to exceed what modern avionics has achieved? Remarkably, the intricacies pertaining to the design and mechanics of these craft are described at various times throughout the Vedas, with mention of “engines” that consist of an iron enclosure housing mercury or a similar substance that, when stimulated in some way (electrically, perhaps), could cause a vortex to occur within the swirling liquid metal, thus manifesting a strange energy source capable of propelling these flying vehicles to great altitudes at tremendous speeds.

Though remarkable and imaginative, these sorts of descriptions—replete with details that appear to describe a technologically advanced society—have prompted many a modern researcher to consider whether the Vedas do indeed contain evidence of some ancient, advanced society. Imagine if they were the last remaining written accounts of some even older civilization which, though forgotten today, was remembered well enough thousands of years ago that attempts were made at cataloguing its various innovations. Perhaps this monumental task was undertaken by people who themselves had only a vague remembrance of these earlier exploits—and even less knowledge of the technology they were attempting to document.

One researcher who has carefully and exhaustively examined the technology depicted in the Vedas is Peter Thomson, an instructor at Napier University in Edinburgh who has authored books and articles on everything from green energy, holistic diets, and computer systems that integrate biological life forms, to attempts at finding credible evidence for ancient civilizations and prehistoric nuclear weapons. In his article “Unexplained Flying Vehicles” on his Website, Thomson describes his research into what he calls a charged sheath vortex, a device inspired by and designed to operate based on the aforementioned descriptions of a “swirling mercury engine” from the Sanskrit epics. (Incidentally, this is very similar to the “implosion technology” developed by Austrian inventor Viktor Schauberger in the 1920s and ‘30s, which itself was based on tornado-like fluidic vortices, for whirlpools, and similar vortex movements found in nature.14) Regarding the appearance of such advanced concepts in ancient texts, Thomson states the following:

There is simply too much consistent and working technology in [the Vedas]. These stories can only be fragments of history from the distant past. Twisted, altered, misremembered, but still enough technology remains in these accounts to say with a lot of certainty, we are not the first technological civilization on this planet.15

Granted, it may require a suspension of disbelief for anyone to assume that the Vedas, as Thomson writes, “can only be fragments of history from the distant past.” After all, the Vedas could certainly be discussing other things just as easily, especially in the absence of any scientific evidence of ancient technological innovations on par with modern atomic weaponry. However, according to Thomson, the finest evidence for advanced technology exists not in these fascinating descriptions of aviation and engineering innovations in the Vedas, but instead in our planet’s archaeological, geological, and climate data.

For instance, the ability to manipulate our environment using technology involves the acquisition and practical use of essential metals such as copper, lead, tin, and iron. Thomson notes that mining for such metals, along with the ensuing smelting and processing of usable quantities, resulted in traces that could be observed in glacial deposits around the globe, relative to the time period when such industrialization began. Thomson argues in his article that the industrial development of ancient Greek and Roman societies left a clear signature out, stating that nuclear fission could also be traced in such a way. Any evidence of a nuclear war and the ensuing period of nuclear winter would likely be found within the cores of coral reefs, formed out of calcium carbonate secreted by marine organisms over the centuries, and in the beds of rivers and lakes left undisturbed for long periods of time.16 Other evidence that would be observable in the geological record might include the extinction of large swaths of animal populations in various regions and habitats, as well as stone and sand melted by the sudden, intense heat at the site of an explosion, resulting in the formation of glass, called trinitite. If we were to find evidence of such conditions spanning a relatively short period of time in geological history, we might indeed have a case not only for ancient civilizations, but also, given the right sort of evidence, perhaps even for a clearly traceable nuclear event—or even several of them—in prehistory.

Remarkable though it may seem, many of these criteria have been found, most coinciding with the end of the last Ice Age. Thomson notes evidence of expected increases in traces of metals such as iron and copper; of the extinction resulting from an intelligent species proliferating and encroaching on the habitat of megafauna in the locale; of uranium concentrations in coral; and even of the presence of glasslike fused sand and stone at a number of ancient sites. This information serves as the rationale for a bold emerging hypothesis that perhaps a technologically advanced civilization did exist in ancient times. Thomson argues that [this civilization] mined and smelted copper, lead, tin and almost certainly iron...and destroyed all the megafauna predators from all continents.... It developed a nuclear capability and then destroyed itself in a nuclear holocaust...followed by a nuclear winter that returned the world to an ice age for a further 1000 years.17

Speaking more specifically, physical evidence for a nuclear event, or possibly a series of them, exists, as well. A paper written by scientists William Topping and Richard B. Firestone states that anomalous radiocarbon readings were recovered from the Great Lakes region of North America: “The entire Great Lakes region (and beyond) was subjected to particle bombardment and a catastrophic nuclear irradiation that produced secondary thermal neutrons from cosmic ray interactions.”18 Granted, the event to which the authors refer took place in Paleo-Indian times. Moreover, because conventional wisdom holds that nuclear devices simply couldn’t have existed so long ago, the authors propose instead the theory that a supernova was likely to blame: “The size of the initial catastrophe may be too large for a solar flare,” they say, although a “significantly powerful nearby supernovae or cosmic ray jet could account for it.”19 Obviously, this is only a theory, and as such it does not definitively prove that such natural phenomena caused a nuclear event in ancient times. But left to consider the troubling alternative—namely, that ancient humans may have possessed a greater degree of technical proficiency—what are we to think of explanations that point to the existence of ancient nuclear weapons? Despite the controversy that rages between these two polar opposite positions, one thing is obvious: a nuclear event or events apparently did take place in ancient times, and proof of this does exist. Regarding a technological primum movens behind the nuclear event(s) in question, however, there may indeed be evidence that brings us to an even more unsettling conclusion involving our ancient ancestors and what dreadful technology they may have possessed— despite what conventional history has taught us for so long.

Micah A. Hanks is a full-time journalist, radio personality, author, musician, and investigator of the unexplained. Throughout his many years studying the world’s mysteries, Hanks has visited a number of diverse places, collecting information about not only UFOs and strange phenomenon but also cultural data, folklore, history, and philosophy. He has been featured as a guest on many television and radio programs, including the History Channel’s Guts and Bolts, National Geographic’s Paranatural, CNN Radio, and The Jeff Rense Program. He is also a staff writer for UFO Magazine, Mysterious Universe, and regular contributor to Intrepid Magazine, with past articles appearing in FATE, Mysteries Magazine, New Dawn, and several other publications. The latest news about UFOs and unexplained phenomena, as well as information about Micah’s ongoing projects and appearances, are available at his Website, TheGralienReport  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Creature of the Month - Hippocampus - the Sea Horse by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

It is an axiom in the medieval bestiary, the Physiologus, that the surface of the water is like Alice’s looking glass, with the world beneath being a kind of distorted reflection of the one above. Therefore it was believed that all creatures of the land had their aquatic counterparts in the sea, often distinguished by little more than fins instead of legs. Thus our marine menagerie is enriched by such wonders as Mermaids (meaning “Sea-maids”), Sea-Lions, Sea-Unicorns (Narwhals), Sea-Dogs (dogfish sharks), Sea-Cats (catfish), Sea-Bats, Sea-Anemones, Sea-Cucumbers, Sea-Hares, Sea-Goats (Capricorn), Angel-Fish, Devil-Fish, Ichthyocentaurs (“Fish-Centaurs”), Rooster-Fish, Sea-Elephants, Sea-Serpents—and Sea-Horses.

Nearly all of these creatures actually exist, though our naturalistic modern depictions may seem sadly prosaic compared to their fabulous medieval antecedents. Remarkably, however, apart from a matter of scale, the zoological seahorse more exactly resembles its mythical counterpart than any other fabled sea-monster.

The Sea-Horse

The mythical Sea-Horse or Hippocampus (“horselike sea-monster”; from Greek hippos, meaning “horse,” and kampos, meaning “sea-monster”) is an equine aquatic beast in classical Greco-Roman mythology, with the head and forelegs of a horse and the body and tail of a fanciful fish. Its equine forefeet terminate in flippers rather than hooves. It is also known as the Hydrippus ( “water-horse”) or Horse-Eel, and was a favorite art subject in Greco-Roman times, especially in Roman baths, where it is frequently found depicted in mosaic. In Roman lore, the Hippocampus was said to be the fastest creature in the ocean. It is thus the favorite steed of Poseidon (Roman Neptune), King of the Sea, and a team of them draw his chariot.

These beautiful white horses of the sea are a perfect metaphor for the plunging waves have given rise to many stories involving their exploits. They have been known to save drowning sailors, to pull ships through difficult passages and to do battle with various dread monsters of the deeps. In the ancient Phoenician and Etruscan fashion, they are sometimes depicted with wings like the statues at the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome. Poseidon’s favorite Hippocampoi was a stallion named Skylla and a mare named Sthenios.

Among the Seri Indians of northwestern Mexico, there is a legend of a man who fled into the sea to escape his pursuers, tucking his sandals into the back of his shirt above his belt. Once in the water he was transformed into a seahorse, thus explaining the origin of that animal.                    

The Sea-Horse appears in European heraldry as the Hippocampus, with webbed feet in place of hooves, and a long dorsal fin down its back. A Hippocampus is the right-hand supporter of the Isle of Wight arms, the supporters (on either side) of the crest of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, and also the arms of the University of Newcastle, Australia.

The Havhest (“sea-horse”) is a gigantic Sea-Serpent of Scandinavian folklore, with a horselike head and a double-lobed tail like that of a fish. It has glittering yellow eyes, a long mane down its back, and forelimbs like a seal’s. Its double row of fangs may grow to six feet long. On top of all this, it also breathes fire! This sinker of ships has only been seen a few times since the 19th century.

Hippocampus is now the scientific name given to the curious little fish commonly known as the seahorse. Looking very much like the mythic beast, the largest species is only 14 inches long. This name has also been given to a part of the brain that is shaped somewhat like a seahorse. Because the cerebral hippocampus is resistant to damage from epileptic seizures, the National Society for Epilepsy chose the seahorse for its mascot. They named it Cesar, after the Roman emperor, Julius Caesar, who was believed to have had epilepsy.

The Rosmarine

Although the name “seahorse” has been given to little fishes that look remarkably similar to the mythic Hippocampus, the original Sea-Horse of legend was undoubtedly a walrus.

Although it may seem odd to us that anyone could have equated the ungainly walrus with the graceful horse, keep in mind that hippopotamus means “river horse” in Greek. Ancient peoples did not have as wide an acquaintance with large, four-footed animals as we do, so their basis for descriptive comparisons was limited. If you are encountering a large beast for the first time and trying to describe it to someone else, you have to do so in terms the other will understand. Now, if I’d been in that position, I think I’d have likened the hippo to a giant pig—which would have been more zoologically correct. But perhaps horses were more familiar to whoever assigned that name to the hippopotamus, and so we’ve all been stuck with it ever since.

It is a similar situation with the Sea-Horse, Merhorse, or Morse. In British and Scandinavian folklore, this is described as a giant fish having the head, mane, and foreparts of a horse, and cloven hooves. Equally at home on land or sea, it was often seen basking on ice floes. And early English explorers of northern Canada reported a beast they called Equus Bipes (Latin, “two-footed horse”). They described it much as they would a Hippocampus: with the body and great, fanlike tail of a monstrous fish and the foreparts of a horse. These creatures were certainly walruses.

The Rosmarine (also called Rosmarus or Rosmer; all meaning “horse of the sea”) was a fantastical depiction of the walrus, shown with tusks pointing upward rather than downward as they are in reality. In Norwegian waters the same giant sea-monster was called Roshwalr (“horse-whale”), Ruszor, or Cetus Dentatus (“toothed whale”), and described as having a bulky, smooth body like a whale’s and the head of a horse. A severed head was sent to Pope Leo X in 1520; it was drawn at the time and later described by Paré. It has been clearly identified as a walrus, which has been given the scientific name of Odobenus rosmarus

Oberon Zell has accomplished many things in his long and colorful career. A modern Renaissance man, Oberon is a transpersonal psychologist, metaphysician, naturalist, theologian, shaman, author, artist, sculptor, lecturer, teacher, and ordained Priest of the Earth-Mother, Gaia. Those who know him well consider him to be a true Wizard in the traditional sense. He is also an initiate in the Egyptian Church of the Eternal Source, a Priest in the Fellowship of Isis, and an initiate in several different Traditions of Witchcraft. He holds academic degrees in sociology, anthropology, clinical psychology, teaching, and theology. He was most recently featured as a guest on Coast to Coast with George Noory. His books include A Wizard's BestiaryGrimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, Companion for the Apprentice Wizard, Creating Circles & Ceremonies, and Green Egg Omelette.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Positive News of the Week

Facebook adds Dog Rescue to it's credits

Click Here to Learn More

Cocoa: A Superfood (yeah!)

Click Here to Learn More 

Cousins Reunited after almost 70 years

Click Here to Learn More 

The Handshake Test for Health

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A Happy Nomad takes a Plunge onto his True Path

Click Here to Learn More

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Come to Your Senses as we enter Spring with Jesse Wolf Hardin

We decided as an Ode to the entrance of Spring to share with you an excerpt from Jesse Wolf Hardin's Gaia Eros. This portion is excerpted from Chapter 5.

You must concentrate yourself and consecrate yourself wholly
to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.

Our physical and intuitive senses are tools for this reinhabitation— connecting us in a real way to the rest of this feeling world, to increased response-ability...and to the immediate rewards of taste and touch, sensation and bliss.

In New Nature Spirituality, we know that we live in order to feel—and feel in order to praise and celebrate that life. We sense and relate to the world through the complex symbiosis of emotion and instinct we call the heart, through the “five senses,” and those unmeasured faculties such as intuition and precognition that scientists have lumped together as the “sixth sense.” While one can benefit by learning the “facts” about any chosen bioregion or terrain, we can never really know a place by reading a book on the subject or by thinking about it. We only come to know it like a baby, humbly and appreciatively touching and tasting the world we’re a physical, integral part of—launched bodily into the experience and knowledge of place: the eyes seeing every nuance of undressed life, sucking its hitchhiking molecules up through the passages of the anxious nose. Reading the vibrations in the air as they play across the taut tissues of our eardrums. Trying like that baby to put the entire world into our mouths, constantly reaching out to handle it. Our natural response to our being born is to pull the substance and meaning of the world closer to us, or by grabbing a hold, to pull ourselves ever closer to it. In this way life “makes sense,” and our senses make the experience of life.

The practices of New Nature Spirituality are antidotes to the cognitive disassociation of modern human kind. Ritual and magic reconnect us to our bodies and the body of inspirited Gaia. Mindfulness is a component of both awareness and sacrament. Social and environmental activism puts us “in touch” with what matters most. The act of restoring wild places (wildcrafting) feeds us like nothing else. And wildcrafting can be a port of reentry to the experience and purpose of self and place. We learn cordage—fashioning raw plant fiber into rope—not because we expect to find ourselves lost in the wilderness, but because we know it will help us find ourselves again. And because of the way it binds us to our essential native selves, weaving us back into the fabric of Nature. We practice to avoid the slide into rote, habitual behavior, to prevent the dulling of the animal senses that connect us to the so-real world.

We can practice awareness wherever we are, and not just out in Nature. One can “stay awake” by noticing the way a chair cradles the back, the tickley way in which air dries the sweat on our neck, or the messages of hormonal pheromones released by others in the room. Each has something to impart to us, communicating through its energy, presence, and example the factors relevant to our being. Things such as the gift of wild foods growing at our feet, the fact that our neck may be sore if we don’t change positions, that the window needs to be opened, or that somebody we love is very angry with us! Staying in-body and in-focus is a constant and unrelenting task, a challenge to willingly face the cauldron of tests, the bursting moment, the shadowless crucible. But one must actually choose to see less, hear less, feel less. We are individually responsible for our failures to perceive, and for what happens or doesn’t happen when we’ve deliberately turned away. And likewise, we can take credit whenever we make the decision to wholly feel instead!

By looking, listening, smelling—we are touching, acknowledging, engaging, and thus affecting the world of which we’re a part. Regardless of the degree to which we affect it, regardless of measurable results, we’re nonetheless rewarded, immediately, for any “return to our senses”: The ears that discern each element of discordant traffic are bestowed with the songs of the birds in every trimmed shrub. The nose that is trained to remain alert even in the presence of noxious fumes has a field day in line at the bakery. The eyes that meet the eyes of the world, behold the magic of unveiled truth. The hands that reach out are grasped in return.

The human body is an ecstatic organ, an agent and organ of Gaian bliss. The practice of its reinhabitation involves refamiliarizing ourselves with the feel and function of our flesh. We can start by attending the feel of our blood pushing through our veins, then the vibrations of the ground below us, then the point where our trembling rhythms intermesh with those of the Earth. Then, without moving from where you are, like an enthusiastic cook, isolate the ingredients of your experiencing, segregating and recombining each of the senses. With the eyes closed and ears plugged, know the world through the wind and whatever else touches you. Try to taste with the nose plugged. Smell with the eyes closed, and try to identify each distinct aroma in the air, then attempt to triangulate your position in this way. With the eyes and nose blocked, try to measure and qualify the source of each sound occurring around you. In the woods or in a safe part of a park, plug all the head-bound senses and feel your way through the grass, examining every object with deft fingertips alone, enjoying and communicating with the most ordinary of them as if they were remarkably new and unique to you, communing in the giving and receiving of touch.

By choosing to open up and pay attention, in time, we begin to notice the way different foods affect our energy levels, recognize the gentle effects of different herbs, and know the position of the moon without looking. We notice which postures cause us to tighten up and which increase our range of movement. Too much of our disappearing moments are spent drifting through inner space, the cerebral abyss. For our reprieve, we can thank any and all sources of “wake-up calls.” Reprieval, and retrieval.

And why deprive ourselves, why diminish the depth and richness of a single lived moment? It really is a sensuous world we work, play, and dance through, a glad explosion of color and form! To know our place in such a world, to come home...we must first “come to our senses.”

Come to them, I suggest, as we once left them behind.

Jesse Wolf Hardin is an internationally renowned artist, musician, and presenter on Earth-centered spirituality, and Pagan and magical practice. He is the author of numerous books, including Kindred Spirits: Sacred Earth Wisdom (2001).
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