Archive for May, 2010

(photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

In the book Dreaming the Future, Clifford Pickover describes a few themes recorded during several future life progressions (as opposed to past life regressions):

21st Century-World peace is attained and lasts three thousand years. Hunger, greed and prejudice are reduced. 22nd Century-Solar power is part of daily life. The average life span is ninety years. 23rd Century-Transportation is noiseless and efficient. Nuclear power is used extensively. Average life span is 110 years. 24th Century-Humankind reexperiences earlier mistakes. International political problems recur. A small scale-nuclear war reduces human population. 25th Century-Humans control the weather. Androids perform all menial tasks. A major nuclear war occurs that decimates most of humanity.

When I first read this, I was surprised that nuclear power was a major source of energy. I had always thought the nuclear power was bad, bad, baaaaddd. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Here’s the skinny:

Nuclear power is cheap (around the same cost as coal), it doesn’t produce smoke or carbon dioxide pollutants, it requires very little fuel to create a LOT of energy, and there is only just a small amount of waste produced in nuclear power production. HOWEVER, that small amount of waste is highly toxic (can cause genetic mutation, cancer, and death) and takes 10,000 to 1,000,000 years to break down.


So as I’m reading this on Wikipedia, I run across a curious word: transmutation. Transmutation is an alchemical term. Yes, alchemy. The scientific study of the ancients (Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Greco-Romans, medieval Islamics as well as the ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans). Alchemy is the art of refinement. The alchemist’s goal is to separate the ingredients of different chemicals and refine them using various means (extraction, fire, distillation, etc.) to their purest form. The most popular goal of alchemy is turning lead into gold, however, alchemy is first and foremost a spiritual discipline. Transmuting base metals into gold is a metaphor for purifying the human body, with the highest goal being no less than immortality (enlightenment).

What can this have to do with nuclear waste? Well, here it is: scientists have discovered ways to transmute the elements (not fire, water, air and earth…I’m talking about the actual elements on the periodic table). In 1901 Fredrick Soddy noticed that thorium can convert into radium. In 1919 Ernest Rutherford converted nitrogen into oxygen. And in 1957 scientists recorded their discoveries that elements are transmuted in the fires of the stars. Now, scientists are using this nuclear transmutation, a hearkening back to the theories of the ancients, to de-toxify radioactive waste.

Transmutation was banned in the US in April 1977 by President Carter due to the danger of plutonium proliferation, but President Reagan rescinded the ban in 1981. Due to the economic losses and risks, construction of reprocessing plants during this time did not resume. Due to high energy demand, work on the method has continued in the EU. This has resulted in a practical nuclear research reactor called Myrrha in which transmutation is possible. Additionally, a new research program called ACTINET has been started in the EU to make transmutation possible on a large, industrial scale. According to President Bush’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) of 2007, the US is now actively promoting research on transmutation technologies needed to markedly reduce the problem of nuclear waste treatment. (from Wikipedia)

Wow. Maybe there’s hope yet. (At least until the 25th Century that is…)


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Once, when I was a kid, somebody told me about the fight between creationists and evolutionaryists. I looked up some information in my red Encyclopedia Britanica. I couldn’t figure out who was right. So I asked my mom, who usually knew the answers. She said both were right.


Can you believe it? Two totally opposite viewpoints which, on the surface, seem to be completely contradictory, are simultaneously right. Her simple explanation was that God started the Big Bang. To my young mind, the answer was genius. Why couldn’t everyone else see that?

John Dee (13 July 1527-1608 or 1609) was a noted mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.

Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable. (from Wikipedia) (I like that last sentence.)

John Dee, in between his algebra lectures and his medical practice, was involved with alchemy and the art of calling angels. He used a black crystal stone (given to him by a boy-shaped angel)  and an obsidian mirror for scrying, although he preferred to let his friend Edward Kelly do the scrying while he took notes.

The angels taught Dee the ‘language of Enoch,’ which was supposedly spoken by Adam before the Fall. Kelly, in a trance, dictated to Dee The Book of Enoch, which revealed the mysteries of creation. (from The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft Magic, by Susan Greenwood)

Dee’s life ended poorly. He broke off connections with Kelly when Kelly told him that the angels wished for Dee to share his wife with his friend. His benefactor, Queen Elizabeth died. Her successor James I had no sympathy for divination and provided him no respite. His books and property were stolen. He died a pauper. But he had lived with a vision. His vision was to see the ultimate truth.

Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called “pure verities.”

His ultimate goal was to help bring forth a unified world religion through the healing of the breach of the Catholic and Protestant churches and the recapture of the pure theology of the ancients. (Wikipedia)


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I’ve been tired. I believe, if I’ve counted properly, that I have 14 1/2 days of school left. (I mentioned this fact on Thursday and one of my students said that he didn’t know that teachers counted down too. Ah youthful naivety).

I thought I was going to talk about John Dee in this blog. I’m going to start it off different, and see if I cant’ squeeze him in there.

In my tiredness of late, I’ve found myself wanting to watch movies. I’ve watched a bunch this week. A scratchy copy of Shrek pt 1 (which went from two hours down to 45 minutes with all the skipping. Ugh for skippy movies. I hate that moment when the machine makes that stupid noise and you know its going to skip and all you can do is boil on the inside as the words “skipping over damaged area” pop onto the screen), a humdrum thriller entitled Duplicity, an artsy queer movie called Do I Love You? (which I had to turn off do to a high level of failure to be a good movie), and The Proposal, starring America’s Favorite Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock.

Watching all these movies did not rejuvenate me. In fact, I think it made the tiredness worse. I watched the movie so that my brain could rest, but I think it just drugged my brain into dumbness.

Thinking about this reminded me of the Ekhart Tolle book, A New Earth. Tolle would say that my consciousness slipped below my thoughts. He also says that true peace will only come from lifting my consciousness above my thoughts. Wow, that sounds like hard work. Although I suppose that consciousness can’t really weigh that much. Why is it so hard to get it up there then?

Perhaps when I let my consciousness grovel around down there under my pesky thoughts, it gets a little heavy. Out of shape, if you will. And dirty. There’s a lot of dust bunnies down there.

When I lift it up, above my thoughts, that consciousness gets into shape. All that pullin’ an’ squeezin’ makes a consciousness firm and taut. No dust bunnies.

The paradox is that when I do the work to get quiet and lift myself above my thoughts, my brain can rest. When I get lazy and let myself slip into unconsciousness, my brain can’t really rest. It just gets lethargic.

But to be fair, I bet even Jesus would watch a good BBC movie. Or a little Discovery channel. Lethargy in moderation?

Next up: John Dee (couldn’t squeeze him in).

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I’m presently reading a book called Dreaming the Future by one of my most favorite writers, Clifford Pickover. In this book he drums up some ancient symbol codes, one of runes and another of Enochian characters, which he invites the reader to crack. He casually quips that no one has yet been able to break the secret Enochian code.

Interestingly enough, somebody who checked the book out of the library before me was able to crack it. Scratched in pencil above the odd feathery language (which was used in the 17th century by John Dee, a famous scientist, mathematician,  astrologer, and divination extraordinaire, to commune with the angels) was the decoded message:

This is a secret code in the Enochian language. I hope you like it and enjoy reading these words. My name is Cliff Pickover. I wish you a productive and pleasant day.

I don’t know exactly why, but this is very exciting, and perhaps a touch foreboding, to me. Who had this book? Who deciphered the code? Is Pickover joking and it’s really not that hard to decipher? Was it a fluke?  Or is it possible that some spiritual being checked this book out before me and filled in the informative and encouraging message from the author? I’ll never know.

I’ve always been drawn to the occult. As a youngster I loved nothing better than a sleepover and a midnight round of “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” during which someone would hypnotize a volunteer by rubbing her temples (don’t ask me, we just made it up) and invite the ghasts from the cemetery to come round and help us lift her spirit stiffened and lightened body into the air with just two fingers. Shivers run down my spine now, just as invigoratingly as they did twenty years ago, upon remembering our successes.

Then there was the Ouija board. Oh come on, you know you had you some serious Ouija experience. Admit it. My BFFs and I called forth the spirit of a little boy with the initials of something or other (can’t remember) who was killed in a car crash with his parents…(shudder). And there was the great phone-ringing-with-nobody-on-the-line experience of 92′ to think about.

All this is a long segue into divination thinkings. Up next: John Dee (briefly mentioned above), necromancer. (It’s not as bad as it sounds. It just means communing with dead people.)

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(painting by John William Waterhouse)

Scrying, according to Wikipedia:

(also called crystal gazing, crystal seeing, seeing, or peeping) is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and more rarely for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The media used are most commonly reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke.

I was into scrying for a little bit, several months ago. First I read a book from the library, then I went online, then I considered buying a $60 scrying mirror. (After all, how can one properly read the omens if one hasn’t the proper materials? Oh, it was lovely…mahogany wood with a very dramatic black lens…) After a few days of obsessive compulsive ebay checking, I did a little wallet scrying and decided to buy my divination tool from Goodwill. It was a brown bowl, which drew a heckle or two from my loving partner. (“It’s a bowl for doing what?” [bemused face] “Seriously?”).

I had read that different tools work better for different mediums, so there was also a wooden pictureless picture frame, into which I placed a carefully measured piece of black felt.

For several weeks I went upstairs after supper and took deep breaths, burned incense, and stared meaningfully into my bowl, which was half filled with water, and looked for images. Naked ladies, faces, caravans, I had the book at my side and was ready to translate the images into helpful interventions. Nothing appeared.

So then I bought some different incense (the special kind that you put on the special burning charcoal thingie) and got out the picture frame to see if maybe it was that the bowl was just not my kind of speculum. I stared intently into the felt blackness, night after night. Nothing appeared there either.

I gave up after a while and now we use the “scrying bowl” as the “special cereal bowl.” It’s just the perfect size and color for cereal. But worry not, all was not lost. I took away a few important and extra dramatic ideas.

1. I still believe in scrying, even if I didn’t have the patience to see anything.

2. People have been divining things for thousands of years, across thousands of continents. Why would they do that, if nobody was ever successful at it?

3. You can scry with eggs and fingernails. That’s just neat.

I’m planning to do a little series on divination over the next week or so. You know what they say…those who can’t do, inspire others. Or something anyway.

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Once recently, a friend mentioned offhandedly that she was trying to stop talking about people behind their backs. I thought to myself, wow! that’s neat! I wonder how she’ll do? It didn’t really occur to me until about an hour later, when I noticed myself talking about somebody behind his back, that perhaps I should work on this too. Thus began my yo-yo attempt at being nice behind people’s backs.

I just finished a book called Ghostwalk (written by Rebecca Stott) which is about alchemy, Isaac Newton, and a few killins’ (I won’t say by whom, in case you want to read it). In the book there is a lot revealed about Isaac Newton, including a list of sins that he’d committed (written in code, of course). Here are a few interesting ones:

1. Using the word (God) openly. 2. Eating an apple at Thy house. 3. Making a feather (quill?) on Thy day. 4. Denying that I made it. 5. Making a mousetrap on Thy day. 6. Contriving of the chimes on Thy day. 10. Putting a pin in Iohn Keys  hat on Thy day to pick him. 13. Threatening my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them. 17. Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer. 26. Calling Derothy Rose a jade. 43. Missing chapel. 44. Beating Arthur Storer.

There are lots of strange (and mildly amusing) things in this list (even more in the expanded version) which is perhaps why it was written in code (putting a pin in somebody’s hat to prick them? sheesh). Of course, I’d be mortified to find that in the year 2500 someone decoded and read my secret-list-of-sins journal.

But Isaac Newton was an alchemist. He knew that a person grows more and more spiritual with every bad habit he (or she) releases into the wild. He, like spirit seeking folks before and after him, felt the burn of guilt that follows doing something that you feel is wrong, something you have challenged yourself to overcome.

I talk a little shit about people from time to time (pardon my Old English). Sometimes I don’t for a while. It confuses me, because sometimes somebody does something that really bothers me or hurts my feelings, and talking about it, telling about how mean that person was or how thoughtless, makes me feel better. Until I begin to feel guilty about talking so mean about them, anyway.

Like Newton, I want to be better. I want to burn that part of me away, let it go.

Step 1: admit to millions of people that I talk smack about others. (ok, my readership is slightly lower than that, but we’re talkin’ potential here!)

Step 2: read a self-help book.

Step 3: begin again.

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My next door neighbor invited me to come over and watch his dog (and his cable) last friday night. I was watching an episode of the Ghost Whisperer (starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, who I last saw in that one show from the nineties…I keep thinking it was called Eight is Enough but that isn’t right…you know, the one where the parents die and the kids have to fend for themselves in a cold, hard world, even though they are all so painfully attractive that you sort of feel sorry for them? Anyway.) About halfway through, I saw an aspirin commercial. In the commercial, they showed a person’s skeleton (in electric blue, with pulsing red spots of pain, of course) inside her body as she walked along with her grandchild and her golden retriever.

The lady’s bones looked so clacky and awkward in there, like she was really a robot, or a marionette. Ever since I saw the commercial, I keep picturing what I would look like if I was just bones. (I usually picture white ones, rather than electric blue with pulsing red spots. White is more dramatic for bones.)

Sitting on the couch, legs crossed, reading a book, I’m a skeleton. Standing in front of my 5th graders, writing fractions on the board, I’m a skeleton. Lunchtime, chewing my food, inflexible white jawbone on a rubber band, up and down, up and down it goes, mechanically mashing my taco–which crumbles and falls out the sides, with no cheeks to hold it in–I’m a skeleton.

Imagine if all the flesh in the world disappeared for a day (without us dying of course, which would be impossible, as you know), and we saw what our bodies look like underneath all that fat and blood and glandage. For a little while we would be scared, because we aren’t used to our bones being visible. They move funny. Bones are what mummies are made of and mummies kill you.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Meditation by Lama Christie McNally:

Stop now and feel the bones beneath your skin. Think of the flesh now covering them—even now it is already in the process of rotting away, getting older by the minute. Picture how it will be in the future—see your flesh fall off and return to the earth, leaving only the pristine white of this pile of bones behind.

Oh yeah! You’re bones are under there! You are a mummy, waiting to happen. Right now, there is a skeleton encased in fat, skin, hair, glands and oily secretions, sitting on your chair scrolling through this blog entry. Gross. (But cool!)

The Bone Poem

Tell me again about the slick bones
of the skull: occipital,frontal, temporal, parietal,

and the forgiving groove of fontanels
stone-hard and stubborn. Tell me about

cervical and thoracic vertebrae rising
from the lover’s lumbar curve, about

and sternum, and floating ribs falling south.
Tell me about humerus, twisting dance of radius

and ulna, how all twenty-eight phalanges
swing open on the hand’s silent hinges.

Tell me about cane-shaped femurs, the fluted
pipe of tibia, and slender, clasping fibula,

tarsals wide and sure, and calcaneum, the calculus
of our unending path. Tell me about the smooth bowl

of the pelvis with its high and wide iliac crests,
the sacrifice of sacrum, and coccyx, memory of tail.

Tell me again about the bony tools of the ear,
how hammer, stirrup, and anvil return to us

the sounds of our small, miraculous lives.

Heather Davis

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