Feb 28, 2013

Robert Jeffress Questions Tim Tebow's Manhood

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

It's getting ugly between Robert Jeffress and Tim Tebow. Well, Robert Jeffress is getting ugly. Tim Tebow seems like a decent enough guy. But he bowed out of a scheduled appearance at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, when Jeffress's record was made clear to him. And Jeffress, who made a series of more politic statements in the immediate aftermath, seems to have finally snapped. Some of the statements in the sermon posted above seemed to be aimed a bit south of the belt-line.

Jeffress is no stranger to controversy. During the Republican primary, for instance, his anti-Mormon views created a little trouble for his good friend Rick Perry. But his belief that Mormonism is a cult wasn't as controversial as his belief that Catholicism is "a Babylonian mystery religion that spread like a cult," which demonstrates "the genius of Satan."

He says things like that but somehow he always manages to look completely mystified when he gets push-back. In the video above, for instance, he explains that he just doesn't understand why anyone thinks he's antisemitic simply because he believes that all Jews will go to hell unless they accept Jesus. It's not like he's singling Jews out. He believes Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists... they're all going to hell, too. He's not antisemitic. He's anti-everything that isn't Christianity, because it's all evil and hellbound. What's wrong with that? And he doesn't know why people think he's anti-gay just because he says that sex should only be between a man and a woman.

You see? It's so crazy the way people take the things he says out of context like that.

The Papal Resignation and the Prophecies

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

In a few short hours, Pope Benedict XVI will surrender the reigns of the Vatican. For those who are interested in such things, it will be live-streamed here and there and everywhere.

After that the real fun will begin as we see who the next pope will be and how the dynamics of having a new pope and retired pope living in Vatican city will work. And we will see how the escalating dramas, scandals, and intrigues will play out. Whether you're Catholic or not -- and I'm not -- it's hard not to stop and stare in disbelief at this slow-motion train wreck.

The day Pope Benedict announced his pending resignation, my mind went straight to the Malachy prophecy. I don't really know why it did, but it did. Maybe it's just my overall interest in eschatology, but I can't help but be intrigued by speculation that we are about to see the election of the last pope.

Prophecy researcher John Hogue is speculating that the likeliest candidate is none other than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Secretary of State, and the man considered by many to be the current power behind the throne. The final pope in St. Malachy's chronology is Peter the Roman, or Petrus Romanus, and a number of the Papabile have Peter in their full names somewhere, but only Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Bertone is also Italian. The prophetic ring to his name is by no means the only reason to speculate about Bertone. He's a very sharp, political operator and one to watch for many reasons.

Feb 27, 2013

Fox's War on Paganism

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The news network that every, bleedin' year goes on and on about the "war on Christmas" has never had much interest in the religious holidays of other, non-Christian faiths. As Jon Stewart famously said to Bill O'Reilly, "If you think Christmas isn't celebrated in this country, walk a mile in Hanukkah's shoes."

Fox did, however, go out of its way to marginalize Wiccan and Pagan holidays. In fact, they were outright derisive.

The trouble started last year when the University of Missouri added the eight sabbats of the Pagan year to the university's holiday guide. Graduate student Christopher White was not amused by the move towards inclusiveness and took to The College Fix to complain

The Wiccan and pagan festivals are listed right alongside major religious holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Ramadan, and several other Jewish and Buddhist observances.

Their inclusion in the religion guide may be considered an indication by some of the mainstreaming of Wiccan and pagan beliefs in America.

. . .

While the percentages of Mainline American Christians have declined over the past twenty years, from 86.2 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008, they still, in terms of percentage, dwarf the 1.2 percent of American Wiccans and Pagans, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008. These statistics beg the question: why put both Christianity and Wiccans in equipollency?

Feb 26, 2013

The Vatican and the "Ticking Gay Bomb"

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

According to openly gay, former friar Mark Dowd, gays are "overrepresented" in the Catholic clergy. His back of the envelope calculation tells him that about half of the men drawn to Catholic seminaries and religious orders are men who love men. This, he believes, is a "ticking time bomb" in the Catholic Church.

Days before Pope Benedict XVI is officially set to resign from papal office, two bombshells rocked the Catholic Church. First, On Feb. 21, an article published in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper alleged that Benedict was influenced to resign by an unsourced report claiming the Vatican has been influenced by multiple internal lobbys, including a gay one.

The report also claimed members broke the Sixth Commandment, which is "linked in Catholic doctrine to the proscribing of homosexual acts," according to The Guardian.

Then, three days later, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, known for his anti-gay rhetoric, was accused of "inappropriate" behavior with other priests and offered his resignation.

In a recent CNN interview, the former Dominican friar discussed the challenges of a half gay Church that doctrinally oppresses gay people.

Cardinals: When Will Abuse Victims Stop Whining?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Say what you will about Cardinal Keith O'Brien. He may have made unwanted advances on young priests. He may not have. He may be a hypocrite -- publicly condemning homosexuality while privately pursuing dalliances with men. Then again, he may simply be a bigot. He deserves his day in court. But whatever the case may be, at least he had the good grace to step down. It appears he saw the wisdom in bowing out of the upcoming conclave given the cloud of suspicion over his head. And the Scottish Catholic Media Office also gets mad props for this little turn of phrase:

Given the imminent Vacant See, the Holy Father has now decided to accept the said resignation definitively.

Vacant See... vacancy... get it?

Although I have to admit, I have some lingering concern that the expediency of this decision had more to do with O'Brien's having wandered way off the farm when he said that the celibate priesthood is "not of divine origin" and that it might be better they should marry. We all know by now where illicit sexual behavior falls on the list of priorities as compared to publicly breaking with the Church's most regressive doctrines. Leave say, I wish I could have been a fly on the Vatican wall for that discussion.

Be that as it may, Cardinal O'Brien has acceded to mounting public pressure to recuse himself from the selection of a new pope and graciously stepped aside.

The same cannot be said of Cardinal Roger Mahony.


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Around the Web, Around the World

"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Finding True Love

The spirits teach us about love, one way or another, in each and every contact with them in journeys and out in nature, in dreams and meditations, in ritual and ceremony. So why do humans struggle so to find love? Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she explores finding true love in the New World. The Old World Story told us that love was scarce and we had to go out and find it. The deeper truth about love it that is exists within all things and our task is simply to cultivate the love innate within us. That doesn't sound very sexy or dramatic, but the pull of attraction doesn't have anything to do with love. Attraction is orchestrated by our Shadow and the aspects of our self not yet held in love, so following our attraction is our second mistake. The journey to find true love is the journey of becoming the person that you see in that vision and letting life take care of the rest. Join us in the New World where the messages of true love are all around us and love is abundant.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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All episodes are now available in the iTunes Podcast Library.

Feb 25, 2013

Rupert Sheldrake's Takedown of Scientism

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Hat-tip to Graham Hancock for this wonderful TEDx presentation by Rupert Sheldrake. In it the biochemist enumerates a list of assumptions that are accepted as indisputable facts among those for whom science is a belief system rather than, well, science. I've been whining about the dangers of scientism and its bedfellow new atheism for some time. It's dangerous to those of us who see more to the world than meets the eye, but worse, it's dangerous to the practice of science.

Pay particular attention to an anecdote Sheldrake shares at around the 11 minute mark, because it's really telling. After finding records of the speed of light having apparently slowed between 1928 and 1945 -- which raises a question as to whether the constants of physics are actually constant -- Sheldrake took the problem to the head of metrology at the National Physical Laboratory. He described it as an "embarrassing" episode but said they had solved the problem. How? They fixed the  definition of the speed of light in 1972. If the speed of light were to vary, no one would notice because the speed of light is now the standard metric. Defining reality by adjusting the rules to marginalize painful truths is a process I've seen way too many times in scientific practice. It's handy if your goal is making reality appear thoroughly predictable. If you define a scientific principle carefully enough, outliers aren't even outliers anymore. For all intents and purposes, they cease to exist. Which is all well and good unless you're experiencing one of those things that "can't be," and are, therefore, "imagining things."

The title of Sheldrake's newest book, The Science Delusion, is an obvious parody of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion. (The title of the US publication is Science Set Free.) Needless to say, it's now added to my must-read list.

Feb 24, 2013

An Astronomer's Paean to a Solar Flare

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

In what some might call "sun worship," astronomer Phil Plait waxes rhapsodic on how the sun giveth and the sun taketh away.

That barely constrained violence can be difficult to square with the grace and elegance of the motion. The Sun can damage our civilization, yet we also depend on it for our existence. But there you go: The Universe is full of such dichotomies.

It is harsh, inhospitable, destructive, and capable of crushing indifference.

It is pleasing, habitable, serene, and capable of life-altering beauty.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The video is a time-lapse movie of a solar flare raining in beautiful arcs onto the sun's surface. It is hard not to appreciate the beauty of the thing as we offer thanks to Sol Invictus for not taking out our entire power grid and plunging us back into a pre-technological era.

So what causes the fiery phenomenon? Coronal rain occurs when plasma in the solar atmosphere cools and gets attracted by magnetic field lines on the Sun's surface. As NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained in a written statement, "This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface."

. . .

This eruption was special, NASA said, because it combined three out of three possible events: a solar flare, an ejection of solar material (called a coronal mass ejection) and coronal rain.

Vatican Predictably Attacks the Messenger

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

For the second day in a row, the Vatican responded to the "gay lobby" report in la Republicca. After an evasive statement on Friday, in which he refused to either confirm or deny the existence of a damning, internal report or its contents, Father Federico Lombardi took to Vatican Radio on Saturday to strongly condemn the media... and to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of the internal report or its contents.

Lombardi impugned the motives and methods of reporters in one of the longest, run-on sentences ever uttered.

"There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another," he said.

It gets better.

Lombardi also questioned the moral authority of the media. "Those who present themselves as judges, making heavy moral judgments, do not, in truth, have any authority to do so," he said.

Feb 23, 2013

Christianist Group v. "Neopagan" Yoga in Encinitas

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Well. I knew it. As soon as I saw that a group was suing the Encinitas school district over its yoga program and claiming it violated the separation of church and state, I knew it was only a matter of time before I could draw a straight line to some Christianist group far more concerned with what religion these kids might be exposed to than with religion in schools per se. And I was right. Both the plaintiffs and the attorney are every bit as supportive of Christian-based school programs as they are derisive of the vaguely Hindu incursion represented by yoga.

One of the parents spearheading the lawsuit, a Mary Eady, works at Truthxchange, a Christian group dedicated to stopping the "rising tide of neopaganism." Attorney Dean Broyles works for the National Center for Law & Policy, or NCLP, whose slogan is Faith + Family + Freedom. It's an affiliate of the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, a conservative Christian advocacy group.

In a broad sense, the plaintiffs could have a point. Yoga is born of religious tradition and has some spiritual overtones, even if, as practiced in the West, those overtones are, dare I say it, spiritual but not religious.

If anything I'm as ambivalent about the idea of yoga as a strictly secular exercise program as I am at the targeting of yoga as if it were equivalent to prayer in the schools. That spiritual lineage is now not only secularized, but trivialized. I'll never forget the sense of horror I felt when I first saw a yoga shirt with the printed slogan "Have a Namaste." Namaste is a mystical concept that roughly translates to "me bow you," and translates idiomatically as "The God in me bows to the God in you." There is something a little sickening about yoga as a commodity, completely devoid of all spiritual context or that subverts the spiritual precepts that underlie it.

Feb 22, 2013

The Pope, the Vatican, and the Gay

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Did Pope Benedict resign because of a powerful gay lobby within the Vatican? That's the contention behind a newly published article in la Republicca. If, like myself, you don't speak Italian, there's always the Google Translate version. It's possibly even less intelligible than a foreign tongue but it's worth reading if only for lines like, "What's the weeds, there are the bad fish."

Fortunately there are some breakdowns of the story for those of us who read better in English. A brief overview of the story can be found in The Huffington Post.

The problem apparently started with an internal report -- one that had been commissioned by Pope Benedict following the Vatileaks scandal. The findings of Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, who were tasked with the investigation, point to massive corruption within the Vatican. As per la Republicca, it was actually these revelations that Pope Benedict was referring to in comments widely interpreted as referring to the sex abuse scandal.

In the article, it is claimed that the cardinals reported that various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking the sixth and seventh commandments, namely "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not commit adultery".

The "stealing" was in particular related to the Vatican Bank, IOR, whilst the sexual offences were related to the influence of an active gay lobby within the Vatican.

Last week, when presiding over the Ash Wednesday celebrations in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict spoke of "divisions" which "besmirch" the face of the church. In a famous homily at the 2005 Via Crucis Easter celebrations in Rome, just days before the death of John Paul II, the then Cardinal Ratzinger had spoken of the "filth" in the church, a comment interpreted by many as a reference to the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.

Fingerprints of the Gods: The Sequel?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Graham Hancock has posted some details on a forthcoming sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods. The post on Facebook appears to be open to the public. Fingerprints was the first of Hancock's books I ever read. As I wrote here, it was put into my hands as if by magic and started a love affair with his work that has spanned more than a decade. So I am thrilled at the prospect of a newly updated version.

I thought I’d share two of the developments, one in the field of archaeology, one in the field of geology, that persuaded me some years ago that it was time to begin work on a sequel to “Fingerprints of the Gods”. Please note, however, that what I’m going to outline in this short post is only a very small part of the much wider range of accumulated evidence I’ll present in the sequel – powerful new discoveries and new understandings in many different fields that have come to light slowly, piece by piece during the past two decades. Taken together, I believe these new findings provide overwhelming support for the thesis I put forward nearly twenty years ago in “Fingerprints” of a titanic global cataclysm in the window between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago, around the end of the last Ice Age, that wiped out and destroyed almost all traces of a great global civilisation of prehistoric antiquity. I’m already well ahead with the research and I aim to complete writing of the book by December 2014 and to publish in the autumn of 2015.

Emerging from mainstream science – which has so often ridiculed and dismissed my work – the first piece of evidence that made me realise there was a new story to be told was proof that north America was struck by several pieces of a giant fragmenting comet 12,900 years ago (i.e. 10,900 BC), causing an extinction-level event all around the planet, radically changing global climate and initiating the sudden and hitherto unexplained thousand-year deep-freeze right at the end of the Ice Age that geologists call the Younger Dryas.

Feb 21, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Conclave

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Stop me if you've heard this one. So these two cardinals were getting ready for a trip to Rome to help select the next pope. But first they had to go give depositions because some priests in their former dioceses had sexually abused children -- a lot of children. One of the cardinals had paid off some of these pedophile priests. The other had a history of shuffling them out of the state to protect them from prosecution.... Okay. So it's not so much a joke as it is a horror story. And it's still being written.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was deposed Wednesday about abuse cases against Roman Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which he led from 2002 until 2009.

. . .

The Milwaukee Archdiocese faces allegations from nearly 500 people. Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the current Milwaukee church leader, sought bankruptcy protection in 2011, saying the process was needed to compensate victims fairly while ensuring the archdiocese could still function. Milwaukee is the eighth diocese in the U.S. to seek bankruptcy protection since the abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston.

. . .

Dolan is one of two U.S. cardinals to be deposed this week. Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is scheduled to be questioned Saturday in a lawsuit over a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He has been ousted from the priesthood but remains a fugitive.

Feb 20, 2013

Rhode Island Documents Expose Legionaries Fraud

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Says Jason Berry in the National Catholic Reporter:

The Vatican is not a defendant in Rhode Island, but decisions by John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI permeate a larger story rising from the files.

In short, had the Vatican not continued to endorse the Legionaries of Christ long after they knew of its leader's many crimes and abuses, devout Catholics like Gabrielle Mee would likely not have been bilked out of their fortunes.

As discussed, Mee's niece, Mary Lou Dauray sued to prevent the Legionaries from inheriting 60 million dollars, contending that they had defrauded the elderly woman into supporting them. The suit was dismissed last fall on the grounds that she lacked the legal standing to bring the complaint. Dauray is appealing. But in the meanwhile, the press succeeded in getting court documents unsealed last Friday. Those documents provide a window into the money-raising architecture of the exceedingly wealthy Legionaries of Christ.

Dauray contends that had Mee known of Maciel's proven crimes and infractions of Catholic doctrine, she would not have devoted her fortune to his organization. And it appears that she was kept in the dark about the bulk of it.

Feb 19, 2013


Around the Web, Around the World

"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Creating an Outstanding Life with Alex Stark

What steps must you take to live in harmony with nature, culture, community, and the path of your heart? What overlooked assumptions about space and energy keep us from engaging in the awakening energy of our time? This week Alex Stark offers practical, effective, and do-able steps from his practice of the shamanism of space (feng shui and geomancy) and good common sense to help you move from wherever you are into a life of sustainable choices and right relationship with life around you. Join Alex and host, Christina Pratt, as they explore practices to heal land that has been traumatized or neglected; rituals for groundbreaking, clearing, and dedication; and ceremonies to bless, consecrate, or bring prosperity, and much mores. For those of you interested in bringing shamanism into the professional and corporate world, Alex does that every day. He is an internationally recognized consultant, advisor, and teacher who advises on issues of design, placement, and issues of transformation for residential, commercial, institutional, industrial facilities, urban settlements, and health-care facilities. Alex is our next guest for the Society of Shamanic Practitioners sponsored interview series, in which we explore how contemporary shamans are meeting the challenge of this profoundly changing time.

This week's guest:
Alex Stark

A native of Peru, Alex has apprenticed with masters in systems of Andean shamanism, in the arts of geomancy and feng shui, and in architecture. He is deeply engaged in his daily work in bringing shamanism practically and effectively into all facets of contemporary life through his work with space. Alex's work has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, Town & Country, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the London Evening Standard, and on CNN, PBS, and the Arts & Entertainment channel. He lives with his wife and daughter in Venice Beach, CA.

Alex is an internationally recognized consultant, advisor, and teacher on issues of creativity, efficiency, design, and healing. A practitioner of feng shui and European geomancy, he advises on issues of design and placement for residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities; urban settlements; and health-care facilities; and on issues of institutional and personal transformation. He has received a design citation for his feng shui work by the Boston Society of Architects.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Why Shamanism Now? on Co-Creator Network
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All episodes are now available in the iTunes Podcast Library.

Feb 18, 2013

Unpacking the Zen Scandal

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

A recent blog post on The Huffington Post lends more insight into how the Joshu Sasaki scandal unfolded within the Zen community. Adam Tebbe is the editor of Sweeping Zen, which published Eshu Martin's article and started this firestorm. Tebbe discusses what it was like being caught in the backdraft. Both he and Martin were subjected to the hostility of a Zen community bent on shooting the messengers. I suppose that anyone in a position to tell bitter truths should be prepared for that reaction.

Eshu's initial piece was an icebreaker of sorts, a shot across the bow that quickly grabbed the attention of many. Martin alleged a history of abuse and cover-ups involving his former teacher that stemmed his entire career. He received considerable backlash for his piece, accused of being nonspecific in his accusations. And, while it was partially true, readers did not know that at the time there was more information at his disposal which would and could be used if necessary. It was not released instantly because much of it needed to be said by Giko David Rubin, a priest ordained by Joshu Sasaki and his translator of many years (see: Some Reflections on Rinzai-ji). When Giko's reflections on his experiences at Rinzai-ji and of Sasaki were first published, the mood was rather somber. It remains one of the most detailed and painful articles I've ever had to publish in my work at the website.

Rubin's piece does indeed make for painful reading -- not just because of the detail it provides on Sasaki's behavior and peoples' varied reactions to it. It's an extremely honest revelation of the author's process of disillusionment over a period of years.

This passage actually made me wince.

Joshu Roshi also has the ability to sometimes know exactly what a student is experiencing without having to be told. This is quite remarkable, and I believe gives his students a feeling they are in the presence of someone with extraordinary spiritual power. As a young man I sat in zazen and felt my hand spontaneously open on my outbreath, and felt my sphere of consciousness expand with it. Then on the next in breath my hand unwillingly closed to a fist. The next time I saw Joshu Roshi, I bowed in silence as usual, and sat up. At once he looked me in the eye, open and closed his hand, and said, “Now you can be a Zen teacher.” How could I not feel this man knew me better than anyone could? I believed I could I trust him completely.

Debbie Ford Has Passed

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I am very saddened to announce that I just learned from one of my Facebook friends that Debbie Ford has passed. She fought a long battle with a rare form of cancer -- something I only knew through mutual friends and did not share for some time. She went public last year with her struggle and her reasons for keeping that part of her life private in a conversation with Oprah.

Ford was a tremendous gift to the spiritual community. She introduced the concept of shadow work to a large segment of the new age world and made it accessible; even palatable. As Jung said, making the darkness conscious is "disagreeable, and therefore, not popular."  She was an amazing teacher with the rare courage to call bullshit on herself, repeatedly. She will be profoundly missed.

Here is a little more of Ford, in her own words, on what she learned from her long struggle with illness.

A site is being set up for people to share their thoughts and feelings. It's not up yet but it will become available at rememberingdebbieford.com.

Feb 17, 2013

Pigs in Zen

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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I've been so immersed in events erupting from the the scandal-plagued, power-abusing Vatican all week, I missed the news about scandal-plagued, power-abusing Zen teacher Joshu Sasaki. Funnily enough, the latter story broke wide with an article in the paper of record the same day Pope Benedict's resignation was announced. Of course, rumors had dogged the aging leader since the 1970s, but it was in January of this year that an announcement from senior teachers was posted on the Sasaki community website.

In early January, the senior teachers of Sasaki's community admitted in an on-line statement that the community "has struggled with our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi's sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his career in the United States."

In truth, to call them rumors is generous. It seems the living legend's inappropriateness was known about and actively enabled for decades. Then, in November of last year,  Zen priest Eshu Martin, who had studied under Sasaki for over ten years, threw down the gauntlet with a post on the Sweeping Zen website. The title, "Everybody Knows – Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi and Rinzai-ji," is an obvious allusion to one of Sasaki's more famous students, Leonard Cohen. This reference does more than point to the fact that Sasaki's behavior was common knowledge. Cohen's masterpiece speaks to the ubiquity of deceit and injustice in this game of life we are all participating in.

Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the founder and Abbot of Rinzai-ji is now 105 years old, and he has engaged in many forms of inappropriate sexual relationship with those who have come to him as students since his arrival here more than 50 years ago. His career of misconduct has run the gamut from frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students during interview, to sexually coercive after hours “tea” meetings, to affairs and sexual interference in the marriages and relationships of his students. Many individuals that have confronted Sasaki and Rinzai-ji about this behaviour have been alienated and eventually excommunicated, or have resigned in frustration when nothing changed; or worst of all, have simply fallen silent and capitulated. For decades, Joshu Roshi’s behaviour has been ignored, hushed up, downplayed, justified, and defended by the monks and students that remain loyal to him.

Breaking: Vatican Has Leaks and Fractures

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The most compelling thing about the Washington Post's big, multi-page feature on the Vatileaked revelations of a "fractured Vatican" is that they waited until the pope announced his resignation to publish it. The book has long been out and its secrets revealed, at least to the Italian speaking world. The primary leaker has already been convicted and pardoned. And yet, the Post writes:

Much of the media — and the Vatican — focused on the source of the shocking security breach. Largely lost were the revelations contained in the letters themselves — tales of rivalry and betrayal, and allegations of corruption and systemic dysfunction that infused the inner workings of the Holy See and the eight-year papacy of Benedict XVI.

From there the article goes on to focus almost entirely on the scandal around Vatileaks and very little on the "tales of rivalry and betrayal." Most of this has already been covered elsewhere and the juicy bits are front-loaded. The upshot according to the Post? Pope Benedict XVI was a well-intended but weak leader who was outmaneuvered by his second, Tarcisio Bertone. Got it? The failure of Pope Benedict to accomplish much of anything was not his fault. He was just too "shy and cerebral" to fight the power.

The butler read letters fleshing out how Viganò, an ambitious enforcer of Benedict’s good government reforms, had earned powerful enemies. In early 2011, a series of hostile anonymous articles attacking Viganò began appearing in the Italian media. Under duress, Viganò appealed to the pope’s powerful second in command, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone was not sympathetic and instead echoed the articles’ complaints about his rough management style and removed Viganò from his post.

This set in motion a blizzard of letters that passed through the office Gabriele shared with the pope’s personal secretary. In one missive, Viganò wrote to Bertone accusing him of getting in the way of the pope’s reform mission; he also charged Bertone with breaking his promise to elevate him to cardinal. Viganò sent a copy of this letter to the pope. In a separate letter to the pontiff, Viganò dropped the Vatican’s “C word”: corruption.

. . .

Viganò’s efforts failed, and he was soon dispatched to Washington. Bertone and Viganò declined to comment.

Prognosis for future transformation? Not good, according to the Post.

Feb 16, 2013

Legion Documents Released in Rhode Island

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

"My name is Legion, for we are many." ~ Mark 5:9

"It's done. They're public. This ends the debate," said a spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, as "yards of documents" were ordered released by Judge Michael Silverstein. But, in fact, the debate may be just beginning.

As discussed a lawsuit against the Legionaries in Rhode Island triggered interest in documents purported to show a pattern of fraud. A petition by the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Providence Journal, and the National Catholic Reporter brought a ruling in favor transparency last month, but granted Legion lawyers time to pursue an appeal.

There's little doubt that there's something very embarrassing to the Legionaries of Christ in those documents or they would not have tried so hard to block their release. As stated, they were concerned about prejudicing a future jury, so it can't be good. But the larger question is whether it could be embarrassing to the Vatican -- even to the retiring Pope Benedict XVI.

The Legionaries have been a political hot potato for the Vatican for decades but officials, including Pope Benedict, chose repeatedly to protect Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado from consequences for a lifetime of abuse and criminality. In return, Maciel poured money into Vatican coffers. How did he get that money? Largely by charming wealthy, older women -- a pattern that clearly proliferated through the global organization. In Rhode Island, they took Gabrielle Mee for tens of millions, even going so far as to sue Fleet National Bank when they balked at the pillaging of her late husband's trust. (Timothy Mee had worked for Fleet as a director.) She left them everything upon her death. Her niece sued. The suit was dismissed but Judge Silverstein's ruling contained statements that got the attention of the press.

“The transfer of millions of dollars worth of assets — through will, trust and gifts — from a steadfastly spiritual, elderly woman to her trusted by clandestinely dubious spiritual leaders raises a red flag to this court,” the ruling read.

Feb 15, 2013

The Dubious Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

One of the more interesting aspects of Pope Benedict's resignation announcement is that assessments of his leadership haven't been afforded the deference generally paid to the recently deceased. It's not all hagiography and roses. Over the past couple of days, I've read numerous rundowns of some of the more controversial aspects of both his papal reign and earlier years.

This pope has been a divisive figure from the outset. A hardline conservative with a Nazi background seemed an odd choice. Some very questionable choices regarding priestly abuse at various points in his career have not helped, so his appointment just as the sex abuse scandal was hitting critical mass made him something of a lightning rod. (See above. Weird.)

As he prepares to surrender the reins of the Vatican, he leaves the Catholic Church far weaker than he found it. That's not entirely his fault. The Church's hidden history would have erupted in its face no matter who was pope. And the attrition of Catholics, even from strongholds like Ireland, was probably inevitable. But years of provocative policy decisions and outrageous statements haven't helped soothe an increasingly angry and disillusioned Church body... or world.

The leadership of Pope Benedict XVI has disappointed on a number of major issues, including: the sex abuse crisis, gay rights, women's rights, and respect for other religions -- particularly Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Paganism.

Feb 14, 2013

Graham Hancock on Mother Ayahuasca

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Hot off the press, Graham Hancock has done a TED lecture on the power of ayahuasca and his personal path of transformation. For followers of Hancock's work, it is mostly review -- a kind of rapid-fire rundown of his embrace of shamanic tools for personal and global recovery.

A personal note on his discussion of the "green bitch" and the end of his years long relationship with cannabis: I agree. I say that because I learned something very similar a long time ago. I was also dissuaded by spirit -- if far less dramatically than Hancock was -- from its use. I found that it robbed me of creativity under the guise making me feel more creative, as well. The "green bitch" is very seductive. Again, not a commentary on anyone else's choices, but anyone who knows me well knows that I'm teetotaler from way back, and that this radical sobriety has been a primary driver of my spiritual journey. It is also worth noting that the use of plant teachers like ayahuasca and iboga have proved to be incredible tools in drug and alcohol recovery. It seems counter-intuitive until you understand how different is the use of "hallucinogens" in a shamanic context from recreational use.

Also up from Hancock, he posted this incredible narrative on a series of recent ayahuasca journeys. After encountering some attacking entity in a journey, Hancock became aware that a lot of the participants were encountering dark, abusive, and frightening entities in both the spirit and the material world. He had a very telling exchange with a narcissistic, self-styled shaman, who had violated the boundaries of a female participant. She handled it well. But it seems clear that a number of them were there to have a very particular lesson on the abuse of power.

Feb 13, 2013

Could This Be Why Pope Benedict Resigned?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Marcial Maciel with Pope John Paul II

My husband and I were speculating the other night that perhaps Pope Benedict resigned because there are major scandals coming down the pike and he wants to get out of the line of fire -- not necessarily because he's directly culpable. He may just want to protect himself and his legacy from becoming collateral damage. It's a tantalizing possibility and would fit neatly into the previously discussed St. Malachy prophesy timelime.

The good folks at AmericaBlog have advanced one possible candidate for a potential scandal about to break. It involves the Legionaries of Christ and the late Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado. A rundown of Maciel's already known crimes can be found here and the details on allegations of sexual abuse by one of his illegitimate children can be found here.

Much like the recent eruption in Los Angeles, the pending issue is some documents that may be unsealed as early as this Friday. But where the abuse files that recently caused Cardinal Mahony to be barred from public ministry were embarrassing to major players in that diocese, anything to do with the Legionaries could implicate the Vatican. As discussed, Maciel was extremely close to highly-placed officials up to and including Pope John Paul II.

These documents are evidence in ongoing litigation in Rhode Island. The original case was brought by the niece of a wealthy widow who had willed her $60 million fortune to the Legionaries. Mary Lou Dauray sued, contending that the late Gabrielle Mee had been defrauded by the organization. Her case was dismissed in September of last year, due to her lack of standing, but there appear to be appeals and ongoing litigation in the works.

Feb 12, 2013


Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

We've been using that word to describe the goings on in the Catholic Church a lot lately. First a Los Angeles archbishop publicly rebuked his predecessor for a history of protecting pedophile priests. And now the pope has abdicated. These are seismic changes in one of the most hidebound institutions in the world.

While much has been written about the fact that this is the first papal resignation in 600 years, that ignores how truly revolutionary this decision is. The handful of resignations in the ancient history of the Church have been due to extraordinary circumstances -- not the common-place occurrence of growing old. While nearly every account I've read has been treating this as a surprising but wise decision, what few having been willing to address is that it stands Catholic belief and tradition on its head.

In a single moment, the pope has removed some of the aura of the papacy, the idea that it was a vocation rather than a ministry, something that cannot be abandoned without somehow affronting the Holy Spirit. Today, the pope indicated that the Petrine ministry is a ministry, a very specific ministry to be sure, but more of a job than a vow.

Maybe that's how the papacy should be viewed, but throughout history it hasn't been. This decision marks the very conservative Pope Benedict XVI, as one of the Church's greatest potential reformers.


Around the Web, Around the World

"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Living your Soul's Purpose

How do we walk the line between the Old Story Rules and the New System we are creating? Once you have found the path to your soul's purpose, how do you stay the course? Our lives are often a great web of responsibilities, expectations, addictions, and distractions that create conflict in our hearts and rob the clarity in our minds. In that tension between who you have been and who you are becoming one hesitates to act and loses confidence that there was ever true guidance at all. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she answers listeners' questions about the day-to-day effort and art of living your soul's purpose. The secret is remembering that we have only one true responsibility, which is to live our soul's purpose. And no matter the situation that arises on that journey, we have the most power to create change on ourselves in the moment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Why Shamanism Now? on Co-Creator Network
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All episodes are now available in the iTunes Podcast Library.

Feb 11, 2013

FLDS Crushing Cars in Texas

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

First it was the giant watchtower. Now it's their cars. FLDS members at the Yearning For Zion Ranch have been observed crushing their cars... and lawnmowers. It's further evidence that they are dismantling that particular stronghold in the wake of a probable Texas takeover. Here are the strange details.

In a Jan. 31 report by Monique Ching in the San Angelo Standard-Times, James Doyle says that "around 50 nice cars" including Cadillac Escalades have been destroyed by the FLDS in Texas. Doyle offers a possible explanation: There are liens on the cars.

Kathy Mankin, of the Eldorado Success, photographed some of the activity at an FLDS property last month.

With the State of Texas closing in on taking away the YFZ Ranch and no reported response from the FLDS to fight this action, you can only wonder what is going on with the car crushing. Are they packing up and moving out? And why lawn mowers? [All emphases mine]

So, once again, the response from Warren Jeffs and his remaining followers is one of less engagement with the outside world. They're not fighting back. They're closing ranks, reducing their footprint, and possibly moving to more hidden locations. On the one hand, I'm glad to see the cult breaking down and attriting its membership. On the other, I fear all the more for those who are left. Jeffs is only increasing his vice-like grip. He's micromanaging the most intimate details of their lives and forcing them to share in his suffering with a beans and water diet. And it's only going to get worse.

William Henry on the Judgement Day Device

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I noticed this article about the Muslim view of the apocalypse The Huffington Post and it reminded me that I've been meaning to listen to two recent interviews with William Henry. From the article:

Muslim and Christian views of the Apocalypse are remarkably similar, albeit with a different ending.

. . .

Contemporary Muslim apocalyptists have even borrowed from their Christian counterparts, such as Hal Lindsay, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to discern the dates of the Antichrist's arrival, said David Cook, an expert on Islamic eschatology and associate professor at Rice University.

. . .

Some Muslims don't like the idea of Jesus playing the messianic hero, and have thus assigned a larger role to the Mahdi, said Cook. That belief is strong among Shiites, particularly the "Twelvers" in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often spoke of the Mahdi's return.

William Henry's research adds an important piece to the puzzle of apocalyptic prophecies: the Ark of the Covenant. Henry believes that all the players are seeking the ark, in hopes of harnessing its mythical power. Above is posted his recent interview on Red Ice Radio and his interview on Awake in the Dream can found here.

The whole thing is a study in the dangers of literalism. Supplemental reading and listening can be found here and here.

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." ~ Luke 17:20-21

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Buy at Art.comWrote His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


Feb 8, 2013

The Burning Times Continue

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The highly publicized torture killing of an accused witch in Papua New Guinea is a brutal reminder that they still burn "witches" in some parts of the world.

A young mother was burned alive in Papua New Guinea this week after townspeople accused her of being a witch.

According to multiple reports, Kepari Leniata, 20, was tortured and killed in front of a mob of hundreds in the town of Mount Hagen. The woman, stripped naked and covered in gasoline, was burned alive on a pile of trash by relatives of a young boy who had died earlier in the week. The relatives had accused Leniata of killing him with sorcery.

If anything, it's a growing trend. Deep-seated cultural beliefs result in numerous murders, despite their illegality.

PNG's sorcery act dates back to before 1975, when the nation was a colony of Australia.

The law acknowledges the widespread belief in sorcery and tries to regulate it; however, the courts have increasingly backed away from sorcery cases.

Sam Mullet to Go Away for Awhile

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Samuel Mullet, the bishop of the rogue Amish sect that terrorized Amish in four Ohio counties with  hair clippers, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Aaron Polster to fifteen years in prison. Fifteen of his followers who carried out the brutal attacks will all do some jail time, with sentences ranging from one year and a day to seven years.

The most complete record of today's proceedings I've been able to locate is from WKYC in Cleveland, and it includes a partial transcript of comments. Each of the defendants took responsibility and many offered to take on the punishment for others. In particular, several of the husbands offered to serve for their wives so that they could go home to their children. Judge Polster gave the lightest sentences to the women and deferred a number of them until after their husbands are released so that the children would be protected.

Many of the defendants were characteristically Amish -- apologetic, contrite, and accepting of justice for their fully confessed wrong-doing. To my ear Sam Mullet still managed to come off as a self-pitying martyr.

"I am being blamed for being a cult leader....I am not going to be here much longer...my goal in life is to help the younger people...if somebody needs to be punished, I'll take the punishment for everybody....let these mothers and fathers go home to their children"

"I'm not taking the farm with me. I'm not going to be here much longer. My goal in life has been to help people that are the underdog, to help people who are frowned on, mocked.....,"

"Let these dads and moms go home to their families, raise their children, I'll take the punishment for everybody. There's a lot more things I could say, but everything I say is twisted and turned."

Well. At least he offered to do the right thing, even if he resents it.

Feb 7, 2013

Please Keep Sam Mullet in Jail

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

That is the urgent plea of 14 Amish letter writers from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York state. For their family members who are married to Mullets, for their grandchildren, for the good of the Amish, please don't let him "become loose."

The content varies little. Sam Mullet is running a cult. His followers are brainwashed. Things have begun to improve in Bergholz since his incarceration. But the strangest wrinkle is that letter after letter extends thanks -- to the judge, the prosecutors, and the FBI by name. That is how afraid the greater Amish community is of Sam Mullet. The Amish, one of the most independent, self-reliant populations in the country -- a network of communities that almost always wants to handle things internally assisted by nothing but God's grace and their own ability to forgive just about anything -- is grateful that the government stepped in. And they won't feel safe unless Sam Mullet spends the rest of his days in a federal penitentiary. And that is exactly what prosecutors are asking for.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for a level 32 punishment, which translates to 10 to 13 years, but prosecutors are asking the judge for what's known as an upward enhancement. More time. They want life in prison for Mullet.

Mullet and his merry band of hair-cutters are due to be sentenced tomorrow.

Feb 6, 2013

Could FLDS Stronghold Be Auctioned Off?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The two major US strongholds of Warren Jeffs's FLDS, where what remains of his loyal following attempt to follow his increasingly bizarre edicts from prison, are under fire from state authorities. Texas is moving against the Yearning For Zion Ranch, where Jeffs conducted the criminal enterprise that landed him in prison -- trading in young, female flesh. The FLDS community in the sister cities of Hilldale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona is under criminal investigation for, well, trading in young, female flesh. That one of those young females recently escaped the clutches of forced marriage -- and worse --  can't help them. Now comes word that FLDS owes millions in back taxes on its properties in those sister cities. In Utah, they're now delinquent over five years, which could trigger an auction.

Years of legal battles over a large polygamous property trust have counties on the Utah/Arizona border helpless to collect back property taxes until the trust is dissolved.

“I think it’s too convoluted at this point,” said David Whitehead, treasurer for Washington County, Utah. “It’s hard to collect the taxes.”

Properties owned by the United Effort Plan trust owe over $4 million in back property taxes to Utah and Arizona.

“The Utah taxes have reached their critical point,” said Jethro Barlow, CPA, who provides accounting services for the trust. “Every property has some delinquent tax.”

Utah seized the trust in 2005, on the grounds that it was being mismanaged, but their intended liquidation of assets has been tied up in legal battles ever since. Now, it's racked up $6 million in legal and accounting fees. Turns out imploding cults are expensive.

Utah has agreed to hold off on putting what's left of its FLDS footprint on the auction block, for now. Developing...

Feb 5, 2013


Around the Web, Around the World

"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Shamanism in the New World

The shamanism of today must continue to evolve if we are to respond to the times we have chosen to live in. Our contemporary shamanic practices have not been immune to the influence of the Old Story. Now is the time of the New Story of the People in the beginning of a New World. This week we explore how the lie of separation, so foundational to the Old Story, undermines the personal message of love and self worth from our helping spirits. And, more importantly how that lie keeps us engaged in the age-old religious battle between good and evil, instead of using our understanding that Everything Is One to return even evil to it's origins. Fear of the Shadow also drives the Old Story effectively keeping us from facing our fears and experiencing meaningful individuation and initiations. But with our helping spirits we have an avenue into the Shadow that allows not just understanding, but the rescue, transformation, and integration of the original ally form. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, this week and she unpacks the Old Story in our shamanic practices and challenges us to write the New Story with our shamanic work in the world.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM Pacific

Log on to Listen
Why Shamanism Now? on Co-Creator Network
Questions? Comments? Call: 1-512-772-1938

All episodes are now available in the iTunes Podcast Library.

Feb 3, 2013

Church Critiques Just Like Pogroms

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Speaking of the self-pity and tone-deafness of the Catholic hierarchy... Were we? Yes. Yes, we were. But Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Vatican's head of doctrine, has broken my irony meter.

In an interview published Saturday by Germany newspaper Die Welt, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller likened the sentiment directed toward the Church to that of the pogroms against Jews in Europe.

Mueller, who leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was quoted as saying that those attacking the Church borrow arguments used by totalitarian ideologies such as Communism and Nazism against Christianity.

Let's see... A German representative of a Church that killed Jews during the Inquisition, collaborated with the Nazis, and that, in general, has a pretty terrible record of anti-Semitism, now equates the most powerful church in the world with persecuted Jews.

So, are Catholic clergy being dragged from their homes, beaten to death, starved, shot, gassed, or, say, turned into lampshades? Not last I heard. What has happened to these tragically oppressed victims? They've been criticized for protecting priests who've raped children. Oh the humanity!

The Apologia of Cardinal Mahony

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

This week the Los Angeles Diocese finally released all 30,000 abuse related files. They came with a very public censure of Cardinal Mahony by Archbishop Jose Gomez. And Cardinal Mahony took to his blog to defend his record with a rebuttal letter. It is a startlingly open conflict between two church officials.

Wrote Gomez:

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

. . .

I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I've had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.

My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as vicar for clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the regional bishop of Santa Barbara. [emphasis added]

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