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A DRESS REHEARSAL FOR DEATH

This New Year's I was invited to join my brother and his friends in Kauai where together we participated in an ayahuasca ceremony. Ayahuasca is the extract of a vine used in shamanic rituals to awaken the subconscious. The potion releases DMT into the bloodstream. DMT is a substance secreted by the pineal gland (located in front of the brain directly behind the forehead). This chemical is released in largest quantities at certain times in life, notably at birth and again at death. And so the ayahuasca experience itself is likened to a rebirth, and it is also a sort of death experience.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, I was instructed by the "shaman," an Argentian who was trained by a Peruvian master and has conducted ceremonies for 10 years, having himself ingested the substance over 100 times, to abstain from alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, drugs, salt, meat, added sugars and to disconnect from technology as much as possible. Not a problem for someone without a sm…
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THE BURNING QUESTION

A very dear friend recently proposed that we get together to meditate. I have not seen Salome in some time, and I enjoy much more about her than merely her quaint name, so of course I acquiesced. This is 21st century LA, after all: getting together to meditate is what people do. But my inner voice cautioned me against the pitfalls of such an endeavor. Because meditation is not something to be performed solely within the limited span of 20 minutes twice a day, squished into the midst of a hectic schedule laden with plans and desires and after which we go back to swilling beer and tapping ass, in the parlance of our times. Abiding in stillness, in a mind free of thought and a heart open to the Supreme Oneness which alone is, must be a full-time affair. Still my galpal and I will likely get together and, as I like to say, commune. Which I assure you is not code for tapping ass!

Through meditation we learn what the new physics tells us about questions that have puzzled idealist philosopher…

THE GREAT NOSTALGIA

During the Ventura fires I hosted a family of three who had had to evacuate their place in Ojai. Emmanuel, whom my brother calls our shaman, will be overseeing our ayahuasca adventure this New Year's in Hawaii; and his wife and one year old daughter are precious loves. When I showed them to their quarters, his daughter promptly investigated the space and in so doing knocked a book off the shelf. Her father picked it up to reveal its title: The Book of Mirdad. Emmanuel praised the book, which treats matters of the spirit, and remarked that the eccentric mystic Osho had proclaimed it far and above all others of its kind for its depth and expression. And I replied that though I have perused or at least given a cursory glance to most of the tomes on our guest room shelf, I had never picked up this one, whose author is Mikhail Naimy. So I promised myself to give it a read, and not a moment too soon. For indeed there is so much wisdom within!

How the book arrived on what I call the magic…

WE ARE THE WORLD

The universe does not seem to exist without a perceiver of that universe. Subject and object - the knower and the known - are intimately connected. "Nothing-but-consciousness," as scientists are calling it, must be experienced in order to be truly understood.

The new paradigm in quantum physics, as put forth by physics professor and prolific author Amit Goswami, states that consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all being. After centuries of viewing matter as the basis of life - material realism was birthed by Democritis in 460 BC and supported by the theories of Sir Isaac Newton, which around the year 1665 launched humanity on a several-hundred year course that led to the materialism that dominates Western culture - modern science has now validated an ancient idea established by the mystics for millennia around the globe. Namely, that atoms and their building blocks are made not of matter but of consciousness. Matter is secondary to consciousness, which is the foundatio…

THE OMEGA POINT

In Ira Levin's novel This Perfect Day, we encounter a future race of humans who live harmoniously and as individuals exist exclusively for the good of their fellow beings. They wear uniforms called coveralls and eat nutritious if bland-tasting, environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free cakes. Sex is a sure thing beginning at the age of 12 and occurring every Saturday evening like clockwork. The only problem with this seemingly ideal scenario is that the citizens of the future planet are kept in such a docile state with biweekly infusions of powerful psychotropic medications which they have no choice but to submit to; also, everyone is watched around the clock by Uni, the underground supercomputer that tracks their every move by means of scanners which each person must connect to via metallic bracelet whenever entering and exiting pretty much anywhere he goes. In short, life has become a sort of sterile prison with invisible bars, whose inhabitants don't know they are locked insid…

THE WHO PROBLEM

Reading philosophy as I often do I came upon some interesting concepts. They are only concepts, without any independent reality of their own; nevertheless they serve to shed light on the nature of ultimate reality, provided you can tear yourself away from Tinder and Netflix long enough to consider the implications.

From Metzinger's book The Ego Tunnel we gather the following:

The Ego is an extremely useful instrument. It has helped humans understand one another through empathy and even mind-reading. You can guess what another person is feeling in a given situation by putting yourself in his shoes. This helps us relate to our fellow beings. And by allowing us to externalize our minds through cooperation and culture, the ego has enabled us to form complex societies. The PSM - or phenomenal self model - of homo sapiens is probably one of nature’s best inventions. It is an efficient way to allow a biological organism to consciously conceive of itself (and others) as a whole.

Whatever…

DODGER BLUES

As I strolled to the market I encountered a homeless man who engaged me in conversation. Most of what he said was incomprehensible to me. The man had no teeth. What did register was his statement that the word "evil" is "live" spelled backwards. Does this mean to live is somehow related with being bad? Is evil opposed to Life itself? Is the Devil alive today? Note the similarities in the words for the red guy with the pitchfork and the opposite of good. Before I could ask these questions a shopper approached the homeless man with a hot meal, which the man brushed aside. Perhaps he was on a liquid diet. I went the way of the proffered chicken and moved on.

Evil. One author defines it as "the deliberate infliction of pain on sentient beings." Which I think is a suitable definition. Since when most people think of Satan what comes to mind is his leading people to their ruin for the sheer pleasure of watching poor suckers burn.

Today scientists have nominated a…