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Easter 2007 Newsletter: Honoring the Divine Mother

By Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry on Apr 6, 2007

Spring Festival

Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.

The Divine Mother

This is a Holy Week of Spring Festivals celebrating the rising energy within Mother Earth. People around the world observe Religious Holidays according to a variety of traditions. We have entered into the season of Spring Rites which included a full moon earlier this week and Passover, Good Friday & Easter Sunday.

April 1 has been known as the Roman Feast Day of Veneralia, dedicated to Venus, a form of the Great Mother as she was known in Roman antiquity. Women washed a statue or image of Venus, goddess of love, death, orchards, waters and sexuality, in rivers and lakes, adorned her with precious jewels and long robes, then burned incense in honor of the Goddess. These practices, in celebration & veneration of the fecundity of the Great Mother, were done to secure happiness in love, popularity, ease in birthing and abundance in the home.

Venus, as the Goddess of Love can certainly make fools of us all which may have led to the holiday known as April Fool's Day. (Read more about the month of April, All Fool's Day, Love & Divine Unity in a previous Satya Center newsletter.

This week, as well, the planet Venus has been shining so brightly just after sunset that at first sighting, we mistook it for the lights of a plane! But there She sat, sparkling like a beacon in the late twilight sky, reminding us again, to listen to our hearts, to do nothing but act from a place of love & loving kindness.

April 2 was the Festival of the Sun in Aries/Full Moon in Libra, known by Esoteric Astrologers in the West as the Moon of Restoration and Resurrection. This is the first of the three most important full moon festivals celebrated in the Western Wisdom School tradition.

This full moon preceded Passover, celebrated April 3 this year, which is the Feast of the Liberation of the Jewish people, and the celebration of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, and follows directly after Palm Sunday, which celebrates the moment when Jesus was proclaimed Messiah during a Passover festival over 2000 years ago.

The Aries Sun Festival inaugurated the new year, in the Esoteric Astrological Calendar of the West, and this festival celebrates the moment when the incoming energies of Spirit wax stronger and stronger as the Sun rises higher and shines longer each day in the sky.

This year the Aries Solar Festival occurred with the Sun at 12 degrees Aries. The Sabian symbol for 12 degrees of Aries is “a triangularly shaped flight of wild geese.” The wild goose is a mystical bird in the Hindu tradition, known as “hamsa”. The hamsa is the high-flying Indian goose Anser indicus, known for its qualities of discipline, stamina, grace and beauty. The hamsa is the vehicle of the Supreme Deity, Brahman, and in the Vedas and Puranas, the hamsa is the symbol of the Soul.

This is a very propitious symbol for the spring season of 2007, indicating that groups of soul-oriented Lightworkers and spiritual aspirants around the world will work in well-co-ordinated group activities, infused with the love and wisdom of the Supreme, and that their group work will organize spontaneously just as the flocks of geese form in such beautiful flying formations overhead at this time of year, and that their work will flow in a harmonious and orderly fashion, progressing with the speed and majesty of the soaring Soul-birds. Prepare yourself to be guided to join such a group this spring. This year will be a time when golden opportunities to be of maximum service in the world will abound, and when like-minded souls will gather in groups to pursue the work of Spirit.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Ask and it shall be made known to you, make a request and it shall be granted to you, open your heart and the chains of ego will fall away. Ask for your freedom and you shall be freed. This is Christ’s Easter promise. You can read an Easter message from Satya Center about the esoteric meaning of the Resurrection and about how you can walk the path of uniting with the Cosmic Christ in our article, “Uniting with the Cosmic Christ”.

This is a season especially sacred to the Divine Mother. All through this first week of April, the Divine Feminine is adored as Cybele, the Great Mother Gaia also known as Rhea and by many other names. In Japan & China, this is the week to worship Kwan Yin, the Lady of Compassion. Kwan Yin is known to many in the East and West for her unselfish action upon reaching the final spiritual goal of enlightenment. She refused her own personal Liberation to become a Bodhisattva--one who works for the liberation of all before accepting it for herself. Kwan Yin brings her Compassionate Service to all in the hopes that their souls will evolve & receive liberation from the endless cycles of despair. Call upon her in your hour of need and she will respond, for that is her nature, her service, and her highest desire.

It is no accident that Our Lady is Worshipped at this time of year, when the Life Forces are rising, when the chi is evident in the first golden hues to paint the weeping willow branches, when the birds' song serenades you at dawn, when the first robin is sighted, when animals & people alike mate & seek union. The fecundity of our fields, farms, hearths & bodies is very much present in our consciousness, our daily tasks & all around us for "those with eyes to see” and hearts to hear.

Now is the time to practice walking meditation. Go out into nature & observe the earth as it awakens. Here in the northern hemisphere, snowbells peek out amidst the snow in the northeastern region, daffodils are poking through the ground in our backyard, alliums emerge in the front garden, the iris shows us her blades in the front bed for vegetables & the first shoots of purifying spring plants make their appearance in the herb garden on our sloping side yard, bursting through the sometimes still frozen ground.

Our slumbering winter selves need spring herbs: hyssop, angelica, mullein & dandelion as they too begin their springtime emergence from the awakening earth to help enliven our bodies. Time to purge the accumulations of sloth, the energetic residue of the heavy foods of winter & to emerge from the gestation of the inner worlds of wintery contemplation. Now is the time to rejoice as we move into the increasing sunlight, feast upon early spring green shoots & move our bodies with renewed vigor.

Lightworkers, meditators, and all those who are sensitive to world events have also been connecting to the sometimes turbulent energies we feel around us, not just from spring's energy breaking up our frozen places, but also from the broader changes our Garden Planet & Humanity are undergoing at this point in Gaia's Soul evolution.

This spring, at Satya Center, our hearts are full – we sense increased planetary sorrow when we hear about & think of our sisters & brothers, our grandmothers & grandfathers and all of our children around the world who emerge from winter without enough to eat, with no place to sleep, no fields to plow or small piece of earth in which to grow healthy food.

We weep for the people of Iraq who still suffer the indignities ofoccupying forces and a war based upon greed & fear that seems to have no end. We pray that our Mid-Eastern sisters & brothers remain safe.

The devastation American occupational forces have inflicted upon Iraq is especially poignant, on this Easter Good Friday that I write this, as we meditate upon how the occupational armies of Rome put Jesus the Christ to death for bringing a message of Love to the world, for wanting to live his life in a new way, a way which wasn't deemed good for the Roman Empire. We want the people of Iraq to find freedom from oppression whether from their own despotic rulers or our own military occupation of this foreign land.

Now, during this Festival Season celebrating both Christ and the Divine Mother, more than ever we feel the need for the re-emergence of the energy of the Divine Lovers and the need to usher in a time of balanced male & female relations. (Those who want to understand more about the ancient Wisdom School teachings of the Divine Lovers, and their significance to the New Aquarian Age, can read our article, “The New Age of the Divine Lovers.)

The last gasp of the patriarchal-dominated war-mentality of the Age of Empire with its emphasis on wielding 'power-over' others is fast coming to an end. More and more, the ugly face of Imperial greed shows itself naked to the world. It seems that the wealthy among us are waging war against the rest of humanity and upon Mother Nature herself in an endless quest for more and more profits. Greed seemingly takes the upper hand in political decisions to divert water from people and gardens to industrial farming operations that deplete the soil and produce nutritionless food, in political decisions to displace thousands to create dams that will power environmentally unsound industries in the Third World, in the power of unscrupulous landowners in communities large and small to blast gravel mines deep within the earth, in the willingness of nations large and small to wage wars to usurp natural resources -- the list is endless.

Unfortunately, this greed leads to assaults by the predatory and warrior classes upon the great bulk of humankind and upon our environment. In this undeclared class war, many casualties & horrors are perpetrated every day. This class war cannot continue unabated without destroying our human civilization around the world.

The fallout from this unrelenting war of the greedy against the rest of the world is spiritually and factually related to the tumultuous changes taking place both politically & environmentally across the globe, from both human created disasters to Earth changes taking place in order to cleanse the many toxic assaults made upon our Mother Earth.

However, there is something else going on, sometimes more subtly than the cacophony of war & greed that seems so overwhelming. Something is taking place in the auras & the hearts & minds of many of us as well as in the etheric body of the earth itself; something which acts to bring the unbalanced state of human existence into balance. Something Divine seeks to restore equilibrium between humanity and the natural environment. Something Divine seeks to bring peace to the warring classes of humanity. Something so sacred, so subtle, yet so powerful that in its global balancing act it is both disruptive & healing at the same time. This subtle energy is the energy of rebirth, the prelude to the restoration of the Dominion of the Divine Lovers -- it is the Sacred Emergence of the Divine Feminine.

Eastertide & Passover Season is the perfect time to speak about the need to recognize, name & embrace the return of the Great Mother. Whether your belief system is secular or new age or if you are celebrating traditional religious practices, it is time to hear, acknowledge & awaken to the in pouring energy of the Spirit of the Divine Mother!

We have lived through many thousands of years where the Mother has been denigrated, disempowered & disenfranchised; where girl children have been dismissed as inessential or far worse, times when girl children have been maimed, killed, sold into slavery or abandoned. There are still places today where young girls are mutilated as part of their circumcision rites of puberty, robbing them of any future pleasure they may take in the act of sexual pleasure itself, or the union which creates new life or in childbirth.

For thousands of years our very language has been subverted to empower only half of the human population & to heap abuse & violence on the female half of the human family, and on Mother Earth & her creatures as well. Even the word devotion has lost its original meaning of consecrating oneself and instead has come to more commonly mean submission to the Divine Patriarch. The Latin word ‘mater’ the root of the word Mother & Matter has been defiled to its current meaning of substance, devoid of any Divine origin.

It is no accident that Feminism has been trying to find its way and give women a voice, (really since the 1920's) or that a film like the Da Vinci Code has found a popular cult following. And it is no accident that the Divine Mother makes her presence known in a new way among Catholics in the reemergence of the Devotion to the Magdalene.

According to many modern Biblical scholars, Mary Magdalene was Christ’s most beloved disciple. It was Mary Magdalene who anointed Jesus as Messiah on the Mount of Olives during Holy Week with the spikenard she carried in her alabaster jar. The word Messiah means ‘the anointed one’. On Easter Sunday, it was Mary Magdalene who enjoyed the visitation of the risen Christ when she came to his tomb in the garden to anoint his body. It was Mary Magdalene who proclaimed the miracle of Christ’s resurrection to the other Apostles.

This Easter, let us say a prayer in Her name. For Mary Magdalene, the Bride of the Christ, embodies the Sacred Union of the Divine & His Bride. The Magdalene is the perfect female example of the Bride of the Divine, the Goddess celebrated in the Hieros Gamos, the Union of the Divine Lovers.

Esoterically, this Sacred Union celebrates the union of the individual soul with the Holy Spirit, with Sophia and the Christ principle, the eternal energies of Divine Wisdom and Divine Love. As Margaret Starbird writes so eloquently in Mary Magdalene: The Bride in Exile "The ultimate union of flesh and divinity occurs in the 'temple of the Holy Spirit'--each human person."

For that is the true goal & the true meaning of the Sacred Marriage or Hieros Gamos-- the union of our lower & higher selves. The alchemists were attempting to unite the microcosm and the macrocosm. The ancient alchemical workings were based upon the wisdom teaching encapsulated in the phrase 'as above, so below' and those few words picture their true work – the true meaning of their search to create gold from base matter. For the base matter is our own lower nature, our egoistic personality, and the gold is the human being completely connected to the Higher Self, refined through the fires of existence on this beautiful, difficult planet of learning, purified by experience and suffering, and perfected by the exercise of love, love in accordance with Divine Will, according to the Divine Plan of Love and Light, which is celebrated during the Festival of the Sun in Aries every year at this time.

Each of us, on our own spiritual path, has been given that momentous task of alchemical transformation as part of our birthright. Each of us walks our own labyrinth to find our own center & in so doing, we find we are not alone, not separate, but instead we find that we are always in Union with the Divine. As we work to purify our hearts and bodies, we will find that we, ourselves, are Spirit; in our center and in our devotion, we will find God.

That is the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. For the Divine is immanent. Goddess/God is everywhere informing& sustaining all of the Universe. Each of us has access to that knowing of the Divine within ourselves. By turning inward will find our own Divine Higher Self & in so doing, we will each of us, perform that Higher Marriage of uniting Soul with Spirit.

And we can extend our efforts to fulfill that inner spiritual work to the outer world by being loving, mindful and wise in all of our relations: with our children, our neighbors, our families, with all those with whom we come in contact every day. And we must & can, especially, strive to reach & speak to the Divine in our Beloved love partners as we reach to the Divine spark within ourselves.

We are each of us housed in a sacred temple – the human body, mind and aura. Spring is the time to clean that Sacred House! Pray that we can all spiritually evolve as individuals, with our loved ones, as communities & in our body politic, so that we may begin to let go of the outmoded patriarchal models of power.

As you renew your springtime Devotions, dedicate yourself lovingly to your Highest Self, to your loved ones, and pray to open the inner door of the Soul completely to the Divine Mother. Pray that the suppression of the Divine Feminine can finally be ended and a new era ushered in, where the Female is no longer denigrated.

This year let us pray that in Her spring rains & spring floods, the Divine Mother will wash away the soul sickness of war, slavery, mindless consumerism, rage & fear that has dominated our culture for so long.

Learn to speak with the Mother & in turn learn she will teach you to listen to your own Higher Intelligence. Make room for your intuition to bloom along with the flowers of springtime. Encourage your heart to learn to flow with the seasons & listen to the Voice of the Divine. Listen to the voice of the Beloved & learn to love yourself as you in turn nurture your family & your land.

Plant a garden with the intention of healing your own heart, that of your family, your community & our Mother Gaia. Pray for balance, work for change, embody Grace & Courage, stand up for what is moral & ethical, do no harm & Let Love Lead. If you have no access to land, find a community garden or plant a pot with herbs in it & place it on your windowsill.

Make offerings to the Divine Mother by sending a flower or song or prayer down a stream or sewer or across a rooftop. Honor yourself & your beloved by embracing the Divine within yourselves & those around you.

As the Christ is risen on Easter Sunday, so too the Mother rises from the depths of the collective unconscious & walks the new path for us all, of a Life of balance, where the hidden, intuitive & deep knowledge is honored along with the light.

We wish you a happy Spring.


Top Satya Center Stories of the Week

In his new article, “Perestroika in the West” (http://www.satyacenter.com/perestroika-in-the-west), Lightworker, peace activist, and astrologer Palden Jenkins argues that Western civilization, now arguably the most conservative and ossified force dedicated to preserving the deadly and deadening status quo on planet Earth, is impeding absolutely essential changes necessary to save the environment and promote social justice, and must be restructured root and branch. There is no alternative.

“Fundamental, root-and-branch changes are necessary, ultimately down as far as matters of the soul,” Palden explains. “Yes, it could hurt at first, until a majority of people see things in a new way and come to understand how much simpler things could be than they are now. And yes, I risk being regarded as a crank for suggesting this. A key ingredient is to prioritise collective interest - not just vested interest. 'Collective' doesn't mean only the social dimension, but the complete planetary dimension.

“Such a transformation would shift the motivations, priorities and emotional needs of humans in such a way that our problems with over-consumption, social disintegration, ecological damage, cultural intolerance, identity and human purpose might become largely self-adjusting. At present, the world is scared of really facing this possibility and all that it implies.”

Palden believes that we in the West can find inspiration and examples of 21st century planetary civilization emerging in Europe, Asia, Latin America and, yes, the Middle East, and that we Westerners would do well to emulate the best of the emerging new wisdom, new green technologies and new social justice movements in these areas – the NEW leaders of the free world.

In “Four Years Ago Today”, peace activist, and Wiccan witch Starhawk, now a columnist for “Newsweek” magazine, discusses the current state of the American peace movement and recalls the tragic death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine. Starhawk was in Palestine at the time, working for peace, and Rachel’s death affected her deeply.

“I cry now, every spring, here in California as the daffodils bloom and the plum trees flower,” Starhawk says. “The beauty of spring is forever tinged, for me, with the grief and wonder and horror of that time. . .

“I cry, and then I get I mad. Four years have gone by, and the killing still goes on—in Palestine, in Iraq, and if Bush has his way, in Iran. Ghosts haunt the green hills, shimmering like heat waves under an unnaturally hot sun: all the uncounted dead of this uncalled-for war, all those yet to die.

“I’ve got a garden to plant, and a thousand things I’d rather do, but once again this spring, I’m gearing up for action. The peace marches have become boring, strident and predictable. To be absolutely honest, I hate marching around in the street chanting the same slogans I’ve been chanting for forty years. I’m going, anyway. I’m so tired of die-ins and sit-ins and predictable speeches shouted over bullhorns that I could scream if I weren’t hearing in my ears the far more bitter screams of the dying. I’m even tired of trying to drum and sing and make the protest into a creative act of magic. It’s not creative—it’s a damn protest, and I have real creative work to do: books to write, courses to teach, and rituals to plan. Nonetheless, Sunday will find me trudging along on the peace march and Monday will find me lying down on Market Street in some picturesque fashion with a group of friends and our requisite banners.

“Why? So I can look myself in the mirror without flinching, and answer to those hundred thousand ghosts. But more than that, because it’s time, friends.”

If you want to join in the difficult, demanding, draining and necessary work of protest and peace activism on any level, please read the rest of Starhawk’s article for starting points so you can hook up with this growing movement. And don’t forget to check out Starhawk’s blog (http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/starhawk/) on the Washington Post/“Newsweek” website.

As Starhawk says, spring time is gardening time, and when gardeners get their hands dirty, it’s also time for invigorating springtime foods – green dandelions, and other delicious energizing treats to put us in sync with the rising sap in the plants poking their slender stems aboveground in our garden plots.

In “Aries Foods” (http://www.satyacenter.com/aries-foods), astrologer and food-lover Jonathan Pearl discusses some really cool ways to savor springtime bounty.

“If you shop in farmers markets, you know it is spring,” Jonathan proclaims from his vantage point on the temperate West Coast. “Baby carrots, fresh onions, new leeks, green garlic, the first fava beans and asparagus all remind us that new life is bursting out of the ground.

“Taking in these energies of exuberant growth is what time in Aries is all about - a zest for life, the sense of potential, that every day is a fresh start. Why eat packaged food chemically designed to last for 6 months on a supermarket shelf? This is not Aries. Better to have the salad picked yesterday, which sometimes will make you sing. Since Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, we can be aware of freshness. Even those dedicated to eating well are not always used to thinking this way. We eat steaks that have been in the freezer for months, potatoes from last year's crop, water bottled a year ago. This month try making an effort to eat as much fresh things as you can, and sense the new life.”

In her new article, “Green Tea, The Elixir of Life?” (http://www.satyacenter.com/green-tea-elixir-of-life), internationally renowned scientist and healthy food activist Dr. Mae-Wan Ho explains the science behind the green tea craze and why green tea may be the best tonic for springtime and for those of us in the autumn and winter of life.

“Green tea, the everyday beverage for hundreds of millions in Japan and China has emerged as the latest ‘miracle drug' for preventing just about any ailment humans can suffer from,” Dr. Ho explains. Dr. Ho says green tea is recommended for reducing risks of heart disease, cancers, Alzheimer’s, obesity, arthritis, diabetes, infections, malaria and AIDS.

“Unlike patented medicines, green tea has no toxic or harmful side effects, not surprisingly, as its use goes back thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years,” says Dr. Ho.“It is cheap and widely available, and if the avalanche of scientific evidence proves right, it could do more than anything else to deliver health to the nation. So why aren't governments in the industrialised nations encouraging people to drink green tea for health? It would cut down on sicknesses and death, avoid drugs and drug side effects that have come to be accepted as almost inevitable, improve national productivity, and save billions from the national health budget.

“It would also put the pharmaceutical industry out of a lot of business selling numerous expensive patented drugs targeted at the individual diseases.”

Those who are interested in purchasing green tea can find several delightful varieties, ranging from Green Snow Buds to Japanese Sencha on our own website, in the green tea section (http://www.satyacenter.com/store/rishi/white_green) of the store. We will be adding more new green tea varieties this week, so be sure to check back around Wednesday or Thursday to try out the new goodies!

Meditation Moment: Spring Giddiness

Spring Giddiness

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

-- Rumi

Top Spiritual Stories From Around the Web


[Ed. Note: These are excerpts from long articles Jane and I feel are exceptional messages of love and light, with important information for all Lightworkers. If you resonate with their energy, click on the links for more. . .]

Network 2012

A Galactic Fairy Tale
by Michael Lightweaver

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there were all of these little light beings just hanging out enjoying life in that joyful & timeless dimension. And then one day a very large, magnificent angel came to them. He had a very serious look on his face. He was looking for volunteers for a very important cosmic mission.

"We have this small - but very special - planet out at the edge of the Alcyon galaxy called Gaia. It is quite unique like a beautiful garden and it is teeming with hundreds of thousands of different life forms. It has been something of an experimental station in the galaxy and it has a most interesting humanoid life form that incorporates the very highest and lowest frequencies known in the cosmos. It is in fact the very epitome of dualism. On the one hand it is an incredibly beautiful life form and is capable of carrying the highest frequencies of love, light & joy known throughout the whole Universe. On the other hand it is capable of carrying the densest and darkest frequencies the cosmos has ever experienced - frequencies which the rest of creation evolved beyond eons ago.

Here is the current situation. Within the domain of time, this planet goes through periodic cosmic cycles. It is now coming to the end of two major cycles - a 2,000 year long age of Pisces and the 25,000 year long cosmic year in its journey around Alcyon, the central sun of the milky way galaxy.

With the completion of this cycle, many things are coming to an end and many things are about to begin. But most importantly, the planet is experiencing an infusion of light that is dramatically increasing it's frequency. As during any major time of transition, there will be a certain amount of turbulence. Some of this will be geological, for Gaia herself is a living planet and is also evolving. But much of it also involves the hominoid species that dominates the planet.

This will not be a particularly easy time for the species - especially for those who are sleeping and those who are vibrating at the lowest frequencies. As the frequency changes it will create insecurity which in turn will create fear.

The first era of evolution on this planet was the physical era and the key word was survival. The second era, which is now ending, was the mental era and the key word was logic. The third era, which is now beginning, is the era of the heart and the key word is love. This is the highest frequency.

Those who currently hold the reign of power on the planet are of the old order of the physical & mental. To the extent that they can make a graceful transition to a heart centered and divinely guided life, it will be an easy transition. To the extent that they are unable to do this, they will experience much turmoil.

So this is the current situation of Gaia. The reason I am here is to seek volunteers who would be willing to incarnate in humanoid form on the planet at this time to help make this an easy and smooth transition. We have sent prophets and teachers in the past. Very often they were brutally persecuted o r killed. In other instances they were set up as "gods" to be worshiped and these humanoids built elaborate religions and rituals around them and used these religions to control each other. They did everything except follow the simple teachings that were offered.

So this time we are trying a different approach. No more prophets, saviors & avatars that they can use to create religions. This time we are sending in thousands - actually hundreds of thousands - of ordinary light beings with only two assignments:

1) Stay in your heart. Regardless of what happens, stay in your heart.

2) Remember who you are, why you are here and what this is all about.

Now that seems easy enough, right? Unfortunately, No! . . .


By Cal Garrison

. . . In this country we are two-faced when it comes to poverty. On one hand we shun it and at the same time we romanticize it. No one I know, including my self, would dream of inviting the white trash down the road, or the homeless guy under the bridge, over for dinner. But every Country Western song ever written makes it sound like living in squalor and ignorance is something to be proud of. What's up with that? If the people in Nashville are telling the truth, how come the rest of us have so much disdain for the Mrs. Chalks of the world? No street person I have ever seen bears the slightest resemblance to the carefree 'King of the Road' — and as far as being proud goes, all of them look like their pride went down the tubes ages ago.

. . .The truth about poverty is, it frightens us to death.

. . . What does this say about our consciousness? If everything 'out there' reflects our consciousness, is the worldwide poverty epidemic an indication that all of us are totally out of touch with God? This idea may be hard to accept, especially for those of us who are spiritually inclined. But given what we know, the thought has to be considered. If our collective connection to Spirit has in fact been severed, the following offers a partial explanation for it:

"In other words, the grounding of the life-force in the lowest chakra has to be secure, open to the energies of the Earth, before the radiance of the Spirit can take up residence." (The Ravaged Bridegroom — by Marion Woodman — p. 40)

At the energetic level poverty is quite clearly a survival issue, one that is directly related to the Root Chakra. For at least two billion people that chakra has been put out of commission by whatever they have been forced to endure. How can Spirit 'take up residence' in a vessel that no longer has any means by which to ground that radiance securely into the Earth? The separation that occurs between the impoverished and the Divine appears to be an inevitability caused by survival issues that are to overpowering to process. And when one third of the human population has been cut off in this way, it isn't just their problem. For a number of reasons, it becomes ours too.

Those of us who ascribe to the belief that the whole planet is in the process of Ascension can't ignore the fact that billions of our brothers and sisters have been rendered incapable of holding space for the Divine. Higher consciousness has to reach critical mass before Ascension can occur. If at this point, over two billion spirits can no longer lay claim to their birthright, and are no longer able to ground Spirit here in the physical, Ascension appears to be out of the question. No matter how much we might wish it were otherwise, the bottom line is this; whatever we do to heal ourselves, and anything we might wish to do to heal the planet, will not serve any purpose whatsoever until we figure out how to heal every aspect of poverty.

The physical poverty that we see all around us is just an outer manifestation of our collective poverty of Spirit — and it isn't only the poor who are at risk when it comes to catching that disease. Look around. How many people do you know who have everything a person could possibly want? Who among them appears to be fulfilled by it, or any closer to God because of it? Mother Theresa once said:

"I find the rich much poorer. Sometimes they are more lonely inside. They are never satisfied. They always need something more. I don't say all of them are like that. Everybody is not the same. But I find that kind of poverty harder to remove. The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." (Mother Theresa — from and interview with Time Magazine)

One-third of the Earth's population may be starving and homeless but according to the woman who dedicated her life to the poor the rest of humanity is in worse shape.

. . . Those of us who feel connected to something higher can't keep the secrets of the Heart to ourselves anymore. So now, when we ask the Creator to fill us with more light and thereby allow us to be a channel for whatever that light contains, could we wish that all humanity, both the rich and the poor, be blessed in the same way? Could we feel that light pouring into everyone simultaneously and see every living thing grounding its radiance into the Earth? What if, when we go to that place of inner safety we imagine that all of life is there with us, sheltered, and able to feel as safe and protected and loved as we do in our moments of oneness? Could we do for others what they don't know how to do, or can no longer do for them selves? . . .

Light of Consciousness

A Fresh Outlook: Moment to Moment Meditation

Seeker:  I’ve been trying to develop a pattern of habits that is more conducive to meditation.

Swami Amar Jyoti: WHATEVER PATTERN YOU MAY FOLLOW, YOU SHOULD FEEL RENEWED and refreshed every time you meditate. Doing the same thing over and over again is not what I call habit but doing that same thing mechanically. Each meditation should be joyful or peaceful or loving and inspiring. For this the right attitude needs to be cultivated.

Let us distinguish between habit and creativity. Can you make any episode in life creative and inspiring? For example, you open a scripture daily—the Gita, the Bible or any holy book. Are you reading it mechanically just to finish by habit?

Or are you reading that scripture today as if you are reading it for the first time? Are you reading it with such open eyes? Is your thinking led away by mental habits or is it very awake and conscious? When you do daily meditation, I wouldn’t call it a habit; we call it practice. Practice daily, but make it something very renewed and refreshing. In each thought, in each meditation, in each meal, in each walking, in each talking, are you making the best of it? Are you making it so creative that each day when you sit in meditation you get up refreshed?

How to do this? How to create a field where these forces would work? When you sit in meditation today or tomorrow, just remember one thing: that you are meditating upon God because you have not realized God so far. This is a very clear and simple point. But on the contrary, when you sit to meditate, ego thinks, “I’m meditating today. What a good person I am! What a qualified person I am!” As a matter of fact, what is the truth behind it? “I have not realized God or attained Enlightenment; therefore, I am meditating today.” Here lies our self-exposed foolishness. This should give you freshness to meditate today more sincerely.

The second question is: why, after you have been meditating for five, ten, twenty or even thirty years and have tried many techniques, have you not become Enlightened? The answer is: because you have not been meditating. The third question arises: then what have you actually been doing? You might say I am playing with words but the corollary would be that if you had been meditating, you would be Realized. That means if meditation is not a farce and you have not realized, therefore you have not been meditating! There could be no simpler logic. So what have you been doing? Thinking!

You have been practicing in a rut with the same thoughts revolving over and over in your mind. This is why I am trying to pull you out. I do not mean you should not practice, but how you should practice. Do not make it a habit, please. Practice with a fresh attitude. Meditate upon your chosen object of meditation, not on your son or your daughter, your spouse, your money, your position, your ego trips, your possessions, your proprietorships or any kind of aggrandizement or gratification. Not that any of these is a rut; your attitude is the rut. Money is not a rut; possessiveness is a rut. Position mongering is a rut; being attached is a rut.

A FRESH ATTITUDE MEANS TO MEDITATE upon whatever you are meditating upon. Work while you work; play while you play; meditate while you meditate. But if while meditating you are thinking, you are not meditating. Just as, if you do not study while you study, you are going to fail the exam; if you do not play while you play, you will not be chosen for the championship tournament. Now your objection or helplessness may be, “I would like to do that but I’m not able to.” In the meantime ten years pass by and you do not do it. Because in those ten years if you had truly meditated for even one minute your life would have changed! This is not hyperbole. One minute of real meditation will change your whole outlook. You will be transformed.

Now let us go into more detail. . .

Guardian UK
How we learned to stop having fun

Monday April 2, 2007

We used to know how to get together and really let our hair down. Then, in the early 1600s, a mass epidemic of depression broke out - and we've been living with it ever since. Something went wrong, but what? Barbara Ehrenreich unpicks the causes of our unhappiness

Beginning in England in the 17th century, the European world was stricken by what looks, in today's terms, like an epidemic of depression. The disease attacked both young and old, plunging them into months or years of morbid lethargy and relentless terrors, and seemed - perhaps only because they wrote more and had more written about them - to single out men of accomplishment and genius. The puritan writer John Bunyan, the political leader Oliver Cromwell, the poets Thomas Gray and John Donne, and the playwright and essayist Samuel Johnson are among the earliest and best-known victims. To the medical profession, the illness presented a vexing conundrum, not least because its gravest outcome was suicide. In 1733, Dr George Cheyne speculated that the English climate, combined with sedentary lifestyles and urbanisation, "have brought forth a class of distemper with atrocious and frightful symptoms, scarce known to our ancestors, and never rising to such fatal heights, and afflicting such numbers in any known nation. These nervous disorders being computed to make almost one-third of the complaints of the people of condition in England."

To the English, the disease was "the English malady". But the rainy British Isles were not the only site visited by the disease; all of Europe was afflicted.

The disease grew increasingly prevalent over the course of the 20th century, when relatively sound statistics first became available, and this increase cannot be accounted for by a greater willingness on the part of physicians and patients to report it. Rates of schizophrenia, panic disorders and phobias did not rise at the same time, for example, as they would be expected to if only changes in the reporting of mental illness were at work. According to the World Health Organisation, depression is now the fifth leading cause of death and disability in the world, while ischemic heart disease trails in sixth place. Fatalities occur most dramatically through suicide, but even the mild form of depression - called dysthemia and characterised by an inability to experience pleasure - can kill by increasing a person's vulnerability to serious somatic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Far from being an affliction of the famous and successful, we now know that the disease strikes the poor more often than the rich, and women more commonly than men. . .

. . .We do not have to rely on psychological inference to draw a link between Calvinism and depression. There is one clear marker for depression - suicide - and suicide rates have been recorded, with varying degrees of diligence, for centuries. In his classic study, Durkheim found that Protestants in the 19th century - not all of whom, of course, were of the Calvinistic persuasion - were about twice as likely to take their own lives as Catholics. More strikingly, a recent analysis finds a sudden surge of suicide in the Swiss canton of Zurich, beginning in the late 16th century, just as that region became a Calvinist stronghold. Some sort of general breakdown of social mores cannot be invoked as an explanation, since homicides fell as suicides rose.

So if we are looking for a common source of depression on the one hand, and the suppression of festivities on the other, it is not hard to find. Urbanisation and the rise of a competitive, market-based economy favoured a more anxious and isolated sort of person - potentially both prone to depression and distrustful of communal pleasures. Calvinism provided a transcendent rationale for this shift, intensifying the isolation and practically institutionalising depression as a stage in the quest for salvation. At the level of "deep, underlying psychological change", both depression and the destruction of festivities could be described as seemingly inevitable consequences of the broad process known as modernisation. But could there also be a more straightforward link, a way in which the death of carnival contributed directly to the epidemic of depression?

It may be that in abandoning their traditional festivities, people lost a potentially effective cure for it. Burton suggested many cures for melancholy - study and exercise, for example - but he returned again and again to the same prescription: "Let them use hunting, sports, plays, jests, merry company ... a cup of good drink now and then, hear musick, and have such companions with whom they are especially delighted; merry tales or toys, drinking, singing, dancing, and whatsoever else may procure mirth." He acknowledged the ongoing attack on "Dancing, Singing, Masking, Mumming, Stage-plays" by "some severe Gatos," referring to the Calvinists, but heartily endorsed the traditional forms of festivity: "Let them freely feast, sing and dance, have their Puppet-plays, Hobby-horses, Tabers, Crowds, Bagpipes, &c, play at Ball, and Barley-breaks, and what sports and recreations they like best." In his ideal world, "none shall be over-tired, but have their set times of recreations and holidays, to indulge their humour, feasts and merry meetings ..." His views accorded with treatments of melancholy already in use in the 16th century. While the disruptively "mad" were confined and cruelly treated, melancholics were, at least in theory, to be "refreshed & comforted" and "gladded with instruments of musick". . .

New Additions to the Crystal Gallery

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Breaking News Headlines 24/7 at Satya Center 

Read breaking news stories updated 24/7 from Pacific News Service. Tune in to Satya Center’s 24/7 environmental news headlines and listen to environmental news radio from Environmental News Network at ENN EarthNews.


Top News Stories From Around the Web

[Ed. Note: These are excerpts from lengthy news stories that provide the analytical context, the intellectual framework, the historical analysis, that is so completely missing from most so-called news in the mainstream media. If you are interested in the topic, click on the link provided to read more. . .]

Common Dreams

Published on Monday, March 12, 2007 by the Guardian/UK
This Cynical Ideology of Individual Selfishness is a Relic of the Cold War
by Madeleine Bunting

What will define the 21st century? . . . The comments of philosopher, Jonathan Rée seemed to sum it all up: at the beginning of the 20th century, "the main emotion behind most people's politics was hope: hope for science, for free trade, for social democracy, for national efficiency, for world government". That sentiment has now been replaced, he argued, by indignation. "People are more interested in bearing witness to their personal moral righteousness" than in engaging in open-minded debate.

Optimism and a belief in progress are now the implausible preserve of Labour party apparatchiks who are regarded as at best deluded, at worst as cynically trying to preserve their own legitimacy. The rest of us have little faith in the capacity of human beings for self-sacrifice or cooperation to avert climate change or any of the other predicted catastrophes that fill the media.

Gloomy thoughts for a Monday morning. Last night the BBC television series “The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom” began, claiming to explain how we have managed to land ourselves in this miasma of misery.

. . .The central tenet of the argument is that during the cold war an understanding of human nature as suspicious, distrustful and always operating out of self-interest came to dominate political thinking. From that emerged a narrow definition of freedom as "giving people the ability to get whatever they wanted". This kind of freedom has become the central political idea of the past 25 years, but it's a corrosive form of pessimism rooted in a bleak, simplistic view of human nature.

It all goes back to the bizarre world of cold-war strategists in America developing sophisticated ways to achieve the "delicate balance of terror". . .


Terrorized by 'War on Terror'
How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sunday, March 25, 2007; B01

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."


UK Independent

The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis

Exclusive Report: How a bid to kidnap Iranian security officials sparked a diplomatic crisis
By Patrick Cockburn
Published: 03 April 2007

A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf. The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.


ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran

April 03, 2007 5:25 PM
Brian Ross and Christopher Isham Report:

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.


Apr 4, 2007

Shi'ite power bloc in Iraq takes shape
By Babak Rahimi

One of the oddest developments in the recent history of Iraq has been the growing connection between the young firebrand cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, and the highest-ranking Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. In 2003, the erratic politics of Muqtada, with his mix of Arab nationalism and militant chiliastic ideology, was considered eventually to collide with Sistani's quietist form of Shi'ism, which advocates that clerics should maintain a clear distance from day-to-day state politics.

Since 2004, however, an unlikely alliance has gradually taken form between the former adversaries, which is bound to reshape

Iraqi Shi'ite politics in the years to come. By and large, the relationship between the two clerics has been one of asymmetrical partnership, in which Sistani plays the superior partner, guiding the younger and less experienced Muqtada in his quest for becoming a legitimate leader of the Iraqi Shi'ite community.

In doing so, Sistani has tried to tame Muqtada by bringing him into the mainstream Najaf establishment to form a united Shi'ite front against extremist Sunnis and the United States. In return, Muqtada, who lacks religious credentials, has been using Sistani's support to legitimize his religious authority and expand his influence in southern Iraq. The relationship is mutually opportunistic, but also pragmatic, since the two clerics have not been able to ignore each other.

In broad terms, such an alliance signals two significant changes: first, a dramatic shift in the balance of power in Shi'ite Iraq in terms of the revival of the Hawza, as a cluster of seminaries and religious scholarly institutions in Najaf, and second, an increase of tension between Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq.

Moreover, the growing alliance between Muqtada and Sistani also underlines another vital feature tied to the Shi'ite ascendancy in Iraq: the rise of Iran as a regional power. Iran has been playing a crucial role in the shaping of Muqtada-Sistani relations, since any alliance between Shi'ite leaders is intertwined with the Qom-Tehran nexus and Iranian politics in the Greater Middle East. . .


Apr 6, 2007

Iran takes the wind out of US sails
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - If the administration of US President George W Bush is paying attention, the drama over the 15 British sailors and marines, whose release by Iran after 12 days of detention was announced in Tehran on Wednesday, was designed to convey two key messages, according to experts in Washington.

First, the initial capture of the Britons by Revolutionary Guards near the entry to the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway was meant to demonstrate that, despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked.

Second, when Western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime.

Neither message is likely to be well received either at the White House or among the neo-conservative and other right-wing pundits who have tried hard to depict the incident as the latest sign of Islamic or Persian barbarism. Properly understood, however, the messages could form the basis of a new approach capable of yielding still greater results, according to Juan Cole, a regional expert at the University of Michigan.

"The British have now opened a channel," he said. "Although this incident really did constitute a crisis - one that might have escalated to very dangerous levels - the resolution was diplomatic, and that diplomatic resolution could contain the seeds for future diplomacy, if the British and the Americans are so inclined. . .

Mar 29, 2007

Car-bombers defy all odds
By Mike Davis

NEWS ITEM: Two truck bombs struck markets in Tal Afar on Tuesday, killing at least 66 people. One of the blasts occurred when an explosives-laden truck was detonated by remote control while people gathered to buy the flour it was carrying in a Shi'ite neighborhood in the center of the city, 420 kilometers northwest of Baghdad.

Despite heroic reassurances from both the White House and the Pentagon that the six-week-old US escalation in Baghdad and al- Anbar province is proceeding on course, suicide car-bombers continue to devastate Shi'ite and Sunni neighborhoods, often under the noses of reinforced US patrols and checkpoints.

Indeed, February was a record month for car bombings, with at least 44 deadly explosions in Baghdad alone, and March promises to duplicate the carnage.

Car bombs, moreover, continue to evolve in horror and lethality. In January and March, the first chemical "dirty bomb" explosions took place using chlorine gas, giving potential new meaning to President George W Bush's missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The sectarian guerrillas who claim affiliation with "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" are now striking savagely, and seemingly at will, against dissident Sunni tribes in Anbar province as well as Shi'ite areas of Baghdad and Shi'ite pilgrims on the highways to the south of the capital.

With each massacre, the bombers refute Bush administration claims that the US military can "take back and secure" Baghdad block by block or establish its own patrols and new, fortified mini-bases as a realistic substitute for local self-defense militias


Saturday, March 31st, 2007 at 11:00 am
By: Hugh

I saw Charlie Rose interview David Gregory chief White House correspondent of NBC last night. For me the jury has been out on Gregory. Sometimes when he is asking questions at a presser, he seems like he understands what’s going on. But often when he gives his reports on TV, he comes across as completely vapid. So I watched his segment on Rose with interest. It was very much a pseudo-thoughtful discussion of the stories surrounding the Bush Presidency by two pseudo-thoughtful men. Issue after issue they discussed without ever once stumbling upon its salient point.

These are two men who sound reasoned as long as you don’t look too closely at just how muddleheaded and intellectually lazy their thinking is. Neither gets the crux of the attorney firings scandal, that political appointments are not meant to be blank checks to stack positions of trust with partisan hacks and political cronies. On Iraq, Gregory portrays Bush and Rice as two innocents left to the mercies of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell, but moments later says that people don’t realize how thoughtful Bush is on the issues. Rose chimes in agreeing. It was really there they lost me.

Bush being thoughtful must be the best kept secret in Washington. Just think how he has managed to hide any evidence of it for 6 long years.

Listening to them, I came to the conclusion that these are two comfortable, immensely self-satisfied guys who have learned the great secret of American journalism in the present age. It is enough to see the trees, don’t bother about the forest. And they don’t.

They are totally oblivious to the fact that Bush is angling for the spot of worst President in our 200 year plus history, that the Iraq war (4 years and counting) is a failure, and that the hallmarks of the Bush Presidency are cronyism, corruption, criminality, and incompetence. None of this affects or informs their journalism. We live in disturbed and disturbing times yet Rose, Gregory, and so many other journalists are far too comfortable to notice. For them it is always business as usual no matter how unusual events become. Bush can inflict any disaster on us or on the world and in their narcotized state it all appears normal. Bush is misunderstood, thoughtful, maybe a trifle naive, but well meaning. In such a light, to tie Bush to the long litany of his scandals and disasters seems a bit much, a bit mean.

In short, they don’t see the obvious around them because they don’t want to see it, they don’t want to know. They don’t want to rock the boats of the powerful because they are mortally afraid the powerful will rock theirs. Journalism has become not a den of muckrakers but a refuge for the Sergeant Schultzes of this world. They go along to get along. They have learned the secret to success is to be ineffective. And how very, very successful they are.



March 21, 2007
The Billionaires and How They Made It

Meet the Global Ruling Class

Even as the world's billionaires grew in number from 793 in 2006 to 946 this year, major mass uprisings became commonplace in China and India. In India, which has the highest number of billionaires (36) in Asia with total wealth of $191 billion, Prime Minister Singh declared that the greatest single threat to 'India's security' were the Maoist-led guerrilla armies and mass movements in the poorest parts of the country. In China, with 20 billionaires with $29.4 billion net worth, the new rulers, confronting nearly a hundred thousand reported riots and protests, have increased the number of armed special anti-riot militia a hundred fold, and increased spending for the rural poor by $10 billion in the hopes of lessening the monstrous class inequalities and heading off a mass upheaval.

The total wealth of this global ruling class grew 35 per cent year to year topping $3.5 trillion, while income levels for the lower 55 per cent of the world's 6-billion-strong population declined or stagnated. Put another way, one hundred millionth of the world's population (1/100,000,000) owns more than over 3 billion people. Over half of the current billionaires (523) came from just 3 countries: the US (415), Germany (55) and Russia (53). The 35 per cent increase in wealth mostly came from speculation on equity markets, real estate and commodity trading, rather than from technical innovations, investments in job-creating industries or social services.

Among the newest, youngest and fastest-growing group of billionaires, the Russian oligarchy stands out for its most rapacious beginnings. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of the current Russian billionaire oligarchs began their concentration of wealth in their mid to early twenties. During the infamous decade of the 1990's under the quasi-dictatorial rule of Boris Yeltsin and his US-directed economic advisers, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar the entire Russian economy was put up for sale for a 'political price', which was far below its real value. Without exception, the transfers of property were achieved through gangster tactics ­ assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buyouts. The future billionaires stripped the Russian state of over a trillion dollars worth of factories, transport, oil, gas, iron, coal and other formerly state-owned resources.

Contrary to European and US publicists on the right and left, very few of the top former Communist leaders are found among the current Russian billionaire oligarchy. Secondly, contrary to the spin-masters' claims of 'communist inefficiencies', the former Soviet Union developed mines, factories, energy enterprises were profitable and competitive, before they were taken over by the new oligarchs. This is evident in the massive private wealth that was accumulated in less than a decade by these gangster-businessmen.

Virtually all the billionaires' initial sources of wealth had nothing to do with building, innovating or developing new efficient enterprises. Wealth was not transferred to high Communist Party Commissars (lateral transfers) but was seized by armed private mafias run by recent university graduates who quickly capitalized on corrupting, intimidating or assassinating senior officials in the state and benefiting from Boris Yeltsin's mindless contracting of 'free market' Western consultants. . .


Apr 4, 2007

Crude: Barrels of fun to crack you up
By Julian Delasantellis

In 1949, the movie It Happens Every Spring chronicled the professional baseball exploits of a bookish US Midwestern science professor, played by Ray Milland, who discovers a chemical coating for baseballs that will make them impossible to hit. However, if somebody was making a movie called It Happens Every Spring in 2007, the subject would not be baseball, but the now annual spring reaming that oil consumers are once again undergoing at the hands of the world's oil interests.

Since the seizure of 15 British sailors in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway by Iranian revolutionary guards on March 23, the price of a barrel of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) has risen over US$5 a barrel, to just under $67. The American media delight in conflating these separate incidences into one causation; besides the nightly parade of red-in-tooth-and-claw neo-conservatives diverting attention from their disastrous misadventure in Iraq by baying for Iranian blood on US cable TV, a Google search with "Iran", "seizure" and "crude oil" as parameters is now returning over 150,000 articles.

For the world's oil interests, this is delightful. Just like the guy doing card tricks at the traveling carnival, your vision gets distracted by kinetic irrelevancies he does with one hand while the real action goes on unnoticed right under your nose with his other.

. . . By their very nature, there is a symbiotic relationship between the prices of crude oil and the prices of the products made from it. Crude oil is the raw material of product production, so, if the price of the raw material rises, refiners, to defend their operating profit margins, will seek higher prices for the products as well. Likewise, if the price of the products rise, it will put upward pressure on crude, since, with the products now commanding a higher market price, there will be an extra incentive, creating more demand, to buy more crude, refine it into product, and sell it back into the market.

However, crude prices and the prices of its products do not move in absolute lockstep. A 5% rise in crude over some period of time may produce a 3%, a 4% or a 6%, 7% or 8% rise in the products. If the products' prices are moving higher at a greater percentage rate than the crude, it means that it is becoming comparatively more profitable to be a refiner than a producer of oil, since what you are receiving as a price for your finished product, the petroleum finished products, is rising faster than what you are paying for the raw material you need to make that product, crude oil.

A complex mathematical formula called the "crack spread" ("crack" being the industry jargon verb defining the process in which crude oil is refined into products) illustrates this ever-dynamic price relationship between crude and its products. As it rises, crude's products are becoming comparatively dearer than crude itself. No matter what the media are reporting about the world's various far-flung crises, if the crack spread is rising, the products, especially gasoline, are leading crude oil up, not the other way around.

So what's the crack spread doing during the current Iran/UK crisis? Just like It Happens Every Spring, it's rising, but this year it's rising earlier, faster and higher than previously. From being under 10 for most of the previous six months, it has surged to almost 25 recently. It pulled back a bit early last week, but by Friday, March 30, it was on the move again, closing at 18.37, up 12% on the day.

Every time the price of crude rises and the Western popular media accuse OPEC nations of price gouging, their defense is that it's not them, it's the Western oil companies. The rising crack spread essentially proves their point. There's no real shortage of crude oil; actually, the world is awash in it. Spare refining capacity, that's another story.

. . . There has not been a new refinery opened in the US in 31 years; during that time, the actual number of refineries operating in the US has dropped from 301 in 1981 to 149 in 2003. (This is less dramatic than it seems; US refiners have consolidated many of their, older, smaller capacity refineries into fewer large-capacity refineries.) If more refinery construction had been allowed, it is argued, the refinery capacity crunch implied by rising crack spreads and rising pump prices would never have occurred.

This argument might have more credence but for the fact that oil refining is a process and business that occurs all over the world, and there is no law that states that a gallon of petroleum products consumed in the United States has to be refined in the United States. (Free market conservatives, who are always defending low wages paid to labor by talking about the global market for labor, are not as quick to apply that same principle to the global market for petroleum products.) According to the Oil and Gas Journal, 96 of the world's countries have operating oil refineries within their borders; of the world's 10 largest-capacity oil refineries, only two, ExxonMobil's refineries in Baytown, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are in the US. (The world's largest-capacity oil refinery, the Paraguana Refining Complex in Venezuela, ships almost the entirety of its product of 940,000 barrels a day to the US east coast.)

If environmental Luddites are preventing creation of new US refinery capacity, surely that can't be true in the 95 other countries where refineries are currently sited, not to mention the 100 or so other countries where they are not. Many of these countries are in the Third World; they are desperately poor, and local environmental movements, if they exist at all, are at most nascent. Surely, if the oil companies knocked on their door asking to build a new refinery or expand a currently sited one, they would not say no.

But, like Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark, the story here is the knocks on the doors that don't come, the world refinery capacity that isn't being built.

. . . During the summer of 2000, California electricity supply crisis, when large parts of the state were being subjected to daily electricity blackouts, the late Ken Lay, at that time chief executive officer of the Enron Corporation, a major player in the California wholesale electricity market, mocked David Freeman, chairman of the California Power Authority, by, according to Freeman, stating: "It doesn't matter what you crazy people in California do, because I got smart guys who can always figure out how to make money."

The main thing that Lay's smart guys, as well as the people in the oil industry who are not building new refinery capacity, have figured out is that the market for energy is very unique. When demand is high and supplies are tight, you make less money selling your product than by not selling it. This is what Enron did through taking offline much of California-dedicated electricity-generating capacity for strategically timed (in the California summer, when air-conditioning puts intense demand on power supplies) "maintenance". This drove prices up and created scarcity, not just in California, but all across the western US's interlinked electricity power transmission grid.

"Maintenance" is the same reason that the oil companies annually, including this year, give for taking refinery capacity offline in spring, driving prices up, and setting the world's drivers up for the fuel price increase season that now lasts into early autumn.

This yearly problem, and the tightness in the world's petroleum products markets in general, could be alleviated with new refinery construction, but, as demonstrated above, this is not happening. Oil refinery construction can be a difficult and expensive process, one which probably requires the company to go into debt by either issuing corporate bonds or taking out lines of credit with large commercial banks.

Much better to take the money that would have been spent on refinery construction and use it more judiciously, on things like risk-free short-term dollar or euro treasury securities (currently earning about 5.25% annually) and increased and enhanced corporate salaries, perks and dividends. This strategy is certainly working; oil company profits are skyrocketing. Early this year, ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, reported the largest-ever quarterly and yearly profits, $10.71 billion and $36.13 billion respectively, ever reported by an American corporation. . .


April 4, 2007
The Latest Trend in Corporate America

Circuit City's Guinea Pigs

In January, Circuit City employee Bobby Young received a certificate of excellence for his twenty years of loyal service at the company's Roanoke, Virginia store. On March 28th, he received a pink slip.

When the 47-year old father of two arrived at work that morning, he was handed a letter inexplicably addressed "to whom it may concern," explaining that the company had terminated his employment, effective immediately. That same day, 3,400 workers at Circuit City stores across the country were greeted with the news that they had been fired before management quickly escorted them out of the building. Company spokesman Bob Cimino bluntly announced that the mass firings targeted the most experienced and highest paid in-store workers as part of a "wage management initiative" to replace them with low-wage new hires. "It had nothing to do with their skills or whether they were a good worker or not," Cimino said.

Those who were fired made up roughly 8.5 percent of the 40,000 workers at the 650 retail outlets of the nation's second-largest electronics retailer, which trails only Best Buy. But these workers, the company explained, were being paid "well above the market-based salary range for their roles."

According to Bloomberg News, however, CircuitCity pay averages $10 to $11 an hour-precisely the market average. After twenty years, Young was earning $18.90 an hour, with healthcare benefits. His replacement will earn less than half that amount, without benefits. The company will graciously allow its allegedly overpaid former workers to reapply for their old jobs at starting wages after they endure 10 weeks of grueling unemployment. Fired Los Angeles worker Richard O'Neal was told he could eventually reapply for his job if he is willing to work for $7.50 per hour, California's minimum wage. . .


March 28, 2007

The Price of Almost Everything We Need to Survive Has Jumped by 100 Per Cent

How Runaway Inflation Has Slipped Under the Radar

In 1975, there was this cute little two-bedroom house for sale on Grant Street in Berkeley. I loved that house! I wanted to buy that house! But I dithered around and missed my chance because I couldn't come up with a down payment for its outrageously expensive asking price -- $25,000.

I'd be extremely lucky today, even in the middle of the current housing slump, to be able to purchase that same house for less than $600,000.

I hate math but here goes. $25,000 goes into $600,000 how many times? 24 times? That's a hecka lot of inflation!

Remember back in the late 1970s when we had all those big long lines at the gas pumps? When gas went from 60 cents a gallon to $1.10 a gallon and we thought that was outrageous? "President Carter has caused runaway inflation," we were told. So we had an election and got stuck with Ronnie Reagan instead -- and suddenly "inflation" disappeared, never to return.

Remember back in 1968? By living at home and working during the summer, I was able to save up enough money in just three short months to put myself through U.C. Berkeley for the rest of the year. Tuition was $150, rent was $75, utilities cost $10 and peanut butter was cheap. I didn't live like a goddess but still -- I didn't have $150,000 in student loans to pay off upon graduation either.

Remember when peaches at the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace cost 69 cents a pound and strawberries were 89 cents a basket and hamburger was $1.75 a pound? Then suddenly about two years ago the price of peaches went up to $2.00 a pound, strawberries were suddenly $2.50 a basket and a pound of hamburger suddenly cost $3.25? And gas went from $1.80 a gallon to $3.30 a gallon?

In approximately the last two years, almost everything we need to survive has jumped up in price by at least 100%.

When this same incredible jump in prices occurred in 1979, everyone screamed bloody murder about "Runaway Inflation". Heads rolled. But when the exact same thing is happening now, NOBODY talks about inflation....


Socialist Perspectives              


Why Oaxaca Matters

March 16, 2007
-by James Cooke

For anyone interested in social progress, the ‘Oaxaca Commune’ stands out as an event worthy of attention and study.  In the Mexican state of Oaxaca the overwhelming majority of people suddenly awoke from political hibernation and became active in shaping social life.  In consequence, the old apparatus of the state, dedicated as it was to the interests of the rich, was destroyed, and a new structure, based on direct representation of the many, was established.       

The ‘popular assembly’ (APPO) that arose out of the mass movement of Oaxaca was not the first of its kind.  History has numerous examples of similar political formations, always birthed amid a revolutionary climate.

. . . The events of Oaxaca have proved, once again, that there is a better alternative to the type government we have always been taught is greatest.   In any society were vast inequality prevails, the political structure that upholds the status quo inevitably gets separated from the wants of the average person.  The wealthy and privileged steer government to meet their own interests by whatever means necessary— media, campaign financing, ballot restrictions, long election terms and consequent unaccountability, the police, voter disenfranchisement (especially minorities and the poor),  intimidation, assassination, etc.  Wherever far-reaching social progress has been achieved, the state as we know it, with its endless connections to the upper-classes, has been razed and then resurrected on a different, more democratic foundation.    

Like its organizational ancestors, Oaxaca’s Popular Assembly worked to overcome the above barriers and shorten the distance between voters and delegate.  Unlike the modern, accepted form of democracy, where representatives are free to back-track on their promises the minute after being elected, the Popular Assembly model relies on direct democracy, i.e., delegates must do as expected, or else they are immediately removed.  This is possible because voting is done not by region, where people from vast un-connected distances come together once every couple years, but instead, democratic discussion happens in local workplaces, organizations, or neighborhoods, followed by a binding vote.  In this way, people are able to respond to events quickly and decide the best way to react; rather than sitting on their hands until the next election hoping that their new ‘representative’ will listen to them instead of the oligarchy.

Such a system is practical on a national and even international level because the majority of people in the world have similar interests.  Most of the earth’s population consists of working people who desire the same things: peace, good wages and working conditions, education, health care, a decent standard of living, etc.  Those opposing the more-democratic ‘popular assembly’ model of organization are the tiny minority who benefit from the current, vastly unequal system. Indeed, it is the predatory upper classes that ruthlessly squash all independent modes of organization, as they continue to do now in Oaxaca. . .  


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Doctors’ Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View

Dr. Allan Collins may be the most influential kidney specialist in the country. He is president of the National Kidney Foundation and director of a government-financed research center on kidney disease.

In 2004, the year he was chosen as president-elect of the kidney foundation, the pharmaceutical company Amgen, which makes the most expensive drugs used in the treatment of kidney disease, underwrote more than $1.9 million worth of research and education programs led by Dr. Collins, according to records examined by The New York Times. In 2005, Amgen paid Dr. Collins at least $25,800, mostly in consulting and speaking fees, the records show.

The payments to Dr. Collins and the research center appear in an unusual set of records. They come from Minnesota, the first of a handful of states to pass a law requiring drug makers to disclose payments to doctors. The Minnesota records are a window on the widespread financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who prescribe and recommend their products. Patient advocacy groups and many doctors themselves have long complained that drug companies exert undue influence on doctors, but the extent of such payments has been hard to quantify.

The Minnesota records begin in 1997. From then through 2005, drug makers paid more than 5,500 doctors, nurses and other health care workers in the state at least $57 million. Another $40 million went to clinics, research centers and other organizations. More than 20 percent of the state’s licensed physicians received money. The median payment per consultant was $1,000; more than 100 people received more than $100,000.


Common Dreams NewsCenter

Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 by CorporateCrimeReporter.com
The Corporate Crime of Selling Private Health Insurance
by The Corporate Crime Reporter

In most of the world, it is a corporate crime to sell private health insurance.That’s because most countries insure their citizens as a matter of right.

Private insurers dilute the public pool.

One nation, one payer.

Medicare for all.

Everybody in, nobody out.

No bills from the doctor.

No bills from the hospital.

No deductibles.

No co-pays.

No in network.

No out of network.

No corporate profits.

No threat of bankruptcy from health bills.

Health insurance will be the number one domestic political issue in the USA in 2008.

Polls indicate that the majority of the American people want single payer.

But who will deliver?


LA Times

Permanent drought predicted for Southwest

Study says global warming threatens to create a Dust Bowl-like period. Water politics could also get heated.
By Alan Zarembo and Bettina Boxall, Times Staff Writers
April 6, 2007

The driest periods of the last century — the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the droughts of the 1950s — may become the norm in the Southwest United States within decades because of global warming, according to a study released Thursday.

The research suggests that the transformation may already be underway. Much of the region has been in a severe drought since 2000, which the study's analysis of computer climate models shows as the beginning of a long dry period.

The study, published online in the journal Science, predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest — one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation.

The data tell "a story which is pretty darn scary and very strong," said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate researcher at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study.


The New York Times

April 1, 2007
Poor Nations to Bear Brunt as World Warms

The world’s richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, are already spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, like drought and rising seas.

But despite longstanding treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable regions — most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.


Picture Credits from top to bottom: Mary Magdalene with Red Egg from an Icon Painting, source unknown, picture of the planet Venus by Hans Sebald Beham, Aries Ram Astrological Symbol from clip art, Photo of Geese flying in formation by J. Sherry, Mary Magdalene's Ecstasy by Rubens, Irises emerge from the snow by J. Sherry, Mary Magdalene portrait by Pietro Perugino, unknown icon of Jesus & Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene by unknown artist, said to be Leonardo da Vinci (but i don't believe it!), Detail from Magdalene Devotions by Guido Reni, Stained Glass window, source unknown of Jesus & Mary Magdalene, Painting of Mary Magdalene by Rosetti, clip art alchemical symbol for earth, the Magdalene after Dolci, Detail from Magdalene Devotions by Guido Reni