Archive for Survival

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

M is for Money

Posted in All, Economics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by marushiadark

“So you think that money is the root of all evil.  Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?” ~ Ayn Rand

At the time of my writing this, I’ve yet to read Atlas Shrugged.  I think I might already know a great deal of what’s in it, much like when I first read The Lost Symbol.  However, at the insistence of my mother, and many others, apparently, I’ve made Atlas Shrugged the very next book on my reading list.

Even still, Ayn Rand makes a very good point.  What is money?  Have you ever really thought about it?

For most people, when you mention the word “money,” a lot of things come to mind.  To some, it means little green pieces of paper or metal with pictures of dead presidents on them.  For others, it may call to mind an image of the mint printing vast rolls of the stuff.  On the one hand, money can be the source of great stress and grief if we don’t have it, or great opportunity and abundance if we do.  Pious people avoid it like the plague, while people that have it are willing to do anything to get it and can’t seem to get enough of it.

Most of these are probably incomplete observations, made by equally  ill-informed observers.  I know that, for most of my own life, I kept having the wrong impression about money, and only recently am I beginning to see money for what it actually is.

But what is that, exactly?

The Uniform Commercial Code is the Bible of commercial law.  UCC Article 1, Section 201b, Line 24 gives the definition of money as it’s used throughout most of the world today:

“Money means a medium of exchange currently authorized or adopted by a domestic or foreign government.  The term includes a monetary unit of account established by an intergovernmental organization or by agreement between two or more countries.”

In brief, money is simply a medium of exchange, an I.O.U.

When you play Monopoly, the paper is just there to help regulate how much you’re worth in comparison to the other players.  If you run out, the game even tells you to make more money out of regular paper, because it’s just a medium of exchange with no inherent value of its own.  Or if you play in digital form, it’s all done via electronic transfers and moving numbers around.  It’s Bookkeeping, the Game and boy do we love playing it!

If this were a barter system, we’d trade goods directly, like a camel for five bags of potatoes, or whatever we happened to agree was an equivalent exchange.

Money is just an indirect way of trading.  For instance, say I had a hat, but needed a pair of shoes.  I meet a man who needs a hat but has an extra pair of shoes.  So I trade him the hat for the shoes.  Now this man, some time later, needs to buy food.  He needs the food more than his hat, so he finds someone who will make the trade with him.  In that process, the hat was used as money because it was the medium that facilitated exchanges.

If we wanted, we could really use anything for money, as long as it was agreed upon by everyone involved; and in ancient times, that’s exactly what happened.

It used to be that money was more than just worthless paper.  When things like gold, silver, beads, shells, stones, and feathers were all used as money, the money itself had inherent value.  It could be used in trade, or kept by its possessor because it was worth something for its own merit.  Over time, certain things like copper, gold, and silver became more standardized as money because their value as a medium of exchange was more universally accepted among disparate cultures.  Eventually, people began to store, lend, and borrow coins and soon the first banks were formed.  From there, it was a short while before people started carrying around certificates that represented an amount of hard currency being kept in a vault somewhere.  And thus, we arrive at paper money.

The documentary Money as Debt elaborates more on this concept and gives a brief, allegorical history of the evolution of money.

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:10

Money is a form of power.  So it follows that the love of money is the love of power and of control over one’s self and others.  What we do with that power, however, is the determining factor.

Greed and lack are just flaws in perception.  The world is nothing but abundant with wealth and resources for all, and then some, yet this misguided belief of never having enough to survive is what leads people to commit both great and terrible acts in an effort to get more money.  Rest assured, it’s not the paper or the numbers that they want, but the power and the goods that said money represents, as you will see later on.

The cure for greed and the cure for poverty are one in the same: recognize that there is more than enough to go around for everyone and find a way to satisfy everyone at the table.

It is important to note that money is not, itself, a bad thing.  It’s just a tool, like a hammer or a pencil, that facilitates a purpose.  In the case of money, that purpose is to act as a catalyst for the trade of goods and services.  Just as guns don’t kill people, neither does money create problems.  It is only people that kill people or create problems.  How can money create something?  It’s just a tool.  Only divine beings, living souls, can create anything.

Without getting into too much detail, there is a principle in law that states that the created cannot be higher than the creator.  Who is the creator in this case?  We are.

We humans are the creators of every organization and institution on this planet, and we are the creators of governments and money.  They are our tools, our creations.  They have only the power and authority and value that we say they do or that we give to them; and we alone have the ability to revoke that power, authority, and value.  Whether we choose to abdicate our role as creator and be overrun by these Frankenstein monsters or not is our choice.  But eventually, the human race will be pushed to the breaking point unless it wakes the fuck up and remembers that the power was ours all along.

Like what Glinda, the good witch, tells Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the power to go home all along.  It’s just that you weren’t in a position to accept or believe it, and so no one told you, but instead left you to figure it out for yourself.  Well, consider this your wake up call, with me giving you formal notice the power is yours.

“The man who has no money is poor, but one who has nothing but money is poorer.” ~ Orison Swett Marden, New Thought author

Return we now to the subject of paper money.  It’s really almost absurd how everyone knows that paper money is just worthless paper, and yet we still choose to rely on it for everything.  We covet it as though it were the secret of eternal life.  But why?  What makes paper money so valuable?

Recall that, in ancient times, people used mainly gold and silver as money in the form of bars or coins.  Bars and coins were used because they could be regulated in terms of weight and purity, but they were not without their flaws.  The most basic reason for switching to paper money was because it was lighter in weight and easier to carry around.  You could write up a certificate for really any amount of money that you wanted, so long as you had enough gold or silver somewhere to back it up.

For hundreds of years, it was the case that all certificates of this kind could be turned in any time the holder felt insecure and he would be given an amount of gold or silver equal to the amount that was written on the document.  What had value wasn’t so much the actual paper, but the confidence that it could be exchanged for something of worth.  And soon people began to trade these papers as though they were actual value.

If you look at the top of any American dollar bill, you will see the words “Federal Reserve Note” scrawled on it.  The word “note” in this case means a promissory note.  In other words, it’s a promise to pay.

If you’ve ever taken out a loan, you probably filled out a promissory note and gave it to your creditor or bank.  That promissory note is your promise to pay.  It’s your promise to them that they can redeem it for something of actual value.  With that confidence, the note can be exchanged as though it were actual currency.  They can trade it in for whatever it’s worth (which these days is just an extension of credit).

Things start to get interesting when you begin to realize that all cash is just a promissory note.  What we think of money is really just our promise that the holder will get something in return for it.

More interesting still is that, if you look at a dollar bill, it no longer says “redeemable in gold or silver.”  Prior to 1933, all dollars were promises of payment in either gold (which was standard) or silver to the holder.  So what happened in 1933?

“What difference does it make how much money you have?  What you do not have amounts to much more.” ~ Seneca

For a more in-depth history, I would recommend the documentary The Money Masters, but suffice to say that the history of America has really been one of banking and trying to avoid central banks, in particular.  The Founding Fathers resisted the Bank of England and wrote into the Constitution the power of Congress to coin money and to regulate its value.  And our country managed to survive well enough without a central bank for over a hundred years.  Since our inception, private international banks have tried to get Congress to give over that power to them and, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson finally caved with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act.  From then on, the Federal Reserve (a private international bank) would be the sole creator of all the currency used to fund the government, which it lent to us at interest.

Prior to 1933, the United States was on a gold standard and most of its currency was backed by gold.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered a seizure of all the gold held by private citizens in an effort to pay off the national debt.  With the signing of HJR 192 on June 5, 1933, the use of promissory notes backed by gold was ended and a new form of currency replaced it: the Federal Reserve Note.

Federal Reserve Notes (which replaced United States Notes) are what’s known as fiat currency.  Fiat means that is isn’t backed by a commodity (like gold), but has value because of government decree.  It has value because the government says it does and will force you to accept it if offered for the payment of any and all debts in the United States.

If you look in the corner of the dollar bill, it says as much.  The word “tender” in this case means “an offer of money.”  It’s an offer of money because it’s only a note, which is a promise of money, not actual money itself.  There is no money.  Roosevelt took it all from us to pay the debt, which we still have hanging over us to this very day.

Following World War I, Germany was in bankruptcy because a lot of its infrastructure was destroyed and it had no money to rebuild or to pay the war reparations that its enemies demanded as a condition for accepting German surrender.  As a result, Germany suffered massive inflation and the Deutsche Mark became incredibly devalued without anything to back it.  It is said that marks were used to wallpaper people’s houses, that’s how worthless they were.  It was only through the aid of private banks and corporations – some of them American – that the Nazis were able to rise to the levels they did, and we all know how that turned out.

Similarly, after the Great Depression, people began to hoard gold as the only valuable form of currency.  Without gold and value passing through the American economy, the government had no funds to operate with.  It couldn’t afford to maintain its military in wartime or repay the Federal Reserve and its other creditors.  So the United States was also forced to declare bankruptcy and stole all the gold of its citizens in an effort to pay off its debts.

While we may have gotten out of the Great Depression through a re-stimulating of the economy via Roosevelt’s New Deal, we continue to employ the Federal Reserve and its worthless paper.  So a rational person would have to conclude that it’s only a matter of time before we fall back into that same pit again.  Only next time, it’s liable to be a lot worse.  Remember, we brought the Fed into this world and we can certainly take it out.

The Needs of the Many

Posted in All, Economics, Health, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by marushiadark

“Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” ~ John 11:50

In my last post, I discussed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its application to individuals.  An individual in such instance can mean a single person, but it can really apply to any entity considered as a whole.  A person is simply a collection of cells acting together for a single purpose.  Cells divide and cells die and we don’t give the process much thought in the course of our daily lives because we’re busy doing things at the level of our macroscopic state.  When you scratch your arm, you lose thousands of cells, but it alleviates the body.  When you cut yourself, the blood lost contains thousands of cells, yet a flesh wound repairs itself easily enough.

Often times, we appeal to higher powers and ask, as Christ did in his final moments, “Why have you forsaken me?”  But we are, ourselves, cells in a much larger body and sometimes it is necessary for a few cells to be shed for the sake of the whole.  Sometimes, the will of the whole is beyond the understanding of the individual cell; and so the cell must trust that the whole knows what it is doing and will realize that the good of its cells means the good of the whole and so will do its best to tend to the needs of as many of its cells as it possibly can.

“There literally are different worlds in which we live … but they’re complimentary.  Because I am my atoms.  But I am also my cells.  I’m also my macroscopic physiology.  It’s all true, there are just different levels of truth.” ~ John Hagelin, physicist

As we learned from Star Trek II and Star Trek III, there is a balance between the needs of individuals and the needs of the wholes that those individuals comprise.  Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and sometimes the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.  To do the greatest good for the greatest number of people demands a more careful observation of what the actual needs of both the individual and the whole require.

In my post on energy, I explained how everything in the universe is energy and how consciousness is energy and thus implied how everything has consciousness and identity.  Everything in the universe is its own individual, made up of smaller parts, and it is also, itself, a component part of something much larger. Atoms are collectives of quarks, but components of molecules.  Molecules are collectives of atoms, but components of cells.  Cells are collectives of molecules, but components of organs.  Organs are collectives of cells but components of people.  People are collectives of organs, but components of society.  And so forth until you get to the whole of the universe and ultimately to God.

Half of the object’s identity is as a whole, half is as a part of some larger whole.  Both sides have their own needs which must be respected.  Without the health of our cells, we succumb to disease and die.  Without the whole, the cells won’t stand much chance of finding what they need on their own.  Symbiosis is the coming together of two or more individuals to form a larger whole that will serve the needs of all.  This is how nature and the rest of the universe manages to get along so well.  It is a lesson that we, as humans, do not always remember.

“The securing of one individual’s good is cause for rejoicing, but to secure the good of a nation or of a city-state is nobler and more divine.” ~ Aristotle

An idea is true based on its merit, not where it comes from, which is why I try to draw wisdom from all walks of life, not just one.  For me, one of those paths includes Christianity.  Another includes Scientology.  As Christianity has the eight beatitudes, so does Scientology have what are known as the eight dynamics (and you’d be surprised in what other ways they relate).

In Scientology, the dynamic principle of existence is survival.  The eight dynamics are eight different levels at which we might consider the needs for survival.  They are as follows:

  1. Self – The urge to survive as an individual.
  2. Sex – The urge to survive through family and offspring.
  3. Group – The urge to survive as part of a group.
  4. Species – The urge to survive as a species (e.g. Mankind).
  5. Life – The urge to survive as a life form and to embrace all life forms.
  6. Matter – The urge to survive as part of the universe and for all the physical universe to survive.
  7. Spirit – The urge to survive as a spiritual being (soul).
  8. Infinity – The urge to survive as part of God and the infinity of All.

An action is good if it promotes survival on all levels.  Given that our existence holds stock in all these levels, it would behoove us to tailor our actions so as to promote survival across the greatest number of dynamics as possible by weighing the needs of the self, our components, and the wholes of which we are a part.

“Most people today have no idea what they really want or need, for they have never been informed as to the true state of technology.” ~ Peter Joseph

I once watched a video lecture by the late William Cooper, a former Navy Intelligence Officer.  He began the lecture by asking if anyone could tell him when the first Stealth aircraft was created.  Most people said the 70s or 80s.  In actual fact, the Nazi’s had developed one during WWII.  According to Cooper, whatever the state of technology we think exists, it’s likely that the U.S. military is already about 25 years ahead of that.

In some cases, depending on the technology, it’s probably more like a hundred years.  But the point still remains that people are not educated on what’s actually possible and this colors their perceptions of what they believe they need.  Sadly, most people are simply not interested in advancing their knowledge beyond what little they already know.  Sadder still, the only ones that can change it are them.

“I can only show you the door.  You’re the one that has to walk through it.” ~ Morpheus

In the video slide show presentation Zeitgeist Movement: Activist Orientation Guide (linked in sidebar), filmmaker Peter Joseph attempts to outline, in greater detail than I have done, the basic needs of human beings as both individuals and as parts of a larger whole.  I don’t wish to repeat everything mentioned in the video, but it’s definitely worthwhile to watch and is perhaps more valuable information than what you might find in the average high school or college in America.  Consider it a 101 course in your pursuit of higher learning.