The Implications Associated with Modernity and the
Coming of the Age of Aquarius
full moon was just setting as the sun was rising on Friday, the 11th day of the
eleventh month of the year 2011. An asteroid as big as an aircraft carrier had
gone whizzing past Earth inside the moon’s orbit, several days earlier, but it
luckily didn’t cause any incident, other perhaps than a brain lapse the next
day by Texas Governor Rick Perry -- oops! -- at a debate between an odd field
of religiously anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-choice, anti-immigrant,
anti-union, anti-government aspirants for the top job in American politics in the
shenanigans in the heavens put me in a reflective mood. I remembered the story about a visit Mark Twain
made to the Museum of Natural History in New York a year before his death, when
he admired the massive meteorites that had been brought to the museum from
Greenland. “It isn’t surprising that
Mark Twain was in awe of this exhibit, and also of the one in the Hall of
Dinosaurs,” wrote a biographer. “To him,
these were the most fascinating things in the world. He contemplated the meteorites and the
brontosaur, and lost himself in strange and marvelous imaginings concerning the
far reaches of time and space whence they had come down to us.”
In my own
contemplative mood, I thought, “Why are we here?”, laboring as I was under a
delusion that I knew more-or-less precisely where we were at that exact moment
in the space-time continuum.
majestically spins through space, rotating around its axis once every 24 hours
as it orbits around the Sun. This motion
makes it appear as if the Sun revolves around the Earth every day -- as if it
rises in the East, traverses the sky, and sets in the West. At night, all the stars in the sky appear to
be rotating around Polaris, the North Star, which appears to be motionless in
the sky. Two distinctive constellations,
the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, can both be used reliably to locate the North
Star, to those who know how to use pointer stars in these constellations to
triangulate across the sky and locate it. At about the time Cassiopeia appears
to rise, the Big Dipper appears to be setting, so at least one or the other can
generally be seen from anywhere in the northern hemisphere on a clear
night. It is important for any explorer or
adventurer who needs to be able to find their way on a dark night to know how
to locate the North Star using these constellations as guides.
Our home planet
makes one full orbit around the Sun every 365 days. The distance we travel every year relative to
the Sun is about 585 million miles. We
are thus speeding at more than 65,000 miles per hour around the Sun. Long before scientists figured out much about
the nature of the shiny bodies seen in the heavens, early astronomers wondered
why a handful of objects in the night sky seemed to wander around independent
of the seemingly fixed backdrop of all the other stars. It turns out that these objects are the other
planets in our solar system. Since these
planets are in their own orbits around the Sun, the combination of our motion
and their motion creates the illusion of them appearing to wander against the
backdrop of the other stars over the course of a year.
By a curious
quirk of the physical movement of our home planet, there is a slow-motion
wobble of the Earth’s axis that causes an observable movement against the
‘space-fixed backdrop of the stars’.
This physical phenomenon is known as the Earth’s precession. This phenomenon has historically been known
as the “precession of the equinoxes”.
Wikipedia provides a good technical explanation of how and why this
have determined that this angular wobble causes a nearly imperceptible but
continuous change in the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, or its
“ecliptic”. As a result, the apparent
path of the Sun across the backdrop of the stars slowly regresses a full 360
degrees once every 25,770 years, and it thus passes sequentially through all 12
of the traditional constellations of ‘the zodiac’, and spends about 2.150 years
in each one. The zodiac is a concept in
both the science of astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology. In astronomy, the zodiac is a ‘celestial
coordinate system’ that divides the sky into 12 equal pie-slices that are named
after ancient constellations. Early
peoples had projected visions of various animals of the zodiac upon the pattern
of stars in the sky, and these are known as constellations of stars.
The science of
astronomy studies objects like galaxies, stars, comets, and other planets, and
it is concerned with the physical properties and motion and dynamic processes
of celestial objects. It is one of the
oldest of all sciences. The invention of
the telescope in the early 1600s made astronomy one of the most important
sciences, because it became concerned with the nature of the formation and
development of the universe. In other
words, it was concerned with the physical evolution of the universe.
Astrology, on the other hand, is a form of codified superstition in which a
connection is supposed between the physical positions and movements of bodies
in the cosmos and the affairs of humankind.
The pseudo-science of astrology uses the concept of the zodiac and its
signs, or ‘houses’, to allegedly gain information about people’s personalities
and human affairs and other terrestrial matters. What does your horoscope say, today, eh? I am a Scorpio, so am astute in such things.
The famous early
scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci, according to Dr. Leonard Shlain,
"outright rejected astrology".
Da Vinci called astrology "that deceptive opinion by means of which
(begging your pardon) a living is made from fools."
astronomers had created the zodiac by dividing the whole sphere of the night
sky into 12 equal zones of celestial longitude that were each 30 degrees
wide. These zones were all named after a
constellation that had been envisioned in fixed patterns of stars in the sky. Early Babylonian astronomers had imagined
seeing mythical creatures in these patterns, and they had projected these
visions onto the heavens. They assigned
each of the zones a name corresponding to these mythical animals and other
symbols, as follows: (1) Aquarius, the
Water-Bearer; (2) Pisces, the Fish. (3) Aries, the Ram; (4) Taurus, the Bull; (5) Gemini, the Twins; (6) Cancer, the Crab; (7) Leo, the Lion; (8) Virgo, the Virgin; (9) Libra, the Scales; (10) Scorpio, the Scorpion; (11) Sagittarius, the Centaur Archer; and (12) Capricorn, the Goat.
these same signs in their curious prognostications. Ronald Reagan and many other people have
believed in such astrological predictions, so indeed astrology has affected the
course of human events, whether or not one believes that the position of the
stars at the time of one’s birth has any definite deterministic effect on human
beings and their affairs.
ancient times noted that the apparent path of the Sun across the heavens, as it
was measured by its position on the annual vernal equinox, appears sequentially
in each of the twelve zodiacal zones for a period of about 2,150 years before
the precession of the Earth causes it to move into the next constellation. At the time of Jesus Christ, the Sun had been
passing through the house of Aries the Ram for more than 2,100 years, so it was
a much-heralded cosmic event that the Age of Aries was about to transition into
the Age of Pisces. This is one reason
that a fish became an important symbol in Christianity.
path of the Sun has now been moving across the constellation of Pisces in the
sky for 2,000 years now, and it is approaching Aquarius, the next constellation
it will enter. The sun will leave the
house of Pisces and enter the house of Aquarius in the year 2150 or so. Will humanity survive long enough to witness
this event? And will a new prophet and a
new Holy Book materialize as this epoch approaches?
As the dawning
of the Age of Aquarius gets nearer, people may once again begin to imagine all
sorts of cosmic significance to this ‘celestial shift’. We may even have a proliferation of false
prophets and an increase in the number of evangelical preachers, End Times
believers, cult-like ideologues, radical social conservatives, and assorted
other zealots and charlatans.
As this new Age
of Aquarius approaches, the symbol of the ‘Water-Bearer’ is appropriate, in an
ironic way. It is becoming more and more
crucial for people to recognize the basic value of fresh water to all species of
life, and to begin to see and feel the importance of new ecological priorities
that are needed to ensure our survival and prospering on Earth. Perhaps a new religion and new founding myths
are required to give honor to the supreme importance of the ecological health
of Mother Earth, for our own common good.
A new and
responsible stewardship ethic is needed, and also a new set of overarching
beliefs that are ecumenical and tolerant of the religious beliefs of
others. We should honestly accept Golden
Rule moralities and adopt a commendable live-and-let-live philosophy. We need, in particular, to collectively
reject dogmas that serve as justifications for violent conflicts, terrorist
attacks and wars of aggression, and we need to better control activities that
irreversibly damage the environmental commons and arrogantly treat nature with
oddly anthropocentric and rashly domineering hubris.
Mercury in Retrograde!
things seem to be going wrong, they often happen in clusters of threes. You know what I mean? This is folk wisdom, or an urban legend, or
an old wives’ tale. In a similar
fashion, believers in astrology attribute many adverse circumstances or
negative developments to the planet Mercury being “in retrograde”. In physical reality, since Mercury is the closest
planet in orbit around the Sun, it appears to move backwards several times
during each year, from our terrestrial vantage point. There is an interesting cause for this
apparent retrograde motion.
all stars and planets appear to move from east to west on a nightly basis as
the Earth makes its daily 24-hour rotation around its axis, the motion of other
planets in our solar system against the backdrop of the stars makes them appear
to change position night after night, just as the moon does. The derivation of the word ‘planet’, in fact,
is from the ancient Greek word meaning ‘wanderer’. Little did those ancient Greeks grasp that we
ourselves are on a wanderer, and that our home planet is not the center of the universe.
Little did they realize the nature of the illusion of the other planets
wandering and the real reasons for the apparent retrograde movements of other
planets as they make their own orbits around the Sun.
that wander are not lost, nor are all illusions inexplicable. Primitive explanations can and should be
superseded by more accurate understandings, especially when seeing clearly is
crucial to our future well-being. There
is truth in primitive stories and explanations, but the truth is often about
ourselves, not about reality, as those who study myths are well aware.
planet Mercury follows a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun once every 88
days, while Earth takes 365 days to complete its more nearly circular orbit
around the Sun. It is the relative
motions of these two bodies that make it appear to us that Mercury periodically
goes backwards. There were three periods
during the year 2012 that this occurred:
from March 12 to April 4, from July 14 to August 8, and from November 6
to November 26.
these dates!”, say astrologers. I’ll
have to check to see if any of the calamities that took place in 2012 were
inordinately clustered during those dates.
Astrologers figure that when the apparent motion of a planet goes
backward, or retrograde, then it is inauspicious, and bad luck becomes more
likely. They think this because the
motion goes against the “natural order” of the planet’s apparent general
movement. Curious and curiouser!
Leonard Shlain provides a provocative explanation in his last book Leonardo’s Brain about how the dominant
analytical left hemisphere of our brains just “makes stuff up”. Published posthumously in late 2014, this
book gives readers some fascinating insights into the nature of curiosity and
creativity and the extraordinary integrative character of the mysterious right
hemisphere of our brains, and of the 200 billion neurons in the connective
tissue of the corpus callosum. One
theory as to the function of the corpus callosum “proposes that the corpus
callosum integrates information from each side of the brain, functioning as a
third brain, producing something qualitatively different from what the right
and left brain generate individually.” I
like that concept!
any case, it seems clear that the left brain’s confabulations alone are inadequately
holistic, and that for valuable and adaptive creativity to manifest itself,
“the right brain must free itself from the deadening hand of the inhibitory
left brain and do its work, unimpeded and in private. Like radicals plotting a revolution, they
must work in secret out of range of the left hemisphere’s conservatives.” Food for thought!
Roman god Mercury, like the earlier analogous Greek god Hermes, was a messenger
god and mercurially volatile cosmic trickster.
One astrology website says: “The purpose of Mercury retrograde is to review
and revise our life and our connection with reality.” Hallelujah!
Maybe, after all, some crucial insights can arise from such interpretations
of planetary movements. The need for us
to view our lives more honestly and accurately today, and to revise the nature
of our connection to reality, is becoming ever more significant. This may be a key to a more salubrious
Where We Stand
embarked on a rash and uncontrolled experiment in profligate resource use, stimulated
consumerism, rapid population growth, wide-ranging industrialization, sprawling
globalization, dramatic urbanization, rash speculation in assets and
commodities, doctrinaire financial deregulation, inegalitarian social policies,
uncompromising political partisanship, large-scale monoculture agriculture,
status-seeking behaviors and aggressive militarism. As a result of the mindlessly rash character
of these policies, we are generating a myriad of pollutants, toxins and wastes,
and we are spewing tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere every year. These activities
are having the effect of harming life on Earth and altering the gaseous
composition of the atmosphere and affecting storm and precipitation patterns
worldwide. The impact of all these
reckless activities is to extensively modify habitats and ecosystems. It is consequently becoming increasingly
imperative that we evaluate the best ways to achieve a revolutionary
transformation in our collective behaviors, and that we proactively choose to
alter our priorities to create outcomes that are more consistent with a
positive legacy for posterity.
Why Are There So Many False Prophets and Ideological Extremists?
In Matthew 24:11, an interesting prognostication
is made of a time when there will be a “beginning of sorrows”:
“And many false prophets shall rise, and
shall deceive many.”
Why were there so many false prophets back
in Biblical days? To figure this out, we
need to consider the reason that the myths, legends, genealogies, and
recounting of historical events in the Bible are included the way they
are. Biblical stories constitute an
assemblage of plausible explanations, ideas, and speculations at the time they
were written. The Torah, which is the
first five sections of the Old Testament (Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), incorporated many elements
from earlier pagan belief systems. Some
of these pagan elements were astronomical, some were linguistic, some were
symbolic, some were legendary, and some were purely mythological. They include stories about deities and an
original moment of Creation, and myths about a virgin birth of a savior from a
mortal mother and a male God father, and births of a savior near the time of the
winter solstice. A surprising number of
different religions feature the story of a deity who dies and is then
resurrected three days later around the time of the vernal equinox. Concepts such as a soul, hypothetical
‘afterlife’ and the Golden Rule, sin, guilt, morality, salvation, and
revelation are all adapted from earlier belief systems.
According to biblical scholars, the Old
Testament was written beginning around 900 BCE, and it was revised many times
over the subsequent 1,000 years. Then,
during the first 200 years after the death of Jesus, the twenty-seven books of
the New Testament were written by a variety of authors. The fact that the Bible was written over such
a long period of time, and was extensively translated from its original
language, makes it subject to significant revisionism and ideological
manipulation. Fundamentalists today
latch onto the Bible and claim it is literally the absolute truth of God’s
Word, but this is a very gullible belief, NOT
in the least a proof of its supposed ‘truth’.
As Mark Twain once noted:
“In religion and politics, people's beliefs
and convictions are in almost every case gotten at
second-hand, and without
I don’t really have a clue why there were
so many false prophets way back then. We
have plenty of them today, however, so maybe it’s just a function of imaginings
and dreams and fears and egos and attention-getting impulses and control drives
and other facets of human nature. Dr.
Leonard Shlain explained how our dominant left brains create the illusion of an
“I” that is separate from the rest of the world, and how the more holistic
perceptions of the right brain, glimpsed during revelatory strokes of insight,
see the world with a much more tantalizing totality.
It is a fact, not a prophecy, that
the human race is faced with unprecedented global social problems and
environmental challenges today. To best
deal with these problems, it is vitally important for us to understand the true
nature of the challenges we face, and to come to grips with their big picture
causes and consequences. Then we need to
begin making smarter choices.
Unfortunately, a wide variety of beliefs and opinions exist, and
conflicting convictions and stubbornly denial-oriented proclivities are
preventing us from accurately assessing the merits of the issues -- and from
taking appropriate and responsible remedial measures.
Why Do We Do What We Do?
Many people solipsistically
suppose that we are not animals. Many
curiously think we are not driven by deeply-ingrained biological impulses like
aggressive instincts or fight-or-flight responses to threats or animalistic
mating rituals. But a close study of
human behaviors is revealing. All our
beliefs, actions and behaviors are powerfully influenced by both ‘nature’ and
The motivations of human beings,
as described by Abraham Maslow in his famous Hierarchy of Needs, can be broadly
explained in terms of both genetically inherited behaviors and
socially-conditioned behaviors. We are not
machines, but even our complex expressions of free will in the choices and
decisions we make are deeply influenced by the nature of our brains and our
genetic predispositions and the effects of parental upbringing, peer group
conformity, subliminal messages that promote consumerism, ideological ways of
looking at the world and other forms of social conditioning.
The human race evolved from
earlier now-extinct species such as Homo
neanderthalensis and Homo erectus
over the course of the past million years.
The size of our brains has grown significantly over the many generations
of our evolution. For almost the entire
span of our prehistory since our distant ancestors descended from the trees and
began to walk upright on the plains of Africa, males have predominantly engaged
in hunting and females have predominantly engaged in gathering foods and
rearing the young. This specialization
in roles was made necessary by the survival needs associated with bearing young
that are vulnerable and needy for an unusually long period of time. Due to this long dependence, long term
pair-bonding relationships were required to provide both food and nurturing
care for children.
Desmond Morris wrote a seminal
book in 1967 titled The Naked Ape: A
Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal.
In it, he pointed out the need and propensity for love and committed
family relationships, and he speculated that such drives have been both
biologically and socially conditioned.
To provide care for children, hunters had to think and plan and
coordinate successfully to kill animals for food and warm clothing, especially
during the Ice Ages in latitudes where meat was essential for survival. At the same time, gatherers had to recognize
and remember which plants and roots and fruits were good to eat and for use in
healing, and they had to be effective in cooperating to protect the young and
to satisfy domestic needs while the males were away on the hunt.
These gender roles were crucial
for the survival of hunters and gatherers and their offspring who lived in small
clans and led semi-nomadic lives following migrating herds of animals. Then a radical revolution began about 10,000
years ago. People discovered the
benefits of cultivating crops and domesticating animals like sheep, cattle,
pigs, goats and dogs for use as food, garments and companionship. This was the beginning of the Agricultural
Revolution that allowed our distant ancestors to begin to settle down in
villages and towns.
A significant shift in gender
roles and moral codes accompanied this far-reaching set of changes. Males had to do the hard work of tilling the
soil instead of more risky and adventurous hunting. Monogamous relationships were required to
produce lots of children to work on the farm and provide some security to
parents when they got old. The moral
codes and traditions of aggressive hunters and nurturing gatherers were
different than those needed on the farm.
In predominantly agricultural times, puritan work ethics were needed,
and an assured paternity of many children was required.
After the passage of 10,000 years,
tan Industrial Revolution began with the invention of the steam engine back in
the 18th century. This technological
change radically transformed economic and social roles by encouraging
urbanization and hard work at factory jobs and in offices. Profound changes are taking place in human
societies in response to new exigencies required by industrialization, promoted
consumerism and globalization. Once again, gender roles and moral values have
lost their mooring. Urban living, career
work, modern relationships and birth control techniques and new constraints
related to high costs of child rearing are all causing unsettling changes in
our societies. So are the expanding
number of choices afforded by modern travel and technologies and communications
Experts in studies of early child
development recognize that changing mother and father influences affect every
person in distinct ways. These
influences result in competing sets of values that are internalized in our
unconscious minds. These values can be
classified roughly into ‘nurturing parent’ values and ‘strict father’
values. Each of us has both these
feminine and masculine traits inculcated within us, like archetypes in the
One set of these values tends to
dominate in any given individual. Both
feminine and masculine mores are affiliated with these contrasting
constellations of values. Linguist George
Lakoff describes these two contrasting constellations of beliefs as nurturing
parent and strict father perspectives.
Both extremely liberal and extremely conservative people tend to have
the least healthy balance between these two opposing sets of ideas, feelings,
convictions and archetypal role models.
Liberals tend to be empathetic and
fair-minded, while conservatives tend to respect male authority, strength,
orthodoxy, self-righteousness and impulses to dominate and control. Liberals value freethinking ideas and
compassion for others, and they believe in good communication and helping
others and supporting programs that are socially just. They believe that men and women should have
equal rights. Conservatives value
self-responsibility, self-reliance, self-discipline and self-denial, and they
believe in tradition, self-sufficiency, and the prerogative of males to have
greater power and prerogatives than females.
The constellations of values that
liberals embrace generally revolve around basic human rights and the protection
of both people and the environment from harmful exploitation, shortsighted
expediencies, unscrupulous business activities and increasing inequities. Liberal people advocate actions that are
consistent with the common good, like peaceful conflict resolution, tight
control of military spending, cooperative statesmanship, true justice rather
than retribution, an affordable and adequate social safety net, a fair and
progressive system of taxation, intelligent environmental regulations guided by
a precautionary principles, freedoms of reproductive choice, increased safety
of firearm use, a ban on public ownership of assault weapons, and equal rights
for men and women.
The constellation of values that
conservatives embrace revolves around strength and puritanism as right and
proper. They champion an aggressive
military, laissez-faire business doctrines, a minimal amount of regulation of
corporations, tax breaks tilted toward the wealthy, male authoritarianism, and
harsh punishment for wrong-doing. They
support the death penalty, gun ownership with minimal restrictions, greater
prerogatives and privileges and power and control for men than women, and
opposition to sex education, contraception, women’s freedom of reproductive
choice, legalized abortion, homosexuality, and dignity in dying.
Impressionable children do not
begin life as ‘clean slates’. There is a
genetic predisposition to the ways we see and feel the world. Researchers have found a surprisingly strong
correlation between the degree to which a person is susceptible to sudden
noises or scary images and how strongly they hold political convictions. Conservatives, it turns out, tend to be much
more easily startled than liberals.
Thus, surprisingly, there may actually be a basic biological component of political beliefs!
Researchers reported this fascinating
finding in an article titled “Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological
Traits” in a September 2008 issue of the prestigious journal Science.
They stated that a strong correlation exists between political views
and unconscious reactions to immediate threats.
They found a ’Startle Reflex’ in which people with strongly-felt beliefs
manifest either a strong response to a sudden threat or a calmer response. The greater the reaction to the stimuli, the
more conservative a person’s views tended to be. The calmer the response, the more liberal the
political views were found to be. These
correlations were made by researchers who surveyed a group of people in
Lincoln, Nebraska, and interviewed them about strongly-felt attitudes on issues
like foreign aid, military spending, gun control, the death penalty, the Iraq
war, warrantless searches, the Patriot Act, the torture of political prisoners,
women’s rights, premarital sex, gay marriage, school prayer, and immigration
The long and vigorous ‘nature vs.
nurture’ debate involves the question of how much influence there is in an
individual’s behavior due to innate genetic qualities as compared to their
personal experiences and the effects of social conditioning. Since people have convictions about political issues that stem not only
from individual experience and rational thinking, but also from inherited
impulses and socially conditioned ones, it brings into question the validity of
strongly felt beliefs altogether. Given
the fact that people see and feel the world differently, it is reasonable and
propitious for everyone to be more understanding of others, and less resolute
or uncompromising. Let’s all chill
In light of understandings like
this, it seems that we should commit our societies more definitively to making
fair compromises in order to solve the existential problems we face. As problems grow more serious and momentous,
we should strive to be more broadminded in addressing disputes about them.
Every day on television there is
an astonishing amount of contradictory spin given concerning current news
events. Just watch radical conservatives
like Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity on Fox News, and then compare their views
and perspectives on the same issues to those of liberal commentators like
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. This wide
variation in ways of interpreting current events makes it even more necessary
that we find non-partisan criteria to help us make sensible public policy
decisions and focus on more intelligent long-term priorities.
One way to achieve this would be
to change our political system to be more responsive to long-term needs and
sustainable courses of action. A Bill of Rights for Future Generations would
significantly help. But politicians are
far too influenced by partisan posturing and entrenched interest groups and Big
Money. Expediency sees to be the Holy
Grail of politics, and wise decision-making is sorely lacking at the national
level. This is why irresponsible deficit
spending has ratcheted up so radically since George W. Bush took office in
2001. And this is why solutions like
that made to deal with budget shortfalls in the state of California by Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California legislature were so shortsighted and
gimmicky. Arnold ironically became a
kind of ineffective “girlie man” on budget issues, a characteristic he had
accused opponents of being, early in his term in office.
The issue of healthcare reform is
a classic case in point. Insurance
company profits between 2001 and 2012 increased by about 1,000%, and premiums
for health insurance increased by more than 100%. People’s wages, however, increased only by
25% or so. This is a distinctly
outrageous and undesirable trend.
Gross profiteering in health
insurance should be more strictly regulated.
People’s health should be as important as fair and reasonable access to
water and electricity, so perhaps we should regulate health insurance
corporations in a manner similar to that of public utilities. The healthcare reform effort is a prime
example of one in which conservatives seem to oppose reform altogether, hoping
to make President Obama fail even though this strategy seriously harms millions
of people who must struggle to pay the rapidly escalating cost of health
insurance premiums and treatment denials and pre-existing condition exclusions.
In a free country, everyone should
be allowed to believe whatever he or she wants to believe. But not all viewpoints should be equally
honored in our decision-making processes.
The viewpoints that have the most power in our societies should be the
ones that are most concerned with the best solutions for the common good over
the long run. Unfortunately, our
political system gives the most power to those with the most money and the most
domineering attitudes. It is time for us
to actualize some truly positive “change you can believe in”!
An Aside about a Wonderful Believer
I have a good friend who is 92 years old. She was a lifelong Republican until a decade
or two ago. She became so disgusted with
the George W. Bush Administration and its neoconservative policies that she has
practically become a liberal progressive.
She has led a colorful and adventurous life, and she likes to
philosophize, and she still manages to live an admirably independent and
self-sufficient existence. She sometimes
uses a crystal pendulum to assess things, and she is curiously aware of all
periods when Mercury is in retrograde.
She even orients some of her undertakings around moments that she
determines to be accordingly propitious or unpropitious.
She is a wonderful woman. It is astonishing to think that religious
authorities might have burned her at the stake during the Middle Ages for some
of her mystic beliefs. Religious
authorities have done many horrible things in the name of their gods. It is hard for us today to imagine what a
threat females were to the established order in those days, just because they
were well educated or had a suspicious affinity for nature or did not properly
hew to orthodox doctrines. Why did
authorities repress females so violently and charge them with heresy and
condemn them to death?
A Riff on Inimical Attributes of Religious and
Popes in the history of the Catholic religion were involved in Inquisitions to
suppress heresy and maintain Catholic orthodoxy, and most of them have
staunchly resisted reforming the inequities and corruption of the Church. The vile burning of women at the stake is
long past, and terrible misdeeds like those of Popes Lucius III, Pope Gregory
IX, Pope Innocent IV, Pope Paul III and Pope Leo X may seem like ancient
make no mistake about it; all Popes are leaders of an extremely undemocratic
and distinctly doctrinaire, inflexible and retrogressive establishment that
often powerfully opposes fair treatment of people who are not adherents to
their brand of belief. For centuries,
they have perpetuated a pronounced discrimination against women, and against
addition, the Catholic Church
essentially forbids having children to many women who WANT to bear children,
but are not able to. This is the effect
of their official policies that oppose artificial insemination and in-vitro
fertilization and surrogate motherhood.
Also, the Church makes having children mandatory for many women who are
able to conceive, but DON’T WANT to, by telling them that the use of
contraceptives and the practice of abortion are against God’s will. These attitudes are becoming pointedly preposterous
in light of the overarching risks of human population overshoot.
Before Pope Benedict XVI became the leader of the
Catholic Church in 2005, his name was Joseph Ratzinger and he represented the
conservative wing of the Church. His
previous position was to defend doctrine “by putting the smackdown on
heresy”. Heresy is an opinion that
differs from established religious dogma.
Heresy could thus actually be seen as a healthy perspective from the
standpoint of honest debate and the need for our understandings to evolve as
societies change and truer understandings arise. Can’t we find a way to have the moderate and
progressive wings of all established religious institutions gain some respect
and power, instead of having so many reactionary conservatives in control?
Make no mistake about the fact that countries led by
religious establishments, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, are run by intolerant and
control-obsessed authoritarian men who are almost as ruthless as medieval
Popes. Religious authorities should not
be allowed power in any government any more than someone who believes that
terrible things are more likely to happen when Mercury is in retrograde should
be allowed to have their fingers on the red button to launch nuclear weapons.
What has caused Popes, mullahs and ayatollahs to be
repressive so often throughout history?
What, for that matter, caused terrible dictators like Lenin, Stalin, Pol
Pot and Hitler to kill so many millions of people? What leads to such megalomania and
inhumanity? And most importantly, how
can we structure governments in nations worldwide to prevent such ruthless
madmen from gaining power? How can we
guarantee that people have protected rights to courageously oppose dictators,
dangerous demagogues, fascists, ayatollahs, political extremists and
jihadists? How can we assure that
dissenters, whistleblowers and civic-minded journalists are accorded stronger
Democratic institutions, strong national
Constitutions, and international commitments to human rights would be a good
start. A strict separation between
Church and State would be a good provision to guarantee in every nation
worldwide. The risk of a coup d’etat,
nonetheless, or a takeover like Hitler used when he took advantage of a
false-flag pretext to gain power, looms large in democracies around the
globe. We need to find effective ways to
ensure that governments remain responsive to the most important needs of their
peoples, and to everyone in future generations, and to other species of life on
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
August 1, 2009 (updated 11/11/11 and 12/12/12 and
Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015)
---------------------------- The End