Science and the mysteries.

                                                                  Google Image.

Are you interested in the neurosciences?  Then  let us explore a little quantum mechanics​.​ ​

T​here are many parallels. I am not a physicist and quantum mechanics can be very complex or very simple. I will take the simple route.

First, forget everything you have read or been taught about God because God is allegory.  Everything you have learned from religion is allegory. We are allegory!!!  Second, there is nothing new in quantum mechanics, it was knowledge common to the ​ancient Hebrews and the Egyptians and it has been passed down through metaphor and symbolism​, originally​ depicted in the workings of the Sun, stars and universe; astronomy and astrology.

​Quantum mechanics describes the universe.​

The universe is made up of matter and energy. In quantum mechanics this is known as particles and waves. There are some particles we know of and others still to be discovered.  The two main particles are the Boson and the Fermions. Light, is the creator of the universe, an electromagnetic phenomenon,  it is the most familiar form of Boson.

Fermions are present in the most common substances of our world. Fermions are made up of electrons, protons and neutrons, or the key substances we call atoms.

Fermions can in turn be subdivided into two groups, leptons, invisible particles, which include nutrinos, particles that play a key role in the universe and are likely left over from the Big Bang​.​  ​T​he other group of Fermions ​ are the hedrons. The hedrons are made up of smaller units of particles​,​ which we call quarks.

Hedrons are assembled from three quarks and we call these baryons.  The baryon​s​ are key to Creation.  All atomic nuclei are composed of ​baryons. These are better referred to as nuclear matter as many of the baryons disappear as soon as they are created.

The most important thing to remember is ​this, ​in our universe most of the substances ​are made up of Fermions,​ electrons, protons and neutrons, with the exception of a subclass called dark matter, ​this is made up of  the “missing” mass of the universe​, (​​galaxies should have more mass than they do in order to retain their shape).

In order to understand the relevance of quantum mechanics we need to probe the processes of Creation and the earliest forms of particle behaviour, which will include one other property known as antimatter.

In the theory of relativity, the total mass of a particle is not constant, it includes the mass associated with its energy and motion​,   Einstein’s equation E = mc2​.​​ ​(​This has also been the topic of an acclaimed disambiguation and the uncertainty principle).

Leaving the challenges aside, the scientist Paul Dirac in 1933 discovered the antiparticle, one that moves in reverse direction. While ​it appeared impossible to have particles moving in opposite directions at the same time, it was discovered that all ​Fermions have a corresponding antiparticle. For example, the antiparticle of an electron is called a positron and an antiparticle of each type of quark is called an antiquark.

Matter and antimatter are identical except that they have opposite charges. When particles of the opposite type come into contact with each other they annihilate each other turning into a burst of light – two photons – whose combined energy is related to the total mass of the two particles​. ​ Einstein’s equation E = mc2 .

​The knowledge of our world is that it contains few​er​ than one hundred kinds of atoms, that is normal matter, which in turn constitutes twenty-nine fundamental particles​ and their variants. However, the vast majority of matter in the universe remains invisible.  We can only glimpse its existence in the motions of the universe.  Much like consciousness, we know we are conscious human beings, but we cannot see consciousness or know for sure where it originates from.

The ​scientific ​evidence suggests that most of the matter in the universe is dark matter, something we know little about. We know of its existence when it becomes slightly visible in the halos of galaxies​,​ stars and nebulae heated directly or indirectly by other stars.

To be clear, the world we experience is one of light and atoms​,​ composed of ​Bosons and​ Fermions​. These are​ characteri​zed by their tendency to aggregate and being either indistinguishable or having the need to segregate and thus​,​ becom​ing​ ​individually identifiable.

It has taken thousands of years to get this small amount of ​information. Imagine what is missing from the equations.

What have we missed?

In Jewish mysticism the universal forms and their relationships derive from a common source God’s spoken Word as it was recorded in Genesis.  The scientific picture when deconstructed is not very different.  In both versions there are particles and forces.

We know that the nature of particles sees them interacting with one another without coming into actual contact.  In science this does not appear to be a strange phenomenon, but when we relate it to religions or the existence of a God​ or mystical energy, doubts are raised. ​What is this invisible force?  How can we know it when it is invisible? ​

​T​he historical context ​of this knowledge is important.  ​In ancient times, ​​t​he world’s rulers gathered much of their strength and kudos through their approval of pagan god​s​ and goddesses​ (their alter-ego). ​In some cases rulers were the perceived to be gods. ​​The allocation of ​ the​​ ​​supreme ​gods made sense​ to the agrarian populations ​ ​because ​they resonated with​ nature​.​ ​ ​

However,​ ​the vision of ​​n​ature stopped at the borders of our planet. What was in the heavens ​was ​a ​myster​y​​, but it was not a mystery to all. It was in fact, a carefully guarded secret.

Knowledge is power said the modern philosopher Michel Foucault and in many cases those with knowledge of the universe threatened the powerful and established  elites.

The real scientific meanings hidden in the religious texts were highly ​protected.  ​Indeed, ​Creation, ​R​evelation and ​R​edemption, were  threatening concepts​ to those who ruled.​ They were deemed the prerogative of rulers, not some heavenly force.

Before the Dark Ages the ancient​s​ did not see the Earth as flat. Rather, they understood how gravity deforms space​ into a grid, from this the Earth would have appeared flat. Astrologers drew their patterns from the stars and attributed mathematical equations to their unique shapes and curves.

​ In modern times we have devised the n​o​tion of fields​ to explain matter and energy. These fields can be visualized as lines of force that emanate from particles. School children learn this by putting a magnet under a table containing iron filings. The magnet moves the filings in any direct​ion​ as long as someone is guiding the magnet. So what guides the magnet​ism​ of the universe?​ ​ ​ Why are particles appearing and  disappearing​?

Given the relation between forces and particles, especially during the time of Creation​, one might ​suggest​ that​ there is a grand and unified theory for us to relate to​.  This has its own natural appeal.  ​ ​H​ence​,​ we have created religions and put aside the laws of physics​ (the separation of science and religion) and we have carried this into our modern age.​

​T​he laws of physics describe how particles behave and the need for a supreme force to govern them. This should be philosophically reassuring to atheists,  while raising the miraculous value of God (a unified force) to spiritual believers.​  God was only one name attributed to this force, there were many. To the Hebrews the name was an unspoken word meaning breath.

There is much we still do not know, for example,  String Theory starts with the presumption that particles may not be zero dimensional. Rather, particles are more like waves or vibrating particles dancing along a string.

Further, there may be more than one dimension and ​perhaps ​​even a ​microwave background ​that ensures a harmonious cosmic interrelationship. ​We might even be bold enough to describe this as a cosmic consciousness.

Th​e​ deep symmetry ​of science ​was recognized by all the mystics.  In particular, it was advanced by the Kabbalists in the notion that the world was created by one ​supreme ​force.   The idea was expanded to include a spirit or soul, which ​today ​underscore​s​ ​mystical ​spiritual beliefs​.

The idea is not so far fetched as today we are grappling with the same questions over human consciousness. Where is consciousness located in the human brain.? We do not have the answer to this question.  We may never have it because we are looking in the wrong place.

It is very likely, if we are to believe the ancient texts, that there is only one consciousness and we all experience a small part of it.

Black Lives Matter.

                                            Black Lives Protest. Guardian 2020.

Ruah. (Spirit) 

When Abel took his brother’s life

He took away God’s gift

The breath that dwells

in you and me.

When Abel died,

His mother cried,

my son, he cannot breathe.

And people held their breath

and put flowers on his grave.

Flowers do not bring back a life.

So, people rallied on the streets.

A black man cried, I cannot breathe

And others shouted.

No more deaths

Enough!  

The Black Lives Matter rallies around the world are just the latest in mass protests against a cruel and unequal capitalist system.  Over the years I have been involved in many rallies and protests so my friends have asked me, why am I not out on the streets now protesting?  Here is why!

I began protesting in the 1960s in England against nuclear weapons. We won a Treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Now every war is fought with nuclear warheads. We are back to where we started.

The historical reality is this;  battles are won and lost in a continuum of political struggles, which are not unlike the struggles before them.  Nothing really changes!  There have always been wars, conflicts and disagreements.   The confrontations are based on a duality that pitches the strongest against the weak and as much as we protest, nothing is going to change these dynamics because, in reality; all we are doing is participating in the dynamics of for and against battles.

So, what must change before we can stop the violence?

A few years ago I wrote a biography called Mythology and Meaning in the Chinese Brush and Ink Drawings of Geraldine Wogan-Brown.  Geraldine was the wife of Australia’s Naval Attache to the Philippines during the Vietnam War. She passed away in 2012.  Her husband was responsible for sending ships into ports and soldiers into battle and for Geraldine this was her spiritual battle, because she was a pacifist. In order to deal with the contradictions of war and peace Geraldine  learned Chinese brush and ink drawing from a highly renowned Chinese Master.  The art of brush and ink drawing forms part of the meditational philosophy associated  with Taoism.

Two philosophies dominated China, Confucianism and Taoism. The symbol of the Tao is the ying-yang circle, where the black side of the circle has a white dot and the white side has a black dot.  Each side represents the meaning of the other, in other words, the symbol is one of unity.  The symbol represents the passive and receptive aspects of human behaviour, this too is a metaphor for unity.

Taoism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the material and the spirit world.  In the west this is seen akin to a pessimistic philosophy like that of Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus and Michel Foucault, and more recently John Grey and Peter Singer.

In philosophy pessimism sees the aspirations towards history and progress as being a major cause of human suffering.  Pessimists argue that the fore-knowledge of our eventual fate causes us to live with terror that is present in every day and events.   Taoism (and Buddhism) both accept the fate of death and both seek to detach from the terror though discipline and mediation.

Taoists believe that when a system is turbulent and disruptive, it is lacking in balanced Yin energy.  This in turn causes unbalanced and unsustainable activities upon nature and its inhabitants. The solution is not to participate in the negative energy,  but to step back.  There are many ways of stepping back and Chinese brush and ink drawing is just one way of releasing the negative energy.  In terms of protests, stepping back means not attending.

At the core of Taoism is the ethical philosophy of non-doing.  We need to get out of, or transcend, the binary system of conflict, as in,  the establishment versus the protesters. By protesting we are merely giving more energy to the system we hope to change.  By non-doing we leave the disruptive system to disintegrate organically. However, it takes everyone, or at least a large percentage of people to step back for anything to change.

Nonetheless, Taoism teaches that we are all responsible for our own actions and non-doing and in order to maintain our own good Chi energy we need to consider non-doing for our own sake.  It takes healthy people to create societal change and bad Chi energy is not considered healthy.

As a matter of interest,  in the 1960s and beyond,  Social Movement Theory has supported the view that almost all protesters have personal issues associated with their desire to protest and these issues are not always  directly related to the protester’s cause.   These issues may be conscious or unconscious,  but the ultimate aim is one of a shared experience. Through protest personal issues can be expressed or repressed while the mind is turned towards the event at hand. Protest can have a transcendent effect.

Taoism is not a simple philosophy and it is a form of transcendence. It is nature based and contains elements of animism.  It also delves into the intricacies of control versus sympathy and other forms of human behaviour that support non-action.

As I worked my way through Geraldine’s history and her drawings, I could see the benefits of transferring difficult situations (and their energies) into forms of occupational therapy and mediation.  Creativity is the most effective form of healing.

 

Violence breeds violence.

 

Many nations are on the brink of a major revolution.  Such a scene has not arisen since the end of the First World War when the Treaty of Versailles was used to punish the German population for the devastation by dividing the people and creating new borders.   The result was a despotic leader named Adolf Hitler who promised to reunite Germany and give the suffering Germans the power to govern the world. The rise to power has its origins in the plight of the oppressed and a pain that all too often leads to a mass psychosis.

We look to science to resolve the social problems, but I always caution people to be consciously aware of science as a discipline because science is never neutral. Science involves personalities, particular perspectives on the world and complex methodologies, which are often misplaced or inappropriate. Indeed, science has been a crucial part of the divisiveness across the globe.

We live in a racist and unequal world, but the issues are not clear cut and unequivocal. The sordid history of racism is not about colour, it is about power. Colour is merely the arbitrary classification of a group marked as powerless.   When the dynamics change, as in some African states, we have seen the minority white populations similarly oppressed.

When there is a differentiation of power in a society the strong will always elect to eradicate the weak and conversely, the weak will always fight back in an attempt to gain absolute power. This can be an ongoing chain of events. Consider the 100 year’s war and ask, do we really want to live in this perpetual state of violence?

Revolutions are not about equality.  Rather, revolutions are the quest to have what the Other has.    Power is absolute and totalising.  Power is not something that is equally shared, it can be mediated, but there will always be one side that must concede to be the lesser power.  Power is a value that is always already embedded in a rate of exchange, generally played out in the distribution of labour.  The value of power lies not in its abundance, but in its scarcity.

The anxiety created by this power politics is immense and it sits at the core of what has become a major pandemic of mental illness across the globe.  In a book called The Sane Society (1955) Eric Fromm related mental illness to forms of hardship and injustice.  He wrote:

      An unhealthy society is one which creates mutual hostility [and] distrust, which transforms man into an instrument of use and exploitation for others, which deprives him of a sense of self, except inasmuch as he submits to others or becomes an automaton… Yet many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.  [1]

In the 1950s and 1960s there was an obvious rise in mental illness, that resulted from two World Wars. Added to this, poverty and inequality were rife. The Anti-Psychiatry Movement of the 1960s and in particular the work of R.D. Liang attempted to link all mental illness to various inequalities within society, noting that these inequalities were the main cause of anxiety and trauma, this in turn manifests in crime and social misbehaviour.

Clearly, those who rate highly on the scale of traumatic experience are the powerless and the oppressed and the etiology of these problems runs deep into the historical landscape.  There are two primary issues. First, as a society we have failed to comprehend the effects of intergenerational trauma. Second, there has been little scrutiny of what has historically caused the trauma.

Mental illness does not arrive in the same way as the common cold.  It happens in conjunction with certain traumatic events. (unless it is a consequence of developmental dysfunction or other bodily illness, such as heart disease, neurological compromise or other).

For Liang, mental illness was viewed distinctly as a social problem, which was a huge step away from brain dysfunction and idiocy. However, there has been almost no recognition of intergenerational social problems as a cause of trauma.  Intergenerational trauma as a basis for mental dysfunction received little efficacy in the realms of medical diagnostics. The word ‘trauma’ was used to describe a condition of immediate pain and urgency. The notion of intergenerational trauma was never considered until much later, around the 1970s and even then, it was never taken seriously.

In Britain and elsewhere, the neurological elements of mental illness became the core focus of treatment for mental disorder, generally with the use of anti-depressant or anti-psychotic drugs.    Trauma studies did not rise in popularity because they challenged the very nature of power relations across the world and how that power was unequally distributed.  Hence, as a society, we have not fully addressed the impacts of colonialism, slavery, genocides and a whole host of other long-term disparities.   Indeed, we are still perpetrating the same system and wondering, why would anyone object?

For example, we have not dealt with the science of eugenics, which still has a strong, but discursive influence on various groups and their decisions as to who will be helped and who will not; otherwise put, who lives and who dies in the context of modern and late capitalism. By default, we are blinded to the consequences of our actions (or non-action) because we refuse to acknowledge our scientific, social and political histories of oppression and genocides. We simply repeat them.

The eugenicists did not see their ideas as racist, they believed they were purely scientific.  The eugenics movement first arose in Britain during the Edwardian period around 1907. The Eugenics Education Society began to campaign for sterilisation and marriage restrictions aimed at stopping people with perceived inferior genes from breeding. This included people with disabilities, mental illness, impoverishment, social dysfunction and aberrance. Eugenics was supposed to prevent the degeneration of Britain’s population, it then moved towards maintaining a superior race that was white, middle-class and dominated by an elite of upper-class males. Britain was not the only supporter of this regime. American also applied a rigid policy of eugenics as did the colonies.

Eugenics was never truly condemned until the Nazis carried out horrendous forms of experimentation on Jews for the purposes of perfecting racial purity.   We still conduct practices of eugenics on animals and think this should be permissible.  We are all animals. Disunity in one act does not create unity in another.

In 1859 Charles Darwin published his seminal work on the Origin of Species, which detailed his theory of evolution by natural selection. It prompted scientists and political theorists to apply Darwin’s theory to human beings. Later Darwin wrote his 1871 treatise, The Descent of Man, which clearly gave credence to eugenics as a guard against creating weakness in the human race.  It was Francis Galton, (1822-1911) a cousin of Charles Darwin, who was instrumental in inaugurating the eugenics movement.  Galton was greatly influenced by the Origin of Species, especially its ideas on breeding domestic animals.  He thought that humans might also be bred for their better qualities and not their weaknesses.  

Galton was aware that British society was changing. The upper-class families were having fewer children, while the working-classes were breeding constantly and growing in their numbers. With worker’s revolutions happening elsewhere in the world, the upper-classes worried about the potential for social unrest. Breeding restrictions appeared to be a way out of the ensuing threat of worker conflicts. By the end of the Second World War many people were blaming the lack of a eugenics programme for the ensuing insurgence of neo-fascists groups, while the neo-fascists were advocating eugenics for the purpose of exterminating Jews and other perceived undesirables.

The fact is, there are still subtle forms of eugenics taking place around the world because one group is fearful of being relegated to extinction by another more powerful group.  Take for example the distribution of food or medical supplies to poorer countries, or the cost of a life-saving procedure.  In particular, this affects those nations who are unable to contribute much to global capitalism. Those who hold the power must ask, are these people worth saving?    This is a bizarre abstraction of humanity and a major cause of anxiety and mental illness happening on many levels.  Ultimately, who will determine which of us are to be saved?  As pandemics spread across the world, as they will; these are serious questions.

When Galton wrote his 1869 book on Hereditary Genius to promulgate the view that procreation should be predicated on the multiplication of the best, the fittest and the most civilised, the definition of what was civilised appeared acceptable.  History has perceived it tainted and flawed, we cannot rewrite history, but we must be aware of it.     

Many of the societal problems we are experiencing today can be traced back to intergenerational trauma. Research into intergenerational trauma has yet to be a feature of serious study in medicine although it has been embedded into traditional philosophies for thousands of years. The biblical warnings about bad times being passed on from generation to generation were not just fanciful prophecies. Today, experts have the proof that trauma can be passed on in our genetics and epigenetics.

Genetics as a scientific discipline stemmed from the work of Gregor Mendel in the middle of the 19th century. Mendel believed that certain traits were inherited, although he knew nothing of the physical or chemical nature of genes at the time, his units became the basis for the development of the present understanding of heredity.

The word genetics was introduced in 1905 by English biologist William Bateson. He discovered Mendel’s work and followed Mendel’s principles of inheritance.  It would be well into the future before we could fully understand the importance of genetics and how it would impact on peoples’ lives.  We are now building a bigger picture.

In 2016 the links between trauma and epigenetics became popularized when the UK’s Sue Armstrong reported on a study of generational trauma in her radio program (Radio 4) All in the Womb (produced by Ruth Evans).   The Spectator magazine picked up the story and further detailed how recent developments in the understanding of severe trauma affects both the mind and the body by creating physical changes.  Armstrong noted that people who lived through the Holocaust and who were in prison camps were found to have low levels of cortisol. This is the hormone that the body releases into the bloodstream as we experience panic and fear.  It is often referred to as the survival hormone.  Scientists have found that the descendants of those who have suffered war, violence and incessant fear also have lower levels of cortisol than average.  

A study by Dr. Rachel Yehuda, director of Mount Sinai’s Traumatic Stress Studies Division examined the DNA of Holocaust survivors and their children and found similar variations from the norm in both generations for the gene associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Although the study involved just 32 Holocaust survivors and their offspring, the findings imply that children of individuals who experience profound stress in life may be more likely to develop stress or anxiety disorders themselves. The pattern is known as an epigenetic change because it affects the chemical marker for the gene rather than the gene itself.  Findings suggest that profound stress in the older generation translated into an adaptation that passed on to their offspring. Scientists have long-known that parents pass genetic traits down to their children, but Yehuda’s research suggests that life experiences can also produce chemical effects in the DNA. Similar research has been done into the effects of famine on later generations, as well as stress levels in the children of women who survived the New York September 11 attacks. The findings were thought to provide an explanation for why some people struggle with anxiety and stress disorders despite having never experienced trauma themselves.

Since the 1970s, researchers have known that the tightly wound spools of DNA inside each cell’s nucleus require something extra to tell them exactly which genes to transcribe, whether for a heart cell, a liver cell or a brain cell and more.  One such extra element is the methyl group, a common structural component of organic molecules.  Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside, but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above). Originally these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during foetal development, but new studies showed that molecular structures could be added to DNA in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes resulting in illness, namely cancer. Sometimes methyl groups attached to DNA were due to changes in diet; other times, exposure to certain chemicals appeared to be the cause.

A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered. Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like a mutation in a gene  

According to the new insights of behavioural epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA.  Jewish people whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese people whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents all carry with them more than just memories. Our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioural tendencies are inherited.

It has been the case that most childhood trauma studies have been linked to childhood abuse, with many depending on retrospective self-reporting of child abuse cases, which is not always reliable or fully disclosed.   In addition, we understand human relations in terms of the cultural setting in which they take place.  In the 1950s and 1960s abuse of children in schools was simply regarded as discipline. The damage done has never been accounted for.   Nonetheless, abuse or recollections of past abuse can function to provide meaning for current issues of trauma and intergenerational distress.  Many parents, carers, teachers and perpetrators of abuse may not be aware that their behaviour was abusive and the cause of long-term effects.  Abuses would include, corporal punishment within the education system, emotional and physical abuse in the military, school and workplace bullying. Today, this kind of behaviour is being addressed, but for many people born at the end of the previous century the scars of canning, shoving, pushing and shouting insults are still very real, both at a conscious and unconscious level and this imprint is likely to be passed on.   Today, with the advances in neuroscience and the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), not only can scientists see the impacts of abuse on the brain, they can measure the way different forms of abuse impact on memory and reduce the size of developing brains.

Childhood abuse can alter important parts of the brain such as the hippocampus and this is believed to cause childhood problems often leading to more serious psychiatric illness later in life.  The hippocampus has a lot of receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, which interacts with receptors in these neurons to affect the development and the branching of neurons and a failure to generate the necessary new neurons (neurogenesis). We now know that conditions such as depression, drug addiction and other mental health problems often have their roots in difficult childhood experiences. We have to include poverty and powerlessness into this assessment.

Martin Teicher, of Harvard University studied the brains of 193 individuals between 18 and 25 years old, who had already undergone several rounds of testing to be qualified. They then analysed the size of areas in the hippocampus and compared the results with the patient’s history. They saw that those who had been abused, neglected or maltreated (based on well-established questionnaires) as children had reduced volume in certain areas of the hippocampus by about 6 percent, compared with those who had not experienced childhood abuse. They also had size reductions in a related brain area called the subiculum, which relays the signals from the hippocampus to other areas of the brain, including the dopamine system, also known as the brain’s reward centre. Volume reduction in the subiculum has been associated with drug abuse, depression and schizophrenia. In animal experiments (including non-human primates), the hippocampus can shrink because of high exposure to the stress hormone cortisol during two developmental periods: between ages 3 and 5 and between ages 11 and 13, the researchers said. These stress hormone levels stop the growth of neurons in the hippocampus, leading to smaller volume in the adult human brain.

When we look at the situation of abuse, rebellion, revolution and violence on our streets today, we need to take into consideration the longer-term impacts.  Similarly, we need to be aware of the historical background of those who have current stresses.    We can only break the cycle of violence if we fully understand the past and the present consequences of violence and deprivation.  If we ignore this now it will only get worse.

 

The Origins of Palestine.

 

The term Palestine was said to be derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain in the twelfth century BCE. This is the land that became known as Israel and the Gaza Strip. It was the Romans who first used the name Palaestina as reference to Judea (the southern West Bank) in the second century CE following the Jewish Revolt. [1]  The Hebrews settled in Israel around 1300 BCE. At this time, the Israelis were believed to be tribal communities governed by a King named Saul. In about 1000 BCE King David established Jerusalem as the capital and David’s son Solomon built the Temple, which helped to bring the population together as one people.  The land was divided under Solomon’s son who took the northern kingdom (Israel). The Assyrians attacked and destroyed it in 722 BCE.  The southern kingdom of Judah survived until 568 BCE when the Babylonians sacked it. By 135 CE the Jews were driven en-mass out of their homeland. [2]  They would not return until after the Second World War in 1948.

When the Romans governed Palestine, it was also part of Syria and by the time of the Crusades the area stretched from Beirut to the Sinai Desert on both sides of the River Jordan, this area was known as the Holy Land.  The Roman Empires stretched across Europe and the Middle East, it was massive, but much of it was eventually conquered by the Muslims.  After the Christian Crusades to win back Jerusalem the Muslims divided the area into districts. Palestine did not become an official district until the early Middle Ages.[3]  Palestine was the subject of a British Mandate and the official name of a territory called Palestine did not exist until the early Middle Ages. [4]

After World War I, France and Britain drove the Turks back and carved up the Ottoman Empire, this set the boundaries for Palestine. At this time Palestine initially included both sides of the Jordan River until Churchill arbitrarily severed more than three-fourths of the area to create Transjordan. In addition, part of the Golan Heights was transferred from Palestine to Syria. The spoken language was Arabic, but Palestine was never an Arab country, rather one of mixed race. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine.

Palestinian Arab nationalism was largely a post–World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the Six-Day War.  For the duration, Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. Palestinian nationalists made no claims for an independent state. When the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was created by the Arab League to advance the interests of Arab governments it was interested in driving the Jews out of the area, not to create a Palestinian state.[5]

 

[1]The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name (Yehoshua Porath, The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918–1929, London: Frank Cass, 1974, p. 4).

[2] Max Dimont, Jews, God, and History, NY: Signet, 1962, pp. 49–53).

[3] Bernard Lewis, “On the History and Geography of a Name,” The International History Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1980, pp. 1-12) and www.myjewishlibrary.com Retrieved 28th January 2020.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

How to Seduce the Masses.

                                                                 Aldous Huxley.

Governments across the world seem to be gaining more control over their populations and only a few seem to be bothered by the very obvious constraints on personal freedoms.

Why is it that people accept control so readily?  Why are we so compliant?

The answer might be that political and social changes are discursive. We don’t see them coming.  But, how does one explain the blatant curtailment of assumed and inalienable  rights?

Maybe those rights were never there in the first place? Perhaps, we as the people, have just been duped.  What we see, is only what we want to believe.

Nothing in politics ever happens by chance. There is always a science behind every decision and history has shown just how easy it is for science to control the masses. There are techniques and text books galore on how to convince people that something bad might actually be good for them.  Reverse psychology works well, propaganda is even better. If we want answers we must look to the science. Science changes human perspectives.

There are three ways to seduce the masses; people are much easier to control when they feel cared for. That is, when the burden of individual responsibility is lifted.  In this sense slavery may not be seen as an adverse state of affairs. People can be happy slaves.  Populations are also easily controlled when they are living in fear.   In addition, people are easily shaped when they are in communities of like-mindedness.   Individuality is the enemy of the state.

None of these techniques are new Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel, Brave New World, detailed the criteria for oppression by the state almost 90 years ago, prior to World War II; little has changed.

We are living in a technocratic world and for the most part people are loving it.  The truth is we don’t see the wood for the trees. Our minds are cluttered with everyday events and material rewards for good behaviour.

The scientific tale of mental obliteration is a global phenomenon.

But, wait, we are human beings, we have minds of our own don’t we?  What happened to evolution?

Let’s go back to those crucial states of emotion, fear, like-mindedness and the need for care (community).  All very normal conditions, but they are also easy targets for manipulation.

Rich or poor, life has always been a struggle to survive. It has got harder because the problems are not so simple.  We are a people suffering mass anxieties and they are escalating, which gives science, and in particular the pharmaceutical companies, a great opportunity to seize power over the individual.

Let’s start with fear.  The world is a dangerous place, made more visible by the media.   There is terrorism across the Earth, Climate Chane is upon us and although we may not feel the impacts of these events directly, they resonate with past memories.  In fear we need protection (care).  We give up our liberties to be protected. Yet, are we really protected? The authority that protects is also that which causes us fear.

In extreme cases governments and dictators have no qualm’s about shooting their own people, so we must comply.   The masses then become, not just compliant, they believe they are on the right side, regardless of any lapses in morality or justice.

Huxley had a vision of this hell and wrote about it.  Brave New World was a novel that predicted that one day we would all wake-up to a fascist dictator running our lives.  Huxley knew this would happen because he witnessed the collaboration between the world’s governments and the wealthy.   Fear, care and like-mindedness is how the rich made their money and controlled the masses, so governments did the same.  Power escalates  by controlling the masses.

The passion for power is built into the human psyche and it equates with the struggle for survival. But, the powerful have another discursive trick up their sleeve, they know that they can change the name of power discursively and/or replace it with a seemingly different system, such as democracy, which is not equality for all, as many people assume. Rather, democracy is majority rule (like-mindedness).

Democracy sets the benchmark against which power can be measured without actually having to reveal the source of the power. Documents, are a tool of democracy,  they also serve to hide the source of power.

Huxley tells us that, the British and American Constitution excepted devices for limiting power, and all these  devices are extremely efficient instruments for the imposition of power by small groups over larger masses. Legal documents turn the tables on the idea that there is power in numbers.

When all of the above fails, there are always the mind-altering pharmaceuticals. Legal or otherwise, drugs are the new potent form of slavery. Drugs can make people feel in control of situations. They offer a false sense of power.

Drugs can make people feel happy… for a while. Then the doses have to be increased for the drugs to be effective and eventually the recipient dies of organ failure or the fact that the drugs have magnified the original problem to such a high degree that life can no long be confronted… it is simply not worth living.

In the 1960s there was a sexual revolution that changed human behaviour. The contraceptive pill made men and women feel they had sexual freedom with no consequences.  The freedom added a level of happiness. The pharmaceutical companies learned from this experiment and began making happy pills. The recipient could be happy without being responsible.

Now these mind-altering drugs have accelerated in production and effectiveness and they are changing brains and causing a disruption in the general fabric of societies everywhere in the world.

How did we get to this stage of play?

In order to get to where we are today science has had to learn about the human thought processes and how to change them. Access to the subconscious by scientists and professional practitioners is now routine.

If you go to a psychologist thinking you will come our with a mind of your own, think again! You might come away less confused, but you will be cast in the mould of what is socially or politically acceptable.

This might not seem like a bad thing.  Being different is no easy way to live. Those who are different are subject to peer group pressure or worse.   Being different can be an emotional roller-coaster. At the extreme end, it can also land a person in prison or a mental institution.

The emotions are stronger than reason and if any government wants to influence the masses, then it will do it through the channels of emotion aided by drugs and propaganda. This then becomes embedded into a culture and viewed as a natural and inevitable outcome of progress, or an individual life moving forward.

Huxley focused on forms of propaganda where the minds of the masses were hijacked and used for political means.   Propaganda is very powerful. The brain operates on repetition, this is how we learn and how we remember. Emotional propaganda by-passes the rational elements of the human brain and excites the survival instincts.  When this happens on mass it becomes a shared experience. Soon people begin to love their struggle because it doesn’t occur alone. No one is ever alone in their misery.

 

Plagues.

So what does the Bible have to say about contagious diseases or pandemics? In the older portion of the Bible, the primary language is ancient Hebrew. The Hebrew word for contagious disease or pandemic is dever. It occurs around 50 times in the “Old Testament”. The root word in the Hebrew has the meaning of “destroying”, with an extended meaning of “pestilence” or “plague”. Ironically, this word is not only associated with contagious disease, it is often associated with animals; it is the “cattle disease”of Exodus 9:3.

God was planning to use the threat of pestilence to scare off the Canaanites (local inhabitants of the land of Canaan), so Israel wouldn’t have to fight to enter the “promised land” (Numbers 14:12). We know, from current experience, how easily a pandemic can induce panic and irrational behaviour.

The most common occurrence of “pestilence” in the Hebrew portion of the Bible was as a consequence of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. When Israel was unfaithful to God, they lost His protection, with the result that enemies would invade their land and cause destruction. In that context we repeatedly find the infamous trio: war, famine and pestilence (Leviticus 26:25; Jeremiah 24:10; Ezekiel 14:12–21). The three together portray the siege of an ancient city. War drives a people inside the walls of the city, famine follows as the siege continues and the end-result is contagious disease followed by exile (Leviticus 26:21–26; Jeremiah 21:6–9; Ezekiel 7:15). The important point for us, wondering about the spiritual significance of our current situation, is that contagious disease (Hebrew: dever) is not in these contexts portrayed as an active punishment from God, but rather as the consequence of disobedience, which results in a loss of God’s protection (Jeremiah 27:13; 32:14; 34:17; 38:2). Pandemics don’t come because God is angry with people, they are the natural consequences of human foolishness and rebellion.

The more recent portion of the Bible (the New Testament—written in the common Greek of the Roman world) has less to say about contagious disease. Luke 21:11 associates pestilence (Greek: loimos, loimoi) with earthquakes, famines and heavenly signs that would occur at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But the word is not found in the part of Luke 21 that addresses the end of the world (Luke 21:25–28).

Some Bible versions, which rely on later Greek manuscripts, refer to “pestilence” in Matthew 24:7, which is a parallel text to Luke 21:11. But even if this were an accurate translation, Matthew 24:8, again, does not mention pestilence as a feature of the end times, but as part of “the beginning of birth pains”.

Pestilence was seen by Jesus as something general to the human experience, not something especially associated with the end. The word is also used metaphorically in Acts 24:5—“This Paul is such a pest.” That derogatory reference gives, of course, no clue as to the meaning of COVID-19 today.

There is another Greek word that often translated as “pestilence.” It is thanatos—a common Greek word for “death” and the usual word chosen in the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, to translate dever. So the Greek word for death at the time when the New Testament was written can carry connotations of “pestilence”, or pandemic.

Thanatos is used in this way three times in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 2:23, it is used in the context of a specific event that is in the past today. The second reference is found in Revelation 6:8. The rider on the pale horse is given authority over a fourth of the earth, to smite with sword, famine, and pestilence. Like Matthew 24 and Luke 21, pestilence is predicted to be a general characteristic of human history, which has certainly been the case.

The third reference to thanatos (death/pestilence) is clearly in an end-time context, however. Pestilence is one of the consequences of “Babylon’s” fall just before the second coming of Jesus. This text does not tell us that Covid-19 is a sign of the end—there is not enough information to be that specific. But it does indicate, more than other biblical texts, that pandemics are likely to be a feature of the end-times.

There is one other end-time text that could be relevant to our questions, and that is Revelation 16:2, which speaks of sores afflicting those who have the “mark of the beast”. While these sores are serious, the biblical words for contagious disease or pandemic are not used there.

The short conclusion of this biblical study is two-fold:

1) Pandemic as such is not a “sign of the end”. Since far worse pandemics have occurred in history, Covid-19 should not be used as an indicator of where we are in history. If the end-times are at hand, other indicators will prove to be more significant that this one. To put it plainly, Bible prophecy does not indicate that pandemic is a key element of the “signs of the end”, but neither does it rule it out as one of the troubles of the End.

2) Pandemic is not a direct, active punishment of God; it is a consequence of the human condition that the Bible calls sin and rebellion against God. According to the Bible, God (through Jesus Christ) is the Author and Sustainer of life (John 1:3–5). But there are forces in the universe that oppose God and create pain and destruction (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6). To the degree that the word “judgement” is appropriate in a pandemic, it is God allowing the human condition to take its course and reap its consequences.

Is there anything else in the Bible that may be helpful in the current crisis? In the Old Testament contexts, contagious disease was a condition that could and should be alleviated by human action (Jeremiah 27:13; 38:2). The most practical remedy offered for contagious disease in the Bible is, in fact, social isolation (Numbers 5:1–4; see also Numbers 12:10–15 and Leviticus 13:45–46), the very strategy many of us are now using. It is important for a community to place a separation between those who have the disease and those who do not, as far as this is possible. Co-operating with authorities in these matters should not create an issue of conscience for believers; in fact, conscience should encourage co-operation in a crisis like this (Romans 13:1–5).

Having said all this, prophecy clearly indicates that panic is one characteristic of the final events (Luke 21:25,26). Could Covid-19 lead to eschatological levels of panic? I am not a prophet, an economist or a scientist, so take the following with a grain of salt. Covid-19, as we experience it, could get a whole lot worse, killing (in the worst case scenario publicly stated) more than 130,000 Australians and tens of millions worldwide. That would put it in Spanish flu territory, but not Black Plague numbers. The greatest concern would not be the current virus, but a mutation of the virus into something even more dangerous. This possibility is something to watch closely, but it does not seem likely to me (I am open to correction on this from scientific sources, not internet speculation). Viruses tend to decrease in potency over time rather than increase. And, due to lack of widespread testing, the death rate is probably much lower than three per cent right now, as many people who have COVID-19 don’t even know it. In Germany, a nation where testing has been much more widespread than most places, the death rate is currently about 0.08 per cent, around a quarter of the world rate. In the USA it is currently less than two per cent.

My greater concern for the future is the economic fallout of social isolation over many months (if that proves necessary). Worst-case estimates are that unemployment could reach 20 per cent or more here in the USA if the lockdowns last 6–12 months. This could trigger another Great Depression. Given the panic buying already occurring, the social order in a Facebook, post-Christian world could easily break down, leading to rioting, looting and other consequences. Among the likely consequences would be the end of face-to-face higher education as we know it, a long-term decline in tourism and international travel, a major decline in the restaurant industry and in–person retail, and in today’s climate, a serious increase in perceived anti-Christian persecution.

A couple of years from now, it is very possible that the current, global response to Covid-19 will be perceived as an over-reaction. But since we will never know for sure if that is really true, I am glad we are doing what we are doing, just in case. As to when the final events of earth’s history will happen, the words of Jesus remain relevant: “Stay awake, because you don’t know” (Matthew 24:42).

 

Dr Jon Paulien is Dean at the Loma Linda University School of Religion, California USA.  Re-posted with courtesy from his blog, revelation-armageddon.com.

Pandemic.

Wild gardens.

Scientists across the world have been anticipating a pandemic. A year before COVID-19 was first detected, biologists at the University of Warsaw published “Bats, Coronaviruses, and Deforestation,” a paper that links the rapid destruction of the natural habitats of bats to the spread of coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

The rainforests of Southeast Asia have been reduced by 50 percent over the last 70 years. .Across the world, natural habitat is being destroyed bringing disease-carrying animals in closer contact with humans than ever before. It then details that 31 percent of the viruses that bats are capable of carrying are different forms of coronaviruses. Finally, it ends with a prophetic warning: “The risk of newly emerging CoVs-associated diseases in the future should be considered seriously.”

The total amount of infectious disease outbreaks around the world has been steadily increasing over the last four decades, according to a 2014 study by Brown University scientists. During that time, the world’s forest coverage has been reduced to half its size. The majority (60 percent) of these new outbreaks were animal-borne (zoonotic) diseases, including the Ebola virus, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, H1N1 “swine flu,” Nipah virus and many others. The Brown University scientists therefore attributed this recent global rise in infectious disease primarily to an increase in “pathogens spilling over to humans from wildlife.”

Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, the associated vice president for conservation and health at the EcoHealth Alliance, analyzed over 704 different infectious disease outbreaks between the years 1940 and 2008, and found that measuring the rate of deforestation in a given area was the number one predictor of where the next pandemic will occur. “Scientists have been sending out warnings about this for years now,” Zambrana-Torrelio told Truthout. “We can’t keep encroaching upon the natural habitats of wildlife without taking into consideration what deadly diseases might spill over from that wildlife into the neighboring humans.”

Regions of the Amazon with increased rates of deforestation have concurrently experienced increased rates of malaria in humans. As climate change withers away the canopy of trees that act as the “ceiling” of the rainforest, puddles of stagnant water are becoming increasingly common on the ground. Mosquitos, particularly the kind that carry malaria, love to breed in this murky standing water. This increase in mosquito population in deforested areas is going largely unchecked due to their natural predators, mainly frogs and dragonflies, dying off in the destroyed habitat.

“Normally, trees can absorb stagnant water through their roots,” Andy MacDonald, a disease ecologist and environmental scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Truthout. “But if there’s not enough trees around, the stagnant water remains, creating a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.” The areas of the rainforest where there’s the most standing water, MacDonald said, corresponds to the same areas where humans are encroaching upon and destroying the trees. “This creates deadly potential for interaction between people and malaria-carrying mosquitoes.”

A similar phenomenon happens in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, where El Niño droughts are becoming increasingly intense due to rising global temperatures. The 1998 El Niño drought, for example, occurred at the exact same time as the 1998 Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia. “The drought caused mass forest fires that swept the region. These fires created a huge smog that prevented the plants from growing fruit,” said Amy Vittor, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute told Truthout. “This forced the flying fox bats of the rainforest to migrate to the towns of Malaysia.”

Measuring the rate of deforestation in a given area was the number one predictor of where the next pandemic will occur.

Some of these bats flocked to Malaysian pig farms, where the first cases of Nipah virus were reported. Bats would bite into fruit that the pigs ate, causing the virus to spread to the pigs. Humans caught the virus when they came in contact with the pigs.

The majority of global deforestation today is driven by multinational corporations, including Cargill, JBS and Mafrig, as well as their creditors BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC. These corporations clear acres of land for the mass production of a single cash crop. The Amazon, for example, is primarily being destroyed for products that people in Western countries buy but do not necessarily need — palm oil, sugar cane or various biofuels like ethanol.

Monocrop farming, in which large swathes of land are dedicated for the repeated production of a single crop, is a relatively new phenomenon that depletes soil (such as in the case of the 1930s Dust Bowl), leaves crops vulnerable to pests (as in the case of the Irish potato famine) and leaves humans vulnerable to disease by reducing the biodiversity of animals in the surrounding region (as in the case of global bee populations).

“Farms that produce a variety of crops will attract a variety of wildlife that come to feed on the crops,” biologist John Swaddle of the College of William & Mary told Truthout. On the flip side, when a farm is only producing a single type of crop, it will only attract a limited variety of animals. If one type of animal from that limited variety catches a disease, the entire ecosystem is threatened. This dynamic creates what is commonly known as the dilution effect: The more types of species there are in a given ecosystem, the more resistant the overall ecosystem will be to the spread of disease.

West Nile virus, for example, infects some species of birds more easily than others. Ducks and geese are naturally more resistant to contracting and spreading the virus, so they act as a kind of “buffer” against the species that are more vulnerable to the virus, like crows and finches. If a mosquito carrying West Nile virus bites into a duck or goose, it is likely that the virus will simply die off in their system. To investigate this phenomenon, Swaddle compared every county in the eastern U.S. that reported a case of West Nile virus in 2002 (the first year of the outbreak) to a neighboring county that did not. The result? On average, the counties that reported cases of West Nile virus had a significantly lower diversity of bird species than the counties that had no cases. And what factors affect the biodiversity of bird species in a given area? Deforestation, climate change and monoculture farming.

The Amazon is primarily being destroyed for products that people in Western countries buy but do not necessarily need.

Likewise, the rise of monocrop palm plantations in the forests of West Africa have been a significant driver of the spread of the Ebola virus. The first known cases of the 2013 Ebola outbreak occurred in the Guinean villages of Guéckédou and Meliandou, which are both surrounded by areas that had been heavily deforested for monocrop palm plantations. Much of the Upper Guinean forests have been reduced to 16 percent of the size that they were in 1975. This is largely due to the industrial monocrop farming of western-backed corporations like the Guinean Oil Palm and Rubber Company, which is financed by the European Investment Bank. As Ebola-carrying bats are pushed out of their natural habitat, they flock to places like palm oil plantations, where they can find ample food and shelter.

Another one of the largest corporations driving deforestation, and thereby the spread of Ebola in West Africa, is the London-based Farm Lands of Africa, Ltd. Between 2010 and 2012, the three years leading up to the 2013 Ebola outbreak, Farm Lands of Africa acquired over 1,608,215 hectares of forest in the Congo Basin. This massive land grab forcibly displaced thousands of families, turning land that was previously used primarily for vegetable farming by Indigenous people into monoculture plantations for the export of cash crops like palm oil. It also displaced thousands of Ebola-carrying fruit bats — many of which are attracted to the rich vegetation and shelter of the palm plantations.

The world’s rainforests are not being destroyed to feed people. “Many options exist to meet the global food supply in 2050 without deforestation,” wrote University of Klagenfurt ecologist Karl-Heinz Erb in the journal Nature. Forests are primarily being cleared for the plunder of cash crops that mostly benefit the wealthy heads of multinational corporations.

Such is the case with the PT. Hardaya Inti Plantations company, owned by billionaire Siti Hartati Murdaya, which has seized over 22,000 hectares of land in Indonesia for monoculture palm oil plantations. The acquisition displaced over 6,500 families by destroying the subsistence farms and forests that they relied on to live. Half of those families ended up working on the palm plantations, where they were cruelly exploited for meager wages. So it is questionable whether this deforestation is benefiting the majority of Indonesians, beyond its billionaire kleptocrats. On top of that, the resulting environmental destruction is causing a mass displacement of wildlife in the region, leading to the proliferation of malaria and dengue.

As University of Ferrara scientists state in their April 2020 paper, “The novel zoonotic COVID-19 pandemic: An expected global health concern,” the current COVID-19 pandemic was highly predictable. Based on the patterns of deforestation associated with the two most recent outbreaks of other coronaviruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, as well as countless other animal-borne diseases, including Ebola, malaria and dengue fever, there is much evidence to suggest that this current pandemic is part of a larger global trend.

“If we want to do everything we can to prevent the next pandemic from occurring,” Zambrana-Torrelio said, “we must stop deforestation.”

 

References.

Reproduced courtesy of Truthout 14/5/2020