NOTE: The views I will articulate in this talk are mine, and although they are in accord with the Three Avowed Objects, they are not the views of the Theosophical Society of San Francisco. We do not discuss politics here at the Lodge. Just as we have no religious dogma or creed, we do not have a political ideology. This not a political talk. But I will discuss history, psychology and governance, and I will discuss human rights and environmental protection. One of the central themes in my work over these last two decades has been the championing of altruism and sustainability as both spiritual and existential imperatives. These two imperatives transcend politics.
"I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it. I think that is what I would call the God in me. All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet. It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, and I am sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet — at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, the fate of this planet." -- Wangari Maathai, Environmental Activist, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, as quoted by Priscilla Sears in Wangari Maathai:"You Strike The Woman ..." (Context #28, Spring 1991)
Do you remember the time before? Can you remember what was what even nine months ago?
Maybe you live inside of a bubble of denial, maybe you’ve lost your discernment in the onslaught of DISinformation, maybe you are bound up in your own selfishness and narcissism, maybe you’ve gone numb from fear or exhaustion … But if you are one of those among us who listens to Gaia (she is always whispering encouragement to you, she sings you lullabies and she shouts out warnings, she is always speaking to you), and/or if you follow what Lao-Tzu called the Way of the Tao, and/or if you follow what Tathagata called the Wheel of the Dew-Sweet Law, then perhaps you will hear this message and it may resonate with you …
Merriam-Webster Definition of scourge
1: WHIP especially one used to inflict pain or punishment
2: an instrument of punishment or criticism
3: a cause of wide or great affliction
Currently, we are being driven downward, deeper and deeper into Dystopia, We are staggering under the painful lashes of three great scourges: the Climate Crisis (and the Sixth Great Extinction), the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Rise of 21st-Century Authoritarianism.
Climate Crisis & the Sixth Great Extinction
- Ninety-seven large fires have burned more than 6,200 square miles across the western states, and evacuation orders were in place for 40 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center said Saturday. Some evacuees have fled with just the clothes on their backs. Smoke from the blazes has impacted the entire West Coast, posing a health hazard to millions. - USA Today, Wildfires race across the West: Smoke poses health hazard to millions; unprecedented pollution in Oregon, 9/12/20
- The global climate crisis could see more than a billion people displaced from their homes in the next 30 years, as ecological disasters drive mass migrations and greater armed conflict, according to a new report released Wednesday. The Ecological Threat Register, conducted by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), projected that as many as 1.2 billion people around the world could be displaced by 2050. No country will be able to escape the impact of the climate crisis -- but the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations will be hardest hit.” -- CNN, Climate Crisis Could Displace 1.2 Billion People by 2050, 9/10/20
- The world is losing its mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, and with them, the security of ecosystems that have supported humanity since it first emerged. That’s the conclusion of the Living Planet Report 2020, a biannual assessment by World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, which records the decline in vertebrate life. This year’s report, released Wednesday, shows that these animal communities shrunk on average 68% between 1970 and 2016. Parts of the world are much worse off. The tropical Americas have seen animal populations decline 94% in the same period. -- Bloomberg Green, Animal Populations Fell by 68% in 50 Years and It’s Getting Worse, 9/10/20
- A coronavirus models projects deaths due to the virus in the United States will top 400,000 by the end of the year, with 410,000 projected by January 1, according to new data. That would more than double the current U.S. death toll, which stood at more than 188,000 as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. -- CBS News, Coronavirus model projects U.S. deaths will surpass 400,000 by end of year, 9/4/20
- New analysis by Amnesty International has found that at least 7,000 health workers have died around the world after contracting COVID-19. At least 1,320 health workers are confirmed to have died in Mexico alone, the highest known figure for any country. Amnesty International also recorded high numbers of health worker deaths in the USA (1,077) and Brazil (634), where infection and death rates have been high throughout the pandemic, as well as alarming figures in South Africa (240) and India (573), where infection rates have soared in recent months.- Amnesty International, Global: Amnesty analysis reveals over 7,000 health workers have died from COVID-19, 9/3/20
- As students across the country return to classrooms, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the majority of children, teens and young adults who die from COVID-19 are Hispanic, Black or Native American. Researchers found there was a staggering racial disparity in the more than 390,000 coronavirus cases and 121 deaths among people under the age of 21 reported to the CDC between Feb. 12 and July 31. Hispanic, Black and Native American children accounted for 78% of those deaths even though those groups represent just 41% of the United States population, a disproportionate effect that reflects a similar disparity among adults. - N'dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY: Majority of kids who die of coronavirus are Hispanic, Black, or Native American, CDC finds, 9/16/20
- The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic could push as many as 86 million more children into poverty by the end of 2020, a joint study by Save the Children and UNICEF showed Wednesday. That would bring the total number of children affected by poverty worldwide to 672 million, an increase of 15 percent over last year ... Agence France Press, Pandemic puts up to 86 million children at risk of poverty, 5/28/20
- As the pandemic spreads, the threat to livelihoods around the world is yielding an alarming rise in hunger ... This is not a famine, which generally results from war combined with environmental disaster. Rather, incomes are being destroyed just as food prices rise in much of the world ... -- Peter S. Goodman (@petersgoodman), New York Times, The Other Way Covid Could Kill: Hunger, 9/11/20
- A group of national security experts testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the rise of authoritarianism, warning lawmakers that countries such as China and Russia are seeking to gain power by undermining democratic systems. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, Open Constitution Initiative co-founder Teng Biao and Center for a New American Security’s transatlantic security expert Andrea Kendall-Taylor said there are indicators popping up worldwide that suggest a growing return to dictators and despots. “Warning signs abound across the globe: the discarding of mainstream politicians, the emergence of leaders who seek to divide rather than unite, the purist of political victory at all costs and the invocation of national greatness by people who identify greatness only with themselves,” Albright told the committee in her opening remarks. “Tyranny is once again awakening from its slumber,” Rasmussen said in his opening remarks, echoing Albright … “This is the most trying time for democracy since the 1930s when fascism spread across much of Europe,” said Kendall-Taylor.-- The Hill, National security experts warn of rise in authoritarianism, 2/26/19
- Climate barbarism is a form of climate adaptation. It’s no longer denying that we have begun an age of massive disruption, that many hundreds of millions of people are going to be forced from their homelands, and that huge swathes of the planet are going to be uninhabitable. And then, in response to that, rather than doing all the things that are encoded in the UN Convention on Climate Change, which recognizes the historical responsibility of many of the countries that happen to have a little more time to deal with the impacts of climate change — are insulated both by geography and relative wealth — instead says, look, we simply believe we are better, because of our citizenship, because of our whiteness, and our Christian-ness, and we are locking down, protecting our own, pulling aid ... We live in societies, whether they admit it or not, that do rank human life based on race and religion. And climate change forces us to reckon with that, and ask, are we going to live up to the rhetoric of equality and the idea that we actually believe people are of equal value by right of being alive on this planet? If we believe that, we need to radically change our ideas of national borders, and we need to open our arms and talk about how we’re going to share what is left. Or are we going to double down and get monstrous? We are getting monstrous. It’s not a future idea, it is happening ... -- Los Angeles Review of Books, Against Climate Barbarism: A Conversation with Naomi Klein, 9/30/19
It didn’t have to be this way. But it is.
Now, as horrific as all of this is, it is not insurmountable. Our circumstances are not hopeless.
We need to wear masks. We need to practice social distancing. People need rent relief and unemployment. We need to hunker down and wait for a vaccine, a proven, safe and effective vaccine. Pandemic denialism is as sick and evil as climate denialism. Yes, I said sick and evil, sick on the part of those that follow denialist opinion-shapers, and evil on the part of those opinion-shapers who propagate pandemic denialism.
We need to rapidly phase out the burning of fossil fuels. Robust, economically viable alternatives are available to us. We need to drastically reduce our consumption of meat. We need to empower women. And yes, we need to confront the problem of unsustainable human population growth.
We need to rededicate ourselves to human rights and environmental protection. We need to strengthen our democratic institutions.
All of this is do-able. All of this is our natural inclination. All of this serves to heal our species and our planet. It is within our reach. Altruism and sustainability are spiritual and existential imperatives. This is not ideology. This is humanity. It is science, not politics. It is humanism, not a political ideology.
Some among us have lost their livelihoods to the pandemic.
Some among us have lost their homes and belongings to the wildfires.
Some among us are even dealing with both tragedies simultaneously.
Great forests, old, deeply richly magical forests, have been devastated. The powerful wisdom of all of the trees, the trees that you know, the trees that have laughed and wept and stood in silence with you. The exquisite throbbing life of all the forest creatures you have come to know. All those wild beings who recognize you as part of their own mandalas.
Such loss. Unbearable. Unspeakable. Inconsolable.
Grief and gratitude, like inhalation and exhalation.
The pandemic continues. Some among us face eviction. Some among us face hunger. Some fear for the lives of their children if they send them to school.
Hundreds of thousands have died of Covid-19, in isolation, cut off from their loves ones.
Recently, I have been remembering my Yoda, the legendary American sage Joe Miler, toward the end of his life, during a stay in the Intensive Care Unit. He just wanted to go home, he just wanted to lie down in his own bed. Even if it was just to die. His bed was narrow and simple. Like a monk’s bed, But it was his. Joe Miller did make it home. But in the misery of this pandemic, many have not. Now, every night, as I move toward my bed, I wonder if or when I will find myself in such circumstances. And I am grateful for each opportunity to just lie down in my own bed. I am grateful that I am not homeless. I am grateful that I have not fallen ill.
Such loss. Unbearable. Unspeakable. Inconsolable.
Grief and gratitude, like inhalation and exhalation.
But there is still more ...
The brutal deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
These atrocities traumatized our collective psyche and triggered many weeks of massive, nation-wide demonstrations; yes, tens of thousands of peaceful, masked citizens in the streets.
Such loss. Unbearable. Unspeakable. Inconsolable.
Grief and gratitude, like inhalation and exhalation.
Take nothing for granted. When you get in your bed to go to sleep, feel the gratitude. Always, always listen for the sound of the sands falling in the hour glass. We do not know the number of sand grains, but we do know it is a finite number. Feel the gratitude. It can all be taken away from you in a moment. It will all be taken away from each of us. One way or another. We know not the hour. Gratitude and the grief, like inhalation and exhalation. This is what it means to be alive.
So this is where we are. In this moment, An extraordinary inflection point.
There are some further insights and perspectives I want to share with you: first, some lessons from the history of the 20th Century, and then some occult teachings from the Ancient Future.
- A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter, and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media, and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongrelize the white race so it will lose its essential power. Does this conspiracy theory sound familiar? It is. The same narrative has been repackaged by QAnon. I have studied and worked to prevent genocide for forty years. Genocide Watch and the Alliance Against Genocide, the first international anti-genocide coalition, see such hate-filled conspiracy theories as early warning signs of deadly genocidal violence. The plot, described above, was the conspiracy “revealed” in the most influential anti-Jewish pamphlet of all time. It was called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was written by Russian anti-Jewish propagandists around 1902. It collected myths about a Jewish plot to take over the world that had existed for hundreds of years … QAnon’s conspiracy theory is a rebranded version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion … Many people are perplexed at how any rational person could fall for such an irrational conspiracy theory. But modern social science shows that people in groups don’t always think rationally. They respond to fear and terror. They blame their misfortunes on scapegoats. They support narcissistic demagogues they hope will rescue them. - Gregory Stanton, QAnon is A Nazi Cult, Rebranded, Just Security, 9/9/20
- "The editors at BuzzFeed News have become uneasy about using conspiracy theory to describe QAnon ... QAnon has shifted, and so should how we write about it. QAnon is a collective delusion, and that's what BuzzFeed News will be calling it from now on." - Buzzfeed, Here’s Why BuzzFeed News Is Calling QAnon A “Collective Delusion” From Now On, 9/4/20
- Seane Corn never thought her duties as yoga instructor would one day include warning people about the dangers of an international right-wing conspiracy theory.The Los Angeles yoga teacher is one of several high-profile Instagram influencers using their platforms to combat the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory in wellness spaces. "I just didn't think that I would be having to talk about things like a cabal of people in the U.S. that are kidnapping children and drinking their blood to gain power," Corn told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I never thought that this would be a conversation I would have to have with my community to say, like, 'This isn't true. This isn't happening. Please use more discernment.'" - CBC Radio, This yoga instructor is fighting the rise of QAnon in the wellness community, 9/17/20
They equate the ten thousand things with straw dogs.
The Sage is not kindly;
He equates the people with straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth,
It is hollow, yet it never fails to supply.
The more it is worked, the more it gives forth ..."
- Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching,” (Dr. Henry Wei)
"The valley spirit never dies.
Call it the mystery, the woman.
The mystery, the Door of the Woman, is the root of earth and heaven.
Forever this endures, forever.
And all its uses are easy."
– Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching,” (Ursula LeGuin)
“The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
Hence comes the name Mysterious Female.
The gateway of the Mysterious Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuous like a thread it seems to exist;
Its utility is inexhaustible.” - Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching,” (Dr. Henry Wei)
The Power of Nothing
No one really knows what's going to happen. No one really knows how this will all turn on. But despite all of the suffering inflicted by these three great scourges, despite the human race falling into a star-crushing Black Hole, I am wildly optimistic about our future.
To explain, I will reference two perspectives that my Yoda, the legendary American sage, Joe Miller, shared with some of us in the 1980s. I have spoken about these two perspectives before, both in public talks and private conversations, and I have written about them in both Wyrds, but at this remarkable inflection point on our collective journey, here and now, as history shifts into herstory (something else Joe foresaw), I feel that these two perspectives have more meaning and more relevancy, than ever before. And I am confident in the coming weeks, months and years, they will become ever more relevant and ever more meaningful.
In this very Lodge, thirty-three years ago, in 1987, Joe gave a talk just after the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. The event had moved him deeply. Planners had expected maybe 150,000 to 200,000 people to show up for the celebration. But it turned out to be 800,000. No one was hurt. There wasn't any trouble. "Nobody jumped off," Joe said, "There were even little kids walking on the catwalks outside the railing and nothing happened to any of them." It was just a joyous, beautiful few hours. Throngs of people strolling across the span. So many that they flattened out the bridge. Joe said it was "the Power of Nothing that called forth all of those people that day.
"... remember that's a bridge, a bridge on the Golden Gate. Something inside them told them something, and maybe that something that hasn't come clear to them goes something like this:'Only through the orchid door of the heartAnd the violet flame therein,Can you place your feet on the rainbow bridgeThat leads to the city of the Golden GateAnd the shrine of Clear Light therein.'Stop and think about that for a minute. Nobody said anything to them about anything like that but they felt the pull ...So from now on never tell me that NOTHING can't move things. That NOTHING was something in their hearts, something they realized as part of their nature, an ideal. They thought, 'This is the Golden Gate Bridge, it's the most wonderful thing of its kind in the world,' and they went there. But it was their hearts speaking to them, and they probably didn't know why.There is more in NOTHING than you think. Well, everything in life that we can think of is divided up into dualities anyhow. There is always a dual side to everything. There is a right-hand side of the brain and a left-hand side of the brain. The left-hand side is strictly intellectual. These people were moved from the other side, the right-hand side. They weren't moved by anything outside themselves either, they moved themselves from INSIDE. They knew that the Golden Gate Bridge took them to the City of the Golden Gate. They knew that reality. It hit 'em and it hit 'em from NOTHING. Explain it? You can't. – Great Song: Life and Teachings of Joe Miller, pp. 93-95
We have seen the Power of Nothing move at some milestone moments over the last 50 years.
Consider these examples from that same 1980-1990 time frame in which Joe shared the insights I'm referencing here:
- The rise of Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s
- The massive non-violent Goddess of Liberty protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989
- The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989
- Nelson Mandela emerging from prison in 1990, AFTER TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS incarceration, to negotiate the end of Apartheid and get elected the first President of a new South Africa
Now the last bit of all this that I want to touch on with you in this talk is, as I mentioned, a second perspective offered by the legendary American sage Joe Miller, this one is really more of a prophecy than a perspective. Like the story of the GG Bridge and the Power of Nothing, this story too takes us back to the 1980s. It was a weekday. It was winter. It was dark. I had fought my way through heavy traffic up from Silicon Valley. It was the Muggle High Holidays, that time of year. It was after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. The energy was intense. Lots of shoppers, lots of party-goers. I parked my car and staggered up Joe and Guin Miller's stairs and sat down on the couch with Joe. Guin was in the back of the flat, playing solitaire and listening to a S.F. Giants baseball game on the radio. Joe and I were drinking coffee and eating what he called "rat cheese" (slices of Kraft's cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers).
Something terrible was going on in the world at that time, I can't remember which terrible thing, it was before the Tiananmen Square Massacre, it was before the Rwandan Genocide, I can't remember what it was, but it was something terrible, maybe it was a couple of horrific story lines developing simultaneously, anyway, I had been brooding over it all the way up from work. "Joe, evolution? Really, human evolution? There's no evolution going on. What the fuck? How can this be? Nothing is happening here."
Joe didn't miss a beat. He just took a took a breath, and from a great depth, but very matter-of-factly he said, "We just have to make it through the next 100 years."
Now, remember, this was in the 1980s. "We just have to make it through the next 100 years."
I said "What do you mean?"
He said, "A hundred years from now, more and more children are going to be coming into incarnation, and they're just gonna know, they're just gonna know." They're gonna know and feel. The kind of knowledge that is feeling. They're just gonna know and feel what is. "And you're going to be able to sit down and describe the practice of [Sri Ramana Maharshi to them and tell them to ask themselves who they are and they're just going to know ..." Really know. Not intellectually. Not psychologically. Not emotionally. Deeper. "They're just gonna know."
The answer to "Who am I?" is not an intellectual answer, it is a mystical answer that cannot be put into words. There is no answer.
Now that was 40 years or so ago, so we are well into that 100 years, we're almost to the halfway point, we have maybe 60 more to go. But it's all incremental. It is not going to happen all at once, it is already underway. You can already see it happening. In the children. You can already see it happening. In the youth. A kind of knowing. A knowing that is feeling. But not emotion. Deeper. Deeper. Knowingness. Emotional intelligence yes, but even beyond, into the Intuitive Knowing of What Is ... This is incremental. We are holding space. Our job is to survive and hold space. For the great transformation. For the arc of evolution. The arc of herstory. We are holding space. For something that is going on in human evolution. And it is already quickening.
The final feeling and conviction I want to share with you in this talk is this -
-- Richard Power, Writer, Speaker, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Author of "Wyrds of Power: New Language for A New Reality" and "I, the Dragon: Chronicles of An Epic Life Among the Humans."